Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Ross Douthat Batting For Bill Kristol


Ross Douthat
will be tne NY Times conservative columnist replacing Bill Kristol. A former Publius Fellow of the Claremont Institute, Ross displays his cleverness in a review of a new book on Billy Graham and civil rights. He astutely provides a conservative position on a liberal dogma, while at first giving every appearance of favoring it. From the last few paragraphs:


In one story, Sun Belt Republicanism was a coalition forged in cynicism and denial: it perpetuated real injustices while denying they existed and relied on the votes of bigots to achieve political dominance. In another telling, though, the majority that Nixon built managed to achieve something that seemed impossible at mid-century--using the rhetoric of Christianity and colorblindness to reconcile the white South to a legal and social revolution, and confining the once-ubiquitous support for segregation to a lunatic fringe.

Again, as with Graham, both of these stories are true....


I have confidence we will not be saying, Ross, it was nice knowing ya, and gee we might have had Ramesh or Yuval.

Discussions - 52 Comments

Ken, I hope you are right. Anyway there were many, many worse choices that Douthat and few better ones. Douthat really is a reformist conservative who is both a reformist and a conservative. As for Ponnuru, why should the NYT limit itself to one conservative columnist? I know... don't get greedy.

I agree with Ken. A perfectly balanced and thoughtful review that both tells us something serious and true about Graham and the heart of American politics in the period, including Christianity. Each sentence points beyond its first meaning, transcending itself. The reader can hear the hum of good political thinking throughout the piece. Very few people could have done that.

You should hope that Douthat is able to pull it off without Kristol's abysmal record for filling the column with inaccuracies and falsehoods. Unfortunately, I think The Respectable Right still has some work to do on putting (and keeping) their "Lunatic Fringe" out at arm's length.

I don't completely agree, but it is a very good column. I do agree w PWS that there's a lot of thought packed in there.

As a voice for both Christian conservatism and racial progress, he served as a bridge between the Old South and the New, and as a model for a region struggling to shed its worst baggage without losing its identity....That’s one story. But there’s another story as well, one that paints Graham as a coward and an apologist for racial backlash. He supported desegregation but took few risks on its behalf; he cultivated a studied moderation in a time that cried out for moral clarity; he was more interested in flattering the white South’s self-regard than in calling his region to true repentance. As a steadfast supporter of Richard Nixon’s career, from the 1950s down through Watergate, he simultaneously enabled and embodied Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” which shut civil rights liberalism out of power and turned the region Republican for a generation.

The term 'backlash' commonly refers to the reaction of urban caucasian populations (ca. 1966) to various social phenomena of the time. What exactly about Billy Graham's evangelical ministry addressed specifically toward these sorts of conflicts? Whence comes the assumption that folks in Canarsie were being comprehensively unreasonable? Why was it the job of a clergyman to 'take risks' with regard to social or political conflict? What sort of 'risks' does Mr. Douthat or Dr. Miller have in mind? Whence comes the assumption that 'studied moderation' lacked 'moral clarity'? How often has Mr. Douthat made trenchant observations in his journalism? What is wrong, a priori, with casting a Republican ballot? Exactly how, in the years since 1968, has the general welfare of the black population been enhanced by the efforts of 'civil rights liberals'? Characters like Joseph Rauh and William Bowen have done a dandy job in establishing durable patron-client relations between their own ilk and the majority of the salaried stratum of the black population. Why would Mr. Douthat write as if that were a desirable thing?

In Miller’s account, one of 20th-century America’s most important religious leaders emerges as a representative political actor as well, whose example is worth pondering less because he was courageous than because he often wasn’t.

'Courageous' (or not) toward what frigging end? Mr. Graham had his own objects, which were primarily evangelical. My father had his, which were technical and commercial. Why should either be evaluated according to the criteria of their willingness (or unwillingness) to be pit-bulls on behalf of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference?


But a similar combination of theological principle and careerist caution meant that Graham’s critique of segregation never went nearly as far as civil rights activists wanted him to go.

So what? Why would you have expected him to take his cues from James Forman and Ralph David Abernathy? Strange as it may seem to Mr. Douthat, there are people who are not reflexively other-directed


He stressed individual conversion over political change, supporting legal reform in lukewarm terms while insisting that only the Gospel could really improve race relations.

