“It Can’t Happen”; Or, the Poverty of…

One of the themes I hope to pursue on this substack is the nature and limits of the political imagination, which seems to me chronically impoverished among our intellectual class, especially among those who claim to be the most knowledgeable and realistic about politics. I have come to believe that our political world is far more fluid, far more malleable and susceptible to shaping through intentional action, especially the action of committed political minorities, than the putative realists can conceive at any given time. Today let me illustrate by mentioning a central dogma or rhetorical trope of right-liberalism — of the wing of liberalism that is also called “conservative liberalism,” that spreads its insights across the pages of the National Review, and that takes itself to be opposed to “woke-ism” and identity politics. (At least for now. The history of right-liberalism suggests that within a very few years, if that, the right-liberal will be defending identity politics against all challengers).

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