Biden’s Culture War Aggression?!

The hidden wokeness of our new Critical Theory-loving President.

So, while most of us have been breathing a sign of relief after three days of having a grown-up in the White House again, looking forward to being able to criticize the President on his policy ideas rather than his basic human decency, Andrew Sullivan has uncovered the scary truth.

After a couple of paragraphs arguing, correctly I think, that President Biden’s inaugural speech was overhyped simply because of its contrast to the awfulness of his predecessor, he gets down to business:

If Biden’s team meaningfully accelerates the pace of vaccination, he will be rewarded handily, as he should be. (He’s already lowering expectations, to maximize any political pay-off.) If he’s capable of passing an economic stimulus that can mitigate some of the extreme social and economic inequality this teetering republic labors under, rescue and grow the economy and help innovate and expand non-carbon energy sources, ditto. These are clear, measurable tasks that most non-ideologues can heartily support. So too would be a fuller extension of universal access to healthcare, via an Obamacare public option, if they can squeak that through the evenly divided Senate.

These are sane, sensible, center-left policies with majority support.

While it may seem a quibble, I’d argue that, if a majority supports a policy, it’s by definition “center,” not “center-left.” Although, in fairness, the column gives the impression that Sullivan’s sense of what a majority supports is based on his fellow intellectuals.

Regardless, he quickly does a heel turn:

But Biden has also shown this week that his other ambitions are much more radical. On immigration, Biden is way to Obama’s left, proposing a mass amnesty of millions of illegal immigrants, a complete moratorium on deportations, and immediate revocation of the bogus emergency order that allowed Trump to bypass Congress and spend money building his wall. Fine, I guess. But without very significant addition of border controls as a deterrent, this sends a signal to tens of millions in Central to South America to get here as soon as possible.

So, I agree that Biden’s immigration plan is in fact a mass amnesty of illegal immigrants. I don’t know if that’s “left,” much less “way to Obama’s left,” though. DACA, after all, is a massive amnesty plan, albeit one targeted to those who came as children and are less blameworthy and more sympathetic. And, as Sullivan and I are both old enough to remember, conservative icon Ronald Reagan signed a massive amnesty bill of his own. It’s ultimately a pragmatic issue rather than an ideological one.

Beyond that, Biden’s plan actually does call for stepped up surveillance, albeit of the electronic nature. We’ve been pouring more resources into border enforcement for decades—including under the radical, leftist, socialist, hard left Obama for whom Sullivan twice voted—without much success.

Oh, and while yet another amnesty might well signal more would-be Latin American migrants that they’ll eventually get a Get Out of Jail Free card of their own, Biden’s plan specifically requires proof of having been in the country as of 1 January 2021.

Biden could find, very quickly, that the “unity” he preaches will not survive such an effectively open-borders policy, or another huge crisis at the border. He is doubling down on the very policies that made a Trump presidency possible. In every major democracy, mass immigration has empowered the far right. Instead of easing white panic about changing demographics, Biden just intensified it.

I lean more to nationalism and a desire for border control than much of the commentariat. For a host of reasons, cultural and economic, my ideal would be to admit migrants based on our collective preferences as expressed in the law of the land. And, yes, there’s likely a white underclass that’s legitimately frustrated at having to compete with illegal immigrants. But it’s rather obvious that “the far right” is animated by propagandists and demagogues, not anodyne public policy decisions.

Biden has also signaled (and by executive order, has already launched) a very sharp departure from liberalism in his approach to civil rights. The vast majority of Americans support laws that protect minorities from discrimination, so that every American can have equality of opportunity, without their own talents being held back by prejudice. But Biden’s speech and executive orders come from a very different place. They explicitly replace the idea of equality in favor of what anti-liberal critical theorists call “equity.” They junk equality of opportunity in favor of equality of outcomes. Most people won’t notice that this new concept has been introduced — equity, equality, it all sounds the same — but they’ll soon find out the difference.

This is followed by a several-paragraph discourse into Sullivan’s favorite bugaboo, Critical Theory.

