Time to Throw the Intersectional Left Under the Bus!
This is a golden opportunity for the Democrats.
The appalling terrorist attack by the appalling terrorist group Hamas, which slaughtered more than 1300 Israelis, 87 percent of whom were civilians, is the largest single day killing of Jews since the Holocaust. The response of America’s intersectional left has also been appalling. As Sohrab Ahmari accurately noted in a Compact magazine article titled “Woke Is Dying”:
Many of those who spent the last few years promoting #Defund, “intersectionality,” and similar concepts refused to condemn Hamas’s butchery—that is, when they didn’t celebrate it. The Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter tweeted, “I Stand With Palestine,” along with a picture of a paraglider, an allusion to how Hamas terrorists descended upon an outdoor party, murdering some 260 ravers. Yale American Studies professor Zareena Grewal declared: “Settlers are not civilians. This is not hard.” The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America promoted a Times Square rally at which murderers were hailed as liberators.
What is wrong with these people?
In my opinion, the rot goes very deep. This is not a one-off. Over the last number of years, huge swathes of the American left have become infected with an ideology that judges actions or arguments not by their content but rather by the identity of those involved in said actions or arguments. Those identities in turn are defined by an intersectional web of oppressed and oppressors, of the powerful and powerless, of the dominant and marginalized. With this approach, one judges an action not by whether it’s effective or an argument by whether it’s true but rather by whether the people involved in the action or argument are in the oppressed/powerless/marginalized bucket or not. If they are, the actions or arguments should be supported; if not, they should be opposed.
This approach was always a terrible idea, in obvious contradiction to logic and common sense. But it has led much of the left and large sectors of the Democratic Party to take positions that have little purchase in social or political reality and are offensive to the basic values most people hold. The failure to unequivocally condemn the Hamas massacre as a crime against humanity is just the latest example of this intellectual and moral malignancy.
Take the vogue for “anti-racist” posturing. This dates back to the mid-teens and gathered overwhelming force in 2020 with the George Floyd police killing and subsequent nationwide protests. It became de rigueur in left and liberal Democratic circles to solemnly pronounce American society structurally racist and shot through with white supremacy from top to bottom. No argument along these lines was too outrageous if it came from or on behalf of “people of color”, who must be deferred to given their place in the intersectional hierarchy.
Nothing exemplifies this better than the lionization of Ibram X. Kendi, whose thoroughly ridiculous claims were treated as revealed truth by tens of millions of good liberals and leftists:
There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups…The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination….The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.
Only those who have checked their capacity for critical thinking at the door could possibly take this “analysis” seriously. But they did because of the intersectional positioning of Kendi and those he claimed to advocate for.
How else to explain why liberals didn’t run screaming in the opposite direction when Kendi called for the passage of an “anti-racist Constitutional amendment” that would:
…establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.
It is difficult to imagine anything more illiberal than proposing an unelected Soviet-style bureaucracy of “experts” that would vet the actions, ideas, and perhaps even the thoughts of all public officials in the country for their anti-racist content and punish those who deviate from the correct path. Madness! And yet he has been showered with honors, money, and coveted academic positions (though recent revelations of epic mismanagement at his Boston University Center for Antiracist Research may curb some of that enthusiasm).
Bad ideas and arguments are bad ideas and arguments. It shouldn’t matter who makes them. Just like it shouldn’t matter who in the intersectional hierarchy massacres Jews. It’s still an atrocity.
It’s high time for Democrats to decisively reject this kind of thinking across the board. Embrace instead the universalistic principles the overwhelming majority of Americans believe in. They believe, unlike Kendi, that racial preferences in rewards and decision-making are not fair and fairness is a fundamental part of their world outlook. They actually believe, with Martin Luther King Jr., that people should “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In a recent University of Southern California Dornsife survey, this classic statement of colorblind equality was posed to respondents: “Our goal as a society should be to treat all people the same without regard to the color of their skin.” This MLK-style statement elicited sky-high (92 percent) agreement from the public, despite the assaults on this idea from Critical Race Theory (CRT), Kendi, and large sectors of the Democratic left. In a fascinating related finding, the researchers found that most people who claim to have heard about CRT believe CRT includes this colorblind perspective, rather than directly contradicting it. Perhaps they just can’t believe any theory that has anything to do with race would reject this fundamental principle.
Similarly a recent Public Agenda Hidden Common Ground survey found 91 percent agreement with the statement: “All people deserve an equal opportunity to succeed, no matter their race or ethnicity.” This is what people deeply believe in: equal opportunity not, unlike the intersectional left, equal outcomes.
Equally, Americans believe crime is crime no matter who commits it and that criminals should be punished. They do not believe that open drug use, street camping, shoplifting and countless other symptoms of social disorder should be tolerated because the populations involved are “marginalized” or because enforcement outcomes might not be equally distributed across races. Nor do they believe that the borders of the United States are merely suggestions that can be ignored by those appropriately placed in the intersectional hierarchy.
Reactions to the Hamas massacre have exposed the moral cul-de-sac occupied by the intersectional left. Democrats and liberals should seize this opportunity to dissociate themselves not just from these disgraceful reactions but also from the entire world view that has produced bad policy and worse politics in area after area.
Of course the usual suspects will inevitably say that returning to a universalist, mainstream approach is tantamount to throwing loyal Democratic constituencies in need of help “under the bus”. But who is throwing whom under the bus? Perhaps it is those whose intersectional dogma stands in the way of a Democratic approach that could plausibly generate the widest possible support that are throwing those who need help the most under the bus.