Lost & Livid: The Broad, the Narrow & the Seduction of Ideology – Pt. 8

Note: This post uses religious symbolism for secular purposes. It is not a tool of proselytization.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

President Obama himself rightly pointed out that Trump is a symptom, not a cause. Obama shrewdly remarked that Trump was simply “capitalizing on resentments that politicians had been stoking for years to get ahead.” In 2004, Obama addressed the Democratic National convention.

Sadly, the actions of left indicate that they feel differently, nearly fifteen years later. Rudy Giuliani made a similar remark at the 2016 Republican National Convention and was blasted by liberal commentators for allegedly undermining the efforts of social activist groups, like Black Lives Matter

Obama was right. Trump is a pestilent boil on the syphilitic genitalia of American democracy. While he’s definitely the most vile sore on America’s diseased metaphorical vulva, he’s just one of many. The germ that catalyzed the infection is older than Trump. If Trump were assassinated, another putrid sore would take his place. America needs to deal with the root illness, not the rash. The infection actually began when Dr. King’s civil philosophy took root in the soul of America.

An obstacle to the narrow path is overcorrection. Too often, when humans recognize the error of their ways, they simply trade one broad road for another, instead of opting for the narrow path. Slight modifications in trajectory yield vastly different outcomes; drastic shifts aren’t always needed to make substantive changes in end results. Overcorrection has become somewhat of a unnecessary checkpoint on the road to optimal societal end results.

Dr. King’s fundamental principle was that no one’s value, opinion, morality, intelligence, background, religion, political affiliation, income level, criminality or any other quality should be judged or pre-determined based on his or her immutable characteristics. Dr. King wanted people to judge each other based on their actions and words, because character is manifested through behavior, and not through skin color, sexuality, gender, height, penise girth or cup size. This philosophy effectively crowned individuality as the appropriate social measure that humans should use when constructing and evaluating their peers’ identities. Additionally, Dr. King discouraged the use of a person’s group identity (race, sex, sexuality, etc.) when trying to develop an internal schema for that person’s specific identity. Dr. King lived in a time when blacks’ individual identities were completely determined by their group membership, because whites weren’t looking at the individual. Instead, whites perversely focused on blacks’ immutable characteristics and utilized those superficials qualities to construct internal schemas of their black peers’ respective identities. Because whites made no efforts to discover the individual qualities of individual blacks, they viewed every black American the same, which made prejudice and bigotry all too easy. 

The appropriate correction of American societal trajectory would have been to adopt Dr. King’s transcendent philosophy and to encourage citizens to judge their peers based on their individual, non-immutable qualities and behavior, and not on their immutable characteristics or group identities. John Rawl’s 1971 landmark A Theory of Justice eloquently echoed King’s beliefs. Rawls argued that individuals should look at the world through a ‘veil of ignorance,’ meaning that peoples’ immutable characteristics should not be a variable considered when formulating basic principles of society; put another way, we should be blind to group identities. There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that there is an extremely vocal leftist minority, which controls most of the media and universities, that advocates for the sin of overcorrection. This overcorrection took the form of identity politics, the first post-Dr. King ‘golden calf.’

The good news is that the majority of Americans agree that the ‘veil of ignorance’ is the appropriate societal course of action and believe that identity politics is not ideal. Rasmussen Reports, a nonpartisan public opinion polling organization, conducted a June 2018 survey that highlighted Americans’ stances on identity politics. 68 percent of Americans believe that ‘political correctness,’ an odious side effect of identity politics, is a problem. 51 percent of all voters and 44 percent of Democrats believe that the Democratic party is negatively “pickled in identity politics and victimology” while only 23 percent of Democrats disagree with that statement. Most republicans and unaffiliated voters also agree with that statement. Meanwhile, 78 percent of all voters believe that politicians are more interested in using identity politics to divide citizens than to unite them and only 11 percent of voters believe that statement to be false. The division of identity politics is not popular but the media, largely left-learning, continues to only describe the world in terms of group identities.

It’s hardly shocking that identity politics is viewed negatively. Identity politics implicitly advocates that individuals should be judged by their peers based on their immutable characteristics. This philosophy is identical to that of Dr. King’s racist political opponents, with one difference: the hierarchy of prejudice becomes inverted in the identitarian cosmology. The moment, long after Dr. King’s death, when the hierarchy of racial prejudice became inverted (when it should have been smashed), is the moment that the soul of America became infected with a new breed of racial animus. The inversion of the hierarchy meant that minorities were placed at the top of the hierarchy and whites were sent to the lower rungs, while straight white Christian males made up the hierarchy’s nadir. Over the last quarter of the twentieth century, the left began relying on ‘doublespeak’ language to describe this new hierarchy. ‘Privileged’ was code for evil and tyrannical, while ‘oppressed’ was code for virtuous and good. The reason that identity politics is inherently divisive is that if someone labels themselves or others as ‘oppressed,’ it means that they will, by default, view the ‘oppressor’ as the enemy, or at least ‘a’ enemy. It’s a dreadfully toxic narrative. In that moment when the racial hierarchy was transfigured, instead of destroyed, the germ that would ultimately spark the reign of the detestable Donald Trump, began to destroy its host from the inside.

