Let me start by being very clear about something: I am not a political guru. This is not my usual content. I am an author, a cognitive psychologist, a mom. I typically write about topics that pertain to those things. So, this article isn’t meant to persuade anyone. You won’t find stats and facts. You’ll simply find the opinions of a burnt out liberal who just really can’t stand her own party anymore. Take what resonates and leave what doesn’t.
In my everyday conversations, like the kind that happen off social media, I find that I can get along politically with just about anyone. I’ve come to believe that the majority of Americans are fed up with the extremists of their party being the loudest and most obnoxious — who often create real, tangible harm. I often find that people of both political parties are repulsed by the radical (and seemingly ever-growing) cohort of people at the extreme ends of the political spectrum. Many of them have even become outspoken, calling in their fellow party members and asking them to restore some goddamn reason and humanity to their political discourse. I think that most Americans probably find themselves somewhere in the middle these days, reeling back from the absurdity at the extreme ends and finding themselves merely left or right of center.
And I believe in my heart of hearts that most people — Republicans and Democrats alike — reject the ugliest and most harmful ideals that come out of their parties.
But if you spend more than 2 minutes on any social media platform, you’d never know that.
I could go on for hours about the problems with the radical right on social media. The racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, ableism, and an abundance of -isms and -phobias that pour out of far-right discourse online is frightening. And dangerous. I wish I saw more Republicans denouncing these behaviors online, but I’m starting to think those people don’t even bother getting on social media anymore. The loudest of their party have crowded them out.
For now, I’m going to put aside my issues with the radical right and focus on my heartache over the radical left.
I am a lifelong Democrat. On paper, I ascribe to almost every single liberal ideal. So why can I just absolutely fucking not deal with the majority of other liberals when it comes to social media discourse? I posted an article a while back called Politically Homeless where I shared my dismay over this question. That dismay has only grown stronger since then.
I feel that the radical left — the one on social media, anyway — has become so entrenched in their views that they have lost the capacity for critical thinking. I think that as members of any political party, we should be constantly evaluating the ideas and ideals coming from our side. And it seems, at least to me, that the radical left has become so devoted to “being liberal” that they end up endorsing and espousing ideals that are actually antithetical to the left.
They have forgotten nuance — the thing that the left is supposed to be known to understand. They have lost the ability to hear diverse perspectives, even ones from within their own party. Many of them have become so angry and radical and extreme in their views that it’s sometimes hard to differentiate them from the radical right.
White liberal feminism has left Black women, Indigenous women, and other women of color in the dust. We see all feminist issues through the lens of our whiteness and end up doing harm to communities of color. We forget to stay in our lane, deciding that non-white women need our voices. So, rather than listening to them, learning from them, and amplifying them, we end up shouting over them. And, often, we’re wrong or at least missing important nuance.
The radial left who claims to support women’s rights is suddenly sounding frighteningly like the radical right when it comes to women’s issues. And if you, as a liberal feminist, raise concerns about that, you will be ostracized by the left. Because there is no room for nuance, leftist women can no longer say, “hey, I’m on board with everything we’re doing here, and I support it, but could we talk about how this is setting women’s liberation back a bit? Can we talk about how we navigate this a little better?” Instead, women must silence themselves, once again, to fall in line with the radial leftists. How ironic. How paradoxical.
Furthermore, we are watching as time and time again, leftist men on social media are exposed for being absolute pieces of shit. The men who claim to embrace fighting the patriarchy and supporting women are found to be abusing women behind closed doors. They use their leftist platform to attract considerable followings of mostly hurt and vulnerable women who are desperate to believe that good men still exist. And then they prey upon those women. There is no denying that there is an epidemic of dangerous men hiding in plain sight in leftist spaces.
The radial left, at least on social media, has lost sight of intersectionality. It sees the entire world through one carefully cultivated lens that centers whiteness, while claiming to be the party that cares about people and communities of color. When leftist creators get called out for getting it wrong and causing harm, they lash out — revealing the entitled and self-important beliefs that were always sitting just beneath the surface. It becomes evident that their support for communities outside their own was always conditional. It was done for love, for praise, for Likes and Follows. And if the communities they “advocate” for don’t rain those things upon them, well, they can go to hell. They say things like I’m done supporting you guys then. Why would anyone bother speaking up if you’re just going to be ungrateful and mean? Their savior complex blinds them from seeing what a horrible truth they’ve just revealed about themselves.
So, what’s the answer here?
The truth is, I still don’t know. I’ve found the most comfort in listening to Black liberal women. I’ve found that there is nuance there. There is critical thinking—a devotion to what is right instead of what is praiseworthy. I’m finding that I’m learning so much more than I could have ever learned in white liberal spaces. I’m also becoming empowered, emboldened. I’m learning to release the need that many white women like me have, which is to be liked at all costs. I’m learning that in many situations we have to pick a side. We have to speak out. And we have to endure the backlash from the people whose side we didn’t pick. I’m learning that there can be hard conversations. There can be sharp conversations, even. And communities can still manage to hold themselves together despite those conversations. I’m learning how deep fragility actually runs in white leftist spaces and confronting that within myself.
What I do know is that my views and convictions haven’t changed. I’m still the same old liberal I’ve always been. It’s just a shame to watch such a large portion of the liberal party become so extreme that I don’t feel like I fit in anymore.
Politically homeless. Still.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.