Woke Ideology and the Assault on Liberalism

In this blog, I present parts of a letter from David Bernstein, founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, addressed to Glenn Loury (professor at Brown University) and John McWhorter (professor at Columbia University), following a discussion on The Glenn Loury show about antisemitism in the black community.

Cancel Culture Jewish Style w/ David Bernstein

Before getting to that letter and my commentary, I want to make two notes about the January 6 report, which is now being published by several imprints. This, too, is relevant to the title of this blog entry.

First, the corporate press is freaking out over Skyhorse publishing the January 6 commission report with the brilliant Darren Beattie introduction exposing the scam (see The New York Times story).

Watch Skyhorse get framed as a right-wing/white nationalist outlet—distributed by Simon & Schuster no less! But Skyhorse published the Communist Manifesto with an introduction by Yours Truly extolling the virtue of Marx and Engels thesis (get your copy today and read my words). Skyhorse is hardly an ideologically-motivated press.

You may remember when, way back in 2008, the University of Michigan Press dumped Pluto Press over books critical of US-Israel relations which removed the academic imprimatur from two chapters by Yours Truly critical of the Bush regime in Bernd Hamm’s Devastating Society: The Neo-Conservative Assault on Democracy and Justice. (I discuss the matter here.) Will I see yet another of my publications suffer a drop in prestige for the sake of preserving the globalist narrative? Will Simon and Schuster dump Skyhorse?

Kennedy and Nixon in 1961

Second, a bit of history. In the United States, the people of their respective states do not vote directly for president but rather for a slate of electors (party insiders) who actually cast the ballot for president. Maybe that’s not what you’d like, but that’s the way it has always worked in America. The framers, being the liberals they are, built in safeguards against the specter of majoritarianism.

In the 1960 presidential election, Nixon versus Kennedy, the vote was disputed in Hawaii (among other places) and an alternate slate of electors were determined. Seems a rather important thing to remember in light of all the talk today about how Trump organized alternate slates of “fake electors” in several states, as if this were a terrible thing. 

In the Hawaii case, the governor of that state certified Nixon’s victory. Thus at the time of the safe harbor deadline for certification under the Electoral Count Act, the Republican slate had been certified. Nixon won the state, if we are to agree with the corporate state media concerning such things.

But, with the recount was still ongoing on December 19, the day US law requires the casting of votes by members of the Electoral College, the Kennedy camp determined an alternate state of (fake?) electors. When the recount showed that Kennedy had actually won the election on December 28, the alternate slate of (fake?) electors was certified—even though it was not the official slate. Hawaii rushed a letter to Congress by air mail to inform them that the election outcome had been changed. 

When Congress held the joint session on January 6, 1961, both certificates—both slates of electors—were presented. Nixon was Vice-President (he was serving under President Eisenhower who was retiring from public life). In this capacity, Nixon was the President of the Senate. It was Nixon who requested that the Republican certificate to be set aside to avoid a floor fight. But he didn’t have to that. He could have allowed a floor fight. And, of course, there was no effort to prevent a floor fight from occurring by outside forces as there was on January 6, 2020.

Whatever you think of Nixon’s move, why were neither the slate of Democrat electors nor the slate of Republican electors characterized as “fake” by the media? And why is it never pondered by the corporate state media the fact that the disruption of January 6, 2020 dispute of the electoral count, which would have sent the certification back to several states with ongoing investigation of electoral processes and outcomes, actually stopped a fight that may have benefitted Trump?

Oh, and on more thing before moving on: the buried lede. The bipartisan (unitary) 1.7 trillion dollar budget just passed by Congress contains an overhaul of the the 1887 Electoral Count Act that may have resulted in a different outcome to the 2020 presidential election. A provision in the legislation makes it harder to overturn a certified presidential election by making the Vice-President’s role completely ceremonial.

But if Trump’s attempt to change the results of the 2020 election was illegitimate, then why would the 1887 Electoral Count Act have to be altered? Put another way, changing the law means that the 1887 Electoral Count Act did allow Vice-President Mike Pence to allow for a floor fight that could have considered alternate slates of electors or send back the states the officials certificates of the electoral votes—just as the law allowed Vice-President Nixon to do exactly the same things. In the end, Pence, like Nixon, kowtowed to the establishment line—resulting in the installment of progressive politicians. But neither of them were required to do so.

Now you know why the process had to be disrupted on January 6 2021. And that is why you need to read Darren Beattie’s introduction to the January 6 report by Skyhorse.

* * *

The foregoing indicates the importance of the point of this blog entry. I am sharing Bernstein’s letter because it provides another opportunity for me to stress something I have said before, that is that the terms “liberal” and “progressive” are not synonyms but opposites. Academic, corporate, and political elite constantly conflate one with the other in order to confuse the public about this.

Why would they do this? To advance on the left the progressive agenda, which is the corporate state agenda, propagandists for the state must obscure the principles of liberalism and effectively negate those principles to usher in the new fascist state.

However, Bernstein does get some things wrong.

For one thing, he does not appear to identify progressivism itself as the problem but rather worries about “a progressivism,” namely woke ideology (emphases mine). But as I have shown in several blogs, wokeness is just the latest instantiation of progressive ideology, the logical progression of an ideology destructive to individualism.

For other thing, Bernstein implies that progressivism is not as a corporate state project designed or functioning to corrupt the left, but instead as a left-wing political tendency in-itself.

Progressivism is in substance right-wing ideology is every regard. It rejects equality in favor of “equity,” which the ideology defines as the hierarchical rearrangement of individuals on the basis of an ideological conception of justice that at every turn contradicts liberal principle, principle that demands individuals be judged on their merits and not their identity.

