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Liberal Illiberalism

Affirmative Action. Race-based exemption has become illiberal, and increasingly immoral. By that general term, I mean not just discriminatory quotas of a near half-century, or race-based advantages in hiring and admission, but a general pass given to illiberality on the basis of race. Just this last week, Lovie Smith, the coach of the Chicago Bears, released a video for Barack Obama’s reelection efforts. Here’s what I wrote about it on NRO’s Corner:

What are we to make of the coach of the Chicago Bears, Lovie Smith, announcing on a campaign video, "I have the President‘s back and it’s left up to us, as African Americans, to show that we have his back. Also join African Americans for President Obama today.” Does Coach Smith mean that "as African Americans" one has a duty to support the president by virtue of his race rather than his politics alone, or his politics as they relate to the welfare of African Americans? Are those African Americans who oppose Obama, then, doing so "not as African Americans"? Are whites and Hispanics who support Obama doing so because he is also half-white or as "not African Americans"?

And is the coach of the Chicago Bears now starting a precedent that the coaches of all NFL teams shall endorse particular political candidates (e.g., "I have Senator X's back and it’s left up to us, as (fill in the blanks: White, Latino, Asian) -Americans, to show that we have his back."), in hopes that their own races and team loyalties will sway voters? If so, Lovie Smith should read Procopius on the Nika riots and the volatile intersection between sport, faction, and politics.

These sorts of Byzantine blue/green tribal loyalties become creepy when our president is encouraging well known Americans to state them so overtly. And, of course, it is only a matter of time now when some will, in counter fashion, publicly state that they are voting against Obama as a matter or racial politics in the way that others are voting for him on that very basis—or perhaps by virtue that they also don't like the Chicago Bears.

Again, the Obama-Smith strategy of race-based ethnocentrism is a suicidal path for any multiracial society that has hopes of transcending tribalism.

I am not suggesting that Mormons in Utah might not vote for Mitt Romney over Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum because of their shared faith. But I am suggesting that if Mitt Romney overtly were to have the coach of the University of Utah football team proclaim that he supports official Romney-designated “Mormons for Romney” groups, and remind Mormons that it is “up to us as Mormons” to cover Romney’s back (from what?), then such a video would be stupid and morally wrong — and would be widely denounced by liberals.

Where does all this lead? At first, of course, only to embarrassing hypocrisy. Those in the Bay Area who idled critical food-producing farmland would not wish, as the proverbial Committee for Public Safety, the same environmental zealotry aimed at their own offices, cars, homes, and institutions. And they assume that they have the incomes to buy increasingly expensive food when others would not. The grand mufti would not like Billy Graham to announce that he wanted North America freed of all mosques. La Raza would not like a Volk movement that sought to waive immigration law for Germans on grounds they were once America's largest immigrant group and should be again. Lovie Smith would not wish other rival coaches to pitch their own favorite presidential candidates on the basis of shared racial affinities.

To do all the above is retrograde and ultimately nihilistic. That something so unsustainable continues then is predicated on one unspoken truth: most in the West will not act like Bay Area greens, the grand mufti, La Raza, or Lovie Smith, because for all others to adopt their favored methodology and ideology would lead to something other than liberal life as we know it. Thus they act as they do because they know others will not act as they do — at least for now.

Tit-for-tat factionalism leads nowhere but to chaos and carnage. But the Western tradition is not made of adamantine metal; it is fragile and singular. Anytime we do not stand up and defend it, however unpopular, we cede to barbarism ourselves.

In other words, the only way to question these illiberal doctrines is without apology to identify them as immoral — and to welcome the hysterical reaction that ensues.