It is common on the mainstream Right to complain about the rise of identity politics. All the talk of intersectionality and white privilege makes conservatives wince. They are already loud and proud in their anti-racism, so they’re confused and frustrated that it has not bought them more good will. Indeed, some proclaim the Democrats are the “real racists,” as if someday soon the scales will fall from the eyes of minority voters, and they will come running to endorse supply-side economics, outsourcing, and kitschy Lee Greenwood songs.
Neither are they comfortable with populism and white nationalism, even though these movements frame themselves as a defensive response to the Left’s identity politics. Instead, many Republicans would prefer to return to a politics of policy wonk ideas, even if it means abandoning divisive social issues that appear to be on voters’ minds.
Identity Politics Are Inevitable in a Multicultural Country
The real reasons for this discomfort are complex. For starters, these guys really would rather be talking about high economic theory and marginal tax rates. But the discomfort also reflects some anxiety about the situation at hand. They’re not terribly comfortable with making stark judgments, nor with the idea of a fight. Can’t we all just get along?
Tax policy, economics, budgets, foreign policy, and the like are matters about which such people are confident one may persuade others. The answers to these questions are dependent upon facts, and the standards of the debate are already set: raising revenue, lowering unemployment, or growing the economy. These kinds of issues are the stuff of the old American politics and the old America. They were possible because issues of identity were largely settled. We were Americans, and these were debate among and between a people who all agreed about what that meant. Americans then had a stable understanding of their identity.
Both as a matter of fact and as a political matter, matters of identity are not really up for debate. They’re visceral. You are either on the team or you’re not. But no sooner did the old America begin to address the formal barriers to the advancement of the long-struggling black race than the rules for accepted practice for advancement began to change.
As the removal of formal barriers to success did not lead fast enough to the expected level of success among black Americans, new demands were made for affirmative action, quotas, and even the general revision of standards. At the same time, a massive and mostly non-European wave of immigration began. This was something new. As these new Americans were arriving, the old traditions of assimilation were labeled a type of racism. As various obstacles to minority advancement declined at the same time that America became more diverse, the Left’s attacks on the white race became more hysterical and more unhinged, culminating in the anti-police rhetoric of Obama’s second term and the recent attacks on the boys of Covington high school for the crime of smiling while white.
Ilhan Omar as Hyphenated American
This is why the recent dust up over the remarks of Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is rather instructive. She is a product of the new multicultural America. She was born in Somalia, grew up in Kenya as a refugee, is a proud Muslim, and embraces the leftist critique of America and its past. The only thing notably American about her is that she happens to have lived here for the last 23 years. Not from concern for American sovereignty, but rather because of ancient tribal and religious animosities, she recently pointed out the obvious: that there is a pro-Israel lobby, it is effective and well-funded, and the tone of Israel’s American supporters (not all Jewish) suggests some murkiness about their loyalties that distorts their view of America’s national interests.
Almost everyone from both parties, the media, and the commentariat got in on the condemnations, somewhat proving her point. But then a new narrative emerged. Instead of talking about Omar’s remarks, the conversation turned to what the Left always likes to talk about: the persistent scourge of evil white racists.
Democrats eventually drew up a mealy mouthed condemnation that did not name Omar or her offending remarks, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chalked up to errors in translation. Instead, the Congress said what was already on its mind, and condemned white supremacists, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and every other manner of bigotry. Among other things, the resolution said, “whether from the political right, center or left, bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism and imputations of dual loyalty threaten American democracy and have no place in American political discourse.”
Can We Mention the Dual Loyalties of People Who Have Dual Loyalties?
The inclusion of dual loyalties in the congressional resolution seems out of place. One would think after the two-year-long speculations about Trump-Russia collusion, dual loyalties were a real problem, and that rooting out disloyal Americans would be a point of consensus. But for the Left this was always a pose, a form of political theater designed to discredit an election that they were shocked to lose, and to delegitimize its victor.
