The UnDemocratic Party?
An Anti-Imperialist Considers this Bizarre Presidential Election, and the American Compact
In 2016, for the first time in my life, I didn’t vote for president. Oh, I did go to the polls like a good democrat and Democrat, just as I have every four years since I pulled the lever for George McGovern in 1972, to vote on the other offices. But I just couldn’t support either candidate for president. Right now, I’m one of the few remaining undecideds during this election campaign in a time of troubles that defies fiction – pandemic, mass protest, revolutionary violence with little state resistance, the capture of both major parties by their extremes, and even a president with coronavirus.
Voting is in my blood. Despite always living where the electoral votes are a foregone conclusion, from my parents’ example and exhortations I’ve always accepted the privilege, duty, and agonizing of voting as if the decision rested with me. My father, Clinton Rossiter, was a cheerleading historian of the American founding and an optimistic political scientist of the American present. My mother, Mary Ellen Rossiter, would spend the entire four years for each cycle pondering her vote. She would read and discuss, and then place her bets. In 2008 I had to treat her to a dream weekend of concerts and dinners in New York when Barack Obama came out of nowhere to knock off Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
(I confess my sin: even though I’ve held local office myself, I’ve never been interested in races below the federal level. When I show up at the polls, I’m usually clueless and disinterested about them. City Council? Town Supervisor? School Board? Statehouse? It just feels like these offices deal with First World problems that are constrained by federal choices.)
My life and work have been devoted to ending the American empire that replaced the European ones after World War II as the enforcer of Western interests in the formerly-colonized world. Until this year I’ve always voted primarily on foreign policy grounds. In 2016, Hillary Clinton was too proven and dangerous an imperialist for me to support, and Donald Trump was, well, Donald Trump of Wrestlemania. As it turned out, Trump was actually far less warlike than Clinton. Although he never questions the alliances with dictators that sustain the American empire, his gut instinct against “endless wars” led him to turn down numerous misguided proposals by his generals and national security advisers.
Voting for Clinton, for me, would have been like someone in the Viet Nam anti-war movement voting for any of the three pro-war candidates in 1968, Humphrey, Nixon, or Wallace. Or like the (few) enfranchised Negroes in Birmingham, Alabama, voting for the “moderate” segregationist Albert Boutwell against the aggressive police commissioner Bull Connor in 1963. (Some Negroes in Birmingham did back Boutwell, which he believed gave him the victory. Called “just a dignified Bull Connor” by civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth, he immediately tossed Martin Luther King Jr. into the jail where he wrote his famed “Why We Can’t Wait” letter to whites like, well, Boutwell.)
In my 12 elections, starting with George McGovern in 1972, 2016 was the fourth time I didn’t vote for the Democrat. So I’m still batting .667:
· In 1980 I voted for Independent John Anderson, because Jimmy Carter had resolved his schizophrenic choices of moderate Cyrus Vance as Secretary of State and Cold Warrior Zbigniew Brzezinski as National Security Advisor in favor of the Zbig-boy. That led to a devastating war in the Ogaden in Ethiopia and a “Rapid Deployment Force” base agreement with the Somali dictator that has brought 40 years of chaos and suffering. Anderson took seven percent of the popular vote, but did not appear to affect the big Reagan victory.
· In 1996 I voted for Republican Bob Dole, because Bill Clinton had abandoned our party, “triangulating” toward the Republicans after their 1994 capture of both House and Senate. Scared to confront a Pentagon that was actually begging for his leadership, Clinton became a full-time operative of the hawkish Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC had pushed war upon war on the developing countries as it tried to make up for our supposed global retreat after being beaten in Viet Nam. Dole was his own man, a combat veteran like Eisenhower with the same gimlet eye about both the military establishment and politicians who ignore the cost and unpredictability of war. He was unlikely to have his dog wagged, in the parlance of the day, into an excellent DLC lethal adventure.
· In 2000 I voted for the Green, Ralph Nader. Nader was a non-interventionist whose platform called for ending U.S. support for dictators, which was the core of the Arms Trade Code of Conduct I had spent the 1990’s promoting. Gore was even worse than Clinton on neocolonial wars. He was a Dixiecrat in the Senate when I worked in Congress in the 1980’s and he constantly undercut our efforts to end Central American civil wars and block new Pentagon nuclear weapons programs.
