Racism and History
I found David French’s “Those Bootstraps Still Work” (February 25) interesting. Does Mr. French think institutional barriers and systemic racism have been present in the past against black Americans? If he acknowledges that African Americans have legitimate grievances, then couldn’t he believe that working-class whites are now experiencing a similar lack of opportunities, and similar neglect and derogation by the middle and upper classes?
Couldn’t that same system that was guilty of racism against blacks now be being weaponized against poor whites?
F. S. Borman
David French responds: In my piece, I outlined a number of the systemic barriers that were put in place to block the advancement of black Americans. Slavery gave birth to Jim Crow, and even outside the South, practices such as redlining imposed costs on the black community. The question isn’t whether the American state created barriers for black citizens but rather how well the government can help fix what it broke. While poor and working-class white Americans face many disadvantages that many black Americans also face, the history is very, very different.
Similarly, there is no systematic intentional weaponization of the American government or economy against poor whites. Yes, there is social scorn by elites, and there are some disadvantages at the margins because of affirmative action, but much of the plight of low-skilled white workers is due to the unintended consequences of technological, cultural, and geopolitical change. White working-class families do face real challenges, but the cause of the problem and the scale of the challenge are substantially different from those of a population that suffered intentional, de jure discrimination for more than 300 years. Thank you very much for writing.
Democrats and Plutocrats
Jim Geraghty’s “No Party for Rich Men” (February 25) works off the assumption that the Democratic party used to be more welcoming to the rich. While this was true to an extent in the 2000s, I’d say the Democratic party’s recent shift to populism is a return to its roots. Jimmy Carter loved to play up the fact that he was a cardigan-wearing peanut farmer, and blue-collar workers have always been attracted to the Democratic party. The “new” Democratic focus on socialism is arguably a return to the likes of FDR’s alphabet-soup social programs.
If Howard Schultz wants to fight for free markets and a reduction of the national debt, he should have turned, as sound economists always have, to the Republican party.
Jim Geraghty responds: There have always been “limousine liberals.” The Democrats’ comfort with the wealthy as a class really took off in the 1990s with Bill Clinton as the party became more dependent on glitzy Hollywood fundraisers, financiers, trial lawyers, and, eventually, Silicon Valley. This was the era when big donors got invited to stay overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom and Dick Morris cited poll data to convince Clinton to go camping instead of taking another vacation in the Hamptons. From 1990 to 2010, the Democratic party and its candidates never received less than 42 percent of donations from Wall Street, topping out with 58 percent in 2008.
While I concur that Republicans are traditionally much more pro-market and concerned about the debt than Democrats are, in many cases GOP officials’ rhetoric has been better than their spending.
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