Last Friday, the controversial Canadian psychologist and anti-leftist polemicist Jordan Peterson came on Real Time with Bill Maher to discuss the ills of political correctness, why you should discipline your kids, and the problem with identity politics. It was standard Jordan Peterson fare — thought provoking, arrogant, and somewhat uncomfortable. But after the show ended and the discussion continued on ‘overtime’ with the panel, Peterson barreled into a topic he appeared to not fully understand or grasp the consequences of.
Peterson asked the other liberal guests what they thought was going to happen to Trump supporters after he (presumably) leaves office in the future. “I’ve been listening to all of this about Trump and watching how these conversations go in the U.S., and I have one question about it,” he said. “I mean, there are all of these people in the U.S. who are on the conservative side who are aligned with Trump for all sorts of reasons, and there’s all of this tension around his presidency and attempts to pull him out of his office for various reasons.”
“What do you think will happen if that comes to pass?” Peterson went on. “There are all of these people who elected him and identify with him and they’re not taking this well, and… you might not think they’re very bright and all of that, and they’re backwards and all of those things, but you need to have respect for the rest of your citizens.”
Given Peterson has now come out saying he would have voted for Trump over Clinton, it isn’t hard to read between the lines. Peterson sees Trump as the “lesser of two evils” and doesn’t like the left’s treatment of the Trump supporters he seems to have a great deal of sympathy for. “I think what I would have done was walk into the voting booth with the intention of voting for Clinton,” he said in an interview. “And then, at the last minute, [I would have] gone, ‘To hell with it. I’m not doing it,’ and voted for Trump.”
“For the entire election, virtually, I thought, well, Clinton has the experience necessary to at least keep the status quo in motion,” he argued. “In some sense, she was a conservative choice because she’d been in politics so long.”
“As the campaign continued, and she continued to beat the identity politics drum louder and louder, I became more and more concerned about her political direction or ideological direction.”
You read that right — Peterson would have voted for a madman who has thrown America into a terrifying constitutional crisis, wrecked global environmental treaties, threatened nuclear war with North Korea, and destabilized the entire planet because Hillary Clinton showed sympathy towards minorities and stood up for women.
Maher and the panel, that included the New York Times columnist Frank Rich, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti, journalist Alex Wagner and Washington State governor Jay Inslee (D), were quick to fire back at Peterson.
“If he was just a regular Republican president with regular Republican policies I would say you would have a point,” said Maher. “But what is so alarming is the assault on Democratic norms…things like threatening to put journalists in jail, wanting military parades, praising dictators, wanting to be a dictator. We are at a moment here — I try to impress this on the people who are too young to remember a lot of presidents and a lot of elections, how incredibly different this is from anything that ever came before. I never much liked the other Republicans who were in office, but I have a renewed respect for them. George Bush and Mitt Romney would not have tried to pull this shit, they just wouldn’t.”
Wagner also went after Peterson, who has made a career out of slamming leftists for being too worried about offending, asking him how this squares with their attacks on Trump and his supporters. “When the left for example, offends people in the political sphere, you are questioning whether that’s somehow bad for society.”
Peterson looked a little flummoxed for a second, then quickly composed himself to argue that they are two separate issues. In reality though, he knew he had been caught out.
Peterson has adamantly denied he is a right winger, but his double standards when it comes to the right and left are glaring. The right can engage in all sorts of horrific activity — racism, xenophobia, rank misogyny and hate without a peep from the firebrand professor. Protest a Milo Yiannopolous speech or advocate new gender pronouns and you are cast as the second coming of Joseph Stalin. Peterson’s hatred for the identity politics left is so extreme that there can be no equivalence in his mind. The “Cultural Marxists” (whatever that means) are the gravest threat to humanity, and voting for avowed white supremacists is acceptable in order to stop them.
Peterson and others like him have been beating this drum to great effect for some time, and the results have been disastrous. To his credit, Peterson does seem to acknowledge the dangers of the far right, but his voice could have been used to help stop it from growing. Peterson believes they need to be reasoned with, but history shows that this rarely works. Fascism must always be fought, and it is when the left stops fighting that it wins and takes power. We saw this last century in Germany, Italy and Spain, and it is gaining grounds again in Russia and America in the 21st century. As history shows all too well, once its grip solidifies, fascism is not easily removed.
The left is gaining momentum in America, and needs all the help it can get. Speaking and acting out against Trump isn’t just a form of political expression, it is a form of political self preservation. If Trump had more power, he would not tolerate the insults or attacks on his credibility. His supporters want him to have that power, and that makes them a serious threat to the future of American democracy. If you are still a Trump supporter in 2018, you are not necessarily a bad human being, a racist, or a bigot. But you have sided with one and can no longer be reasoned with. The alternate reality you exist in is now so far removed from the one sane people reside in that is makes no sense to bother expending energy on talking to you. Once Trump has been defeated, then reconciliation can happen, but that cannot be the focus of the resistance.
Peterson wants the left to stop being so combative and reach out to their fellow Americans — a strategy he is not asking the Alt Right to adopt. Why? Because deep down he understands there is an innate difference. The identity politics left may be irritating and shrill, but they are not violent racists who would pick up an AR-15 to resolve their conflicts.
There can be no negotiating until this is all over and the left is in a position of power. Jordan Peterson, Tucker Carlson and other conservative thinkers are having a hard time coming to terms with this, mostly because they see their own power disintegrating faster than they can come to terms with.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.