Prager and the Wolf

Part of what is so disheartening about President Donald Trump leading the Republican Party is discovering that thoughtful people–perhaps even people who you admire–will ignore, excuse, or even endorse Trump’s worst aspects. The kinds of people who saw profound meaning in Barack Obama’s annoying idiosyncrasies (omitting the words “our Creator,” when quoting the Declaration of Independence, for example) appear curiously unable to connect the dots on President Trump’s most troubling behaviors.

Conservative commentator, Dennis Prager, is one such person who I once very much admired. He does not know whether President Trump holds racist views in his heart that inform his policy decisions. Neither do I. Nor would Mr. Prager or I look to the mainstream American left for any elucidation on the issue. But the question is serious enough that Prager writes a piece arguing that the evidence against Mr. Trump is specious.

Here’s why Prager is wrong:

In the first place, Prager argues that the left has lost credibility on using the word “racist,” writing:

“The left labels anyone who opposes race-based quotas, or all-black college dorms, or the Black Lives Matter movement ‘racist.’”

Therefore, he argues, because liberals call so many innocuous things racist, they threaten to embolden “real” racism.

This is mostly true.

I think of the braindead attacks on Senator John McCain, calling him a racist, for referring to then-Senator Barack Obama as “that one,” when distinguishing between their voting records. I think of the many attacks calling President George W. Bush a racist despite the diversity of his cabinet, his electoral successes among Latinos, and his tireless work improving conditions in many African nations–improvements that are recognized across the political spectrum.

But Prager’s argument has two sides: while liberals may overcharge racism, conservatives underestimate it with the same zeal.  A Pew Research Study released last year expresses that very point. It finds that Democrats believe that not enough attention is paid to “real” instances of racism, while Republicans argue that too much attention is paid to “fake” racism. Both can be true: Democrats may pay too much attention to “microaggressions,” while Republicans prefer to ignore racial disparities in police shootings and incarceration.

But all this really means is that the right has lost just as much credibility on the issue of racism as the left.

Prager writes:

“On race the Left has cried wolf so often that if real wolves ever show up, few will believe it.”

And, so here we are: The Left is calling Mr. Trump a wolf, and Mr. Prager suspects that they might be seeing a giraffe.

The event in question finds President Trump in negotiations about DACA recipients and the future of a diversity lottery immigration program. The bipartisan negotiation would have ended the diversity lottery, in exchange for allowing the people who used that program to live legally in the United States (some, for decades) to join the class of DACA recipients and earn the chance to be granted permanent status. Upon learning that some of the people who benefited from the diversity lottery were from Haiti and Nigeria, President Trump asked why the U.S. should allow those people from “shit hole” countries to stay. He reportedly followed up by asserting that we needed more people from countries like Norway.

If whatever subtlety that exists eludes you, as it has Mr. Prager, what the President reportedly said is that if these people were from European countries–regardless of their value to the United States–they should be allowed to be incorporated into the DACA program. Otherwise, they should be sent home at government expense because of where they came from, not because of who they are and what they have contributed.

This sounds like racism to me, but not to Prager who defends Trump’s assertion by tying an imaginary “moral state of an immigrant’s country” to the likelihood that immigrants from those countries would use American welfare benefits.  (Remember, Mr. Trump did not say that the United States needed fewer immigrants who would use welfare benefits– that would have been more tenable.) As it were, none of Prager’s other arguments have anything to do with Trump’s statement, in fact, as nimbly as he claims not to know what Trump actually said, he more boldly asserts to know what Trump meant.

The point still remains, that Prager appears to suffer from the same affliction that the Pew study finds among conservatives more generally. It is true: if this were the only insensitive thing that Mr. Trump said, then one could plausibly deny that Trump is a racist. Just as sharp teeth, alone, do not a wolf make.  

But if only Mr. Prager would touch the pelt of the man who lied about knowing who David Duke was; if he would let the teeth of the man who precluded blacks from living in his developments pierce his fingertips; if Prager would listen to the howl of the beast who said that a Republican judge could not do his job professionally because he is of Mexican descent; study the scat of this animal that peddled a lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace. If only Prager would enter his picture into the Google Arts and Culture app, he would see that Mr. Trump keeps coming back–wolf.

