Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The End Of Identity Politics

By Victor Davis Hanson
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Who are we? asked the liberal social scientist Samuel Huntington over a decade ago in a well-reasoned but controversial book. Huntington feared the institutionalization of what Theodore Roosevelt a century earlier had called “hyphenated Americans.” A “hyphenated American,” Roosevelt scoffed, “is not an American at all.” And 30 years ago, another progressive stalwart and American historian Arthur Schlesinger argued in his book The Disuniting of America that identity politics were tearing apart the cohesion of the United States.

What alarmed these liberals was the long and unhappy history of racial, religious, and ethnic chauvinism, and how such tribal ties could prove far stronger than shared class affinities. Most important, they were aware that identity politics had never proved to be a stabilizing influence on any past multiracial society. Indeed, most wars of the 20th century and associated genocides had originated over racial and ethnic triumphalism, often by breakaway movements that asserted tribal separateness. Examples include the Serbian and Slavic nationalist movements in 1914 against Austria-Hungary, Hitler’s rise to power on the promise of German ethno-superiority, the tribal bloodletting in Rwanda, and the Shiite/Sunni/Kurdish conflicts in Iraq.

The United States could have gone the way of these other nations. Yet, it is one of the few successful multiracial societies in history. America has survived slavery, civil war, the Japanese-American internment, and Jim Crow—and largely because it has upheld three principles for unifying, rather than dividing, individuals.

The first concerns the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, which were unique documents for their time and proved transcendent across time and space. Both documents enshrined the ideal that all people were created equal and were human first, with inalienable rights from God that were protected by government. These founding principles would eventually trump innate tribal biases and prejudices to grant all citizens their basic rights.

Second, given America’s two-ocean buffer, the United States could control its own demographic destiny. Americans usually supported liberal immigration policies largely because of the country’s ability to monitor the numbers of new arrivals and the melting pot’s ability to assimilate, integrate, and intermarry immigrants, who would soon relegate their racial, religious, and ethnic affinities to secondary importance.

Finally, the United States is the most individualistic and capitalistic of the Western democracies. The nation was blessed with robust economic growth, rich natural resources, and plenty of space. It assumed that its limited government and ethos of entrepreneurialism would create enough widespread prosperity and upward mobility that affluence—or at least the shared quest for it—would create a common bond superseding superficial Old World ties based on appearance or creed.

In the late 1960s, however, these three principles took a hit. The federal government lost confidence in the notion that civil rights legislation, the melting pot, and a growing economy could unite Americans and move society in the direction of Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision—“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

This shift from the ideal of the melting pot to the triumph of salad-bowl separatism occurred, in part, because the Democratic Party found electoral resonance in big government’s generous entitlements and social programs tailored to particular groups. By then, immigration into the United States had radically shifted and become less diverse. Rather than including states in Europe and the former British Commonwealth, most immigrants were poorer and almost exclusively hailed from the nations of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, resulting in poorer immigrants who, upon arrival, needed more government help. Another reason for the shift was the general protest culture of the Vietnam era, which led to radical changes in everything from environmental policy to sexual identity, and thus saw identity politics as another grievance against the status quo.

A half-century later, affirmative action and identity politics have created a huge diversity industry, in which millions in government, universities, and the private sector are entrusted with teaching the values of the Other and administering de facto quotas in hiring and admissions. In 2016, Hillary Clinton ran a campaign on identity politics, banking on the notion that she could reassemble various slices of the American electorate, in the fashion that Barack Obama had in 2008 and 2012, to win a majority of voters. She succeeded, as did Obama, in winning the popular vote by appealing directly to the unique identities of gays, Muslims, feminists, blacks, Latinos, and an array of other groups, but misjudged the Electoral College and so learned that a numerical majority of disparate groups does not always translate into winning key swing states.

At one point Clinton defined her notion of identity politics by describing Trump’s supporters: “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up… Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”


What is the future of diversity politics after the 2016 election? Uncertain at best—and for a variety of reasons.

One, intermarriage and integration are still common. Overall, about 15 percent of all marriages each year are interracial, and the rates are highest for Asians and Latinos. Forty percent of Asian women marry men of another race—one quarter of African-American males do, as well—and over a quarter of all Latinos marry someone non-Latino.

