The New York Times is engaged in an ongoing effort to rehabilitate Communism. For some inscrutable reason, it has published a series of articles nostalgic for the Soviet Union’s Gulag-filled past, most recently explaining “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism” in East Germany.
So when I write that Lindy West — who did not author any of those articles — is becoming the craziest writer at the Times, I understand the gravity of the claim I am making.
A contributing opinion writer covering feminism and popular culture, West has written eight articles for the Times, including six since July. I think the best way to describe her is as the unrestrained id of the Democratic party. She is convinced, as if by impulse, that conservatives are terrible people, and will say so at every opportunity. I can see no evidence of any self-regulating mechanism in her work. No, the author of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, lets it all out.
On Wednesday, West called Republicans every name in the book. She started off relatively mild: Republicans — aside from Trump — pretend to be “on the side of goodness and rationality and respect. Do not let them off the hook so easy,” she wrote. Apparently, we right-wingers are all on the side of badness, irrationality, and so forth.
For West, this was only the beginning. “Sure, pre-Trump Republicans traded more in dog-whistles and plausible deniability than overt Nazi sloganeering,” she wrote. “But the goal was the same: white men in charge, white women at their elbows. Systematically enforced poverty turning millionaires into billionaires. Bigots may have swapped subtext for the Jumbotron, but what is the substantive difference?”
In her eyes, there is no “substantive difference” between normal, pre-Trump Republican rhetoric and “overt Nazi sloganeering.” Further, what Republicans want, she claims, is to keep women and minorities down, and to perpetuate systemic poverty. That is the goal, she believes, of half the country. That is their vision of success in politics.
Unfortunately, the article would descend further into the mud. After pulling a Gore Vidal — all but calling Republicans crypto-Nazis — she doubled down, rebuking the conservatives who criticized Trump’s comments on Charlottesville. “It is easy to denounce Nazis. Republican lawmakers, if you truly repudiate this march and this violence, then repudiate . . . ,” she wrote, before launching into a list of 18 things that Republicans must disavow — including opposition to abortion, environmental regulations, gun control, reparations for African Americans, Obamacare, and transgender rights — in order to “truly” oppose Nazism.
Pick one of West’s articles at random, and you will almost always discover a clearly stated claim that conservatives are evil.
You might suspect that this was just a one-off, over-the-top column from West in response to President Trump’s outrageous Charlottesville comments. That would be a charitable interpretation — something West has never once offered the Right — but a false one. Pick one of West’s articles at random, and you will almost always discover a clearly stated claim that conservatives are evil.
Just last week, West was criticized for writing, “Abortion is liberty” in the Times. She could have also been mocked for claiming that “contrary to what the pundit economy would have you believe,” the procedure is “not particularly controversial.” But this was just a sideshow to her real theme, sounded at every opportunity: Anyone who disagrees with her has bad intentions. “To legislatively oppose abortion is to be, at best, indifferent to the disenfranchisement, suffering and possibly even the death of women,” wrote West. “At worst it is to revel in those things, to believe them fundamental to the natural order.”
This reflects such a blinkered worldview that I hesitate to insult West by suggesting she really believes in it. But I have no other choice: She thinks that, “at best,” opponents of abortion do not care about women, even if they die. That is the best motivation that West can imagine for being pro-life — not an earnest belief that abortion is killing innocent babies. No, that would betray an ability to empathize with other people. Instead, West thinks the 46 percent of Americans who identify as pro-life — and the 59 percent of women who think abortion is “morally wrong,” according to a 2017 Marist poll — are just woman-haters.
When you have found one explanation that works, why try any others? “Sure, Ivanka claims to care about women,” West wrote in The Guardian. But “There have always been women willing to offer up other women for sacrifice as long as it buys them relative safety, or at least prolongs the illusion of it. It’s safer in the zoo than in the wild.” She also characterizes “Kellyanne, Ivanka, Betsy, [and] Nikki,” as “profiteers who sold out [their] gender for a few gold toilets.”
Discussing Donald Trump’s disgusting comments from that infamous Access Hollywood recording, West wrote, “If you have derided and stigmatized identity politics in an effort to keep the marginalized from organizing, you are no better.” Really? People who oppose identity politics want to keep marginalized groups down and are “no better” than people who brag about lecherous, unwanted sexual advances?
In a different piece, West attributed Republican health-care policy to leftover racial hatred of Obama: “Can you imagine not wanting children to have healthcare because you’re embarrassed a black guy was your boss?” she wrote. “It would be sad if it wasn’t so dangerous.”
You know what would be sad? Living in a world where everyone to the right of you is automatically beneath contempt. This is Lindy West’s world — and it seems like a nightmare. Looking back on the end-of-year reflections she has published, West summarized, “I remember writing, ‘Go f— yourself, 2011.’ I called 2014 a ‘garbage year’ and ‘the most dismal misery parade on record.’ A year ago this week I wrote, ‘Perhaps the close of every year feels this borderline apocalyptic, and we simply lose perspective each time, but 2015 seems like it has to be the darkest year in my living memory.’”
In other words, for West, each year is more horrible than the next. After all, as she lamented in Wednesday’s piece, America has had zero “trans presidents in its 241-year history.” (Contain your outrage — we’re not done yet.) Writing about “How to survive in 2017,” West resorted to giving advice such as “Barricade your uterus” and: “If you are a person capable of getting pregnant, get a period tracker so you can catch pregnancies as early as possible. Get an IUD. Stockpile Plan B, for yourself and others. Get a pap smear while you still have healthcare.”
Yet West claims to be ready to face up to our disastrous political situation. “I get it,” she wrote in her abortion column last week. “I am desperate and afraid as well. I am prepared to make leviathan compromises to pull us back from that brink.” She even went further, writing, “The left will have to choose (and soon) between absolute ideological purity and the huge numbers required to seize the rudder of the nation and avert global catastrophe.”
This, beyond all the smears and character assassinations, is West’s biggest lie. She is not willing to compromise one iota. She won’t compromise on abortion, we know that. Even pro-life Democrats cannot be her allies. Nor will she compromise on identity politics, transgender bathrooms, or “any issue that puts people’s fundamental humanity up for debate.” Moreover, her most recent article makes clear that the environment, healthcare, gun control, voter-ID laws, the war on drugs, and the wall are also off limits.
No, the “compromise” West has in mind is something else entirely. “There has never been a more opportune moment for the Democratic Party to demand compromise — not from the left but from the center. What are anti-choice Democrats going to do? Become Republicans?” she writes. “Come on, Democrats. Be something. Unite and move left. The center will follow or lose.”
All of which is to say that West’s “leviathan compromise,” desperately needed in order to “avert global catastrophe,” involves doing exactly what she wants to do anyway: move further left. How valiant! But let’s be fair: Surrounded by crypto-Nazis on all sides, with whom could West compromise anyway? Sadly, she has become the victim of own her own monumental bad faith.
“There’s something very faintly relatable about a true believer,” West once wrote. More than faintly, I’d wager.