It's Time for a Conversation about Left Privilege

We’ve heard a lot in the past year or so about “privilege,” which Wikipedia tells us is “the sociological concept that some groups of people have advantages relative to other groups.” One NPR contributor went so far as to declare “privilege” the word of the year for 2014. Those of us on the right – frequently the targets of various and sundry admonitions to “check your privilege” – have reacted in different ways. Some have disavowed the existence of such a thing. Others have pushed back against the ways it is applied. Still others have agreed that it’s something that needs to be seriously considered.

Personally, I think the current understanding of privilege doesn’t go nearly far enough.

I think it’s time for a serious national conversation about what I’d like to call “Left Privilege.”

You might never have heard of Left Privilege. In fact, I’d be surprised if you had, since it’s a term I made up just now. It is, however, a very real phenomenon.

It’s the sort of privilege that blasts Wisconsin governor Scott Walker for taking on his state’s public employee unions, while praising New York governor Andrew Cuomo for doing the same.

It’s the sort of privilege that allows David Gregory to wave around an illegal, high-capacity magazine in downtown DC after being warned against it by police, and avoid prosecution under the same gun laws he wants to impose on the rest of us.

It’s the sort of privilege that declares Justice Alito a horrible person for daring to visibly react to an insult from the President during the 2010 State of the Union, while Justice Ginsburg actually falling asleep during the 2015 SOTU is met with – pardon the pun – a collective yawn.

It’s the sort of the privilege that allows Vice President Biden to get away with this (or this, or this, or this, or these, or . . . well . . . you get the idea), without being prosecuted for sexual harassment.

What, exactly, is Left Privilege? How do we know it when we see it? If you are an average progressive . . . well . . . let’s be honest, if you’re an average progressive you are probably not reading this site. If, on the other hand, you are an exceptional progressive who desires to explore outside the left-wing echo chamber and see how the other side thinks (and if you’re someone who chooses to do so by visiting RedState), first off, I commend you for being open-minded enough to care. Second, here are 25 ways you may be benefiting from Left Privilege without realizing it.

Being a leftist means . . .

1. You can pick up a newspaper or turn the TV to a news station at random and be reasonably certain you will agree with most of what you see there.

2. You can be sure that your questionable behavior will be seen as a personal quirk, rather than reflecting negatively on everyone who shares your politics.

3. You can watch a sporting event or sit down to a holiday meal with family without enduring a political lecture from the President of the United States.

4. You can put a political bumper sticker on your car and be reasonably certain that said automobile will not be vandalized.

5. You can, if you wish, voice support for and/or spend your time and money on causes and issues you believe in without suffering financial repercussions or enduring personal attacks from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

6. You can rewrite history to suit your political views.

7. You will never know what it feels like to be the subject of a New York Times hit piece that gets gleefully passed around among high-profile journalists before ultimately having its main premise retracted because it’s a flat out lie.

8. Your tax dollars will fund schools to teach your children that people who agree with you are good, and people who disagree with you are evil.

9. Your opponents will pay dearly for any political stalemateseconomic downturnsscandalsinternational incidents, or natural disasters that happen on their watch. Your opponents will also pay dearly for those that occur on your watch.

10. You are free to disagree with another person’s politics without being called racist and/or sexist.

11. You can, if you wish, remain oblivious to the beliefs of people who disagree with you, choosing to safely mock a caricature of their worldview rather than engaging with what they actually think.

12. You can criticize your government and those who lead it without fear of being lumped in with terrorists.

13. If the IRS audits your tax return, it’s probably not because they’ve singled you out for your political views.

14. You are less likely to be fired for expressing your political views.

15. Your political views are less likely to be attributed to “mental illness.”

16. You can attend a state university and be reasonably confident that you will find an on-campus forum in which you can be comfortable expressing your beliefs.

17. You can hold views shared by a majority of your fellow Americans without being called an “extremist.”

18. You don’t need to worry about being subjected to politicallymotivated malicious prosecution.

19. Science means whatever your side wants it to mean at any given moment.

20. Any advanced degrees you possess indicate that you are “brilliant,” not that you are “out of touch.” Lack of a degree indicates that you are “eccentric,” not that you are “unknowledgeable.”

21. You can be reasonably certain that the government will continue to do things you like, whether the person you support wins or loses.

22. The Supreme Court can release an opinion you like without having the court’s very legitimacy called into question.

23. When your side wins an election, it means they have a mandate to do the things you want. When the other side wins, it means they have a mandate to work with your side to do the things you want. Either way, you win.

24. You can run for office without your children being mocked on national television or harassed on Facebook.

25. You can be fairly sure that if you choose to pen a rebuttal to this piece, it will be more widely distributed and accepted than this post itself.

The above list is, of course, far from exhaustive.

Feminist Peggy McIntosh penned what is perhaps the definitive essay on White Privilege, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsackway back in 1988In it, she wrote: “I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.” Looking through the above list, the notion that Left Privilege is any different smacks of denial. According to McIntosh, such denials “keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects.”

So if your politics lean to the left, the next time you’re discussing other institutional advantages like gerrymandering, turnout, or the breakdown of the electoral college, think back to this list. If you’re right-of-center, the next time your liberal friend calls you a “paranoid conspiracy theorist,” think back to this list. Remember it. Add to it. The time has come to talk about Left Privilege.

No individual liberal is responsible for the fact that leftists dominate the ranks of American journalistseducatorsphysical and social scientists, government employees, or legal professionals. But it’s time for each of them to take responsibility for the unearned, hidden advantages that accompany these facts. It’s time for those on the left to check their privilege.