A Daring Left and a Cowed Center

A Daring Left and a Cowed Center. By Mark Bauerlein.

The first fact of sociopolitical life in America today is this: liberals in elite positions are frightened of the Left.

A college president may direct an institution with a $900 million endowment, meet with legislators and business heads, and boast a 30-year record of academic honors, but the sight of eight African American undergrads marching toward his office with scowls on their faces alarms him like nothing else.

A CEO may draw a $3 million salary and manage 1,300 workers, but the threat of a boycott coming from a few networked Millennials with ties to Sleeping Giant calls for immediate emergency action. …

Liberal leaders dislike the dynamic, but they can’t face down the Left. So they choose another tactic: to fabricate dangerous terrorism forming on the Right.

When we compare the facts of right-wing violence against liberal anxieties over it, we have to judge those professed anxieties either as a cynical maneuver or a pathological defense mechanism. I favor the latter. I’ve heard too many liberals express their concerns with too much sincerity to think otherwise. The grave distress over a dangerous, anti-democratic Right looks like a way for liberals to appease or distract their leftist accusers, though liberals may not realize exactly what they’re doing. …

By postulating a right-wing menace, liberals can work off the nervousness that leftists cause them by applying it to a substitute object. … College presidents can’t confront leftist protesters and punish them for violations of academic codes. Still, they can broadcast with fervor their abhorrence of the “haters” on the Right who have caused those protesters to suffer.

Whatever actually happened at the Capitol on Wednesday, liberal leaders have expressed their alarm in such solemn and dismayed tones one can sense a profound relief behind their words. The discord liberals have felt in their relations with the radical Left now dissipates in the sober condemnation of the Trump hordes. For a moment, liberals may unite with the Left in a reassuring unity. …

All too many conservatives and establishment Republicans fail to recognize this dynamic. They don’t see that when liberal elites sign on to “systemic racism” and other leftist concoctions that liberals are not endorsing an ideology. No, they are protecting themselves.

The failure to discern liberal motives may be because establishment Republicans, too, have an investment in the status quo. It’s done well by them, and it’s made them just as scared of the fractious Left as liberal elites are.

There’s a lot of truth in this. The physical violence, abuse, and cancelling by the left cowed everyone except Trump and many of his supporters.