By Evan R. Goldstein
The day after the presidential election, Mark Lilla had to get something off his chest. “I wrote in a fever,” he says. The article that resulted, which appeared in The New York Times, argues that “American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender, and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force.”
Mr. Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, pinned the blame, in part, on academe and its fixation on identity politics. “How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose … gender pronouns?” he asked. “How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in ‘His Majesty’?”
The article has provoked an avalanche of response and rebuttal. “Stop blaming our society’s political and social crises on campus-based demands for color- and gender- coded justice that reflect the crises far more than they cause them,” wrote Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale University, in the Times. “It is unconscionable, this know-better recrimination, directed at the very people who just put the most work and energy into defeating Trumpism, coming from those who will be made least vulnerable by Trump’s ascension,” wrote Rebecca Traister in New York magazine.
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