At practically the eleventh hour, when Americans who have not yet voted are preparing to do so, Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris has tweeted out a cartoon headlined “Equality vs. Equity.”
It is the most revealing statement made by the Biden campaign.
Harris’ tutorial has a condescending, schoolmarmish tone, as might be expected when a candidate instructs the apparently dim voters by means of a cartoon.
But let that go and pay attention to what Harris says in the voice over. It could be very, very important to the future of America and to your future, Dear Reader. Here are Harris’ two main points:
- “Equality suggests, ‘oh everyone should get the same amount.’ The problem with that, not everybody’s starting out from the same place.”
- “Equitable treatments means we all end up in the same place”
The goal is for all of us to end up at the same place, regardless of our efforts, dedication, or pursuit of virtue.
Christine Rosen does a brilliant job of dissecting Harris in a Commentary article headlined “Wokers of the World, Unite!” Christine writes:
If this were merely a mandatory HR diversity training video, then parsing its deeper meaning would be a fool’s errand. But when a Vice Presidential candidate tweets it out on the eve of Election Day, and it receives more than three million views, it’s worth asking what the video is signaling, and what it reveals about the Democratic Party’s worldview.
Enter “equity,” which is an explicit rejection of equality of opportunity. Equity requires that people be treated differently, and benefits and rewards bestowed unequally–based on who “needs” more–to achieve an equality of outcome. Equity can mean that businesses and local governments should be required to accommodate the needs of the disabled by building ramps and wheelchair-accessible doors, for example. Few Americans have a problem with that.
But the principle does not scale up as simply as Harris suggests. You can give two people the same opportunity, and they will do very different things with it. As well, some people are simply born with more talent, intelligence, and skills in some areas than others. Alas, Mother Nature is not an equity theorist, so the genetic lottery does not dole out its wins and losses equitably. Nor, for that matter, do the other accidents of birth favor equality. No one is guaranteed to be born into a devoted two-parent household, a stable country, or a particular social class. As earlier (and more resilient) generations of Americans used to understand, life isn’t always fair.
But that doesn’t mean, as Harris’ video suggests, that anyone who starts out disadvantaged can’t improve their situation—even in the absence of the state’s intervention. Indeed, to suggest as much, as the video does, is at odds with both Biden’s and Harris’s political messaging as candidates, which often highlights how they came from modest backgrounds and didn’t attend elite schools.
The video’s final statement—“Equitable treatments means we all end up in the same place”—has understandably inspired the most consternation among Harris’s critics (Rep. Liz Cheney said, “Sounds just like Karl Marx”). And yet, even if everyone starts out with the same opportunities, human nature being what it is, we will never all “end up in the same place.” Some people work harder than others; some people are luckier than others; some people are more willing to bend or ignore the rules; and others simply don’t care to compete at all.
To level the playing field in the cartoonish way Harris’ video envisions, you must have the power not merely to “lift everyone up,” but the power to keep some people down.
We’re already engaged in keeping some people down. Standard testing, for example, is being dropped in many places so that talented people who might make the best of an educational opportunity won’t be able to shine. They are kept down. In Seattle, Rosen reports, changes to the criminal justice system would allow people to get off for certain crimes if they are poor or addicted. We must not allow people to hold themselves back, merely by moral lapses. In other words, you whole biography will be negated in order that you might end up in the same place as people who don’t work or play by the rules.
In adopting Harris’ agenda, we will need people to help us understand what to do. Rosen writes:
The equity model (like antiracism theory) requires “experts” trained in the art of ferreting out all of these new inequities. They are vested with the power to define who is and is not deemed “needy”—a power that, when combined with the power of the government purse, can easily lead to a society where, as Orwell warned in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Harris’ statement prompted Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff to ask, “Is Harris a Marxist, or Just Incoherent?” In a way, it doesn’t matter which—in fact one can say that Marxism as played out in the lives of many victims is incoherent—it defines the goal of the Woman Who Could be President.
The Biden campaign was wise to keep Harris’ statement it under wraps until the last minute.