Multicultural ism , on the other hand, is not this benign tolerance of diverse traditions. Multiculturalism is a comprehensive ideology, demanding obeisance to a rigid system of justice, vices, and virtues. It boasts an intellectual tradition that guides its leadership and adherents in the policing of its boundaries and the maintenance of its categories. It keeps a running list of friends and enemies, a roster of praise, shame, and blame.
It seeks to divide and conquer Americans, making many groups out of one citizenry. The modern Left, accustomed to running the campuses according to the new social justice diktats of multiculturalism, now wants to run the world that way. It is a new system of truth and justice that seeks to revolutionize and transform the American way. Identity politics is the coalitional strategy of multiculturalism and political correctness its enforcement arm.
The American Right—conservative intellectuals and politicians alike—underestimates the dangers of multiculturalism. Trump understands instinctually that multiculturalism and its politics of identity and political correctness is anti-American.
He understands that the unity found in patriotism is the antidote to a politics of group identity that if left unchallenged will irreparably divide and balkanize the American citizenry and lead to disunion. They cannot think prudentially. The intellectual part of this campaign against multiculturalism must explain the thinking of the Founders and Lincoln and apply it to policy challenges today. Lincoln operated on the basis of a political philosophy grounded in the laws of nature. This established both a purpose the securing of the common good and certain rights and a set of principles that provided the means for achieving that purpose.
He thus fought on the high ground of justice established by the Declaration of Independence—all while coldly calculating politics as the art of the possible.
The strategy and tactics of the furtherance of justice in politics must be fluid; prudence is not caution and sometimes one must move quickly, even boldly. There are few categorical rules in politics, but in a republic, public opinion is everything.
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Public rhetoric and political demonstration can shape the public mind decisively. Much of the American Right, regrettably, does not think of politics in this way. They are enamored with process rather than substance and do not think comprehensively about the rhetoric of justice. They take too narrow a view of politics. Unless conservatives begin to think about politics as Lincoln did—comprehensively—they will lose to multiculturalism. A defense of the American way of life in terms of mere economics, size of government, federalism, subsidiarity, originalism, liberty, or other abstractions will be insufficient.
For the American Founders, the ultimate purpose of politics is justice, and justice meant the equal protection of equal rights rooted in a common understanding of human nature. Justice therefore encompassed a rational and deliberative pursuit of a common good that had as its bedrock the protection of the fundamental rights of all. Even as the slave-state South and its intellectual and political defenders once threatened to erect, enforce, and make permanent a perverse and unnatural new morality—and as the external ideology of Communism threatened to do the same a century later—today a fanatical class of multiculturalists seeks to divide and destroy our shared identity as Americans.
Out of one, they want to make us many. Unlike Americanism, properly understood, multiculturalism defines and defends the rights of groups rather than individuals and denies the possibility of any natural standard from which to assess the goodness of political or moral arrangements. By rejecting this natural standard by which the virtue of America or any country must be measured, multiculturalism denies equality of each under the law of all.
But so too does multiculturalism therefore abandon any principled adjudication of willful or rival claims to prestige, honor, and resources advanced by groups as a matter of right. Will and force replace reason and deliberation. Multiculturalism is based on the nominal equality really, the contending wills or force of oppressed groups, but on a sliding scale regulated by fashionable opinion in the universities and their applied-science workshop, the administrative state.
Justice means the due distribution by the state of prestige, power, and resources to this ranked system of groups. Our multiculturalists are quite consciously playing with fire by sowing such existential discord among their fellow citizens. This is a recipe for rancor, division, enmity, balkanization, and worse.
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We must understand this contest as one between multiculturalism and America itself. This is not only true, but an important element of political strategy. He who frames and sets the terms of the debate enjoys an immediate advantage. A simple, focused framework will create a sense of urgency and help our fellow citizens see the problem—and point in the direction of solutions.
This framework has the added, even more important, and more lasting virtue of helping the Right understand the political appeal of Trumpism. In other words, it helps us to see, evaluate, and expand a popular, electoral, and thus constitutional coalition dedicated to the vitality and preservation of our republic. Trumpism shows us that we must position our movement as a defense of a traditional and confident America that rejects the politically correct cosmopolitanism of our elite. In other words, it offers the opportunity to fuse civic nationalism with the popular, cultural, and historical touchstones of American greatness.
America is more than an idea—it is a people and a country. Opposition to multiculturalism, its politics of identity, and its speech code of political correctness should be the rallying cry for a new political and intellectual coalition on the Right. Such opposition will bring clarity, help guide our rhetoric, and help us rank and select worthy intellectual and policy fights.
Most important of all, it will help us determine the prudent course forward: how can we do the most good for our country and who is willing to join us in the fight? The Claremont Institute will help build a new political coalition centered on Americanism, properly understood. We will help educate lawmakers on the dangers of multiculturalism. And we will try to help create the conditions that will allow lawmakers to speak out and defend the American way of life. We will make policy recommendations, but they will be more suggestive than prescriptive, more general than specific.
By attending primarily to an analysis of the principles that should inform policy choices and the intellectual framework within which they should be made, we can make best use of our comparative advantage while leaving to others the judgment of the best means to bring about desirable ends. This matters. After all, the closing and opening of an eye that one person intends as a flirtatious wink can be misunderstood by another as merely an involuntary twitch. And this misunderstanding can make all the difference in their future relationship or lack thereof.
One question always worth asking of the imagined crowd just described is obvious.
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Would individual Americans who wandered into its midst be viewed with bemusement or disdain, and if viewed with disdain shunned, cursed at, beaten up or killed? I learned firsthand how complex the answer to this very basic question can be in China in when I had very different experiences at two anti-American gatherings. The first event I witnessed took place in Beijing on May 9 roughly 36 hours after the three Chinese had died in Belgrade , the second in Shanghai on May In Beijing, the event took the form of evening marches near and a chaotic rally just outside of the American and British embassies.
Some members of the crowd looked at me and spit on the ground. And one man yelled out a question from across the street, asking if the small group of Westerners I was part of was made up of Americans. Before we could answer, he said that, if we were from the U. He then walked away. I did not feel that I was in great danger, even though CNN reports apparently made it seem that all Americans in China were at great risk just then, even if they were far from the site of a rally. One reason I was not very scared was that there were soldiers keeping a watchful eye on things.
They were not preventing protesters from throwing paving stones at the embassies, since the protests had the support of the regime. Still, their very presence discouraged anyone from doing something like killing a foreigner that would create an international incident. I sensed a good deal of menace in the crowd, in other words, but felt fairly safe. At the Shanghai gathering I witnessed two nights later, which took the form of a meeting of some two hundred people in a large classroom on a campus, on the other hand, the mood was not menacing at all.
This was true even though this time I was the only Westerner in the crowd and everyone knew that I was an American. Throughout the evening, I was treated politely. Did this difference between my two experiences have to do with the passage of an extra 48 hours since the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade had been hit? Emotions can, after all, grow less intense over time. Or was it my movement to a city that was less politicized and more internationally minded than Beijing?
Or was it because Communist Party leaders had made it even more abundantly clear by May 11 than they had by May 9 that, though they supported the protests, they did not want things to get out of hand? It is impossible to choose between these three possible explanations. My sense, though, was that each factor played a role in making the two experiences so different.