The media may be giving a platform to hate groups, as Trump said, but the internet oligarchs are not. Is the latter a problem? Do you live in fear of online mobs? Howard Dean says if you vote GOP in '18, you're a racist. Columbia University Professor, Mark Lilla joins Dan and Amy to discuss.
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Dan Proft: Good morning Dan and Amy, so in the wake of Charlottesville and combine that with the violence that we’ve reported on for the last couple of years and on college campuses, and just the general tone and tenor, at least as its presented through the filter of the DC press corps or race relations in this country and relations across all kinds of other identities, the state of identity politics, and its impact on culture, this is the topic that is really focusing people’s attention, including Jordan Peterson, University of Toronto, psychology professor, who had this to say in a recent talk. Jordan Peterson: Like I understand why the identity politics that has been practiced so assiduously and so devastatingly by the left, has been co-opted by the right, I understand that, but then here’s what I would say to the people on the right who are playing that game, if you play the game of your enemies and you win, you win there game, you don’t win, that’s not victory, you just become the most successful exponent of their pathology, but how is that a good thing? It’s a bad thing. Dan: And even some erstwhile men and women of the left seem to be agreeing with that, Frank Rich, New York Times columnist, who’s on the left, he had to draw a line when that Middlebury professor was assaulted on campus for the crime of walking on campus with Charles Murray, and other such instances of crossing the line from even spirited debate, even ignorant communication to actual violence, and it seems like Columbia University professor Mark Lilla is also challenging some of the orthodoxies of the left in its modern incarnation, he’s the author of the new book ‘The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics’ and he joins us now, Professor Lilla, thanks so much for being with us, appreciate it. Mark Lilla: Good to be here. Dan: So, you’ve taken on some water from the meal left if you will, including Matt Iglesias, who says there is no other way to do politics, other than to do it via identity politics, you seem to dispute that contention. Mark: Oh historically its false, when John F Kennedy said, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, I fail to see the identity dimension to that, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out the fourth freedom, that were the foundation of the New Deal, there was not an appeal to identity there, now it’s true and Roosevelt’s a good example, in order to understand our social problems and social failures, we need to understand identity, and in fact the New Deal did not fully incorporate African-Americans, but in order to pull a country together and address those problems and build bridges between people, you need to appeal to a vision of the kind of country we want to build and a vision of what our national destiny is. Amy Jacobson: Well, what’s you vision of a country you’d want to build? Our national destiny. Mark: Well, I think what’s missing in our country right now is social solidarity, a sense of citizenship, we really have… are in the grip of two different libertarian ideologies, individualism, one of the right, one of the left, on the right and individualism that came out of Reaganism, that says we’re all just individuals here, the country is just a big campsite, and you plug in your RV and you nothing to do with your neighbours, and good luck to you, and on the left and individualism, a narcissism, about identity, and we’ve not been able to speak to, on either side, to what kind of common project we can build together through solidarity. Dan: Are there, like specific examples in the recent past of the identity politics pathology, my word not yours, that you’re describing? Mark: Well you described a few of those on our campuses, but one example is that when Hilary Clinton was on stump in the 2016 election, she would always call out to various groups that are the groups that Democrats think about and so she called African-Americans, Latinos, women, gays, now that leaves out a lot of the country, and if you’re going to list all the groups in the country, you got to list all of them, otherwise people are going to feel left out and resentful, and so her strategy was to target groups, rather than laying out a theme and staying appealing to the imagination of the American public, and getting us back on track to doing something together, and she failed to do that. Amy: Yeah, I have always maintained that instead of hanging out with Jay-Z and Beyoncé, she should have been hanging out with George Strait, because don’t you think she totally alienated the white people in this country? Dan: Do you think George Strait wants to hang out with her? Amy: Well I don’t…. Mark: Well, frankly, I’ve never understood anti-Hilaryism, I find it, frankly, a kind of mental pathology, the obsession with her, but no they have George Strait along, but it’s just to play the group game again, it’s not to speak to all of us, what I worry about is the Democrats are going to interpret this criticism of identity politics to mean that we have to shift and talk to the white working class, but that’s just one more group, right? And someone else is going to feel left out. Dan: Well and that’s what goes and I’m sorry to interrupt, but that goes to Jordan Peterson’s point, hey you on the right or centre-right, you shouldn’t be playing that game either, because it all leads to the same bad place. Mark: Yeah, and that’s where the country is in, we’ve become a