2020 Democrat candidates are now supporting reparations for slavery
On February 21, a New York Times feature story about proposals for the government to pay American blacks reparations for slavery has moved the issue closer to the front burner in the lead up to next year's presidential elections. The article's title summarized the story: "2020 Democrats Embrace Race-Conscious Policies, Including Reparations." Largely overshadowed on an incredibly busy news day was the disclosure that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), one of the early frontrunners for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is now enthusiastically on the reparations bandwagon:
Ms. Warren also said she supported reparations for black Americans impacted by slavery — a policy that experts say could cost several trillion dollars.
How about reparations for posing as a Native American? (Photo credit: Tim Pierce.)
The Times noted that the pro-reparations policy has also been embraced by another prominent candidate for the 2020 nomination:
Last week, Senator Kamala Harris of California agreed with a radio host's recent suggestion that government reparations for black Americans were necessary to address the legacies of slavery and discrimination. Ms. Harris later affirmed that support in a statement to The Times.
The Times confirmed the existence of a plethora of additional race-based policy proposals by Democrats, attributing them to virtuous ends:
The morally driven policy goals of Ms. Harris and Ms. Warren reflect a broader shift in the importance of race and identity issues in the Democratic Party, according to several scholars and political leaders who focus on the intersection of race and politics. While Democrats have long cast themselves as more inclusive than the Republican Party, grass-roots organizers and many liberal voters of all races are now pushing elected officials to go further on policies of racial equality, regardless of any political calculations.
The reality is that in today's climate of hyper-political polarization, including growing Democrat socialist appeals to minorities, these radical policy proposals are a result of political calculations. We've already seen the left's sudden full-throated support for open borders and strident opposition to any new — or even existing — border fencing, unlike what most leading Democrats (including President Obama and Sen. Charles Schumer) had advocated until recently. The support for open borders is not only a reflection of Democrats' knee-jerk opposition to anything President Trump wants (including the wall). It's part of a calculation that a critical mass has been reached in terms of raw demographics. The left sees growing numbers of "minority," "people of color," and immigrant voters who it thinks will flock to Democrats now that they advocate unequivocally for these and other far-left constituencies based on the lure of identity politics.
In 2008, blacks made up 13% of the electorate and voted in a huge bloc for Barack Obama (95% for Obama compared to 4% for McCain, according to Roper). The appeal of a black candidate at the top of the ticket in 2020 would presumably be enhanced by the candidate's promise to invest "trillions" of dollars in reparations aimed at helping or supporting African-Americans.
One of the most recent polls on the subject of reparations was conducted by YouGov in June 2014 (five long years ago). The questions that were asked concerned "Reparations — Do you think the government should or should not offer the following things to black Americans who are the descendants of slaves?" The percentage who said "should offer cash" to blacks for reparations was 6% of white Americans, 59% of black Americans. When the question involved supporting "Education and job training programs," 19% of whites and 63% of blacks responded "should offer."
The article at YouGov about its 2014 poll cited a then-current article by radical black writer Ta-Nehisi Coates published in The Atlantic (June 2014), "The Case for Reparations." Coates took 16,000 words to make his arguments. As is often the case, advocacy of an extreme far-left policy begins in the pages of an influential, elitist publication and filters down from there — to academia, the media, popular culture, and finally to ambitious leftist politicians and the public.
Almost all of the Democrats who have announced that they are running for the top job in 2020 support "free" college education, which might be seen as a kind of reparations without actually using the "R" word. Others are openly endorsing reparations for blacks. For example, Julián Castro, the first Latino Democrat to declare for president in 2020, recently took the plunge. According to an interview with The Root, a leftist, race-based publication on February 21,"Julián Castro Calls for Reparations for Black People."
Marianne Williamson, the spiritual teacher who, although a "longshot candidate" in the Times' view, has more Twitter followers than any of the other 2020 Democrat candidates so far, also supports reparations — to the tune of $100 billion.
In recent years, ideas pushed by the radical left, like the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, established the powerful meme of the "1% vs. the 99%," resulting in the escalating demands for "social justice" to combat income inequality. These efforts have softened up low-information voters to be more susceptible to leftist candidates' pitches for promises of freebies and income redistribution.
And is there any doubt that leftist low-information voters of whatever color are now in the ascendancy? As professor of economics at George Mason University Walter E. Williams wrote in 2018, "Capitalism doesn't do well in popularity polls."
Peter Barry Chowka writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.