In critical theory, as James Lindsay explains, “‘equality’ means that citizen A and citizen B are treated equally, while ‘equity’ means adjusting shares in order to make citizen A and B equal.” Here’s how Biden defines “equity”: “the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.” 

In less tortured English, equity means giving the named identity groups a specific advantage in treatment by the federal government over other groups — in order to make up for historic injustice and “systemic” oppression. Without “equity”, the argument runs, there can be no real “equality of opportunity.” Equity therefore comes first. Until equity is reached, equality is postponed — perhaps for ever.

Look, I’m skeptical of overreach and quota systems. I’m leery, too, that the mechanisms for achieving equity will focus more on BIPOC than on rural Americans. But there’s nothing in the linked Executive Order that does more than establishing yet more advisory groups and generates yet more paperwork. As a Federal employee, I fear this will lead to yet more annual training requirements and yet more mandatory seminars on the values of diversity. But there’s nothing at all in the order that seems to lead to the purging of us middle-aged white dudes in favor of transgender quadriplegics from Appalachia.

Helping level up regions and populations that have experienced greater neglect or discrimination in the past is a good thing. But you could achieve this if you simply focused on relieving poverty in the relevant communities. You could invest in schools, reform policing, target environmental clean-ups, grow the economy, increase federal attention to the neglected, and thereby help the needy in precisely these groups. But that would not reflect critical theory’s insistence that race and identity trump class, and that America itself is inherently, from top to bottom, a “white supremacist” country. Biden just endorsed that with gusto.

He really hasn’t. The Order does reference “systemic racism,” but that doesn’t require white supremacism so much as an acknowledgment that those who designed the system with the implicit understanding that heterosexual, cisgender white men are the norm.

And Biden may well pursue may of the programs Sullivan prefers. He campaigned on some of them. But he can’t implement them via Executive Order. Which, to bang a drum I’ve been banging a lot lately, is a very good thing regardless of how one feels about the policies.

Several more paragraphs are devoted to explicating this thesis:

The paradox, of course, is that to achieve “equity” you have to first take away equality for individuals who were born in the wrong identity group. Equity means treating individuals unequally so that groups are equal.

Again, I’m likely more sympathetic to Sullivan’s views of this than much of the commentariat. But Ibram X. Kendi isn’t the President. Joe Biden, a 78-year-old moderate who has been in national politics for half a century is.

Biden’s executive order on “LGBTQ+” is also taken directly from critical gender and queer theory. Take the trans question. Most decent people support laws that protect transgender people from discrimination — which, after the Bostock decision, is already the law of the land. But this is not enough for Biden. He takes the view that the law should go further and insist that trans women are absolutely indistinguishable from biological women — which erases any means of enforcing laws that defend biological women as a class. If your sex is merely what you say it is, without any reference to biological reality, then it is no longer sex at all. It’s gender, period. It’s socially constructed all the way down.

So . . . no.

The entire order is premised on this paragraph:

Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.  Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.  Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.  People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination.  All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Much of this is already statutory law, especially as construed through Bostock. The rest of the order simply instructs Federal agencies to review their existing policies to ensure they’re in compliance with this current understanding of what the law requires.

I honestly don’t see how this jeopardizes women as a class.

Most of the time, you can ignore this insanity and celebrate greater visibility and protection for trans people. But in a few areas, biology matters. Some traumatized women who have been abused by men do not want to be around biological males in prison or shelters, even if they identify as women. I think these women should be accommodated. There are also places where we segregate by sex — like showers, locker rooms — for reasons of privacy. I think that allowing naked biological men and boys to be in the same showers as naked biological women and girls is asking for trouble — especially among teens. But for Biden, this is non-negotiable, and all objections are a function of bigotry.

Maybe Sullivan’s radar is more keen than mine. But I just don’t see anything in the order requiring that showers and locker rooms admit people regardless of their biological sex. And, frankly, if it does, it’s because of a sweeping reading of Bostock, not Biden’s Order.

