Re-norming our Government

On January 20, 2021, the day that Donald Trump leaves and Joe Biden moves into the White House, there are two principles that I believe are most important for the next four years: accountability for the assault on our democratic norms, not only for President Trump, but for enablers in the Republican Party and beyond, while seeking to reimpose and reinforce these same, fragile norms.

Unfortunately, the rhetorical phrase “but that is not as bad as what President Trump did” now covers anything short of a successful, violent overthrown of the Constitutional system of transferring power. What we saw on January 6, 2021, was four years in the making, and it could have gone differently. The system did not work, we got lucky. We need to heal, and the first step toward that is confession by elected Republican enablers telling their supporters the truth, that the election was not only a fair one, but the most parsed and adjudicated election in U.S. history. It seems to me these Republican enablers also owe their constituents an apology for misleading them.

Democrats and Progressives cannot control what Republicans will do, but we can control what we do.

We need some old school boring civics the next four years. On immigration, the House should see if it can pass a bill, and the Senate do the same. Pass a rule in the House that allows floor amendments, let the Senators make their case and then vote. Then lets have an old school conference committee see if they can bang out a deal that can pass both Houses of Congress and be signed by President Biden. The Congress needs to be reinvigorated as the Article 1 branch of government that it is, and we have to get away from omnibus legislation linked to debt limit increases for money we already spent getting jammed into must-pass legislation at 11pm, the night before we default. I know immigration is hard, as is COVID19 relief, health care, voting rights and elections, etc. If members of Congress cannot lean into hard work, then they should resign.

I am not suggesting a head in the sand Jedi mind trick approach that pretends that the last four years did not take place, I am saying that we need to hold people accountable while reinforcing our democratic system of government so that we make something worse less likely in the future. Our peaceful transfer of power string has been broken, about two and a half Century’s into our history, and we should now know that nothing inevitably continues. It will take work.

What Next?

The January 6, 2021 insurrection designed to disrupt Congress from fulfilling its Constitutionally proscribed powers that was incited by President Trump, and enabled by numerous persons, some known and others not is a departure from the rule of law and norms that must be answered forcefully. Next steps:

The President should resign. He has committed at least two impeachable offenses since New Years Day. If the Republican Party were functioning in the interests of the nation, they would insist as they did with Richard Nixon.

The House is correct to push the Vice President to invoke the 25th Amendment, which is cludgy, but nevertheless would immediately remove the President, almost certainly until January 20, 2021 at Noon.

The House of Representatives should impeach the President, who has not only violated his Oath of Office, but there is also a separation of powers issue–the Executive Branch sought to stop the Legislative Branch from exercising its Constitutional duties. The President’s own words on the January 2, 2021 call and the January 6, 2021 rally are enough for him to be removed. It would not take such a long trial.

The Senate has said they will not be in session until January 19, 2021, which is that bodies Constitutional right (each chamber makes its own rules). They could of course reconvene earlier.

The worry about an all-encompassing trial of the former President during the first weeks of the Biden administration is a reasonable one, though elected Republicans are using it to try and rehabilitate their culpability in everything from joining him, enabling him, or turning a blind eye because they liked his judges, their taxes being lower, or just to “own the libs”. If all the Republican Senators called for his resignation today, it would happen. The route to healing is accountability, confession and repentance meaning a change in behavior and telling the truth.

The Speaker of the House openly discussing an end run of the President’s Article II powers with the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while comforting when looking through the lens of the next ten days, is worrying and perhaps illegal. This is why impeachment is needed–that is how the House can best be heard per the Constitution.

The House of Representatives could delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, perhaps for the first 100 days, allowing the Biden Administration to get going, and giving Republicans in the Senate a chance to show their desire for national healing by supporting a full inquiry and not gumming up the works in the Senate for nominees and covid19 relief. A trial after the President is out of office is apparently allowable since an available penalty is barring him from seeking federal office again. A conviction in the Senate would also remove the President’s pension, lifetime travel budget, and Secret Service protection. He deserves far more punishment. My guess is that in 100 days there will be lots more known about what transpired and who was involved. A Senate impeachment trial might be quite a good way to lay out exactly what happened, who is responsible, and what consequences should be imposed, and to whom. Do it on the floor of the Senate, divided 50-50, seeking to tell the truth so that we can move ahead as one nation.

