American Elephants

Shelby Steele Explains Why the Left is Consumed With Hate by The Elephant's Child


How did our beloved country slip and fall around the bend? Noted Hoover Institution scholar Shelby Steele took on the question in the Opinion page of the Wall Street Journal. “Even before President Trump’s election, hatred had begun to emerge on the American left—counterintuitlively, as an assertion of guilelessness and moral superiority.”

For many on the left a hateful anti-Americanism has become a self-congratulatory lifestyle. “America was never that great,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said. For radical groups like Black Lives Matter, hatred of America is a theme of identity, a display of racial pride.

For other leftists, hate is a license. Conservative speakers can be shouted down, even assaulted, on university campuses. Republican officials can be harassed in restaurants, in the street, in front of their homes. Certain leaders of the left—Rep. Maxine Waters comes to mind—are self-appointed practitioners of hate, urging their followers to think of hatred as power itself.

How did the American left—conceived to bring more compassion and justice to the world—become so given to hate? It began in the 1960s, when America finally accepted that slavery and segregation were profound moral failings. That acceptance changed America forever. It imposed a new moral imperative: America would have to show itself redeemed of these immoralities in order to stand as a legitimate democracy.

In the ’60s, he says, the genius of the left was simply to perceive the new moral imperative, and then to identify itself with it. Their task became redeeming the nation from its immoral past. The left put itself in charge of America’s moral legitimacy. The enormous political and moral power put the left in charge of federal social programs, the greatest array ever, some $22 trillion worth. You can buy a lot of supporters and donors with $22 trillion. But you have to be fighting against a big menace to be believable. The more menace, the more power. Racism was at the top of the list, and you can ask for more and more in the name of “systemic racism” and “structural inequality.” When that begins to lose its power, just think of what can become the newer menaces to be overcome.

You could quickly come up with a list. It is the Left’s weapon of choice. And their $22 trillion? Has it accomplished anything. Nearly every program they have espoused — welfare, public housing, affirmative action, diversity, school busing, job training, has failed and failed badly. But real results were never their aim.  Convincing the public that to be decent human beings they must join the fight, which never ends is the goal.

Yet it has all sort of dissolved into an indulgence in hate. Who can hate the most, or demonstrate their hatred the most, or say the worst things — and on and on it goes. I think Mr. Steele has put his finger on something important. I always wonder why the Left doesn’t seem to understand the Constitution and why it is important, what it means, and why our founding generation pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to establish it. They are off tilting swords at the menaces of modern America.

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