I breathed a sigh of relief when Joe Biden became the “presumptive nominee.” I’d donated to anti-imperialist Tulsi Gabbard, and later voted for her in our primary, but Joe is no Hillary-style, or even Barack-style, global warrior. In the parlance of a book I wrote on foreign policy called The Turkey and the Eagle (the stay-at-home Wild Turkey being Benjamin Franklin’s choice for our national symbol, instead of the wide-ranging, thieving Eagle), Biden has been a Soft Eagle, happy to have our empire but not willing to destroy countries in it to save them, as was said and done about villages and a country in Viet Nam.
I’d worked with Senator Biden in the 1990’s on the Code of Conduct legislation that would have banned arms sales to dictators, and as a congressional staffer I met with him in Pakistan in the 2000’s as part of an effort to find a way out of Afghanistan. From both temperament and experience, he was by far the most cautious of all the senior officials in the Obama administration about interventions and alliances, and their unintended consequences. My vote was pretty clear.
But then, this spring and summer, the craziness of the true Left that always bubbles on the fringe of the Democratic Party took it over, and I had to reconsider my presidential choice. I know that Left well, because it has been my home as an anti-imperialist for over 50 years. While I’ve appreciated the Left for its foreign policy, I’ve always feared it for its domestic policy, which is fundamentally Marxist and Leninist.
Marxist means, in this context, opposition to capitalism, one of the two key tenets of the American experiment. You can dress it up and call it Socialism, but the Left’s goal is still to control and make value judgments about people’s economic activity – Marx’s state control of “the means of production.”
Leninist means opposition to the other key American tenet, democracy. That’s a hard word to define, but what I mean by it here is respect for others and their opinions, and acceptance of the choices made in elections and then of the laws the chosen ones make within our constitutional framework. The Left’s program is truly one man, one vote, one time, as the European colonialists said to justify their opposition to African liberation – Lenin’s “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
Since the day in 1969 when I came out of an anti-war planning meeting at the University of Chicago and faced a group of Weathermen and Women’s Liberation Movement activists screaming out Fidel Castro’s “Up Against the Wall,” I’ve known that if the Left ever took power, I’d be among the first they’d put there and execute. The irony was not lost on me when the Weathermen avoided prison for their 1970’s terrorist bombing campaign because the courts they would eliminate ruled that the government had violated the constitutional rights they would eliminate.
And the consensus at the staff meetings at a leftist Institute for Policy Studies where I was a foreign policy fellow over a period of 23 years was just as Marxist and Leninist as Chicago, 1969. In 1991 the staff justified riots and looting in the Mount Pleasant and Adams-Morgan – “shopping” expeditions piggybacked onto protests over a black police officer defending herself from a knife-wielding Hispanic man – as righteous acts of liberation. In 2011 the offices reeked of the Occupy Wall Street crowd that had been free tenants during various shower-free protests. By 2014 I’d been fired for writing about the well-known reality that Africa needs fossil-fueled electricity to raise life expectancy.
The Democratic Party for whom I ran for Congress in 1998 was the party of regulated capitalism, broad-based economic growth, opportunity for the working man and woman, tolerance of diverse opinion, freedom of speech, minority rights, voting rights, and the rule of law. But the party has kowtowed rather than challenged its “progressive” Left wing for too long, and now has been captured by it. As Scott Hibbard has written, the Republican Party similarly flirted with, and then was captured by, the religious Right in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Then it went even farther right to accommodate the Tea Party, well before Donald Trump’s rise to power.
The Democratic Party now promotes “Green” economic stagnation, censors dissenting speech from the public forum, and lets a mob decide policy with violence or threats. It practices identity politics that undercut the education policies and social narrative that could uplift people in high-poverty neighborhoods, and empowers the Marxist-Leninist leadership of Black Lives Matter to demonize and defund the police who protect them.
