Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Howard Dean: A Democrat to the Confederate Hilt

In his Nov. 13 Wall St. Journal essay
“Yo, Howard!”
Shelby Steele explains how Howard Dean’s politically incorrect appeal to “guys with Confederate flags in their pick-up trucks” did not reflect repressed white racism but rather the logical outcome of identity politics.

Simply put, Dean spoke as a modern-day Democrat. As such, he is running for the presidential nomination of a party that has long preached and practiced a politics of division. This politicking disguises itself as a politics of inclusion by insisting that every citizen identify himself as part of this or that group as the prerequisite for certain entitlements from the federal government. Forget your rights as an individual; check the appropriate box, find your place in the corresponding line, and wait your turn to receive whatever “your” government has decided people of your ilk deserve.

An excerpt from Steele:

White racism, black separatism, Islamic extremism and Nazism are all atavistic identities gone too far, gone to where one’s superiority is confirmed only by the denigration and even annihilation of an enemy. Whenever power is pursued in the name of an atavism -- my blackness, your whiteness, his Catholicism, her gender -- enemies arise and our democracy of individuals is injured.

As our long and tragic American history has demonstrated, wedding group identity and political power subverts the twin pillars of self-government: namely, human equality and government by the consent of the governed. Groups have no rights by nature and therefore should have none politically. The rights of the individual are the only rights that government should protect. Given their equal possession by each citizen, they should be protected no more and no less for each individual.

Steele’s delivers the knockout punch in the essay’s closing lines:

But if Mr. Dean shouldn’t act this way, why does modern liberalism encourage minorities to? Today, only the strictures against a white racial identity keep us at all civilized around race. Only whites are asked to put their race aside and behave as citizens. Our best hope is the fact that there are many minorities who want to live as citizens too.

Discussions - 1 Comment

Yes, Shelby Steele has said the equivalent of what Lincoln said in the debates with Douglas, viz., if the race is the basis for justice, then naturally I will choose the race to which I belong. I have noticed this trend toward tribalism for quite a long while. When Ric Williams and I tried to convince social science instructors at a conference in 1987 to return to the foundations of American politics, they were scandalized. They knew damned well that there was nothing but group rights or tribes. We certainly live in "interesting times."

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