NR Digital

The New Manichaeans

by Michael Knox Beran

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, by Mark Lilla (Harper, 160 pp., $24.99)

In November 2016, Mark Lilla, the humanities scholar, published an essay, “The End of Identity Liberalism,” in the New York Times. “In recent years,” he wrote, “American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.”

The reaction of many liberals to Lilla’s piece was disheartening. Writing in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Columbia law professor Katherine Franke compared Lilla to David Duke: Both were pledged “to the same ideological project, the [one] cloaked in a KKK hood, the [other] in an academic gown. . . . Duke is happy to own the white supremacy of his statements, while Lilla’s op-ed does the more nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable.”

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