The Biden Administration’s three most important tasks are: (1) getting control of the COVID19 pandemic, by accelerating pace of innoculations, invoking the Defense Emergency Authorization powers to mass produce low cost in home tests, and to get high quality masks to the entire country. (2) An economic relief/infrastructure package to further support the nation through COVID19, and to address some bread and butter infrastructure needs. (3) Re-professionalizing and de-politicizing the Department of Justice, FBI, and undertaking a full investigation of not only the insurrection of January 6, 2021, but the build up to it. This must include a frank truth-telling about White Supremacist domestic terrorism in the United States, and a strategy to combat same, including acknowledging the problems in the military, and in the military to police pipeline that is a key source of police forces nationally. The double standards in policing are anathema to the anthem of “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence. This is best understood as unfinished business, a task deferred for 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. We have another chance to live into the promise of these Reconstruction Amendments, and there is a winding, but identifiable trail from the 1877 ending of Reconstruction to today. We must reckon with this Century and a half re-creation of White Supremacy after the ending of Slavery.

January 6, 2021

The most important task of leadership is to correctly define reality; to tell the truth. The insurrection and mob overrun of the U.S. Capitol that disrupted the counting of the Electoral College votes that officially marked him as the loser, was incited by the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. He and others clearly and plainly incited the violence yesterday during a rally, but it did not start at Noon. His entire political candidacy and Presidency has been one ongoing incitement, that found plenty of fertile soil and craven opportunism in the modern Republican Party.

President Trump’s jump from reality show celebrity to Presidential candidate had as its essence the Racist Birther lie that President Obama was not an American citizen and thus ineligible for the office he held for eight years. In a crowded primary field, this was the kernel of his support, that never wavered, and likely will now be transformed into a type of Trump-centric lost-causeism that will haunt this nation for years to come. A new manifestation of an old idea that some people are more human than others. All Republican’s did not and do not share in the Birther lie, but only a very few were uncomfortable enough with it to depart from the vehicle (Donald Trump) that they saw as most likely to advance their public policy interests, rendering their long claim that “character is destiny” perhaps true, but also only showing it to only be a tactical tool for partisan uses.

The events of January 6, 2021 were despicable, scary and are cause for lament and reform moving forward, but they were not surprising or shocking. President Trump told us exactly who he was from the start, and he never stopped saying out loud what used to only be whispered. He laid the ground work for yesterday by saying he was cheated in the popular vote in 2016, and then saying over and over, the only way I can lose in 2020 is if they cheat. His campaign went to court in several dozen cases across several states and they won one case in Pennsylvania. There have been detailed investigations in numerous states, easily the most investigated election in U.S. history. In Georgia, they have found two cases in which they believe someone fraudulently voted a dead person’s name. No election could be perfect, but in 2020 they were well done under very difficult circumstances, yet the President continues to lie and say he won in a landslide because that is what he believes is best for him.

In numerous public statements, tweets, and comments by his children and other surrogates on TV, January 6, 2021 was identified as a key day, the last chance to change the result. And Senators Cruz and Hawley, both Ivy League trained lawyers, a former Supreme Court clerks, who want to be President, groveled about nonsense, and knowingly lied to a mob because they thought it would help their political aspirations. There was nothing surprising at all about the goal and inevitability of the effort to interfere in yesterday’s counting, though the effectiveness in stopping the process was surprising and sobering on numerous fronts. The counting of electoral votes concluded this morning about 4 am, and roughly half of the elected Republicans in the U.S. Congress voted to not accept the electors from several States, even after they saw the fruit of what they had helped to create. They now must acknowledge lying, or continue to lie, and they are the opposite of patriots.

