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Douglas Andrews / April 8, 2021

A Liberal Calls Out His Own

Thomas Frank has for years written about his side’s abandonment of its blue-collar roots. Now it’s abandoning free speech.

Critiques of the Left are always welcome here, but they’re especially welcome when they come from the Left. These are eyewitness accounts, so to speak, and they’re that much harder for leftists to summarily dismiss.

Such was the case last week when bestselling liberal author and journalist Thomas Frank took his side to task for its abandonment of traditional liberalism and its embrace of censorship. He must’ve struck a nerve, too, even among those whom he considered political allies. As he put it to fellow liberal Matt Taibbi, “People were like, ‘F— you, Frank!’”

There are, of course, many pathologies on the Left, but paper-thin skin is among the worst — which is why we on the Right should be ridiculing leftists and their bad ideas at every turn. Lots of folks can dismiss a thoughtful critique, but far fewer can stand being made a laughingstock. And no one — perhaps ever — did a better job of that than Donald Trump.

“In 2016,” Frank writes, “liberals chose to blame Russia for their loss rather than look in the mirror. On other occasions they assured one another that they had no problems with white blue-collar workers — until it became undeniable that they did, whereupon liberals chose to blame such people for rejecting them.”

Adding insult to this injury, whenever they attacked Trump, the guy who made a fool of them en masse, he simply doubled down on ridicule. No wonder Trump Derangement Syndrome continues to course through the Democrat Party.

As for his side’s lurch toward censorship, Frank points to what the always reliable New York Times dubs a “reality crisis” — a term that can fairly be described as the Left’s realization that its ideas are bankrupt and that its political enemies must therefore be silenced. “In response,” Frank writes, “Joe Biden has called upon us as a nation to ‘defend the truth and defeat the lies.’”

Yep, the same Joe Biden who reflexively tells the most awful lies, the same Joe Biden who promised he’d “work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did,” and the same Joe Biden who called the Georgia voter reform law “an atrocity” and “Jim Crow on steroids” is rallying his dullard brigades to “defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

As Frank puts it, “The remedy for bad speech, we now believe, is not more speech, as per Justice Brandeis’s famous formula, but an ‘extremism expert’ shushing the world. … Criticism, analysis, mockery and protest: these were our weapons. We were rational-minded skeptics, and we had a grand old time deflating creationists, faith healers, puffed-up militarists and corporate liars of every description. Censorship and blacklisting were, with important exceptions, the weapons of the puritanical right: those were their means of lashing out against rap music or suggestive plays or left-wingers who were gainfully employed.”

He vastly overstates the case on right-wing censorship, but Frank is essentially arguing the Left and the Right have switched places. We discussed this Great Switcheroo just prior to last year’s presidential election, and we’re no less convinced of the soundness of that analysis. Need more proof? Guess how many of the 10 richest congressional districts are controlled by Democrats. Five? Eight? Try all 10. And 19 of the top 20.

So much for The Party of the People. Instead, leftists — and the Democrat Party they’ve co-opted — have created the party of the affluent, the elite, the paternalists, the scolds, the censors.

Frank’s sense of this shift long predated ours. In fact, he warned of it at the end of his bestselling 2004 book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? Unfortunately, those on the Left weren’t listening. They were clearly too busy telling Frank to have sexual relations with himself.

“Let me confess,” writes Frank now. “Every time I read one of these stories calling on us to get over free speech or calling on Mark Zuckerberg to press that big red ‘mute’ button on our political opponents, I feel a wave of incredulity sweep over me. Liberals believe in liberty, I tell myself. This can’t really be happening here in the USA. But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief. … To say that it is a betrayal of everything we were taught liberalism stood for — a betrayal that we will spend years living down — may be too complex a thought for our punditburo to consider, but it is nevertheless true.”

Frank thus offers a scathing indictment of the speech-censoring Left — an indictment that has the added quality of absolute truth. No wonder leftists are trying so hard to ignore him.

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