New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez mentioned a moment of epiphany during her speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Along with the attending delegates, I smiled broadly and chuckled in recognition. Her revelation is not unfamiliar to any longtime Republican; we have seen similar awakenings in friends and colleagues when they, like Governor Martinez stop and say – with some measure of surprise – “we are Republicans.”
There is a reason this happens.
The Democrat Party has become increasingly reliant on group classification. A cadre of Democrat pasrtisans insist on their enforcement. Naturally many do earnestly agree with Democrat policies, and many Democrats play no role in bullying dissenters, but the practice is emerging with predictable regularity and cruelty.
In general, Republicans can be individuals, every person the sum of their beliefs and ideas. Democrats conversely are required to condense all the unique aspects of their personalities so that they may fit neatly in a predetermined box. Democrats must subvert themselves to the stereotypes of a set group.
Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard has a new book on the subject. He calls this group-think “clientelism,” a generous term for groups collectivizing for the purpose of receiving political pandering and the government largesse that follows. I only became aware of the Cost book after reading about it in a column of George Will. Regardless, the idea is not new. There is an aspect of “rent seeking” (to use the political science term) in this clientelism. Before realizing the racial connotations, some have drawn a plantation metaphor to describe the relationship. Unfortunately, that may be the most apt description since it clearly conveys the inherent condescension of the overseers, and the stunted development permitted of the plantation workers.
In any regard, under this inverted version of Madisonian faction the group defines the individual, rather than the individuals defining the group. Compounding the bastardization of what the father of our Constitution observed in human nature, the clientele groups do not have the coarser aspects of faction diminished by multiple factions. The modern Democrat practice reduces each person to one thing.
This insistence on viewing people as groups rather than as individuals naturally drives adherents to reliance on the stereotypes, and necessitates strict enforcement of the stereotypes. This is the harsh lesson being exacted on Mia Love.
Speaking on the same night of the RNC as Governor Martinez, Ms. Love, a candidate for Congress, gave an impressive speech full of the usual conservative content but delivered with the dynamism of youth rarely showcased by the Right. Love also happens to be a black woman, the daughter of Haitian immigrants. For the sin of bucking the Democrat notion of what a black woman is, the internet descended on Love with wicked bile.
I wish this story were shocking. It is not. Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, and others, know it all too well. Leftwing haters call Love a “sell-out to the right wing hate machine,” they say she is being used “like the House Nigger she truly is,” and more than one person on Twitter simply told her to “just die.”
Democrats have made it clear that certain boxes – groups of people – belong to them. To protect what is theirs a brute squad mobilizes to object to anyone who wants to be more than a member of some cohort. This practice has become so ingrained that many mainstream Democrats, those who would disavow the enforcers, cannot understand any one who does not willing join a group.
In his “What’s The Matter With Kansas,” Thomas Frank tries to understand why certain groups of people resist the compartmentalization offered by the Democrats. Don’t they understand that Democrats would take care of them, don’t they understand that they could get more from government, asks Frank. Frank is baffled that poor Kansas farmers do not join the Democrat coalition wholesale. In short, he cannot believe that some men want to be Men, not merely “poor Kansas farmers.”
Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services has sent scores of government functionaries into the West Virginia wilds in the hope of signing more clients. When their mission failed, the evangelizing bureaucrats derided the “mountain spirit” of the poor Appalachian families. The government folks could not fathom why anyone would refuse “free” government hand-outs.
According to Democrat mythology, poor people belong to them. As do minorities, unmarried women, union workers, environmentalists, and homosexuals. As reported by the now Left-leaning Buzzfeed, the largest event at the Republican National Convention was the “homocon” organized by GOProud, a group of gay Republicans. These gay Republicans refuse to have their entire political life dictated by their sexual preference. So, though they disagree with aspects of the party platform, they find that more of their beliefs are met by Republican individualism than Democrat collectivism. The media greets this with bewilderment at best, accusations of betrayal at worst.
The intimidation and bullying that is inflicted on free thinkers who defy the Left’s categories is loathsome. That Ms. Love is attacked, not for her ideas, but for being black, is nothing if not racism. Her bravery, and others like her, in standing against the behavior political partisans foist on her is no less commendable than past heroes who ignored imposed limitations.
In one moment of intellectual realization Governor Martinez understood that she did not need to be just a Latina, but that she could instead be Susana Martinez. Republicans and conservatives are happy to welcome and embrace anyone who makes common cause with core principles. Disagreements over particularities may persist, but honest debate is never threatening. In this way the American Dream advances. The alternative is to accept relegation to a label, and that is something no American should accept.