Racism a Top Issue at Democratic Debate, So How Should Libertarians Respond?

Nick Hankoff Comments

Race relations is now a political issue all its own at the highest level. Annoying as it may be for libertarians and Republicans, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are rapidly securing home-field advantage on this increasingly relevant topic.

When a big government politician says, “We need to do something!” it’s a sure bet there will be bad policy. Add racial tension, and there’s a spicy recipe for chaos, just the sort of thing bureaucracies feed on.

Libertarians and a few good Republicans understand this power dynamic. So, why does it seem like the Democrats are free to draw the parameters of any debate on race, most treacherously at the presidential level?

Consider the premises laid out during the third Democratic debate. Racism is systemic, they say. It’s in gun violence, health care, education, the economy, the environment, the hospital, and the courtroom. White privilege is ingrained in society, we’re told.

Is it really sufficient to rebut this ideology by telling black voters that Democrats founded the KKK and Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act? Obviously, that boomer argument will never work.

Or how about the suggestions humbly offered by writers Tim Carney and Bonnie Kristian that conservatives and libertarians “create ecosystems that don’t welcome racists.” In fairness, their articles were written days before this latest Democratic debate. But just as the “no, actually, the left are the real racists” argument fails, so too do their pleas for movement soul-searching.

The correct response matters. This issue is not going away and is no longer a fringe issue for liberals. Debate moderator Linsey Davis of ABC News said several recent polls indicate that the “number one concern” for young black Americans is racism.

I found a May 2019 poll of young people, aged 18-36, that asked them what is the most important problem facing the country today. Fourteen percent of African-Americans said racism. That was a plurality, with gun control at 11 percent and health care at 10 percent, and every other issue at or below 7 percent. Among “Latinxs,” the poll’s word for Latinos, 14 percent said immigration, while 9 percent said racism.

Presidential candidates are promising reparations for slavery in 2020. Is it not feasible that could be a mainstream proposal come 2024? The political consequences aren’t what they once were a generation ago, when it was only Jesse Jackson urging government payouts to descendants of slaves.

Screaming “racist” or “white supremacist” is almost always about shutting down debate. It happens on the left and the right, but more often the right cedes ground to the left.

But instead, we should remember Tom Woods. Does he try to rewrite or draw lines on the 3×5 card of allowable opinion? Of course not, he sets fire to it!

Today’s primary debate is tomorrow’s general election debate. Libertarians ought to prepare now, while they still have time.

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