Politics & Policy

Cruz, Rubio, and the Moral Bankruptcy of Progressive Identity Politics

Rubio campaigns in Laconia, N.H., February 3, 2016

Here is the first reality of American identity politics: White progressives run the entire enterprise. Here is the second reality: That means sexual liberty trumps all, including racial equality. How else to explain the mainstream media’s gigantic yawn at the first Latino man in American history to win a major-party presidential caucus? Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio combined for 51 percent of the vote from a lily-white, conservative Iowa electorate, and no one seemed to mention race at all.

Are we suddenly bored by “firsts” now? Or is there something wrong with Cruz and Rubio — something that has nothing to do with their heritage and everything to do with their politics? Writing in the New York Times, University of Southern California professor Robert Suro explored why the media response to this “first” was so muted. The piece is short because, as Suro notes, the answer is “not that complicated.”

Cruz and Rubio simply don’t meet “conventional expectations of how Latino politicians are supposed to behave.” They’re not progressive, and so they fail the media’s ideological litmus test:

No less an arbiter than Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor, seemed to condemn them without naming names in a column last month. “There is no greater disloyalty than the children of immigrants forgetting their own roots. That is a betrayal,” he wrote. It is criticism that echoes the rhetoric aimed at Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court and other successful members of minority groups who are perceived as failing to uphold their own group’s interests.

The stupidity and mendacity are painful. The notion that Ramos — an ideologue’s ideologue — maintains the journalistic objectivity necessary to be an “arbiter” of anything other than his own progressive echo chamber is laughable. As for Rubio and Cruz “forgetting their own roots,” this is demonstrably false: Both have paid tribute to their immigrant families over and over again, discussing in moving terms how their parents’ sacrifices shaped their lives and worldviews. Neither has forgotten anything.

RELATED: The Ugly Attempt to Paint Cruz and Rubio as Traitors to Their Ethnicity

But the last phrase is the worst: “failing to uphold their own group’s interests.” Cruz and Rubio are running to be president of the United States, not “Latino-in-chief.” God forbid they seek to advance policies that they believe are best for all Americans without prioritizing the narrow issues that are purportedly “central to most organized Latino political interests.”

#share#Let’s be clear, however, that even if both men remembered their roots and supported a path to legal status for illegal immigrants — as Rubio has and Cruz may have — they still wouldn’t be celebrated for breaking historical barriers: “Organized Latino interests” would, no matter what, oppose them bitterly and accuse them of selling out their race.

Why? Because white progressives have engineered a cultural system where black and Latino politicians deserve respect only if they get with the progressive program — the entire progressive program.

RELATED: No, Rubio’s and Cruz’s Conservatism Does Not Make Them ‘Traitors’ to Hispanics

Just ask formerly pro-life Jesse Jackson. Not even marching with Martin Luther King Jr. could protect him from the intolerant demands of progressive sexual revolutionaries. He had to switch sides.

Just ask any black leader who opposes gay rights, only to be be told that “you can’t be pro-black and homophobic at the same time.” The appropriation of the language of civil rights on behalf of a population that was never enslaved, never denied the right to vote, and never subject to Jim Crow is offensive. Yet even the most “powerful” black and Latino civil-rights organizations salute and obey. Everything is Selma now.

#related#Identity politics isn’t identity politics. It’s progressivism masking its will to power behind racial self-righteousness. What does racial-identity politics have to do with an abortion-on-demand regime that disproportionately murders black babies in the womb? Shut up, and get in line. What does racial-identity politics have to do with a gay-rights movement that is systematically attacking religious liberty, including the liberty of the very churches that have long served as the spiritual and cultural backbone of black and Latino cultures? Shut up, and get in line.

Cruz and Rubio have proved they’re their own men by refusing to comply with the demands of white progressives and their Latino activist enablers. The elite scorn they’ve earned themselves in the process seems a small price to pay for moral and intellectual independence. You can’t beat identity politics by joining it. For conservatives and, ultimately, for the nation, the only winning move is not to play.

— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.

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