The Toxic Race-Mongering of the Left
Imagine a world in which leftists, by some magic, were unable to accuse their political opponents of racism. Racism, sexism, all of the various make-believe phobias — these charges were suddenly somehow off-limits during political discussion. Instead, at all the leftist venues — The New York Times, the TV network news departments, CNN and the rest — the commentators had to accept that their political opponents were people of good will with the best interests of the country at heart. They had to ask themselves — and even possibly ask actual conservatives — what it was about border security that seemed important to them, why social spending might be destructive, why Islam might be incompatible with western thought, why teachers' unions were impeding the rise of the poor and so on.
If that magical moment ever occurred, we might start to have an intelligent political debate in this country. But don't hold your breath.
The current status quo serves the short-sighted power aims of the worst of the Democratic party, that is the far left, too well for them to abandon it. Scream racism at every disagreement and you might convince meaning-seeking millennials that leftism provides them a cogent moral framework, you might scare blacks out of noticing that they are thriving under Donald Trump's policies, you might convince women that Trump's boorish words are somehow worse than Bill Clinton's actions.
But the long-term costs of these political gains are great. The constant cries of racism have kept race at the center of the American political discussion long after most Americans would happily let the subject go. The attacks on anyone who demands reform from Islam have allowed radical Islamists to range free in their communities while moderates are unprotected. The anti-male cries of sexism have reduced women to perpetual victims, perpetually dissatisfied with life.
And, perhaps most importantly, leftist race mongering turns leftists into political idiots. It isn't until you engage with your political opponents that you learn the strengths and weaknesses of your arguments and can therefore adjust them or even change your mind entirely. If all you do is scream racism at people, you pump yourself full of self-righteousness and become increasingly radicalized and therefore increasingly at odds with reality and common sense.
A perfect example of the left-wing dynamic occurred on Fox News, of all places, the other day. Conservative political activist David Bossie — a man I know and like — was in a fierce debate with Democrat strategist Joel Payne. As things got heated, David told Payne, "You are out of your cotton-pickin' mind." Payne took immediate exception to the term and left-wing venues immediately declared it a racial slur. As a result, David was temporarily suspended from commentating on Fox and was forced to apologize before he could return.
A short-term victory for leftists, no doubt. It plays into their decades-long project of depicting right-wingers as inherently racist, of making them double-think every word that comes out of their mouths, and of winning arguments, not through reason, but through diversion and personal attack.
But the long-term costs are enormous. "Cotton-pickin'" is a 1950s American euphemism for "damn" that has no racial connotations I'm aware of. It's just something people of the Bossie-Klavan generations say. By using the term to Payne, David demonstrated he wasn't thinking about Payne's race in the least. If he had been, he would have been more careful with his words. Instead, he spoke to Payne as he would speak to anyone. It was man-to-man stuff, one American to another. Payne has now lost the right to be treated like that. He must be — what the left wants him to be — black above everything. Bossie treated him as an equal human, a brother American. Leftism made it so he can't be treated that way. Congratulations, leftism.
On top of this, fake charges of racism give real racism a kind of panache. Since only good non-racist people can be cowed into silence with false charges, nasty real racists, willing to speak their minds, come across as bold and honest instead of like the jerks they are. When you cry Racist Wolf long enough, you leave the real wolf free to roam.
Eventually, one hopes that insightful black Americans will begin to see that while the left's race mongering may offer them the short-term political power of victimhood, the long-term costs in inequality and social exclusion are too high. On that day, the left will have to get by on the strength of their ideas alone. That will not be pretty.
For more commentary, listen to my podcast Monday through Thursday.