As the pandemic was in full swing during July 2020, Harper’s Magazine published “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” which argued that a growing intolerance was becoming a threat …
As the pandemic was in full swing during July 2020, Harper’s Magazine published “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” which argued that a growing intolerance was becoming a threat to free speech.
Far from a conservative response to so-called “cancel culture,” the over 150 signatories of the letter included some of the most prominent voices of the political left, including feminist Gloria Steinem, linguist Noam Chomsky, and New York Times editor, Bari Weiss, who would resign her position at the paper a week later citing the newsroom’s intolerant climate that caters to the “narrowest of audiences.”
One of the central points of Harper’s letter was how the division this climate was creating would undermine opposition to then-president Donald Trump. Despite their shared hatred of Trump, the letter’s signatories were viciously criticized, and most of that was from the political left. A popular meme is that the “left eats its own,” and the reaction to the Harper’s letter aptly demonstrates that.
Flash forward two years after the publication of the letter, and Trump’s opponent sits in the White House with dismal approval ratings in the midst of soaring inflation, crushing energy prices, and an economy that many economists believe is spiraling toward recession. The Democrats know the midterm elections are likely to go very favorably for Republicans.
It’s not always easy to predict election outcomes, but it’s unlikely fortunes will reverse for the Democrats in November, but the presidential election is a long way off. No matter how well things go in November, the Republicans could become vulnerable in November 2024 if they fail to maintain a united front.
It remains to be seen if the party will do that. Whenever a group of people become so entrenched with their ideas, defining what is in and what is out along very strict lines — and demonizing anything outside that circle — a group of people who previously viewed themselves as allies will begin to divide into smaller, less effective groups.
Here in Wyoming, divisions within the Republican party are growing. On one side of the camp are conservatives who argue that anyone who carries the Republican flag should think and vote more or less exactly alike, and those who deviate from that line are “Republicans in Name Only.”
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, is among those who have been criticized for taking stances that don’t fall exactly along party lines.
“They don’t want to have tolerance. They don’t want to talk about social issues, other than the way they want to see them. The Republican Party shifted away from me. I haven’t shifted,” Case told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
The excesses of cancel culture alienated a lot of liberals. It didn’t turn them into the conservatives necessarily, but they find themselves more skeptical of their allegiance with the left side of the political spectrum. The more the left demanded ideological purity and purged those who failed the test, the fewer people it had to call reliable allies.
Republicans are in a very good position right now to take this country back and undo some of the damage that was done when liberal policies were pushed through during the panic of the pandemic, which has led to one of the worst economies we’ve seen since the Great Recession of 2008 — as well as an overall decline in the quality of life, especially in the metropolitan Democratic strongholds.
However, if Republicans insist on the same kind of ideological purity, the party will make the same mistake the left has and squander this great opportunity.
This is not to defend any specific elected official who has been called a RINO, nor suggest the criticism is never justified.
It is to say that, while having a robust debate on the direction of the party, Republicans of all stripes shouldn’t forget their shared conservative values. There are people who are very much in opposition to those values, and alienating a lot of allies will only weaken the right against them.