Democrats claim that Donald Trump seeks to divide America, but it's the progressives like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, who maintain that there are good and bad Americans, and, presumably, that the bad should be ignored or silenced.
Hillary bemoaned the "basket of deplorables" supporting Trump, and Biden dismisses "from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there who are just not very good people."
The Democratic Party is now committed to an adversarial ideology of "Us" vs. "Them."
The very core of identity politics is a marking out of groups — Women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Gays and Lesbians, Transgenders, and others — groups against which America is alleged to have wrongly discriminated.
Their claim is that these groups are entitled to an ameliorating redistribution of resources, to be funded by increasing taxes on the wealthy and privileged — presumably the nefarious beneficiaries of this alleged discrimination.
This story is not completely without some truth, which is why it is so convincing, especially to the young. There have been and are "bad" people who have wrongly harmed others. There is a greater truth, however, perceived by our Founders, that warns against the left’s strategy of remedying perceived societal ills.
The Democrats’ current vision, often actuated in and by the Obama administration, and which would form the guiding spirit of a Biden administration, is that the federal government should be the primary responsible agent for guaranteeing the meeting of basic human needs — healthcare, income, housing, and nutrition.
Obamacare, proposals in Congress for a guaranteed income, public housing projects, and food stamps are examples of the kind of government services we have come to expect from both state and federal progressive governments.
We have reached the point, surprisingly, during the enforced shutdown over the perceived virus threat, where some workers prefer to stay on the dole rather than to return to paying jobs, because, in fact, the government is giving them more than they can receive in the private sector. For some, then, we have reached the guaranteed incomes that progressive policy demands, and perhaps we should not be surprised at the recent spate of looting by persons who simply may seek to accelerate the reparations process.
This hardly seems consistent with our Framers’ reverence for private property.
A program of what amounts to widespread and sustained theft, even through progressive taxation, is quite different from the society Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson conceived.
President Trump’s appeal to Make America Great Again (MAGA) was not a dogwhistle to the "bad" Americans, as Trump’s critics argue, but a simple call to reject the soul-crushing philosophy of dependence on government, and the enforced uniformity and conformity that the politically-correct left demands.
We are currently experiencing — in the excoriation for social distancing and the wearing of facemasks — a vivid illustration of that regimented and depressing repression.
With the lines now to get into our shops and services (health measures supposedly necessary to fight a purported pandemic that might actually be not all that different from the seasonal flu) we have managed to begin to replicate the conditions of a regulated autocracy such as the pre-1989 USSR.
We are now unified in our distress, but this is not the way it is supposed to be.
Indeed, the paradox of the United States is that we are a nation formed in the recognition of enduring differences, differences that are the product not of discrimination by "bad" people, but by the nature of humanity itself. James Madison articulated this best, in his famous Federalist 10, perhaps the most important essay in the "Federalist Papers," still the most inspired work of political science ever produced by Americans. The subtlety and brilliance of Federalist 10 cannot be reproduced in its entirety here, but a single insight from it is instructive.
Madison was arguing for an extended Republic (not a Democracy, incidentally) as the best means of preserving the liberty necessary to provide Americans the good life, but, in doing so, he recognized the inevitable differences that would always arise in the country from the different kinds of occupations, differing religious views, and, indeed, the diversity of the desires, abilities, and interests of Americans.
It was liberty, and the diversity actually made possible by that liberty, that the Constitution of 1789 was designed to promote.
The most brilliant conservative thinker of the 20th century, Russell Kirk, explained that it was fundamentally important to conservatives to preserve the rich variety of human experience and to avoid the inevitable stifling uniformity of utopian efforts.
Madison understood that as well, and so does Donald Trump.
In making the choice in 2020, Americans need to realize that that choice to preserve diversity of thought, belief, and practice is still the most important choice.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. Read Stephen B. Presser's Reports — More Here.
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