The Corner

Liberal Illiberalism

Both the editors and Kevin Williamson have very ably highlighted some of the enormous problems with the constitutional amendment that Senate Democrats have proposed to end First Amendment protections of political speech. 

But it might be worth adding a word about one particular element of the text that really jumped out at me. The second of the proposed amendment’s three sections reads:

SECTION 2.Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

This is an extraordinarily explicit form of an ambition that is implicit in a lot of the modern Left’s attitudes about society. What is envisioned here is a society in which only individuals and the state really exist. Groups of people joined together for a common cause are rejected as illegitimate actors in the nation’s public life, so that the only institutions that people can really join in together are government institutions. And the space between the individual and the state — the space in which most of society exists — is taken by the state to be empty of anything meaningful and worthy of protection or, worse, to be infested with vestiges of backwardness, prejudice, and pernicious self-interest that need to be neutralized or co-opted by the government. Those institutions do not have the democratic legitimacy that the government has, so their actions are by definition not public spirited. 

This kind of attitude applied to corporations in the marketplace is evident throughout the Obama administration’s economic policy. The same attitude applied to religious institutions is on display in recent battles about the HHS mandate. And with this proposed amendment we see it applied to civic institutions seeking to act in the public square to influence our politics. Such an assault on our mediating institutions is an assault on the very idea of a liberal society. But the people we now call liberals seem genuinely not to see that.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More
Film & TV

Joker: An Honest Treatment of Madness

When I saw that the New York Times and The New Yorker had run columns berating the new Joker movie, criticizing it not simply on cinematic grounds but instead insisting that the film amounted to a clandestine defense of “whiteness” in an attempt to buttress the electoral aim of “Republicans” — this is a ... Read More
Culture

The Origins of the Transgender Movement

Editor’s Note: This article has been adapted from remarks delivered at a Heritage Foundation summit. I’ve been asked to talk about the origins of transgenderism and how it relates to children and their exploitation. But first, I would like to start with a little story. Yesterday I was wandering around ... Read More
Elections

The Democrats’ Disastrous CNN LGBT Town Hall

A few days after Donald Trump committed the worst foreign-policy blunder of his presidency by betraying America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, former vice president Joe Biden, the elder statesman and co-frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, was on a national stage talking to CNN’s primetime ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More