This month’s public bruhaha among Washington Post writers, stemming from a colleague’s retweet of a banal joke, was a sight to behold. One of the most prominent newspapers in the nation became a national headline itself, as “professional” reporters jumped to social media to air dirty laundry and call each other names. Where were the adults in the room? Where indeed.
The dust-up illustrates the progressive playbook. First, take any perceived slight and assume the evilest intent. Then claim it represents some fantastical hyperbole of doom “if not addressed.” Every incident becomes an outrage campaign that makes the participants, who seem perpetually dour and unhappy, insufferable as individuals and ruinously disruptive as employees.
This most recent Washington Post drama was unusual only in how public it became, but it is far from unique in its suffering from a plague of progressive employees whose “woke” zealotry bleeds across the workplace. The “cancel culture” mentality leveraged by progressives against their enemies, including those from its own ranks, has become a paralyzing maelstrom within organizations that employ them.
As one recently resigned executive director of a Leftist organization told The Intercept -- “So much energy has been devoted to the internal strife and internal bull____ that it’s had a real impact on the ability for groups to deliver . . . I was spending 90 to 95 percent of my time on internal strife.”
The Intercept paints a picture of what you might imagine if the same people pushing Cancel Culture were all put into a room and then expected to come up with solutions for cultural issues. Navigating a minefield wearing a blindfold would be easier – and lead to better results.
In practical terms, paralyzed by in-fighting, progressive organizations are seeing fewer results in the halls of government in Washington, D.C. even though Democrats hold the reins of power in Congress and the White House.
Even worse than the steep drop-off in effectiveness, is how progressives have also hijacked traditionally liberal organizations and run them straight into the ground with their toxic culture.
Not long ago, the American Civil Liberties Union was an organization that although leftist at heart, still found common ground with the Right; in particular, privacy rights and government surveillance. In fact, for a few years after leaving the Congress in early 2003, I worked with the ACLU on data and privacy issues. Such collaboration seems unattainable in today’s take-no-prisoners environment.
Rather than holding firm on foundational principles and messaging that appealed to civil libertarians on both the Left and Right, the ACLU opted to embrace positions that years before would be seen as violative of their core mission. Looking at the ACLU’s Twitter feed, it is clear the organization has become another standard bearer for progressive rhetoric, indistinguishable from any other run-of-the-mill progressive organization.
While the downfall of progressive organizations is hardly a reason for tears, there are important lessons for today’s conservative movement that could help it avoid a similar fate. Conservatives, whether traditional or MAGA, should remember then-Governor Ronald Reagan’s 1967 speech about the need for cooperation and diversity of ideas within the GOP; and how without this cooperation, ultimate victory is impossible.
“There is room in our tent for many views,” Reagan said. “It is the duty and responsibility of the volunteer Republican organizations, not to further divide, but to lead the way to unity.”
Infighting among the Left has provided an incredible opportunity for Republican victories in 2022 and 2024, but only if there is cooperation – even if not unanimous agreement – in Republicans helping to elect Republican candidates. As Reagan warned, we must resist the urge to “tear down, or attempt to destroy, others in the tent.” Primaries can be contentious but undermining the victor after the elections is a surefire way to give Democrats the perfect opportunity to close the gap created by their own internal discord.
Progressives have failed to provide an example of how to win, but they certainly have given us an example of how to lose. If Republicans want to maximize the advantage of this opportunity for years to come, the Party must learn how to bring all sides under the tent and understand the strength of the GOP comes not from making it a homogeneous ideological party like progressives are trying to do with the Left, but rather finding common ground among our different ideas and philosophies and building a lasting coalition thereon.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.