Someone is Wrong on the Internet…and Everywhere Else

Brie and Joe created SWOTI and host the SWOTI podcast. The two, self-described “Millennials of Color” wrestle with race, politics, relationships, and myriad items swimming about in the popular culture. In doing so they discover that, well, SWOTI–“Someone is Wrong on the Internet.”

 

Someone is wrong, indeed.

 

Someone is wrong on the internet when Megyn Kelly fears for her life because internet trolls threaten her for asking then-candidate Donald Trump a challenging question–you know, doing her job. Someone is wrong on the internet when crazy websites like World Net Daily, and Breitbart, and Infowars hold the same prominence among a large swath of the American public as The New York Times, or The Washington Post. Someone is wrong on the internet when the conspiracy theories promulgated by honest-to-goodness fake news sites lead to violence. Still don’t think someone is wrong on the internet? You haven’t spent enough time in unmoderated comment sections on YouTube.

 

Or maybe you have.

 

But in truth, what is wrong on the internet correlates with what is wrong in American society; and not to be too grandiose, but this points to what is wrong in the human condition.

 

Confirmation Bias causes us to look for ideas that support our preconceived notions. The Dunning-Kruger Effect means that we’re most confident when we’re most wrong. The Backfire Effect sees us persisting in error especially when offered evidence to the contrary.

 

And to top it all off, we insist that we can understand the unspoken motives of others who disagree with us. This, in spite of an argument I make in a Right Noise episode that states that our ability to understand the motivations of others is even more challenging than our ability to understand our own motives.

 

And so, politics and political affiliation must be understood as an imperfect vehicle of our attitudes, philosophies, and expressions of our life experiences. Therefore, attacking those who disagree with us politically as morally depraved, insincere, or worse, becomes a tiresome self-righteous exercise, devoid of self-awareness (not that I do not make this mistake sometimes, myself).

 

Moreover, it’s unproductive. It’s noise. It’s the white-hot heat of anger in place of the illuminating light of empathy.

 

My opposition to some abortions is not a proxy for a deep-seated misogyny. My skepticism of the wisdom and efficacy of certain government programs does not betray a secret desire to see vulnerable people suffer. My belief in the traditional definition of marriage–however inconsequential politically–is not rooted in a desire to see gay people harmed.

 

Or is it?

 

Maybe politics provides a convenient narrative, wrapped in the flag, that allows me to cling to confirmation biases that insist that the races are created unequal, that women should not be trusted to forge their own destinies, or that gays should be hanged and stoned as they are in so many other places around the world.

 

For some folks, this may very well ring true. Just as there are some people on the left who truly hate the United States and want to see it obliterated.

 

But it’s not true of me, nor is it true of literally millions of conservatives and Republicans who agree with me.

 

Still, insisting that bigotry; or even ignorance; accounts for ideological differences amounts to a naivety that is both overly pessimistic and exceedingly optimistic.

 

My politics is a blurry reflection of my beliefs, experiences, faith, philosophy, privileges, upbringing, ideals, and sense of justice. Not the other way around. These elements tug at each other, and compete with human frailties and sinful failings. I always assume the same is true of my political opponents as well.

 

Understanding that this identity soup simmers in each of us should dissuade you from shooting at Congressmen at a softball practice, or threatening an Iraq War veteran who writes for the National Review. That which is wrong on the internet, and in American life, is not our politics, but the unwarranted assumptions about what our politics say about our personal morality.

 

The mouth betrays our passions. The pen betrays our thoughts.

These are some of the points I hope to have conveyed in my interview with the SWOTI Podcast.

Fire, Fury, Flailing, and Frustration

David French wrote a piece in National Review that speaks for many Republicans in the post-Trump GOP who find ourselves gobsmacked by President Trump’s remarks following the clashes in Charlottesville over the weekend. Those of us who read the 2012 autopsy report and took heart that the party may finally do what it takes to attract more voters and slough off the smear that the Republican Party offers safe haven for white supremacists and racists, excitedly backed every other 2016 primary candidate–except the one who won. The candidate who won traffics in alt-Right conspiracy theories (prominently, in the Birther Conspiracy Theory), prejudged a judge’s ability to do his job based solely on his ethnic background, and dragged his feet to disavow the support of open racists–namely David Duke. His defenders insist that we ignore these data points, attributing them to the inevitable ugliness of modern presidential campaigns; and to consider as coincidences that his Attorney General is named after Confederate heroes, and the head of his legal team shares the name of the most overtly racist baseball player in American history. Indeed, these may be coincidences. However, given the president’s bizarre inability to assure the country that he resents racism as much as he does Mika Brzezinski, that once-tenuous smear against the party that ended slavery appears more tenable. Responsible Republicans resent this.