I have been working on a book that has turned into a memoir of Race, of my personal reckoning with how racialized my life has been, especially my growing up in rural, Eastern, North Carolina. My primary insight is that for how clearly I see the effects of Race on me and our country now, I did not for the first half Century of my life. There was no penalty for me not understanding or acknowledging the truth, because I am a White man. This is not a statement of guilt, just an observation. A fact.

My personal reckoning was been spurred by my finding a case of land theft in the 1920s of the descendants of an Enslaver and an Enslaved woman where I grew up, and coming to understand that while everything is not about Race, just about everything important has Race cooked into the cake. When White people say “this is not us” they show themselves to be ignorant of United States history. The reason the election of 1876 was disputed was directly related to violent efforts to keep freed Slaves from voting, just a few years after we said we would not do that in the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The “Commission” Senator Cruz invoked as the model for what he wanted this year ended with a political deal that ended Reconstruction, and began a near-Century delay in making the Reconstruction era Amendments to the U.S. Constitution more than just words on paper. Listen when people tell you who they are.

In 1871, Governor William Holden of North Carolina, a Whig turned Democrat turned Republican, became the first Governor in United States history to be impeached and removed from office. His sin was taking over two counties (Alamance and Caswell) to try and stop the KKK’s campaign of murdering Blacks and White’s seeking to live into the 13th-15th Amendments, and provide a more equal chance at a better life. Alamance County is the place where Black and White protesters held a march to the polls on October 31, 2020, but never made it.

In 1898, there was a coup d’etat in the vibrant port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, an event designed to put a stop to a multi-racial political and economic coalition and society that was being built. A Black man owned the biggest newspaper in town then. In 1921, Blacks were murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma to stop a successful Black business district and to stem rising economic and political power among the descendants of freed Slaves, by Whites who had been deputized by law enforcement to put a stop to what they did not see as progress.

These are just four examples, spread over the half Century after the Civil War showing that White people resorting to violence when outcomes they did not like were in process, is not a new thing. Please note that in each case, they were opposing what could only be understood as seeing to the 13th-15th Amendments to the Constitution being made real in the lives of freed Slaves and their descendants. They were stopping progress toward what we said we were going to do, making us a nation of liars.

Unfortunately, this has always been us.

(edited next to last paragraph to fix a typo & edit for clarity)

Electoral Counting Act of 1887

The election of 1876 was close, with no clear winner and the country was a mess. Since either the House or the Senate objecting to a State’s slate of electors was enough to not count the electoral votes from a State, there was no clear way to resolve the election and an informal deal was cut between the Democratically controlled House of Representatives and the Republican controlled Senate. There was no “Commission” created, not to look into voter fraud as some Republican Senators said yesterday, but there was an unwritten deal cut to decide the outcome of the election.

The deal was that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes would be President, if he would agree to remove Federal troops from the South who were overseeing Reconstruction. The Southern States “promised” to protect the Civil and voting rights of freed Slaves. This lead to the widespread disenfranchisement of generations of Black people and made the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution largely meaningless words on a piece of paper for nearly a Century, so far as Blacks were concerned.

To prevent such a mess again (basically one House of Congress being able to derail an election whose outcome they did not like), the Electoral Counting Act of 1887 was passed and is here. There were a variety of changes, but now it requires both the House AND the Senate to decide to overturn an election whose outcome they do not like. If you are speaking the language of “bothsides“, you are wrong factually and historically, and you are helping this country move toward not having a functioning democracy. And if you think “they are only doing this because they know it will not work”…..well, I hope you are correct but I don’t think so and we may find out in four years. Since 1887, we have not had:

  1. A President say for months that the only way he could lose was if his opponents cheated
  2. Republican controlled states delay the counting of mail in ballots allowing the President to be ahead on “election night” but likely to lose (he did)
  3. A President then say “stop counting, I am ahead!”
  4. Then once it was clear that he lost, file numerous lawsuits, that have all, save one, been rejected. Numerous ones dismissed on the merits.
  5. Continue to scream fraud, I lost, and have one party turn into what is now essentially a cult
  6. And in this context, have more than half of the Republicans in the House and one-fifth of those in the Senate say, “our elections were fine, but the President, elected on the same ballot, got cheated.”

