Thursday, January 7, 2016

The GOP Has Stopped Hiding Its Identity Politics. By Michael Graham.

The GOP Has Stopped Hiding Its Identity Politics. By Michael Graham. The Federalist, January 5, 2016.


For me, conservatism has always been a rejection of identity in favor of ideas. So much for that.

Matt Lewis has already written the article I’d planned to write for the new year about how the Left and Right have now devolved into identity-politics tribalism. In so doing, they’ve left me a man without a party.

I’d resigned myself to the tribalism of the Left: The Starbucks voters (“Of course I’m a Democrat—I’ve got the radio in my Prius pre-set to nothing but NPR!”); The “Sex Uber Alles” gender and/or orientation crowd; Black Americans who for historic—and completely understandable—reasons give 95 percent of their votes to Democrats without any serious consideration of the governance that results; etc.

For me, conservatism has always been a rejection of identity in favor of ideas: Free speech, free markets, small government, individual opportunity and responsibility, and so forth. I’m a MLK conservative—all “content of character,” no interest in “color of skin.”

When Republicans whine every other November about the fact that our voters can’t be rounded up on buses and sent to the polls the same way Democrats can, I beam with pride. Reason, logic, and facts aren’t related to race or sex. Conservatives aren’t just right—we’re better people for thinking our way into what is right.

The Left Has Tribalized Us, Too

Or used to be, anyway. Lewis fears—and I agree—that these principles are being abandoned as a new political tribe arises on the Right: Tribe Trump.
I fear we may be entering a new stage where there are essentially two distinct political tribes: One tribe consists of minorities and educated elites, while the other tribe increasingly consists of working-class whites… Disagreements about ideological principles, or even policy preferences, seem to be taking a back seat to identity politics. It doesn’t matter what you believe in so much as what grouping you belong to, and how willing you are to fight for the sliver of America you represent. 2015 was the year of tribalism…
Conservatives once hated identity politics and victimhood—but then again, we once supported free trade, too. Perhaps our disdain for tribalism was always a high-minded, yet doomed, effort to suppress the natural, carnal state of a fallen humanity. You and I may view politics as being about ideas and human flourishing, but a lot of people believe it’s really about power—about making sure scarce resources are allocated to “our” people.

But what about people like me who don’t have a “people?” Where does that leave us?

Now, I’m not going to join the liars on the Left who smear all Trump supporters as racists and xenophobes. But I’m also not going to deny there’s a “What’s in it for us white people?” element among his support. It’s one thing to support enforcing America’s immigration laws (I do) and deporting people for being here illegally (we should). It’s another to oppose immigration because you think there’s something wrong with Mexicans.

America Is About Ideas, Not Race or Class

Unlike many of the Trump fans I hear from, I don’t care that America will become a minority-white country. I care about whether the next generation believes in the American ideas of liberty, opportunity, and equality under the law.

I want a tax policy that promotes the most wealth and most jobs for the most people. I don’t care if those jobs go to white guys or Hispanic transgenders. I want to replace the government-run school system, not because it failed a white redneck kid like me (it did), but because every motivated student who escapes an academic cesspool for education success will become a happy, productive, low-crime, taxpaying citizen.

I want to fight Islamists, not because they’re Muslims, but because they’re anti-rational, murderous loonies who are, alas, inspired by a major world religion that still refuses to reform itself.

These are the ideas I “identify” with. I honestly believe that if those of us who share these ideas will reach out in smart ways to our fellow Americans of all races/genders/incomes/etc., we can persuade a majority to join us.

We Really Can Persuade People

Many people on the talk-radio Right don’t agree. Some never really believed in small government to begin with and always wanted a government that used its power to help “Us” over “Them.”

Other Republicans have simply surrendered to what they believe is the inevitability of tribalism. Persuasion, they believe, is futile because there’s nobody’s left to persuade, nobody outside the Tribe who’s willing to listen. “Identity Politics Thunderdome” is going down right now, and the only thing to do is fight like Trump to be the one man who leaves.

These doomsday anti-democrats may be right. But I don’t think so. I believe my fellow citizens are persuadable—if you’re willing to talk to them in a way designed to persuade. If you want to know what that conversation sounds like, tune in the typical radio talk show on any given weekday…and imagine the opposite of what you’re hearing.

Imagine a conversation about women and Obamacare that doesn’t involve calling college girls “sluts.” Imagine a conversation about policing and government power that doesn’t dismiss the deaths of young black men with “they were asking for it.” Imagine talking about illegal immigration from a “fairness for American workers” standpoint and not the “they’re rapists, they’re killers” angle.