Beginning in the 1980s, during the Reagan presidency, some far left members of the democratic party felt that conservative politicians weren’t adequately addressing racial disparities. They felt that Dr. King’s racially transcendent ‘veil of ignorance’ was leading to widening racial inequalities and Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ of the market wasn’t moving fast enough to close the gap; artificial adjustments would need to be utilized. These Democrats started identity politics with a seemingly harmless, and potentially beneficial, tactic: they emphasized group identity, group consciousness and group claims on certain aspects of culture. Unfortunately, in their quest to advance the welfare of minorities, they reopened America’s collective racist wounds, which had only just begun to heal.

Once the Soviet Union collapsed and Marxist philosophy suffered a major (but temporary) blow, the traditional leftist narrative of resource redistribution became a narrative of group identity recognition. Previously, according to Dr. King’s view, individuals should have been welcomed into society as an equal member because of their God-given humanity. With this shift to ‘recognition’ politics, individuals instead wanted to be included because they were different; they wanted to be recognized for their unique, immutable characteristics. This is where shit got ugly.

The most obvious example of an inverted hierarchy in practice is affirmative action, which was first introduced by President Kennedy in 1961. Examining this policy is a step towards understanding the identity politics phenomenon, but it is only one piece of it. Affirmative action has taken many forms over the past sixty years, but it rubbed people the wrong way from the beginning and it continues to do so today. In 2016, the Supreme Court affirmed that colleges can use race and ethnicity as variables when deciding whether or not to admit students. 65 percent of voters disapproved of this decision and 31 percent approved. The following Gallup graph, which represents polling done right after the 2016 decision, summarizes Americans’ opinions of the appropriateness of ‘diversity’ considerations in admission decisions.

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The graph shows a relatively stable composition of American views for the past fifteen years. Those that believe that merit should be the sole consideration reliably hovers between 67 and 70 percent, while those favoring diversity considerations oscillates slightly more, between 23 and 27 percent.

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The next table, constructed from the same polling, shows which variables Americans believed should be considered by colleges when determining admissions. The first three variables are the only academic merit-based considerations. Thankfully, these are viewed as most relevant by the majority of voters. The rest of the variables, with the exception of athletic ability, are concerned with students’ immutable characteristics or environmental factors outside of their control. 60 plus percent of voters believe that economic circumstances and family history should play some role. This shows that many voters are compassionate and sympathetic towards disparities in income and opportunity.  27 percent believe race or ethnicity should only play a minor role and only 9 percent believe it should play a major role. For gender, the numbers are even lower: 8 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Voters largely don’t believe that these are important considerations. The compassion and empathy displayed by the willingness to consider economic and familial dynamics does not translate to race, gender and ethnicity.

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This table breaks down national opinion of the 2016 Supreme Court Decision down by race. This highlights a fascinating reality that leftists deny emphatically: there are a large number of Hispanics and blacks that disagree with conventional leftist thinking on the topic of affirmative action (and many other facets of ‘social justice’ ideology). Contrary to what identity proponents of identity politics claim, one cannot predict a person’s beliefs (or the content of his character) based on the color of their skin. The ratios for the percentages in the graph above are summarized in the following table. This provides a simpler way to examine the amount of heterogeneity within each race.

The ratios tell us that the races are proportionally more similar than different with respect to the three questions asked. A majority of both blacks and Hispanics believe that only merit should be considered in college admissions. The color of a person’s skin isn’t an accurate measure of what they think or what they want. It’s surely racist to assume that all black and Hispanics would want affirmative action only based on their group membership. 

Proponents of identity politics don’t like the vision of America that Obama touted back in 2004. They want a Hispanic America, a black America, an Asian America, etc. This strategy is clearly turning away from the narrow path that the Civil Rights movement traveled on. It’s intrinsically divisive. If one side is framed as oppressed, then the other side is framed as evil. It’s divisive and will only lead to conflict. Dr. King never framed his opponents in evil terms. Instead, he preached that all people were part of a shared humanity. King used the language of brothers and sisters to bring people together in unity, not fragment them through exhaustive analyses of intersectional identity and oppression. America needs to return to Dr. King’s philosophy. Identity politics is not it. Below are some tragic examples of identity politics in action.

Works Cited:

  1. Chua, Amy. (2018). “Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.” Bloomsbury Publishing. 
  2. Rasmussen Politics. (2018). “51% See Democrats as Party of ‘Identity Politics and Victimology.” Rasmussen Reports.
  3. Jaschik, Scott. (2016). “Poll: Public Opposes Affirmative Action.” Inside Higher Ed.
  4. Newport, Frank. (2016).  “Most in U.S. Oppose Colleges Considering Race in Admissions.” Gallup, Inc.
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