Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Bill Allen on the American Dilemma

It appears that Bill Allen, our great teacher and friend, has borrowed back his Civil Rights Commissioner cap to present the lesson of the hour for the Republican Party. In his Ashbrook Center essay, "Why Race Atheism Fails," Bill, as usual, hits his target with profound and provocative verve.

I’ll note just a few highlights, but be sure and read it for yourself. Let me add that if you haven’t discovered Bill Allen’s website at Michigan State University, do so.
His website contains a plethora of speeches and articles from the past decade or two. Quite a gold mine. One teaser: check out the interview of him and Clarence Thomas when they were heading up their respective federal agencies dealing with race in America.

Re: "race atheism," I’ll let Bill Allen define that term for you. Suffice it to say, he does not believe that the spectre of race haunts America because of Democratic sins of commission (e.g., the rhetoric of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, or the notorious NAACP ad associating James Byrd’s lynching with George Bush). Rather, Republican sins of omission are to blame. The GOP can no longer pretend that race is not an issue in America by simply ignoring the racial demagoguery of the Jesse Jacksons of the world.

His solution? Have President Bush say it loud and say it proud, "I am a Black Republican, and my Party is the Party of Black Republicans." Practically, this would entail "an aggressive strategy" of recruiting black Americans for positions of high profile and high responsibility (a process begun with Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, and which Bill Allen traces back to Reagan’s presidency).

In this way, Bush and the Party he leads would invite blacks--perhaps for the first time in American history--to assume their full and rightful place at the American table. This is no sham diversity mandate, no attempt to make the party or the nation’s government merely "look like America." (Witness J.C. Watts’s departure from Congress along these lines.) Rather, it is an invitation to black Americans to fulfill their "claim to full citizenship" by "being ready and willing to contribute to the country’s salvation."

Bill closes his stirring essay by observing that bloc voting by blacks in the last presidential election "reached its apogee," and hence the limits of its detriment to the GOP. But unless black Americans want to go the way of the Jewish American vote, which is solidly Democratic but negligible in its impact on national policy, they should consider which party offers them a genuine opportunity to contribute to the land of their birth--and therewith receive the full blessings of its prosperity. Rest content with the paternalistic handouts of an affirmative action regime they have only recently believed to be their political hope, or step up to real participation as full citizens of America? Polls from the mditerm election already show a waning of Democratic identification by blacks; they may now recognize how little influence they wield within, and how little respect they truly receive from, the Democratic Party.

Frederick Douglass once wrote, "The Republican Party is the ship; all else the sea." This slogan was cited long after Douglass passed this earth. May Black Republicans of all colors see the wisdom in it.

Discussions - 1 Comment

I have mixed feelings concerning the Bill Allen article. I am sensible enough to enjoy the coinage of the term "race atheist". But I have deeply held reservations even in regards to the use of this term. What I would have wished was said more directly was left somewhat unclear in the article. My wish was that Bill Allen would have chosen the term "Race Agnostics" in place of "Race Atheists". I also wish that he would discussed prudence directly.

"There is a reason for this malentendu: namely, the conservative mistake of responding to race dogmatism with race atheism. By race atheism I mean the attitude that, since race should not matter, it should be treated as if it does not matter."

Atheists in general treat the question of belief in God as if it does matter,
take the Ayn Rand atheists as an example. Only someone who believed that belief or disbelief in God has serious Metaphysical consequence would bother being an Atheist in the first place. Being an Atheist is not exactly socially expedient, not to mention politics.

I know a few Agnostics and a few Atheists, an Agnostic is one who goes to church to please his parents. An atheist is one who would not go.

"The real problem in the Republican Party is....the real and determined willfulness of the race atheists who seek above all to avoid the embarrassment of race in policy discussions."

It seems that this seeking to avoid embarrassment in the issue of race policy fits more neatly with an Agnostic analogy. But my main focus in writting this is not to discuss atheism or agnostism.

Rather, I place the cause of this "real and determined willfulness" in the conception of prudence held by many politicians. It just so happens that from where I stand I categorize Agnostics as those who share this determined willfulness to avoid embarrassment. (sounds a lot like Dewey’s goal of eliminating dis-ease?)

"If past performance guides President Bush and his Party leaders, they will become reticent to broach issues remotely touching upon questions of race. They will not abandon previously enunciated principles (such as opposition to affirmative action), but they will noticeably de-emphasize those same principles."

It is ammazing to me how neatly the authors predicted actions of Republicans parallel the actions of an Agnostic in a social setting. More to the point... The principle that determines when and how principles are de-emphasized is prudence.

Broach the issue of Affirmative Action! Speak out loudly and clearly! Eliminate all hints of Agnosticism/Pragmatism. Quit saying foolish things such as the ends are good but the means are bad. Eliminate the Dualism/double talk. The ends cannot be separated from the means. Somebody say it! Say that it is evil, and that what it really means can be seen very clearly by exactly what it does. Get the sworn deposition of the Law professor from IU and many others like him!

This is what is needed, a true vocal commitment to "color-blindness". A commitment to standing up and speaking out especially when the issue is hot. And this is exactly what is lacking! As Bill Allen puts it " For the main reason race retains its salience is not because the race dogmatists retain credibility (who could believe the fabricator of the Tawna Brawley fraud, the notorious scam artist, Jesse Jackson, or the political extremism of the "James Byrd ad"?), “but rather because the race atheists have refused to lance this boil on the body politic.”

But I take issue... Instead of questioning our present conceptions of prudence, It seems that having employed the annalogy of "Race Atheist" he has in a sly manner done enough dammage to the "color blind" approach to sneak in a "prudent" way out of the morass.

"Practically, this would entail "an aggressive strategy" of recruiting black Americans for positions of high profile and high responsibility (a process begun with Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, and which Bill Allen traces back to Reagan’s presidency)."

With all due respect to both Lucas Morel and Bill Allen... This smells like a betrayal of principle. No matter how you color it, it seems to cheapen the efforts and individual merits of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice to include them examples of taking part in an "aggressive strategy" no matter how well intentioned. If anything but merit is the motivation for a hire then you have already compromised the uncompromisable.(A prudence debate no doubt)

I am well aware of the denial of this
point included in Allen’s article. But I would like to see Morell defend his statement in light of that fact.

“This can only result from a deliberate effort to fill appointive and elective offices with such citizens, on the principle that the nation’s health demands it.”

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