Beto, the press, and America

Rich Lowry of National Review Online takes exception to recent pronouncements from a second- or third-tier Democratic presidential candidate and a major news outlet.

Beto O’Rourke has taken the measure of America and found it wanting.

“This country, though we would like to think otherwise,” he intoned over the weekend, “was founded on racism, has persisted through racism, and is racist today.”

This is now a mainstream sentiment in the Democratic party. Bernie Sanders said earlier this year that the United States was “created” in large part “on racist principles.” The New York Times has begun the so-called 1619 Project, marking the 400th anniversary of the importation of slaves from Africa. …

… It is certainly true that an American nation existed prior to the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and that slavery was its great sin, with permutations still felt today. But to pretend that racism is the essence of America and constituted one of the country’s founding principles is an odious and reductive lie.

It doesn’t explain why any reference to slavery was kept out of the Constitution. James Madison, according to his notes during the drafting convention, “thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.” The careful avoidance of the term “slavery” was subsequently used to buttress the position of opponents of slavery, from John Quincy Adams to Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass. …

… It doesn’t explain the passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, prior to the adoption of the Constitution, setting out the terms of settlement in the swath of territory between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River. It stipulated that “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory.”

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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