“The paradox of identity liberalism is that it paralyzes the capacity to think and act in a way that would actually accomplish the things it professes to want. It is mesmerized by symbols: achieving superficial diversity in organizations, retelling history to focus on marginal and often minuscule groups, concocting inoffensive euphemisms to describe social reality, protecting young ears and eyes already accustomed to slasher films from any disturbing encounter with alternative viewpoints. Identity liberalism has ceased being a political project and has morphed into an evangelical one. The difference is this: evangelism is about speaking truth to power. Politics is about seizing power to defend the truth…
If liberals hope ever to recapture America’s imagination and become a dominant force across the country, it will not be enough to beat the Republicans at flattering the vanity of the mythical Joe Sixpack. They must offer a vision of our common destiny based on one thing that all Americans, of every background, actually share. And that is citizenship. We must relearn how to speak to citizens as citizens and to frame our appeals — including ones to benefit particular groups — in terms of principles that everyone can affirm. Ours must become a civic liberalism. […]
Elections are not prayer meetings, and no one is interested in your personal testimony. They are not therapy sessions or occasions to obtain recognition. They are not seminars or ‘teaching moments.’ They are not about exposing degenerates and running them out of town. If you want to save America’s soul, consider becoming a minister. If you want to force people to confess their sins and convert, don a white robe and head to the River Jordan. If you are determined to bring the Last Judgment down on the United States of America, become a god. But if you want to win the country back from the right, and bring about lasting change for the people you care about, it’s time to descend from the pulpit.”
Pulled from Mark Lilla’s short book The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, published last month.
In both its tone and substance, I think it’s as useful a Democratic roadmap as I’ve seen since last summer. (For ongoing discussion of the book, including some of its shortcomings, follow my friend Matthew Sitman.)