This ought to cause a fuss. Following up on an examination the progressive bona fides of prominent “raceologist” E.A. Ross, a “quintessential reform Darwinist” whose convictions about the innate differences among the races were widely defended by progressive elites (and mainstream publications like the NYT), and whose subsequent work at the University of Nebraska, along with Roscoe Pound, on “sociological jurisprudence” anchors modern liberalism’s “living constitution,” Goldberg transitions into a broader discussion of racial politics:
It is telling that while we constantly hear about America’s racist past and our need to redeem ourselves via racial quotas, slavery reparations, and other overtures toward “historically oppressed groups,” it is rare indeed that anyone mentions the founders of American liberalism. Again, when liberals are the historical villains, the crime is laid at the feet of America itself. The crime is considered proof of America’s conservative past. When conservatives sin, the sin is conservativism’s alone. But neve is liberalism itself to blame.
Consider the now infamous Tuskegee experiments, where poor black men were allegedly infected with syphilis without their knowledge and then monitored for years. In the common telling, the episode is an example of southern racism and American backwardness. In some versions, black men were even deliberately infected with syphilis as part of some kind of embryonic genocidal program. In fact, the Tuskegee experiments were approved and supported by well-meaning health professionals who saw nothing wrong or racist with playing God. As the University of Chicago’s Richard Shweder writes, the “study emerged out of a liberal progressive public health movement concerned about the health and wellbeing of the African American population.” If racism played a part, as it undoubtedly did, it was the racism of liberals, not conservatives. But that’s not how the story is told.
I’m not saying that people who once called themselves progressives were racist and therefore those who call themselves progressives today are racist, too. Rather, the point is that the edifice of contemporary liberalism stands on a foundation of assumptions and ideas intergral to the larger fascist moment. Contemporary liberals, who may be the kindest and most racially tolerant people in the world, nonetheless choose to live in a house of distinctly fascist architecture. Liberal ignorance of this fact renders this fascist foundation neither intangible nor irrelevant. Rather, it underscores the success of these ideas, precisely because they go unquestioned [or, in my formulation, have so insinuated themselves into the very structure of civic life that they are simply bedrock givens -- despite the clear tension between these structural assumptions and the founding principles of this country - ed].
The greatest asset liberalism has in arguments about racism, sexism, and the role of government generally is the implicit assumption that liberalism’s intentions are better and more high-minded than conservativism’s [again, recall the attack on Spencer's social Darwinism was an attack on his refusal to have the state intervene by way of sanctioned eugenic programs - ed]. Liberals think with their hearts, conservatives with their heads, goes the cliche. But if you take liberalism’s history into account, it’s clear this is an unfair advantage, and intellectual stolen base. Liberals may be right or wrong about a given policy, but the assumption that they are automatically arguing from the more virtuous position is rubbish.
What is today called liberalism stands, domestically, on three legs: support for the welfare state, abortion, and identity politics. Obviously, this is a crude formulation. Abortion, for example, could be lumped into identity politics, as feminism is one of the creeds extolling the iron cage of identity. Or one could say that “sexual liberty” is a better term than abortion. But I don’t think any fair-minded reader would dispute that those three categories nearly cover the vast bulk of the liberal agenda — or at least describe the core of liberal passions — today.
Let the games begin!