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Opinion: Columnists

Monica Lewinsky affair ripped the mask from identity politics

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Opinion,Noemie Emery,Columnists,Barack Obama,Bill Clinton,Race and Diversity,Political Correctness,Feminism,Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even she wasn't born yesterday, and now, 16 years after the fact and her media frenzy, she has come to the rather belated conclusion that the feminist movement, that protector of women abused by employers, had done this ex-intern wrong.

Not only did feminists not defend the girl who was used by the president (and then defamed by the president and his defenders), but they wrote off or defamed her themselves.

"What is your concern with some little twerp named Monica?" Betty Friedan asked us. "We're trying to think of the bigger picture ... about what's best for women," was Eleanor Smeal's contribution. But writer Anne Roiphe put it most clearly: "It will be a great pity if the Democratic Party is damaged by this," she said.

But if the Lewinsky affair did one public good (beyond saving us from a President Gore in the 2000 election), it was in ripping the mask from identity politics, wherein one group claiming to speak for a large set of people comes to stand over time for a more narrow agenda, which not all of its numbers support.

When the women's movement began, there was widespread support for opening the business world up to women, but less for abortion and other parts of the social agenda. When the NAACP began, ending segregation was the legitimate goal of all blacks, but when this was achieved, it too became a partisan and decidedly left-leaning organ. Having written off or forced out those outside their consensus, it tries to destroy all those who do not fit the template: i.e., center-right blacks and/or women, who then are attacked with a zeal and a venom that put genuine bigots to shame.

And so, the same week Monica made her reappearance, the left launched two strikes at Tim Scott, Republican senator from South Carolina, whose sin, it developed, was being right-wing while black.

The Washington Post ran a story that emphasized his support from the director of a museum of Confederate history, and his lack of it from the NAACP and black Democrats, who called him a snake oil salesman and said he worked to hurt blacks.

At Bloomberg View, Francis Wilkinson called him a token and Herman Cain wannabe who was picked up, pushed ahead and protected by a callous and cynical retrograde party eager to field a black face.

In real life, however, he worked his way up from poverty, went to college on scholarships and founded an insurance firm while serving 13 years on the Charleston County Council, running for Congress in 2008, winning the seat once held by Strom Thurmond, and defeating Strom Thurmond's son. It's a resume that stands up well beside that of President Obama and puts to rest any theory that the bar had been lowered to make room for him.

If the bar was set too low for any black politician, it was the lightly-used state senator from Illinois who liked to vote "present," because he was "clean and articulate" (Joe Biden) and only sounded black when he wanted to (Harry Reid). Obama had accomplished less than Scott had when he first ran for Congress, and his lack of experience in dealing with the world as it is and not as he wants it becomes more and more clear with each day.

If there ever was an affirmative action hire in high public office, it is our 44th president, but one cannot say this. Because that would be racist, of course.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."
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Noemie Emery

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