A growing number of liberals are expressing strong public criticisms of the Democratic Party and the American Left on a variety of issues. Although such liberals have not expressed any desire to join the Republican Party or conservative groups, their passionate expressions of strong criticism indicate their aversion toward the excesses and implacable intolerance of significant elements of the Democratic Party and the American Left.
According to folklore, the presence of storm petrels — a type of sea bird — is a sign of an approaching storm. Alluding to that folklore, a British writer characterized Soviet officials who defected to the West in the 1920s and 1930s as storm petrels. See Gordon Brook-Shepherd, The Storm Petrels (Ballantine Books, 1977). By rough analogy, I will refer to the growing number of discontented liberals as “Storm Petrels.”
Some examples of liberal “Storm Petrels,” include (in alphabetical order): Rebecca Bodenheimer, Kara Dansky, Glenn Greenwald, Tara Henley, and Bari Weiss.
Rebecca Bodenheimer, an Oakland-based journalist who describes herself “as a red-diaper baby myself,” has written, I’ve never felt more alienated from the liberal Democratic circles I usually call home.” See “How School Closures Made Me Question My Progressive Politics” here.
In that opinion piece, Ms. Bodenheimer:
(1) expresses her frustration with the Democratic Party’s position on school closures during the COVID pandemic
(2) describes the insults and ostracism inflicted on her and other parents who advocated for school re-openings to allow their children to receive in-person education
(3) questions whether progressives are embracing policies that are antithetical to progressivism.
Kara Dansky is an attorney who describes herself as a Democrat and a feminist. Ms. Dansky has been involved with the Woman’s Human Rights Campaign, the Women’s Liberation Front, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Noting her inability to get her opinions accepted for publication by other U.S. media, Ms. Dansky turned to The Federalist website to express her criticisms of transgender ideology. See “Democrats Like Me Are Furious With Our Party For Pushing Gender Insanity”
Ms. Dansky’s article in THE FEDERALIST and her book The Abolition of Sex: How the “Transgender” Agenda Harms Women and Girls (Bombardier Books, 2021) set forth her passionate, scathing critique of the effort to give legal protection to persons identifying as transgender. Dansky’s book also describes the verbal abuse directed against women objecting to transgender ideology.
Glenn Greenwald, formerly a constitutional lawyer, is a journalist who has been critical of the National Security Agency and what he terms “the surveillance state.” In the past, Mr. Greenwald worked with SALON (a progressive/liberal website) and The Guardian (a British newspaper). As an independent journalist, Mr. Greenwald has strongly criticized the Democratic Party and its media allies for their support of censorship. See “Kyle Rittenhouse, Project Veritas, and the Inability to Think in Terms of Principles. Mr. Greenwald also has criticized the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol for claiming absolute, unfettered power to obtain data on Americans, and compares its investigatory techniques to the abusive actions of McCarthy-era Congressional committees that were the subject of Supreme Court decisions in the 1950s. See “Congress’s 1/6 Committee Claims Absolute Power as it Investigates Citizens With No Judicial Limits”.
Tara Henley describes herself as Canadian journalist for 20 years who “worked as a TV and radio producer, and occasional on-air columnist, for much of the past decade.” In explaining her resignation from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Ms. Henley notes:
(1) how, despite her liberal views, she “frequently spark[ed] tension by questioning identity politics”
(2) to work at CBC “is to sign on, enthusiastically, to a radical political agenda that originated on Ivy League campuses in the United States and spread through American social media platforms that monetize outrage and stoke societal divisions. It is to pretend that the ‘woke’ worldview is near universal — even if it is far from popular with those you know, and speak to, and interview, and read”
(3) “[t]o work at the CBC now is to accept the idea that race is the most significant thing about a person, and that some races are more relevant to the public conversation than others”
(4) “[t]o work at the CBC is to submit to job interviews that are not about qualification or experience — bust instead demand the parroting of orthodoxies, the demonstration of fealty to dogma”
(5) to work at CBC is to become “more hostile to ordinary people with ideas that Twitter doesn’t like”
(6) to work at the CBC “is to consent to the idea that a growing list of subjects are off the table, that dialogue itself can be harmful. That the big issues of our time are all already settled”
(7) to work at CBC “is to capitulate to certainty, to shut down critical thinking, to stamp out curiosity. To keep one’s mouth shut, to not ask questions, to not rock the boat.”
See “Another Resignation, Tara Henley on Why She’s Leaving Legacy Media.”
Bari Weiss is an independent journalist who resigned from the New York Times. In her resignation letter, Ms. Weiss made several trenchant criticisms, including:
(1) “Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space.”
(2) “I was always thought that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.”
(3) “My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again.’ Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. . . . . [S]ome coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly ‘inclusive’ one, while others post ax emojis next to my name.”
(4) “[I]ntellectual curiosity — let alone risk taking — is now a liability at The Times. Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher. . . . And so self-censorship has become the norm.”
(5) “What rules remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.”
See Ms. Weiss’s resignation letter here.
I strongly recommend that you read the full text of the various publications cited in this article. Although I believe my summaries and selected quotes fairly present the various criticisms of these liberal “Storm Birds,” the best way to appreciate the seriousness and intense passion of their criticisms of the Democratic Party and the American Left is to read their writings yourself.
As noted earlier, none of these liberals have indicated that their criticisms will lead them to abandon their liberalism or embrace conservatism. However, their experiences are indicators that even their liberal views are increasingly not acceptable to significant elements of the Democratic Party and the American Left (or in Ms. Tenley’s case, the Canadian Left that has embraced radical ideas originating from American Ivy League schools). The experiences of these liberal “Storm Petrels,” and others like them, are an ominous sign of the implacable intolerance facing anyone who does not want to conform or submit to the currently dominant ideological elements of the Democratic Party and the American Left.