It can be done. The Right can win the debate on ideas. We can persuade people, even non-blue-collar white guys. If you’re a Trump supporter who doesn’t agree, here’s my question: When was the last time we really tried?

The Revolt of the Politically Incorrect. By Daniel Hennniger.

Revolt of the Politically Incorrect. By Daniel Henninger. Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2016.


Donald Trump and Ben Carson popped the valves on decades of pent-up PC pressure.

oon we’ll all be camped in the fields of primary politics, as that great threshing machine called the American voter methodically separates the contender wheat from the candidate chaff. Let’s not go there, though, without recording 2015 as the year that political correctness finally hit the wall.

Many thought political correctness lived on in our lives now as permanently annoying background noise. In fact, it has been more like a political A-bomb, waiting for its detonator.

On Dec. 7, Donald Trump issued his call for a ban on Muslim immigration into the U.S.—“until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” It’s hard to recall a statement by a public figure that was met, instantly, with almost universal condemnation, including from most of the Republican presidential candidates.

Between that day and the end of 2015, Donald Trump’s support in the national opinion polls went up to nearly 37%, a substantial number by any measure.

Welcome to the revolt of the politically incorrect.

Forget the controversy over Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. This unique political campaign is about more than that. Donald Trump and indeed Ben Carson popped the valves on pressure that’s been building in the U.S., piece by politically correct piece, for 25 years. Since at least the early 1990s, a lot of the public has been intimidated into keeping its mouth shut and head down about subjects in the political and social life of the country that the elites stipulated as beyond discussion or dispute. Eventually, the most important social skill in America became adeptness at euphemism. It isn’t an abortion; it’s a “terminated pregnancy.”

Some keywords in PC’s history:

Identity, gender, gender-neutral, diverse, inclusive, patriarchy, workplace harassment, multiculturalism, dead white males, sexism, racism, organic, “privileged,” hate speech, speech codes, prayer in schools, affirmative action, respecting our differences, microagressions, trigger warnings. That’s just the tip of the iceberg—which political correctness slammed into with the Trump and Carson campaigns.

Ben Carson especially made PC an explicit tenet of his campaign. In a 2014 essay for the Washington Times, Mr. Carson wrote: “Political correctness is antithetical to our founding principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Its most powerful tool is intimidation. If it is not vigorously opposed, its proponents win by default, because the victims adopt a ‘go along to get along’ attitude.”

The left found Mr. Carson’s PC concerns almost quaint. But the email traffic I was seeing last summer suggested the Carson anti-PC critique was a big reason for his surge among middle-class voters. My favorite Carsonism: When asked in the Fox News debate if he’d resume waterboarding, he replied, “There is no such thing as a politically correct war.”

When Donald Trump’s mostly working-class voters repeatedly said that “he tells the truth,” this is what they were talking about—not any particular Trump outrage but the years of political correctness they felt they’d been forced to choke down in silence.

American society has never been static. A fair-minded person would concede that many of these controversial subjects involve legitimate and complex issues. Politics exists to mediate them.

Mediation? We should have been so lucky. The left never modulated its PC offensive. The 2006 Duke University lacrosse scandal, a travesty of PC trampling on individuals, should have been a red flag. Instead the Obama Education Department imposed what are essentially kangaroo courts on American campuses to enforce Title IX sexual-abuse cases.

Policies like that don’t emerge from the marketplace of ideas, much less political debate. They come from a kind of Americanized Maoism. The left goes nuts when anyone suggests political correctness has totalitarian roots. But the PC game has always been: We win, you lose, get over it, comply.

But people don’t get over it, and they never forget. For a lot of voters now, possibly a majority, their experiences with enforceable, politically correct behavior, speech and thought have bred a broad mistrust of elites.

Average people think individuals in positions of leadership are supposed to at least recognize the existence of their interests and beliefs. The institutions that didn’t do that or were complicit include the courts, Congress, senior bureaucrats, corporate managers, the press, television, movies, university administrators.

Somehow, the standard model of political comportment—represented by most of the GOP’s presidential candidates—just isn’t up to dealing with a degree of voter social alienation that isn’t particularly rational at this point. So voters turned to “outsiders”—people more like them.

The election’s two big issues remain: a weak economy and global chaos. But for many voters, the revolt against political correctness is on. Hillary Clinton, hostage to a PC-obsessed base, must mouth politically correct pabulum. Donald Trump joy-rides the wave. An opening remains for an electable candidate who can point this revolt toward what it wants—a political win, at last.