The Washington Post has a long article on how Tuesday’s elections shattered the hopes of black activists. The article begins like this:
The summer of 2020 brought renewed attention to tackling racism, with protesters filling the streets after police killings of black men; statues of Confederate leaders descending from their prominent perches; and the leading Democratic presidential candidate who promises systemic changes to right the wrongs of the past on the road to winning the White House.
But Tuesday’s election results underscored just how much political winds have changed since the beginning of what many activists had hoped was a new national awakening to the stubborn legacy of American racist history.
Republican Glenn Youngkin won the run for governor in Virginia, in part, by warning about anti-racist curricula in schools examining ways in which policies and laws perpetuate systemic discrimination. [Note: a misleading statement of the curriculums in question.]
A proposed police review was rejected in Minneapolis – the liberal city that sparked the summer of protests after a police officer killed George Floyd – as voters rejected the idea of replacing a traditional force presence. order with one that would take a “comprehensive public health approach” to public safety.
Are black activists surprised by these election results? If their critique of America as systematically and relentlessly racist has any truth, the surprising thing is not that the activists’ agenda has been rejected in Virginia and Minneapolis, it is that “defund the police” and the teaching of critical race stupid The theory caught on in the first place.
In fact, these two developments – clearing the police and teaching CRT – are surprising from any point of view in America, aside from the fact that it has gone mad. No society in their right mind would consider abolishing or reducing its police force and shifting to “a comprehensive public health approach to public safety”. No nation in their right mind would teach children that race is central to them and their classmates or that an evil like racism is the central fact of its history.
Tuesday’s election suggests the madness was only temporary.
Barack Obama understood the dangers of advancing a CRT-style critique of America. The Post cites one of its top advisors, Ben Rhodes, as saying that as president, Obama has often sought to frame “progressive change as a validation of American history” rather than a repudiation of it.
I doubt Obama sincerely believed that American history confirmed or was consistent with his agenda, racial or otherwise. His wife he didn’t seem to believe it. But Barack was smart enough to pretend.
Taking a cue from Obama’s example, Rhodes says:
Democrats absolutely must engage in these cultural issues by presenting the changes we represent and advocate as an extension of our best history and not simply a repudiation of our darkest history. There are a lot of people out there who are truly racist and out of reach. But there are many others who voted Democrat and Republican who were open to the story of an America big enough to change.
According to the post, even Al Sharpton, an extraordinary racing dealer, wants the left to turn him down. Invites, vaguely, to pragmatism:
We will have to engage more methodically and strategically in the process, because we could lose everything. We really need to bring everyone together and understand that this is a wake-up call and those who are really committed to voting rights and police reform must deal with it in a practical way.
But what does it mean to reduce or be practical in this context? And is a return to Obama’s kinder, gentler rhetoric really a way out of the mold Democrats have gotten into?
I doubt it. This is not 2009 nor 2016. The awakened jar of worms has been opened. Sweet-sounding rhetoric won’t put the worms back. Democrats will have to talk specifically about each of them.
Get CRT. The Obama / Rhodes line that America is great and that our history is consistent with the kind of change the left wants cannot square with the critique being peddled, not just to schoolchildren, but to many employees. of American companies.
The Obama / Rhodes line involves a refusal to support this anti-American indoctrination. But the Democrats did not openly support it. Instead, they denied that indoctrination is taking place.
Will they continue to deny it even after what happened in Virginia or will they face reality and accept a turnaround? This latter course is the “practical” one, but I don’t expect the Democrats to embrace it.
The teaching of American history is only part of the awakening educational program, which is only part of the general awakening program. Each part of the agenda raises difficulties for the Obama / Rhodes approach.
Consider law enforcement. It’s not enough for the Democrats to stop talking about defining the police. Will they support the hiring of police officers on a scale necessary to restore the police force to the manpower levels needed to cope with rising crime rates? Are they willing to give officers the freedom they need to be able, or even willing, to patrol high crime areas?
Probably not. But this means risking that violent crime continues to plague our cities more and more, while crime against property spreads to our suburbs.
In the 1990s, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and the rest of the Democratic Party were willing to get tough on crime, not just through more active police, but harsh sentences as well. Will the contemporary Democratic Party move significantly in this direction?
I don’t think so, not so soon. And the same goes for a myriad of other areas where the vigil has made inroads with the left.
Resorting to haughty rhetoric about America being big enough to change is not a solution to the problems that have awakened the Democrats. They will have to make difficult political choices about the problems associated with wakefulness. I don’t think they are capable of making any that will appeal to most of the electorate.