"Selma Envy" is the term coined by Hans Fiene in The Federalist over a year ago to describe the nostalgia possessed by the Left for the well-deserved fame of the Civil Rights Movement, and their longing to make it their own.
Like the armchair warrior who sits at his ease as he dreams about D-Day, they covet the shimmer that comes with true valor, with pureness of purpose, and of course, a despicable foe. But few causes today come with such assets, and, like the warrior who just leaves his seat to go to the bathroom, they want their battles to be safely free of all effort and cost.
So disputes about process become great moral struggles. Rich gays in Soho become proxies for poor blacks in Dixie, and rage is aroused by imagined coded "dog whistles" like "Chicago" and "skinny" and "golf." Most recently, an impromptu occupation of the floor of House — yes, the floor quite literally, as they were sprawled on it — becomes, in their minds, exactly like Selma, except for the danger, the hoses and the dogs.
Also except for the blankets and pillows their staffs had rushed to them, the air conditioning kept on for their comfort, and the steady infusions of food.
Elizabeth Warren arrived with a large box of doughnuts. Maisie Hirono sent nuts from Hawaii. Rep. Joe Kennedy III tweeted thanks for the "delicious snacks" sent to them. (treats not enjoyed by Joe Kennedy Jr. when his plane was blown up over England, or John Kennedy Sr. when his boat was destroyed in the war.)
"Is this a sit-in or a pizza-party?" USA Today asked in astonishment, supplying a list of the foodstuffs shipped in by their friends in the Senate, including soft drinks, Snickers, yogurt, Craisons, crackers and chips. It looked, people said, like a binge in a frat house, a day care center for really old people, or, better still, one of the "safe spaces" established on campus, for students who can't stand the strain of dissenting opinions, which are outfitted also with pillows and blankets, and junk food to cope with the stress.
Two of the liberals' favorite things — safe spaces, and Selma — were blended together in a stunning display of heroic indulgence. "This may turn out to be a Selma-like moment," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., as he said on the floor, noshing. And yes, all in all, it was exactly like Selma, except for the fact that snacks were not on order in Selma, and there were plenty of people who wanted them dead and were actually willing to kill them.
Some years ago, Selma Envy began to run into a wall when a band of well-off and largely white liberals hit on a scheme to aid what they thought would be deeply enraged Native Americans by forcing the Washington Redskins to change their team's name. Picture their shock when many years, lawsuits and tons of ink later, a poll in the very same Washington Post showed that by a nine-to-one margin Native Americans did not feel indebted to their Great White Protectors, did not feel disparaged by the team's title and would not feel affronted if they were recalled redskins at all. And there had been no change from when the same poll question had been asked of Native Americans a decade earlier.
Opposition to the name, said Michael Barone, came from a small group of Indian activists and a much larger group of well-paid white journalists, making the point that people seldom name sports teams after people or things they dislike or would truly disparage. The elites, of course, vowed to go on with their protest, to the widespread indifference of Native Americans.
Selma Envy quite often dies hard.
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."