Politics & Policy

The Race-Obsessed Left Has Released a Monster It Can’t Control

Protesters march in Manhattan December 13, 2014. (Andrew Burton/Getty)

Among the more amusing responses to National Review’s “Against Trump” editorial effort was the claim that Dr. Frankenstein was turning on its monster. In other words, we at National Review created the allegedly racist, xenophobic conditions necessary for Donald Trump’s rise. Here’s the New Republic’s Jeet Heer articulating the conventional wisdom:

There is very little that Trump has said or done that can’t find prior sanction in National Review, be it racism, anti-immigrant nativism, or sexism. In the last debate, in response to an attack on his “New York values,” Trump noted that conservatives do come from New York and cited William F. Buckley. It is fair to see Trump’s version of white identity politics as firmly in the tradition of Buckley and his magazine.

And Heer’s not alone. Media Matters helpfully compiled multiple additional examples under the headline “They Built This.”

I have two responses. First — and most obvious — it’s simply false to ascribe widespread conservative concern over immigration to “white identity politics.” Does the Left really believe that National Review or its readers would be indifferent to the national-security concerns of anti-American terrorists attempting to infiltrate the ranks of, say, Latvian or Norwegian immigrants? Would our economic concerns be any less valid if large numbers of low-skilled Greek immigrants were depressing blue-collar wages and straining social services?

Calling out alleged “white identity politics” is an excellent way to avoid having to debate conservatives. After all, who needs to debate racists? As my friend Ravi Zacharias frequently observes — in the battle of ideas, stigma tends to defeat dogma. In other words, if you can shame and insult your opposition, then you never have to engage their ideas.

At the same time, however, a small group of online trolls have indeed gathered under Trump’s banner. Calling themselves the “alt-right,” they’re a motley group of white nationalists and wanna-be fascists. They’ve become adept at flooding Twitter feeds and comments boards, giving the illusion of large-scale online strength. While it’s difficult to determine how many actual American voters belong to the alt-right (versus the number who are busy tweeting from their mom’s basement in Austria), they do exist, and they’ve succeeded in elbowing their way into the national conversation.

#share#But who’s to blame? First and foremost: They are. Individuals are responsible for their own ideology and actions. At the same time, however, people respond to their environment, and it is entirely predictable that race obsession will yield more race obsession, and the consequences are rarely desirable or controllable.

It is entirely predictable that race obsession will yield more race obsession.

If anyone besides the members of the alt-right is responsible for the latest iteration of whiteness-obsessed fanaticism, is it the conservative movement that is consistently calling for a colorblind politics and culture — echoing Martin Luther King’s call to look to the content of one’s character over the color of one’s skin? Or is it the progressive movement that pushes explicitly race-based organizations such as La Raza or Black Lives Matter while specifically scorning whites, Western civilization, and so-called white privilege?

The Left has elevated a man — Ta-Nehisi Coates — to the pantheon of public intellectuals whose expressions of contempt for his white fellow citizens are so pervasive that, if the roles were reversed, he’d be relegated to the darkest corners of the hateweb. The Left is imposing race obsession on its presidential candidates to the extent that they’re now afraid even to declare that “all lives matter.” Does the Left really believe that such nonsense will spawn only productive and thoughtful critiques?

#related#The Left is fond of saying that “violence begets violence.” It’s a tired trope, but it contains a kernel of truth — people do tend to respond to violence with more violence. But doesn’t racial obsession beget racial obsession? All my life I’ve been part of a conservative movement that has been struggling mightily to move the culture past the politics of race and into a politics of universal human dignity, with each of us created in the image of God. It’s a tall order, made more challenging by the complex interplay of history, culture, and man’s fallen nature, but our task has been made even more difficult by leftist political warfare that empowers and enriches itself by exploiting and perpetuating the historical, cultural, and racial grievances that have plagued our culture (and virtually every culture on the face of the Earth).

Who “built” modern white identity politics? White supremacists did, but along the way the Left has handed them the bricks and mortar to construct their edifice of hate. The blame for race obsession belongs to the race obsessives — of all ideological stripes.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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