With Biden’s Victory, the Center Holds, Even as Anti-American Left Grows

March 11, 2020 Updated: March 23, 2020
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Commentary

The partial sweep by Joe Biden in this week’s primaries effectively assures his nomination and confirms that the party elders, panicked by the thought of the self-styled Marxist revolutionary Bernie Sanders, again closed ranks, as they did in 2016, to ensure that the forces of comparative moderation prevailed.

While the Democrats and his detractors of all kinds will never give Trump any credit for it, he kept the Republicans out of the hands of what was a fairly far-right candidate for that party’s nomination in 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz. In straight ideological terms, Trump is probably slightly to the left of Ronald Reagan and somewhat to the right of George H.W. Bush.

In Britain, the leadership of one of its main parties, the Labour Party, was taken over by a Marxist (and anti-Semitic) extremist, Jeremy Corbyn. In France, the principal opposition is now a somewhat racially tainted movement called the National Front. And for much of the post-war period, the communists were the principal opposition party in both France and Italy.

In Germany, it is becoming very difficult to form a government with even a two-party coalition, and among the opposition formations, both the suspect right Alternative Party and the old communists now called The Link are substantial parties vying to be the third party, as are the Greens, who are a good deal farther to the left than are green parties in English-speaking countries.

Within the 30-Yard Lines

The point is that despite the toxicity of the political ambiance in the Trump era, the center has held, and the politics of the country remain well within the 30-yard lines. There are serious policy disagreements, which have been inflamed by President Donald Trump’s attack on all factions of both parties and the whole Washington system. It’s the president’s combative personality and his condemnation of what he and his tens of millions of followers consider to be the incompetence of the Bush-Clinton-Obama center-left center coalition that governed for seven terms after the watershed presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Whatever else may be said of it, the U.S. political system is maintaining control in both parties in the hands of comparatively moderate people. The Democrats are straining to represent the president as an extremist with serious racial biases and a disdain for women (neither of them sustainable on his record), but there is nothing and no one of influence in either the Biden Democrats or Trump Republicans who seeks more than some policy course corrections and personnel changes, as opposed to such fringe policies as universal government-administered medical care on the Sanders-Warren left and the dismantling of the federal government on the far right.

There are arguments about gun control and border measures, and matters of climate; Biden is a left liberal and Trump is populist right. But even so, they wouldn’t have the same difficulty in agreeing on basic points that Trump has experienced with the Democratic congressional leaders who tried to impeach and convict him of the equivalent of the Constitution’s “high crimes.”

Continued Leftward Movement

But even as the leading elements of both parties hold fairly close to the center, the steady move to the anti-American left of the Democrats’ left wing doesn’t abate. The latest serious manifestation of this is the New York Times “1619 Project,” which holds that the real beginning of the European takeover of America was the arrival of the first slaves transported to North America from Africa, on Aug. 20, 1619.

This reformulation of American history alleges that the American Revolution was a war to protect slavery from British abolitionism, and that the subsequent course of American history was essentially dominated by those who wished to retain and exploit slavery, and then continue the oppression of African and Caribbean Americans by segregation and concerted discrimination, and that tenacious vestiges of these biases are still prominent in what Sanders calls the “systemic racism” of America “from top to bottom.”

All of this is piffle, falsified, warped history, and it’s distressing that it is being propagated by the country’s historically most influential newspaper (although that honor almost certainly now belongs to The Wall Street Journal). It’s nonsense, but because of its pernicious infection of academic and media circles, it’s dangerous nonsense.

There is a grain of truth in some challenges to the American revolutionary mythos. Britain doubled its national debt in the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian Wars), expelling the French from Canada and defeating them in India, while subsidizing Frederick the Great in Central Europe. As the Americans were the wealthiest British citizens, the British government asked that the Americans pay the same Stamp Tax that the British Isles were already paying.

The Americans, led by an informal coalition of Boston lawyers and merchants, and Virginia slave-holding plantation owners, rose up to the cry of “No taxation without representation.” The British bungled the issue, but they had some reason to consider the colonists guilty of ingratitude.

George Washington was a brilliant guerrilla warrior, Thomas Jefferson a brilliant propagandist, and Benjamin Franklin achieved one of the supreme triumphs of diplomatic history in, having previously helped to persuade the British to evict the French from Canada, then persuading the French to help the Americans evict the British from America. The absolute monarchy of France took its stand on behalf of democracy, republicanism, and secessionism, and when the war ended, Franklin and John Jay concluded peace with England and dissolved the bond with France, which got nothing for its invaluable assistance to the Americans.

It was, to some extent, a war over taxes, and the Americans gained their independence, but no great accretion of civil rights beyond what they had as British citizens.

Blood Libel

This is where the 1619 Project leaves the rails completely. Slavery had nothing to do with the American Revolution. Franklin was the head of the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society, and he and Washington convened the Continental Congress.

Only Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and some Marylanders approved of slavery, and it was an agonizing compromise to allow the slave-holding states to count 60 percent of the slave population for the calculation of their congressional and Electoral College delegations. This was always a fraud and it always rankled.

Washington emancipated his slaves in his will, and even Jefferson, who sired a number of children with his slave Sally Hemmings, called slavery “a fire-bell in the night.” In 1776, there wasn’t much talk of the abolition of slavery in Britain; the slave trade was only abolished in 1807, and slavery itself, throughout the British Empire, in 1833.

This wasn’t difficult for the British, as there were minimal numbers of slaves in Great Britain and only about 30 in all of Canada. (Canada received and gave asylum to about 40,000 fugitive slaves in the decades preceding the U.S. Civil War, including Harriet Tubman, Josiah Henson—the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom, and abolitionists including John Brown).

The entire 1619 project is a self-inflicted, retroactive, dishonest blood libel on white Americans. America always wrestled with the moral problem of slavery and then with segregation. It was an evil, as Abraham Lincoln famously said in his second inaugural address, and he considered the Civil War a divine punishment to those responsible for the evil.

He said that if it was God’s will “that all the treasure piled up by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and that every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be repaid with a drop of blood drawn by the sword, then as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

That the extent of the evil of slavery should be squarely faced is correct, and all serious historians would insist on that. But the United States isn’t a systemically racist country at all; like all societies and all people, it has a mixed record of just conduct, but strives to be guided by what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” and generally repents collective wrongdoing.

The 1619 Project may have had admirable motives, and to the extent it broadens awareness of the nature of slavery it is commendable. But in implying that America and Americans have been largely governed by racial bigotry and exploitation, as a raison d’etat, it’s promoting an abominable falsehood that is a betraying of America. That The New York Times is associated with it is shameful.

Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world. He is the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon and, most recently, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.