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 Cancel Culture's Self-Limiting Side Effect  

Conspicuously absent from the Biden administration is perhaps the biggest Democratic economic superstar in contemporary times, Larry Summers. President Emeritus at Harvard University, Summers served as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration and as Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama. While in government, Summers shaped the American response to various international financial crises, including the 1994 Mexican currency devaluation and the 1997 Asian financial crisis.[1] He also advised on the privatization of post-Soviet economies in Central and Eastern Europe. With average Americans struggling with soaring inflation and the threat of recession on the horizon, it appears the Biden administration could have benefited greatly from having Summers on the team. In a February 2021 op-ed for the Washington Post, Summers argued that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus championed by President Biden could very well “set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation, with consequences for the value of the dollar and financial stability.”[2] Despite his qualifications and eagerness to return to public service, Larry Summers is tragically kept at arm’s length by the Democratic Party.

 

At a January 2005 conference sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Summers stirred controversy when he hypothesized on possible explanations for the underrepresentation of women in the science and engineering fields. In his remarks, which he qualified as trying to “provoke” discussion, Summers posited that the gender disparity of top scientists may be due to differences in aptitude between the sexes at the high end.[3] While his comments were at face value objectionable, Summers prefaced them by noting that he was essentially thinking out loud so as to get to the root of the issue gender disparity issue. He apologized shortly after the conference, stating that he did not intend to “signal discouragement to talented women and girls.”[4] In trying to create substantive, meaningful debate on an important issue, Summers made comments that did not fly then, and would likely get one completely cancelled today.

The quietly tragic element of Cancel Culture is especially clear with Larry Summers’ story. Despite his eminent qualifications for a job like Federal Reserve Chair, a position he has long coveted, his comments from nearly two decades ago preclude him from serious consideration for a leadership role in today’s Democratic Party. This stands in contrast to the Republican Party, where party leaders are far more comfortable staying quiet on misconduct and toxic rhetoric within the ranks if it has electoral benefits. With far-right firebrands like Matt Gaetz, who has been investigated for federal sex trafficking charges, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Q-Anon conspiracy theorist, the Republican Party is not opposed to raising morally questionable individuals to positions of national recognition and influence, even if they are not representative of the majority of the party.[5] Democrats, meanwhile, treat small deviations from political correctness as a new deadly sin, one that effectively banishes a person from circles of power.

 

We are not arguing that the Democrats should adopt the Republicans’ attitude toward personal conduct. The frequency with which prominent Republican politicians like Gaetz and Greene bend the truth to fit their view, and how easily they get away with it, is a horrible reality for the country’s political health. But Democrats need to get some perspective and realize that the standard of perfection they now demand of their own is both self-indulgent and an act of political self-sabotage.

[1] https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/pdf/ufd_contagion_full.pdf

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/04/larry-summers-biden-covid-stimulus/

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20080130023006/http://www.president.harvard.edu/speeches/2005/nber.html

[4] https://geekfeminism.fandom.com/wiki/Lawrence_Summers

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/30/us/politics/matt-gaetz-sex-trafficking-investigation.html