I’ve repeatedly given Andrew Sullivan credit for my blogging, and over the years he insists on disgusting his defenders. Relaxed, eager to comment on a political scene that shifts beyond his ability to comprehend, Sullivan smushed together two of his obsessions in his weekly New York post: Clinton bashing and exploiting minorities for the sake of a Toryism pathetic enough that even National Review would reject it. What’s remarkable about “Why Do Democrats Feel Sorry for Hillary Clinton?” is the confidence with which he offers received wisdom and racist doggerel that a part time intern recompensed with an invitation to the annual awards banquet could have disproven with Google.
After chastising a couple of columnists for writing admittedly embarrassing posts wondering about Clinton’s sanity, Sullivan asks, “Seriously, can you imagine anyone wondering the same after Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis or John Kerry blew elections?” No, I don’t imagine it because Mondale and Dukakis lost in historic electoral and popular vote landslides, and Mondale and Dukakis — and Kerry too, I believe — were or remain men.
But Sullivan reserves his opprobrium for those black people who can’t get their lives together:
Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the “social-justice” brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society? How have bigoted white people allowed these minorities to do so well — even to the point of earning more, on average, than whites? Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years. In the late 19th century, as most worked in hard labor, they were subject to lynchings and violence across the American West and laws that prohibited their employment. They were banned from immigrating to the U.S. in 1924. Japanese-American citizens were forced into internment camps during the Second World War, and subjected to hideous, racist propaganda after Pearl Harbor. Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?
Relatives have shared this brand of errant nonsense over the years. Cubans, in their thinking, despite the backing of the full power of the federal government, are the only minority qualified to push the Horatio Alger myth; it never occurs to them that their arrival in Miami coincided with the passage of world-historic voting and civil rights laws, marking the last time the federal government addressed a hundred years of lynching and exploitation. With every job theoretically open to black Americans, there was no excuse for them to complain, these Cubans thought, about ill treatment, as Cubans grabbed the menial labor that would have gone to those newly empowered blacks. Fortunately, the Nixon White House had room for Cuban burglars.
Apart from the laziness of lumping Vietnamese, Filipinos, Taiwanese, and Indians together, Sullivan ignores decades of research. He might even have read Jeff Guo’s interview with historian Ellen Wu last November.
In the 1950s, there were general concerns about maintaining the right kind of home life. There’s this image of the perfect American family — a suburban household with a mom, a dad, two to three kids, a white picket fence. That was the ideal, but it wasn’t always realized. There was a juvenile delinquency panic in the 1950s, a big scare over how the nation’s youth were getting themselves into trouble.
The Chinatown leaders were really smart. They started to peddle stories about Chinese traditional family values and Confucian ethics. They claimed that Chinese children always listened to their elders, were unquestioningly obedient and never got into trouble because after school they would just go to Chinese school.
When I started digging, I found that this idea of this model Chinese family, with the perfect children who always just loved to study and who don’t have time to get into trouble or date — started to circulate quite prominently in the 1950s. That speaks to America’s anxieties about juvenile delinquency.
Also, since these stories were taking place in Chinatowns, it allowed Americans to claim that America had these remaining repositories of traditional Chinese values at a time when the Communist Chinese had completely dismantled them. So there’s this other level where these stories are also anti-Communist — they are doing this other ideological work.
When the feds took Elian Gonzalez in spring 2000, the Cuban exile community chattered smugly about the restraint and order it had shown during its protests — we didn’t burn our own businesses. Tools of American presidents since Teddy rode up San Juan Hill, Cubans have played well the part of the Good Exiles. In Andrew Sullivan’s ahistorical and moronic telling, it’s the fault of every non-Asian majority for not believing in the myths that the feds created about Asians.