Don’t Trade Values for Government ‘Goodies’

FILE - Virginia's Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam spoke with "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King. He told her he would stay in office and address Virginia's inequities. But Governor Northam’s views — and those of others who share them — are at odds with what the American value of equality under the law really means, and what it really requires.

By Rita Dunaway Published on February 21, 2019

The recent news from Virginia was horrifying in a bipartisan way. Governor Ralph Northam’s own words exposed him as a man who accepts infanticide for the sake of “economic freedom.” His medical school yearbook exposed him as a man who thought racism was funny. And now, sadly, rather than repenting of the deep moral failures these exposures reveal, he wants to buy us off.

Leaders in both parties called upon Northam to resign. He refused to do so, claiming that he would remain in office to “work on racial reconciliation.”

Next came the headline, “Northam seeks more for the poor.” He told lawmakers that he plans to help minorities by adding money to public programs. In a letter to committee chairmen, he said, “In order for every Virginian to thrive, we must invest in their success — and that requires a greater focus on issues of equity.”

The Wrong “Solution”

Apparently Northam thinks that his desire to dole out public money for minorities shows that his attitudes toward them have matured. But in fact, it shows just the opposite. It shows he believes that unless the government steps in and gives minorities a leg up, they can’t achieve their goals in society. That is as wrong as it is insulting.

Northam’s idea of achieving “racial reconciliation” through more public spending doesn’t show that he’s ready to defeat racism. It shows that he still doesn’t understand what racism is.

We live in a time and place where an encouraged and determined child — of any race — faces few barriers to educational and economic success. In this setting, to suggest that racial minorities need extra help from the state is just another form of racism.

Our laws now ensure that racial minorities do not face obstacles imposed by government on the basis of race. Our laws prevent racial discrimination at school and at work. What we need now is not an infusion of cash or programs. What we need is to reject the very attitudes that Northam’s proposals reflect. To reject what George W. Bush once referred to as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Northam’s idea of achieving “racial reconciliation” through more public spending doesn’t show that he’s ready to defeat racism. It shows that he still doesn’t understand what racism is.

Beware of Politicians Promising “Goodies”

Americans must always be wary of public officials who try to “buy” our support. “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” That’s an old saw, attributed to various statesmen. Regardless of who said it first, there is much truth, and warning, to be found in it.

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First of all, when the people throw their support behind the candidate who promises the most goodies to their particular group, it leads officials to engage in ill-conceived public spending to win elections. But that isn’t the biggest problem.

When the people support whoever promises the most goodies to their own faction, it manifests a type of self-focus that is inconsistent with patriotism. To go a step further, this attitude reveals that a people have become either amoral or immoral. It shows that they are willing to sacrifice values for stuff.

Choosing Values Over Stuff

If we hope to reject these sell-your-soul sort of proposals, we must learn to identify them. We have to watch for talk of economic “equity” that reveals a basic misunderstanding of a true American value: equality under the law. This value isn’t about the state ensuring that each person reaches the same level of education or earns the same income. It’s about protecting the rights of all people equally, not favoring any one group over another.

When the people throw their support behind the candidate who promises the most goodies to their particular group, it leads officials to engage in ill-conceived public spending to win elections. But that isn’t the biggest problem.

Northam defied this value when he tried to justify his support for infanticide on the basis of “economic freedom.” He wants to protect the economic interests of some (mothers) at the cost of the very lives of others (their newborns). He defied it again by suggesting that some people, solely because of their race, need more help than others to thrive in a free society.

Governor Northam’s views — and those of others who share them — are at odds with what the American value of equality under the law really means and requires. They would have us overlook their moral confusion in exchange for things they think are more important to us. Things like cold, hard, public cash. But if they gave us all the money in the world, it would be no substitute for moral clarity and support of America’s defining values. We need to show Northam, and all other politicians, that we know it.

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