For good measure, Biden also pledges to remove any protection for orthodox religious freedom and individual conscience in “LGBTQ+” areas in his proposed Equality Act, which repeals the relevant sections of Biden’s own Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and also makes sex indistinguishable from gender.

I haven’t studied the Equality Act, since it was a dead letter when introduced given a Republican President and Senate. But Biden did pledge to support it during the campaign. Still, to the extent that it clashes with he Free Exercise Clause, the Supreme Court will almost certainly strike those provisions down.

I wonder if Joe Biden even knows what critical theory is. But he doesn’t have to. It is the successor ideology to liberalism among elites, a now-mandatory ideology if you want to keep your job. But Biden’s emphatic backing of this illiberal, discriminatory project on his first day is relevant. He has decided to encourage “unity” by immediately pursuing policies that inflame Republicans and conservatives and normies more than any others.

And those policies are obviously unconstitutional. The federal government cannot actively discriminate on the basis of race, sex or group identity under the Constitution. It cannot strip women of their rights as a distinct biological class. It cannot void religious freedom for individuals. Biden’s woke rampage in the federal government won’t last, because it cannot last if our constitution means anything. So let the lawsuits commence as Biden alienates and inflames his moderate supporters and snubs practices that most Americans take as common sense.

What the Constitution means on many if not all of these issues is, and long has been, up for debate and, frankly, the whims of a majority of the Justices who happen to be sitting on the Supreme Court when a particular case is heard.

We have moved faster on gay, and especially transgender, issues than is comfortable for a lot of the country. The Black civil rights and women’s movements unfolded over decades and still spark bitterness and anger for too many people. The gay rights movement was much less visible, comparatively, but it, too, took decades to get where it is. It, and the seemingly-out-of-nowhere transgender rights movement, piggybacked on the natural consequences of gender equality. The law has moved further and faster than the culture, creating strains.

Biden, whether because of pressure from the Progressive wing of his party or his own abundant empathy, has embraced all of this with surprising enthusiasm given his moderate tendenc

Still, I can’t help but laugh at the phrase “Biden’s woke rampage.” C’mon, man.

FILED UNDER: Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    For a host of reasons, cultural and economic, my ideal would be to admit migrants based on our collective preferences as expressed in the law of the land.

    That would be ideal, if the legislature were actually representative of our collective preferences, rather than the apparently permanent institution of minority rule that it actually is.

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  2. Mikey says:

    Still, I can’t help but laugh at the phrase “Biden’s woke rampage.” C’mon, man.

    I know, right? When my conservative co-workers were bemoaning the inevitable imposition of Venezuela-style socialism that would surely happen within minutes of Biden’s inauguration, I simply pointed out Biden is one of the most middle-of-the-road Democrats currently active in American politics. And you know what, they actually listened, because I was obviously correct.

    Also I don’t know what the male equivalent of a TERF is, but it seems to me we should call him a “Sullivan.”

    10
  3. drj says:

    Sullivan has some big balls, complaining about “culture war aggression.”

    Let me take you back to 1992 when Pat Buchanan said at the National Republican Convention:

    There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.

    And:

    The agenda Clinton and Clinton would impose on America—abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units—that’s change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God’s country.

    I never heard him complain about the “culture war aggression” that is gay marriage. Didn’t that “signal” (Sullivan’s favorite scare word) that man-on-dog marriage was imminent?

    Didn’t “homsexual rights” also threaten social “unity” at the time?

    Sullivan would be less of a tool if his argument didn’t rest on scare mongeing such as “radical,” “sending a signal,” and threats to “unity” – which was all quite OK as long as it benefited himself.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In other words, Sullivan is still Sullivan. Thanx for letting me know, James.

    @Mikey: Biden is one of the most middle-of-the-road Democrats currently active in American politics.

    Which makes him a far left anarcho-socialist who hates Jesus and wants to turn the country into a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand.

    “Hawaiian Concretes on every table!”

    5
  5. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    turn the country into a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand

    Well, we could certainly do worse than that. Throw in some fried ravioli and I’m in.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mikey:

    Also I don’t know what the male equivalent of a TERF is, but it seems to me we should call him a “Sullivan.”

