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This episode looks into questions about identity politics, corrupt government organizations, and conservative principles.
Good morning, I’m Frank Kaufmann, president of The Settlement Project, good morning. I’m doing a short piece this morning I’ve entitled; Consistent Principles, just put together in an effort to try to help, particularly mostly Conservative thinkers, to be constant, fair, or consistent in what they claim to hold, what they claim to believe, and not slip into ways of thinking or behaving that are contrary to what Conservatives claim. And contrary, to embrace or start to take on habits that they would criticize, that they would typically attribute to thinkers on the Progressive Left or Radical Left. So, the piece is called Consistent Principles.
If we look at the political landscape today, it’s typically understood and I believe fairly so, I think fairly so, that the progressive and Radical Left operates with the basic starting assumptions that has been summarized to be known as Identity Politics.
Identity Politics is an approach to political and social life, in which people are first thought of in terms of various types of demographics, they are Black people, or their BIPOC. Let me see, what’s BIPOC? Black, Indigenous, People of Color. So, it’s a collectivity of basically saying non-White, I guess, because it’s a non-White NW people. But anyways, so be it. Anyway, that’s a category.
Black people is a category, Homosexuals is a category. Homosexuals have now added itself into what’s often called Alphabet soup. It’s a long list of letters each representing one of the names of the members of this collective. LGBTQ; lesbian, gay, transsexual, maybe transgender, bisexual, gender fluid, I don’t know. There are more letters than I’m any longer familiar with. And then, there’s a plus at the end, I guess that’s to keep it open for other letters to be added, or to some letters to be used later on, that have one meaning and also are needed in later gender identities. I’m not quite sure. But anyway, that’s all beside the point.
Basically, the main point I’m trying to introduce here is that on the Radical Left and Progressive Left, the fundamental starting point with approaching life in the world and approaching the people in it is by ‘identity’. People are understood to be members of a group, and then one thinks politically, one acts politically, one legislates, one’s policy advocacy is based on the assumption that this is the experience of Black people, or this is the experience of gay people.
Ironically, the flip side of that assumption is not only that that’s the experience of these people, and this is where I think probably liberal progressives don’t want to go, that there would probably be the attendant assumption that these people behave a certain way also. I think that part is verboten. So, one can project or anticipate or suggest that a given identity, women, all have a certain experience across the board, all women have a certain experience. But I think it’s probably verboten to extend the common sense assumption that in the end, all women therefore, behave a certain way, that part is probably forbidden.
So, if you have legislation that requires that you hire a certain number of women, I think implied in that would be that doesn’t matter which one you hire, that they will behave a certain way; they will add to your company in the way women add on. So, they’d behave a certain way. But, I doubt anyone could ever get away with kind of just standing there with a drink in your hand and saying, ‘Yeah, all women behave like this’. That would probably be in trouble.
So, Conservatives tend to or surely, absolutely, wholly, to reject identity politics. And the most classic quote, in that regard from people who hold a Conservative approach to political thinking is the Martin Luther King quote; ‘Let us not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character’. The key in that, of course, is the content of our character, which King captures as that each and every individual bears responsibility for the actions we take, and that we should be judged by the history of our own subjective decision making, how we embrace our responsibilities, and how we perform. And then give me a chance, don’t look at me, see a color and make assumptions about.
So, this was classically understood as racist mindset. I look at you, I see you’re Black, I’m gonna make a bunch of negative assumptions about you. I look at you, I see you’re dressed a certain way, it probably suggests that you’re a Muslim, and I make a bunch of negative assumptions about what you’re doing here, and how you behave in this country, and so forth. This was typically regarded as the basis of racism, or gender bias. I look at you, I see you’re a woman; I make a bunch of assumptions about you.
So, oddly enough, shifting all the way across to all political thinking, all legislation, all policymaking, etc., bringing across this starting point; I look at you, I see a color, I make a bunch of negative assumptions. I need to legislate in such a way that your life in this society is impacted based on superficial characteristics and qualities.
There are ironies or inconsistencies in the basis of identity politics, which I’m not going to go into now. But the most obvious one is that we’re never permitted to make an assumption about certain categories; all Black people are like this. And yet, the dominant political environment is that everything even educational systems are guided by these categories. CRT, critical race theory, that, although they argue to the contrary does exist in every level of school, from preschool all the way up through Post Graduate School, gender studies in similar ways, they impact education as well. Okay.