Putting Democrats in control of House, Senate, and Presidency is a hell of gamble on Joe Biden’s inclination as president to ignore the promises he has made to the Left as a candidate. Divided government feels a lot safer than united rule by today’s Democratic leaders. The Supreme Court will be conservative, of course, but it has shown itself recently to be more of a constitutional barrier to dubious executive orders arising from divided government than to laws emanating from a united one.
Just What Is on the Ballot?
Vice President Biden said in his acceptance speech that this November, “Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot.” He is right.
Being the “Voice of the People, the leading formulator and expounder of public opinion,” my father wrote way back in 1957 in The American Presidency, is one of the “additional limbs grafted onto the original trunk” of constitutionally-defined presidential duties. While the president “acts as political leader for some, he serves as moral spokesman for all.” In this function, he is “the American people’s one authentic trumpet.”
Every American should want their president to display personally the values Biden says are on the ballot. They do define, as he continued, “Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be.” But when he says that, “the choice could not be clearer,” he runs up against the values now being displayed by our party. For me, the choice is now murky:
Energy policy: To keep the Bernie Sanders wing happy, Biden agreed to ban 80 percent of American energy, which would force reliance on expensive and unreliable wind and solar power. This “Green New Deal,” which would devastate our economy and health, is a kooky non-solution to a future problem that only exists in computer models that are “tuned” to create it.
Emissions of carbon dioxide from the world’s fossil fueled-energy add between two and three parts per million to the atmosphere every year. At this rate it would take about 200 years for levels of this non-polluting plant and plankton food to double to eight percent of one percent of the atmosphere, adding about a degree Celsius of warming to the global average temperature. That’s the same amount that’s been added since 1900 (largely naturally, as the much-cited but rarely-read reports of the UN climate body quietly admit) with no statistically-significant increase in rates of extreme weather or sea-level rise.
Even worse, through its little-known carbon colonialism, the Green New Deal will hamper efforts to reduce poverty around the world. Only a third of Africans have access to electricity, and as a result life expectancy is 15 years below the global average. For a variety of technical reasons, coal will remain a crucial part of Africa’s electrification. Under Biden, African governments will be denied U.S. and World Bank funding for even modern, pollution-eliminating coal-fired electricity plants, and have to pay punishing penalties on their exports to America when China builds them anyway, without pollution controls. Under Trump, they’ll have a fighting chance.
Freedom of Speech and the Cancel Culture: About 20 years ago, the Left stopped promoting debates and started pushing political correctness – essentially, censorship. This was a watershed in American history. Previously, the Left believed it could win an open debate, and so always invited opponents to, for example, Viet Nam War “teach-ins.” The duel narrative of climate catastrophe and easy “renewable” energy solutions provided the test case for this new approach. After a ten-year, well-organized campaign led to the acquiescence of the left-leaning media, skeptics of this fanciful narrative were transformed into “deniers” of realities as certain as the Holocaust.
Scientists, engineers, and economists who are skeptical about even the wildest of claims in this complex set of topics are now banned from the public forum because of threats to boycott advertisers in scholarly, general, and social media, and to block grants to universities and non-profit scientific and advocacy groups. Democrats in Congress have turned “climate” hearings into spectacles in which witnesses are harassed with slanderous speeches that never turn into a question they are allowed to answer. And they pressure social media and tech firms to ban dissenting views on climate science and energy economics from their platforms and the conferences they sponsor.
The success of the great climate shout-down encouraged campus-disrupting protests on other trendy issues. Students pushed universities to promote identity policies and unbalanced codes on hate speech and sexual allegations that effectively criminalized differences of opinion and manners. Now, the cancel culture has seeped into society as a whole. Anybody outside the progressive consensus on any issue knows they can become a target, not just professionally and financially, but physically – whether at home, at a restaurant, or on the street in a MAGA cap.
For all of Trump’s tenure, the Democratic Party has adhered to the philosophy emblazoned on leftists’ lawn signs: RESIST. As a member of the last real American resistance, the draft resistance during the invasion of Viet Nam, and a veteran of necessary congressional compromises on other fundamental foreign policy disputes, I disagree wholeheartedly. Resistance, rather than compromise, is appropriate only when you reject the governing compact, when you are a rebel, like in an occupied or criminal country. As my father wrote in Parties and Politics in America in 1960:
No America without democracy, no democracy without politics, no politics without parties, no parties without compromise and moderation…All but the first of these are assumptions with which many Americans find it hard to live.
