Recently, Stanford’s Shelby Steele, one of the truly great thinkers and writers of our age, wrote the article: “Black Protest Has Lost Its Power.”
He noted the recent protests by black professional football players “were rather sad for their fruitlessness.” Protestors “were figures of pathos, mindlessly loyal to a black identity that had run its course.”
He explained: “What they missed is a simple truth that is both obvious and unutterable: The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people.”
He adds: “Of course this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Racism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is. We will always have to be on guard against it. But now it is recognized as a scourge, as the crowning immorality of our age and our history.”
He concludes with a point we want to broaden here: “But the NFL protests may be a harbinger of change. They elicited considerable resentment. There have been counterprotests. TV viewership has gone down. Ticket sales have dropped. What is remarkable about this response is that it may foretell a new fearlessness in whites (and blacks outside the victim-focused identity) to say to blacks what they really think and feel, to judge blacks by standards that are universal”
We quote his argument at length not just because it succinctly states the central truth about racial matters in America, but also because it helps explain what has happened to statist liberals and politically correct progressives in American politics. It explains decades of history ending in the great liberal crack-up we’re recently witnessing.
Modern western liberalism is distinct from classical liberalism that’s oriented to freedom, equal opportunity, progress and economic growth. But it has roots in that earlier liberalism, roots that anchored a tree that has grown twisted and perverted and borne poisonous fruit.
Thus belief in equality before God, the state and the law was perverted into a requirement of equal outcomes in all matters except those in which minorities or other favored demographics benefit. So, one can sue colleges for having too few blacks enrolled, but not for having too many blacks on the basketball court.
Similarly for individual freedom and its corollary that people may fail or succeed in their pursuit of happiness. It has degenerated into a notion that all are entitled to the fruits of those who create value for society. Classical liberals have long supported reasonable social safety nets for people unable to fully care and provide for themselves. But in the hands of progressives, etc. that allowance has become the massive redistributionist and punitive obsessions of the Occupy movement that seeks to punish those whose private efforts benefit society most.
Third example: Limited government conservatives have long recognized roles for government spending and regulation to address legitimate market failures and negative externalities. But statist liberals and progressives perverted this idea into the modern administrative state that consumes an ever larger fraction of our economy (and thereby depresses economic growth and human wellbeing) and declares puddles on farms to be navigable waters that pre-empt farming or home building.
For decades, statists and their PC fellows used not only protest and litigation, as did racial minorities, but also the politics of aggression and intimidation. Thus, minorities threaten to label folks who won’t give them what they want as racists. And Democrat TV ads show conservatives pushing granny over a cliff in a wheel chair because they have the temerity to suggest income transfer programs may have become unduly large.
In all this, leftists smugly labeled and bashed conservatives as racists, lacking in compassion, destroying the earth to satisfy their greed, etc. Aided by their captive empires in entertainment, the media and academe, they disdain serious discussion of facts, issues or balance. They declare themselves good and their opponents evil. So, any policies they advocate must prevail.
Their problem is that many people quit being intimidated by them and began to push back by electing Donald Trump and a Republican congress. So, leftists and their echo chambers are now frothing at the mouth with incomprehension and rage.
Ron Knecht is Nevada Controller. James Smack is Deputy Controller.