    A dick?

    Like an elephant terrified by a mouse, you have 99% of the population encouraged to be terrified by a minority so small they’re probably outnumbered by furries.

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  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I miss Ted Drewes.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Sleeping Dog: When my mother was succumbing to congestive heart failure she “lost” her sense of taste (as in nothing tasted good anymore*) but she never lost her taste for concretes (iirc her fav was an Oreo concrete). I brought her one every time I went to see her and I’d sneak them into ICU because it was probably against the rules (I never asked, I figured it was better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission).

    * I have noticed this phenomenon in 2 other people since, I think it’s the body’s way of saying, “It’s time to let go.”

  9. @drj:

    which was all quite OK as long as it benefited himself.

    This is where I landed on Sullivan a while back. He has personally benefitted from immigration to the US (and the relaxing of those rules as it pertains to people with HIV), the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, and the general relaxing of attitudes towards marijuana usage in the US.

    But now other people looking to expand access to rights and equality is just too woke? The lack of self-awareness and his own situational place in the evolution of American politics to his benefit is always a bit astounding.

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  10. wr says:

    There are few arguments in life less-compelling than those of an Oxford educated millionaire writer and TV pundit whining about “elites.”

    11
  11. wr says:

    @drj: “Didn’t “homsexual rights” also threaten social “unity” at the time?”

    Don’t be ridiculous. Sullivan is gay, and thus gay rights are the only rights that matter. Extending rights to anyone else, however, does threaten social unity.

    After all these decades, I am still unable to understand why anyone reads or listens to this man.

    8
  12. Modulo Myself says:

    Sullivan was always the wrongest guy around. Like a lot of dumber Brits, he crossed the Oxbridge to America to sell his accent. Now he’s stuck as an independent contractor fixing up bigotry in a pseudo-intellectual way for a gullible audience composed almost entirely of alienated phone-addicted boomers trying to figure out what wrong with the country, i.e. their own lives. All of this race theory and equal treatment for trans theory was supposed to form a backlash which would elect Trump and put the left in their place once and for all. Even though it didn’t happen, the audience wants to hear the golden oldies, so he’s providing them.

    1
  13. drj says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Sullivan was always the wrongest guy around.

    I have to disagree.

    Since I (clearly) hate myself, I checked up on Rod Dreher at TAC earlier today.

    Dreher, not to be outdone, turned Sullivan’s “Culture War Aggression” into “Biden’s Culture War Blitzkrieg.”

    Dreher opens as follows:

    Today is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, which gave unrestricted right to women to abort their unborn children. Over 60 million Americans have died at the hands of an abortionist since then.

    Since we’re already channeling WW2 (with the “Blitzkrieg” and all), Dreher professes to believe that 10 Holocausts have occurred in the last half century or so, and all he does is bitch about it on the Internet. Yeah right.

    Dreher is also always hawking his latest book, titled Live not by Lies. The irony is quite strong in this one.

    So even though Sullivan is generally quite wrong, he is obviously not the wrongest.

    7
  14. Kathy says:

    I guess it’s hard to articulate the position “I support equality for all, as long as all remain unequal,” without being labeled insane.

    2
  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The lack of self-awareness and his own situational place in the evolution of American politics to his benefit is always a bit astounding.

    He calls himself a conservative, and a single, two-letter word defines their beliefs: Me.

    4
  16. Jay L Gischer says:

    Honestly, I didn’t expect the “your gender is whatever you say it is” nonsense from Sullivan. He always seemed a bit better informed than the Rod Dreher’s of this world.

    But again, that’s why I try to leave comments like the one yesterday, describing how trans people actually are – how they never, ever, ever change their mind – and how a demonstration of this to multiple medical people is often necessary before getting any advanced treatment.

    2
  17. James Joyner says:

    @drj: Even aside from whether we believe his cognitive dissonance in merely tut-tuting multiple Holocausts is genuine, this is simply a lie: “Roe v. Wade ruling, which gave unrestricted right to women to abort their unborn children.” Neither Roe nor any of its successor cases made the right “unrestricted.” Roe made it really difficult to restrict access in the first two trimesters and Webster et al made “viability” the standard. Nobody who pays as much attention to the issue as Dreher could possibly be unaware of that.

