Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ben Carson, American Exceptionalism and the Huddled Masses

In conversation with a Democratic operative with a byline that is married to another Democratic operative the Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson opined as how he had a problem with a Muslim getting elected as President of the United States.

Because sharia, the notion that Allah and state are one, and taqiyya, the doctrine that Muslims are called to lie about their real intentions.

Of course every liberal in the nation immediately threw themselves on the nearest fainting couch. Because how dare Ben Carson say anything so Islamophobic?

Mind you, I kinda wish that Carson's concern about taqiyya had also been applied to presidential candidate Barack Obama. Isn't it pretty obvious that a lot of his agenda was hidden from the American people, including the notion that he is a Christian? And what about the notion in his famous 2004 convention speech about the pundits slicing America into red states and blue states? Who would have thought that such a high-mnded orator would turn into the cynical divider of 2009-2015? For the truth about Obama is that he is a guy who walks and talks and acts like a secular liberal that believes in the 39 Articles of Liberal Faith with a passion. Now that he is president.

But it all made me think. For Carson's concern is the concern of anyone that believes in American exceptionalism, that the US founding was a unique combination of culture and political ideas, and that every new immigrant group to the US presents a challenge, because they bring to the US a culture that might not assimilate to the glorious exception that is America.

There are two common responses to this problem. The first is what I would call American Apprenticeship. The idea is to indoctrinate the children of immigrants into the culture of American exceptionalism, to tell them that, while we honor and respect where they came from, we also expect them to read, learn and inwardly digest the political, social, and economic culture of America before they take the stage as fully-fledged Americans. This, of course, is what the old idea of the "common school," advocated by Horace Mann in the 1830s, was all about. It was designed to cure the Irish of their shanty Irish culture and their Catholicism. And anything else that needed correction.

The second approach is what we might call the Liberal Plantation. The idea is to indoctrinate the children of immigrants into the culture of liberal victimhood, to tell them that their culture is just as good as ours and that we should honor the differences. Anyway, America has a pretty lousy record, featuring slavery, racism, discrimination and marginalization and "Irish Need Not Apply," when it comes to immigrants. So liberals tell immigrants that they are just as good as any native-born Americans, that any opposition to them and their culture is some sort of -phobia, and that liberals and the Democratic Party are their only friends while native-born Americans are mean-spirited bigots on the wrong side of history. Any difficulties they face in getting up to speed in America are due to racism, sexism, and, in the case of Muslims, Islamophobia.

History shows that both approaches suck. If we take the Irish, the despair of Boston Brahmins in the 1830s, we note that the Irish responded to the "common school" by taking the Catholic Church mainstream, putting St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and building their own parochial school system, building first the school and then the church. How cool is that?

If we take African Americans, the darlings of today's liberals, we note that the programs that liberals have developed to help African Americans have had, at very least, mixed results. But the programs have been really great for liberals, providing them with endless excuses for more political power and government sinecures for liberals. How sick is that?

On the other hand, you see around you every day immigrants and the children of immigrants working hard to make it in America. In my acquaintance there are the two daughters of Mexican immigrants, father a high-school dropout working at the Postal Service, who are both now going to college. There is the young son of Hungarian immigrants that refused to speak Hungarian after his first week at pre-school. We should not discount the immense cultural power of the exchange economy and the powerful forces on eager young employees to conform to the dictates of the market culture.

And think of India and China. Both these cultures, that led the world prior to 1500, went for socialism in the 20th century because their leaders genuinely thought that socialism was the wave of the future. Boy, was that a big mistake. Today both India and China are converts to capitalism and working hard to make up for lost time.

And that brings us back to 2015, the presidential election of 2016, and the outsider candidacies of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina.

Er, just a minute. "Outsider?" These three are all bona-fide members of the ruling class. Donald Trump is the son of a real-estate developer and builder and has spent his adult life as a mover and a shaker in New York. Ben Carson is up from nothing, but a standout success in the very establishmentarian health-care industry. And Carly Fiorina, for all that she started adult life as a secretary and rose to CEO, is a Stanford University graduate. These folks all know how to play the game in the higher reaches of today's American ruling class and power elite. No outsiders they.

What Trump and Carson and Fiorina have succeeded in doing is doing a breakout through the current rules of political engagement. They have dared to say things that you are not allowed to say and have survived to tell the tale. This, as we now like to say, is huuuuge. The best way to appreciate this is to consider Ted Cruz. Up till a month ago, Cruz was considered the wild man in the race. He had set himself up as the man who will fight for the Republican base against the Beltway establishment, and he got what he wanted, for "everyone knows" that the leaders of the US Senate hate the guy. (Do they really? Surely they must know and understand the game that Cruz is playing). But Cruz was pretty careful not to be too wild; he was always mildness itself in TV interviews, and now Ted Cruz seems rather tame and safe compared to the three outspoken outsiders.

Here's what I think. The outsider candidates represent the American Apprenticeship advocates in the American people that think that immigrants and Democratic identity groups, the huddled masses on the Liberal Plantation, should shut up and get a job. The base is really frightened by the Obama administration and fears that their America is slipping away.

When you think about it, the news that the base is frightened ought to be great news for the Republican Party. There's nothing a politicians likes more than a frightened voter begging to be led to safety, especially when the folks in the other party must be just a little disappointed about the failure of Hope and Change to show up.

But is the Republican base right? Is America slipping away? Maybe. But I'd be more worried about America if nobody were worried. The truth is that typical Americans have always been terrified by the latest batch of immigrants and the latest gang of hoodlums creating mayhem in the city. Will the latest batch end up wrecking the whole American experiment? Will Muslims and their sneaky taqiyya really take over America?

The question answers itself. America and the American idea is a lot bigger than the taqiyya guys at CAIR, a lot bigger than the smallness of the Obama years. And a lot bigger than the Republican candidates for President of the United States in 2015.

When America does fall, as it will in the end, it will not fall because of some sneaky Muslims or even because of Obama and his Alinsky community organizer culture. It will be something else, and it will be our own fault, the fault of typical Americans who let the whole thing slip away while distracted by squirrels.

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