The enemy of multiculturalism is not necessarily our friend…

A common
criticism of multiculturalism is that it aims at “the
disuniting of America.” In his 1992 book
by that title
historian Arthur Schlesinger, who has
also celebrated the liberal Democratic achievements of
FDR and the Kennedy family, bemoans the descent of
Americans into a collection of  hyphenated minorities. Instead of upholding our shared
political culture, Schlesinger`s villains stress the
value of difference. They invoke not an American people
held together by democratic, pluralist values but rather
distinctive group identities coexisting in the same
general society.

Schlesinger also insists that Western societies have a
right to transmit their civilization “because it is
theirs,” he complains repeatedly about living in a
“balkanized” country. Apparently this balkanization
comes from the refusal to accept the values Schlesinger
wants Americans to venerate, and from being too indulgent toward diversity.
Sociologist Nathan Glazer, longtime Commentary
contributor and author of We
Are All Multiculturalists Now
has described the
same process as “the disaggregating of American

Much of
this lament can be found, famously, in Alan Bloom`s The
Closing of the American Mind
– complaints that
Americans have ceased to be what they once were, a
people united by a human rights ideology and enforcing
democracy and equality throughout the world. For Bloom,
this straying of civic virtue has come about because of
“the German connection.” Various nineteenth-century
German historical thinkers and the anti-democratic
existentialists Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger
are held responsible for two successive disasters, Nazi
ideology and recent American academic culture. 
These noxious Teutons infected American society,
once having captured the academic class, with moral
relativity and contempt for democratic principles.

observed by Claes Ryn in The
New Jacobinism
, it is simply wrong to treat
Bloom`s tract – which gained (mirabile
) the adulation of American conservatives – as
a plea for traditional humanistic learning. It is in
fact a visionary call for a global democratic crusade
that would inflict “our principles of freedom and
equality” on everyone everywhere. Thus Bloom praises
American participation in the World War II as “really
an educational project undertaken to force those who do
not accept these principles to do so.”

In short,
what Bloom and his devotees dislike about
multiculturalism is that it interferes with this global
educational project.

Such a
selective rendering of multiculturalism nurtures other
misunderstandings that at least some neoconservative
intellectuals may not be unhappy to see disseminated.
The important thing for them is to justify their
political prescriptions, even at the cost of attacking
an implausible straw man. If, for example, one believes
that multiculturalists are historical relativists who
oppose an American global democratic mission, then
multiculturalism is not seen for what it is: an attack on
the pre-global democratic Western core culture by those
who despise the historic peoples that produced it. And
if the alleged danger of “diversity” for the
American people is “disaggregating” culture in
abstract, then one does not have to notice that
multiculturalists are busy being intolerant to the
majority –  tearing
down the symbols politically incorrect white Southerners
and marginalizing Christians in what used to be an
overwhelmingly Protestant country.

In point
of fact, multiculturalists are neither latterday German
rightwingers nor passionate fans of cultural diversity.
They are haters of the Western past, trying to
marginalize those whose ancestors exemplified that past,
and those who remain Western traditionalists. What these
haters are not about is what Canadian socialist
philosopher Charles
Taylor misleadingly calls
“the politics of mutual
recognition.” An Anglophone professor at McGill
University, Taylor shows tender regard for all sorts of
Third World and alternative lifestyle communities. But
alas he does not extend “mutual recognition” to his
own ancestral culture. The once proud Canadian majority
culture and people will grow inevitably weaker in the
world Taylor is helping to build. 
Indeed, Taylor finds the declining WASP society
to have been an insufferably narrow one in need of
“enrichment.” He does not discern these failings in
the alien groups whom traditional WASPs are supposed to
move over and make way for. (This was also the theme of
Peter Brimelow`s 1986 The
Patriot Game

related problem about misrepresenting multiculturalism:
it diverts attention from a critical strategy of its
practitioners – immigration. There may be other excited
advocates of Third World immigration, like grasping
corporate executives, social workers, “respectable”
conservative careerists. But multiculturalists support
it for transparent political reasons. If the U.S. in the
twenty-first century comes to have a Third World – or,
more specifically, Latin American – plurality, the white Western component in American life will
grow weaker. And as other groups overtake and surpass
the number of Euro-Americans, the multiculturalists will
be on the scene to celebrate the vanishing of a despised
race and its once hegemonic culture.

is an article of faith for neoconservatives – a subject
that deserves a separate essay. So the belief that
multiculturalism can be avoided without reforming
immigration is fundamental, represented by, among many
others, Irwin Stelzer, Norman Podhoretz, and John J.
Miller, now – significantly – at National Review. The
trick for these democratic globalists is to gain control
over American education and to use it to promote their
Cold War liberal ideology as a universally digestible
American creed.

After all,
what makes multiculturalists bad for them is not the
current war against the patrimony of Southern whites or
the multicultural investment in changing the Western
world`s demographic base, but the challenge to a
neocon conception of “human rights” and our
contamination by Teutonic murkiness.

As a
practical matter, immigration, neocons and
multiculturalists are hard to tell apart: Both are eager
to have exceedingly porous borders and bash Buchananites
and other anti-immigrationists on the right.

The sad,
almost unspeakable truth is that the Left is running
both sides of the immigration debate. This is certainly
evident in the current visible discussion about
multiculturalism and in the studied avoidance of
unpleasant points by those engaging the immigration
question. In the February 10 international edition of Figaro, a feature essay on multiculturalism analyzes the U.S. as
“the melting pot being frustrated.” Among those
factors thought to be leading to a fragmented American
identity, the French article gives major attention to
demographic trends:

fifty years when racial minorities will constitute fifty
percent of the population, there will no longer be a
majoritarian ethnic group. Already the Hispanisation of
Western and Southwestern states is striking. The
Hispanics are presently 35 million. In 2005 they will
become even more numerous than the blacks (who for the
time being are the largest American minority). In 2050
Hispanics will represent as much as a quarter of the
American population.”

publication that includes these data and treats them as
ominous signs is not a self-described conservative one.
It is unlikely that any member of our own
“conservative” communion would be allowed to publish
such insensitive truths without suffering grave,
predictable consequences.

conservatives are expected to follow the neocon lead –
undertaking a reconstruction of multiculturalism, while
ignoring those aspects of it that cry out to be noticed.
This is the price we pay to have “tolerance”
inflicted upon us.

  is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA.  He is the author of After
Schmitt: Politics and Theory

March 04, 2001