Opinion | Liddick: Identity politics a recipe for national discord
On Your Right
We’ve finally arrived at the topic which will snap into focus for most of us the true nature of the herd mind that dominates today’s Democrat party: reparations for slavery. Remember, we were solemnly told time and again before November 8, 2018 that, like the impeachment of the president, reparations were the furthest thing from most Democrats’ minds.
If only those speaking had paid attention to those piloting the party onto the leftmost shoals of identity politics, grievance-mongering and racial obsessions. Alternatively, if only they had been honest about what they had seen and heard. But that would have given the game away, and it wouldn’t have served the ultimate goal of the party: to seize power at all costs.
Now that the leftward rush of the party is accelerating, flushed by their victories in the House, the drumbeat for reparations is resurfacing, this time with the full support of several of the Democrat party’s presidential candidates. Frankly, I’m pleased. No topic illustrates the Democratic Party’s penchant for self-immolation quite like this one.
The argument for reparations is seen by a rising number of the party’s new stars as the touchstone of success in 2020, and the key to electoral victories henceforth, as far as the eye can see. This sort of opportunism is undoubtedly behind the enthusiasm of R.F. O’Rourke and Julian Castro. They see the emergence of the issue as being in many ways the culmination of the party’s obsession with group identity as a route to power. One of their Wizards of Wokeness, Stacey Abrams, who failed upward in the party thanks to her 2018 loss in the Georgia gubernatorial race, recently laid out a case for identity politics in Foreign Affairs magazine. If groups of Americans have been subjugated based on their identity, she argues, then don’t be so surprised when they organize themselves to gain political power based upon those same characteristics.
Unity of purpose and national identity as Americans be damned.
Other reparationists, such as William Darity, point to “fundamental economic disparities between races” which require monetary compensation, a very popular argument whose ultimate goal is equality of outcomes, not of opportunities — the very antithesis of America’s foundational principle of individual liberty. In comparison, as laid out by some ideologue writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, reparations’ end is simple vengeance on everyone in the country who isn’t black.
As alluring as reparations may be as a political lever or a method of virtue-signaling, the idea poses profound dangers for both our political system and for those whose votes Democrats want to harvest through meaningless promises. Foremost, the idea poses a moral hazard. Demanding the government extract between six and fourteen trillion dollars — a sum proposed in a 2015 University of Connecticut study — from the pockets of white Americans to distribute to black Americans in compensation for events which were not crimes when they occurred, done by persons long dead to persons long dead, whose only connection to those either paying or receiving is skin color flies in the face of both our legal system and our moral understanding. Individuals are responsible for their own actions, not those of others, undefined and deceased. To understand why that matters, try explaining why a Sudanese refugee living in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the past five years would be owed reparations from a Bosniac Muslim refugee living there for four.
The idea is also racist at its core, since it ascribes unseen qualities — intelligence, diligence, rectitude, viciousness, laziness, greed — to entire groups of people based only on skin color. To advocates of reparations the content of one’s character means nothing; the color of one’s skin is everything.
Worst, it is only another step in a process which will end in atomization of America’s polity and eventually, the republic itself. Once reparations for the evils of slavery are in place, they will be criticized as insufficient; new satisfactions will be demanded. Meanwhile, as interviews with Rev. Al Sharpton and others in his National Action Network have recently underlined, all existing programs must be preserved. White America can never be allowed to think it has finally extirpated past evils for which fewer and fewer now alive bear any responsibility.
Finally, if reparations are imposed by a guilt-addled political class, how many new groups will demand satisfaction for past wrongs real or imagined, some of them the fault of groups now favored by Democrats? The number is potentially as large as the human imagination. Grievance is a demanding and ravenous mistress. Given time she will devour all who, in their ignorance and arrogance consider themselves her masters.
And her appetites will leave a wilderness in her wake. Perhaps the surviving Democrats will find others to blame for that as well.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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