Cancel Culture. Two words that are at the heart of many conservative talking points. The idea that if one does not acquiesce to leftist dictates on the meaning of gender, on the MeToo movement, on police brutality, or on a host of other issues that they should be run out of not just polite society, but also their livelihood.
But is cancel culture really just a leftist problem? Stories abound about people being “canceled” on the right presumably for not going along with Trumpism. Liz Cheney lost her leadership position. Former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake and former Representative Justin Amash are no longer serving as legislators. Shikh Dalmia supposedly lost her position at the libertarian Reason magazine. No, cancel culture is not just a problem of the right or of any one side in politics. Rather, it is a problem inherent to the human condition. Namely, it is tribalism. People identify with a “group” and then seek to cast anybody outside the group as an enemy. And if that person makes statements demonstrating their own out-of-group status, all the more reason to ignore their humanity and seek to kick them out of polite society.
The most recent example of this is soon-to-be former member of the State Board of Veterinary Medicine, Ellen Kessler. Known to be a passionate vegan, Kessler has made quite a few controversial statements in her day. What got her in hot water this week, however, is a statement where she called ranchers – one of the largest drivers of this state’s economy – “lazy and nasty”. To be clear, there is no defense for this comment. Not only is calling ranchers “nasty” derogatory, calling them lazy is simply inaccurate.
But let’s be clear what this comment was not: it was not a comment calling ranchers “in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists” like Trump called Mexicans before getting elected as president. It was not Kessler suggesting that Ranchers are terrorists simply for being in their profession like how U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert did with fellow representative Ilhan Omar simply due to the latter being Muslim. It was not attending a riot at a ranch like GOP Senate Candidate Ron Hanks did at the US Capitol on January 6th of last year. It was not calling for gallows to be erected to hang ranchers like Joe Oltmann did for Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis.
How many of the above have been run out of polite GOP circles? Trump is the most likely GOP Presidential nominee for 2024 and actually won two nominations after making his remarks against Mexicans. Lauren Boebert continues to serve as the representative for CD-3. Ron Hanks recently won a straw poll as a legitimate candidate to get the GOP Nomination to unseat US Senator Michael Bennet. And is anybody 100% certain that Joe Oltmann would have no influence in a potential Colorado Republican Governor Heidi Ganahl or even a Danielle Neuschwanger administration?
So when you see the Colorado GOP celebrating Kessler’s resignation, ask yourself this question: When are they going to start holding themselves to anything remotely like the same standard on discourse that they demand for others? Because until they do so, they are people in glass houses not realizing they are throwing stones.
Elliot Fladen is a 2005 Stanford Law School graduate and litigates along the Front Range.