You know President Trump’s politics of disruption is succeeding when political scientists begin paying attention. Aroused from their slumbers, startled profs are even revising the old syllabus and lecture notes. Many political science departments are seeing booming enrollments.
What Trump means for the practice of politics has the opportunity of improving the scholarship about politics. Just as he put the meaning of the consent of the governed back into politics with his disruptive policies on trade, foreign policy, and immigration, and above all with his assault on political correctness, so thoughtful students of politics need to reexamine whether their scholarship has accorded democratic legitimacy its proper place. Why should we obey certain other people? Political “science” has set this key question further and further back from its central place in democratic self-government.
Establishment political science too often refights the last wars and the last campaigns. The profession began as rebels, as Progressive reformers, but became reactionaries.
From its academic origins in the late 19th century, political science sought to “reform” corrupt American government by applying new scientific principles such as Darwinian evolution. In cleaning out “corruption,” they destroyed politics—the democratic replacement of officeholders—in favor of scientific administration, the reign of experts.
This follows from the American Political Science Association’s own rejection of government by consent in its Progressive origins.
The key is Woodrow Wilson’s attack on the Declaration of Independence, which he thought outmoded. Wilson was the only U.S. president who held the Ph.D. degree and the only one who was a former president of the APSA. His successors have generally taken his lead, with a few honorable exceptions such as the moderate conservative James Q. Wilson.
The Progressive attack on political corruption was a mask for an attack on democratic politics generally and more specifically on the notion of government by consent.
Progressivism sought to replace politics—that is, self-government—with all its messiness and corruption, with administration, all-knowing experts from the best universities. We see the fruits of Progressive political science in the administrative state, in our politics today, and in our political science—with its acceptance of centralized power, regulation, and a politically correct agenda.
Thus, more or less as the Progressive theorists had designed it, American political science (and law) guided the development of American government. An academic-political elite, not the decisions of the people, establishes what is legitimate in our politics. We common people must bow to the expertise and learning of the experts in the elite, who increasingly are leftist (and vocal about it) in their political leanings.
Fortunately, there are some exceptions to this tendency.
One leading sign of contrarian thinking is the recent APSA panels of the Claremont Institute, which have emphasized fundamental, typically forgotten issues of politics—the nature of justice and rights, for example—and have enjoyed the largest average attendance over decades now. Among many presenters one of the more provocative, who challenged established thinking with elegantly supported scholarship (and numbers) is Eric P. Kaufmann, author of the widely reviewed Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities.
The very title may arouse denunciation from those who have not fainted or been rendered speechless. In fact, while largely a data-driven assault on political correctness, Whiteshift is even more a scholarly tome of over 600 pages, with dozens of charts and graphs, which sheds light on this most contentious issue of racial and ethnic attitudes by confronting readers and audiences with facts based on cleverly designed surveys. Despite the moaning of some reviewers, his book does not justify racism. (See, for example, Andrew Sullivan’s appreciation.)
Kaufmann does sympathize with the unease of majority populations that are confronted with new majorities comprised of nonwhite minorities, many of whom are immigrants. And in defense of the unease of whites who see dramatic changes in their lives, he criticizes the self-righteousness of adherents to the new religion of anti-racism, an appropriate introduction to his scholarship.
Following Kaufmann’s presentation, let’s start with an image: Does an ad for an old Steve Martin movie, Three Amigos, display humor or hate?
Following a “reasonable person” standard, Steve Martin and company are hardly hateful. But the new religion of antiracism insists on judging by “the most sensitive [audience] member imaginable.” It would be a violation of the religion’s creed and the preaching of its clergy to think otherwise. It turns out that the so-called reasonable person standard is white privilege’s bigotry, white original sin, which must be confessed, if absolution is to be given. “Cultural appropriation,” “trigger warnings,” and “safe spaces” all follow from the new religion. Only a Great Awakening can end the life of sin and allow sinners to save their souls.
While these religious enthusiasms often burn out, in the meantime they produce perverse policies—silence, apologies, and offers of legal aid to illegal immigrants even in the face of violent acts such as rape in the nation’s most highly educated counties. Such “left-modernism” produces not only sanctuary from removal by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, but favored status in the community for illegal immigrants.
Left-modernism is a political assault on the white majority, but Kaufmann defines “white majority” in cultural, not biological terms.
In a wide-ranging interview with economist Tyler Cowen, Kaufmann notes that “Unless there’s a violent conflict going on, attachment to your own group is not the same as hating an outgroup. Attachment to being white or attachment to a North European ancestry is not a predictor of disliking a minority.” Moreover, intermarriage produces more of a mixed population, which will “be more inclined to identify with a kind of majoritarian aspect of their identity.” Thus, “60 percent of people who have at least one Mexican grandparent identify as white rather than Latino.”
How American identity can sustain itself is another, even more challenging and important question though. Given the intimidation of the religion of antiracism and its political partner left-modernism, can Progressivism’s great-grandchildren respect the “laws of nature and of nature’s God”—that is, the real religion and the republican self-government of Woodrow Wilson’s despised Declaration of Independence? It would deny our human nature to surrender without a fight, one for which Eric Kaufmann provides much ammunition.