— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) December 2, 2016
Ross Douthat writes…
Modern liberalism depends on the language police, and Jonathan Chait himself is Exhibit A.
Sean Davis writes: In a widely praised piece for New York Magazine, liberal writer Jonathan Chait says the leftist language police are perverting liberalism. Chait is wrong. The politically correct language police don’t pervert modern liberalism; they embody it. And amateur leftist thought cop Jonathan Chait himself is proof.
“Speech codes are a widely used tool taken right out of the fascist toolbox. If they can’t control how you act, then they’ll control how you speak. If they can’t control how you speak, then they’ll control how you think.”
In his piece, Chait catalogued numerous discussions within a large Facebook group called “Binders Full of Women Writers” to show the toxic effect that language and thought crime policing can have on basic political discourse.
“Jonathan Chait’s recent critique of political correctness insists that the phenomenon has undergone a resurgence. It hasn’t; contrary to Chait’s characterization, it never went away. The difference is that it is now being used as a cudgel against white liberals such as Jonathan Chait, who had previously enjoyed a measure of immunity.”
“Chait is hardly in a position to complain about that, given his own heavy reliance on that mode of discourse. Chait isn’t arguing for taking an argument on its own merits; he’s arguing for a liberals’ exemption to the Left’s general hostility toward any unwelcome idea that comes from a speaker who checks any unapproved demographic boxes…”
— Kevin D. Williamson
At times, members of the overwhelmingly liberal group would demand that certain sentiments not be shared. Sometimes, members declared that certain people weren’t even allowed to have opinions on a subject on account of their color, gender, or sexual orientation. Here’s a small selection from Chait’s piece:
On July 10, for instance, one member in Los Angeles started a conversation urging all participants to practice higher levels of racial awareness. “Without calling anyone out specifically, I’m going to note that if you’re discussing a contentious thread, and shooting the breeze … take a look at the faces in the user icons in that discussion,” she wrote. “Binders is pretty diverse, but if you’re not seeing many WOC/non-binary POC in your discussion, it’s quite possible that there are problematic assumptions being stated without being challenged.” (“POC” stands for “people of color.” “WOC” means “women of color.” “Non-binary” describes people who are either transgender or identify as a gender other than traditionally male or female.)
Two members responded lightly, one suggesting that such “call-outs” be addressed in private conversation and another joking that she was a “gluten free Jewish WWC” — or Woman Without Color. Read the rest of this entry »
Charles C. W. Cooke reports:
This morning, pretty much the entire editorial staff of the New Republic resigned, in protest at the direction in which the magazine was being taken. Courtesy of Ryan Lizza, here the list of those who have left:
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) December 5, 2014
It would have been easier to say who is still there.
You know, I used to love TNR. Until about 2003-2004, it was a great read even if I didn’t agree. Then it went Full Metal Bushitler.
— Thomas H. Crown (@ThomasHCrown) December 5, 2014
In the immediate term, the exodus was sparked by the firing of editor, Franklin Foer, which, per the Daily Beast, was not done kindly:
According to informed sources, Hughes and Vidra didn’t bother to inform Foer that he was out of a job. Instead, the editor was placed in the humiliating position of having to phone Hughes to get confirmation after Gawker.com posted an item at 2:35 p.m. reporting the rumor that Bloomberg Media editor Gabriel Snyder, himself a onetime Gawker editor, had been hired as Foer’s replacement. Yes, it’s true, Hughes sheepishly admitted, notwithstanding that he and Vidra had given Foer repeated assurances that his job was safe. (Hughes and Vidra didn’t respond to voicemail messages seeking comment.)
Still, as has been made clear by a number of media-watchers, the rot is much, much deeper than that. Contrary the reports of some outlets, this does not seem to have been a battle between modernizers and traditionalists, but rather a fight to the death between those who wished to work for a storied magazine and those who wished to be led by a myopic bunch of clowns who are incapable of speaking in anything other than moronic platitudes….(read more)
A Glimpse into the Political Future: Jonathan Chait’s Advance Apologia for the Democrats’ Defeat in NovemberPosted: April 15, 2014
Fred Siegel writes: Jonathan Chait has written a thoughtful, if debatable, 6,000-word article on race in the Obama years that has stirred a good deal of discussion. It can be read as an advance apologia for the Democrats’ defeat in the 2014 elections. Chait’s thesis, as he sums it up in an online surrebuttal, is that “American politics in the age of Obama has become balkanized not along racial lines, but by how people think about race.” In other words, Chait argues, “the Obama era has produced a cleavage along ideological rather than racial lines,” so that neither black conservatives who support the Tea Party nor the far more numerous white liberals who nod in agreement with Al Sharpton’s preachings on MSNBC are as anomalous as partisans assert. “Liberals,” Chait writes, “dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years and lurks everywhere, mostly undetectable.” Similarly, he goes on, “Conservatives dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs. And the horrible thing is that both of these forms of paranoia are right.”
