The nation was shocked, shocked to learn that the Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking at Michigan State University last week, doesn't like the Founding Fathers of the American Republic, thinks they were racists and sexists, and believes that democracy in America dates only from the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
So what else is new?
The rhetorical stones Mr. Jackson pitched into the pond have stirred a few ripples among conservative sages and pundits, but there's little reason for them to be surprised. Not only has Mr. Jackson himself a long history of spouting such remarks but also this is precisely what we should by now have come to expect from American black leadership. What we are seeing is the genesis and elaboration of a racial consciousness in place of a national consciousness.
As for Mr. Jackson, back in the 1980s he was leading demonstrations at Stanford University demanding that "Western Civ has got to go," meaning that the university should drop its required course on the history of Western civilization and teach instead the kind of multiculturalist racial and political dogmatism that Mr. Jackson favors. What he said at Michigan State last week is merely the corollary to what he was telling us then.
What he said at Michigan State, to be specific, is that
"…democracy as we know it did not begin in Philadelphia, where a bunch of white men wrote the laws….These men's wives were not allowed [to vote], these laws were made at a time when only white men had the right to vote…"
"True democracy," in Mr. Jackson's opinion, began only with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Mr. Jackson also had some generally illiterate things to say about recent U.S. foreign policy as well, but ignore that for the nonce and attend to the good reverend's vast display of his own historical ignorance.
In the first place, the Founders did not claim to be founding "democracy"; they were quite explicit that they were "republicans" (with a small "R") and that the Constitution they drafted and adopted contained a democratic along with monarchic and aristocratic elements.
If you had accused them of setting up a "true democracy," most would have recoiled in horror at the thought of it.
In the second place, it's quite true for the most part that "only white men had the right to vote." In fact, for the most part, only white, fairly affluent, Christian men had the right to vote, but note that Mr. Jackson doesn't seem to care so much about the property and religious qualifications. He's really obsessed with racial qualifications, though he tossed a bone to feminists for good measure.
Are we supposed to be ashamed of or feel guilty about the fact that the white, male Founding Fathers didn't let blacks and women vote? You bet your knee breeches we are, and with a good many white males today, Mr. Jackson's guilt trip works well. Many do feel guilty about it.
But it's very arguable that the "true democracy" favored by that Mr. Jackson and most of the guilt-ridden white men who swallow what he tells them is not all it's cracked up to be. The country was far better governed in the days when the franchise was seriously restricted. For all Mr. Jackson's contempt for the generation of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and a dozen other immortals of political thought and practice, "true democracy" has produced nothing whatever like them in its entire history.
But Mr. Jackson's real message, of course, was to tell us, as he and his fellow pioneers in racial consciousness have told us before, that the Old Republic created by the Founding Fathers is finished, and it's finished for essentially racial reasons.
"We [meaning the United States] represent 6 percent of the world,"
"Most people on this globe are yellow, black, or brown, non-Christian, female, young, poor and don't speak English."
Because the white-male-dominated republic of the Founders is a small minority of "this globe," Mr. Jackson seems to infer that it's about to vanish down history's drainpipes.
It may well disappear, and the rising racial consciousness among the "yellow, black, or brown" peoples of which Mr. Jackson boasted will be one major reason for it. But the truth is that the white, male republic of the Founders was an even smaller part of this globe when it was established 200 years ago, and that didn't stop it from getting started and prevailing against all sorts of odds.
Back then, you see, white males believed in what they were doing and had the wit and will to do it.
Today they don't, which is why they pay any attention at all to gentlemen like the Rev. Jackson.
COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
September 23, 2002