 

What the hell do you have to lose,” Trump asked a black audience who he hoped to sway to support him in the general election. What blacks (and other decent Americans) have lost thus far is a head of government with the moral clarity to reflexively denounce our most embarrassing citizens–you might call them “deplorables.” These Nazis, Klanners, and terrorists, attacked and killed counter protesters; and while one may argue that the counter protesters may have started some of the physical altercations, there is proof that a large contingent of them came to protest peacefully. That cannot be said for the racists, who appeared carrying shields, helmets and firearms.

 

Responsible Republicans know that the Trump Administration is the disaster we predicted long before it started. Rather than uplift the party and direct it toward a common goal, it has exacerbated Republican infighting, confirmed the worst stereotypes about conservatives, and marginalized the best members of the Party for those Buckley expelled decades ago.

 

White House personnel sniping, the Russian investigation, dismal poll numbers, and embarrassing responses to world events (think North Korea), fueled a spate of reporting, last week, hinting at a Republican coup against the president in 2020.

 

Add Charlottesville to the fire.

 

Worse than the harm the Trump Administration brings to the GOP is the damage it continues to do to the country: we have no Afghanistan strategy. We have no North Korea strategy. We have no Venezuela strategy. We have no Syria strategy. We have no health care replacement. We have no tax reform plan.

 

We do have Trash TV White House appointments. We do have Twitter wars. We do have an opioid epidemic. We do have an idiotic war against the media. We do have rising suicide rates. We do have a gridlocked Congress. We do have a resurgence of American terrorism–white supremacists–emboldened by what Colin Powell called the “Dark Vein of Intolerance” in the Republican Party.

 

Most depressingly, though, we have a president ill-suited to constructively address these issues.

Dirty Hands

In Jean Paul Sartre’s “Dirty Hands,” two Communist revolutionaries argue about politics. Hoederer, the leader of the faction, believes that rhetoric and principles serve as vehicles to deliver a political reality that comes as close as possible to an ideal. He is a tough pragmatist who understands short term trade offs can serve long term ends. Hugo; his secretary who, unbeknownst to him has been sent to kill him; believes passionately in the Communist rhetoric and principles. He believes that compromising those principles with rank politics so undermines the movement that it loses its right to exist.

As a Republican in the “Era of Trump,” I ask myself: “Who, in this analogy, am I?”

For years, I railed against “RINO Hunters,” arguing Hoederer’s point, that imperfect messengers who delivered incremental victories were worth more than political losses delivered by principled grandstanders. Besides, I argued, the America that the so-called RINOs want closely resembles that which the conservative zealots envision. It was the naive ideologues who cheered on Senator Ted Cruz’ “Green Eggs and Ham” filibuster, or Ron Paul’s half-baked immutability. These ideologues rejected Senator John McCain and Governor Mitt Romney–both men more conservative than their Democrat opponents, but deemed not sufficiently pure. For nearly a decade I wrote Black and Red, touted the supremacy of conservative principles, and supported “the most conservative candidate who could win,” even when the candidate was less conservative than my ideal.

Then, came 2016.

The GOP primary, and election of Donald Trump as President, caused me to reconsider my place in the GOP; and to rethink the Party’s desired goals. For years, I defended my tribe against liberal attacks that Republicans’ advocacy of principles like a smaller federal government, supply-side economics, and federalism, were nothing more than a Trojan Horse designed to deliver on darker, more sinister ends. I found these critiques the lowest of political demagoguery. Then, Trump wooed Republican voters, appealing directly to these dark impulses; while paying only cursory lip service to the grander principles the Party ostensibly supported. Clare Malone writes an incisive piece for Five Thirty Eight that reads in part,

“Many have assumed that adherence to a certain conservative purity was the engine of the GOP, and given the party’s demographic homogeneity, this made sense. But re-evaluating recent history in light of Trump, and looking a bit closer at this year’s numbers, something else seems to be the primary motivator of GOP voters, something closer to the neighborhood of cultural conservatism and racial and economic grievance rather than a passion for small government.”

