Once confined to graduate seminars and the ethnic “studies” departments at our nation’s colleges and universities, multiculturalism is now the authoritative ideology reigning over higher education, our media and political establishments, legal system, and corporate boardrooms.
Today, multiculturalism and its politics of identity pose an existential threat to the American political order — comparable to slavery in the 1850s or communism during the Cold War.
By multiculturalism, we don’t mean the mere presence of different peoples or the tolerance of diverse traditions. The American system has always fostered a certain amount of pluralism through our rich, vibrant, and free civil society. In that system, regardless of race or creed, all Americans shared the same sense of justice — the one embodied in the Declaration of Independence, safeguarded by our political institutions, and enshrined in the motto E pluribus unum. It is a justice based in natural rights possessed by all, and the consent of the governed. It is a justice that defines equality based on our common humanity — and for some purposes our common citizenship — but never on the basis of tribalistic attachments and group identity.
Over time, America maintained this unity by common commitment to shared principles, especially the central divine and natural truth of equal individual rights. In addition to commitment to principle, James Madison praised what he referred to in The Federalist Papers as the “genius of the people,” by which he meant their habits and customs, their storied traditions, and religion. The American Founders had the wisdom to know that any decent society needed an agreement on justice at its core — and the sobriety to appreciate that no system of self-government could withstand the fragmentation of the body politic into radically antagonistic factions.
Multiculturalism flips on its head America’s traditional and Founding focus on equal individual rights, essentializing group identities and lionizing group rights. Rather than the promoter of justice, politics becomes a dispensary of entitlements — to varying levels of honor, resources, and prestige, all in accordance with an ostensible hierarchy of oppression.
If we do not reverse multiculturalism’s advance, it will continue to undermine our country and constitutionalism, destroying the possibility of a common good and a life of civic peace. Indeed, multiculturalism threatens to take down Western civilization as a whole.
Of course, opposition to multiculturalism does not mean excusing or smuggling in racism, bigotry, xenophobia, or any other spirit of injustice. And those who say it does wish to silence all challenges to their radical ideology — to shut up dissenters by smearing and deplatforming them into submission.
If their menacing form of rule is not met with a vigorous response — with Americanism — we will lose the politics and then lose the policy. Our right to free speech. Our sovereignty. Any semblance of a union of states. All gone. We will cease to be America.
As part of a broader campaign to defend our Founding order against the dangers of multiculturalism, we at the Claremont Institute have just released a special edition of The American Mind podcast. In the podcast, we explore the intellectual roots, political and societal implications of, and the antidote to multiculturalism.
I invite you to listen as Claremont scholars and fellow travelers — including Claremont Institute President Ryan Williams, Chairman Tom Klingenstein and scholar Charles Kesler, as well as David Azerrad, Lord Conrad Black, Allen Guelzo, Roger Kimball, and Norman Podhoretz — explain how belief in Americanism, as opposed to multiculturalism, is about treating people as individuals who are equal. Equal, that is, insofar as they are not nameless, faceless, mindless members of groups based on essentialized features — or hierarchies of the oppressed devised by ivory tower leftists for political exploitation.
If left unchallenged, multiculturalism will defeat America. But by instead recovering Americanism, we will ensure our nation continues not just to survive, but to thrive, as Lincoln said it would — as the last, best hope of earth.