And Republican Senators invoke the “commission” that was actually an unwritten “deal” in 1877 to end Reconstruction and abandon to the project of seeing to freed Slaves becoming full citizens for nearly a Century. When people tell you who they are, listen.

Increasing vaccination pace (a lot)

The covid19 vaccine rollout really has been a disaster, from top to bottom, by governments of all levels and private entities like health systems. We must increase the pace of vaccination by a lot, and ensure that we do not waste doses of vaccine. The North Carolina DHHS covid19 guidelines provide the State’s adaptation of the CDC guidance and are fine.

We need to move ahead with this general guideline, prioritizing how to get the maximum number of people vaccinated as fast as possible. The one addendum I would suggest is that each county should have a plan for what to do with doses that are at risk of being wasted after being thawed/hitting shelf life maximum. My suggestion would be to have places that aggregate people and say “if we have 100 doses about to waste, lets go there and vaccinate 100 people.” I suggest the Durham County jail for Durham County, and then other carceral congregate living facilities, and homeless shelters.

The language of illegitimacy

Only one President since I have been able to vote has not had the label of illegitimacy tagged to him–George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. (At least not that I recall). A quick stroll down memory lane.

Bill Clinton was so labelled because he only got 43% of the popular vote; GHW Bush 38% and Ross Perot 19%.

George W Bush was called by me I think, “the President select” given the Bush v Gore Supreme court case and he not only didn’t get more than half of the popular vote, he lost the popular vote to Al Gore. The popular vote is constitutionally irrelevant, but not politically so.

Barack Obama won a fairly convincing victory in 2008, but he was labelled as illegitimate by adherents to the Racist birther lie that he was not born in Hawaii, but rather born in Indonesia or Kenya or somewhere “other.”

Donald Trump also lost the popular vote by around 3 million votes. And some people said that Russia stole the election, or that Russian interference in the election tainted the result. Here is the report from the Republican controlled Senate Intelligence committee report, put out in August 2020. Here is one quote from the report:

(U) The Committee found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian
effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak
information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president. Moscow’s intent was
to harm the Clinton Campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the
Trump Campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the
U.S. democratic process.

The Senate report does conclude that there is no evidence of effect in the election in terms of hacking, altering vote counts and the like.

Joe Biden is said to be illegitimate by some Republicans because of a conspiracy between elected Democrats and Republicans, working in the States of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, who nevertheless failed to take control of the U.S. Senate, lost seats in the House of Representatives, and failed to get control of the State legislature in key states like North Carolina, so the Republicans can control redistricting in 2020. Also, several dozen cases brought by the Trump campaign failed to prove meaningful fraud anywhere. No evidence of such a conspiracy has been brought forward by President Trump in court.

Any President who does not get the most votes is going to have a whiff of illegitimacy, even though the popular vote is constitutionally irrelevant. And in a winner take all series of state races, Bill Clinton got 370 electoral votes with 43% of the vote, and even though he got the most votes, it is also true that more people voted for someone other than him. I agree that seems weird, but the electoral college is a weird, anti-democratic holdover from the 19th Century.

Given that so many Republicans bought into the Racist birther lie, and that this was how Donald Trump himself first fueled his jump from reality show TV host to Republican nominee for President, Republicans were always going to say the election was stolen, or that President Elect Biden was illegitimate. Mr. Trump certainly said it over and over during the campaign. For once he told the truth, he did exactly as he said he would.

The two American Ideas

Ideas are important because what we think affects how we act, and ideas are persistent–an idea can only be replaced by another. It has taken me around five decades to come to understand United States history primarily as a struggle between two profound and persistent ideas.

