The Corner

Politics & Policy

‘Bring People Together’ Always, Always Means ‘Do What I Want’

Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D, N.Y.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 8, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Kevin notes that Representative Hakeem Jeffries’s response to the question of Ilhan Omar is as follows:

Nothing good is accomplished by being distracted by issues that divide the nation. We want to bring people together. There are folks in this town who want to tear folks apart.

You will forgive me, I assume, for concluding that when Jeffries says he is interested in “bringing people together,” he actually means that he is interested in talking about something else, to the benefit of his political party. Think for a moment about how self-described progressives usually treat people whose words have caused upset and outrage. Do they say, “focusing on those people distracts and divides us; we want to bring people together, not tear folks apart; let’s talk about something else”? Or do they say, “those people have to go, now, or we can’t bring people together in united diversity, diverse together in our diversified unity”?

I would suggest that it is the latter, and irrespective of whether the person in question is a raging bigot or just a touch unfashionable. Of late, the same argument has been offered in response to Steve King’s noxious comments; thrown up whenever a heterodox speaker is booked to appear on a college campus; presented to Kevin Hart when he attempted to host the Oscars; delivered to James Damore and Phil Robertson and the Benham Brothers and countless others of their kind; and served twice to a baker named Jack Phillips, together with the indignant insistence we cannot possibly be free and happy and tolerant as a nation if people who bake cakes are permitted to follow their consciences. The contemporary progressive worldview holds that we must rid ourselves of the turbulent, the offensive, and the unusual if we are “to bring people together,” to enjoy the blessings of “diversity,” and, ultimately, to “unite.” Indeed, it holds that to decline to do so us to put those being criticized in “danger,” to render them “unsafe,” or even to call into question their “humanity.” It is, of course, precisely this approach that has led a growing number of figures within the harder parts of the American Left to call for restrictions on so-called “hate speech” in the interests of — and I’m not making this up — “repressive tolerance.”

And yet here we have a figure, Representative Omar, who has offered one terrible comment after another — about a minority group, no less — and the response from Jeffries is quite the opposite: “Well we can’t focus on that, because that would be divisive.”

I am a live-and-let-live sort of guy who wants to see more argument, not less, and less outrage, not more. But I will say this, nevertheless: Representative Jeffries and his friends are not sincere, and their edicts cannot be followed. On the contrary: They are playing a game — a game for which there are no rules and no ends beyond cultural and political power coupled with a large helping of chutzpah. The sooner we all wake up to this, the better we will do. Only Calvin can win a game of Calvinball.

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