Over the Aisle: This You Must Defend

Marie Myung-Ok Lee finds herself conflicted about attending a controversial author’s reading and wonders: what does “speaking up” actually mean?

Source: Politics and Prose

Lee writes a fascinating article that is worth the long read for two reasons.

Most obviously, she is a progressive who is uncomfortable with the Antifa’s Red Guard style tactics. I take that as a positive: the more either side the US declines to align with its most extreme fringes, the more I nurture the hope that we will avoid civil war.

But what I find most telling is the grounds on which she criticizes the Antifa rabble shouting down a speaker: her problem is that the speaker is actually more sympathetic to their point than they realize, and if they listen they would understand. You see, the author they were shouting down was NOT someone like Richard Spencer. Because he was different than Spencer, because his position was closer to those of Antifa, he deserves to be able to speak.

It apparently does not occur to Ms. Lee that there is a greater crime being committed than the failure to recognize the importance of nuance in a political position. What Lee fails to do is to say – or even suggest – that the problem with the Antifa tactics is that they are not expressing their own right of free speech as much as they are denying someone else theirs. Lee – a writer who thrives on the rights granted by the Constitution – is unwilling to defend that right. By implication, indeed, free speech is not a right but a privilege to be granted only to those who agree with you.

I pick on Ms. Lee, and perhaps unfairly. She is not the issue. The problem is that on the progressive left it is okay to listen politely to someone you agree with, but that someone you disagree with does not even merit the privilege of a public forum. The problem is that it has become okay on the American left to suggest that those whose ideas I find repugnant have no right to self-expression; or, indeed, that there are ideas which must not be aired, even in a free society; and to do so without having to worry about being questioned by your fellows.

In so doing, the left runs the risk of sacrificing its opportunity to take political leadership of this country at a time when, even in the eyes of this conservative, the nation needs a liberal opposition capable of credible leadership.

The Democrats will probably take home a great victory in November, a “blue tide” that will give the Executive Branch the opposition it deserves. If it is to get the opposition that the nation needs, the left must make clear that it offers an inclusive vision of the future, one in which there is even a place for people whose ideas they find repugnant. Nothing will undermine that more quickly than questions about whether the left is prepared to uphold and defend the Constitution.

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Opening Up the Identity Conversation

Men should have the same right to opine on gender issues as women. Having an identity doesn’t give you total authority over certain issues.

Source: Christian Alejandro Gonzalez, Rejecting the Left’s Conversation-Ending Identitarianism | The American Conservative

Agreed. And first principle.

But let’s open this up:

  1. Atheists and agnostics should have the same right to opine on religious issues as the faithful.
  2. All Americans should have the same right to opine on Veteran’s affairs as those who have served.
  3. All people should have the same right to opine on accessibility issues as do those with disabilities.
  4. People of all ethnic backgrounds – including those of us who find ourselves insensitively lumped into the derogatory catch-all category of “white” – should have the same right to opine on racial issues as do people of color.
  5. People of all sexual preferences – including monogamous heterosexuals – should have the same right to opine on sexuality as those identifying themselves as lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, queer, asexual, or polyamorous.
  6. People of any one culture should have the same right to experience and adopt aspects of any other culture as those who are born into or who have hereditary ties to that culture.

The minute you start quashing debate about any of these issues, you have killed democracy and ended the American experiment. That’s a line we cannot afford to cross, even at the cost of causing offense and even hurt feelings.

Jon Stewart: Trump is the Child of both Dems and GOP

Source: Jon Stewart Pops Up To Deliver Epic Anti-Trump Rant | GOOD

Fascinating. Stewart does offer some amusing and pointed vignettes that summarize the infantilism of Trump. Pointedly, though, he notes that the blame for the emergence of Trumpism cannot be laid at the feet of the GOP alone: the Democrats share a degree of culpability.

The real fun begins at around the 36 minute mark, when Stewart starts truth-telling about the Democrats and the Obama administration, and David Axelrod offers a remarkably lame defense of his former boss and his record.

When historians begin to delve beyond the poisonous rhetoric of the past eight years, past the spew of birthers, the racists and the obstructionists on the one hand and the starry-eyed apologists on the other to try and reveal the reality of this administration and the man at its center, David Axelrod, Ben Rhodes, and John Kerry will offer the most compelling points of entry.

The Closing of the Collegiate Mind

Perhaps the most nerve-racking duty of a senior class president at Scripps College in Claremont is securing a speaker for commencement. And Jennie Xu thought she had nailed it by booking Madeleine Albright , the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of State.

Source: War criminal or role model? Madeline Albright as Scripps College commencement speaker hits a nerve – LA Times

I am sorry to say that I have lost whatever respect I had for Scripps, a once-outstanding example of what makes higher education in California so special. Today, it appears that their students are utterly incapable of entertaining – or even hearing – a political viewpoint that strays even a bit from their narrow band of correctness, whether from Madeline Albright or George Will.

What is so wrong with Madeline Albright? Whatever is wrong with George Will? Or Noam Chomsky? Or any controversial figure with a point of view? In my time in school – as not only a conservative but an officer of my College Republicans chapter – I paid to go see Angela Davis, Hunter Thompson, and a host of other somewhat lesser lights who held views I found objectionable, misguided, or repugnant, but who forced me to question my cherished values. There is nothing that all of us – scholars especially – need more than a regular forced excursion outside of one’s cloistered political echo-chamber.

If the students and faculty of Scripps are trying to send a message, the only message that is getting through is that they would prefer willful ignorance over the specter of cognitive dissonance. As a result, Scripps is in danger of downgrading itself from a respected tertiary institution to a finishing school with books, and the students and faculty will share the blame if that happens.

Louis Farrakahn Likes What He Sees in Trump

“Not that I’m for Mr. Trump, but I like what I’m looking at,” the Nation of Islam leader said.

Source: Farrakhan praises Trump for rejecting ‘Jewish’ money | TheHill

The quote that speaks volumes. First David Duke, now Louis Farrakhan. It seems that Mr. Drumpf strikes a chord with racists of all persuasions.

By the way, please tell me that I’m not the only one to notice distinct similarities between the uniform of the Fruit of Islam and that of the Nazi Brownshirts.

The Progressive Debate

The ugly truth is that you can be a progressive and be from nearly any point on the American political spectrum – see both Roosevelts, Truman, Ike, Earl Warren, etc.

Of course, if you accept the rhetorical construct promulgated by the far Left – that “progressive” is just a euphemism for “radical” in the way that the far Right uses “conservative” as a euphemism for “reactionary,” then this all falls apart.

In the name of truth and clarity, however, we must reject these political inexactitudes and name things for what they are.

Bernie Sanders is not a progressive. He is a radical. Hillary Clinton is a liberal.

Ted Cruz is not a conservative. He is a reactionary. John Kasich represents something far closer to a conservative. John Huntsman is a conservative with progressive leanings.

And Donald Trump is a power-hungry opportunist who takes on whatever political shadings he thinks will rouse the nearest rabble and get him one more delegate close to election.

We can argue definitions, but let us do so in the quest for accurate descriptions, not for the sake of political spin.