The Social Justice activists focus on the cultural levers of power. Their most talked about action is canceling people. Some person, usually mildly progressive, will say something politically “problematic” and his or her job will be terminated. In this way new boundaries are established for what has to be said and what cannot be said.
The Social Justice activists sometimes claim that if you don’t like their tactics then you are not fighting for racial equity or economic justice or whatever. But those movements all existed long before Social Justice affixed itself to them and tried to change their methods.
The core problem is that the Social Justice theory of change doesn’t produce much actual change. Corporations are happy to adopt some woke symbols and hold a few consciousness-raising seminars and go on their merry way. Worse, this method has no theory of politics.
How exactly is all this cultural agitation going to lead to legislation that will decrease income disparities, create better housing policies or tackle the big challenges that I listed above? That part is never spelled out. In fact, the Sturm und Drang makes political work harder. You can’t purify your way to a governing majority.
The Social Justice methodology is ultimately not a solution to our problem, it’s a symptom of our problem. Over the last half century, we’ve turned politics from a practical way to solve common problems into a cultural arena to display resentments. Donald Trump is the ultimate performer in this paralyzed arena.
If you think the interplay of these five gigantic changes is going to fit into some neat ideological narrative, you’re probably wrong. If you think we can deal with a racial disparity, reform militaristic police departments and address an existential health crisis and a prolonged economic depression by taking the culture war up another notch, I think you’re mistaken.
Dealing with these problems is going to take government. It’s going to take actual lawmaking, actual budgeting, complex compromises — all the boring, dogged work of government that is more C-SPAN than Instagram.
I know a lot of people aren’t excited about him, but I thank God that Joe Biden is going to be nominated by the Democratic Party. He came to public life when it wasn’t about performing your zeal, it was about crafting coalitions and legislating. He exudes a spirit that is about empathy and friendship not animosity and canceling. The pragmatic spirit of the New Deal is a more apt guide for the years ahead than the spirit of critical theory symbology.
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