The Reverened Graham was funny that way


He maintained strong friendships with segregationist clergymen and politicians,

So did Lyndon Johnson. There's more to life than politics

and his attacks on racism were always tempered by deliberate hedges and straddles — denunciations of extremists on “both sides” of the debate, suggestions that race relations were worse in the North than in the South, and so forth.

Because Rap Brown and those riots in Detroit and Los Angeles were just figments of our collective imagination

Where Martin Luther King used eschatological language as a spur to political change, Graham used eschatology to emphasize the limits of politics. “Only when Christ comes again,” he reportedly said after King’s speech at the March on Washington, “will the lion lie down with the lamb and the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with the little black children.”

Why would a clergyman say such a thing?

But it made him a fair-weather friend to the civil rights activists themselves. Graham supported the era’s landmark legislation once it was passed into law, but he was a constant critic of the marches, demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience that helped make reform possible. His first commitment was always to law and order, and his first instinct was always to call for an end to further agitation.

I.e. the Southern Christian Leadership Conference et al merited unqualified support because they never erred on any question of public policy and marches and demonstrations without end are the desirable default state of public thoroughfares

The Republican pitch to white Southerners included its share of racist dog whistles,

Which were?

Nixon’s 1968 campaign reached out to the more reactionary Deep South,

Who were promised what?


In one story, Sun Belt Republicanism was a coalition forged in cynicism and denial: it perpetuated real injustices while denying they existed and relied on the votes of bigots to achieve political dominance. In another telling, though, the majority that Nixon built managed to achieve something that seemed impossible at mid century — using the rhetoric of Christianity and colorblindness to reconcile the white South to a legal and social revolution, and confining the once-ubiquitous support for segregation to a lunatic fringe.

Again, as with Graham, both of these stories are true.

Which 'real injustices' persisting past 1971(in Texas or in Oregon) were attributable to Republican policies or could have been reliably extinguished by a hypothetical McGovern Administration?

Mr. Douthat's political commentary accepts with apparently little thought many of the assumptions and mythologies of his putative opposition. He is content therefrom to play the gelding and in this has a community of interest with the editors of The New York TImes. Regrettable.

"Ross Douthat is a co-author of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.”"

I'd really love to see him debate Thomas Frank (among others).

"Ross Douthat is a co-author of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.”"
I'd really love to see him debate Thomas Frank (among others)

From the biographical accounts published and from his writings, Mr. Douthat is unfamiliar with any department of sociology, is unacquainted with the experience of working-class life, and has no history of participating in the conduct of electoral campaigns. If he wishes to argue for particular public policies, dandy. Why pretend he has a clue as to how such would be received by subsections of the voting population?

You should hope that Douthat is able to pull it off without Kristol's abysmal record for filling the column with inaccuracies and falsehoods. Unfortunately, I think The Respectable Right still has some work to do on putting (and keeping) their "Lunatic Fringe" out at arm's length.

Your source attributes the quotations in question not to Charles Johnson but to someone commenting on his site. Their are disordered and rude people in this world, and also people posing as other people.

^^^ That might be the case with some of those (all? I don't know, didn't check, did you?); still a distressing situation considering that LittleGreenFootballs requires some kind of registration to comment. If Johnson gets comments of that kind from those he allows in his gated community, I hate to think of who he might have rejected.

My 2nd link - to, again, Glenn Beck being an honored guest speaker at Ashbrook - still stands, without reservation, for my point.

(Lastly, "Their [-what?-] are disordered and rude people..." ?)

"Art Deco," thank you for bringing the level of this discussion up a few notches in #7. Your points are very good ones. Douthat's review of the book on Billy Graham was nothing but conventional-wisdom centrism, exactly what the NYT wants in its "conservative" columnist. Whether such a columnist will do more good than harm remains to be seen. Judging by this review, Douthat has clearly internalized, or pretended to internalize, the liberal-establishment's catechism on civil rights -- and its callous contempt for those who were not 100 percent on-board with it, which is to say, with most Americans of the 1960s. Self-rignteousness in regard to ordinary Americans is rarely attractive, and it's usually a sign of simplistic history.

I think Art Deco is a little hard on Douthat. Consevatives have done things that the black community has good reason to resent. But I do share his concern that Douthat does sometimes cede a little too much to liberal interpretations of the past.

