The Democratic Party has been able to redefine itself over the past half-century as the champion of minorities, yet all too often, when Democrats have held power, they have substituted identity politics for sound and effective policies. Their divide-and-conquer approach concerning race, ethnicity, sex, and sexual preferences has advanced their political ambitions to the detriment of our unifying motto E pluribus unum. Paradoxically, Democrats’ obsession over identity politics has brought their party back to where it started, with a vision of American society irredeemably divided by race: In the cities they govern, Democrats’ efforts at expanding educational opportunities and reducing poverty for minority communities have produced disappointing results at best. All too predictably, race-based identity politics have stoked division and resentment while turning on its head Martin Luther King’s call to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
It is particularly galling to see that almost all of the recent police abuses have taken place in cities that Democrats have run for many decades. Nonetheless, incompetent and irresponsible incumbent politicians, helped along by the mainstream media, have deflected blame for their own failures by impugning their political opponents as endemically racist. What makes systemic racism such an appealing theme for social-justice warriors and demagogues is that they are able to define it not in terms of specific discriminatory actions by people and institutions (which can be identified, measured, and cured) but rather as any manifestation of disparate or unequal outcomes. Differences of any kind — whether in income, education, or life expectancy — are all defined as manifestations of systemic racial animus.