Victor Davis Hanson

Reid has demonstrated that he is both vulgar and illiberal, but there are no calls for him to vacate his post. That exemption was not extended to an earlier counterpart, Sen. Trent Lott (D-Miss.). Lott, in similarly illiberal and crass fashion, said at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party in 2002 that America would have avoided "all these problems over all these years" if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948. Lott was pressured by both the Republican Party and the media to step down, and he did so in shame.

There is a common theme here. Our self-appointed priests of fairness from time to time freely commit sins of intolerance. But don't dare hold them to the same sort of accountability to which they hold other, less progressive Americans, whose similarly dumb remarks are not gaffes but rather windows into their prejudicial souls.

We must make allowances for the supposed Biblical conservatism of some black pastors in a way we cannot for the white, Christian CEO of Chick-fil-A. Farrakhan's hatred cannot possibly earn him ostracism. We cannot extend the anger at evangelical Christians for their incorrect attitudes toward feminism and homosexuality to the Muslims who often share similar views.

Such selectivity is untenable. Classical Western liberalism was predicated on judging people as individuals -- and on their merit and performance -- rather than collectively as identity groups identified by gender, race and religion. Using illiberal means to advance supposedly liberal ends results not just in hypocrisy and cynicism, but in the current disaster of "Chicago values."

Politically correct exemption is doomed, because who can sort out the conflicting agendas of various identity groups? Who certifies who's really black, brown or white in a multiracial, intermarried America -- Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren? Who deserves how much compensation for which particular past oppression?

Can black pastors who oppose gay marriage be judged prejudicial? Is the Asian-American who opposes illegal immigration subject to the same charge of nativism leveled at so-called whites? Can Harry Reid be judged a bigot and McCarthyite if he claims he's liberal?

A simple antidote to multiculturalism and political correctness is to evaluate all Americans on their actual behavior, regardless of their politics, race, gender or religion -- in other words, a return to the ancient liberal idea that one common culture treats all sorts of different people absolutely the same.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.