Identity politics hinges on perceptible racial or ethnic solidarity, but citizens are increasingly a mixture of various races and do not always categorize themselves as “non-white.” Without DNA badges, it will be increasingly problematic to keep racial pedigrees straight. And sometimes the efforts to do so reach the point of caricature and inauthenticity, through exaggerated accent marks, verbal trills, voice modulations, and nomenclature hyphenation. One reason why diversity activists sound shrill is their fear that homogenization is unrelenting.

Second, the notion of even an identifiable and politically monolithic group of non-white minorities is also increasingly suspect. Cubans do not have enough in common with Mexicans to advance a united Latino front. African-Americans are suspicious of open borders that undercut entry-level job wages. Asians resent university quotas that often discount superb grades and test scores to ensure racial diversity. It is not clear that Hmong-Americans have much in common with Japanese-Americans, or that Punjabi immigrants see themselves politically akin to Chinese newcomers as fellow Asians.

Third, ethnic solidarity can cut both ways. In the 2016 elections, Trump won an overwhelming and nearly unprecedented number of working class whites in critical swing states. Many either had not voted in prior elections or had voted Democratic. The culture’s obsession with tribalism and special ethnic interests—often couched in terms of opposing “white privilege”—had alienated millions of less well-off white voters. Quietly, many thought that if ethnic activists were right that the white majority was shrinking into irrelevance, and if it was acceptable for everyone to seek solidarity through their tribal affiliations, then poor whites could also rally under the banner of their own identity politics. If such trends were to continue in a nation that is still 70 percent white, it would prove disastrous for the Democratic Party in a way never envisioned during the era of Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton discovered that Obama’s identity politics constituencies were not transferable to herself in the same exceptional numbers, and the effort to ensure that they were often created new tribal opponents.

Fourth, it is not certain that immigration, both legal and illegal, will continue at its current near record rate, which has resulted in over 40 million immigrants now residing in America—constituting some 13 percent of the present population. Trump is likely not just to curtail illegal immigration, but also to return legal immigration to a more meritocratic, diverse, and individual basis. Were immigration to slow down and become more diverse, the formidable powers of integration and intermarriage would perhaps do to the La Raza community what it once did to the Italian-American minority after the cessation of mass immigration from Italy. There are currently no Italian-American quotas, no Italian university departments, and no predictable voting blocs.

Fifth, class is finally reemerging as a better barometer of privilege than is race—a point that Republican populists are starting to hammer home. The children of Barack Obama, for example, have far more privilege than do the sons of Appalachian coal miners—and many Asian groups already exceed American per capita income averages. When activist Michael Eric Dyson calls for blanket reparations for slavery, his argument does not resonate with an unemployed working-class youth from Kentucky, who was born more than 30 years after the emergence of affirmative action—and enjoys a fraction of Dyson’s own income, net worth, and cultural opportunities.

Finally, ideology is eroding the diversity industry. Conservative minorities and women are not considered genuine voices of the Other, given their incorrect politics. For all its emphasis on appearance, diversity is really an intolerant ideological movement that subordinates race and gender to progressive politics. It is not biology that gives authenticity to feminism, but leftwing assertions; African-American conservatives are often derided as inauthentic, not because of purported mixed racial pedigrees, but due to their unorthodox beliefs.

The 2016 election marked an earthquake in the diversity industry. It is increasingly difficult to judge who we are merely by our appearances, which means that identity politics may lose its influence. These fissures probably explain some of the ferocity of the protests we’ve seen in recent weeks. A dying lobby is fighting to hold on to its power.

Free Speech Has a Milo Problem

By David French
Monday, February 20, 2017

To understand the core of the free-speech challenge in this country, consider the case of a hypothetical young woman named Sarah. In college, Sarah is a conservative activist. She’s pro-life, supports traditional marriage, and belongs to a Christian student club. Her free speech infuriates professors and other students, so the administration cracks down. It defunds her student club, forces her political activism into narrow, so-called free-speech zones, and reminds her to comply with the university’s tolerance policies.

What does Sarah do? She sues the school, she wins, and the school pays her attorneys’ fees. The judge expands the free-speech zone to cover the whole campus and strikes down the tolerance policy. The First Amendment wins.

Sarah graduates. A brilliant student, she gets a job at a Silicon Valley start-up and moves to California to start her new life. Just as they did in college, politics dominate her conversations, and within a week she gets into an argument with a colleague over whether Bruce Jenner is really a woman. The next morning, Sarah’s called into the HR department, given a stern warning for violating company policy, and told that if she can’t comply she’ll need to find another place to work.

