Thursday, March 5, 2020

Week 34: Pandering

This may be the most controversial post to date, so pray permit me to ground you, kind reader, in the foundations of my belief system. First and foremost, all people, regardless of any attribute at all, have the same moral worth. Period! No exceptions! Second, all people are inherently good. It is only through circumstances or injury (e.g., mental illness) that people diverge from the path of goodness. Third, all people are unique with their own dreams and aspirations, their own likes and dislikes, their own wants and needs. Fourth, all people need other people. We are a social species. Fifth, we enact small and large, formal and informal social contracts to better manage our relationships and to effect individual fulfillment and societal harmony. As you read on, please keep in mind that this is the lens through which I view the world as it is and as it should be. Please keep in mind that, in my opinion, the political strategy described below, one embraced and extolled by many candidates vying for our votes, is based on a belief system that has existed in America since its early days and that continues to exist today.

The issue of the “black vote” (not my term; see below) comes up time and time again on the campaign trail. Every four years, people of African descent become pawns in the political chess match. Actually, this plays out on a biennial timeframe, as politicians’ gamesmanship is also in full vigor during mid-term elections. As we discussed in Week 38, identity politics should be anathema to We the People. Human beings ought not be means to someone else’s political ends. Individuals and their happiness are the ends, and the social contract, which is made manifest in a form of government, is the mean by which people effect their ends.

For this reason, the debate and primary in South Carolina should test even the most generous of credulity. Former Vice President Joe Biden went to South Carolina touting his record, as it relates to the African-American community, and stating that no one can win the nomination without the “black vote” (his term and that of others on the debate stage). And so continued, in full force, the pandering we see in every election cycle.

As I listen to the candidates’ bona fides – their lists of so-called achievements from the past and their promises for the future, it seems apparent that their opinion of this specific demographic group is not dissimilar from their political and ideological predecessors who fought to preserve the institution of slavery and sought to keep, through the laws of the Jim Crow era, this group of HUMAN BEINGS with moral worth equal to every other human being separate from the then majority.

Listening to their debate and town hall rhetoric and reading the information on their own Web sites and in their published interviews, today’s politicians tout the safety net (i.e., welfare programs) that the federal government provides as a panacea for African Americans. They talk about free education, but they fail to mention that the schools that are most needed to lift people out of poverty are the very schools that progressives have run into the ground for scores upon scores of decades. They decry the decrease in food stamps, while failing to hail the increase in employment that brings dignity and self-sufficiency. They call for subsidized housing, but fail to acknowledge the deplorable conditions found in much of government-funded housing. The list goes on and on.

While thinking about the candidates’ naked pandering, I was reminded of Theodore Weld’s stunningly powerful book, “American slavery as it is: testimony of a thousand witnesses.” Published in 1839, it is a compilation of firsthand accounts from enslaved people concerning that most evil of institutions. In his introduction to the horrifying testimonials that follow, Weld describes the twisted dichotomy of the slaveholder. Of the slaveholder, he states, “He can make you go without your liberty, but never without a shirt.” Can slaveholders be “Plunderers of their liberty, yet the careful suppliers of their wants? Robbers of their earnings, yet watchful sentinels round their interests, and kind providers of their comforts?”

Weld mocks the sentiment among many slaveholders of the day. They argued that black people could not be stewards of their own liberty and welfare; therefore, it was the duty of white people to enslave black people. They then feigned concern for the welfare of enslaved people and disingenuously clothed and Christianized them. They forced the slave to be beholden to them. In return they provided for them the barest of necessities to survive.

How are the policies of today’s self-styled progressives any different, from the perspective of the principles involved?

The growth of the welfare state and the inequitable criminal justice system are the modern-day equivalents to what Weld observed nearly 200 years ago. Today’s enslavement of people is, I believe, more insidious, because it is shrouded in twisted, duplicitous rhetoric about freedom.

During the two centuries leading up to Weld’s publication, people were forcibly brought to America, bound and chained, to toil in the worst imaginable conditions in exchange for rags to wear, hovels in which to live, and meager rations to eat. They had no choice whatsoever.

Today, people tragically choose to give up their liberty in exchange for subsistence living. By this, I mean people vote for those who have a record of destroying communities through lack of choice in education, promotion of broken homes, overcrowding and its attendant stressors, and reliance on government for the very food they eat, just to name a few. Here are good people – good human beings – who in my opinion are enslaved, not to slaveholders but to the government. It is a government that intentionally and knowingly persuades people to relinquish their liberty – and with it their dignity – in exchange for conditions that often doom them to a life of servitude. To add insult to injury, the powers that be construct a so-called criminal justice system that inequitably pursues, prosecutes and incarcerates people based on the color of their skin at a disproportionately high rate compared to others for similar offenses. In this sense the chains and shackles of the past are not metaphorical but are present-day realities.

Granted, there are beautiful and inspiring stories of people who break the chains of poverty and deception that would otherwise keep them beholden to the welfare state. Dr. Ben Carson is a wonderful example. It can be done! One can fight and overcome the systematic barriers of the progressive government, but why in the name of God should one have to fight and overcome one’s own government in order to pursue happiness?

The problem is that the conditions described above are not only ones that enslave generation after generation to reliance on the government, but they are also the ones that secure and augment the power of the political class. Their pandering leads to a usury of the very soul of our fellow citizens – our fellow human beings. The welfare state confers great power on those who hold the purse strings of government, and lest we forget the words of Lord Acton, let us recall them now. “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

As the field of candidates narrows, let us view it as a moral obligation to examine which candidates wish to perpetuate a condition of de facto enslavement through pandering and through promises of long-tried and long-failed policies, and which candidates promote policies that foster dignity, liberty and the beauty and fullness of humanity that comes with self-reliance.

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