American liberals need conservatives to be racist as justification for resisting change to the status quo of our government in terms of social programs and “entitlement” spending. Does it follow that conservatives must be racist? Funny, I don’t feel racist. What brings this up? At National Review Ramesh Ponnuru and Jonah Goldberg take apart the Sam Tanenhaus piece in The New Republic that is titled “Original Sin: Why the GOP Is and Will Continue to Be the Party of White People.”
Their chosen quote, and I hope you can read it with as much incredulous merriment as I did, “When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun.”
I read the authors of the modern right back in the day and I say, “What? What? What?”
Ponnuru and Goldberg express similar indignation:
Tanenhaus’s claim that National Review was baptized into the cult of Calhoun rests largely on a handful of quotes from Russell Kirk and James J. Kilpatrick. What results is a distorted picture of Kirk, but a nearly unrecognizable one of NR and conservatism. Neither Kirk nor Kilpatrick had the influence on NR that Burnham, Meyer, Chambers, Willi Schlamm, or Willmoore Kendall did. None of these founding editors of National Review is even mentioned in Tanenhaus’s indictment.
Nor is Harry Jaffa mentioned; Tanenhaus writes with blinders on, unaware of so much of thought on the right that he assumes there must not have been much thought. Just read the whole thing.
I suppose the left needs the right to be attached to Democratic antecedents like Calhoun so they can disallow them, despite an ideology and choice of policies that keep the descendents of American slaves in “safe” Congressional districts in the inner cities, dependent on government whenever possible, and securely in the Democratic voting bloc. Heck, I know I simplify grossly with that assertion, but for all the left has done for blacks since FDR and Johnson, what has changed so much for the better for our black population? With friends like the Democrats, who needs enemies? To slap the “racist” label on anyone who does not agree with the left denies any right to independent thought and to political opposition. That’s the real point, according to Ponnuru and Goldberg.
Perhaps the problem is in the word, conservative. It means someone who wants to conserve, of course, but we all choose the right to conserve what we believe is and was the best of civilization, based on judgement and discrimination. For example, I don’t know any conservative who longs for the good old days of chattel slavery. That “Progress” is inexorable in the left’s direction, which seems to be all about certain types of control and not others, is something any conservative feels free to argue. Tanenhaus seems to think we have no right to make the argument; that such arguments are sin. This is liberality these days. Where do conservatives get off looking at what modern liberalism has done for blacks in America and saying, “There must be a different, better, way to handle this. We have a mess here and it is a mess we cannot afford.”? Who has a vested interest in the racial divide of modern politics? It is not the GOP.
Coda: Apparently, Tanenhaus is working on a biography of William F. Buckley and given what he writes about him in “Original Sin”, God help Buckley’s memory.