How long before Dems must pander on the issue?
Author Ta-Nehisi Coates is hot, hot, hot in progressive circles.
His demand for Reparations published in The Atlantic pushed him into the stratosphere. But it was an empty, amateurish effort, as I wrote at the time, The dead-end Case for Reparations:
Coates never gives the answer as to who gets what and how.
And that’s ultimately the problem with reparations arguments that are not based upon the people causing the harm paying the people directly harmed by specific conduct soon after the conduct is remedied.
If you can’t answer the question of why a Vietnamese boat person has to pay reparations for the conduct of white plantation owners more than a century earlier, then you can’t make the argument.
If you can’t answer the question of why two successful black doctors living in a fashionable suburb should get reparations paid for by the white children of Appalachia, then you can’t make the argument.
If you can’t answer the question of why the adult black recent immigrant from Paris should be pay or be paid reparations based on the color of his skin for crimes committed in a land he did not grow up in, then you can’t make the argument.
And what about the increasing number of children of mixed race?
And I could go on and on.
Ultimately, Coates’ argument is a dead end.
While Coates article will be celebrated because it so much fits the mainstream liberal narrative, it’s ultimately a backwards looking road to nowhere.
Coates’ argument for reparation was nothing more than Redistribution masquerading as reparations, I argued:
As Coates explained his views to Melissa-Harris Perry this morning, it became clear that there is no sense at all of holding the guilty accountable in the sense we normally do, or compensating actual victims.
There is a complete disconnect between cause and effect — anyone with a particular skin color is presumed to be a victim of policies even from generations earlier. It’s a simplistic and non-evidentiary approach which generalizes anecdotes and ignores the myriad of factors that influence success or failure in life.
Rather, this is a societal redistribution, in which the not actually guilty pay, and the not actually injured get compensated, via the power of government to redistribute wealth.
It’s just redistribution with a different justification.
Given that Coates’ argument is fundamentally a redistribution argument, it’s no surprise that Coates is demanding that the current political embodiment of redistribution theory — Bernie Sanders — jump on the redistribution bandwagon.
Coates writes, Why Precisely Is Bernie Sanders Against Reparations?
Last week Bernie Sanders was asked whether he was in favor of “reparations for slavery.” It is worth considering Sanders’s response in full:
No, I don’t think so. First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil. Second of all, I think it would be very divisive. The real issue is when we look at the poverty rate among the African American community, when we look at the high unemployment rate within the African American community, we have a lot of work to do.
So I think what we should be talking about is making massive investments in rebuilding our cities, in creating millions of decent paying jobs, in making public colleges and universities tuition-free, basically targeting our federal resources to the areas where it is needed the most and where it is needed the most is in impoverished communities, often African American and Latino.
Sanders is a lot of things, many of them good. But he is not the candidate of moderation and unification, so much as the candidate of partisanship and radicalism. There is neither insult nor accolade in this… Radicals expand the political imagination and, hopefully, prevent incrementalism from becoming a virtue.
Unfortunately, Sanders’s radicalism has failed in the ancient fight against white supremacy….
One can’t evade these facts by changing the subject. Some months ago, black radicals in the Black Lives Matters movement protested Sanders. They were, in the main, jeered by the white left for their efforts. But judged by his platform, Sanders should be directly confronted and asked why his political imagination is so active against plutocracy, but so limited against white supremacy. Jim Crow and its legacy were not merely problems of disproportionate poverty. Why should black voters support a candidate who does not recognize this?
This helps explain why Bernie first and foremost was the target of Black Lives Matters’ protesters:
Coates attack on Sanders saw pushback from John McWorter at CNN, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ flawed attack on Bernie Sanders:
…. Coates’ attack on Sanders is premised on a weakness in his general take on black history, which, while charismatically expressed, is vastly oversimplified.
Coates’ version of black history is that black problems, including anything others might see as problems with our culture, are traceable to evils that whites imposed on us in the past….
It never seems to work in terms of creating a meaningful consensus, and racism is not the sole reason for that. Social history — including for the descendants of African slaves — is complicated.
That objection notwithstanding, Coates may succeed in making acceptance of reparations — even if not actual implementation — a must-have position for Democrats. It’s a hit with the progressive wing.
— liza sabater (@blogdiva) January 20, 2016
And Hillary is hitting Sanders on the issue even though she has not committed to reparations yet:
For social justice-minded liberals of a certain age, it has always been an impossible dream that something as politically radioactive as slavery reparations would ever become an issue in a presidential campaign, but here we are. For good or for bad, insurgent Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders is feeling the heat over his offhand dismissal of reparations in a recent interview, and now, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s campaign has surfaced the issue on national television as a means of attacking Sanders….
Not content to just let the flaming tire around Bernie’s neck burn, though, the Hillary Clinton campaign decided that they were the right messengers to press this attack, and not because he’s wrong about reparations, but because it demonstrates a political weakness.
And if Hillary fares poorly in early states, will she pander?
Man, we're just a few bad polls away from Hillary coming out for reparations, aren't we? https://t.co/WSoAtLEjd8
— Andrew Stiles (@AndrewStilesUSA) January 20, 2016
Hillary is one bad SC poll from embracing slavery reparations https://t.co/YfnG4MiAtT
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 21, 2016
Are panicked staffers at Clinton HQ joyous over finding another issue they can get to the left of Bernie on? https://t.co/uYhlGD3VMt
— Tom Bevan (@TomBevanRCP) January 20, 2016
If the Democratic nominee embraces the justification for reparations, the Coates’ Case for Reparations will do severe damage to Democratic electoral chances.
One word to Coates on this accomplishment: Thanks.