from the editors of The Wall Street Journal, The Poison of Identity Politics
A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left. The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say “all lives matter” without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.
Mr. Trump didn’t create this identity obsession even if as a candidate he did try to exploit it. He is more symptom than cause, though as President he now has a particular obligation to renounce it. So do other politicians. Yet the only mission of nearly every Democrat we observed on the weekend was to use the “white supremacist” cudgel against Mr. Trump—as if that is the end of the story.
It isn’t, and it won’t be unless we confront this underlying politics of division. Not long ago we were rereading Justice Clarence Thomas’s prophetic opinion in Holder v. Hall, a 1994 Supreme Court ruling on dividing voting districts by race.
“As a practical political matter,” he wrote, “our drive to segregate political districts by race can only serve to deepen racial divisions by destroying any need for voters or candidates to build bridges between racial groups or to form voting coalitions.” Writ large, Justice Thomas was warning that identity politics can destroy democratic trust and consent.
related- Robespierre’s Warning
If you don’t really recall what the Reign of Terror was about, during the French Revolution, the Committee of Public Safety was formed to govern without any of the old-fashioned constraints of government. The Committee was established on 6 April; by mid-July, Marat was assassinated, and Danton, one of the original leaders of the Revolution, was removed from the Committee. By the end of the month, Maximilien Robespierre was added to the Committee. During the Reign of Terror, tens of thousands were executed, died in prison, or died by suicide.
This is what happens when these movements get out of hand. So, everyone who is thinking “heads on spikes” are a good idea? Remember that in 1793 Robespierre was taking the heads of his political opposition; in 1794, he lost his own.