One of Five Thirty Eight’s findings, which took into account multiple polls that gauged immediate feedback, found that among Republicans, candidate Trump’s approval ratings increased whenever he said the most outrageous things (e.g.–Judge Curiel couldn’t be impartial because of his Mexican heritage). Quite notably, his approval rating among Republicans has not dipped below 81%, in spite of his heretical views on conservatism.

So, who am I now?

Am I Hoederer, the pragmatist, who (if he weren’t a communist) would see Trump as a political means to an end?

Or am I Hugo, the idealist, convinced that this political concession threatens to entirely obliterate our shared ends?

That depends on who the GOP is–who we have become. Are we bigger than one man? What are our long term goals? How do we propose to improve Americans’ lives? What vision do we have for the country? Currently; between a White House perpetually embroiled in self-inflicted damage control, and a Balkanized Republican Congress; it appears that the conservative agenda (whatever it really is) has stalled.

Trump Proves Me Wrong, Yet Again

Rarely am I happier that I lack a larger audience than when I’m dead wrong about politics. My most recent piece wrongly predicted an easy victory for Hillary Clinton. I did so here, as well. With certainty, I declared Donald Trump “a loser.” In fact, so depressed was I about our nominee, that I rarely wrote articles beyond mid-summer. Personally, I abstained voting for president, as promised. The day after the election, though, America witnessed a political upheaval like no other–Donald Trump overcame the prognostications and won the 2016 election–“bigly.”

Trump needed to outperform Mitt Romney’s 2012 efforts in order to win, and it appears that he did so by calling the Democrats’ bluff on the numbers of Black and Latino voters they expected to rally around Clinton. In battleground states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, fewer Blacks voted this year than in the last presidential election. In 2012, Romney won 59% of the white vote nationally, leading me to argue that Trump needed to do significantly better among whites–an unlikely scenario–or make inroads among Blacks and Latinos in order to offset whatever whites he lost to Clinton. Surprisingly, he did the latter–outpacing Romney among Blacks; winning 8% to Romney’s 7%, and Latinos; winning 29% to Romney’s 27%. Unfortunately, Trump’s victory may further postpone minority outreach efforts.

But now that he’s proven me wrong in the primaries, and general election, what lies ahead?

Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House starting in January 2017. Now in control of the federal government, the GOP must seriously shift from being naysaying spectators to being active problem solvers. Within the first two years of a Trump term, the Republicans could end federal funding of Planned Parenthood; a minor, but symbolic feat. They could nominate and confirm a conservative jurist to replace the late, great, Antonin Scalia. They could repeal Dodd-Frank.

But what could they do to positively connect their leadership with the lives of the average American? How will they prioritize larger, more complicated goals, like repealing and replacing Obamacare, or rewriting the tax code? Americans will be looking for meaningful results, and the Republicans have promised (or perhaps, over-promised) to accomplish a great deal. Can they pursue these items without risking political capital needed to survive the midterm elections in 2018?

Also, what will come of the Trumpian initiatives: renegotiating NAFTA, sinking NATO, mass deportations of illegal immigrants, the Wall? All of these items were staples of the Trump campaign. Given the pressure Trump has placed upon himself to immediately pursue these goals, he’ll be expected to deliver–and fast. By my estimation, pursuing these idiosyncratic ends threaten to cost Republicans congressional majorities in 2018, dooming his presidency early on.

Or maybe I’m wrong, again.

Maybe the country cares less about a simpler tax code, and more about a symbolic gesture along the Southern border. Maybe we don’t really care about a nuclear Japan as much as we care about ripping up NAFTA.

In light of the 2016 election, Americans everywhere struggle to predict what comes next. Perhaps Mr. Trump will serve as a simple conduit through which thoughtful Republicans can filter policy. Maybe Republicans will continue their nasty infighting in the most public of venues. At this point, only two certainties exist: First, the Trump victory shines a spotlight on the disconnect between the public at large and the political elites. Second, nobody knows what the hell is going to happen next.

Least of all, me.

Hey, Democrats: Check Your Privilege!