Indeed, the idea of “diversity” advanced by this ideology is about selecting people for occupational and societal roles on the basis of group identity—not on achievement or a natural sorting out.

And the idea of “inclusion” is not about respecting the varying standpoints of individuals, but a gloss over a coercive method for including only those viewpoints that advance the progressive agenda.

These are integrated in the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) project.

Before getting Bernstein’s letter, I want to illustrate the illiberal character of progressivism with an example, namely the notion of “trans rights.”

Many of you have heard the slogans “Trans rights are human rights” and “Trans women are women.” But what do these slogans mean? They must mean, if human rights are recognized in law, that, in law and in administrative rule, citizens of free societies are required to affirm and abide by the doctrine of Queer Theory in practice. However much one might believe—as I do—that individuals have the right to identify however they wish, compelling others to live according to the subjective identity of another person is quintessentially authoritarian.

If I do not in a free society have to affirm or live under the doctrine of Islam, which I don’t, then I do not have to affirm or live under the doctrine of Queer Theory. Indeed, my right to refuse to be controlled by religious ideology is a human right. (Queer Theory is sociologically a religion. That’s why I am from this point forward capitalizing it.)

Moreover, because of the fact of the sex binary in the human species and therefore the necessity of sex-based rights to protect girls and women, compelling girls and women to tolerate males in spaces reserved for them is violative of their human rights. In other words, the slogan “Women’s rights are human rights” is a proper matter of law and policy. As I discussed in a recent blog entry, Title IX makes no sense. (See Is Title IX Kaput? Or Was it Always Incomprehensible?)

Watch the program for an in-depth discussion of the problem:

Maya Dillard Smith, a legal scholar who left her position as head of the ACLU of Georgia over President Obama’s directive for public schools to let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice.

I do want to emphasize the point Bernstein makes in his letter about the way woke ideology “neatly divides the world into oppressed and oppressor and conflates success with oppression.” (Critical Race Theory, another religion, articulates this division as “victim” and “perpetrator.”) He is precisely correct about this. I have written about this extensively.

Whether you understand postmodernist critical theory framing of social relations as an attempt by those who have in the aggregate failed at life, or a perception manufactured by grifters or the professional-managerial class, or as a strategy by the corporate state elite to sow division among the proletariat (I suggest all three), is is clearly an affront to the liberal and humanist values of liberalism.

Here is Bernstein’s letter:

Glenn and John,

Thank you for your recent discussion on antisemitism on The Glenn Show. I am a long time Jewish professional leader and the immediate past CEO of the umbrella organization overseeing mainstream Jewish advocacy organizations across the country. I left nearly two years ago amid the growth of woke ideology in mainstream Jewish life and started a new organization called the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values devoted to viewpoint diversity in the Jewish world. I’m also the author of the recently released Woke Antisemitism: How a Progressive Ideology Harms Jews.

I thought John gave a perfectly well-reasoned critique of the overblown response to Kanye’s cartoonish behavior. I do think John got it wrong, however, when he suggested that Jewish sensitivity to antisemitism is primarily animated by the trepidation that “it could happen here.” I happen to agree that it’s very unlikely that growing antisemitism in America will culminate in another Holocaust. But there are many dystopian scenarios well short of genocide.

The white nationalist variant of antisemitism has already resulted in distortions to Jewish life. Jews can no longer safely go to synagogue without an elaborate set of security arrangements. This threat has added tens of millions of dollars annually to Jewish organizational budgets (causing already financially stretched Jewish organizations to go belly up) and is further exacerbated by the threat emanating from radical Muslims against American Jewish institutions (Jewish organizations get regular briefings from the FBI and Homeland Security about threats of terrorism emanating from the Middle East). Imagine if the number of domestic shootings triples in the next few years. Such an outcome would render Jewish life unlivable for many Jews.

When you combine the threat from the white nationalist right with the growing ideological antisemitism on the left, it’s understandable why many Jews—even the less hysterical among us—are beginning to feel besieged. Woke ideology is the perfect accelerant of antisemitism on the left, as it neatly divides the world into oppressed and oppressor and conflates success with oppression. The concern about the left is less about violence against Jews than it is political disenfranchisement.

Take a look at this report about rising antisemitism at the University of Toronto medical school. I spoke to a progressive Jewish law professor at the same university last week who feels he now works in a hostile environment. This may not be happening everywhere to the same degree, but it is happening in more places, more often. It could be a precursor of things to come in growing swaths of the US.

Another result of wokeness is declining American support for Israel (see our recent poll). Granted, deteriorating fealty to the Jewish State does not by itself constitute antisemitism. But the corrosion of support for Israel certainly impacts the sense of place of many liberal Zionist Jews in the Democratic Party and, by extension, in the broader society. Along with this diminution in support comes growing anti-Zionism and grotesque characterizations of Israel as a “settler-colonialist state.” I agree with Glenn that anti-Zionism is not ipso facto antisemitism, but it often does come packaged with demonization of Jews and the Jewish state. While I don’t think that the Democratic Party is on the precipice of “Corbynization” (becoming like Jeremy Corbyn’s hostile Labour Party in the UK), who knows what another ten years of this untamed ideology might bring?

Last but not least, the biggest fear of Jews and others ought to be the undermining of liberalism and the sense-making institutions in American life coming from both ends of the ideological spectrum, further polarizing our already polarized society. I can imagine it getting much worse. Such a dystopia would affect everyone, but surely Jews will feel it earlier and more acutely than most, and who knows what atrocities might come about in the chaos?

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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