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  18. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner: @drj:

    Dreher is a genuinely hateful guy. ‘Unrestricted’ to him means that women are allowed make their own choices. And that’s what most pro-life people really mean, I think. Women should not be allowed to have sex and if they have sex, they have to suffer the consequences of being a slut. That is the natural order of things.

    3
  19. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @James Joyner:

    Nobody who pays as much attention to the issue as Dreher could possibly be unaware of that.

    Of course he’s aware of that. However, it’s the only dog-whistle he’s getting paid to blow, so there it goes. A sweating televangelist in his $3k suit shows more intellectual honesty.

    2
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:
    @Modulo Myself:

    Dreher, like Josh Hawley and to less extent Sullivan are among those who are for freedom as long as it conforms to the world view that they hold and that you kowtow to the authority that they choose. Dreher and Hawley would like to reverse the Enlightenment and while Sullivan doesn’t, he certainly fancies himself standing athwart history post 2015 and yelling stop.

    3
  21. MarkedMan says:

    @drj: I’m not defending Sullivan on this, as I think he is going down the rabbit hole, and I think he is blind to the self centered ness of his attitude: “I find this aspect of sexuality repulsive gso it must be pushed away”. But I will defend him in this:

    I never heard him complain about the “culture war aggression” that is gay marriage.

    Sullivan has been consistent that it is on an oppressed group to win over the community to their position and not to try to impose it through law or courts. And yes, he argued this point when it came to gay marriage. He wrote a book calling for the acceptance of gay marriage based on conservative principles in 1995 and hawked it up and down the talk show and think tank circuit. He was attacked by the main stream gay rights community because he was going too far and too fast. They felt the better course was a gradual increase in workplace protection through legislation and an acceptance of same by the courts. Sullivan disagreed, saying that imposition of gay rights by legislative or judicial fiat would result in a hardening of opinions, locking in acceptance at low levels and making the “rights” easily overturned. I’m not arguing whether he was right or wrong but he has been consistent in his arguments for at least a quarter of a century.

    3
  22. drj says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m not following.

    Sullivan wanted something that the Pat Buchanans of this world dislike. That’s “culture war aggression” right there. Uppity Untermenschen asking for shit that isn’t “rightfully” theirs is the textbook definition of “culture war aggression” (or “Blitzkrieg” according to Dreher).

    Even if backed by a legislative majority, it is still “agression,” because it makes the Real Americans(tm) feel icky – and no Democrat in the last decade or so was ever elected legitimately anyways.

    It’s not like social conservatives have ever cared about popular majorities. That’s the entire point underlying the “real Americans” vs. “coastal elites” rhetoric.

    3
  23. wr says:

    @drj: “Dreher, not to be outdone, turned Sullivan’s “Culture War Aggression” into “Biden’s Culture War Blitzkrieg.””

    Dreher is just the trailer park version of Sullivan.

    1
  24. Gustopher says:

    Mr. Sullivan opines:

    I think that allowing naked biological men and boys to be in the same showers as naked biological women and girls is asking for trouble — especially among teens.

    This argument gets made all the time, but aren’t gay folks just as much of a problem? And isn’t the answer just not having big mass showers, but rather having private shower stalls? And isn’t that just more pleasant for everyone anyway?

    Gay folks aren’t going away, and you can’t tell who they are based on their plumbing. They’re like Canadians — they walk among us undetected.

    Also, the line about teenagers is unfortunate. Just because Sullivan wants to prey upon teenagers doesn’t mean it’s something everyone else wants to do. But public restrooms and showers are way safer for our teens than churches, to pick a random example.

    6
  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    This argument gets made all the time, but aren’t gay folks just as much of a problem?

    A fundamental feature of all so-called conservatives is an inability to understand – or care about – anyone but themselves or people exactly like themselves.

