Reid has demonstrated that he is both vulgar and illiberal, but there are no calls for him to vacate his post. No such exemption was extended to an earlier counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R., Miss.). Lott, in similarly illiberal and crass fashion, said at Strom Thurmond’s 100th-birthday party in 2002 that America would have avoided “all these problems over all these years” if the then-segregationist Thurmond had been elected president in 1948. Lott was pressured by both the Republican party and the media to step down, and he did so in shame.
There is a common theme here. Our self-appointed priests of fairness from time to time freely commit sins of intolerance. But don’t dare hold them to the same sort of accountability to which they hold other, less progressive Americans, whose similarly dumb remarks are not gaffes but rather windows into their prejudiced souls.
We must make allowances for the Biblical conservatism of some black pastors in a way we cannot for the white Christian CEO of Chick-fil-A. Farrakhan’s hatred cannot possibly earn him ostracism. The anger we feel toward evangelical Christians for their incorrect attitudes toward feminism and homosexuality cannot be extended to Muslims who have similar views.
Such selectivity is untenable. Classical Western liberalism was predicated on judging people as individuals — and on their merit and performance — rather than collectively in groups identified by gender, race, or religion. Using illiberal means to advance supposedly liberal ends results not just in hypocrisy and cynicism, but in the current disaster of “Chicago values.”
Politically correct exemption is doomed, because who can sort out the conflicting agendas of various identity groups? Who certifies who’s really black, brown, or white in a multiracial, intermarried America — Barack Obama? Elizabeth Warren? Who deserves how much compensation for which particular past oppression?
Can black pastors who oppose gay marriage be judged to be prejudiced? Is the Asian-American who opposes illegal immigration subject to the same charge of nativism leveled at so-called whites? Can Harry Reid be judged a bigot and McCarthyite if he claims he’s a liberal?
A simple antidote to multiculturalism and political correctness is to evaluate all Americans on their actual behavior, regardless of their politics, race, gender, or religion — in other words, to return to the old liberal idea that one common culture treats all sorts of different people absolutely the same.