Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, November 2, 2018
Prager University, founded by talk show host Dennis Prager, claims to have the mission of influencing “culture through digital content that advances Americanism.” Mr. Prager himself narrates a recent video that opens with these words: “Race and ethnicity have defined every nation on earth, except one: the United States of America. It is defined by values.”
The only way to make this argument is to ignore what the Founding Fathers actually said. And the result of this silliness is to set up conservatives for failure by shackling them to a mistaken view of America that anyone — white advocate or leftist — can easily refute. Someone who pins his credibility on these “values” will be squashed in any debate with a knowledgeable opponent.
At the same time, many governments have tried to transcend race or ethnicity. Early in the French Revolution, the National Assembly extended full rights of citizenship to blacks and mixed-race people in the French territory of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), with Georges Danton hailing it as a step towards “universal liberty.” The 1918 Soviet constitution guaranteed the “equal rights of all citizens, irrespective of their racial or national connections” and condemned the “oppression of national minorities.” The Soviets even anticipated a world government for everyone on earth: The 1924 Soviet Constitution claimed the Soviet Union was “a new decisive step towards the union of workers of all countries in one world-wide Socialist Soviet Republic.”
The concept of the nation-state as the political expression of a certain people is relatively recent. Most kingdoms and empires were defined by territory, and many sovereigns tried to forge unity from the top down on peoples with different religions and ethnicities. Does PragerU expect us to believe the Roman Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Ottoman Empire, or Austria-Hungary was founded on “blood or ethnicity”?
Mr. Prager says our country is instead defined by an “American trinity” of values:
- E Pluribus Unum
- In God We Trust
Mr. Prager accurately notes that the first value, Latin for “out of many, one,” initially meant the union of 13 colonies that became one republic. “Over time however, most Americans understood the motto to mean one people from many backgrounds,” he adds. This is true, but that understanding is a betrayal of the founders’ views, and has been deliberately promoted by “diversity” boosters. Mr. Prager quotes the E Pluribus Unum Project’s claim that the motto “is a reminder of America’s bold attempt to make one unified nation of people from many different backgrounds and beliefs.” “America doesn’t care about your national or ethnic origins,” he adds.
Mr. Prager may not care, but the Founding Fathers did. America’s first naturalization law required new citizens be “free white persons.” In Federalist No. 2, John Jay said America was blessed by Providence because “this one connected country” was occupied by “one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs,” who were united by the common experience of a bloody war. Thomas Jefferson, along with many other American leaders, believed that blacks would have to be sent back to Africa. As for the indigenous inhabitants, the only reference to them in the Declaration of Independence is as “merciless Indian savages.” Progressives pretend that Alexander Hamilton was a supporter of mass immigration, but in reality he worried about foreigners bringing “attachments to the persons they have left behind; to the country of their nativity, and to its particular customs and manners.” As for Benjamin Franklin, he worried that even Germans might be hard assimilate.
This history is so well known it is impossible that Mr. Prager be unaware of it. Leftists are right to say that America was built as a white country and its institutions were designed by and for white people. Perhaps Mr. Prager cannot stand the idea of conceding anything to the left; perhaps he believes that doing so would legitimize the theory of “white privilege.” But the correct response is not to tell tales about the founding but to defend the right of white people to create their own institutions in their own nations.
Mr. Prager also makes the astonishing claim that unlike the case in Europe, where migrants and their children don’t consider themselves fully part of the national community, in America anyone becomes “fully American” at “the moment he or she becomes an American citizen.” If that is all it takes to be “fully American,” it must not amount to much. “They and certainly their children will feel fully American,” Mr. Prager adds. Today, non-whites, even citizens, are increasingly vocal about putting their racial identity ahead of citizenship. Mr. Prager himself wrote in 2017 that assimilation was failing, and contrasted this with the proud national consciousness of Japan. Now, Mr. Prager ignores this failure.
In his “American Trinity” video, Mr. Prager concedes that “America has not always lived up to this ideal” but maintains “the ideal was always there.” This not true historically, and taking this position guarantees victory to the left’s attempt to rub out an authentic national identity. It also guarantees failure: No country can achieve an impossible “ideal” of creating a national identity unmoored from culture, ethnicity, or history. And if that’s all being an “American” means, why should non-whites want any part of it?
Americans are now accustomed to marches for “immigrant rights” within our own country by American citizens proudly waving foreign flags, the flags of what they clearly think of as their “real” countries. Many people, including Mexican government officials, celebrities such as Alicia Machado, and journalists such as Jorge Ramos, use American citizenship against real Americans to defend Hispanic interests. An increasing number of blacks, most of whom are descended from American citizens and have been in this country for centuries, show little respect for the flag or the anthem, and instead prefer their own symbols. Polls also show non-whites are less likely to express feelings of patriotism. This is logical. They don’t think America was created by or for them, and anyone who has studied history knows they are right.
