Thanks in part to Sen. Tim Scott, it looks like we have hit the peak of the “America is a systemically racist country” craze.
About 10 days ago, the South Carolina Republican, in response to President Biden’s address to Congress, as well as the general tone and tenor of the times, made it clear that he did not believe that America is a racist country and that the notion of institutional or systemic racism is pretty much nonsense. He said plainly: “America is not a racist country.”
In so doing, he offered the most consequential response to a presidential address since that sad and unfortunate tradition was started in 1966. Mr. Scott both carpet bombed a talking point the Democrats have spent 50 years curating and launched himself immediately into the mix for the 2024 presidential contest. That’s solid work for just five minutes.
The next day, reporters, after almost a year of dutiful silence on the topic in service of their preferred candidate (now president), managed to find their voices long enough to ask both Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris whether they thought the United States was a racist country.
Faced with that politically lethal question, both of them cleared their throat and stammered for a bit and ultimately talked about the need to address racism and what not while admitting that, no, the United States is not a racist country.
Mr. Biden gingerly said: “I don’t think the American people are racist.”
Ms. Harris, always the lawyer, offered: “No, I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak the truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”
On the Republican side of the equation, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida was asked that same day what he thought about the concept of institutional racism. Obviously not wanting a potential 2024 competitor — Mr. Scott — to get to his right on the issue, Mr. DeSantis correctly said that such an idea was “horse manure.”
In short, Mr. Scott’s brief and truthful remarks led the current leaders of both political parties to disavow the Democrats’ principal critique of the United States and its institutions. As a practical matter, without racial politics to divide people, some Democratic operatives are going to have to redraw their campaign plans.
The whole experience also has exposed Mr. Biden as a bit of reed swaying in the wind.
A long time ago, all the way back in March, he offered to the United Nations: “… We acknowledge that systemic racism and white supremacy are ugly poisons that have long plagued the United States.” More recently, on April 21, Mr. Biden said that George Floyd’s death allowed “the whole world to see the systemic racism … that is a stain on our nation’s soul.”
Apparently, we’ve solved those problems and taken care of the stain in the intervening few weeks.
An important difference between Mr. Biden and his predecessor is that Mr. Biden appears to believe that the United States and its people are fundamentally flawed and not redeemable. They are in need of a tear-down renovation. President Trump, for all his failings, believed that the United States and its citizens are good and are forces for good in the world.
That’s why Mr. Trump aggressively (if not always efficiently) pursued American interests in trade, foreign policy, defense, intellectual property, etc.
It is why Mr. Biden has shown no interest in pursuing such approaches, instead being willing to outsource his foreign policy to the usual nomenklatura. It is why Team Biden patiently listened to a pack of Chinese government officials — whose government marinates in genocide, slavery, torture, murder, religious oppression and international hooliganism — lecture the United States about human rights. There is little doubt that some of them agreed with the critiques of the Chinese communists.
Mr. Scott suffers no such confusion. His willingness to take a stand has cleared away some of the underbrush in American civic life and enabled us to get on with addressing the material challenges facing many of our communities.
Part of those challenges is the multi-generational, single-party political hegemony over many major cities in the United States. That hegemony has meant that all the material decisions about public education, housing, policing, zoning, taxes and all the other elements of life that local governments touch have been made by the same people for generations.
If you want to understand what institutional racism really looks like, take a look at who rules the majority-minority cities and counties in this nation and what that rule has meant for those citizens.
After that, call up Mr. Scott and thank him for bringing some honesty to this conversation.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.