Shelby Steele Identifies the Party of Bad Faith in America

I read Shelby Steele’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, and was astounded at Steele’s perceptiveness and courage in writing about President Obama’s identification with a certain kind of American: the kind who finds little but evil in his own nation, and virtue only in himself and his left-wing ethos.

Steele first devastates Obama’s policy making:

…His policymaking has been grandiose, thoughtless and bullying. His health-care bill was ambitious to the point of destructiveness and, finally, so chaotic that today no citizen knows where they stand in relation to it. His financial-reform bill seems little more than a short-sighted scapegoating of Wall Street. In foreign policy he has failed to articulate a role for America in the world. We don’t know why we do what we do in foreign affairs. George W. Bush at least made a valiant stab at an American rationale—democratization—but with Mr. Obama there is nothing.

He then describes the world view of those whose instinct is to blame their country, its citizens, and its distinctive institutions for all of the evil in the world:

Bad faith in America became virtuous in the ’60s when America finally acknowledged so many of its flagrant hypocrisies: the segregation of blacks, the suppression of women, the exploitation of other minorities, the “imperialism” of the Vietnam War, the indifference to the environment, the hypocrisy of puritanical sexual mores and so on. The compounding of all these hypocrisies added up to the crowning idea of the ’60s: that America was characterologically evil. Thus the only way back to decency and moral authority was through bad faith in America and its institutions, through the presumption that evil was America’s natural default position.


So why am I astounded? I’m astounded because a respected public intellectual, an award winning author and journalist (and not “just a politician”), has identified a world view that is unique to the American left, and has in effect ascribed that world view to millions of Americans, along with their president and the current leaders of Congress. And we all know that those Americans find a home, almost to a man, in the modern Democratic party — the party currently headed by Barack Obama.

The Democratic party is the political home for Americans whose world view is based on bad faith in America. That’s what Shelby Steele is telling us. President Bush would have never said this — I’m not sure he was even capable of believing it. If candidate McCain had said it, he would have been savaged as a hater — as outside the mainstream. Let’s see what happens to Shelby Steele’s reputation in coming days and weeks.


2 thoughts on “Shelby Steele Identifies the Party of Bad Faith in America

  1. Yes, it was a good column. Somewhat along the lines of Dinesh D’Souza’s recent essay about Obama and anti-colonialism. They both touch upon the idea that you cannot lead simply by being against something – you must have some positive goal you wish to achieve.

    I think this is why we should pick some outrageous scientific goal to rally around – the hardest part is figuring out a goal that will really resonate with the population at large. The goal cannot be, “Find the Higg’s!” or “Find an experiment to test String Theory”, they are too esoteric and too focused on something an average person won’t be interested in. It also needs to be something that is almost surely achievable, but just very difficult – so it also can’t be something as nebulous as “Cure Cancer!”. The goal that most easily comes to mind is going back to the moon and establishing a base.

    A scientific goal addresses many of the core issues many people care strongly about.

    It should improve our science education, and it should advance our technical leadership in the world. You cannot get as far by simply being ‘against’ bad education, and having your primary goal be ‘education reform’. That’s just boring.

    It is a good avenue to deficit spend on and create jobs. Having a strong scientific endeavor as a large part of your Jobs Guarantee program gets cred to such a program – it’s not just busy work – and allows us to use our required deficit spending to really advance the entire world.

  2. @MagnaTalea

    Bloody do-gooder! Are you trying to make me look evil by my recommending (like Martin Feldstein did in the WSJ many months ago) increased military infrastructure spending as a preferred Keynesian aggregate demand boost? And here you are recommending instead the pursuit of some technological improvement or scientific discovery that might increase basic knowledge about the universe and make possible the betterment of the lives of billions of people?

    Ok, in all seriousness, you may have a point.

    BTW, does it worry you that because liberals like to spend other peoples’ money on things they find “more in the common interest”, they might like to engineer economic depressions just so they can use Keynesian methods to spend money on their favorite programs?

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