There were a lot of different kinds of rightwing politics that white southernors (and not just southernors) could have been recruited to in the 1960s and 1970s. They could have formed into a white racialist constituency (via George Wallace) or a protectionist corporatist politics (via John Connally). That they were recruited into a colorblind, limited government politics is a good story. But conservatives did have to show a prudence that had its political and moral costs.

To pick a small example: The agnosticism that conservatives have shown over the Confederate flag When all the rationalizations about the Confederate flag being a state issue are put aside (its not like conservatives have been reticent about commenting of state referenda on gay marriage), conservatives tread carefully on that symbol of seccesion because they did not want to antagonize one constituency (white southernors) even as it meant antagonizing another one (African Americans). Could you imagine conservatives taking a similar tack to a state celebrating the symbols of the Black Liberation Army - which killed alot fewer Americans and did not come nearly as close to ripping apart our United States as did the Confederacy?

One could argue that the Confederate flag means something other than seccesion and slavery to modern white southernors and why antagonize your friends over a symbol of the past when you can agree on principle and policy in the present? Fair enough. Would conservatives be willing to show similar forbearance on the meaning of the history and symbols of the Black Panthers as part of the prudential price for making gains with members of the African American community who might be culturally conservative and free market oriented but remember the black radicalism of the 60s and 70s as in part an honorable struggle against racism and an assertion of pride and courage? They might have to as one of the many things conservatives will need to do in order to make lasting gains in the African American community.

Craig Scanlon, you offered just one link, not two: to a site critiquing Charles Johnson, et al.


If Johnson gets comments of that kind from those he allows in his gated community, I hate to think of who he might have rejected.

The man gets hundreds of comments. It is likely he lacks the time edit them or even read aught but a few

.

If I understand correctly, Chas. Johnson is a registered Democrat whose critique of the official idea is largely limited to national security concerns. Generous of you.

To pick a small example: The agnosticism that conservatives have shown over the Confederate flag When all the rationalizations about the Confederate flag being a state issue are put aside

I think the Stars and Bars was added to some state flags in the South during the period running from 1954 to 1971. There may have been some sort of controversy outside of the state capitols in question. I do not remember. At the time, Republicans controlled no Southern legislatures and generally formed a small minority drawn from mountain districts and from loci on the very periphery of the South (e.g. Louisville or Miami). The bloc vote for the Democratic Party among blacks has been an abiding phenomenon (with few local exceptions) since 1964. IIRC, contemporary controversies over the Stars and Bars on state flags and seals date to about 1991. The distribution of black votes among the parties is not attributable to them.

I might recall that Wm. Lloyd Garrison used to burn the Stars and Stripes at abolitionist rallies, contending such was justified because the founding documents of the Union implicated it in an evil practice. Is the flag as symbol of the nation to be dispensed with because of its damaged social institutions? Does this not suggest that the nation itself be liquidated as a distinct entity, rather than its institutions be amended in various ways?

I cannot help recall in this regard that the bien pensants in England have successfully stigmatized the display of St. George's Cross. Can we entertain the suspicion that people making an issue of flags and the like are giving expression to their petty power drives and (perhaps) attempting to extinguish identities that they do not define and control?

Could you imagine conservatives taking a similar tack to a state celebrating the symbols of the Black Liberation Army - which killed alot fewer Americans and did not come nearly as close to ripping apart our United States as did the Confederacy?

And just what is the 'Black Liberation Army'? The Stars and Bars is a fragment of popular culture, not a contrivance of public policy or one of Hollywood, like it or lump it.

Would conservatives be willing to show similar forbearance on the meaning of the history and symbols of the Black Panthers as part of the prudential price for making gains with members of the African American community who might be culturally conservative and free market oriented but remember the black radicalism of the 60s and 70s as in part an honorable struggle against racism and an assertion of pride and courage?

I do not recall that anyone made much of a fuss over the 'X' caps that were popular about fifteen years ago.

The Black Panthers were a conduit for school lunch programs, got into gun battles with the Oakland, California police, and offed the bookkeeper of Ramparts magazine. That pretty much exhausts the subject. I do not think they merit too many sentences in the history books.