What does Sarah do? She shuts her mouth or she loses her job. Her employer isn’t the government; it’s a private company with its own free-speech rights, and it expects its employees to respect its “corporate values.”

In a nutshell, this is America’s free-speech problem. The law is largely solid. Government entities that censor or silence citizens on the basis of their political, cultural, or religious viewpoint almost always lose in court. With some exceptions, the First Amendment remains robust. Yet the culture of free speech is eroding away, rapidly.

The politicization of everything has combined with increasing levels of polarization and cocooning to create an atmosphere in which private citizens are increasingly weaponizing their expression — using their social and economic power not to engage in debate but to silence dissent. Corporate bullying, social-media shaming, and relentless peer pressure combine to place a high cost on any departure from the mandated norms. Even here in Middle Tennessee, I have friends who are afraid to post about their religious views online or express disagreements during mandatory corporate-diversity seminars, lest they lose their jobs. One side speaks freely. The other side speaks not at all.

There is no government solution to this problem. The First Amendment prohibits the state from mandating openness to debate and dissent, and corporations aren’t designed to be debating societies. Nor can the government prevent (or even try to prevent) the kinds of social-media shaming campaigns and peer pressures that cause men and women to stay silent for fear of social exclusion. The solution is to persuade the powerful that free speech has value, that ideological monocultures are harmful, and that the great questions of life can’t and shouldn’t be settled through shaming, hectoring, or silencing.

It is thus singularly unfortunate that the “conservative” poster boy for free speech is Milo Yiannopoulos.

Milo, for those who don’t know, is a flamboyantly gay senior editor at Breitbart News, a provocateur who relishes leftist outrage and deliberately courts as much fury as he can. How? Please allow my friend Ben Shapiro to explain:

Jews run the media; earlier this month he characterized a Jewish BuzzFeed writer as a “a typical example of a sort of thick-as-pig shit media Jew”; he justifies anti-Semitic memes as playful trollery and pats racist sites like American Renaissance on the head; he describes himself as a “chronicler of, and occasional fellow traveler with the alt-right” while simultaneously recognizing that their “dangerously bright” intellectuals believe that “culture is inseparable from race”; back in his days going under the name Milo Wagner, he reportedly posed with his hand atop a Hitler biography, posted a Hitler meme about killing 6 million Jews, and wore an Iron Cross; last week he berated a Muslim woman in the audience of one of his speeches for wearing a hijab in the United States; his alt-right followers routinely spammed my Twitter account with anti-Semitic propaganda he tut-tutted before his banning (the amount of anti-Semitism in my feed dropped by at least 70 percent after his ban, which I opposed); he personally Tweeted a picture of a black baby at me on the day of my son’s birth, because according to the alt-right I’m a “cuck” who wants to see the races mixed; he sees the Constitution as a hackneyed remnant of the past, to be replaced by a new right he leads.

Oh, and this week recordings rocketed across Twitter that showed Milo apparently excusing pedophilia and expressing gratitude to a Catholic priest for teaching him how to perform oral sex. (Later, on Facebook, he vigorously denied that he supports pedophilia, saying he is “completely disgusted by the abuse of children.”)

Milo is currently on what he calls his “Dangerous Faggot” tour of college campuses, which has followed a now-familiar pattern: A conservative group invites him to speak, leftists on campus freak out, and he thrives on the resulting controversy, casting himself as a hero of free expression. Lately, the leftist freakouts have grown violent, culminating in a scary riot at the University of California, Berkeley.

Operating under the principle that “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend,” too many on the right have leapt to Milo’s defense, ensuring that his star just keeps rising. Every liberal conniption brings him new conservative credibility and fresh appearances on Fox News. Last week Bill Maher featured him as a defender of free speech, and – for a brief time — he had been expected to speak at the nation’s largest and arguably most important conservative gathering, CPAC. (CPAC rescinded its invitation today.)

Let’s put this plainly: If Milo’s the poster boy for free speech, then free speech will lose. He’s the perfect foil for social-justice warriors, a living symbol of everything they fight against. His very existence and prominence feed the deception that modern political correctness is the firewall against the worst forms of bigotry.

I’ve spent a career defending free speech in court, and I’ve never defended a “conservative” like Milo. His isn’t the true face of the battle for American free-speech rights. That face belongs to Barronelle Stutzman, the florist in Washington whom the Left is trying to financially ruin because she refused to use her artistic talents to celebrate a gay marriage. It belongs to Kelvin Cochran, the Atlanta fire chief who was fired for publishing and sharing with a few colleagues a book he wrote that expressed orthodox Christian views of sex and marriage.

