Is there a new “silent majority” on the rise? Such a majority, Richard Nixon said in 1969 as the country was being torn apart by riots over the Vietnam War, was the true if unacknowledged backbone of the country.
My friend Roger L. Simon, writing in this space a few days ago, invoked that same force as the country is being subjected to endless accusations of racism and white supremacy, nightly to riots, looting, and arson.
Is the other Roger right? Is it true that behind the hysterical headlines, beyond the neo-totalitarian creation of “autonomous zones,” the wanton destruction of property, and calls to “defund the police” (but where are the calls to defund the thought police?)—beyond all that, is there really, as Roger Simon says, a burgeoning silent majority, “far more sophisticated than the old Nixonian version and more sophisticated too than the BLM/Antifa fellow travelers in the Democratic Party and media”?
He points to several hopeful signs, including the new prominence of articulate, pro-American black conservatives such as Shelby Steele, whose classic book about liberal self-hatred, White Guilt, Simon cites.
Simon likewise invokes the economist Thomas Sowell, who pointedly asked a few days ago whether we had “reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”
“Apparently, we have,” Simon mordantly observes. “But it cannot stay that way for long.”
I think he’s right, difficult though it is to discern the brooding countenance of sanity in the midst of posturing pandemonium.
But don’t expect a quick end to the madness. It will continue through the summer. It will achieve peak shrillness in the fall during the run-up to the election.
Several people have observed that the round-the-clock accusations of racism, promiscuously hurled like so many toxic pustules at every facet of this country’s heritage, are evidence that the current spasm of riots were only incidentally precipitated by the death of the career criminal George Floyd.
Really, they should be called the 1619 riots because Floyd’s death was merely the spark that ignited the dry tinder of race-based hatred outlined in that preposterous, anti-American exercise in history-as-ideology known as The 1619 Project. (America was founded as a “slavocracy,” the Revolutionary War was fought primarily to perpetuate the institution of slavery, etc.)
There is something to that, although I wonder whether the commentator who concluded that “the country is in the midst of a crisis and catastrophe maybe as great as the crisis and catastrophe that culminated in the Civil War” gets it quite right.
The Civil War was fought over real issues: secession proximately, with the institution of slavery framing the issue.
Today’s crisis is more manufactured than real. The Civil War ended slavery in 1865. That consumed some 700,000 lives. Inequities lingered, but a series of constitutional amendments and federal programs worth trillions of dollars followed.
On the positive side, those programs were intended as model examples of social engineering, the application of huge tracts of money to solve perceived social problems.
On the negative side, many were examples of what James Piereson calls “punitive liberalism,” policies enacted not so much to rectify wrongs but to cause pain to those judged guilty—not of any specific crimes, mind you, but of the far more heinous tort of being existentially in the wrong by virtue of belonging to the wrong class or inhabiting the wrong color skin.
The Nov. 3 Riots
That’s where we are today, I believe, which is why I conclude that there is so much theater and histrionic posturing in the current outbreak of violence. It’s also why I conclude that a more illuminating historical parallel is the totalitarian frenzy of the French Revolution—let’s call them the 1793 riots—than the historical fantasy of The 1619 Project.
That might make it sound even scarier. The people following Nikole Hannah-Jones, the eminence behind The 1619 Project, want to rewrite American history and, along the way, milk the government for billions, if not trillions, of dollars for “reparations.” (“Reparations for what?” you might ask. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer.)
But at least the 1619ers aren’t proposing to start history anew at the year zero, to rename everything under the sun—cities, holidays, even the months of the year. Nor are they proposing to eliminate their opponents as enemies of the revolution, although many of the anarchists swelling the ranks of the rioters want to do just that. I haven’t seen any guillotines wheeled in, but that’s probably just a matter of time.
In other words, I don’t doubt for an instant the malevolent intentions of the Antifa crowd—which is to say the disaffected university crowd. But this is where Roger Simon’s cheerful observations come in.
Really, these riots and their associated melodrama might most accurately be called the Nov. 3 riots. It’s the prospect of the election, especially the possibility that President Donald Trump will be reelected, which provides the fuel for the current hysteria.
But Simon is right. A solid majority of voters are disgusted by what they see. There is a large overdraft on the country’s budget of white guilt. Expect a foreclosure on the account Nov. 3. Yes, yes, the situation is fluid and a week, as Harold Wilson once observed, is a long time in politics. But a biopsy of the body politic in mid-June 2020 doesn’t bode well for the old man in the basement or scriptwriters Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
The longer this madness continues, the more likely it is that the president will enjoy a victory of historic proportions.
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.