Why We’re Doomed

We all knew it was going to be ugly and stupid. I’m still surprised, though, when people say these things with a straight face. Conservative pundits lump middle-of-the-roaders like me into a vast, scheming “secular Left . . . who cannot stand the presence of religion in everyday  life.” Lefties blast middle-of-the-roaders like Cory Booker into the conspiratorial Right. No wonder we can’t have a decent convo.

First, my alleged anti-religiosity. After my recent commentary about Karen Pence in the Washington Post, Ben Shapiro took to the tube-waves to rebut. At about 19:30 in this segment, he hoped to redefine Ms. Pence’s ordeal. Instead of an old-fashioned fight between religious groups, Shapiro insisted, what we’re facing now was an outright fight by powerful secular forces against traditional religion as a whole.

Shapiro argued that people like me assume that there is no legitimate traditional religion anymore. People like me, Shapiro said, see conservative religion as only

a basket of bigotries masquerading as religion.

I won’t rebut Shapiro’s rebuttal, though I will point out that SAGLRROILYBYGTH have offered much more powerful and insightful counterarguments to my Pence commentary in these pages.

The point this morning is bigger and it’s not only about my hurt feelings. It’s not even about conservatives alone. Pundits on the left tend to shoot their mouths off just as wildly. For example, though I’m not a fan of Senator Cory Booker’s (fading?) support for charter schools, I can acknowledge that he often endorses traditional progressive political positions.

Yet, as Molly Ball noted a few years back in The Atlantic,

Booker has faced a steady drumbeat of criticism from sites like Daily Kos, where a contributor asserted last year that he “would actually be much more at home in the Republican Party.” Booker’s team has grown all too familiar with the rap that he is “some sort of Manchurian candidate for the right,” as his campaign spokesman, Kevin Griffis, put it to me with a sigh.

The problem is bigger than Cory Booker or Karen Pence. It’s even bigger than Ben Shapiro. In a sensible system, pundits on both sides would rush to include as many people as they can on their team. Ben Shapiro would notice that my argument wasn’t really against traditional religion at all. Cory Booker would be welcomed into a big-tent Left and encouraging to squeeze every possible progressive drop out of his role.

That’s not what happens. Instead, as pundits on both sides try to get clicks by excoriating their natural allies, the left-right divide only gapes ever wider.

Leave a comment


  1. Social media (facebook, twitter, etc) are megaphones that amplify the extremes of left and right. But most of the population are still closer to the center.

  2. Agellius

     /  January 23, 2019

    I agree that that’s why we’re doomed. However I too got the impression from your article that you think of Christianity as “a basket of bigotries masquerading as religion.”

    • Well, then, I didn’t do a good job in that essay. I think there is a world of difference between saying that religion is just a way to hide bigotry–which I did NOT mean to say–and saying that some pundits misrepresent (intentionally or not) their own religion to deflect awkward questions about their political beliefs–which I DID mean to say.

  3. Patrick Halbrook

     /  January 24, 2019

    Had I never read anything else you had ever written, and had I allowed the somewhat over-the-top headline to set the tone for the article (I’m guessing it was written by WP editors), I honestly might have made some of the same assumptions as Shapiro. As it is, I know that in a discussion such as this you are primarily interested in getting both sides to better understand each other and to more thoughtfully reflect upon their own side’s inconsistencies. I suppose there’s a fairly proportional relationship between people actually taking the time to listen to and get to know each other and the ability to avoid being doomed.

  4. William

     /  January 25, 2019

    Isn’t it possible that many on left are correct that a Booker presidency would set back or at least not allow progress on the issues they are concerned with?

    • William

       /  January 25, 2019

      I think Dr Laats that you have effectively reminded that conservatives usually believe the things they say, even when they sound incredible to my ears. It seems uncharacteristic to then think the left is simply partisan when they see a ‘Wall St Democrat’ as unable to give them what they want.

    • I think there are two big issues involved: Civil and strategic. For the sake of vibrant democracy, I think it is an important value to try to bring people together as much as possible, instead of splitting them apart. So if progressives can find things to like and encourage about Senator Booker (while certainly opposing things they don’t like about his policies), we are ALL beneficiaries. And speaking strategically, I think both sides will be smart to pull in as many centrists as they can. Americans are in the middle, even if politicians are being pulled to the edges. A party (not necessarily Dems or GOP only) that can appeal to the vast middle could pull off a Macron-like revolution.

  1. I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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