Reviews | Democrats have a purity test problem at exactly the wrong time

Responding to his own question, Ellis argued:

The impulse to effect social change was increasingly outpaced and distorted by the desire to retain uncorrupted honesty or purity. The SDS worldview has increasingly become one of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, the good within versus the evil without.

A similar process overtook two later moves, according to Ellis:

Characteristic of both radical feminism and radical environmentalism is the tendency to dismiss the choices people make as the product of a false conscience. Under conditions of inequality, insists Catharine MacKinnon, women’s consent is just covert male coercion. Driving a car, radical environmentalists tell us, is an “addiction,” not a real choice.

Eric Kaufmann, a political scientist at the University of London and author of the book “Whiteshift” (and who directed me to Ellis’s book), argued via email that a key part of the struggle of progressive groups ” is the elevation of emotion and personal over generalizable reason, data and process.

Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard, says that internal conflicts on the left have become “a deep problem, especially for those of us who are terrified that the hard-woke left will allow the resurgence of a populism authoritarian by inflicting damage on the moderates”. left and center and pushing voters to the right.

Pinker argued via email that

Much of the recent escalation is due to three deeply ingrained beliefs of today’s woke left: The first is that progress comes from struggle – good force defeating bad force, rather than resolving problems – diagnosing the inevitable ills of something as complex as a modern world. society (including people and factions who disagree with you) and implementing solutions. The second is the belief that systems of oppression are not implemented in overt policies like Jim Crow laws, but in subtle patterns of language and visual symbols that insidiously instill unconscious biases in everyone. The way to make things better is to root out and marginalize the perpetrators of this pervasive oppression, rather than just thwarting an opposing faction. A third, shared by their bizarre right-wing populist bedfellows, is that democratic liberal society is unreformable – the system is so corrupt and decadent that it must be razed, because whatever rises from the ashes will be better than this. which we have now.

Pinker challenged the goal of many progressive groups to “match the demographics of the country”.

This, as Pinker sees it,

is an algorithm of infinite recrimination because of an iron law of the social sciences: nothing ever reflects the demographic statistics of a nation. People of different genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations and religions will also differ, on average, in their tastes, life priorities, interests, educational background, values, family patterns and other traits. cultural, and there is simply no reason to expect a statistic. miracle in which members of an organization will duplicate national statistics.

Pinker agreed that “there is real prejudice, of course, and it must be rooted out, but there will be an uneven distribution of groups even without a drop of prejudice”.

Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of appointments of African American CEOs and chairmen of large and small foundations and nonprofit advocacy groups. “Many nonprofits, especially those that serve and advocate for people of color, felt like outsiders in the struggle,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported in January 2022. “For many of these groups, part part of the response has been to replace white leaders with people of color.”

Foundations, charities, and nonprofits with black leaders run the gamut, including the Ford Foundation, Alliance for Justice, American Association of University Women, Institute for Policy Studies, the Center for American Progress, Demos, Emily’s List, the Tides Foundation, Greenpeace USA, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America – and that only scratches the surface.


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