    4
  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The vast majority of Americans support laws that protect minorities from discrimination, so that every American can have equality of opportunity, without their own talents being held back by prejudice.

    Alas, this is another of those things that we want to want rather thanwant to have. Indeed, Sullivan goes on to make my point in the blather about critical theory and equality of outcome. We all want every American to not have their talents held back–as long as they don’t pass us.

    Dr. Joyner, unfortunately reinforces the same message when he says, “I’m leery, too, that the mechanisms for achieving equity will focus more on BIPOC than on rural Americans” as though there are no BIPOCs living in Rural America. (And yet nearly all of the reservations which various indigenous peoples live are in Rural America. Hmmmm…) It’s nice to hear Republicans pay lip service to the concept again, though. And as long as Biden remembers that all Americans are equal, but some Americans are more equal than others, he’ll do fine–and only be mildly criticized for going to far. After all, it’s not like he’s a minority or something like that guy who illegally ran for office a while back.

    5
  27. Gustopher says:

    So, I agree that Biden’s immigration plan is in fact a mass amnesty of illegal immigrants. I don’t know if that’s “left,” much less “way to Obama’s left,” though. DACA, after all, is a massive amnesty plan, albeit one targeted to those who came as children and are less blameworthy and more sympathetic. And, as Sullivan and I are both old enough to remember, conservative icon Ronald Reagan signed a massive amnesty bill of his own. It’s ultimately a pragmatic issue rather than an ideological one.

    Pragmatism is an ideological issue these days.

    For all the claims that the left is engaging in virtue signaling, the left is also generally pragmatic. Biden won the primary after all.

    Meanwhile, we’ve just had 4 years of an administration that was Republican virtue signaling and vice signaling with few attempts at pragmatism. A bit more pragmatism and they would have gotten a lot more done, for better or worse. But most of the time a vigorous statement of support for something was more important to them than actually getting 3/4ths of something done — and then failures are blamed on the deep state, Democrats and a globalist pedophile conspiracy.

    3
  28. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I’m aware of intersectionality. I just suspect that the Republican-leaning groups are included in the listing for show.

    Unlike, Sullivan, I acknowledge that structural barriers exist even apart from racist intention. And even that “equal” isn’t always equal. ‘The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread’ and all that. But bureaucracies can be damn ham fisted in remedying thst.

    2
  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    While I’m still on my horse, I will note that at least part of the reason that Dr, Joyner, among others, will be subjected to additional yearly workshops on diversity is because we aren’t there yet. On the other hand, diversity may be one of those things where we can’t get there because we insist on measuring outcomes and resorting people into their constituent “groups.” If we really could achieve diversity it would happen because we simply don’t notice who each of us is and use that noticing to categorize.

    A story from my childhood. On my first day of Third Grade, my mom asked me who my teacher was and what she was like (of course, everybody knows that only women can be primary grade teachers [and what does that say about diversity]. but I digress). I talked about her voice because she had the same kind of hoarseness that Andy Divine had in his voice. That was, to me anyway, the most memorable thing about her.

    A few weeks later after Open House, my mom asked me “why didn’t you tell me that your teacher was a [black woman]?” I replied that I hadn’t thought it was important, and my mom agreed that it wasn’t.

    But I discovered that day that it important was because she had asked about it. I never made that mistake again, and on that day, another chance for real understanding of diversity looks like was lost. How do you get really get to diversity when questions of race, gender, ethnicity, social class all matter and need to be kept track of so that we can become diverse?

    2
  30. MarkedMan says:

    @drj: Right. But Sullivan’s remedy was to work tirelessly to get “the culture” to change their minds about homosexuality. It expressly wasn’t to try to get laws changed before that was accomplished.

    Sullivan is a western world conservative in the most actual-world sense. He thinks society and its ancient and formal (and, to a lesser extent, informal) institutions and beliefs should be given great weight. But like most thinking people of any sort he believes there are things wrong with those institutions and common beliefs. So he works to convince the “rightful” elite that they have misjudged this one small thing. He doesn’t defy them, or go around them. After all, it is their acceptance that matters to him.