The first is “all men are created equal” announced to the World by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This was an aspiration the day he wrote it, in spite of the language he used with regard to being self-evident, which was primarily a literary device that signified that the Church was not needed to behold truth. The messy and inconsistent life of this Founding Father should not cause us to reject this most basic American idea–it can and should still serve as the North Star for the United States. These words are fine, we just need to live into them.

The second idea is the existence of a “hierarchy of human value that has most commonly been marked by Race across U.S. history” plainly codified just 11 years later in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution (emphasis added):

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

This second American idea is the anti-thesis of the first, however, they have coexisted across the fullness of history until today. The United States has never fully reckoned with this duplicity of ideas that are at the shared heart beat of the nation, and such a reckoning is my primary intellectual interest and passion today. I am a late arriver to this understanding of the World and it is important to say that clearly. As a White man, it was relatively easy for me to roll through life without being jarred as I am today by the juxtaposition of these two ideas that have been present from the beginning.

I understand reckoning to a process and not a set of facts or beliefs–everyone can only start from where they are! The process has three basic parts:

First, learning about the past and the present, realizing that incomplete and false history was not taught to you by accident. Second, learning how to talk about Race and other ways in which there are hierarchies of human value–this takes practice and the only way to get better is to learn and talk about it. Finally, as both individuals and most importantly as a community, we must decide what our new understanding means for the future. What will we do about what we learn?

I would be honored for you to join me in the journey.

Norms v Laws

Expecting to know the winner of the Presidential election before bedtime on November 3, 2020 is a norm–something that we have grown accustomed to over the past 50 years because most state-level elections are not close. Alabama will be a blow out for the Republican, California for the Democrat and so on. However, state laws govern elections for President because Article II, Section 1, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants states the authority to determine how a state’s electoral college votes will be assigned.

All 50 states have chosen an election as the means of determining which candidate gets its electoral votes, with 48 of the 50 states having winner take all assignment (Maine and Nebraska apportion based on districts). Each state has detailed laws governing elections, including how and when the election results are certified, which is the official determination of which candidate gets a State’s electoral college votes, and not CNN or FoxNews making a projection. The earliest certification date is November 5, 2020 (Delaware) and the latest is December 11, 2020 (California). In North Carolina, the date is November 24, 2020.

When an election is not close, we “know” who won on election night, even if the official and legal process of certifying the winner takes up to 5 weeks.

If there are numerous close states this election, we will not know who won on election night. This may be somewhat unusual or upsetting, but we have detailed laws to govern close elections, including recount provisions. If the election is super close, lets all take a deep breath and follow the law.

The note I shared with SSRI staff this morning

I write again after a sleepless night. The disposition of the Breonna Taylor case is plainly unjust, made all the worse by the legal underpinnings of the decision to charge no one with a crime for Ms. Taylor’s actual killing by the police in Louisville, KY. This is yet another instance of a hierarchy of human value being marked by Race in the United States. This week, our nation also passed 200,000 persons who have died from COVID19, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black, Hispanic and vulnerable elderly persons living in Nursing Homes. Much of this carnage could have and can be prevented. An election looms and our nation nears a constitutionally guaranteed ability to decide who we wish to lead us at the local, state and national levels. This is hopeful and empowering, but has largely been taken for granted. Last night, the President of the United States made his most direct comments to date that he will not abide by a peaceful transfer of power should he lose, and he is sowing unfounded seeds of doubt about election legitimacy, in an apparent attempt to keep power at all costs. This is not normal, is dangerous, and is far outside the mainstream and norms of the ideals of the United States.

It would be inappropriate for me to write as Director to you with a political advocacy statement, but I do not view the cross roads we approach as political in the typical partisan sense—the state of our Democracy, warts and all, is at stake. I typically have many policy goals that I hope to be furthered by any election, but my only goal in 2020 is that every person who is qualified to vote and who wants to do so, can, and that all the votes are counted in accordance with our laws and norms, and that we move ahead as a nation after the result is known.