Stutzman and Cochran demonstrate that intolerance and censorship strike not just at people on the fringe – people like Milo – but rather at the best and most reasonable citizens of these United States. They’re proof that social-justice warriors seek not equality and inclusion but control and domination.

Milo has the same free-speech rights as any other American. He can and should be able to troll to his heart’s content without fear of government censorship or private riot. But by elevating him even higher, CPAC would have made a serious mistake. CPAC’s invitation told the world that supporting conservative free speech means supporting Milo. If there’s a more effective way to vindicate the social-justice Left, I can’t imagine it.

Democrats Threaten to Eat Their Own

By Jim Geraghty
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

‘Democratic politicians in red states who fail to fight strongly against Trump and seize the mantle of economic populism won’t inspire people to vote — and they will lose the general election in 2018,” warned Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in a recent press release.

If Green and his ilk have their way, Democrats who fail to heed the populism of the moment will be in for a rude surprise next year. A new progressive group has already sprung up with the intent of forcing Democrats to hold the line, threateningly named “We Will Replace You.” The group seems set on calling out every perceived Democratic capitulation to President Trump, including the bipartisan confirmation of Mike Pompeo as CIA director and statements from Dick Durbin, Claire McCaskill, and Jon Tester proclaiming that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch deserves “a fair shake.” It has promised “primary challenges to Democratic collaborators and enablers of Trump.”

That’s some bold talk, but it is difficult to knock off incumbents given their many institutional advantages: name-ID, entrenched fundraising networks, statewide campaign experience, the power to do favors and punish foes. The Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will all spend resources to defend the party’s incumbents. And angry liberals have not had a lot of past success challenging Democratic incumbents whom they see as useless squishes.

Perhaps the highest-profile example came more than a decade go, when the liberal grassroots, spurred by a herd of outraged bloggers, backed Greenwich selectman Ned Lamont against incumbent Democratic senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman had become the most prominent Democratic supporter of President George W. Bush’s policies in the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, angering the progressive Left. Lamont pulled off an improbable come-from-way-behind victory in the primary, taking almost 52 percent of the vote. But Lieberman announced that he would stand by his prior threat to run as an independent and ended up comfortably retaining his seat.

Back in May 2010, MoveOn.org pledged to support primary challenges to any House Democrat who voted against passage of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Thirty-four House Democrats voted against the bill. The good news for progressives is that most of those lawmakers were indeed replaced; the bad news is that they were almost all replaced by Republicans in that year’s tea-party wave. By 2014, only four of the 34 were still in Congress and running for reelection.

That same year, liberals aimed to replace Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln with lieutenant governor Bill Halter. Spurred in part by Research 2000 polls that were commissioned and later disavowed by Markos Moulitsas, progressives felt they were on the verge of a major upset: “The progressive push is on fire ahead of the primaries,” MSNBC’s Ed Schultz told his audience the night before the election. Lincoln won the primary with 52 percent . . . and then Republican John Boozman crushed her by 21 points in the general election.

In 2014, progressives rallied to the side of Zephyr Teachout in her challenge to incumbent New York governor Andrew Cuomo, whom Teachout called “a Reagan, trickle-down Republican.” Teachout turned in an unexpectedly strong performance against long odds, winning more than a third of the vote and 20 counties. But Cuomo still won the primary by nearly 30 points.

“We Will Exceed Expectations before Falling Short in Our Long-Shot Effort to Replace You” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

If a traditional liberal progressive challenger has a hard time knocking off a Democratic incumbent in Connecticut and New York, never mind Arkansas, it’s hard to imagine such efforts will have better luck in Montana, Missouri, West Virginia and Florida. Which means that, for the moment, “we will replace you” still sounds like a much more plausible threat to those incumbent Democrats when it comes out of the mouths of Republicans.

Three Immediate Priorities for McMaster

By Tom Rogan
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

In 2005, Colonel Herbert McMaster prioritized victory above promotion. Attempting to secure Tal Afar, a city in northern Iraq, McMaster faced a big problem: He was witnessing an insurgency that was warping from nationalism into Salafi jihadism, and he knew that the U.S. Army’s “kinetic” (i.e., violence-centric) focused strategy was making things worse.

