October 22, 2009
Democrats and the Politics of RageBy Carl Paulus
As liberal ideas have continued to lose at the polls over the last two decades, Democrats have become the party of utopian rage as they persist in replacing real political debate with effusive attacks on conservatives while promising to create an idyllic society for Americans. Barack Obama epitomized these politics when he built a movement offering hope as his main political platform.
To bolster this emotionalism, Democrats have resorted almost whole-heartedly to conjuring up visions of racist conservatives opposing the first black president primarily because of his skin color. The marketplace of ideas has been stifled by identity politics. Whereas George Wallace and his ilk played on the emotions of racism to defend segregation, Democrats today evoke the sentimentalism of antiracism -- regardless of race playing a factor in the issue -- to buoy their causes.
The Democratic politics of rage has been successful. During the 2008 campaign Barack Obama and friends often accused Republicans of racist motives despite John McCain's continued attempts to avoid any discussion of race. For instance, in reaction to being called inexperienced Obama said, "They're going to try to say that I'm a risky guy, they're going to try to say, 'Well, you know, he's got a funny name and he doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the five dollar bills."
This was not all. In reaction to the claim that Obama was more talk than action Obama's supporters went even farther in their claims of racism. One liberal blogger accused the McCain campaign of racism in its "celebrity" ad because it "associated Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women."
Despite his post-racial promise, President Obama and his fellow Democrats have continued to argue that disapproval of their agenda stems from hidden racial animosity. Claiming their critics are racists and making themselves the defenders of antiracism touches the long history of Americans treating minorities as monolithically-thinking groups that need to be cared for, rather than self-reliant individuals in communities that have a wide range of opinions.
From paternalist slaveholders who treated all blacks as children, to segregationists who treated them all as criminals, to current senators who won't accept the opinion of a black businessman on energy policy because it disagrees with the NAACP, American society has rarely treated African Americans and other minorities as anything but part of a group.
When Democrats call their opponents racist, they simultaneously reinforce in many whites the belief that all minorities share the same experiences despite their different economic standing, location, and opinion, and are in need of protection by white progressives. Similarly, this logic convinces those in minority communities that conservatives are a racist enemy that need not be listened to and must be stopped.
From Nancy Pelosi claiming conservatives at town hall meetings were Nazis to fake quotes about slavery and James Earl Ray being attributed to Rush Limbaugh, the liberal routine of perpetuating the politics of rage has become something that has stuck with many Americans and hurt conservatism in minority communities. This has recurred because too many conservatives insist on a colorblind society while accepting the liberal premise that people think in groups. Republicans are too content in chipping away the antiracist veneer of Democrats by revealing hypocritical comments from the likes Joe Biden and Dick Durbin. They need to do more than just prove that Democrats are not the defenders of antiracism.
Rather than living in the shell of colorblindness and accepting that a majority of African Americans and Hispanics will never vote for them because of liberalism's grip, Republicans need to engage in conversations about race while offering conservative solutions for all. Conservatives can and should celebrate different heritages while promoting traditional American values of independence and capitalism that have united the country across ethnic lines for centuries.
Offering solutions based on individualism and empowerment that solve actual problems is much better than "being hip-hop" in gaining minority votes. Americans, regardless of race, value their personal uniqueness. This meshes with the core beliefs of conservatism, and conservatives must show how the promotion of individualism also elevates the community.
The sad state of government schools in the United States offers a chance for conservative leaders to show how the wayward liberal policies of Big Education have worsened America's schools for minorities. In vouchers, Republicans have a viable alternative to offer. Barack Obama's famous race speech, while filled with banal generalizations of America's racial history and ambiguous statements about the future, lacked any specific vision for creating a more racially harmonious United States. His speech garnered the attention of the fawning media, but did not specifically explain how America can move forward.
Despite his many faults throughout the campaign, John McCain said in thirty seconds what Barack Obama failed to say in thirty minutes:
"Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work."
Unfortunately, Senator McCain did not hammer this home after the convention when he had the chance. Now is the time to correct this failure.
Conservative leaders need to realize that their values do not just speak to middle America; they speak to everyone. They should insist that all people -- whether black, white, Latino or Asian -- want and deserve economic empowerment to choose their education without government limiting their options.
Liberals are right when they say that segregated schools are inferior, but give inadequate reasons to explain why. While diversity has some value, it alone does not create a good learning environment. Vouchers offer opportunity for the free market to work for the benefit of everyone.
Go to downtown Detroit and preach individualism and educational empowerment for all Americans; go to Compton and explain how market forces can fix schools and raise the standard of living; go to Chicago and show parents how their personal choice of who teaches their children and what school they attend uplifts the entire community -- conservative values speak to everybody and its leaders need to remember that. They must stop thinking that seeing race is a slippery slope towards racism and accepting the premise that non-white groups think monolithically.
The American love of self-reliance and varied opinion is what unifies this country and it comes in many different shades. While the efforts might not be fruitful immediately, we need to remember that members of minority groups, like everyone, want viable choices in education. Future successful results will undermine the Democratic attack machine's greatest weapon, their politics of rage.