Remember when Attorney General Eric Holder called Americans a “nation of cowards” who put “certain subjects . . . off limits”? Holder,
of course, was referring to “subjects” that in fact we do nothing else but talk about non-stop – the refusal of whites to admit the persistence of white racism and its responsibility for all the ills afflicting the black underclass. To quote Paul Krugman for this received wisdom, “Race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics.”
Yet Holder was unwittingly accurate, for there is a subject the mainstream culture and political discourse never touches: what Harlem Renaissance novelist Claude McKay called the “yellow complex.” This is the psychological condition of light-skinned blacks that was explored in novels of the 1920s like McKay’s Home to Harlem and Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry. Back then, the mulatto or light-complexioned black, especially the well educated, lived in a social and psychological limbo, excluded by racism from the white world, and forced by segregation to live among darker blacks whom they often despised and looked down on. Yet darker blacks themselves experienced conflicting emotions, at once attracted to and resentful of the light-skinned who scorned them.
Thurman’s Emma Lou is a sympathetic portrait of this complex from the perspective of a woman whose mother is a mulatto, but who inherited her father’s black skin: “Emma Lou had been born in a semi-white world, totally surrounded by an all-white one, and those few dark elements that had forced their way in had either been shooed away or else greeted with derisive laughter.” When she matriculates at an exclusive Negro college, she despises Hazel, another dark-skinned girl who attempts to befriend her, as “just a vulgar little n***** from down South.” Emma Lou “was determined to become associated only with those people who really mattered, northerners like herself or superior southerners, if there were any, who were different from whites only in so far as skin color was concerned.” What she discovers, however, is that most of the light-skinned students to whom she is attracted despise her as much as she despises Hazel.
A creation of racism and segregation, the psychology explored in this persistent theme of classic black literature was supposedly transcended by the “black is beautiful” movement of the 1960s. In black identity politics the poles of value were reversed: the snobbish mulattoes or blacks who lived by so-called “white” values were attacked for “acting white,” and authentic black identity comprised Continue reading “What Eric Holder Doesn’t Want to Talk About”→
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama let slip his disdain for the middle-class when he explained his lack of traction among such voters. “It’s not surprising then,” Obama said, “that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” More recently, U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley mocked his opponent incumbent Chuck Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” The liberal disdain for ordinary Americans has been around for a long time. Beneath the populist rhetoric and concern for the middle class that lace the campaign speeches of most liberal politicians, there lurks a palpable disgust, and often contempt, for the denizens of “flyover country,” that land of God, guns, religion, and traditional beliefs.
In Revolt Against the Masses, the Manhattan Institute senior fellow and New York Post columnist Fred Siegel presents a clearly written and engaging historical narrative of how nearly a century ago this strain of illiberal liberalism began to take over the Democratic Party. Along the way he also provides an excellent political history of the period that illuminates the “ugly blend of sanctimony, self-interest, and social-connections” lying at the heart of liberalism today.
Siegel begins with a valuable survey of the “progenitors,” the early twentieth-century thinkers and writers whose ideas shaped the liberal ideology. Those who know English writer H. G. Wells only as an early pioneer of science-fiction novels Continue reading “Illiberal Liberalism”→
On almost every contemporary issue there is a populist, middle-class argument to be made against elite liberalism. Yet the Republican class in charge seems ossified in its inability to make a counter-argument for the middle class. Never has the liberal agenda been so vulnerable, a logical
development when bad ideas have had five years to prove themselves as very bad ideas. When Obama is all done he will have taken high presidential popularity ratings, a supermajority in the Senate, and a large margin in the House and lost them all — if only the Republicans can make an adequate case that they represent the middle class, the Democrats only the very wealthy and the very dependent.
We know the entry of 11 million illegal aliens depresses the wages of the poor and entry-level working class. Illegal immigration overwhelms state services, and that too hurts citizens most in need of help. The lower-middle classes do not have low-paid nannies, gardeners, and house-keepers. We know the illegal influx pleases La Raza activists, most of them second- and third-generation elites in government, politics, journalism and education, who without illegal immigration would not have much of a moral or legal justification for the continuance of affirmative action and identity politics, given that statistically Latinos would soon follow the pattern of other assimilated groups. (For example, is there affirmative action for Armenian immigrants? An Italian Razza movement? Punjabi Studies?) Continue reading “A Beat-up, Exhausted, and Terrified Republican Establishment”→
Two factors have so far shielded the American university from the sort of criticism that it so freely levels against almost every other institution in American life. (1) For decades a college education has been considered the key to an ascendant middle-class existence. (2) Until recently a college degree was not tantamount
to lifelong debt. In other words, American society put up with a lot of arcane things from academia, given that it offered something — a BA or BS degree — that almost everyone agreed was a ticket to personal security and an educated populace.
Not now. Colleges have gone rogue and become virtual outlaw institutions. Graduates owe an aggregate of $1 trillion in student debt, borrowed at interest rates far above home-mortgage rates — all on the principle that universities could charge as much as they liked, given that students could borrow as much as they needed in federally guaranteed loans.
Few graduates have the ability to pay back the principal; they are simply paying the compounded interest. More importantly, a college degree is not any more a sure pathway to a good job, nor does it guarantee that its holder is better educated than those without it. If the best sinecure in America is a tenured full professorship, the worst fate may be that of a recent graduate in anthropology with a $100,000 loan. That the two are co-dependent is a national scandal.
