One of the consequences of the success the American left has found in the culture wars is that they have become more illiberal in tendencies and views toward the toleration of opposing ideas within the public square. It is not enough to achieve within the country the kind of cultural reforms and shifting of norms thought impossible a decade ago – there can be no space allowed for those who disagree with these cultural pushes to continue to have a presence in polite society. Anderson Cooper’s questions to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi are a perfect example of this. Cooper’s worst comment is that he has gone through Bondi’s prior year on Twitter and found insufficient dedication to the cause of gay rights – as if Bondi tweeting something about gay pride month would in any way have prevented a terrorist massacre, any more than a law for more robust background checks would’ve prevented a man with no criminal history of buying a gun, or a ban on the AR-15 would’ve prevented the man buying a Sig Sauer MCX.
The implication advanced by many on the left today, particularly in the media, is that somehow, everyone they disagree with culturally is to blame for an act of Islamist terror. Thus, people who are members of the NRA, people who disagree with the Trans bathroom agenda, people who held the same opinion as Hillary Clinton four years ago on gay marriage, people who pray for victims of massacres, and people who don’t tweet about gay pride month all contributed to this awful attack. The New York Times editorial couldn’t be clearer in depicting this act, undertaken by an attacker who literally declared his allegiance and justification, as driven by Republican exploitation of prejudice. This is who does not want to wear the ribbonism taken to the level of utter absurdity.
Heather Wilhelm responds to the NYT:
This is strange, given that Omar Mateen, the now-infamous shooter at the Pulse nightclub, did not mention Republicans when called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to the latest reports, he did not mention Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell when he called a local television station and declared the following: ‘I did it for ISIS. I did it for the Islamic State.’ He did not rain down curses upon America’s roiling bathroom wars or even the scourge of supply-side economics when, terrified eyewitnesses reported, he said ‘he wanted America to stop bombing his country.’
The implication that your fellow Americans have blood on their hands is a serious one. What makes this implication more damaging in the current context is that the American left has also come to hold the view, despite every fact to the contrary, that the rights protected by the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, and Tenth Amendments are only in place because the politicians have been bought. The facts are that Americans are buying more guns than ever, and yet the nation has seen a dramatic decrease in gun violence. The NRA is an expression of popular will working on behalf of millions of dues paying gun owners. If wealthy and powerful interests were successful at manipulating the political process in spite of public opinion, we would have a nation that looked like what Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer wanted it to be. We don’t.
Last night The Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj, speaking to a gathering of radio and TV journalists, went on an extended rant about Orlando which included the statement that Congress is bought by the NRA to the tune of 3.7 million dollars over the past decade, suggesting that if the journalists in the room could use Kickstarter to raise 4 million dollars that it would alter our national gun policy. Even given the normal assumptions regarding the inaccuracies of a fake journalist, this is a ludicrously inaccurate statistic, but in an amusing way: he has apparently conflated the dollars given with the fact that the NRA has 3.7 million members. (They actually have far more now, since the Obama presidency has led to a boom, but a search of 3.7 million turns that up frequently and is an awfully specific thing to get totally wrong). The NRA gives far more than 3.7 million dollars because they represent far more Americans than Minhaj recognizes.
The danger of illiberalism on the part of the American left increases when they believe, falsely in this case, that the will of the people is emphatically in one direction, and that it is only via the mechanism of big money pouring into our politics that prevents this will from being honored. Taken as a whole, this view delegitimizes not just the working out of complex issues via our political system, not just the decisions of the Supreme Court in cases like Heller and Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, but the basic value of self-government.
In keeping with the appropriate tenor of toleration and respect, Minhaj closed his rant with an expression of solidarity with the “F your thoughts and prayers” movement on social media. This is where an illiberal movement ends up – literally saying to people “F U for your prayers” – when it believes the only solution to every problem is more government, more rules, more ribbon-wearing… conveniently ignoring the hard truth that none of it, had it happened a week or a month ago, would have prevented this terrible attack. Seeing the world as it is is too hard. It is comforting to instead hold to the simplicity that if a roomful of media can raise 4 million dollars, all the bad things will go away.