This penetrating and insightful book — with the secondary title, “How Identity Politics Is Dividing the Land of the Free” — has already been favorably reviewed by us here. It also features a nice blurb from Rich Lowry (“an incisive, unsparing treatment of identity politics”), as well as from Michael Barone and Ben Shapiro. So it hardly needs my endorsement. But the publication date is this week, and I’d like to add briefly my enthusiastic two cents.
As the title of the earlier NR review indicates, the book’s principal theme is identifying “The Intellectual Roots of Today’s Identity Politics.” A second strong theme — as you would expect from the author, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a Cuban emigre to boot — is a critique of the results of this Left-rooted sickness. And Mr. Gonzalez’s third theme is prescriptive: He aims to answer the question, posed in a different context over 100 years ago by a rather influential leftist, “What is to be done?” As the author succinctly puts it:
To achieve that end [i.e., to defeat the plot to change America], the most urgent tasks are to expose myths, reveal what really happened, explain why it is urgent to change course, and offer a strategy to do so. Though we should not fool ourselves into thinking it will be easy to eliminate identity politics, we should not overthink it, either. Identity politics relies on the creation of groups, and then on giving people incentives to adhere to them. If we eliminate group making and the entitlements, we can get rid of identity politics. Explaining all this is this book’s main goal.
That’s from the introduction, by the way; if you’re able to read that (and the conclusion) online, you should, since it will persuade you better than anything I can write to read the rest of the book.
Mr. Gonzalez’s illuminating research is particularly relevant now, as the agenda that has taken advantage of legitimate anger about George Floyd’s death is so obviously hard Left and anti-American, indeed anti-Western. The Left is using allegations of racism — the one area of failure of the West (though of course not exclusive to it) — to attack all the West’s undoubted strengths by tying them to race and allegations of racism.
I should add that the easiest way for Americans to look past trivial differences like skin color and national origin is to be really excited about the big thing that we too often forget these days that we all have in common; namely, being Americans and all that this embraces. That’s another reason why the Left hates patriotism and E pluribus unum. When Americans say they want to take our country back, they mean from the anti-American Left, not from racial minorities. President Trump should be at great pains to make this clear, as he did in his Mount Rushmore speech earlier this month.
Just a couple of other notes. First, Gonzalez is kind enough to cite in his book a couple of papers I coauthored for Heritage. So let me link to the salient part of one of them — page 9 here — namely my draft Executive Order to end the federal government’s use of racial and ethnic preferences and the disparate-impact approach to civil-rights enforcement. This would be a huge step away from identity politics — in addition to being a huge step toward following the Constitution and the actual meaning of our civil-rights statutes. I’ll add that, as I discussed here earlier this year, part of my answer to “What is to be done?” is that “it’s not that complicated.”
Finally, I’ve long wanted to cite Irving Kristol’s prescient 1991 short essay, “The Tragedy of Multiculturalism,” and the context of this post gives me an opportunity to do so. It appears in his book Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, and you can read it here.