In short, the university has abjectly defaulted on its side of the social contract by no longer providing an affordable and valuable degree. Accordingly, society can no longer grant it an exemption from scrutiny. Continue reading “The Outlaw Campus”→
New Deal Liberals Transform into the Faux Populist Radical Left
With elections looming in 2014, it is about time for Barack Obama to gear up another progressive “war” against the rich, the limb loppers, the fat cats, the tonsil pullers, the “enemies” of Latinos, the jet junketers, the women haters, and those who knew neither when to stop profiting nor how the government had really built their businesses. We shall shortly witness some of the wealthiest and most privileged of capitalist America decrying inequality and unfairness from the 18th hole in Hawaii, the Malibu gated estate, and the Beacon Hill mansion. And the faux populism will probably work, at least if 2008 and 2012 are any indications.
It is easy to chart the evolution of the wealthy progressive elite from the occasional limousine liberal of the 1950s and 1960s to the now dominant hierarchy of the Democratic Party.
The hysteria over Duck Dynasty reminds us that cable TV is currently inundated with working-class, white-guy reality shows. Top-drawing, relatively low-cost realities showcase gold miners, oil drillers, hunters, locomotive drivers, off-the-grid backwoods eccentrics, fishermen, crabmen, truck drivers, ax men, moonshiners, or the new generation of Beverly Hillbillies. The list of the particular subspecies of the muscular classes is endless.
These shows share a few common themes. They do not take place in an office, where most Americans work. They are not Kardashian psychodramas about plastic surgery gone bad, or a Gucci purse that underwhelmed the latte bunch in Brentwood. The men appear a bit beefier, perhaps stronger, but not necessarily more fit Continue reading “Good Ol’ Boy, Inc.”→
I woke up one morning not long ago, and noticed that the world that I was born into no longer exists. It was as if I had once lived in Republican Italy, took a nap, and awoke to the Roman Empire, AD 200.
Let me explain. All the farms in these environs that I grew up with — 40-80 acres with a farmhouse and family — have simply vanished.
Where did they go?
I suppose when I meet someone with 5,000 acres that I am supposed to think that spread represents the old, and now recombined, 100 50-acre farms under new management. Yet where did the 100 farm households go — and what replaced them?
When I ride around the rural landscape, I see the old skeletons of farmhouses; but they are mostly rented to farm workers. Are the social circumstances of renting a house and working on a 5,000-acre farm different from 100 agrarian households doing it — in terms of local PTA, Little League, the regional hospital board, or city council?
I leave it to you to decide. I can attest only that in terms of agricultural productivity, today’s 8,000-acre almond operations look far more efficient, up to date, and savvy than what 100 80-acre almond orchards used to seem like: old barn, clunky tractors in the yard, kids out in the orchard not up on the latest scientific approaches to fertilization, mom doing the books in a way the computerized corporate whiz kid would laugh at, tight-fisted gramps hobbling about looking for loose tire-popping nails in the alleyway while giving sermons about avoiding a mortgage. Continue reading “The World of the Coliseum”→
Conservatives keep blaring, “Obama lied!” over the president’s serial untruths about the Affordable Care Act. Even liberal pundits now talk of the president’s “misspeaking,” or even of his “misleading” statements and only so-so corrections.
But so what?
Obama is an iconic figure who will survive even the latest scandal of flatly misleading the American people, just as he was not harmed much by being less than honest about Benghazi, the AP monitoring, and the IRS and NSA scandals.
Obama has proved disingenuous, without suffering many consequences, for much of his tenure — raising taxes when he said he would not; vastly increasing the national debt when he said he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term; promising lower unemployment when in fact he has presided over a jobless rate of 7 percent or more for every month of his administration; bragging about new gas and oil production, which actually came on private land despite, not because of, his efforts; claiming credit for reducing a deficit that fell only because of the sequestration that he fought, and only because his previous deficits were so staggering that they were not sustainable.
Yet if public reactions to these past scandals are any benchmark, Obama will survive the Obamacare fiasco as well. In two or three months, he will no doubt return to a near-50-percent approval rating in the polls. Almost half of America is invested in his landmark personal profile, or welcomes the vast increase in federal redistributive payouts and equates it with the Obama ideology and presidency. The media saw Obama the icon as reaffirmation of their own guilt-free liberalism and therefore became deductive rather than empirical. Continue reading “Obama’s Fallout for the Left”→
The continuing attention devoted to the blunders, incompetence, and lies surrounding the Obamacare rollout is much deserved. But we shouldn’t forget that the President’s health-care monstrosity is merely the latest and biggest of scores of government entitlement programs suffering from the same flawed progressive assumption––that government “experts” armed with coercive power alone can solve problems better left to the states, civil society, and the free market. In reality, such programs relentlessly metastasize, increasing as well fraud, waste, abuse, and costs.
One such program is SNAP, the kinder and gentler name for what we used to call food stamps. Apparently the old coupons were too hurtful, so they have been replaced by the Electronic Benefits Transfer card that looks like a debit or credit card. Over the last decade, SNAP recipients have increased from 21 million to 47 million, 1 in 7 Americans. But benefits paid out have nearly quadrupled from $21 billion to $75 billion. Continue reading “Don’t Forget the Other Entitlement Monsters”→
The deficit this year may fall to below $700 billion, but that is still huge at a time of a record near $17 trillion in debt, and comes despite a supposedly recovering economy and more revenue, despite recent sequestration cuts, despite dramatic gains in U.S. domestic energy production, despite the return of the Clinton-era tax hikes to the top brackets, and despite the end of the war in Iraq and the wind down in Afghanistan.
Wars, tax cuts on the wealthy, and out-of-control defense spending were all in the past variously cited as causing these huge deficits. In fact, the more compelling causes were always chronically slow economic growth, out-of-control federal spending, and the exemption of nearly half of America from paying any income tax at all.