What Chait gets wrong about "reactionary centrism"
Leftists aren't coming up with new words to criticize liberals - some leftists are coming up with words to criticize fewer liberals.
Jonathan Chait has an essay up about so-called “reactionary centrists”, which he calls “the hot new left-wing insult for liberals.” If this grievance seems familiar to you, it’s probably because you’re remembering 2017, when Chait was writing articles like How “Neoliberalism” Became the Left’s Favorite Insult of Liberals. As always, the recurring premise in these arguments is that the left doesn’t really have criticism — it merely has faddish insults. And as always, Chait is getting some of the details right while getting the conclusion exactly wrong. Leftists aren’t using these terms as insults for liberals; they’re using them as a way to avoid insulting liberals.
My read of the timeline.
-2017: Leftists are still overwhelmingly criticizing liberals by name, relying on the historical / international sense of the term that’s a very close synonym to “capitalist”. You can see this in a lot of the writing of the time that went out of its way to explain how socialists use the term (Understanding liberals versus the left), to declare liberalism the enemy (In the end liberalism must lose), and to damn it with socialism-or-barbarism arguments (Steve Bannon’s Autobahn)…