“Parts of the public, not necessarily on the right, have caught on to Obama’s double game, in which his administration has been rhetorically egalitarian and operationally elitist.”
One can commend Chait for his evenhandedness—which has stirred a hornet’s nest of opposition from liberals—without accepting the equivalence he draws between these two views. But the real problem with his essay comes when he steps out of the realm of ideology and into the world of practical outcomes. Six years into the Obama presidency, Americans have ample grounds, independent of race, to dislike him.
[Check out Fred Siegel‘s book: The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class at Amazon]
Political scientist Gabriel Lenz‘s theory — or findings — make me wary. At first glance, I absolutely don’t agree. According to Lenz, it’s not the policy agenda, or ideology, or even political identity of the candidate that voters rally around. It’s the candidate and brand that motivates the voting choice, and loyalty. The voters accommodate the rest, after that, even if they don’t agree with the politics, or policy, they stick to first. True? I doubt it. (disclaimer, my oversimplification or even mischaracterization of Lenz’s work isn’t meant to mislead, my too-brief exposure to his idea leaves me under-qualified to really explain it)
Do voters switch party affiliation–switch brands–so casually? Not identifying with any set of values or approach to governing, simply following the brand and ‘leadership’ style they like better? Regardless of whether the candidate is Republican, Democrat, Liberal, or Conservative, really? Name one person–one voter–you know that fits this rudderless description. I can’t think of one.
Based on observation, the exact opposite appears to be true the overwhelming majority of the time. Excluding voters who identify as Independents (swing voters, of which there’s only a relatively narrow band) most voters will try to elect candidates they don’t even like that much, or identify with, in order to push back against the political party they hate–the opposing party. Or to rally behind the party they most identify with. Voters stubbornly identify with an ideology, a “policy position”, even when it’s irrational, contradictory, or self-defeating, and often vote the policy party line, out of sheer bull-headed habit. Voters don’t freely slide back and forth between being Conservative, or Liberal, depending on the candidates’ personal leadership style, temperament, character, or media image.
Or do they?
Amazon description of Lenz’s book:
In a democracy, we generally assume that voters know the policies they prefer and elect like-minded officials who are responsible for carrying them out. We also assume that voters consider candidates’ competence, honesty, and other performance-related traits. But does this actually happen? Do voters consider candidates’ policy positions when deciding for whom to vote? And how do politicians’ performances in office factor into the voting decision?
And goes on to suggest, policy doesn’t matter to voters. Not as much as we’ve been led to believe. Again, I’m not convinced. I’ll have to explore more of Lenz‘s argument, to see if it holds up. But if it does hold up, it could mean most of us are drastically misreading how voters think and respond. And most of the elected officials in Washington are reading them wrong, too. When Republican leaders, or Democrat leaders, claim to have a mandate, based on the outcome of a recent election, and use this perceived mandate like a weapon, believing it gives them added authority or legitimacy, they could be completely, utterly, suicidally, spectacularly wrong.
What do you think?
John Sides reports: The seemingly imminent government shutdown has brought out a familiar argument from both Democrats and Republicans: “The last election proves we’re right.” Democrats think Obama’s victory in 2012 settled issues like health-care reform. Jonathan Chait sums up this view when describing congressional Republicans’ proposed conditions for raising the debt ceiling:
The fact that a major party could even propose anything like this is a display of astonishing contempt for democratic norms. Republicans ran on this plan and lost by 5 million votes.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans see the election differently. Only a week after the election, Paul Ryan dismissed the idea of that Obama got any mandate, noting that Republicans were returned to the House as well. More recently, former Sen. Jim DeMint took an even stronger view. As Joshua Green describes it:
DeMint, Cruz, and all those trying to defund Obamacare drew precisely the opposite lesson from the last election than just about everyone else did. “Republicans were told, ‘Don’t do anything. Don’t be the issue. Don’t stand for anything. Make it about Obama,’ ” DeMint says. “What happened in 2012 was that there was a void of any inspiration, any attempt to lead. It certainly wasn’t because the party was too conservative—it was because there was no conservative leadership at all!”
Both sides are wrong. Elections don’t convey policy mandates because most voters don’t vote on policy. Instead, they vote based on longstanding loyalties to one party or the other. As political scientist Gabriel Lenz shows, rather than using policy to choose a candidate, voters more often choose the candidate first, and then mold their policy views to fit those of the candidate they support. Party comes before policy. Read the rest of this entry »