At the start of the election season, I feared that I belonged to the smallest constituency in American politics—the micro-slice of voters who both rejected Donald Trump and were alarmed at the Democratic Party’s lurch to the left. In my view, Trump deserved to lose, but the left did not deserve to win—it had been too captured by culture war extremism (including public funding for abortions), flirtations with defund-the-police radicalism, and the embrace of cancel culture intolerance.
On the right there has long been a sense that the illiberal left represented an unstoppable force. It dominated the academy, dominated Hollywood, dominated Big Tech, and dominated the institutional media. In that telling, only Trump kept it from dominating Washington D.C. The religion of wokeism was ascendant, and Trump’s defeat would signal its victory over American life.
The reality has always been a bit more complicated—especially to those of us who’ve long fought in the trenches against progressive intolerance. As a legal matter, colleges and universities are more free than they were 20 years ago. The media is less monolithic, and legacy media is less dominant. And while white Democrats are unquestionably more progressive than they were even five years ago, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party was soundly defeated in the presidential primary by perhaps the most mainstream, moderate choice in the entire Democratic field.
But still, true stories of progressive intolerance abound. I don’t have to repeat them all, but when the New York Times doesn’t have room for James Bennett or Bari Weiss, New York magazine can’t tolerate Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias finds Vox too constricting or Glenn Greenwald leaves the publication he founded for the greater liberties of his own Substack newsletter, then there is a real problem with woke fundamentalism on the left.