Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Katherine Kersten Derangement Syndrome

As a conservative on Twitter, I'm always amused by the unhinged, reflexive vilification of Katherine Kersten when she publishes an opinion piece in a local newspaper. Kersten is a senior fellow at the Center for the American Experiment and is, to my mind, the best thing the Center has to offer. I'm glad it made room for her. The Center is largely a non-force in shaping the political landscape of the state and this is a genuine pity. The Center never fulfilled its promise of generating genuinely conservative ideas and programs for Minnesota. Instead, it became insular and marginal, regarding itself highly, occasionally peeking out into the real world of politics. When David Strom is a senior fellow, the bar isn't low, it's non-existent. I'm glad the Center exists, to be sure, but at a time when conservatives could use real muscle it provides almost none.

It raises money to pay itself by, among other things, hosting an annual dinner whose speaker is usually high profile and the result of Mitch Pearlstein's (the Center's founder & president) connections. Many people attend the dinner, mistakenly thinking they're driving the politics of the state in a conservative direction by so doing. If only that were so. And I say this wholly apart from some atrocious choices the Center has made, worst among them having David Brooks as its yearly dinner speaker. Readers may recall Brooks called Sarah Palin "a cancer" on the republican party. One doesn't have to be in the tank for Palin to realize this was profoundly foolish but it's of a piece with him being smitten by then Sen. Obama's pants crease. This is someone the Center holds up to honor as a conservative? Thank you but no. If I recall, for a mere $25,000 donation one could ride with the mediocre Brooks from the airport to his hotel. It's hard not to hold such obsequiousness in contempt.

At any rate, Kersten's recent missive dealt with an unfolding anti-bullying campaign, the blueprint of which calls for stripping parents of local control in the matter and replacing it with a centralized, top-down regimen administered from St. Paul. Progressives get quite angry when the details of what they want to enact are widely known, especially before the fact.

Worse, Kersten went on to cite Department of Justice data that shows the ostensible target of these anti-bullying do-gooders--gay, lesbian, bi & transexual children--have actually had fewer incidents of such rightly condemned conduct from 2007 to 2009, the last period of time for which such data exist. She went on to suggest, plausibly, that the majority of bullying is directed at other students. Cue the progressive echo chamber outrage. Because of the potential gross overreach of the cure, she doesn't care about the problem. Not all liberals think or say such, to be sure, but vocal progressives on Twitter are an amusing parody of themselves.

When she writes "The campaign for antibullying legislation is driven not by a dramatic escalation in bullying but by a crusade to use the power of the state to shape your 10-year-old's attitudes and beliefs about sexuality and family structure" the rawest of progressive nerves is struck. This is usually the case when the truth about their agenda is laid bare.

Kersten's op-ed pieces generate convulsions on the left like no one else in Minnesota. I'm almost jealous. But she doesn't publish particularly frequently, is fairly brilliant in selecting topics on which to opine and is clinical in her use of well substantiated facts enroute to profoundly common sense conclusions. After one column which contained not a single factual error, liberal fascist (former) Rep. Mindy Greiling called for Kersten to be fired by the newspaper that employed her simply because she disagreed with her opinion. This met with no condemnation on the left of which I'm aware. It's distressing that all too often the left's response to speech it disagrees with is not more speech but complete and outright censorship. Stop Rush. Stop Katherine. How did too many of our friends on the left lose a foundational principle like free speech?

Can anyone blame Kersten, then, for concluding her most recent thought-provoking piece by noting that: "[y]esterday's champions of tolerance, it seems, are becoming the bullies of today."

Read her entire column by clicking here.