True, not faux, pluralism

I blogged a few days ago on Our Great Death Struggle. A key part, at least in my intent (if I didn’t covey its centrality, blame the writer), was this:

Brooks’ counter [to anti-pluralism] — a hymn to pluralism — sounds just a little too much like whistling past the graveyard, but I’ll give him credit for this introduction to his hymn:

The struggle between pluralism and antipluralism is one of the great death struggles of our time, and it is being fought on every front.

(The Ideology of Hate and How to Fight It)

If I admit some ambivalence, so long as the antipluralism is rigorously nonviolent, both physically and rhetorically, will you think I’m a monster? Read Brooks’ hymn to pluralism (not quoted) and see if you find it completely satisfying.

Frankly, I was feeling pretty down by the time I got done.

Then it occurred to me that pluralism versus anti-pluralism isn’t a binary decision. These are tendencies, and to some extent, political positions — and thus susceptible of normal political give-and-take.

I had in mind things like an immigration policy that is enforced and that protects our relatively unskilled workers from wage-depressing unskilled new immigrants. In other words, between closed-and-locked-down border and wide-open border.

Well, Damon Linker, like me, was impressed with Brooks’ framing of “struggle between pluralism and antipluralism,” and had some additional ideas for give-and-take:

It is not always entirely unreasonable to be unhappy with the consequences of pluralism. It may well be that, for some, human flourishing is incompatible with the “diversity, fluidity, and interdependent nature of modern life.”

… A productive response to the anti-pluralists might … involve backing off on the progressive insistence that every corner of the United States must affirm the moral outlook of its most liberal cities under penalty of social and economic censure.

This second item is especially important because it would demonstrate that progressives are willing to put their proudly proclaimed pluralism where their mouths are. Ask a progressive why she cheers on a lawsuit seeking to bankrupt an evangelical Protestant baker for refusing to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding, and she’ll likely talk about the scourge of bigotry and discrimination and explain that pluralism demands that they be stamped out everywhere they exist.

But, as paradoxical as it may seem, that conviction is itself another form of anti-pluralism, albeit one that believes itself to be acting in the name of pluralism …

Progressives have no problem … pronouncing the dignity of … differences, when it concerns people who are non-white, especially when they are non-Christian, and even when their metaphysical convictions entail a rejection of pluralism. But when it comes to the distinctive outlook of, say, conservative white Christians, that acceptance and even affirmation of difference vanishes in an instant. Now the power of the state must be marshaled to force these anti-pluralists to embrace the comprehensive moral outlook of progressivism, with those who resist shamed and penalized into submission.

If pluralism really is our ineradicable reality and a social and moral good worth defending (it is both), then it needs to be applied equally to all — to those who substantively affirm pluralism as well as to those who do not (as long as they refrain from incitement to, and acts of, political violence).

Among its other benefits, extending pluralism equally to all just might have the effect of giving parts of the country more resistant to pluralism the time to catch up to changes in the broader culture (though there’s no guarantee that they will). Pluralists may wish the anti-pluralists would get with the program sooner, but pushing too hard and too fast has a way of generating a backlash — precisely the kind of backlash that is roiling the nation (and much of the world) at this very moment.

I wish I’d said that. Occasional gems like this are why I still follow Damon Linker.

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