    I don’t find Sullivan persuasive, and I often find him obnoxious. But I’ll defend his intellectual honesty. He doesn’t change his beliefs to suit the prevailing wind. He can be persuaded that he is wrong. There are few of our public thinkers that fall into that category and, lately, even fewer amongst those who identify as conservative. I read him because I want to understand his viewpoint, not because I agree with him.

    1
  31. MarkedMan says:

    @wr:

    Dreher is just the trailer park version of Sullivan.

    My argument above for Sullivan applies to Dreher to some extent. I also. Think he is honest in his writings. But he is a man defined by his fears and superstitions and they often overwhelm him, rendering him a waste of time for weeks or months at a time.

    1
  32. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    A few weeks later after Open House, my mom asked me “why didn’t you tell me that your teacher was a [black woman]?” I replied that I hadn’t thought it was important, and my mom agreed that it wasn’t.

    You and your mom were wrong about that.

    Being exposed to a competent, Black woman, doing a job that requires authority, and seeing that Blacks are entirely capable of that is incredibly important. Plus, even if you didn’t realize it at the time, that teacher likely shared part of her experiences — a tiny sliver, perhaps — that you carry with you to this day.

    It might have been more important for the even more ignorant cracker next to you, who was scandalized that a black woman was a teacher, but it was likely way more important to you that you realize.

    How do you get really get to diversity when questions of race, gender, ethnicity, social class all matter and need to be kept track of so that we can become diverse?

    How can you solve a problem if you don’t measure the problem? If you aren’t measuring it, it stops being a problem — it will keep happening, but it just won’t be a problem.

    Decades of software “engineering” has taught me one thing — if you’re not tracking something, nothing will get done about it, and setting up your metrics is as important as figuring out how to get something done.

    3
  33. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    Unlike, Sullivan, I acknowledge that structural barriers exist even apart from racist intention. And even that “equal” isn’t always equal. ‘The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread’ and all that. But bureaucracies can be damn ham fisted in remedying thst.

    Do you have another mechanism for remedying thst?

    OSHA has countless regulations that seem stupid and ham-fisted, but each and every one is crafted in response to a specific abuse that ended up hurting workers.

    Union contracts are often the same way.

    And all the government diversity regulations come from the same place — stopping practices that have terrible outcomes.

    I’d love for there to be a less adversarial, more cooperative and forward thinking approach that treats all parties like partners rather than opponents, but I haven’t seen anything that works that way in more than a few isolated cases. Ultimately you need a big, powerful, ponderous entity to at least try to represent the individuals who would be individually powerless.

    If you have a better way — a way of convincing people to treat their fellow people fairly and with respect — you should quit your day job, write the book and cash in. But be warned that the last guy who got any traction doing that got crucified, and his words were twisted to support the powerful.

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  34. mattbernius says:

    Beyond all of the fair and accurate criticisms that have been leveled at Sullivan, I wanted to call it the fact that you can tell a lot about someone by whom they cite. In this case the fact that Sullivan is willing to use intellectual dark web provacataeur/concern troll James Lindsay as a serious source for anything beyond math (which his academic training is in) speaks volumes.

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  35. dazedandconfused says:

    I certainly hope Biden has never heard of critical theory, at least not as Sullivan imagines it.

    The root of the outrage against immigrants is the people have been led to believe the reason they are poorer because of them. As if industry up-stakes production and moved it to China and other parts was to flee cheap North American immigrant labor. Now, there is something to be said about the danger of completely open doors to South America, with the political unrest and growing populations that would all but guarantee a flood of immigrants. However Biden needs to focus on what really did cause the loss of good jobs for working people and/or a system of re-establishing them. A concrete wall across the Mexican border to space would not fix that issue. People need to be made aware of that, not lectured about culture.