Any upwardly mobile black American can tell you that to succeed, we must be twice as good as our competitors. That’s because historically, the very institutions that worked as gatekeepers to certain avenues of success worked especially hard at discriminating against us. Successful blacks recognize discrimination, swim upstream against it, and achieve in spite of it. Unsuccessful blacks too often use injustice as an excuse for underperformance and bad choices. While both groups may openly castigate this discrimination, one group acts, while the other simply complains. What does this have to do with the CNBC Republican Debate, you might ask.

Everything.

By every measure, the CNBC hosts conducted an awful debate: John Harwood snidely asked Donald Trump if he was running “a comic book version of a presidential campaign.” He also sarcastically asked Carly Fiorina, who, like the rest of her Republican competitors, wants to greatly simplify the tax code, if she intended to shorten the tax code by “using really small type.” Carl Quintanilla badgered Marco Rubio for missing votes, asking, “do you hate your job?”

The moderators’ disrespect and contempt for conservative Republicans oozed through in every exchange–so much so, that the audience frequently booed them.

Compare this treatment to that which the Democrats receive on a regular basis. When did Anderson Cooper, in the CNN debate, ask if Bernie Sanders was running a “comic book campaign?” Did anyone challenge the math behind any of the Democrats’ tax plans or schemes to provide health care and college for “free?” Is Marco Rubio more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? Quintanilla challenged the premise of Rubio’s candidacy, asking if he was seeking higher office simply to placate an unchecked ego. How would Mrs. Clinton answer that question? We’ll never know.

In the liberal vernacular of race relations, this phenomenon is called white privilege. The idea is, whites enjoy less scrutiny and benefit disproportionately from favorable treatment. Blacks who decry white privilege are shouted down, told they are imagining things, or are simply ignored. Nevertheless, the results of privilege manifest themselves plainly, and to overcome this obstacle, blacks must work extra hard.

Similarly, Democrats benefit from institutionalized privilege. Carly Fiorina faces tough scrutiny for her time manning the helm of HP during an economic downturn, while Hillary Clinton earns lavish praise for the easier task of winning a Senate seat in liberal New York. Acclaimed neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, parries relentless media attacks on his intelligence, while Bernie Sanders receives no questioning about his honeymoon to the Soviet Union–a nation that worked to murder Americans as it had so many of its own people.

Without a doubt, media scrutiny represents the greatest struggle a candidate must overcome to achieve political success. In a free society, such should be the case. In this free society, one political party enjoys a pass–liberal privilege. Ask the gatekeepers, like Eric Altermann, about liberal media privilege, and they hedge and obfuscate and insist that discrimination is in the eye of the beholder.

So be it, bigots.

Republican, Booker T. Washington, famously writes in “Up from Slavery” that “success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” Americans instinctively know the truth in this timeless statement. Republicans should, therefore, keep this in mind as we move forward. While the media works, as Rubio puts it, as the Democrats’ Super PAC, we cannot forget that a Republican president will be facing this very same hostile liberal media while in office. Simply complaining about discrimination, rather than working to succeed in spite of it is a recipe for defeat and victimization. Instead, I urge Republicans to rest assured that as we weather these storms of media discrimination, our nominee will be that much stronger than the Democrats’, because he or she will have had to work twice as hard.

 

How the Left Dodges Personal Responsibility

Republicans have a problem in a candidate who will not win the nomination–Donald Trump. Democrats have a problem in a candidate widely expected to win their nomination–Hillary Clinton. This reality worries Democrats, because Clinton continues to run an embarrassingly opaque and inept campaign. Ron Fournier in National Journal writes a brutal plea to Clinton, laying the embarrassing elements of her bumbling campaign at her feet.

“We can’t make it any plainer,” Fournier writes. “You’re the problem, Hillary.”

Interestingly; amid falling poll numbers and a general worry among Democrats that Mrs. Clinton lacks the liberal credentials or ethical principals of her longshot rival, Bernie Sanders; Clinton rejects Fournier’s assertion, blaming her political misfortunes on institutional discrimination. Nowhere can Clinton’s reticence to accept responsibility for her perception be more visible than in her CNN interview with Brianna Keilar. Fournier remarks on Clinton’s interview, calling it cringeworthy.

Keilar asks, “We see in our recent poll that nearly six in 10 Americans say they don’t believe that you’re honest and trustworthy. Do you understand why they feel that way?”

Clinton bristles and blames Republicans for this “misperception.”