This is a scary time for our nation, and for us here at SSRI and Duke University. I believe strongly in the idea of a Research University—that asking questions and providing evidence-based answers can make the world a better place. Each of you have a role in this important mission. If you need to pull back and rest, do so. If able, I ask you to summon all the courage you have, and to check on one another. If you can muster the energy and heart and have the means, do something to help someone else in need. Try and find a bit of beauty in the world and amplify and celebrate it. Say please, thank you and I love you. Educate yourself about the issues and vote.

Sincerely,

Don Taylor

Director, Social Science Research Institute

Reckoning with White identity to get to a durable E Pluribus Unum

Note: I submitted this to Reason for publication but they were not interested, so I decided to post it.

Mike Gonzalez raises an important question in The Federalist about the future of the United States: is demography or culture the key to the future?

Of course they are related, but his premise is that “the left” is undermining the concept of E Pluribus Unum, (the motto of the United States, “from many, one”) by focusing on divisive identity politics. He says:

“Yes, after creating a caste order dividing society into identity silos based on race, ethnicity, sex—anything that conveys feelings of victimhood—the left is now shocked that some whites could, too, fall prey to identity politics. Nothing could better illustrate the left’s gaping blind spot about human nature.”

I agree with Gonzalez that determining what E Pluribus Unum means practically today is crucial to the thriving of the United States. However, I think he misses the mark on several key points about Race and identity politics that stand in the way of his stated goal of finding a 21st Century version of E Pluribus Unum.

First, all politics are identity politics, though I shared Mr. Gonzalez’s understanding and use of the term as applying only to Black or Latina/o or LGBTQ politicians or movements until the last few years, because I did not think of myself as a White man as having an identity. I just was. This is how White identity politics has been able to operate in the United States—as the quiet, assumed default and shaper of everything it wanted to shape since the American Revolution, because it was the unquestioned source of power, and all else was other. Gonzalez is correct about self-preservation being a key attribute of human nature, and White as the default ideal is being openly challenged, which portends a loss of power, and it is uncommon to cede power without a fight.

Second, Mr. Gonzalez identifies the rise of “affirmative action” with the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson as the beginning of “the left” dividing our country into the oppressed and the oppressors, setting the United States melting pot on a stove that is ready to boil over after 50 or 60 years of such left-driven Racial division. Let’s just say that Mr. Gonzalez and I read U.S. history a bit differently. In fact, “a Racial caste system” as he terms it is plainly evident in Article 1, section 2, clause 3 of the original U. S. Constitution, ratified in 1788.

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

The refinement of the Racial caste system has been an ongoing project of the United States government since the 1790 Census and the work of figuring out where each person fits into a hierarchy of human value most commonly marked by Race is among the oldest of American ideas, long co-existing in compartmentalized fashion with equal justice under the law, freedom and equality. Mr. Gonzalez notes a paradox in his mind, that “the left” went off course with identity politics just as our nation was addressing the long standing mistreatment of Black’s throughout U.S. history. However, it was precisely the Century of White identity politics from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that rendered the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 little more than words on paper for freed Slaves, Blacks and those who could not pass as White that necessitated the new federal actions of the 1960s. These steps are viewed as revolutionary today, but they are best understood also the lurching forward in making good on a Century-long deferred promise the United States made to freed Slaves and their descendants after the Civil War. White identity politics allowed the power structure of the United States, to un-ironically fight World War II to protect freedom as we systematically denied freedom to many of our own citizens.

Third, Mr. Gonzalez invokes the period of great European migration to the United States as being the hey-day of E Pluribus Unum personified, with a slowly simmering melting pot instead of the boiling cauldron of grievance that “the left” brought about beginning in the 1960s, and stokes still today. His remembrance of the good ole days are as follows:

“The country’s leaders could have decided long ago — for instance, during the 1893-1925 Ellis Island period — to herd the teeming masses of Armenians, Greeks, Hungarians, Jews, Lebanese, Sicilians, Slavs, and Syrians under artificial identity categories. They could have labeled them “minorities” in need of compensatory justice, and constantly inculcated grievances in them.”

