Thinking through what it will mean to live without institutions.
Nine years ago today Legal Insurrection published its first post, Obama is Door No. 2.
Last year I noted that while it was a difficult year personally, I was optimistic. That’s been one of my roles over the years, keeping hope alive. But there’s no pep talk this year. Just dread.
The attempts to unwind the 2016 presidential election have changed everything.
I’ve written before how the attempts to intimidate the Electoral College electors into changing their votes was a game changer for me. That went beyond politics into attempted coup territory. It wasn’t just a matter of opposing Trump or Trump policies, which is legitimate, but an attempt to nullify an election. Criticize Trump all you want, I certainly did during the primaries, but respect the vote. If you don’t respect the vote, then you are not just political opposition, you are a danger to our system.
If the assault on the Electoral College was the game changer for me, a runner up was waking up to implications of the concentration of power in a small number of social media and internet companies who have been weaponized to shut down speech and expression. Google, Facebook, Twitter and two handfuls of other companies now completely control our ability to communicate with each other, while internet backbone companies are poised to block internet access altogether.
Imagine living in a repressive country in which the government blocked access to and suppressed internet content. You don’t need to move. It’s coming here but from private industry. This is, in many ways, more dangerous than government suppression of free speech because at least in the U.S. the government is subject to the First Amendment, and can be voted out of office.
I don’t know if there are any uncorrupted institutions left that matter. The education system, from public grade school through public and private higher ed, is gone. The frontal assault on free speech on campuses is the result. If you think this is just a Humanities and Social Sciences problem, stay tuned. In 3-5 years, if we’re still here, we’ll be writing about how the social justice warriors have corrupted the STEM fields. It’s happening now, it’s just not in the headlines yet.
There is a rising tide of absolutism in ideas and enforcement of ideological uniformity that is palpable. I feel it in the air, even at Cornell which is far from the worst. Incredibly, the new Cornell President has charged a newly-formed task force to explore, among other things, “legal mechanisms [which] are available to the university to prevent, address and counter situations in which protected expression on campus is harmful to those vulnerable to its effects.”
Even language as a means of communication is corrupted, with terminology manipulated and coerced to achieve political ends. It started on campuses, and it’s moved into the AP stylebook and the mainstream.
The press could stand as a bulwark against this slide, but it too is corrupted. The greatest threat to freedom of the press is not Donald Trump’s bloviating about FCC licenses (which has been a favorite threat traditionally of Democrats), but the mainstream press itself which has abdicated even the pretense of neutrality and joined #TheResistance.
The lack of respect for the vote is also what has alienated me from the so-called conservative movement. There now is a cottage industry of self-appointed guardians of conservatism whose main job is to delegitimize the vote, and to encourage a soft coup because they didn’t get their way in the primaries.
The Republican Party? Hah. Don’t get me started.
So I’m thinking through what it will mean to live without institutions.
Sorry to be a downer on our blog birthday. I’ve always tried to be honest with you, and honestly, this blog birthday I’m filled with dread, not good cheer.
I’d like to extend my thanks to the editors and authors, who have helped cover for me as I continue to grapple with unresolved personal issues. And to the readers, who keep coming back for more, and whose messages of support help keep me going.
[Featured image: Me standing during Cornell ‘Take a Knee’ protest]