It should be obvious by now that the whole point of leftist identity politics is to encourage dual loyalties, right down to the widespread embrace of various hyphenated labels, which express parallel identities that are deemed more salient than being a mere American. Omar and her record show that her mission in life is to promote the interests of Somalis and the Islamic world. And she’s not unusual in this regard. The story of Somalis in Minnesota is not an entirely happy one, and disloyalty figures prominently in this story.
Omar is not unique as a cheerleader for her ethnic group. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) waxes poetic about Latin America every chance he gets, reflecting the basic attitude of his constituents. Many recent Mexican and Central American immigrants feel more than mere affection and nostalgia for the lands of their birth, even if they chose to go north to make a few bucks. This is demonstrated not least by their proud display of foreign flags, their allegiance to foreign sports teams, and their apathy about American-style civic engagement.
American Jews have long made up an important part of the Democratic coalition and the party’s leadership. They have been in the country for a long time and, like other legacy Americans, have shed blood for this country. But leftist ideology encourages their deliberate disassociation from identifying chiefly or solely as Americans.
Competing and overlapping loyalties are less apparent when two countries are friendly, as the United States and Israel have been. Feelings of support and affection for Israel do not indicate disloyalty for Israel’s American supporters, particularly under these circumstances. But can we at least admit dual citizens, whether with Israel or anywhere else, have dual loyalties by definition? What would these dual citizens do if we went to war with their other nation?
Millions of Americans of German, Italian, and Japanese descent fought against their co-ethnics during World War II. But more than a few did not. And, similarly, many ethnic Germans in Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and other parts of Europe willingly supported the German invaders and joined them under the rubric of Volksdeutsche.
Dual loyalties may not matter very much in ordinary circumstances, but loyalty by definition must be singular or, at the very least, multiple loyalties must be ranked in a hierarchy. Conflicting loyalties often only manifest themselves during dangerous times of conflict.
The Left Encourages Dual Loyalties
Omar’s suggestion of dual loyalties is rather ironic in light of her own hyphenated loyalties. Moreover, the condemnation of her remarks (by the Left at least) seems rather insincere, when the whole Democratic coalition has become united in recent times chiefly by hostility to America’s traditions and historical people, which it has furthered by encouraging ethnic separatism by minorities.
This wasn’t always the case. The glue that held the Democrats of the past together was class consciousness. It was the working man’s party. The cultural craziness of the past 40 years led many of these voters to abandon the party; these folks became the so-called Reagan Democrats. Around this time, the large wave of immigration that began with the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act began to matriculate into a great number of new voters.
Many newcomers grew up in a world where accusations of racism cast a dark cloud over America’s past, while various benefits like affirmative action and other exclusive benefits encouraged an identity separate from an unqualified American identity. These hyphenated Americans were championed by the Left and the Democratic Party as the “coalition of the ascendant.” They would free America from its past by becoming a new majority, where “diversity is our strength.”
For people like Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), it’s pretty easy to adapt to this program. After all, most immigrants hold on to their old ways—which, after all, are all that they know—and find it hard to see themselves as fully part of something they only recently began to experience. Also, the ideology of multiculturalism and related propaganda against America’s past flatters immigrants by making their presence the key to liberating America from its sins.
The recent meltdown over Omar cannot easily be reconciled with the Democratic left’s program of cultivating dual loyalties. Setting aside the subject of her remarks, the dual loyalties of newcomers from places like Somalia, Pakistan, China, and Mexico are troublesome. These states are often openly hostile to our country, and their native cultures often provide little training in the habits, values, and beliefs needed for successful citizenship in a democratic republic. If we are to worry about dual loyalties towards our allies, surely we should be doubly concerned about loyalties to hostile powers.
Omar’s attack on Americans who support Israel was not rooted in her rock-ribbed loyalty to America, but instead comes from her own religious and cultural resentment of Israel, a feeling nearly universal in the Islamic world. These kinds of carry-over fights between groups of new Americans arising from resentments in the old country are likely to become more pronounced in the years ahead. Indeed, far from discrediting the danger of dual loyalties, we should recognize that for Omar and many of her fellow new Americans, actually demonstrating dual loyalties would be an improvement over their current singular loyalty to their old homelands.
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