He goes onto describe an assimilation process that has built the fabric of improvement through immigration into our nation, which I agree is something to be celebrated, but in doing so he shows a tremendous blind spot about our shared history and how it affects us today.

“As changing demographics are challenging enough, however, America’s earlier leaders sensed that (my insert in parens: using identity politics as he says ’the left’ has done since the 1960s) would be a grave mistake. So they did the opposite, extending the enjoyment of equal treatment under the law along with the possibility of becoming American to all newcomers to the nation.”

The extension of equal treatment of the law to immigrants was and is the correct choice, however, the period 1893-1925 also saw active blocking of this same extension to freed Slaves and Blacks in spite of a bloody Civil War and an amended Constitution. Further, to the extent you cast “Black identity politics” as grievance based, in fairness there are at least a few grievances of note to be pressed by descendants of freed Slaves, for events taking place solely after the ratification of the 13th Amendment that used the word Slavery for the first time in the U.S. Constitution, when it was banned, namely the systematic project of seeing that the 14th and 15th Amendments were little more than words on a page in a practical sense for Blacks. The 1960s, whatever else they were, saw a Century-delayed concerted federal efforts to see that the descendants of freed Slaves would receive equal justice under the law that some European immigrants received while Blacks were being systematically oppressed and denied the rights that we said they had because they were citizens a Century before. White identity politics saw to this.

Finally, Mr. Gonzalez sees “the left” as fomenting disunion using Racial appeals in the election, and I see President Trump doing so with other Republicans participating or looking the other way to differing degrees. President Trump did not invent the appeal to Whites for their vote on the basis of fear of Blacks, and Racial equality generally. Such appeals to Whites have been a bi-partisan effort when viewed across the past 150 years, and were first systematized by the Democratic Party during Reconstruction, while the Republican Party then generally pushed for making freed slaves full citizens. The most important point is that since the Civil War, conservatism, whether practiced by the Democratic Party in 1890, or the Republican Party in 1990 or today, had as a cornerstone of its appeals, sometimes whispered at other times shouted, the danger of Whites losing power to Blacks and others. White as the quiet, unassailed default source of power was and is a lot of what was trying to be conserved.

What next? The original sin of the United States is not Slavery per se, but our inability to plainly name the paradox of the founding of the nation on two pillars: rousing language of equality against tyrannical European Kings and religious-based hegemony, and the forced Enslavement of Black Africans. We had a chance to name, own and collectively repent of this following the Civil War, in the sense of the Greek word for repentance used in the New Testament—metanoia—“to go the other way” if we had simply worked to live into what we said we were going to do in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. However, we made a choice and went still another way, that saw to the systemic denial of equal justice under the law to freed Slaves and their descendants after we gave our word, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Human beings have a remarkable ability to compartmentalize divergent ideas, which enables self-deception. I agree with Mr. Gonzalez that there are many White folks who are scared and angry for a variety of reasons, but at least some of this is a sense that they can no longer view their identity as White as the default, or ultimate holder of power of a variety of types. Indeed, E Pluribus Unum would seem to assume that no Racial identity has the upper hand, instead giving way to a generative process of refreshing norms and traditions, without White serving as the quiet default to be aspired to.

The way forward into a durable E Pluribus Unum will require us to commit to a future that is based on honesty about our past and future with respect to Race. We do not need another creed, but simply need to struggle to live into the aspiration stated as fact by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. This has always been anything but self-evident, but it is an aspiration worth pursuing, and in doing so we can tell the truth about ourselves, and walk away from our original sin of not talking plainly about the role of Race in our shared lives together. The primary benefit to many Whites may simply be our nation telling the truth, and no longer engaging in corporate self-deception. I think that is not only enough, but a lot. It is not too late to live into the audacious idea of the United States of America.

Mike Gonzalez. After Decades of Dividing America on Race, Left Insists the Right is Really to Blame. Reason, August 29, 2020. Census Measurement of Race throughout history https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/race/MREAD_1790_2010.html