David Brooks writes in his New York Times column:
Once upon a time, white male Protestants ruled the roost. You got into a fancy school if your father had gone to the fancy school. You got a job at a white-shoe law firm or climbed the corporate ladder if you golfed at the right club.
Then we smashed all that. We replaced a system based on birth with a fairer system based on talent. We opened up the universities and the workplace to Jews, women and minorities. University attendance surged, creating the most educated generation in history. We created a new boomer ethos, which was egalitarian (bluejeans everywhere!), socially conscious (recycling!) and deeply committed to ending bigotry.
You'd think all this would have made the U.S. the best governed nation in history. Instead, inequality rose. Faith in institutions plummeted. Social trust declined. The federal government became dysfunctional and society bitterly divided.
The older establishment won World War II and built the American Century. We, on the other hand, led to Donald Trump. The chief accomplishment of the current educated elite is that it has produced a bipartisan revolt against itself.
The claim by Mr. Brooks that "white male Protestants" "won World War II and built the American Century" is false.
Let's take the claims one at a time. To claim that white male Protestants won World War II ignores the Navajo code talkers, who provided American troops a way to send messages that the enemy could not crack. It ignores the nuclear physicists who created the atomic bomb that ended the war — the Jew Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard (Hungarian Jewish background), Enrico Fermi (Italian Catholic background), J. Robert Oppenheimer (Jewish background). It ignores the 150,000 women who served in the Women's Army Corps. It ignores the service of Catholics like Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., who was killed in action, and John F. Kennedy, who served on a PT boat in the Navy. It ignores the Japanese American 100th Battalion/442d Regimental Combat Team documented beautifully by my former New York Sun colleague Robert Asahina in his book Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad. It ignores my own grandfathers, who were not Protestants but who were Jews and who also served in the military during World War II.
As for the claim that "white male Protestants" "built the American Century," that too, is nonsense. If the phrase "American Century" means anything it is the combination of Cold War victory and soft power cultural dominance that made America an unrivaled global superpower. If you look at Hollywood, television, fashion, even publishing, those were industries where Jewish businessmen and women played leading roles. In music, African Americans from Louis Armstrong to Michael Jackson were a big part of the story. As for the Cold War victory, leading figures included JFK, Albert Shanker, Jay Lovestone, Irving Brown, David Dubinsky, Richard Pipes, Midge Decter, Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter, Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Norman Podhoretz. Claiming that it was a white male Protestant achievement is false.
I have nothing against white male Protestants (I wrote a book about one). But Brooks is such a smooth writer and is right about enough things that he sometimes manages to slip these straw men or false dichotomies or oversimplifications right by readers. They may seem like just minor misleadings, but they actually are just flat-out wrong.