Memo 06.08.2021 10 minutes

Politics is Interested in You

Black Lives Matter rallies in Portland, Oregon

There's no hiding from the Left and hoping they'll go away.

You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.

Many Americans—focused on their businesses, careers, home, and family—prefer to ignore the political battles and attendant controversy dividing our country. But neutrality is no longer an option.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about Americans’ love of being left alone. He called it “individualism,” and he fretted that one of the risks to our experiment in self-government was the tendency to retreat from questions concerning the public—political questions—in favor of enjoying our private lives. The risk, he recognized, was that retreating would enable subversion of the whole polity by people manipulating it for their own gain.

Sound familiar?

Our society has morphed away from anything recognizable even ten years ago. For many, politics was always something away from home, away from daily life. It was somewhere else—often relevant mostly to small things like marginal differences in a tax bill. Not anymore. A corrosive trend has developed: as some become increasingly political and demanding, the cost for others of expressing an opinion—or even ignoring the wrong activist demand—has grown intolerably high. This distorts the public debate, giving the illusion that a vocal group of ideologues is representative of the mainstream, because the mainstream has been intimidated into silence. And as more mainstream Americans find themselves in a country they don’t recognize, they are realizing that remaining apolitical was a luxury of another time.

Political fanatics take advantage of normal people who try to play it down the middle. This holds true in ordinary businesses in Middle America, in elite liberal arts colleges, and in the New York Times newsroom. Many people would rather go about their work and ignore the political battles that increasingly divide our country. But the left will not leave you this option.

In the workplace, “woke” ideologues politicize ordinary activities, conversations, and speech. They compel employers, suppliers, partners, and advertisers to bend to their demands. They are intrusive and uncompromising. Even a rejection of politics is treated as political. Two companies that took the unusual step of banning workplace politics—Coinbase and Basecamp—received sharp media backlash and had numerous employees resign, outraged that their employer would no longer indulge their activism. You will have no choice but to take a side.

The cultural and institutional power of the Left makes it the path of least resistance. This starts with seemingly anodyne acts like rainbow flags superimposed on logos, “Black Lives Matter” window signs, or small donations to activist organizations. More substantive demands follow, such as diversity quotas, mandatory pronoun announcements, changes in hiring standards, and “anti-racism” training sessions. These are still rationalized on business grounds—such as claims they uncover undervalued talent and improve team cohesion, or Harvard Business School studies purporting to show that diversity improves decision-making—even though the supporting evidence is often dubious, and the only real beneficiary is the Human Resources industrial complex.

These demands are not just marginal costs—a “woke tax” of sorts that lets you otherwise run your business as you like. Rather, they will stifle dynamism, drive away freer-thinking employees, and alienate half of America’s population (who will choose alternatives as these arise). Many of these demands—even if initially tempered or covered in a management-friendly veneer—are designed to subvert the market system on which businesses are built. They are based on precepts of critical theory that are fundamentally opposed to the market system.

How much will their demands cost you? What share of your profits will their programs consume? Will they let you keep your job if you play ball, or will an arbitrary infraction serve as the pretext for your quiet marginalization—or ritual public sacrifice?

There is a better path.

You must reject woke demands, refuse to make even token gestures, and invest instead in relationships and partnerships with people and organizations who have likewise steeled themselves against the mob’s opprobrium.

The sooner you make this decision, the less disruptive it will be: you’ll lose fewer employees and customers, have made fewer difficult-to-reverse organizational decisions, and done less to bend your brand and culture to fit the woke narrative. Most importantly, you’ll have more friends to stand by your side as you face the inevitable slander and attacks. Because this path will not be easy either. The left will try to use their power to punish you.

When the mob comes for you, they will not simply target you. They may place immense pressure on junior people in your company, or even family members of junior people in organizations that so much as associate with you.

They may call you “racist” and accuse you of “harassment.” They may use government agencies to impede your permit applications and launch investigations based on the lies of your enemies. Companies, especially banks and others in regulated industries, may hesitate to do business with you because they fear negative attention from ginned-up PR campaigns.

There is no escaping the political conflict we face. But you can at least side with those who aren’t committed to destroying your way of life.

Whether you publicly and explicitly side with the political right or simply reject the demands of ideological activists, the woke mobs will treat you as their enemy. Your friends—those who will continue to do business with you despite the attacks this may also bring them—will be others who have chosen to side against the left, especially those who have publicly stood firm. Act accordingly: show these people the loyalty you want them to show you. When they are attacked, resist pressure to distance yourself from them even if you have not yet faced similar attacks. We may all face this mob, and we must stand together.

The political Left dominates public discourse and has driven many legacy institutions to endorse its side, but as more people and businesses publicly refuse to cave to their demands, the limits of their power will become clear.

We are organizing the other side. You are not alone. There is a vibrant and growing group of people committed to a better vision.

Join us at newfounding.com.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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