Estrada vs. the neo-marxists

Posted: Mar 04, 2003 12:00 AM
Why are Senate Democrats filibustering against Miguel Estrada? Sure, they want courts that will back abortion and gay marriage. But there's more: Estrada, like Clarence Thomas, infuriates liberal interest groups because he challenges the neo-Marxist ideology that now dominates the campuses that Democrats revere. Here's a very brief lecture: Marxism, y'all will recall, emphasized class identity. Bourgeoisie (the middle class) and proletariat (the working class) could never see eye to eye. Their consciousness was fundamentally different, Marxists declared. Everyone was stuck in his socioeconomic class identity. (Marxist leaders had a loophole: They often had middle-class backgrounds but somehow claimed an ability to transcend those sordid pasts.) This notion of class consciousness -- "It's a proletarian thing, you wouldn't understand" -- has now been discredited all over the world, not only by the failure of socialistic practice but by observation of individual beliefs. Attitudes vary widely among workers, as they do among people of any particular race. Marxists tried to account for such variance by saying that some workers identified with their bourgeois oppressors ("false consciousness"), but that game grew old. So, are we now permitted to see people as individuals? Are we allowed to understand that ideas, not physical characteristics, are the key differences among people? Alas, no: enter neo-Marxism. Just as Marxism emphasized class identity, neo-Marxism emphasizes x, y and z: race, sex and sexual preference. The theory is twisted predestinarian: People think as they do because of their x, y or z and are unable to change, since a specific consciousness goes with membership in a particular group. Liberals see Hispanics in particular as one of the oppressed peoples of America, so they should automatically link to the left -- but Estrada does not. He's a 42-year-old with a resume ideal for a top judge. Top schools, top grades, top recommendations from those he worked for and from colleagues of many political persuasions. He's prosecuted crooks in New York and argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court. He knows constitutional law. But he doesn't think like Hispanics are supposed to think, according to neo-Marxist ideologues. He's not a liberal. He may even be -- the horror! -- a man of the right. Estrada, like Clarence Thomas, sabotages leftist pleasures. The social advantages of neo-Marxism are great. Neo-Marxists can maintain traditional left-wing values by thundering as their Marxist fathers did about oppressed groups of people. Marxist diatribes can be recycled: Just substitute "people of color" for the working class, "angry white males" for the bourgeoisie and "homophobes" for any other old-time villains. Marxist music also gains new life: Songs about "the wretched of the earth" are relevant as long as they demand, "Arise, ye people of color." Ludicrous, yes; as Karl Marx wrote in one essay comparing the mid-19th century Napoleon III with the original Bonaparte, what emerges the first time as tragedy may come back years later as farce. But farces can be serious. For example, "critical race theory" -- the view that there are competing and irreconcilable racial views of reality -- played a role in O.J. Simpson's criminal trial, where lawyers successfully swayed a jury to ignore evidence and acquit a man who suddenly became not a murderer but the victim of a racist police force. "Ethnomathematics" is a new neo-Marxist offensive. The New York Times recently gave star treatment to Marcia Ascher's book "Ethnomathematics: A Multicultural View of Mathematical Ideas." Ascher asks, "Is a square something that has external reality or is it something only in our minds?" She complains that "much of mathematics education depends upon assumptions of Western culture," and notes that no other culture "need share the categories triangle, right triangle, hypotenuse." And away we go. Miguel Estrada deserves better than to be caught in an ideological jigsaw. So do the rest of us. Neo-Marxists still bluster and Senate Democrats filibuster, but it's time for both to go to bed.