In a perceptive essay, Mead discusses the rise of urban “flash mobs” and the racial tensions that they point to. While he believes (and I agree) that race relations are better now than in the past, he argues that both white and black people have a reduced connection with and trust in the elites. He points to three potential problems that our society is facing:
- “The unaffordable nature of the entitlement structure that has emerged from the Great Society and been much added to (and don’t forget the GOP role in the prescription drug benefit) is at the bottom of the bitter budget battles we’ve seen.”
- An unpopular immigration policy that will increasingly attract anger: “Our current immigration policy is a prescription for social change of vast proportions. Since the 1960s, the US has tried an unprecedented and little discussed experiment in social engineering. In stages over the last fifty years we have combined three bold policies. First, a race-blind immigration policy with a visa lottery as a kind of affirmative action — so to speak — for people from countries which historically had not sent many immigrants to the US has dramatically changed the mix of people coming to the US as immigrants and over time will shift the ethnic and cultural composition of the population. Second, the “immigration holiday” under the tight quota system from 1923 (when public concern over unrestricted immigration led to a sharp decrease) through the 1960s was ended, and the number of legal immigrants increased. Today the US has levels of legal immigration not seen since the World War One era. Third, for many years immigration laws have been laxly or irregularly enforced leading to the presence of something like 11 million illegal workers and residents in the country.”
- A sharp divide in the way that whites and blacks evaluate the impact of racial policies: “The races are very far apart today; many whites believe that by electing a Black president the country has demonstrated its commitment to post racial politics and they expect Blacks to stop complaining about the past and start thriving in the glorious, racism-free paradise of America today. Many whites look at this Black success, and they think it is time to take down the affirmative action scaffolding that assisted the Black rise. Why, they ask, should the children of presidents and cabinet officers — to say nothing of celebrity offspring — benefit from racial preference in hiring and admissions?
“For Blacks, especially those who haven’t made it into the elite, unemployment and the staggering losses in Black wealth during the Great Recession are far more consequential than the success of the Black upper crust. Much of White America thinks it has done all anyone could reasonably expect by opening the White House doors to a Black politician; much of Black America thinks little has changed. Many whites think Blacks have effectively used politics to win themselves jobs and preferences; many Blacks think that Black poverty in the age of Obama reveals how pitiful the results of political action really are.”