But, unlike many other field commanders, McMaster decided to buck the Army groupthink. Likely believing he would lose any chance of a general’s star by doing so, he adopted the first major counterinsurgency campaign of the Iraq occupation. His efforts were a great success. McMaster helped forge relative unity in a divided city, and isolated al-Qaeda in Iraq (read George Packer’s excellent 2006 report on McMaster’s strategy in the city).

Now General McMaster will become President Trump’s national-security adviser. And from McMaster’s Iraq experience, we can make two positive observations. First, he is willing to speak truth to power. Second, he embraces introspection as a useful tool rather than viewing it as a threat to ego. These qualities are desperately short in President Trump’s White House.

Still, with U.S. adversaries testing President Trump’s commitment to international order, and U.S. allies doubting Trump’s leadership, McMaster should focus on three immediate priorities.

First, McMaster must take charge of and reform the National Security Council (NSC). In light of Steve Bannon’s weird antics and Flynn’s feuding, the NSC needs clear leadership. Name aside, the key responsibility of a national-security adviser is to manage rather than advise. Whether it’s an intelligence assessment from the CIA or the NSA, or a threat report from the FBI or Department of Homeland Security, a sanctions-related concern from the Treasury Department or a foreign-relations crisis report from the State Department, McMaster will have to deal effectively with many different agencies. In recent years, few of McMaster’s predecessors have succeeded at doing so. Susan Rice, for example, effectively rendered the NSC a talking shop for President Obama’s impotence.

Reforming the NSC, McMaster should trim its bureaucratic fat and empower the best talent in the U.S. government. When, for example, a crisis develops in the Persian Gulf, McMaster should ensure that it is the best analysts at the State Department, CIA, or Pentagon — not the desk officer at the NSC — who brief the principals. This will quicken the government’s reaction, while also giving Trump the best possible options. Yes, the NSC bureaucracy (and indeed the bureaucracies at State, CIA, Defense, etc.) will resist these dilutions of their bureaucratic power. McMaster must face them down anyway.

To succeed, McMaster will also have to wear the suit of a civilian as well as he wears the uniform of an officer. As former Delta Force operations officer Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Jim Reese explained to me: ‘‘McMaster is a top-notch officer — one of the finest in the Army right now. He is aggressive, smart, and will sit down to make assessments. But McMaster has no experience outside the Army. And here’s my question: He might be a great leader but is he the right leader?’’ Reese observed that McMaster lacks private-sector experience, and that some four-star general officers might dislike taking directions from three-star McMaster.

Second, McMaster should take a foreign trip to Europe in order to consolidate U.S. allies. While Trump is absolutely justified in pressing U.S. allies to increase defense spending, and has succeeded in placating Japanese concerns, his Twitter/phone rants concern U.S. interests elsewhere. After all, when Trump insults the Swedish government or shouts at Australia’s conservative prime minister, he only encourages anti-American movements in those nations. At the same time, Trump sends out the message that he is distracted — and that perception fuels those who wish to challenge U.S. power.

Fortunately, McMaster is well placed to ameliorate this situation. That’s especially true with regard to Europe. As Thomas Joscelyn notes, McMaster has closely studied Putin’s destabilization strategy in Europe. By quickly sending Russian-aggression expert McMaster to allay European fears, Trump could buy credibility and influence among the EU allies.

Finally, McMaster should prioritize the evolving battle for Mosul, because — as Iraqi forces make progress there — another city looms large in its strategic implications: Tal Afar. Seeking to cut ISIS supply lines from Tal Afar to western Mosul, Iraqi/Kurdish forces have encircled both cities. The brewing problem in Tal Afar is the fact that Iranian-led Shiite militias are leading the operation there, and those militias desire to dominate rather than liberate Sunni populations. The power of ISIS takes root precisely in a populist Sunni rejection of perceived Iranian Shiite sectarianism. In short: If Shiite militias take Tal Afar and abuse the city’s Sunni-majority population, retaking Mosul will be worth little.

McMaster’s arrival at the White House is good news. Where President Trump’s foreign policy continues to fetishize short-term gimmicks – such as his idiotic threat to take Iraq’s oil — McMaster recognizes the imperative of long-game strategy. As Thomas Ricks recalls in his book The Gamble, McMaster, back in 2005 in Tal Afar, told his teenage soldiers: ‘‘Every time you treat an Iraqi disrespectfully, you are working for the enemy.’’ McMaster’s point was simple: To win, America must adapt against each enemy’s particular center of gravity. As his flirtations with the Russian ambassador proved, Flynn did not understand this critical truth. I suspect McMaster will be different.