And then, the Conservative point of view is; ‘Don’t judge me by the color of my skin, judge me by the content of my character’. It was kind of the DNA of the lifting up out of racist tendencies in America that Martin Luther King provided in his person and his courage and in the movement he led. And, many would argue, and I would, it’s my position also, that the work of King fundamentally changed human relations in America and greatly enhanced positive race relations in America. Because, his position was that race should not be the first thing you see. Okay.
Now, all that’s just by way of preface. Here’s a median, a next connecting point; when Conservatives argue against identity mindedness and identity politics, they will say that, ‘Your university wants to make sure that every identifiable group that fits the progressive liberal agenda’. They want to make sure that there is like a transgender club and a transgender dining room and a transgender, well, they won’t want to transgender locker room they’ll want just 2 locker rooms, whatever, I’m not gonna get into that.
But anyway, they will make every kind of space for every kind of identity for the suffering and experience that. And when you start to look at whole groups and whole demographics as having a common experience, then they will want to accommodate that. They’ll want to structure their entire university, their curricula, their hiring, etc. on the assumption that people can be reduced to external evidences and external appearances about themselves.
But, is there the equal embrace for people with political positions? Would a school want to proudly say; ‘We have a space for transgender, people of color; BIPOCs, AIPAC; Asian, Indian, there’s another set of letters for another collectivity of racial identity, Asian Indian, People of Pacific etc.’ And then they have a list; our university is inclusive, diverse, it has equity, everybody’s welcome here. Transgenders are welcome here, BIPOCs are welcome here, AIPACs are welcomed here, Conservatives are welcome here, avid Trump supporters are welcome here, strong Second Amendment advocates are welcome here, we’re proud of our diversity, we have absolute equity. That’s not the case.
So, there’s a subcategory of what might be called the grouping, people who strongly believe that the Second Amendment is an important part of human freedom, the Second Amendment advocates. They’re not welcome here. Strong Trump supporters, people who simply believe that during the 4 years of the Trump presidency, America has improved in a lot of ways. The creation of traditional American values started to become enhanced on the basis of his policies. They’re Trump supporters, another category, and another group.
Yeah, they can all wear red hats or do something. They may not have Black skin, or they may not have Puerto Rican skin, but they’ll have some identifiable characteristics. And then there’s a group. Why isn’t this group likewise the beneficiary of identity politics? So, there’s an inconsistency there. Conservatives often point this out and call it hypocritical on the left, you know, so be it. But what I want to point out is that Conservatives are only asking that society be built on the basic building block that King identify, and that is, ‘Let us not be judged by the superficial accouterments, or kind of characteristics of who and what I am’.
I happen to love Biden, I happen to think his foreign policy reflexes are as brilliant as any president. And so, that’s just a point of view I have. I read the papers, I listen to CNN, I read The New York Times, I read the Atlantic Monthly, and I think Biden is an economic and foreign policy genius. Okay, that’s fine. This is not who I am, it’s a point of view I have.
And so, what a Conservative would say is, ‘I don’t want to be lumped in with everybody who happens to think Biden is a great president. I just want you to know who I am. Am I reliable? Am I loving? Am I kind? Do I stand up for disadvantaged individuals? Do I protect a vulnerable person against bullies? Do I bring cookies to class for everybody? Can you see who and what I am independent of how much I find Biden to be such a magnificent president in the history of the United States, but also I’m this’.
So, there’s the content of my character; my goodness, my kindness, my thoughtfulness, my reliability, I’m reliable. Okay, so this is what Conservatives are arguing is a better foundation for building society; Content of Character. So, every individual meets their circumstances in ways that build a record in which they can be assessed for the quality of their life.
And then, every individual deserves compassion because the struggles of my history or background might make it hard for me to act reliably. They deserve encouragement. I may be doing great, but I may have inner doubts and struggles that people don’t know about, even though I look like I’m highly successful, but please encourage me, it’s helpful for me.
So, these are kind of kind approaches to individuals. Compassion; I forgive your struggles and mistakes, encouragement, and so on and so forth. More than encouragement, actual support, I’ll give you money to help you take that computer programming class. These are good responses to individuals. And these are what Conservatives like to understand themselves to be in their approach. If someone is consistently harmful; they lie, they hurt, they harm, they steal, they damage etc., and there should be policy for those particular behaviors. Not that it’s a group that does that, or this group behaves that way.
And so there’s not legislation that some poor innocent soul is victim of negative legislation policy just because whenever you see a certain type of behavior, it’s most frequently perpetrated by a particular person that looks like that. This would be inherently unfair. And, Conservative Americans like to imagine America to be a place with equal justice under the law, which has of course been proven to be the opposite in these present days, but that’s also a separate conversation.
