The Triumph of Identity Politics

Identity politics is toxic, but it works

How the two parties approached their respective presidential election cycle losses in this decade is revealing. While the GOP conducted its 2012 “autopsy” in the open and as a result of internal and external pressures, the Democratic Party is conducting a postmortem out of the spotlight. A weekend retreat for Democratic House members and a Monday Priorities USA gathering of progressive groups suggest the party is aware it needs to adapt. Yet even the notion that the party which won the popular vote needs to reform meets with incredulity and bitter resistance from the grassroots faithful. Surely, the admonitions of a Trump-era Democrat like Jim Webb, who on Sunday chided his lifelong party for pushing all its chips in on identity politics, will be similarly discarded by the liberal activist class. Webb’s detractors would have a point. Democrats did not lose in 2016 because they embraced identity politics; they lost because they embraced the wrong sort of identity politics.

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The Triumph of Identity Politics

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Identity Politics in the Hereafter

Grievance even in grieving.

As if the peddlers of identity politics hadn’t done enough to poison Western culture in the here and now, they have now set their sights on the afterlife.

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Pompeo and Circumstance

Podcast: North Korea talks and Trump's legal troubles.

On our latest COMMENTARY podcast we wonder at the fact that Democrats are going to vote en masse against Mike Pompeo as secretary of state for no real reason other than that they don’t like Trump—and how this marks the fulfillment of a degradation in the advise-and-consent process that’s been accelerating for the past couple of decades. Also, we talk about Stormy Daniels, alas. Give a listen.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistical Deficits

The other last refuge.

Someone in the 19th century (Mark Twain attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli, but that’s dubious) said that there are three forms of lying: lies, damned lies, and statistics. If you would like a beautiful example of the last category of mendacity, check out David Leonhardt’s April 15th column in the New York Times,  entitled (try not to laugh) “The Democrats Are the Party of Fiscal Responsibility.”

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Eating Their Own

A frontal assault on soft targets.

The ubiquitous coffeehouse chain Starbucks is at the center of a scandal—the familiar kind fueled by new media’s obsessive litigation of grievances that have a perceived societal dimension. This one occurred in Philadelphia where two young black men were humiliated and led out of the café in handcuffs by police. They were accused of trespassing and declined to leave when asked, saying that they were merely waiting for a friend. The story of the incident went viral, and it became a scandal—justifiably so. The decision to prosecute this episode of harmless loitering is suspicious, and the insult these men suffered deserves redress. Asking whether racial bias was a factor here is a perfectly valid question, and that deserved to be investigated. But that’s not what has happened.

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A Liberal Democracy—Or a Militant One?

The totalitarians’ arguments always end up in the same place

The great shortcoming of democracy is and always has been the demos. John Adams, like many of the Founding Fathers, abhorred the very idea of democracy, precisely because it provided the means to amplify and weaponize the demos and its vices: “It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy,” he wrote in a famous passage. “It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.” Conservatives of the more pointy-headed variety enjoy taking any occasion to tut-tut loose talk of “democracy,” insisting on “republic.” They may be pedantic on the point, but there is a point: What’s most valuable about the American constitutional order isn’t universal suffrage (a relatively recent innovation for us Americans, though it’s worth appreciating that some Swiss women were not enfranchised until 1990) or regular elections—what’s most valuable is in fact all that great anti-Democratic stuff cooked up by James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason and sundry Anti-Federalists: a tripartite government with a further subdivided legislative branch in which unelected senators (oh, happy days!) had the power to frustrate the passions of the more democratic House; a Bill of Rights depriving the demos of the right to vote at all on certain fundamental questions such as freedom of speech and of religion; a Supreme Court empowered to use the law as a cudgel to beat back democratic assaults on liberty and citizenship; the hated filibuster; the holy veto; advice and consent.

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