“This year, several high-profile writers have left left-leaning publications after running afoul of what they describe as a pervasive culture of censoriousness, groupthink and intellectual-risk aversion,” Stephens began his piece on Monday. “This month, Donald Trump once again stunned much of the liberal establishment by dramatically beating polling expectations to come within about 80,000 votes of another Electoral College victory. It’s worth asking whether there’s a connection between the two — that is, between the left’s increasingly constricted view of the world and the increasing frequency with which leftists are surprised by the world as it is.”
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Stephens assessed the transformation of the political left from “predominantly liberal, albeit with radical fringes” to “predominantly progressive, or woke, with centrist liberals in dissent,” writing “Once it believed that truth was best discovered by engaging opposing points of view. Now it believes that truth can be established by eliminating them.”
“The old liberal left paid attention to complexity, ambiguity, the gray areas. A sense of complexity induced a measure of doubt, including self-doubt. The new left typically seeks to reduce things to elements such as race, class and gender, in ways that erase ambiguity and doubt. The new left is a factory of certitudes,” Stephens explained.
The Times columnist then cited the dramatic exits of writers Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan from their leftwing publications, though he notably did not acknowledge his former colleague Bari Weiss’ similar departure from the Gray Lady.
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“For the new left — and the publications that champion it — the loss is much greater. It makes them predictable, smug and dull. It alienates readers,” Stephens wrote. “But worse than making it dull, the purge (or self-purge) of contrarians has made the new left blind.”
Stephens, who is also an MSNBC contributor, then highlighted exit polls that showed President Trump improving his voter turnout among people of color and maintaining his majority of the vote among White women despite the media declaring him “the most anti-Black, anti-Hispanic and anti-woman president in modern memory.”
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“If the catechism of today’s left determined reality, none of this would have happened. Racial, ethnic or sexual identity would have trumped every other voting consideration,” Stephens continued. “People are rarely reducible to a single animating political consideration. Nor should they be subject to a simple moral judgment. Motives are complicated: It is perfectly possible to see Trump for the reprehensible man he is and still find something to like in his policies, just as it is possible to admire Biden’s character and reject his politics.”
He later concluded, “To the enemies of the left, the self-harm that left-leaning institutions do with their increasingly frequent excommunications is, ultimately, good news. The mystery is why liberals would do it to themselves.”
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