Right now there’s much talk about the “incivility” and “extremism” of modern politics. From my vantage point as a commentator observing from the very bleeding edge of where the trends are going, I can tell you exactly what happened.
My background in all this started roughly 10 years ago, and in those days I would’ve identified as a “libertarian on a good day and an anarchist on a bad one”. This was the Wild West of the internet when Facebook and other forms of social media were debate chambers for what I’d charitably refer to as “wannabe pseudo-intellectuals”. There were a few genuinely intelligent individuals in these circles and it was during this period that some relatively sophisticated arguments were deployed against concepts of “whiteness” along with the now familiar commentary about “white privilege” from people who were ideologically leftist. Participants, most of whom were white, reacted to this by playing Devil’s Advocate and exploring those topics.
The premises we debated were nothing less than the content of modern academic sociology departments in elite universities. Peggy Mcintosh‘s “Invisible Knapsack” was spilled out for examination and the epistemology of “race” as a category was hotly contested. The fruits of this online intellectual competition was that politically neutral intelligent people were able to formulate nuanced responses to the social criticisms made by the left.
When that happened, they veered right and created a new ideological movement.
You can roll your eyes all you want, it doesn’t change the fact the far/alt/neo-right can go toe to toe with leftist intelligentsia in debate, hence why denying them a platform is the standard tactic employed today.
Meanwhile, as the nascent right-wing was engaged in esoteric debates about what “whiteness” was, the normal, average American conservative just looked on incomprehensibly. They didn’t identify with us, they knew we were distinctly different than them and potentially held very controversial positions they didn’t approve of.
In those days you could have easily driven a wedge between the alt-right and mainstream conservatism.
Unfortunately for you, those academic identity politics positions got traction in mainstream media, meaning that a very large swath of the American populace now had their very identity under attack with antagonistic narratives about “white privilege” being leveled at poor rural whites suffering from opiate addiction and unemployment. Regardless of how you want to debate that position, the kneejerk response of white Americans was to become defensive.
Worse, during the 2016 election a certain political candidate went as far as to call white Republicans “deplorable” against a backdrop of classist rhetoric about “fly-over states”. White America got the subtext of the left’s message loud and clear:
They were racist, stupid, obsolete, and they were WHITE.
By using barely coded speech like “racist” and “deplorable” and “rural” to describe them, you committed the same sin as talking about black criminals as “thugs”. Everyone knew what you meant. You meant white people.
Instead of deconstructing whiteness, you just catechized it into a cold hard permanent reality for millions.
Guess what happened?
Actual leftwing white people flipped to either moderate positions or did a 180 into the right wing, and your standard conservatives took a big step towards our camp. The ideological intolerance of the left escalated, and in so doing it became dogmatic to the point of zealotry. The problem is so bad that when people like Jason Unruhe (an extreme Marxist) talk about alienating the white working class, your team calls him a Nazi sympathizer. Imagine just how inflexible and limiting this is for your own analysis, not to mention the effect this has on white bystanders. They get the message, and the message is they’re all evil white supremacists.
You did this.
You couldn’t stop attacking, you couldn’t show any civility towards the other side or even members of your own team that dared to commit heresies against your unsmiling schizophrenic cloister. All of that elitist contempt and flippant marginalization of white Republicans has stirred up cynicism, disgust and frustration from people who just a few years ago would’ve joined you in mocking “Nazis”. You made them into bitter enemies by kicking them while they were down. You subjected them to embarrassing theatrics in which a tenured professor with more income than a small town made false sexual assault allegations against a judge at the behest of a hysterical leftwing outrage complex. After Trump won, instead of regrouping and re-examining your premises, you doubled down with increasingly vicious rhetoric that angered and alienated a plurality of the United States.
To paraphrase Malcom X, everything going forward is the justice of roosting chickens.
Hope you sit down and think about it.