Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad featured a series of multicultural images set to “America the Beautiful,” sung in seven languages. It turned out to be a national Rorschach test. The immediate reaction of some — myself included — was a lump in the throat. There is something moving about hearing American ideals of brotherhood, reverence and sacrifice praised in other tongues. It is the universality of these longings that makes them powerful. For the same reason, I get misty when I hear “Amazing Grace” sung in Tsonga, Swahili or Kituba. Some hopes belong to everyone.
The immediate reaction of others — measured by Twitter and talk radio — was that the ad represented an aggressive and divisive multiculturalism and that American national songs should be sung in English.
After decades of participation and reflection, here is my proposal for the most basic truth of politics: Human beings know if they are welcome at a party or not. I imagine there are good evolutionary reasons for this — an offered mastodon steak or an offered Cosmopolitan cocktail might easily be an ambush. For this reason, effective ethnic politics (and not just ethnic politics) is actually a form of hospitality: Please make yourself at home. “People don’t care how much you know,” said my old boss, the late Jack Kemp, “until they know how much you care.”
Sometimes politics really is this simple. After all the arguments about economics and assimilation, people understand if they are viewed as a threat to the predominant culture. They know if their voice is not welcome in the national chorus. And this does have implications for political philosophy. Kemp — the GOP congressman and vice presidential candidate who described himself as a “bleeding-heart conservative” — passionately believed that human beings, as a rule, are economic and social advantages, the ultimate sources of energy, creativity and wealth. This included anyone, of any background, who happened to be in front of him and smothered by his enthusiastic attentions. Kemp strongly rejected the notion — common in every generation — that the current cohort of immigrants are somehow inferior to immigrants past.
I couldn't agree with Gerson more - both about the Coke ad and about how you treat and respect others overall. No matter how great your ideas may be - unless you can figure out how to show others that these policies and idea truly will inhance and improve their lives ... you will have a difficult time selling them. Unless you show people of all backgrounds that they matter to you .... irrespective of their color or class or religion or ethnicity ... You will do as too many Republicans have done; lose elections.
Read this paragraph again - and think about what it means. If you want to have the policies of small government and freedom grow again for our country - this is something we must avoid.
I saw how a Republican politician could treat immigrants and minorities as if they were valued national possessions. And I saw Kemp’s frustration with the direction of his party. “We sound like we don’t want immigration,” he said. “We sound like we don’t want black people to vote for us. What are we going to do — meet in a country club in the suburbs one day?”