Mob Rule: Even more troubling is the Democratic Party’s acceptance of policy-making by mob. There have been violent assaults on property and police in many Democratic-run cities, and in only a few cases have there been arrests, bail to make them stick, and trials to force plea deals with actual punishment. So, the mob rages on, taking away power from elected officials and just tearing statues down themselves.
It’s one thing to be so ignorant of American history that you use your elected authority, as DC mayor Muriel Bowser recently proposed, to retitle a school named after Andrew Jackson. It’s quite another to take it upon yourself to throw ropes around his statue and try to tear it down, as the mob in Lafayette Park did in a Black Lives Matter protest.
Yes, as was typical for presidents until the Civil War, Jackson was a slave-owner and an implementer of federal legislation to move Indian tribes west of the Mississippi as a flood of Americans poured onto Indian land, and their farming needs proved irreconcilable with Indian hunting needs. But he was a brilliant general in the Creek wars in Alabama in 1813 and 1814, and against the British in New Orleans in 1815. Even more heroically, in the 1832 “nullification” crisis he made secession-minded South Carolina back down, stating that “disunion, by armed force, is treason. Are you ready to incur the guilt?”
Knowing Jackson’s reputation as a duelist and his military preparations for the day secession was to take effect, South Carolina’s legislature chose discretion over valor. About the president’s threat to hang the first secessionist he could lay his hands on from the first tree he could find, one senator cautioned that, “When Jackson starts talking about hanging, they can begin to look out for ropes.” A Union-preserving president needs to be studied, not erased.
Another troubling, if initially non-violent, form of mob rule over the rule of law is the Democrats’ National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Bills have passed in 16 states that commit their electoral votes to the winner not of the state vote but of the national vote – but only after states with a majority of electoral votes have signed on. This threat to amend the Constitution without meeting an amendment’s high bar of two-thirds of both Houses and three-fourths of state legislatures is likely to be found unconstitutional if ever tested, and certain to cause chaos if ever used. More importantly, it shows contempt for the rule of law like another cute Democratic Party evasion, the DC statehood bill that would gut the constitutional role of the federal district.
Identity politics and black youth: Affirmative action after intense group-based discrimination is an important short-term, but dangerous long-term, solution. For 55 years the United States has provided reparations to help African-Americans catch up from slavery and segregation. The reparations come in separate tranches for the higher and lower economic classes. The higher-income group gets preferential admission to colleges and professional jobs, and financing and contracts for businesses. The lower-income group gets the fruits of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty: Visiting Nurses in and after pregnancy, Head Start for early childhood support, federal funding for K-12 and college, food assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, and cash support.
More importantly, the federal and then state governments promoted a societal recognition of the justice of equal treatment and equal opportunity, and a societal stigma against overt discrimination. These are now the norm in American society. However, there continues to be a difference of opinion about the very dispute that split the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. Martin Luther King’s goal of American integration, which held that people should be seen primarily as individuals, is still facing off with his black critics’ goal of Black Power separatism, which held that people should be seen primarily as members of ethnic groups.
The eventual resolution of this dispute is central to the progress of Americans whose lineage goes back to slavery. And it is mostly a dispute arising from slavery, not blackness. For all the challenges they may face, black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are already among the highest-achieving groups in America.
The repairing of our social order has brought some progress, particularly in strengthening the middle class, and some regression, particularly in crime and schools. The cause of the nihilistic, work and success-averse “post-traumatic slave syndrome” that I observed among my students when I taught in segregated high-poverty high schools recently was identified by sociologist and NACCP founder W. E. B. DuBois over 100 years ago, and affirmed by African-American writers and leaders ever since. PTSS arises from the historical burden of the alienation and resistance that came from three centuries of brutal, degrading violence, the great betrayal of America’s founding principles that was meted out or accepted by every white person in America.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, Newton posited, and it is just as true in oppression as in physics. We are seeing that reality today, in the Black Lives Matter movement. “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time,” said James Baldwin in 1961. Whether it’s rage or outrage, despair or sadness, the outpouring of broad-based black protest to recent police killings is a reminder that the pendulum is still swinging back. Each of the killings is a complex stew of circumstances and justifications, but the imagery is instinctively unmistakable to black America. President Lincoln hoped that the “mystic chords of memory” would bind white Americans together to eschew civil war, but in this case they will necessarily, for generations, drive us apart.
