Nobody does prejudice better than a leftist.
There is a certain tact to it – a soft, pandering, almost embarrassing benevolence. It is the caring sexism of President Obama’s Life of Julia, or the liberating reassurance that voting for them is a way to avoid being put “back in chains”. They play the elderly against young people, happily supporting an entitlement system that survives only because of the youth’s political and financial ignorance. In short, they have created a beautiful system of group-think and special interests, held together in their intellectual vacuity by a common thread of short-sighted self-interest.
The latest entry in this historical marvel is New York Times’ Adolph Reed, who takes time to think over the “Puzzle of Black Republicans.”
Musing over Representative Tim Scott, the man tapped by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to replace the departing Jim DeMint, Mr. Reed notes that “his politics, like those of the arch-conservative Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, are utterly at odds with the preferences of most black Americans. Mr. Scott has been staunchly anti-tax, anti-union and anti-abortion.”
And, of course, if Rep. Scott is not going to adhere to these “preferences,” then our conclusion is clear: “modern-day Republicans have deployed blacks to undermine black interests.”
Now if we were a more honest people, then Mr. Reed could simply say what he’s thinking: Rep. Tim Scott is a modern day Uncle Tom, invited into the Republican cabin because he gives the party some reassuring sense of objectivity and racial sensitivity.
Of course, the question really is not so much one of social or cultural racism. We know that the left is probably just as full of racists as the right, but their racism is more acceptable and backed up by the academic condescension of institutions and power dynamics (so cheers to you, Jamie Foxx).
The real problem, in the top-down way that big ideas tend to work, is the formalized prejudice of leftist politics. Mr. Reed gives us a sense of this when he talks about catering to black “preferences” — as if the only way to act in the best interest of black Americans is to serve their preference! It is reminiscent of John Dewey, who wrote that “Regard for the happiness of others means regard for those conditions and objects which permit others freely to exercise their own powers from their own initiative, reflection, and choice.”
Progressivism: brought to you by the same folks who think “art” is merely “expression.”
But enough making fun. The simple failure of the thinking set out here by Mr. Reed is that he confuses our basic interests with that which is really in our interest. He assumes that his understanding of “black preference” is the thing that must be catered to, and thus if a black representative fails to do so, he must simply be a “token” gesture, to use his word.
It’s a strongly democratic sentiment, to be sure, but I would remind Mr. Reed — and the rest of the progressives — that we did not establish a democracy for exactly this reason: The whims of the people are not always to be trusted. Plato makes this point in Book I of his Republic. If a sane man borrows you his weapon and then returns for it when he is mentally unstable, would it be just for you to give it to him? As we reel from Sandy Hook, I hope we all know the answer to this.
So there it is. Sometimes, democracy and whim is not the answer. Sometimes, the majority gets it wrong. Sometimes, the “preferences” of a group do not align with what is best for that group. And so when Mr. Reed claims that a black man who gains support from the Tea Party for being “staunchly anti-tax, anti-union and anti-abortion” is just an empty “symbol,” I cannot help but be annoyed. This base, narrow, and combative use of race is, as Jonah Goldberg put it, just tired.
So let’s put aside the pandering and talk seriously about the issues at hand. If Mr. Reed would like more taxes, more unions, and more abortions, then let’s have that discussion. Leave your prejudice at the door.