“I think when you are subjected to the kind of constant barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the Right…”

Keilar interrupts, pushing further.

“Do you bear any responsibility for that,” Keilar asks. At this, Clinton tries to pivot and talk about her election history and her current commitment to fight for “everyday people” (as opposed to us every other day people), but Keilar heroically refuses to give up.

“Trusting someone to fight for them,” she says, “and trusting someone, these are two different things. Do you see any role that you’ve had in the sentiment that we’ve seen, where people are questioning whether you’re trustworthy?”

Clinton denies her contribution to her own negative ratings three times before the cock crows. This time, blaming the media.

“I can only tell you, Brianna, that this has been a theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years…I mean, people write books filled with unsubstantiated attacks against us…But of course, it’s your job to cover it. So of course that’s going to raise questions in people’s minds.”

Keilar does a good job at pushing Clinton on the issue of trust, making the interview more difficult for Clinton supporters, like Fournier, to stomach. For me, a conservative, Clinton’s answers point to a destructive liberal tendency–an inability or unwillingness to self-critique, and to, instead, blame structures for personal failings or poor outcomes. To Fournier’s credit, he recognizes this tendency as it pertains to Mrs. Clinton.

“You’ve made some poor choices,” he writes, “and, rather than fix them, you blamed the GOP and the media. You wouldn’t let Chelsea say the dog ate her homework, so why do you think this is a good idea?”

In truth, this strategy of blaming structures rather than individuals characterizes the liberal mindset. Blacks, according to liberals, face longer prison sentences and troubles with law enforcement not because of personal decisions to commit crimes, but because of a structural deficiency with the American legal system. Women make lower wages than men, not because they tend to enter the workforce later than men and interrupt their work life to meet other demands, but because, says the liberal, a sexist system discriminates against women. Poverty cannot be explained by bad personal choices; like failure to graduate high school, parenting children out of wedlock or drug or alcohol dependence; but rather, poverty emanates from the structural deficiencies of our capitalist economic system.

On issue after issue, liberals tell their constituents that “the dog ate their homework.” After a while of these excuses, the student fails the class. This terrifies the left about Clinton, and it is my hope that their fears are actualized.

What Buckley Left Undone

William F. Buckley Jr. stares down at me from a giant poster I made to add a little conservative life to the bone white walls of my office. Beside him, in the poster, reads a quote from “The Conscience of a Conservative,” the book that he ghostwrote with L. Brent Bozell Jr. in 1960. When co-workers and visitors confront the 3 by 5 foot image; they crane their necks back, read the quote, look at Buckley’s wrinkled face and ask, “Who is that?”

“That’s Bill Buckley,” I say. “My hero.”

Intrigued that I profess to having a hero in a time when deconstruction insists that everyone is “complicated” at best and monsters generally, I’m often asked one of my favorite questions: why I so revere Mr. Buckley. With ease, I rattle off the short list of Buckley’s impressive works:

In 1955, when conservative media did not exist, Buckley started National Review magazine, a publication that still exists as one of, if not the, most influential among conservatives. Eleven years later, Buckley started “Firing Line,” the longest running public affairs television program with a single host in American history. Both endeavors codified conservative ideology and brought it into the mainstream political conversation. During this time, too, Buckley courted libertarians and fused them with traditional conservatives, hinging the union on a shared commitment to free market economics and a mutual disdain for communism. An excellent debater, and prolific author, Buckley’s polysyllabic writings intellectualized a movement largely defined by its populist appeal–a populism that made space for conspiracy theorists and white nationalists. In effect, Buckley made space for intellectuals within political conservatism, so that affirming conservative ideology did not negatively affect one’s respectability.

This became important when Buckley worked to marginalize the John Birch Society and anti-Semites, expelling them from conservatism, and welcoming Jewish conservatives into the fold. After this purge, one could not be a respected conservative and either hate Jews or traffic in wild communist conspiracy theories. Today, the conservative movement benefits from the many Jewish voices that Buckley’s efforts welcomed. Jennifer Rubin, Michael Medved, Charles Krauthammer and many others enrich political debate and make conservatism stronger.

Understanding that these accomplishments make up only part of Buckley’s short list of accomplishments makes it easier to believe his tongue in cheek claim that his singular lacuna was baseball. Indeed, however, there was another, much more important, blind spot in Buckley’s construction of the conservative movement. What he had done for Jews, Buckley did not for blacks.

