I smoke cigarettes. In my experience, the people most offended by smoking and the rich, satisfying scent of tobacco are former smokers who converted into non-smokers. Likewise, in religion, the convert to Judaism or Catholicism often expresses his faith in more performative ways than those born in the faith. They cross themselves more often and davit a little lower. This is what has happened to Max Boot, the convert to progressivism.
For more than a year now, Boot has been undoing his lifetime of conservatism in a fireworks display of accepting progressive shibboleths. All of this because Donald Trump’s presidency has made him question everything he believes in. This week, his converts’ zeal took a particularly ugly turn as he accused two writers at National Review and the outlet itself of white supremacy.
All of this because National Review dared to discuss many Americans’ unease about the implications of unchecked immigration. The second author he attacked, Dan McLaughlin, wasn’t even agreeing with this unease. He was merely describing it in a 2,300-word essay that Boot slammed based on a single line that wasn’t even in the article.
Charlie Cooke at NRO does a better job than I can at defending the writers in his stable, saying:
Worse still, the sentence that Boot quotes is not just miscast, it does not actually appear in the piece. Rather, it appears — descriptively — in the subhead. I suspect that it does not take a Sherlock Holmes to see what has happened here: Scrambling to write yet another whining tirade, Boot Googled the words ‘National Review’ and ‘immigration,’ found the first piece that came up, looked hastily at the subhead, determined that it could be warped into his argument’s frame, and pressed on without any more thought. And that, as they say, was that.
He’s exactly right. But it’s important to understand the zeal that Boot feels. The zealotry of the convert is a power in and of itself.
In some ways, this is perfectly understandable. Now that Boot realizes his life’s work led a to a president he can neither support nor stand, he must recognize and come to terms with his sins. He is complicit, and as such it’s his job to be the first to declaim the horribleness of his former friends.
The problem, or perhaps the clarifying reality this week, is that Boot’s holier than thou objections have been shown to be a pile of misrepresentations and flat-out lying. In an interview on CNN this week, his supposed wisdom is telling.
He opens by saying that 55 percent of white Americans, according to a poll, think that white Americans face more discrimination than African Americans do. He is appalled. In perhaps his farthest left moment to date, he essentially accuses more than 100 million Americans of being white supremacists.
Here’s what Boot is too smart to miss but somehow still misses: Discrimination and racism are not the same thing. I would not have answered the question the way the 55 percent did, but I understand their reasons. Affirmative action and quotas discriminate against white people in ways the government does not apply against blacks.
The only statues being taken down, the only historical heroes being rewritten as monsters, are white ones. The only kids being taught in school that their achievements are tainted by their privilege are white kids. In his bad-faith effort to paint National Review as bigoted nativists, Boot ignores all of this. He simply parrots leftist talking points and indulges an absurd narrative that almost half of Americans are hapless bigots.
It is not unreasonable for Americans who are white, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian, or any other flavor of descent to worry that unchecked immigration tied to government entitlements could change the nature of America. This isn’t bigotry, and Boot is an unserious person who has abandoned reason for suggesting so.
Some view this as opportunism. I do not. It is the zealotry of the convert. He will out-Herod Herod and make profitable art of his self-flagellation. This is the song of the convert.
I was a convert. Until the mid-2000s I was a solid pro-life northeasterner Democrat like the senior Bob Casey or, dare I say, Joe Biden? Eventually I felt that the Democratic Party came to decry my values, and I left it. I did not pretend that I still somehow was one of the holy few who maintained its values. I just changed in a changing world.
Chill out, Max Boot. You’re a smart guy. Don’t let your head get too big for your fedora.