It was generally lost between in the pandemic resurgence, the post-election controversies and the holidays, but in the final month of the generally awful year of 2020, a single Senator had the integrity and principle to at least delay one more effort to transform the United States of America into a Balkanized culture of competing identity groups.
Hispanics and their allies in Congress, and feminists and their allies have been trying to get approval for the creation of a National Museum of the American Latino and A National Women’s History Museum in Washington D.C. since around the beginning of the century. Last year, after the obligatory studies, commissions and reports, bipartisan bills authorizing the creation of the two proposed museums passed in the House. After all, it’s not as if the year’s budget deficit had blown the national debt up to dangerous levels or anything. Why not spend millions more on new structures honoring only segments of what was conceived as a single nation?
More specifically, why not suck up to two powerful voting blocs in an election year?
Because the Senate is similarly driven by political pandering and is almost as irresponsible as the House, it was assumed that the bills would pass by unanimous consent, a practice reserved for noncontroversial measures. Senators John Cornyn, Republican from Texas (lots of Hispanic-Americans there, coincidentally), and Bob Menendez, the Democrat from New Jersey who is himself Hispanic-American, introduced the legislation setting up the latest hyphenated American museum on the National Mall, and lauded the history and contributions of 60 million Americans, blattety-blah diversity, blattety-blah recognition. But Senator Lee, the Republican from Utah (where, also coincidentally, there are not so many Latinos), stopped the proposed new museums dead (though they will rise again) , as a single vote can do when unanimous consent is needed.
Lee said in part,
“I understand what my colleagues are trying to do and why. I respect what they’re trying to do. I even share their interests in ensuring that these stories are told. But the last thing we need is to further divide an already divided nation with an array of segregated, separate-but-equal museums for hyphenated identity groups….My objection to the creation of a new Smithsonian museum or series of museums based on group identity — what Theodore Roosevelt called hyphenated Americanism — is not a matter of budgetary or legislative technicalities. It’s a matter of national unity and cultural inclusion.The so-called critical theory undergirding this movement does not celebrate diversity; it weaponizes diversity. It sharpens all those hyphens into so many knives and daggers. It has turned our college campuses into grievance pageants and loose[d] Orwellian mobs to cancel anyone daring to express an original thought.”
Exactly. What has transpired since his principled objection, with almost every Biden appointment being made on the basis of one group membership or another, has only sharpened Lee’s point, but it had already been depressingly evident throughout the election cycle. To cite just one nauseating example, the fact that a politician was female and had the right skin shade was deemed sufficient to make her first in line for the Presidency should an over-aged and mentally declining White House occupant do what all indications suggest he is likely to do, despite her being an inexperienced fool.
There are no legitimate arguments against Lee’s position, as the humina-humina-ing of Sen. Menendez and others quickly proved. The best Menendez could come up with was, “Sixty million Latinos in this country are watching tonight because this is a much-expected moment. Univision, Telemundo, affiliates across the country, national organizations and others have been waiting for this moment — a moment that everybody in the Congress of the United States agrees to, except for one colleague.” That’s not an argument at all, is it? Lots of people are watching this on TV, the advocates for the museum really, really want it, and the rest of us are willing to do it, so why can’t you?
Then Menendez argued that Latinos were just as entitled to their own cultural institution as African-Americans and Native Americans, to whom Smithsonian museums have been dedicated in recent years. First of all, no group is entitled to a museum. Second, that argument supports Lee’s objection. I’d say Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, German-Americans, American Jews (and what about Catholics? Atheists?) and Asian-Americans have just as strong claims to having their contributions to the national history and culture celebrated with a special museum. As for the women’s museum, you know that an LGBTQ museum will be the inevitable follow-up, and probably a disabled Americans museum too. Whose to say they all aren’t equally deserving, requiring “separate but equal” museums? Diversity!
The best the Los Angeles Times could do in an op-ed by a Latina author titled “Here’s what Sen. Mike Lee got wrong about a Smithsonian Latino museum” was to argue that 1) the Smithsonian had issued a report that said that the history of Hispanic-Americans had been “neglected” (Hey! My aunt wants to know where the exhibits about Greek-Americans are. What are we, chopped spanakopita?) and 2) the author doesn’t think the number of exhibits about Latinos in Smithsonian museums in recent years has been “enough,” and this has left her “despondent.”
No, Lee is right on the facts, right on philosophy, and right on principle. His objection is still futile, because neither party has the inclination to do anything but pander to these groups since our society has already allowed diversity madness and the grievance racket to distort and undermine the values that are crucial to the American idea.
At least one Senator had the courage to speak the truth.