24 April 2012
Demographics aren't destiny: Mia Love and the irrelevance of personal perspective
The Republican party may have found a future star in the form of Mia Love, a nominee for a congressional seat from Utah held by a reportedly vulnerable Democrat. If elected, Love will become the first female black Republican ever to serve in the House of Representatives. She is a second-generation American, her parents being Hatian immigrants. Like many Utah residents, she is a Mormon, though I don't know whether that's by birth or conversion. What Republicans are sure to like about Love is that, despite her background as a black woman descended from immigrants from a poor Third World country, she appears to be a perfectly conventional Republican conservative. Her issues page on her campaign website hints at no individuality or idiosyncrasy whatsoever; it consists entirely of talk-radio friendly sound bites. Presenting herself to the public, Love explains her perhaps unexpected political stance by citing her parents' work ethic. Haitian-Americans are almost stereotypical hard workers, if you can judge from the evidence of the old In Living Color TV show, despite coming from what Love's site calls a "socialist" country. Love's parents seem quite old-school in their abhorrence of dependence. She recalls them warning her not to become a "burden on society" while reminding her that they took no handouts and received no assistance while putting her through college. As a result, and presumably after refusing to examine any of the implicit premises critically with that college-educated mind, she espouses the personal-responsibility line -- which I'd have no problem with if those who espoused it didn't so often presume that a limited-government ideology follows from it. Love's case is worth noting because it refutes any notion anyone might have about demographics determining political identity. It's a good thing, really, that you can't predict a person's ideology on the basis of their birthplace and background. Looking at it another way, however, Love proves that no one is immune from the appeal of reactionary entrepreneurial Republicanism. In her case, her parents may well have instilled in her not just a work ethic -- though she seems to have shaken off some of the teaching by becoming a career politician -- but a contempt for those who can't hack it the way they did, those for whom dependence, implicitly, is a fate worse than death. In a culture of life, however, living itself should not be shameful, and people shouldn't be ashamed of wanting to live. You may disagree with some of these premises, but I'm just saying that one party in the U.S. claims to represent the culture of life despite ample evidence to the contrary, prominently including partisans' unchristian contempt for dependence. If they really did represent a culture of life they wouldn't begrudge everyone's survival as much as they seem to and they wouldn't show such hostility to a politics with human survival as its highest priority. They can try to argue that welfare states are unsustainable and that competition without a "hammock" is still everyone's best chance -- and they may well get more people to listen by having someone like Mia Love make the argument. I only ask, as I've asked before, that they stop insulting our intelligence by calling theirs the case for the culture of life -- and Love is unlikely to change my mind.