Judson’s denunciation of Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to be interviewed only by journalists of color is thorough, and apt. I have little to add of my own, other than that I was reminded of Christopher Caldwell’s recent cover story for the magazine on the pernicious concept of “equity.’” In deconstructing equity, the Left’s new replacement for equality, by which government action now ostensibly must proactively enforce not simply equal treatment before the law but rectify existing disparities that are always, ipso facto, proof of lingering racism, Caldwell explains how such an approach is likely to return to machine politics. His prime example was . . . Lori Lightfoot:
In a funny way, we are returning to a politics that is pre–civil rights, or perhaps even a politics typical of the old big-city Democratic machines before the Progressive era. “You’ve got to use the bully pulpit of the mayor’s office,” Lori Lightfoot said . . . in April as she explained how she runs Chicago. “People now know they can’t come to talk to me about anything related to our city, and particularly not our economy and innovation, without telling me what their plan is for equity and inclusion.”
Lightfoot seems not to understand what Teddy Roosevelt meant when he called the presidency a “bully pulpit.” Like a lot of Northeastern patricians of his day, he used the adjective “bully” to mean great, or perhaps jolly good. The bully pulpit is the opposite of what Lightfoot describes. She means the smoke-filled room. And she seems to assume that Roosevelt is referring to bullying, to giving people who want to do business with the city the third degree. “Tell us what your track record is in supplier diversity,” she explains. “If you are walking the walk, you won’t have trouble telling your story.”
There is no doubt that pressuring people into using black vendors would help some black businessmen, at least the politically connected ones. Kim Janey claims that Boston spends $2.1 billion “to do business” in a year and that less than 1 percent of that goes to black and Latino businesses. But what makes such an ethnic spoils system less suitable to today than it was to the world of a century ago is civil-rights law. The political “arena” in which different ethnic interests used to contend over turf — the Irish lodge against the Italian block committee — is no longer neutral. Today some ethnic groups’ interests are considered legitimate, others’ not. There are no checks and balances in discussions of equity, because whites’ interests can be attacked racially (by “people of color”) but not defended racially.
Here, thanks to a policy animated by this spirit, you end up with a political figure asserting dominance over those who are supposed to hold her accountable. She is presuming to dictate the terms on which she herself will be covered by the media. She is challenging them, instead of letting them challenge her. It’s an old-fashioned aggrandizement of power, dressed in new garb. But it should be understood and treated no differently.
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