“Why is there no socialism in America?” German philosopher Werner Sombart famously asked more than a century ago. It was not for lack of trying. New Harmony, Brook Farm, Oneida, and scores of other 19th Century communes underscored the effort, though ultimately the failure, of socialism in the New World.
Lacking the class conflict of Europe, and offering an abundance of opportunity, America proved an inhospitable soil on which to grow the alien doctrine. Sombart concluded: “All Socialist utopias came to nothing on roast beef and apple pie.”
Dividing America between the “haves” and the “have-nots” proved a fool’s errand in a country where the factory worker wanted not to kill the foreman, but to be the foreman. This hasn’t stopped the left from repeatedly trying.
Fired (and perhaps soon rehired) Department of Agriculture worker Shirley Sherrod’s speech, in which she conveyed how she overcame seeing the world through a racial lens by seeing it through a class lens, is the latest instance of a public figure embracing class division as a defensible, nay, laudable outlook.
Ginning up class hatred doesn’t do in America what it does in class-conscious Europe. Race, which is more central to the American experience, has traditionally been far easier to exploit for political gain.
The Obama Administration has brazenly demagogued race for the entirety of its term. Rather than paying off politically, crying “racism” seems a sign that liberals are losing the argument.
The debate over an increased federal role in healthcare seemed to have little to do with race. But Obama’s supporters found a way to make it about race.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid likened opponents of the bill to proponents of slavery. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus melodramatically performed a civil-rights-movement-mimic march to the Capitol prior to the vote, during which Rep. John Lewis heard himself called the N-word 15 times but the arsenal of recording equipment chronicling the media circus failed to it pick up even once.
Immigration is at least tangentially connected to race, but even when the Arizona state legislature explicitly excluded race as a factor to investigate whether a detainee is here illegally, leftists still made it about race. Guitarist Tom Morello explained, “Rage [Against the Machine] is playing just one show in North America this year, and the reason we’re doing it is to stand up against legislation that just reminds me of the worst aspects of apartheid.”
The Tea Party movement has been transfixed on smaller government, cutting taxes, and fidelity to the Constitution. Nevertheless, opponents of the Tea Parties have made the Tea Parties about race, too.
“The Tea Party movement is disturbingly racist and reactionary, from its roots to its highest branches,” opines Salon.com’s Joan Walsh. For anyone who found that assessment too subtle, Walsh adds that the movement is “the spawn of George Wallace racism.” Comedienne Janeane Garofalo explains, “This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. This is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks.”
The spastic invocation of racism at every turn serves those afflicted with Political Tourrette’s Syndrome. They elevate themselves to a noble moral plane as they relegate opponents to the gutter.
This comforting tactic allows them to dismiss rather than engage the arguments of their ignoble adversaries, lest they sully themselves by getting in the gutter too. It’s a massive dodge.
Like a psychiatrist’s sex-on-the-brain patient who sees his fetish in whatever ink blot passes before his eyes, liberals answer every Rorschach test with “racism.”
Out-of-power Tea Partiers seeking to cut government spending? “Racists!”
Exasperated Arizonans hoping to secure their border with Mexico? “Racists!”
Protestors on the National Mall demonstrating against Obamacare? “Racists!”
The tactic is not only morally indefensible but politically ineffective. A new CBS News poll reports that 74% of Americans believe Arizona’s new immigration law is “about right” or “doesn’t go far enough.” A Rasmussen poll of a week ago shows that 56% of Americans favor repeal of Obamacare while just 38% wish to keep it. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce poll from earlier this month found that 78% of Americans are “concerned” or “very concerned” over the growth of government. As one side cathartically calls its adversaries name, the other side has successfully made its case to the American people.
A century ago, American Socialists quixotically seeking to establish the United States of Socialism mistook the history of Europe for their own country. Race-obsessed leftists similarly mistake 19th Century America with contemporary America. Just as leftists of a hundred years past didn’t know what continent they lived on, today’s leftists are clueless about which century they live.