Never has sitting been quite so ostentatious as it was this Tuesday past, and the reasons behind it were not a pleasant augury for our beloved republic.
Sure, the opposing party has never received the president’s State of the Union as rapturously as their own party does, and there have been some pretty obvious displays of displeasure during the annual address in the past (looking at you, Joe Wilson).
However, in terms of consistency and visibility, this year’s Democrats set a record when it came to keeping their seats. There was Nancy Pelosi’s literal gnashing of teeth, Luis Gutierrez’s decision to walk out in a huff, and even a member of the Congressional Black Caucus — whose members were the most manifestly glued to their seats — playing an iPhone game during the address.
Over 100 years ago, Booker T. Washington predicted all of this. Well, not exactly this, but the conditions that created it.
How so? First, one has to ask what the modern Democrat Party is. First and foremost, it’s a manifestation of the identity politics that have shaped how we view ourselves as Americans in recent years.
The upshot of this, if you’re in one of the groups that common wisdom says has been marginalized by American society, is that the Democrats say they’re good for you. They consider your plight before all other considerations. If you’re a woman, they’re #MeToo and #TimesUp. If you’re Hispanic, they’re willing to pursue DACA at all costs. If you’re African-American, they’re willing to protect you against the “white nationalism” of the Republican Party.
Except none of these things are really that true. For a party of #MeToo’ers, they continue to embrace problematic figures like Hillary Clinton, even after yet another scandal revealing just how little she cares about women who have been subject to sexual harassment or abuse. Dreamers found out just how quickly the Democrats abandoned DACA as part of a government shutdown when voters started to blame them for said shutdown.
But most importantly, African-Americans are finding out that Democrats simply pay lip service to their well-being. The Democrats promise social aid and succor, but what have they fixed? It’s not quite a laundry list, is it? And when it comes to Republicans, as Tuesday’s speech demonstrated, the Congressional Black Caucus refused to even stand when the president announced that the African-American unemployment rate had reached historic lows.
In his 1910 book, “My Larger Education: Being Chapters from My Experience,” civil rights icon and Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington noted that the same class of people you saw sitting on Tuesday were extant during some of the darkest hours in American race relations, as well. And it wasn’t just spite that made them root against the people they claimed to want to help.
“I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public,” Washington wrote.
“My experience is that people who call themselves ‘The Intellectuals’ understand theories, but they do not understand things. I have long been convinced that, if these men could have gone into the South and taken up and become interested in some practical work which would have brought them in touch with people and things, the whole world would have looked very different to them.
“Bad as conditions might have seemed at first, when they saw that actual progress was being made, they would have taken a more hopeful view of the situation,” he noted.
This is the perfect description of a modern Democrat Party, nourished on feminist and postcolonialist theory, ever ready to make an appearance on MSNBC or give an interview to Vox — but what have they really changed for the marginalized groups in their balkanized America?
Look at cities like Detroit and Boston, both Democrat-controlled for over half a century, if not longer. Their problems have only gotten worse. Yet, would you see Democrats in power if there weren’t problems and inequities in the first place?
What the African-American community needs most, if we’re going to erase inequality in this country, is economic opportunities. That starts with jobs. When the Congressional Black Caucus can’t even applaud that, it shows they care less about “people and things” and more about “an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.” Prominent they did make themselves in their sitting, but in doing so, they revealed a great deal about just what their priorities are.
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