President Harry Truman, integrating the military, cracked the door for blacks to leave the Republican Party and begin trickling left. Still, though, many blacks voted for Republicans and stood for conservative causes. When Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, blacks believed that the GOP had abandoned them at a crucial moment in the civil rights struggle. Though more Democrats voted against the Civil Rights Act (117) than did Republicans (40), the Republican standard bearer joined the dissenters. This move sent a message to blacks and to enemies of civil rights.

This pivotal moment changed American politics dramatically. Whether or not Mr. Buckley, himself closely tied to Goldwater, recognized or cared about this trend remains unclear. Regardless, though, he did nothing to address it. In fact, his own tone deaf comments on segregation, South African apartheid, and the federal government’s proper role in addressing civil rights for blacks further alienated the GOP’s first constituents. Before his death in 2008, Buckley expressed regret and admitted short-sightedness on these issues. The damage to the conservative movement, though, had been done and some of the effects of Buckley’s oversight still haunt the GOP by way of some odd associations.

In 2014, news broke that Republican House majority whip, Steve Scalise addressed a white supremacist group founded by David Duke. Duke is the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who started the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). Scalise denounced EURO and claimed that he only attended the event by accident:

“I didn’t know who all of these groups were…I had one person that was working for me. When someone called and asked me to speak, I would go.”

Last month, after Dylann Roof killed 9 black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, an investigation uncovered that he found motivation from a white supremacist organization called the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). Earl Holt III, the council president, donated to many Republicans including 4 presidential candidates. Among the CCC’s statement of principles are vows to help the American people and government “remain European in…composition and character,” to “oppose all efforts to mix the races,” and to protect “the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people” from “the integration of the races.” In the 1990s, Senators Trent Lott and Haley Barbour addressed the CCC, as did Governor Mike Huckabee.

Had Buckley’s efforts in the formative years of the political conservative movement focused more squarely on attracting and retaining blacks, Scalise’s campaign manager may never have had ties to EURO in the first place. Neither would CCC have thought it advantageous to its cause to support Republican candidates (note: some of the candidates CCC supported are non-white). Racists would have been politically isolated, relegated to the backroom with anti-Semites and Birchers.

So where does that leave us now?

Buckley is still my hero in spite of his flaws. Besides, to lay the conservative movement’s race problems squarely at his feet would be unjust. That said, what we learn from his oversight should help us move forward with improving our relationship with blacks. Republicans should not be satisfied in our own proclamations that we are not racist when our party serves as a refuge for racists. My hero, were he able to rectify his mistakes, would focus on tone. He would promote black conservative writers and thinkers. He would align the conservative cause with black advancement. He would do all of this with the joy and brilliance and flair that he did whenever he did anything at all.
The conservative movement indeed has a lacuna. The man who helped create it can also help us rectify it.

Look Away! Dixieland

The Party of Lincoln Should Not Defend the Symbol of the Confederacy


Last week, disturbed, racist, Dylann Roof, shot 9 black Christians in South Carolina. The attack has led to Republicans facing myriad questions about gun control, racism and the tangential issues that arise when complex crimes like this occur. One of the foci of the tragedy is the Confederate Battle Flag that flies on the grounds of  South Carolina’s Capitol building in a Civil War memorial, and adorned Mr. Roof in many photos he took before the massacre. The Confederate Flag has long been a point of contention between Northerners and Southerners, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites. That said, Republicans should take a firm stance against the Confederate Flag not just as a sign that we welcome blacks into our ranks, but because the flag symbolizes everything our Party is against.

In 2008, presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee addressed an audience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina saying:

“You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell ’em what to do with the pole; that’s what we’d do.”

Michael Cooper of the New York Times reports that an independent conservative group used Huckabee’s comments to attack Senator John McCain (then, running for president; and an opponent of the flag flying over the state capitol), and praise Huckabee. The group ran an ad saying:

“John McCain assaults our values…Mike Huckabee understands the value of heritage.”

Using states’ rights to dodge questions of the flag’s morality, Huckabee said in 2008 that the decision to fly the flag over the capitol is one best left to the state and not to any president. He reiterated his position this year as he runs for president again, and the flag controversy resurfaces. Governor Scott Walker, expected to run for president, refused to answer what should be done with the flag. So far, only Mitt Romney (not running for president in 2016) and Jeb Bush say that the flag should be removed.