So, here’s the main point of why I decided to make this podcast. There are groupings in which Conservatives are tempted to behave in ways inconsistent with their or our insistence that every individual be regarded by the content of their character. The very thing that Conservatives are saying always causes problems; they cause biases, they cause injustice, identity politics. And yet, Conservatives do have collectivities of identities in which they’re prone to violate their own ideals of judging a person by the content of their character. Or, I should say, relating to a person by the content of their character.
And here’s a category; the FBI. Right now, because of the behavior of the FBI over the last 6 years and perhaps much longer than that, Conservatives basically hate the FBI. Or, are prone to regard that as a corrupt organization from top to bottom and should be disbanded. I can understand that. To see overt corruption, again and again and again without cease and without accountability, no one held to account for grotesque violations against citizens. Okay.
If you’re a Conservative and you think like that, you’re actually in violation of our own principles. An FBI agent is an FBI agent. Same way, a Black person is a Black person; homosexual person is a homosexual person. Show me who you are and what you are. I’m not going to make assumptions about you. IRS agents. Conservatives are not against the IRS. They’re not against paying taxes. They’re for limited government, they understand taxes should be for a very narrow set of obligations in federal governance, which includes protection of the country, its interstate infrastructure, and so forth.
So, the IRS is a legitimate part of government a genuine Conservative should acknowledge. And so to say, now, the IRS has just recently bought another 30 million rounds of ammunition, just hired 7000 new agents. And, the federal government is in the midst of calling Conservative thinkers and Conservative parents domestic terrorists. So, there is an invitation to have an alarm about the FBI or alarm about the IRS. But, it’s inconsistent with Conservative principles to say that the IRS is an evil organization. It’s not an evil organization; it’s a necessary governmental entity.
And what I want to do is have the capacity to sit with an IRS agent and find out that they’re a magnificent person; they’re a good father or a good mother, they drive their kids to school, they do their homework with their children, they’re trying to be responsible and patriotic citizens, they’re trying to be fair to all people. FBI agent, there has to be good FBI agents. So, I think that if both sides stay clear and true to their principles, this is a better way forward.
And so, with the progressive and Radical Left, I tried my best to understand but I’ll probably fail too. I will guess, if they honestly feel that external elements of a person, like their skin is dark, is somehow the best way to think about organizing the country? I think probably not. I think it’s genuinely inconsistent with the constitutional foundations of a free and sovereign people, each one with inalienable rights given by. I think identity politics is genuinely inconsistent to that, and leads to totalitarianism. That’s my belief about that starting point of political thinking.
Identity Politics leads to, at the minimum, totalitarian oppression, at the minimum, and worse. That’s just a political point of view, I happen to hold that as a political point of view. I happen to believe that God-given inalienable rights and the sovereignty of every individual, to be governed by God and God alone, and to be served by a government that has genuine responsibilities that I’m responsible for, to take good care of.
That, if I’m going to be consistent with my principles, that each and every individual should be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin, and that this is the best way to build a wholesome and free and equitable society, then I should not slip into or fall into or have categories, similar to the Progressive Left that I might criticize. The FBI should not be a category for me; corrupt individuals should be my category.
I can run all this off in my head of people who are evidently corrupt to the core. Their behavior is on the record, it can be assessed, and it is vile, and these people should be imprisoned for the rest of their lives, at least. There are a lot of people in the FBI who have demonstrated themselves to be of this quality and of this nature. In the judiciary, there are a lot, in the Department of Justice, there are a lot. But, if I just say the DOJ is or the FBI, I’m falling into the same category.
Just like I’d like a university that brags about diversity and equity and inclusion, to say, ‘And we include. And that no transgender will ever feel anything other than a warm embrace in our country, in our university, and no avid strong Trump supporter will ever feel anything other than a warm embrace. He’ll feel safe here; she’ll feel safe in our university’. That is a version of inclusion.
And conversely, just as I wish universities bragging of inclusion and equity and diversity would be able to have that in their list. Conversely, I think Conservatives should be able to say; ‘I relate to people by the content of their character. No Black person will ever be pre-judged by me. No transgender person will ever be pre-judged by me. No IRS, no FBI’. That’s what I’m saying.
That, every group has the temptation to have an enemy group. But if Conservatives want to be consistent in how they believe a healthy and wholesome America is, in which its citizens relate constructively with one another, we just have to keep an eye out and be careful and not build our own categories in which we have identity politics; FBI is an identity, the IRS is an identity and so forth. It’s a tricky thing. It’s not a simple thing, but that’s the reason why I wanted to make this brief podcast. Thanks a lot for listening. We’ll be together again soon.