ERIKSSON VON ALLMEN: The losing team can’t afford to make cuts

The Left’s rejection of older, centrist voices is self-destructive

op-wikimedia-esther

In an age of intense political polarization, it has become ever more important to have conversations with those who think differently. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

I love politically incorrect stand-up comedy. Whether it’s Chris Rock or Bo Burnham, nothing makes me laugh harder than a fifty-minute Netflix special daring to push beyond conventional wisdom and question the norms of the contemporary world. But of all the stand-up comics, no one makes me laugh harder than Bill Burr. More importantly, his comedy makes me think. Much of his material targets modern-day liberalism and third-wave feminism. And while I happen to be both a liberal and a feminist, I think that’s partly why I Iike his stand up shows so much —  they force me to rethink my own beliefs. I just wish more of the Left was willing to do the same.

We have a lot to gain from listening to the insights of older liberals like Burr — and we have a lot to lose if we don’t. A 51-year-old cynical white guy, Bill Burr, embodies the confusion and frustration that many older, white men are experiencing as a result of the wave of identity politics that have flooded the American political and cultural landscape in the past decade. These are the boomers, who grew up in a time when terms like transgender and toxic masculinity did not hold commonplace in everyday parlance. But now our socio-cultural conventions have changed dramatically and there is considerable upset among younger progressives when others can’t keep up. 

Why is everyone so angry all the time? Can we just calm down a bit? Why are you yelling at me right now? To these questions, Burr erupted during his special “Paper Tiger,” declaring, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I think white women started it.” 

What exactly have white women started that has stirred up so much confusion and controversy? 

Burr seems frustrated with the ways in which modern liberalism and feminism have constructed a politics rooted in emotion, where disagreement represents a personal attack on one’s very existence. We increasingly hand our loyalty to those who look like us. Identity — whether it’s race, gender or sexuality — usurps policy. Burr criticizes modern feminism’s obsession with a female president — as if someone’s genitalia should have anything to do with whether or not they deserve our vote. We make broad-brush statements such as “Believe Women” without respect for the nuances of reality and are quick to judge without taking the time to consider alternative perspectives. We glorify our feminist icons like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama to a near sainthood status, forgetting that they too are ordinary human beings prone to error. We have abandoned the art of parsing — the ability to recognize nuance and complexity in all people and issues.

I have watched as my generation of liberals has turned against our own. There’s no room for the caustic humor of Burr in this progressive bubble.

More concerning is that this phenomenon extends beyond comedy. We don’t have the patience to tolerate more centrist, older democratic candidates. People like former Vice President Joe Biden, who makes valiant efforts to keep up with the modern conventions but always fall a bit short. Earlier in the campaign at an Asian & Latino Coalition in Des Moines, Iowa, Biden accidentally declared that “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented, as white kids," clearly not the best thing to say to a crowd of mainly Hispanic and Asian voters. Biden, unfortunately, has a history of making these types of off-color statements about minorities, but at the end of the day, we forget liberal boomers like him are on our side.

As part of his 2020 bid for the presidency, he has introduced several progressive proposals. His education plan calls for increased federal spending on schools in low-income districts and universal pre-K. His criminal justice reform plan would decriminalize marijuana, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, end the death penalty and abolish private prisons. These reform bills would improve the lives of some of America’s most underserved communities. To cast Biden aside as some outdated white guy harms those who would benefit from his proposed policies.

Moreover, without a Senate majority or a presidential administration on our side, the Democrats symbolize the junior varsity players of American politics — and the JV team does not have the luxury of being picky with its players. Sure, Biden may not be our first pick, but does that mean he gets cut? 

I understand that some may think that this sympathy is undeserved. Are you really going to feel bad for the old, white guys? Why do they deserve our time and sympathy and attention? To be clear, I don’t feel particularly bad for Burr or others like him. I don’t believe he wants us to feel bad for him. He wants us to understand and listen to his perspective without immediately casting him aside as deplorable.

In an age of intense political polarization, it has become even more important to have conversations with those who think differently. But oftentimes, when we try to have these conversations, we enter the discussion with the purpose of correcting as opposed to understanding. This condescension turns many away. The intolerance of the left only fuels the extremism of the right. Our political correctness has become a central talking point for conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson. It leads to frustration and confusion within our own side of the political spectrum. 

And I worry that this frustration and confusion, to which Burr is calling attention, has the potential to evolve into something truly radical and deeply disturbing if not properly addressed.  

Esther Eriksson von Allmen is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

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