Are Republicans so clueless to the negative symbolism the Confederate Flag portrays–especially to blacks?

A moderate understanding of history acknowledges that the Confederacy wanted not just to enslave people, but to expand that enslavement throughout the new territories. Slavery runs contrary to our American ideals, yet Southerners at that time were so willing to enslave blacks that they killed whites in order to do so. The late Christopher Hitchens encapsulates the ugly symbolism of the flag thusly:

“Under this fiery cross of St. Andrew, the state of Pennsylvania was invaded and free Americans were rounded up and re-enslaved. Under this same cross, it was announced that any Union officer commanding freed-slave soldiers, or any of his men, would be executed if captured. (In other words, war crimes were boasted of in advance.) The 13 stars of the same flag include stars for two states—Kentucky and Missouri—that never did secede, and they thus express a clear ambition to conquer free and independent states.”

The ugly heritage of the Confederate flag continued even after the fall of the Confederacy. Various white supremacist groups and terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan flew the flag proudly. Even Dylann Roof understood the implications of the controversial banner.

So what is the “heritage” that Southerners want to preserve with the Confederate Battle Flag? Why do Republicans honor that “heritage?” South Carolina (and the GOP) should abandon the Confederate Battle Flag because it represents anti-Americanism and appropriately alienates blacks.
Republicans representing the Party of Lincoln should understand that better than anyone.

The Free Exchange (15-011)

The Free Exchange is a series dedicated solely to answering comments from you. I appreciate your reading and always enjoy hearing from you, even when you disagree. Thank you for your participation.


 

The Redistribution Reality

Black and Red Fan writes:

 

This is great news! Prager once said that the more people truly examine, engage, think about, and discuss a topic closely, they tend to overwhelmingly come out on the conservative side. This is why shows like Prager and your blogs are so important; they explains logically and plainly the issues which usually lead to the conservative side. Margaret Thatcher was right when she said that facts and the reality of life are conservative.

 

The liberal desire for income/wealth redistribution is so strange when you think about it. I think the bottom line is that they must either not understand or not care about how wealth is produced. They must think or presume that everyone who has a higher income must have got it by inheritance or by cheating or stealing. They must also think that those who don’t work as hard or have lesser skills or have lesser career drive should still get the same wealth without having earned it. I just don’t understand this line of thinking. I guess it must be the emotion of envy or wanting a certain outcome? Bernie Sanders the socialist comes to mind. That guy is a bullying and dishonest man in his arguments and position.

 

As I said, this essay and the two articles your quote do give me hope. This is what gives me encouragement that despite all the indoctrination of the universities, Hollywood, and the press: the facts of life and its realities will show the people the truth about conservative positions. This is why you and your voice is so important. (and mine too I guess) I have been trying to do my part here in one of the bluest states in the country. And even the hardcore liberals here do see what I mean when I have those discussions with them. I do believe that I am planting those seeds of truth that we talked about. And so reading this is a great bit of encouragement and we will continue to fight on to preserve this great country. Thanks for this essay.

 

J Hunter:

Thank you for commenting, and for the kind words.

 

I agree that the Left doesn’t understand how wealth is created. President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” comment exemplifies the liberal view of the relationship between public and private ventures: Yes, it is true that tax money builds roads that help deliver goods to market, but businesses must exist in order to create the tax money in the first place.

 

Nowhere is this clearer than in Detroit, where people and businesses have left the city and the government cannot afford to pay for the infrastructure that once served the millions who used to live in the city. If government created wealth, then Detroit wouldn’t be where it is right now.

 

I think that liberals are motivated by wishful thinking. They see the kinds of services that smaller, poorer nations provide for their citizens, and are upset that America doesn’t too. In their minds, these services, not differences in culture or circumstances, are what make the more liberal countries more successful at tackling certain issues that “plague” the U.S. Therefore, the cost to implement these programs hardly matters–the program will ameliorate American life and the high cost will be offset by these improvements.

 

Of course, the Left is wrong precisely because they do not understand (or accept) cultural or circumstantial differences between the U.S. and other nations–namely the emphasis Americans place on self-reliance.

 

I hope we don’t lose that trait anytime soon.


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