Another Stephens’ Tour-de-Farce

I know this is like hitting a sitting duck, but Bret Stephens has once again topped himself in illustrating just how out of touch he really is while still claiming victimhood. Today’s effort was another Stephens’ tour-de-force, arguing that the left has been blinded by groupthink and their “increasingly constricted view of the world”, leaving them constantly surprised when confronted by reality.

Stephens’ first example of such “blindness” is that “Donald Trump once again stunned much of the liberal establishment by dramatically beating polling expectations to come within about 80,000 votes of another Electoral College victory”. If the “liberal establishment” consists of almost every polling firm in the country as well as a majority of old-style conservative pundits, that might be correct. In fact, it was largely the left, more than any group including Stephens’ colleagues, who constantly warned that Trump’s support was probably deeper than realized and worked to the last moment to get Democratic voters out.

Stephens then claims that high-profile writers have abandoned left-wing publications because of the progressives’ “pervasive culture of censoriousness”. The two examples he provides are laughable — Andrew Sullivan, who labelled Iraq war protestors treasonous and embraces Charles Murrays’ theories on race, and Glenn Greenwald, who has openly supported Trump. Anyone who thinks these two are reflective of the left is perhaps the one who has an “increasingly constricted view of the world”. Stephens’ other example of how out of touch the left has become is the fact that New York magazine ran an article on Bjork. Is he really serious? Stephens then contradicts his earlier claim about these writers leaving, admitting that New York actually “dumped Sullivan”.

Stephens claims the left is shocked by the fact that a majority of white women voted for Donald Trump, whom Stephens himself describes as “the most anti-Black, anti-Hispanic and anti-woman president in modern memory”, and that Trump improved his 2016 performance with Hispanics and Blacks, while losing ground to college-educated whites. Of course, the left would not be shocked by seeing a majority of whites support “the most anti-Black, anti-Hispanic and anti-woman president in modern memory” and understand that the electorate is increasingly divided by educational attainment. In addition, the Biden campaign was focused on capitalizing on the 2018 Democratic gains in the suburbs. Anyone who is actually shocked by these results is the one with a “constricted view of the world”.

Stephens rises to the defense of those Trump voters, writing, “The apparent inability of many on the left to entertain the thought that decent human beings might have voted for Trump for sensible reasons — to take one example, the unemployment rate reached record lows before the pandemic hit — amounts to an epic failure to see their fellow Americans with understanding”. Of course, any rational person who is not blinded by a certain groupthink would question how anyone could vote for “the most anti-Black, anti-Hispanic and anti-woman president in modern memory” and there are not many good answers other than racism, misogyny, or personal greed. The lack of empathy would seem to come from the Trump voters, not the other way around.

Stephens ends with his usual plea of victimhood — if only the left would stop being so mean then Republicans would be reasonable. He writes, “The surest way to fuel the politics of resentment — the politics that gave us the Tea Party, Brexit and Trump, and will continue to furnish more of the same — is to give people something to resent. Jeering moral condescension from entitled elites is among the things most people tend to resent”. Of course, the Tea Party, Brexit, and even Trump were all backed by millions of dollars from elite conservative plutocrats out to exploit the politics of resentment for their own personal gain.

As 80% of Republicans now believe that Biden won the election fraudulently and elected Republican leaders have almost universally supported Trump’s claims of a rigged and stolen election either with silence or actual vocal support, Bret Stephens is telling us that it is the left that is blinded by epistemic closure, writing that the left “believes that truth can be established by eliminating” opposing points of view. It is almost laughable projection. Why the Times still pays this guy to write this tripe is beyond me.

Originally published at on November 17, 2020.

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