A black fragility to any insult to person or life that is conceivably based on race is not just commendable, unavoidable historical loyalty, but also a barrier to group progress. I come to this conclusion not from theory, but from being exposed to its reality as a teacher. Identity politics reinforces victimhood, the belief that your legal troubles or your lack of success in various situations and endeavors are pre-ordained, and due to the actions of others rather than yourself. Focusing on identity rather than opportunity can be self-defeating.
This point was made by Booker T. Washington in his 1900’s debates with DuBois on whether Negro advancement would come more from economics or politics. More recently it was made by Coleman Hughes in his duel of testimonies in 2019 with Ta-Nehesi Coates on reparations to black Americans for slavery.
When he and his party swept the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela cautioned his jubilant African countrymen, who had suffered an equally brutal and heritage but had their strong national (tribal) identity to see them through: “You are not free. You are free to be free.” Opportunity was theirs, he was saying, not guaranteed success. This is the opposite of the message that the Left has been delivering to black youth for years, in anti-bias and anti-racism broadsides.
Mandela, by the way, immediately dumped the Marxist platform of the African National Congress. He preserved capitalism and the wealth it had generated for whites under apartheid, and was at pains to keep white South Africans in the country, with their capital and their modern work and investment ethics. He advocated, unpopularly with many African and Coloured citizens, for whites to be accepted whole-heartedly as South Africans, and not be seen as criminals because of past political evils.
As Martin Luther King said, “hate is too great a burden to bear,” particularly for a people who would have to bear it on their way to freedom. The initiator of King’s Montgomery bus boycott, Alabama State English professor Jo Ann Robinson, said it well: “Hate does more harm to the hater than to the hated.” And she lived that belief, in her firm but patient dignity and religiously-rooted activism. Shakespeare warns us that: “To mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the next way to draw new mischief on.” And he offers a remedy: “The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief. He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.”
The health “black tax” of PTSS is real, showing up in anxiety-induced heart disease and infant mortality rates that far exceed those expected from economic differences. But it is currently a self-imposed tax. The success of black immigrants proves that. Coming from all-black cultures, with the usual mix of achievers and sloths, they haven’t grown up thinking of themselves as “black” versus the normative, historically-oppressive white. They seize America’s incredible opportunities, compared to those in their lands of origin, without reservation.
Focusing on parentage rather than personal achievement is a racialist throwback. It cries out for someone to do something for you. The focus should be on what you can control: your efforts. Telling young black Americans that the solution does not lie in their own actions has tragic consequences.
In the schools where I taught there was a constant undertone of blaming every disappointment on racism rather than one’s own work ethic. Humorously, one girl shouted down a boy who got his paper back with a poor grade and accused me of picking on him because he was black: “Fool, we all black, and we didn’t get an F! You just never come to class.” The entire class, including the boy, cracked up.
Consider this recent claim by track star Keturah Orji, which is foundational to the narrative that every decision made about a black person by a person in authority is based on race, and not the general rules for all. In an interview in Track and Field News (“The Bible of the Sport”), she said: “The first time I actually felt systemic racism was when I was suspended my senior year (for refusing to leave her coach’s office when another teacher told her she couldn’t stay there unsupervised)….I realized this is actually that people didn’t hear us because of our skin…She claimed (their interaction) was intimidation, harassment, bullying, and I’m 5’ 5”, there’s nothing scary about me.”’ Being black and short, in this approach, means a free pass from the rules and any truculence in following them.
