Why are many thoughtful people, including many Democrats, so uneasy about the prospect of an Obama presidency? Please don’t tell me it’s because of “racism.” The race card, in so far as it operates in this election, will operate mostly in favor of Obama (consider, for starters, the fact that he is expected to get in excess of 90 percent of the black vote–a percentage many dictators campaigning in a single-party state would be happy with). It’s not because of Obama’s alleged “elitism,” either, though Obama’s contempt for the “bitter” people “who cling to guns and religion” gets us to the right neighborhood.
One finds the same emotional compact among socialistically-inclined liberals in this country: a conviction of superior virtue punctuated by declarations of unappeasable guilt. Whose guilt? Ours–or, to be more precise–yours: all you who have not yet fully acknowledged the miserable condition of Western society, especially the more affluent purlieus of Western society, and above all those parts of affluent Western society that happen to be white, male, and Christian.
This phenomenon, though long recognized, was without a proper name until James Piereson, writing in The Weekly Standard a few years ago, coined the perfect epithet: “punitive liberalism.”the Democratic party was gradually taken over by a bizarre doctrine that might be called Punitive Liberalism. According to this doctrine, America had been responsible for numerous crimes and misdeeds through its history for which it deserved punishment and chastisement. White Americans had enslaved blacks and committed genocide against Native Americans. They had oppressed women and tyrannized minority groups, such as the Japanese who had been interned in camps during World War II. They had been harsh and unfeeling toward the poor. By our greed, we had despoiled the environment and were consuming a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth and resources. We had coddled dictators abroad and violated human rights out of our irrational fear of communism.
Piereson’s great insight is to stress the punitive, the chastising side of this orgy of guilt. Liberals like Obama come telling us they are making a better world; they omit to mention that what they mean by “a better world” is a world that is distinctly worse for certain groups, in particular groups that liberals decided had hitherto been unfairly privileged. “The punitive aspects of this doctrine,” Piereson writes,were made especially plain in debates over the liberals’ favored policies. If one asked whether it was really fair to impose employment quotas for women and minorities, one often heard the answer, “White men imposed quotas on us, and now we’re going to do the same to them!” Was busing of school children really an effective means of improving educational opportunities for blacks? A parallel answer was often given: “Whites bused blacks to enforce segregation, and now they deserve to get a taste of their own medicine!” Do we really strengthen our own security by undercutting allied governments in the name of human rights, particularly when they are replaced by openly hostile regimes (as in Iran and Nicaragua)? “This”–the answer was–”is the price we have to pay for coddling dictators.” And so it went. Whenever the arguments were pressed, one discovered a punitive motive behind most of their policies.
This election may well be about payback; payback by an elite class of impudent snobs who have insulated themselves in their billionaire ghettos in San Francisco, New York, Bel Aire and Chicago.