    Yes, culture is a factor. But the reason for the angst is not purely cultural, not purely economical, it’s a mixture. “Critical theory” isn’t what it claims to be, critical. The people have been encouraged to feel that immigrants are the primary reason why they are getting poorer, that’s IMO what’s fueling the stridency of the anti-immigrant feelings. Arguing about culture would be, for Biden, the wrong tack to take. The LG stuff is also far down the average American’s priority list from where paying the bills resides, and in both Red and Blue.

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  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I agree that the keeping track is at best and worst a necessary evil. But it’s also a trap. Some of us pay a lot of lip service to the idea of diversity and the accompanying feats of color/gender/who-one-couples-with blindness. As long as we need to classify those things, such *blindness* is impossible. I doubt that it can ever happen here–too much history.

    And also while I see your point about the competent black woman issue. Diversity would be better able to be the rule rather than the exception if the color or gender part wasn’t such an issue. The world would have been a better place if I’d been able to go on not realizing that my teacher’s color and gender were issues, but that particular part of my ignance/innocence (??) was probably doomed no matter what. So we have endless diversity training and keep score about how and when black/blue/LBGTQ lives matter instead. A great improvement.

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  37. DrDaveT says:

    While it may seem a quibble, I’d argue that, if a majority supports a policy, it’s by definition “center,” not “center-left.”

    By this measure, universal healthcare, gay marriage rights, and a minimum wage above the poverty line are “center” positions. Do you agree with that characterization?

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  38. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    As long as we need to classify those things, such *blindness* is impossible.

    Is that blindness a good thing?

    I’m definitely of the “celebrate the differences” variety of diversity and inclusion, rather than the “I don’t see color, we’re all the same” variety. I don’t think the latter is possible, and even if it somehow happened I think it would be a sad, homogenized future.

    (I’m homogeniophobic.)

    I think a kid who goes through school, only seeing teachers that look like them, with the same viewpoints as them… that kid has gotten only half an education. Might just as well watch only FoxNews or hang out with Scientologists or Professional Atheists.

    I’d want to make sure each kid gets a couple of “diverse” teachers, no matter how ridiculous the whole endeavor becomes.

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  39. Michael says:

    @Mikey: Reminds me of when some Republican threatened us with a vision of a taco stand on every corner. I live in NYC. We already had a halal food truck on every corner and in between. Isn’t convenient, fast, delicious and cheap Muslim food more scary than convenient, fast, delicious and cheap Mexican food?

  40. Michael says:

    @drj: Speaking of locker rooms and showers, a big anti-gays in the military and before that elsewhere was straight guys howling about “what if they look at us like we would look at a naked woman?” and “men are rapers and those gay guys will likely be raping us”. And even if they don’t, we’ll be scared and it will be upsetting.

    Of course they weren’t facing the fact that there were already gay guys there and nothing ever happened. They just imagined that everyone was straight, or at least preferred to not know. Because feelings.

    This is pretty much the argument gay Andrew is making about trans people in those places. No wonder NY Mag dumped him.

  41. Michael says:

    @Michael: I do wish there was editing possible here and I could fix that first sentence, but you can probably figure it out.

  42. Albi says:

    There is a limit to how much “equity” the government can impose though, due to other laws and the Constitution. We have already seen how some racial quotas that seem to discriminate against Asians in elite academic institutions have become a legal fighting ground.

    So what can an executive that wants to promote these ideas do? Well, as Jonathan Heidt explains in his book The Coddling of the American Mind, most of these ideas are now pushed by a large professional class deployed as some type of “diversity manager” in colleges, public institutions and large corporations. After achieving victory on most of the issues in the ’90s and ’00s, this professional class risked being out of a job, so they pushed for new ideas such as “safe spaces”, “microagression”, “culture appropriation”. It was the only way to keep their job and the influence that came with it.

    Joe Biden re-instituting committees, funds, and trainings is nothing but a way to keep, and grow, this large professional class that is now established in the U.S. They will do the rest, in terms of pushing ideas and measures, which are now irking many people.

    So in fact, I think Sullivan is correct. Presidents don’t have the power to impose woke rules on the rest of society, but they don’t need to. They can simply empower and finance the people that do. In fact, this is what has fueled much of the current culture war.

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