Mr. Prager gives a more nuanced defense of the second part of his “American trinity”: liberty. He accurately notes that other nations have established liberty as a central value, but says that if equality is enshrined alongside it, liberty is lost. He draws a distinction between saying all human beings are born equal or are equal before the law (“a basic American value”) and saying all must end up equal (which, he tells us, is a “a French and European value.”) With liberty, there will always be unequal outcomes. This is true, and is at least an implicit rejection of the doctrine of “disparate impact,” which holds that any policy that disproportionately affects certain groups is suspect under civil rights laws.
The key problem, however, is that racial groups are not equal, so there will always be unequal outcomes, but Mr. Prager believes the race and IQ debate is “pointless” and “occasionally racist.” But does “liberty” result in deep, persistent racial gaps despite racial equality or because of racial inequality? To take the first position is to leave few defenses against the charge that American society is deeply racist. Not surprisingly, non-whites generally don’t care about “liberty;” instead, they tend to use and support more government handout programs.
The third value is “in God we trust.” Mr. Prager says that America never had a state religion (and fails to point out that some states did until the 19th century). However, he contends America was founded on the belief that the God of the Bible is the source of moral values. He cites the Declaration of Independence and its recognition that rights come from God, not men, as support for his theory. He implies that it is necessary to recognize the divine source of rights in order to prevent their being taken away.
This is a convenient defense of religion, with a vague, non-denominational deity presiding over Lockean political freedoms, but it makes for a flimsy core national belief. Jefferson himself was hardly a conventional Christian. One could just as easily say that the “self-evident” rights of the Declaration are unchallengeable, without bringing God into it.
In God We Trust was not established as the national motto until 1956, partly to draw a contrast with the officially atheist Soviet Union. One suspects that Mr. Prager’s reference to the “God of the Bible” is a nod to his mostly Christian conservative audience. In another commentary, he says America is a “Judeo-Christian” nation, indeed, the “only country in history to have defined itself as Judeo-Christian.” Of course, the very term “Judeo-Christian” was unknown to the Founding Fathers.
Mr. Prager’s real point is that America must remain “Judeo-Christian” rather than become “secular like Europe.” He seems to want America to acknowledge a certain Christian religiosity prevalent among American conservatives, but doesn’t want to suggest even the vaguest religious definition of what America means. You can almost sense the effort it took him not to say that Islam, at least, doesn’t belong here, but that would have pushed him dangerously close to “xenophobia.” Of course, Mr. Prager’s timid “Judeo-Christianity” does not protect against cultural rot. Many churches and synagogues celebrate the very things Mr. Prager hates: multiculturalism, economic social justice, and political correctness.
In his conclusion, Mr. Prager identifies this mistaken “American trinity” as the reason the United States became the freest and most prosperous nation in the world. He argues it is now under threat from men such as Barack Obama, who want to “fundamentally transform” it. This, he warns, could lead to America’s being defined by “European values” such as “equality of result,” “an ever-expanding state,” a “celebration of ethnic and racial identity” that would undermine “E Pluribus Unum,” and the “removal of God as the source of morality and rights.” He closes by saying that the struggle over which “values” Americans will adopt is the greatest internal battle since the Civil War.
Arguing that America is based on “values” is implicitly totalitarian; anyone who doesn’t share those “values” isn’t American (and presumably anyone anywhere who does share them is American). Given that fewer than half of young Americans view capitalism positively, are they something other than American? Not even 40 percent of Americans attend weekly church services. Can the rest of us claim to be Americans? Furthermore, given that the Founding Fathers and most Americans other than some contemporary American conservatives would not recognize Mr. Prager’s “trinity,” real Americans must be rare. Do any Americans exist other than Dennis Prager and the people who subscribe to his YouTube channel?
It is unfortunate to call everything Mr. Prager doesn’t like “European.” Today it is European movements in Hungary, Poland, and Italy that are defending conservatism and Christianity far more effectively than anything American Republicans do. Mr. Prager’s suggestion that Barack Obama somehow promotes “European values” is remarkable, given that Mr. Obama wrote about how alienated he felt in Europe. “It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I’d imagined it,” he wrote in Dreams from My Father. “It just wasn’t mine.” Mr. Obama clearly conceived of Europe not as a continent of abstract “values” he agreed with, but as the home of an alien culture.
Ben Shapiro has said he doesn’t care about the browning of America because “color doesn’t matter; ideology does.” Dennis Prager has also attacked the idea that civilization can be equated with race, and claims that “no significant political movement since the Nazis” has done so. Progressives are more honest. They know that more non-white immigration means more support for leftist candidates. It also means increasing demands to dismantle statues, institutions, or even legal codes linked to America’s historic white identity. Ideology reflects demography. For those who want to defend conservative beliefs, “color” should definitely matter because it will determine America’s dominant ideology.
America was not created by “values” that Mr. Prager happens to like. It was created by pioneers, settlers, and conquerors who created a European nation in the New World. Without whites, America would not, and cannot, exist in any meaningful sense. Nor could the “values” Mr. Prager claims to care about. Time is running out to preserve this country’s historic white majority. Mr. Prager’s fantasies will only hurry us off the stage of history and help destroy the nation he claims to love.