For a little more than a year, the proponents of this destructive ideology have been rebranding it “diversity training,” and when conservatives called bullshit and somewhat successfully started identifying it in pedagogy and policy, the new line is they don’t know what it is.
— Geoffrey Ingersoll (@GPIngersoll) June 12, 2021
But “critical race theory” is not the first name people like Rufo and Lindsay have used for the sort of thing they are talking about. Some have labeled the general phenomenon “wokeness.” That term has come under fire for being an appropriation of black slang. Before that, some called it “cultural Marxism.” That term was attacked for apparently anti-Semitic overtones. Jordan Peterson called it “postmodern neo-Marxism,” which was mocked for being an apparent contradiction in terms (I don’t myself think it’s an oxymoron). The term “postmodernism” is attacked for being unclear. When one simply calls it “social justice,” one hears the response that social justice is good by definition. And so on. You get the idea. There’s a concept or issue needing a name, but in the case of this one particular concept or issue, no name will do. We just need to discuss the problem of its name first, forever.
I’m personally sympathetic to the argument that CRT has Marxist influences and overtones, but if it were genuinely Marxist, it would be hard to explain why it has been so eagerly adopted by major corporations, billionaires, and Ivy League universities, none of which are particularly interested in proletarian revolution. Rather, I think the meaning of CRT, wokeness, intersectionality, whatever, is simple and hiding in plain sight. It is nothing more, and nothing less, than the ideology of the modern Democratic Party. Or, more precisely, it is the ideological glue that holds together the modern Democratic coalition, with its new economy oligarchs, affluent college-educated professionals (particularly single women), socialists, and racial and sexual minorities (of course, these groups are not mutually exclusive). As Christopher Caldwell observed in a November essay in the New Republic, “civil rights, broadly understood” (his term for what I’m calling CRT) is the “reconciler-of-contradictions” within the Democratic Party, analogous to the role that anti-communism used to play in “fusionist” conservatism — that is, providing an ideological least common denominator that could unite the downscale religious believers and upscale businessmen and Cold War hawks who made up the Reagan coalition.