The Antidiscrimination Tyranny

The Antidiscrimination Tyranny, by R.R. Reno.

I read The Age of Entitlement in one sitting, unable to put down Christopher Caldwell’s riveting account of the last fifty years of American politics and culture…

By Caldwell’s account, we now live under a new constitution, significantly different from the one that preceded it. …

A “civil rights ideology” has inspired a government-­led project of social transformation. In ways few anticipated when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the legal mechanisms developed to end Jim Crow are now used to fight discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, and soon, if activists have their way, gender identity.

The range of application is unlimited. The civil rights legal infrastructure puts immigration policy under judicial review, along with other executive branch policies that can be seen as having a discriminatory effect. …

The most dramatic cultural consequence has been the functional prohibition of majoritarian views.

Gay marriage:

A decade ago, same-sex marriage proponents said, “If you don’t like gay marriage then don’t get gay married.” The riposte implied that the institution of marriage would not be harmed by the innovation of gay marriage. Perhaps gay marriage proponents believed this, but it was never realistic, for the logic of antidiscrimination prohibits public endorsement of male-female marriage.

If I observe that children flourish best when raised by a mother and a father, I imply that the mother-father household should be the norm for society. I also imply that gay marriage, if tolerated, should be marginal, which is to say abnormal. But this is precisely the condition the antidiscrimination regime seeks to prevent, which is why Mark Regnerus is denounced as “anti-gay” when he publishes social-scientific evidence backing up the claim that children do best with a mother and father.

The new America cannot tolerate free speech:

Here, as elsewhere, the speech of private citizens is monitored by political correctness, the cultural-­enforcement arm of the antidiscrimination regime. …

Caldwell’s account helps me see that placing antidiscrimination at the center of our social compact fifty years ago was a mistake. …

Kill the successful people:

In 2017, Amy Wax coauthored an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer that commended bourgeois values: Get and stay married, work hard, don’t get hooked on drugs or alcohol, stay out of jail, and respect authority.

She was immediately accused of racism for “privileging” a certain cultural script. Commending bourgeois values is “white supremacist discourse.” Student and faculty groups have tried to get her fired. These denunciations are not accidental to the antidiscrimination regime. They follow directly from the urgency of inclusion. Any “privileged” script is by definition discriminatory, because it judges alternatives less worthy of public commendation. Therefore, the “privilege” must be eliminated, along with those who commend it. …

The left, as usual, is at war with reality:

It was inevitable that the antidiscrimination project would run up against human nature. Male-female differences keep reasserting themselves, subverting the project of equality between the sexes, and many parents still have a healthy desire to shepherd their children toward normal male-female sentiments, though it runs afoul of gay rights. …

The all-or-nothing character of civil rights, as well as the intense moral meaning assigned to them, exacerbates rather than moderates the social tensions that arise in a pluralistic society. It encourages us to interpret personal setbacks as consequences of discrimination. … Recourse to litigation means we have no incentives to learn how to live together. The centrality of civil rights also has encouraged a relentless emphasis on discrimination …

What we share is by definition majoritarian or “normal,” and any dynamic of social consolidation places what is not normal on the margins of the social compact. In brief: Coming together as a nation will invariably be cast as an act of discrimination. I have experienced exactly this dynamic. Whenever I speak about our need for solidarity, I am accused of promoting a dangerous “ethno-nationalism.” The response is so predictable it’s hard to take seriously — yet I still feel its coerciveness. …

If there is no center, nobody will be marginalized. …

The more disintegrated we are — the less defined we are by any “center” — the more fully everyone will be included….

The dream is that America won’t have a dominant culture, which means (progressives imagine) nobody will be dominated. …

Politically correct nonsense is a disease of the elite:

Resistance to renewed solidarity does not come from the slums of Baltimore or the Spanish-speaking neighborhoods of Miami. It comes from the very rich, mostly white Americans who are perched at the top of society. …

Caldwell adduces a revealing statistic about wealth inequality: “The share of wealth held by the top 1 percent of American households, which reached its lowest level in recorded history in 1978 (23 percent), had nearly doubled (to 42 percent) by 2013, a generation later.” Most of us are aware that we are living in a new Gilded Age.

Caldwell makes a further observation: Very rich people constitute a minority who are as vulnerable as black Americans. … The wealthy [… are] at risk of being relieved of their wealth, as populists remind them.

Therefore, the richest and most powerful people in America have strong incentives to support an anti-majoritarian political system..

Organizing society around the antidiscrimination imperative allows those who have prospered over the last generation to redescribe the populist revolts against their indifference and arrogance as expressions of racism or other forms of bigotry, rather than as what they are — ­expressions of popular discontent with elite priorities during the last two generations. …

It was never noted in or supported by the majority:

Caldwell details how the antidiscrimination regime, though established by legislative acts in the 1960s, has been built out with judicial decisions and executive orders. He makes the mordant observation that Barack Obama’s political career was “built at the intersection of billionaire finance and community-based race activism.” Wealthy individuals shovel donations into elite institutions that incubate identity politics, which further fragments the nation and prevents the formation of majorities. …

Caldwell’s insight into the vulnerability of the wealthy minority explains why the party of the rich throws itself into the cause of transgender rights. It is the ultimate upper-class project, a test of the elite’s power to cow every local school board, reluctant company, and red-state governor. …

Voters want their leaders to prevent their communities from being hollowed out by globalization. They are tired of being told that affirming what we share as Americans is racist, or that normal sentiments about men and women are sexist. Most of all, they don’t trust the prosperous “creative class” to have their interests at heart.

Read it all.

hat-tip Stephen Neil