In the year since the death of George Floyd brought the Black Lives Matter movement into the political mainstream, American politics has undergone a sea change. An obsession with race as the answer to every question about the ills of society has become the keynote of discourse from the Left. Woke notions about white privilege dominate popular culture and intimidate major corporations into bending the knee to critical race theory and treating all resistance to its imperatives as evidence of white supremacy.
But as troubling as this trend is, the Democratic Party hasn’t so much been conquered by woke ideology as it has been assimilated into it. The party now weaponizes these ideas to employ race to divide the nation for political gain.
This was proven by the reaction of the Democrats‘ base and pop culture auxiliaries to the speech given by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) as the official Republican response to President Joe Biden‘s address to a joint session of Congress.
Biden’s speech was a 65-minute laundry list of radical spending plans delivered in a dull manner seemingly designed to lull Americans into complacent acquiescence. That it received extravagant praise from the mainstream media only illustrated their lapse into rigid partisanship.
Like anyone given the dubious honor of responding to a presidential speech, Scott was set up to fail. But remarkably, he did well under the circumstances, delivering a hopeful and reasonable presentation that mixed conservative resistance to Biden’s policies with an answer to the racial politics that have so dominated political discourse. While there’s little doubt that being the only African American in the GOP Senate caucus (the Democrats only have two black senators) is what gave Scott this chance, he made the most of it. By acknowledging the reality of racism in the context of his personal experiences as the child of a single mother growing up in the South, while denouncing the notion that “systematic” racism exists in America, Scott gave an eloquent response not just to Biden but to what Democrats have been telling us for the last 11 months.
Most such responses are ignored by Democrats as irrelevant. But Scott’s effectiveness was evident as the remarks became almost as big a story as Biden’s plans for spending $6 trillion to transform the country into a liberal utopia.
Liberal Twitter, late-night comedians (who already amount to a daily in-kind contribution to the Democratic Party), the cast of The View and talking heads on cable news networks not named Fox responded as if Scott’s brief remarks were the worst thing said in Washington since Donald Trump left town. The fact that a black senator stood up and contradicted all the assumptions about American racism that have become an unchallengeable creed wasn’t an opportunity for conversation; it was a direct threat to the legitimacy of the post-George Floyd political order.
That explains the vicious and unashamedly racist abuse directed at Scott.
For 12 hours after Scott’s speech, Twitter highlighted “#UncleTim” as one of the top trends on the platform. The play on the slur “Uncle Tom” was meant to show that no black man could dare speak against BLM doctrine or question the Democratic charge that those who did so were white supremacists. So Scott had to be depicted, in a predictably vulgar and hateful avalanche of tweets, as a mouthpiece of evil white Republicans rather than telling his own truth.
Talking heads derided the senator as speaking as if he “were from another planet” or talking “nonsense” or, as The View‘s Joy Behar insinuated, too simple-minded to understand BLM dialectic about “systemic racism.” The following evening, liberal comedian Jimmy Kimmel mocked Scott for being the only black Republican senator—even though there are only two among the Democrats. Kimmel claimed the only explanation for Scott’s claims about racism was that the senator lived in a “sensory deprivation egg.”
This openly racist torrent of hate directed at Scott would be a national scandal and an occasion for soul-searching if it were aimed at Vice President Kamala Harris or another black Democrat. Yet there were no apologies forthcoming from Democrats, media outlets or Twitter.
The reason goes beyond our current plague of incivility.
While the importance of racialist policies to the Democrats has become more noticeable in the last year, their dependence on identity politics and exploiting racial divisions is not new.
A generation ago, Bill Clinton proved to the American public that he was not in thrall to radicals with his “Sister Soljah” moment in which he denounced a black woman who applauded the idea of killing whites. But since then, the left wing of the Democratic Party has become increasingly dominated by those who discard Martin Luther King Jr.’s plea for a colorblind society in favor of one in which race is all that matters. The whole point of critical race theory is to classify everyone by their race and treat them according to whether they are an approved victim minority or a beneficiary of white privilege who must accept blame for the country’s past sins and current injustices.
In 2020, centrists waited in vain for Biden to distance himself from the radicals who had taken over his party. Instead, he embraced them and the BLM ideology about a supposedly systemically racist nation—that had elected a black president and was about to elect a woman of color to the vice presidency.
The power of this idea as a political weapon cannot be underestimated in a country which, as even Biden has admitted, is not racist. If racism was the original sin of the American republic, accusations of racism today are, rather than a response to a real problem, a way to delegitimize those who resist the Left’s racialism. Such accusations have become a new McCarthyism in which all must attempt to prove their innocence in order to gain acceptance in the public square.
If left unchecked, this trend—amplified as it is by big tech, social media and pop culture—has the ability to marginalize any political force that seeks to call it out as unjust and illiberal.
That is why Democrats responded with such ferocity to Tim Scott. If he cannot be shamed into silence or put down as a “token,” then the entire edifice propping up Democrats’ hold on the culture and the rationale for their agenda is in peril. If salvaging that radical spending agenda requires the kind of open racism that they deployed against Scott, so be it.
The consequences for our national political health are not insignificant. Liberals continue to divide us along racial lines for political profit. Racism directed with impunity at an independent-thinking black man is only the latest example. That’s the real race problem in America, not the myths of systemic hate that the Democrats claim to be fighting.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org, a senior contributor to The Federalist and a columnist for the New York Post. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
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