Of course race is always present in America. In retrospective interviews about the integrated Stax record label in 1960’s Memphis, all the white staff and musicians say literally the same line: “We never saw color.” All the blacks wince when they hear this, and say, no, you had to see color in that time. Even integrationists should see color, and appreciate the different challenges people face. However, color shouldn’t determine decisions. When running non-governmental groups I followed pro football’s “Rooney Rule” of diverse hiring pools, not necessarily diverse outcomes. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is backing a referendum in November to reverse California’s ban on affirmative action, and again allow ethnicity to play a role in admission to elite state universities.
The public school establishment, essentially a Democratic Party apparatus, has replaced a national narrative of opportunity with a national narrative of victimhood. If the system is rigged against you, and everybody in it is a white supremacist, there’s little point in trying -- especially when they keep passing you anyway.
A training flyer over the Xerox machine in the teachers’ lounge at one of my schools identified teachers’ racist lack of belief in our black students as the reason they don’t succeed. Segregating the poorest, most challenged families into their own schools? Passing students from first grade up who don’t attend or do the work? Nah – it’s the racist teachers who don’t believe in them that keep them from gaining the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college. A conservative is a liberal who had to sit through anti-bias training. At lease you don’t have to any more in the federal government. “I ended it because it’s racist,” explained President Trump. He’s right.
The New York Times’ ahistorical “1619” project, which dates America’s founding not in 1776, but in the year the first slaves arrived in Virginia, is a logical consequence of the Democratic Party’s surrender to racialism. Like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, 1619 criticizes American history for being celebratory and exaggerated and loose with the facts. True enough, but then it doubles down on these faults. As in most of its political reporting these days, the Times has become a tendentious propaganda arm of the Democratic Party.
Historical fact contradicts 1619’s whoppers, like the claim that the Revolution was caused by British attempts to end slavery: “Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” No, British moves to free slaves of rebels, not Tories, for military purposes only came after the revolt, which had been brewing for years because of British control of taxes and Appalachian lands. Other claims are discussed here by a group of historians.
The entire 1619 project is framed under this banner: “Our democracy’s ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” This takes a complex historical issue and twists it into a simple rhetorical fact. You could just as well say that the ideals were true, and in need of perfecting in practice, something that Americans of many ethnicities have promoted.
The project director, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who felt degraded by her father flying the American flag and believes that, “No matter how hard he worked, he never got ahead,” has now admitted that 1619 “never intended to be a history.” Rather, she says, it is an “argument…to control the national narrative…the nation’s shared memory of itself.” The New York Times even took down from its project website its original claim that 1619, and not 1776, was the true founding date of America, and edited its founding statement to be less categorical, without noting these corrections. I hope all this keeps 1619 from being presented without countervailing perspectives in schools.
Historical memory is a crucial part of life. I run a website focused on how America presents its empire to itself, and I wrote a book on the Viet Nam war largely to counter our thundering silence about its meaning. I applaud Langston Hughes’ explanation that “America never was America for me,” and Obama preacher James Wright’s exhortation, “Not God bless, America; God damn America…for treating her citizens as less than human.” These explain the reality of black life, the reality of PTSS, that we all need to understand.
I believe that school children should know George Washington’s slave-owning record before they cut out shapes of cherry trees on his birthday, and that Veterans’ Day celebrations should include a discussion of the wars they fought, and whether they were fought for freedom and protection of our citizens, as incessantly claimed, or for imperial expansion. But the facts have to be accurate. So far, my party hasn’t shown the temerity to make that the case.
The Revolutionary Agenda of Black Lives Matter: There are two parts to the narrative promoted by the trio of self-described “trained Marxists” who created and lead Black Lives Matter. Eric Mann, an unrepentant survivor of the 1970’s terrorist group, the Weathermen, who also fixated on “the pigs” and even tried to murder them, was BLM leader Patrisse Cullors’ “mentor.”
The first part of the BLM narrative is that a fundamentally racist country is the key barrier to black progress. The second part is that black people suffer more than other ethnic groups from wanton police violence and prejudiced legal punishment.
The first claim, as discussed above, is an arguable conclusion, and is based on a politicized and sometimes dubious chain of assumptions. The second claim is a blatant falsehood that is promoted as part of the BLM leadership’s revolutionary agenda. BLM has not formally announced, as the Weathermen did, that they are seeking to overthrow our method of government in favor of a communist dictatorship, but once the police are “defunded” and the prisons are emptied, it will obviously be a lot easier to seize power.
