You can be forgiven if you have the impression that the entire argument of the Democratic party to voters at this point in time consists of yelling at the opposition, “You’re racists!” Or maybe sometimes it’s “You’re white supremacists!” But is there any substance to these charges?
The last few days have seen a near total meltdown, after President Trump tweeted (on July 14):
Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
No mention of race there, of course. Sounds to me like an invitation to the radical Congresswomen to start behaving like grown-ups and taking some responsibility for the absurd policy proposals that they throw around so recklessly. The Green New Deal for Somalia? I can only think it would take the impoverished Somalis from mere poverty to total destitution and starvation. But the “squad” thinks the Green New Deal is imperative for the U.S. Then why shouldn’t it also be the right policy path for Somalia? And if this plan is the route to a perfected world, what’s wrong with suggesting that its leading advocates bring some influence to bear on Somalia (or Palestine or Mexico) to implement their prescriptions? The backdrop of proposing Somalia for the GND seems to me like an excellent basis for an intelligent conversation about what policies might actually work in the real world.
So let’s get the reaction of Ilhan Omar (quoted at bbc.com July 16):
Ms Omar says Mr Trump's "blatantly racist attack" on four women of colour was "the agenda of white nationalists.”
Anything on the substance? Shouldn’t she be saying, definitely we advocate our policies for Somalia as well? Of course not. Or this from Rashida Tlaib:
Ms Tlaib called it "simply a continuation of his racist, xenophobic playbook".
And naturally it was not just the squad. From among dozens of examples, let me suggest the New York times editorial board (July 18):
What is excruciatingly clear, and what matters most right now, is that he [President Trump] has chosen to ground his politics and his presidency in fomenting racial hatred. Whatever he may feel in his bones, he is an avid race warrior.
Or the Times’s supposedly “conservative” columnist, David Brooks (July 18):
In Trump’s version, “American” is defined by three propositions. First, to be American is to be xenophobic. . . . Third, a true American is white. White Protestants created this country; everybody else is here on their sufferance.
Then we had another member of the “squad,” Ayanna Pressley, speaking at the Netroots Nation conference on July 14 — the same day as Trump’s tweet. Excerpt:
If you're going to come to [the political] table, all of you who have aspirations of running for office. If you’re not prepared to come to that table and represent that voice, don’t come, because we don't need any more brown faces that don't want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don't want to be a black voice. We don't need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don't want to be a queer voice. If you’re worried about being marginalized and stereotyped, please don't even show up because we need you to represent that voice.
According to the Washington Examiner (at the link), both Omar and Tlaib sat next to Pressley during this outburst, and nodded approvingly. Is there anything racist in this explicit statement that brown, black, Muslim and queer people aren’t permitted to have independent thoughts of their own in the political arena? If there is, you won’t find any mention of it in the New York Times (or in the many other outlets that so viciously condemned President Trump for a statement lacking any of this explicit racism).
Meanwhile, the people who yell “racism” and “white supremacism” at every turn have exactly one big idea of how to improve economic outcomes of blacks: more income and wealth redistribution programs. The big one now is so-called “reparations” (enthusiastically endorsed by the “squad” and by nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates), followed by Kamala Harris’s new idea of a $100 billion dollar handout program to assist blacks in buying homes. Really? We already have about $1.2 trillion in annual “anti-poverty” redistribution programs, and none of them have succeeded in improving black economic performance. Jason Riley notes the disconnect in the Wall Street Journal of July 16:
Government programs are no substitute for the development of human capital. If wealth-redistribution schemes lifted people out of poverty, we would have closed these gaps a long time ago. Liberal politicians and activists have little interest in addressing the ways in which black behavioral choices impact inequality. It’s easier to turn out voters and raise money by equating racial imbalances with racial bias and smearing political opponents who disagree.
I would go farther. Redistribution programs disincentivize and ultimately destroy the ability to build wealth. Nearly all of them have some kinds of means tests, which are all different and constantly changing and impossible to keep track of. How much home equity are you allowed to have and qualify for Medicaid? How about for food stamps? Pell grants? Home energy assistance? Nobody could figure it out. Once you start taking any of the government handouts, of course you want to max out on them; and if you want to max out on government handouts, your best strategy is to rent your home and keep bank accounts to a minimum. Or to put it another way, the whole idea behind the handout state is to make sure that the dependent populations remain dependent.
So who are the real racists?