The little man who works in the lumber-room of my memory will occasionally toss a tidbit to my supposedly conscious forebrain with a muttered “Remember this?” And of course I do; he’s remembered it for me. But such ejecta from the recesses of my mind can have interesting consequences, one of which (of course) I’ve just had.
If you don’t know about Evan Sayet, he’s a writer it’s worth your time to know. In particular, he’s given two talks at Heritage Foundation events that are considered classic analyses of the thinking of “the modern liberal.” Those talks are available on YouTube:
They’re eminently worth your time – not merely for the large areas where he’s right, but in equal measure for those areas where he’s mistaken. Unfortunately, the most significant and depressing of his errors is in the realm of conservative tactics.
When Sayet gave the latter of those talks, it was still possible to believe that a conservative analyst could entice a liberal thinker into an argument. He exhorts his audience to do that deliberately, individual by individual. But argument is the greatest of all threats to liberalism / progressivism / call it what you will. The premises of argument include the supremacy of evidence and reasoning over desires and intentions. The liberal / progressive cannot abide them. To him, his beliefs are sacred and must not be threatened. He who dares to question them or dissent from them is evil.
Indeed, the whole thrust of the liberal / progressive political project is to cement in place, in the mind of its adherent, a reflex reaction to the discovery that his interlocutor disagrees with him: hatred. This is more and worse than Eric Hoffer’s “fact-proof screen;” it’s the political equivalent of religious anathematization – condemnation.
The reaction causes the immediate rejection of anything and everything the conservative might say in support of his position. Yet viewed in perspective, that’s the lesser of the two evils that arise from it. The greater one is the condemnation of the conservative himself.
Evil has no rights. Once you’ve condemned a man as evil, you’re licensed you to do anything you like to him. Recently, the responses have included murderous violence.
The case of Kyle Rittenhouse is highly instructive. The rioters who pursued Rittenhouse didn’t intend to argue with him, or lecture him. They intended to do him bodily harm, perhaps lethal harm. Yet the reactions, on the Left and the Right, to Rittenhouse’s successful defense of himself with the AR-15 he carried that night don’t differ just a little. The Right finds his actions justifiable on purely factual grounds; the Left hates him and wants him dead for daring to defend himself against three of its street thugs, and never mind what they intended to do to him.
Argument is now absent from American political discourse. The Right would welcome it, but the Left will have nothing to do with it. If you’ve sought a compact explanation of the Left’s rhetorical and physical tactics, you have it now.
While Sayet’s talks are certainly worthy analyses, entertaining and worth your while to air, his suggestion that conservatives strive to engage liberals / progressives in argument, which he comically phrased “Adopt a Democrat,” has been “ruled out of bounds” by the Left’s strategists. From the moment you begin, the Leftist will vilify you as the enemy – call you “everything but white.” He’s been taught to do so in a stern and unsparing school. It’s his sole defense against evidence and reason…and in truth, it is impenetrable.