You are the progressive Democratic mayor of an American city. You have done everything right in that you have adopted the most recent trendy and politically correct liberal stands on community issues. You have demoralized and reduced funding for the police force, declared support for street demonstrations, and spoken out for social justice. Why then, is a mob of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa activists besieging your house and demanding your resignation?
Suddenly, the horrible realization hits you: You have been cancelled for showing insufficient revolutionary zeal. You have joined the ranks of loyal fellow travelers who have become expendable in virtually every radical leftist revolution.
Joseph Stalin perfected the cancel culture even though he used different terms. Those who disagreed with him or showed insufficient revolutionary zeal became “unpersons.” Any mention of them was purged from official records, history books, and their photos were airbrushed out. If they were prestigious enough to have statues erected in their honor, the monuments were removed. It has taken the American radical left quite a while to feel powerful enough to formerly adopt a cancel culture.
Some leftists made it easy to be cancelled. The public moral depravity of Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein required their public liquidation from the ranks of the “woke.” Other victims have merely made seemingly innocuous mistakes; but the far left is unforgiving as Garrison Keillor, Al Franken and Ellen DeGeneres have found. All made careers of slavishly toeing the progressive line, but each found that one “aw sh*t” can cancel a thousand “atta-boys.”
To give the radical left its due, it is an equal opportunity hater. The cancelled mayors of Rochester, New York, and Chicago are African-Americans, and both are women. That did not save them from the wrath of the BLM and Antifa activists who now dictate what passes for political acceptability among the far left.
Unlike the old Soviet Union, which occasionally allowed public self-confession in show trials, the American left does not accept remorse for sins — whether real or imagined — as penance.
A Washington, D.C., college professor recently confessed to posing as African American. Despite voicing public remorse for her deception and her voluntary self-cancellation, Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah piled on accusing the now former professor of performing the ultimate act of White privilege. How this masterpiece of Orwellian illogic got past her editors remains a matter for conjecture, but Ms. Attiah reflects the prevailing winds of progressive intellectualism.
All of this leads us to Joe Biden, who is probably one gaffe away from being cancelled by his very reluctant supporters in far left of his party. Like the mayors, Mr. Biden has been — to the extent that he believes anything — a loyal progressive for over a half century, but his record is too moderate for the Bernie Sanders wing of the party and certainly not radical enough for the revolutionaries among BLM and the Antifa crowd; they are holding their noses and supporting the ticket reluctantly.
What passes for moderates among the Democrats and their supporters are becoming increasingly concerned that the violent behavior of the far left will swing the election to Mr. Trump. They are urging former vice president to take a strong stand against violence, which will almost certainly get him cancelled by the far left and lose much support from BLM. Unless his handlers carefully control him, he is almost certain to alienate either the moderates or the radicals.
Mr. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, is also on shaky ground with the radical left for her performance as a San Francisco prosecutor, but her seemingly supportive comments regarding violence on the Colbert show have alarmed Democratic moderates.
At this point, the thin thread holding the Democrats together is their desire to get rid of Donald Trump. How they will govern — or what the party now stands — for is increasingly opaque. If there are debates, Mr. Trump and Mike Pence will ask Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris hard questions regarding their views on mob violence; and that will further exacerbate the Democratic Party divide.
The radical left is not in a forgiving mood these days, and the possibility of its members’ cancellation of either Mr. Biden or Ms. Harris — or both — is probably keeping Democratic Party operators awake nights. The U.S. Marines have an old saying that goes: “To err is human, to forgive is divine; neither of which is Marine Corps policy.” The way things are going, BLM and Antifa are poised to make the Marines look like pussycats.
• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the graduate level.