If you are uninitiated about Neomi Rao, chances are you’ll get to hear her name quite often very soon. Rao, the Republican pick to replace the old seat of judge––now Justice––Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is suddenly under scrutiny by “liberal advocacy groups” for her college writings.
It is a neat little trick to arbitrarily set up a line of tolerable opinions, a narrow Overton window of conformity, in which many debates or discussions are considered beyond the pale. Even attempting those ideas or debates set one up for discrimination by a group of enlightened peers and is considered an attack on a person, because politics, you see, is after all, always irredeemably personal.
For example, if someone is religious, he or she is automatically unworthy because the “dogma inevitably lives loudly within them” regardless of how fair he or she might be. This is a classic case of Freudian projection whereby a group of people who cannot see life outside of a partisan lens thinks everyone on the other side must be rabidly partisan like them.
Is Rao’s Track Record Objectionable?
So, what are Rao’s “appalling views”? USA Today cites some of them. Rao, a fine judicial mind even in her early years, seems to be quite poised and evenhanded for a college kid. She advocates for a single national identity instead of hyphenated Americans, because that is the only way to build up real solidarity, through healthy civic nationalism instead of individualism and appealing to tribal identity.
Rao wrote: “multiculturalists…separate and classify everyone according to race, gender and sexual orientation. Those who reject their assigned categories are called names: So-called conforming blacks are called ‘oreos’ by members of their own community, conservatives become ‘fascists.’ Preaching tolerance, multiculturalists seldom practice it…”
Her strongest words were against egalitarianism, and on advocating prudence. On charges of sexual assault, she wrote: “Unless someone made her drinks undetectably strong or forced them down her throat, a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink. And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice…implying that a drunk woman has no control of her actions, but that a drunk man does strips women of all moral responsibility.”
Quoting Camille Paglia, Rao wrote something considered poison in the current climate, that there is currently a “dangerous feminist idealism which teaches women that they are equal. Women believe falsely that they should be able to go anywhere with anyone.” Needless to say, the reactions to these have been swift from liberal publications, which are increasingly indistinguishable from activism blogs.
Ignore that these were written during college years, as that has no bearing on the merit of any argument. Some individuals can make coherent, logical, thought-provoking arguments when they are in their first year of college, and some cannot, even when they are 55. A sense of logic has nothing to do with age, and it is a lazy line of argument.
The backlash against Rao has nothing to do with her being in college or even having arguably appalling views. It is simply because she highlighted paradoxes that have no answer, other than charges of racism and sexism.
Advocating for Prudence and Highlighting Paradoxes
Her first point about personal responsibility is a historic conservative position about prudence. If I, as a man, get drunk and intoxicated to the point of spasticity and venture out in South London due to an act of misplaced bravado, and then proceed to get robbed or beaten up by skinheads in the middle of the night, I would have no one but myself to blame. One can lament about how in an idealistic society there would be no evil, but that’s idealism, not realism, and no amount of virtue signaling, tweeting, or even police action would bring back my wallet, credit cards, or worse, the gallons of blood I’d lose if I get stabbed.
The same logic applies to legal principles. For example, the Latin legal dictum, ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law is not an excuse) implies that one cannot use his or her personal ignorance as an excuse for a felony. For example, if someone is traveling abroad and carrying drugs and arrested, it would not render him innocent because he didn’t know about the strict drug laws. Of course, there would still be crime and thuggery, but a reasonable case can be argued that the number of assaults can be drastically brought down if families in general teach their kids the virtue of personal responsibility.
More than that, Rao highlights a paradox in contemporary feminism. An ideology that at one point rightly argued for equal protection under the law and equality of opportunities morphed into an idea of physical similarity, where men and women are expected, regardless of circumstances, to be similar, and the age-old idea of protective chivalry is increasingly looked down upon as a throwback to a sexist past.
Unfortunately, it led to what Paglia once wrote about: a competitive marketplace. The paradox therefore here is that modern feminists behave like males, but in turn expect to be treated with feminine dignity and respect, while looking for safe spaces and portraying weakness as a social currency. The reality, however, is that if one is weak, he or she doesn’t deserve respect, which is something to be earned with stoic fortitude. Protection, solidarity, and empathy, yes, but not respect.
Unity Over Division Regarding Identity
Rao’s second point about identity is another modern ideological dogma that is taboo in among the contemporary left. Any hyphenated division based on race, class, sex, and identity is by definition divisive and leads to further backlash and consolidation of tribes. The only logical way out is through a unifying, healthy nationalism.
In the current scenario, one suspects even John F. Kennedy would be considered a frothing nationalist reactionary for his call to sacrifice for one’s country, regardless of which political tribe one belongs to. John Mearsheimer recently wrote a scathing critique of our hyper-liberal times, which, as a political theory that privileges individual narcissism over shared responsibility, community, authority, nobility, or sacrifice, and would have inevitably led to this point, where everything is seen through the lens of instant personal validation.
In such a culture, no one learns to lose in a dignified way, and therefore every loss leads to further polarization. The smallest unit of identity is an individual, and without a common uniting factor like nationalism, hyphenated liberal individualism is utterly divisive.
Here again, Rao is an outlier. If you think being a minority is tough, try being a minority with an open mind, an independent thought process, and any view against conventional wisdom. A liberal might hate a conservative who is his or her equal in social status, but someone who is expected to behave in a certain way, and refuses to? That’s the enemy, skewering the narrative.
Some of the most vicious opposition I have faced in recent years has been not from racists or ethnic-supremacists of any particular skin color, but from liberals preaching diversity and toleration who were shocked and quite intolerant to find that I am, in fact, an old-fashioned Tory conservative. To paraphrase Bill Buckley, liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that other views exist. Case in point: Kevin Williamson’s treatment by The Atlantic.
There won’t be any Republican judicial nominee who is an originalist, textualist, and conservative in social and personal views whom a section of the left will consider qualified. I still believe the majority of Americans do not care much about judicial nomination fights as long as they have two square meals a day and not have to go to war to spread democracy in the Middle East, but the majority of Americans are frankly irrelevant in this trench warfare led by a bunch of ideologues.
Kavanaugh was only the beginning of a trend. The real confrontations, one suspects, lie further ahead.