A higher share of blacks than whites are killed by police. While African-Americans are 12 percent of the country, they account for a quarter of the 1,000 annual police killings. However, detailed analysis of police shootings show “no racial differences” in the use of deadly force against suspects. How can this be? Of course, the key is, how does one become a suspect? Mostly by threatening police with a weapon.
As has probably been the case since DuBois worried about this “vast problem” in 1899, blacks commit far more crimes per-capita than other ethnic groups, and so find themselves in armed confrontations with police more often, per-capita. But once in an armed confrontation with police, they are no more at risk of being shot.
Black parents famously have “the talk” with their children about not resisting arrest, but anybody who has spent time with poor black youth knows the “attitude” that displaces “the talk,” and leads to dangerous escalation in interactions with police. After centuries of having to accept violent degradation, African-Americans are now programmed not to back down when told what to do by a cop. They are as culturally incapable of backing down as the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert was when he wrote about the communists who collaborated with the Soviet Union: “Do not forgive – truly it is not in your power to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn.” And police simply don’t back down, to anybody, of any color.
Breonna Taylor was killed in Louisville by police as they returned fire at her boyfriend. When the grand jury declined to charge them for her death, her lawyer said that the decision endorsed the “genocide of persons of color by white police officers.” LeBron James, the star of the trendily politically-correct National Basketball Association, Tweeted: “The most DISRESPECTED person on earth is THE BLACK WOMAN!”
About 7,500 black Americans are killed each year, half of all homicides. Only three percent are killed by police, while 90 percent are killed by other black Americans. Because armed victims account for between 92 to 99 percent of police shootings (depending on the definition of armed, such as toy guns that the police believed were real), between 99.7 and 99.9 percent of blacks killed are NOT killed by police facing unarmed people. If there is a genocide, if there is a world-leading disrespect, it’s coming from someone other than the police.
In their push to defund police and release prisoners, the BLM leaders are abetted by Democrats, including, ironically, the son and adopted son of four murderous Weathermen, the newly-elected district attorney of San Francisco. An agent of the “progressive” movement in judicial reform, Chesa Boudin ended cash bail and promises to arrest ICE agents rather than let them seize criminals who are in the country illegally.
Claims of a “new Jim Crow” regime that puts black people in prison for political reasons are false. For a variety of complex and still unproven reasons, rates of violent crime tripled from 1960 to 1980. As a result, prison populations doubled, and then crime rates returned to their former level. African-Americans committed crimes at a higher rate than other ethnic groups, and so we imprisoned at higher rates.
The Election and the Future of America
I agreed with Ronald Reagan on only one thing when I worked in Congress in the 1980’s: in this country’s politics, we must be opponents, and not enemies. It’s getting harder to hold onto that belief. The recent craziness has revealed that a broad swath of the Left considers the rules of democracy passé, and supports censorship and cancelling the opinions, and indeed the livelihoods, of others. They’ve made it clear that they think opponents are enemies.
Seeing other Americans as aliens, representing an alien loyalty, is a recipe for civil war and totalitarianism. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg wisely said: “You can’t love a country if you hate half of the people in it.” Well, I don’t hate my compatriots who want to silence rather than debate me, but it’s becoming increasingly hard not to see them as enemies of our form of government, in both letter and spirit. However, I still believe in accepting and respecting the results of elections, and the laws that those elected then pass.
I wanted this election to be about the end to endless wars versus the beginnings of new ones. But it’s about something even more fundamental now: our approach to each other. I don’t know which party’s candidate I’ll support in November -- actually October, when, COVID-fearful as I am, I'll send my mail-in ballot. But I do know that the election won’t resolve anything.
As in Africa, to reverse Clausewitz, politics has become an extension of war by other means. The Left will become a harder Left, the Right will become a harder Right, and the concentration of like-minded voters by choice and design will mean that Congress will have far less moderates in the middle than our share of the population deserves. But, pace Yeats, the centre can still hold in our widening gyre. We have to.
* * *