more individualistic country, we don’t talk about (6:41), we don’t talk about sacrifice, when is the last time a president asked us to sacrifice for the common good? It hasn’t happened since 1960. Dan: And as some… I’m sorry go ahead. Mark: And…. No, no, I’m just going to say instead, we keep making promises we can’t keep to every group, we have to do something to pull us together and make people understand that they owe something to each other, that’s what this country’s about, it’s not everyone for himself. Amy: Right, it’s about being neighbourly, and helping each other out, right? Or being a member of society. Mark: Right, and people do that and their neighbourhoods and so on less than they used to, but they also, its legitimate that we use government for certain purposes, and you have the duty to pay your taxes, you have a duty to vote, and if you can to serve in the military or go teach for America, but do something for your country, and stop just demonizing government and politicians. Dan: Well what about since you’re a member of the academy, what about the state of affairs on college campuses, and how some of what we see on college campuses, of course, bleeds into culture more generally, the workplace, and board rooms and social gatherings and civic institutions, it’s not contained, what happened at Middlebury, what happened at Berkeley, and at Evergreen State, that’s not contained to those campuses. Mark: No, it’s not, but frankly when you’re living on a campus, you see very little of this, there’s just every once in a while, there’s a crazy event, which then the media is able to pick up on, so it’s not always present, but it’s in the atmosphere, but it does reflect a mentality about politics, that politics is about identity and not about the common good, but when it comes to the boardroom and things like that had something else, there we’re trying to build a more diverse society so that people can feel more included, you can argue about the way we do that, and we can have disagreements about that, but I myself, think that though there are some excesses and some craziness in that, but it is a good thing to do. Dan: What about social media and its impact of Megan McArdle had a good piece in Bloomberg, about living in fear of online mobs, and she used the James Demure memo, the Google software engineer and just 20 years ago if some tech company, some software engineer wrote a memo about not liking the diversity training at his company, and thinking there missing this point and that point, something that was substantive, but critical, it hardly would become the national issue that his memo became, and how social media propagates this culture of identity politics as well. Mark: Well, yeah on the right and the left, but it propagates all kind of craziness, it just doesn’t permit reasoned debate about anything, I don’t used social media, but after my article, the book is based on an article I did last year, that is the most (9:55) article New York Times of 2015, and I got my first Twitter and I had no idea of what a (10:05) it was, and no longer worse shape we’re in. Amy: So, you avoid Facebook too? Instagram? All of that? Mark: All of that, I don’t use any of that. Dan: No, where do you post pictures of your dog, you’ve got to have some place to put that right? Just in terms of getting back to your book ‘The Once and Future Liberal’ what are your prescription, I know you’ve talked about them in the abstract, but your prescriptions for how we become a more liberal, small L, society once again, in terms of tolerance and intelligent discussion and reason, consideration of complicated issues and the like. Dan: Well, frankly, that’s a little less the focus of the book than it is, liberal in the more ideological sense, what I call for is for the liberal side, American liberals to start focusing on their vision, and to start focussing on electoral politics, because Democrats are very focussed on movement politics, but a group of movements don’t constitute a vision and Democrats are not competitive in half of this country and so they need to be able to address people outside of our bubble and just that, just doing that, having to address people, will pull people out more and make them more civic minded, if you have to go to a place the you’re not used to and somehow make the case, and liberals are very resistant to this, they would prefer to hope the demographics are going to sweep them into power, but that’s not going to happen. Dan: Well that’s, I was interested, I’ve seen a lot of the reaction, Frank Rich has reacted well to your arguments, but many others, including some of the leading lights on the left, as I mentioned at the outset, Matt Iglesias, and Michelle Goldberg over at Slate have not reacted so favourably, so but what’s the overall reaction you’re getting from your erstwhile fellow travellers. Mark: Yeah, well there divided, there are people who are so committed to the identity viewpoint and I don’t include the Matt Iglesias or Michelle Goldberg and limp disagreements, but there are people who have only thought about politics in this way and those people right now are unreachable, my audience, I think, are liberals who felt this way for a long time, are frustrated with losing, are sick of noble defeats and wants the Democratic Party to be a national party for everyone again, and I hope to give them a way of thinking about this and a way of talking about this and confronting the identity mentality that I take myself. Dan: Alright, he is Columbia University Humanities Professor, Mark Lilla, author of the book ‘The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics’ Mark thanks, so much for joining us appreciate it. Mark: Have a good day. Amy: And he joins us on our turnkey dot pro answer line.