Scenes from a Moral Panic, Part 2
I ended the previous installment by saying we should look for signs of resistance to the current moral panic.
I will start by reminding you not to expect much from politicians, who are generally a poor source if you’re looking for moral courage.
The Man in the Middle
Will Joe Biden, who campaigned as a “moderate” Democrat, be better than the radical wing of the left? Sure—but not by much. Biden will continue to be the man in the middle, trying to carve a middle path between patriotism and outright hatred of the United States, as he did in his Fourth of July op-ed.
The Fourth of July commemorates a courageous, extraordinary day, when the architects of our nation laid the first stone in the foundation of American democracy. In the nearly two and a half centuries since, our Independence Day has come to stand not only for that timeless bedrock, but also for every brick, beam and pillar Americans have marched and bled to build atop it.
I actually like this part, the idea that the Fourth of July stands not just for the Declaration of Independence but for all the further progress built on top of it. Even the metaphor of the Declaration as a “foundation” is a good one. But then notice something about what he lists as being built on that foundation.
Our democracy rose up from the ground when we ended slavery and ratified the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. It rose higher when women fought for suffrage—and won. It was fortified when a lawyer named Thurgood Marshall persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down ‘separate but equal’ and blaze a trail for opportunity in Brown v. Board of Education. And when our nation opened its eyes to the viciousness of Bull Connor and the righteousness of the Freedom Riders—and responded with outrage, and a new Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act—we built it stronger still.
Biden is better than the far left in that he is trying to tell a story of American progress rather than one of irredeemable national guilt. But he defines that progress almost solely on the issue of race and in terms of America overcoming its past sins. The rejection of monarchical government, the drafting of the Constitution, freedom of religion, the enormous achievements of settlement and industrialization, the defeat of fascism in World War II, our victory over Communism in the Cold War—none of that is mentioned as a source of national pride or considered worthy of notice.
Why? Because Biden is the man in the middle, the zero at the meeting point of opposing forces. Since the current ideological trend on the left is to make race the central issue in everything, Biden is going to reflect that perspective. A previous Democratic politician, like Joe Biden a few decades ago, might have put the New Deal or the Great Society welfare state at the forefront of his litany of American progress. But not today.
I’ve been speculating privately that Joe Biden could use a “Sister Souljah moment,” a reference to the point in the 1992 campaign when Bill Clinton took on the radical race-baiting left and won over a lot of centrist swing voters. But Clinton was in a difficult three-way race with Ross Perot and George Bush the Elder. He needed the boost. Joe Biden is ten points up over a flailing and unpopular incumbent. Unless he starts to get in trouble, he’s going to be cautious and stand pat.
The Silent Majority
The battle against “cancel culture” conformism is being fought by people who have the most direct interest: those in the media and in academia, who regard themselves as most likely to become targets for running afoul of the latest dogmas.
The latest development is that Bari Weiss—a center-right member of the New York Times editorial board who for various reasons has been a focus of hatred from intolerant “progressives”—resigned. On her way out the door, she set her former employer on fire.
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