Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The slogan of “diversity” has always contained a fundamental incoherence. On the surface, the variety of identities expressed mainly in cosmetic differences hides deeper, more contentious variations ignored by diversicrats and their media champions. Chanting “diversity is our strength,” the purveyors of “rainbow coalitions” forget that diversity can also be a weakness despite the conformity of their public “woke” political aims. The contentious Democrat presidential primaries have exposed these fissures that are threatening the Left’s aim of retaking presidency.
Start with the obvious division within the party: That between Bernie Sanders and a DNC establishment that believes, probably correctly, that a cranky socialist village explainer is electorally radioactive. Bernie and his passionate Bros have already been primed by the 2016 primary to suspect the party establishment of “moderate” squishes, who are plotting to promote plutocrat Michael Bloomberg and his billions as the candidate, or to rig the convention once again. Whether Bernie is the candidate or not, this conflict will leave a lot of bad blood that will weaken the party in the general election.
The permanent threat to “rainbow” diversity, however, is social and economic class. All the Democrat primary front-runners are rich one-percenters, with the exception of Mayor Pete, who languishes among the top ten percent of earners. And all the candidates this cycle have been political insiders, senators mostly, and are festooned with gilt-edged university and professional credentials. Especially during televised debates, this graphic privilege is an embarrassment to a party that touts diversity and its strengths, and styles itself as the party of the working class and dispossessed. And what’s so “transformational” about rich and university credentialed people wielding power? Since the days of Julius Caesar, ambitious elites have championed the plebeians in order to aggrandize their own power and privilege.
Moreover, the fact that Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden are all multimillionaires makes it difficult for them to wage class warfare against newcomer multibillionaire Mike Bloomberg, not to mention the Republicans. For normal people with average incomes, Sanders et al. appear to be indulging in class envy when they attack Bloomberg’s wealth. After all, nobody hates a billionaire as much as a millionaire. So they complain that he’s trying to “buy the election.” But as many have pointed out, what do all their multi-trillion-dollar policies like Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, free college tuition, forgiving student loans, and creating more government benefits amount to other than “buying” the election? At least Bloomberg is using his own money rather than the taxpayers’.
Next there is the internal divisions within the various identity groups. One obvious divide is economic class. Over the decades, as more blacks entered the middle class, the old division between the mass of blacks and the “talented tenth” of educated professional blacks has narrowed considerably, but not disappeared. One fifth of blacks live below the poverty line, twice the rate of whites. Many of them are confined to urban ghettos rife with crime and plagued by failing schools and lack of economic opportunity. As for working class blacks, prior to Trump, they were subject to the same forces weakening the white working class, such as globalization, outsourcing, and cheap immigrant labor both legal and illegal.
For decades the elite black intelligentsia, activists, and politicians have exploited this misery for their own ideological, political, and financial gain. But Donald Trump’s economic policies, which have lowered black unemployment to historically low levels, and raised black workforce participation and wages, are discrediting the old Democrat racialist appeals for the black vote. Coming after the two terms of the country’s first black president who did little to improve the lot of ordinary blacks, Trump’s improvement of their lives is likely to peel off black support from the Democrats. Just a five-point increase in blacks voting for Trump could make the difference in November.
Another internal division among blacks is Christianity. The progressive secularist media play down this fact, but it represents a dividing line within the black community that separates black public intellectuals, pundits, and newscasters from many ordinary blacks. For example, large numbers of blacks consistently oppose same-sex marriage and unrestricted abortion. They also disapprove of homosexuality on religious grounds. The same division exists among many Latinos, in part a consequence of faith, but also a reflection of the culture of machismo evident among southern Mediterranean cultures as well as among blacks. This factor is the most consequential for Mayor Pete’s campaign, and explains his inability to appeal to any black voters outside the professional bicoastal and university-town elites.
The same divisions apply among women: Not just between minority and white women, but between Christian and secularist, college educated and the rest, professional and working class, urban and suburban, married and unmarried, mothers and the childless, all of whom disagree with “woke” women on issues such as school-choice and unrestricted abortion. Women who were put off by Trump’s “mean” vulgarity and braggadocio have benefited as well from his policies: Female unemployment is at 3.6%, one of the lowest in history. As mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, many women have been turned off by the unjust demonization of men and the excesses of the MeToo# movement embraced by the Democrats and on display during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. These divisions could also raise the number of women supporting Trump in November.
Then there are the conflicts between the various ethnicities comprising the “rainbow coalition.” Another that the progressive media ignore is the division between blacks and Latinos, a divide obvious in every American penitentiary, or in regions like the San Joaquin Valley, where we had been living with real diversity and its conflicts decades before “diversity” was invented by Justice Lewis Powell in the 1979 Bakke decision. In the case of Mexico and many South American cultures, dislike of blacks is a residue of the large number of African slaves, 95% of the ten million transported to the Americas. In Mexico, the large numbers of mestizos complicate further these interracial divisions. For much of Mexico’s history there were 50 social castas, “breeds,” categories predicated on variations of skin-color ranging from white to black, the lowest of the castas. A graphic indication of Mexican dislike of blacks can be found in the Spanish dehumanizing slur for blacks, miate, which is also the word for a black beetle.
All these inter- and intra-group divisions have been ignored by the media and much of popular culture, because they complicate the narrative of a “rainbow coalition” unified by progressive ideology. But real-life diversity creates zero-sum conflicts that will emerge eventually, just as the centuries-old ethnic and religious conflicts in the Balkans erupted into widespread violence once the totalitarian power that had kept them in check dissolved with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its communist satrapy Yugoslavia.
And now the election of Trump, and his unexpected success in revitalizing the economy, especially for minorities and women, has further stressed the “rainbow coalition” and laid bare its contradictions and its duplicity. As the current Democrat primary campaign and debates are being unveiled, the “diversity” touted by progressives is a fiction that camouflages their rigid ideological conformity. Just ask Pete Buttigieg. Many “queer” activists have attacked him for being “heteronormative and assimilationist,” insufficiently radical, and a “sell-out.” In other words, like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, he’s not a pure socialist like the “woke” champion Bernie Sanders.
As of now, this internecine quarrel is benefiting Sanders by dividing the “moderate,” and increasing Trump’s chance for reelection. But it also is exposing the fraud of “diversity.” If it leads, as it seems to be doing right now, to a Trump victory in November, it could spark a culture-wide loosening of the long-held grip of this illiberal and irrational ideology on our politics and culture. One consequence of its dominance has been the advancement of the progressives’ relentless dismantling of the Constitutional order that was designed to minimize the damage wrought by inter-factional rivalries and conflicts. Without those safeguards that balance and check factions and their disruptive passions and interests, sheer power becomes the umpire of conflicting claims. And once that happens, tyranny follows.