Would conservatives be willing to show similar forbearance on the meaning of the history and symbols of the Black Panthers as part of the prudential price for making gains with members of the African American community who might be culturally conservative and free market oriented but remember the black radicalism of the 60s and 70s as in part an honorable struggle against racism and an assertion of pride and courage? They might have to as one of the many things conservatives will need to do in order to make lasting gains in the African American community.


That is the most insane thing I've ever seen you write, and I've seen you claim that Jaffa is the greatest thinker since Socrates.

The number of blacks who are fans of the Black Panthers AND "culturally conservative and free market oriented" must be in the hundreds.

The limited government pitch was an easy sell to southern whites. No amount of kissing up to the BP will ever make it an easy sell among blacks. Likewise with Hispanics - if the GOP wants their votes it will have to do what the Democrats do and buy them.

I think The Respectable Right still has some work to do on putting (and keeping) their "Lunatic Fringe" out at arm's length.

Charles Johnson is part of your lunatic fringe, I'm happy to tell you. I suppose you'll be denouncing that fascist right-wnger Chris Hitchens next.

No doubt Ross Douthat is catholic and quite intelligent, and it is difficult to know what sort of conservative we are talking about. If I am a democrat I am delighted by the apperance of Ross Douthat on the scene. In fact I think Obama is delighted to have Ross Douthat writting. If I reflect on the possiblem minds that might reflect on that article chiefly folks who read the New York Times...then Douthat seems to me to be perfectly centrist and reasonable. I learn to trust my moral instincts and be more like Bill Clinton willing to recognize the moral courage of a Billy Graham against the grain of the times. I learn not to get caught up in senseless activism be it code pink or plastic pitchfork tea parties. I also pat myself on the back for voteing for the sensible and calm and "post-heroic" or "unheroic" Barrack Obama. If anything I figure that I should let my liberal apprehensions about Obama not being far enough to the left recede. If everything is about keeping the demonstrators on the lunatic fringe then all is well in the world.

Ross Douthat will convert more conservatives to Harvard/catholic sensibility, and make them democrats. In fact to understand Ross Douthat is to understand why Catholics voted for Obama.

Still I do think that to understand Douthat is to understand the more sensible part of the country. What would really happen if all the gangbangers quit killing each other and dealing drugs and started reading "Dreams from my Father", what if Obama really did become the Messiah?

Then we could write, in one telling the republican smear machine painted Obama as a communist and fascist and a false messiah, but in doing so they animated lower class whites into protesting oppression simultaneously freeing young blacks into seeing how ridiculous this all looks, these armed with the written works of Barrack Obama abdicated a life of gang banging and rededicated themselves to persuing the dreams of Martin Luther and attending Harvard, succesfull blacks thus spured confined once-ubiquitous support for affirmative action to the inbred lunatic fringe of white males in West Virgina.

This was a serious discussion. Let's not get into the weeds with irrelevancies.

Look again Art Deco, I linked to two sites, the one you mentioned AND an Ashbrook page. Two words - lunatic and fringe - and two links.

If the Democrats were a party uniformly committed to something, perhaps it would be significant to note that Johnson's "a registered Democrat." Then I might use the phrase DINO, as a corollary to RINO. It's quite possible Johnson is a Dem, I don't know. He's still a pretty loathsome character.

Look again Art Deco, I linked to two sites, the one you mentioned AND an Ashbrook page. Two words - lunatic and fringe - and two links.

And the second link is merely to an announcement of his presence at some Ashbrook event. Why does his presence at Ashbrook render him part of the 'lunatic fringe'?

It's quite possible Johnson is a Dem, I don't know. He's still a pretty loathsome character.

He is ill-mannered and uncharitable (so-and-so is an 'idiotarian'), which would make him a problem in social and domestic settings.

Art Deco,

1. Sure the Confederate flag was added to state flags by Democrats, but the professed agnosticism on the subject in recent decades was by conservative Republicans, and people (including African Americans) have noticed so blaming it on segregationist Democrats doesn't really help. Being agnostic on the Confederate flag is for many people a marker about whose side you are on over matters of history. You are right that the overwhelming African American vote for Democrats (as in over 75%)does not date back to the Confederate flag debate. It dates (in part) to the vote over the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. That is why it is a small example.

2. The BLA was a real Marxist Black Nationalist terrorist group from then 1970s.

3. I don't think that it is a bad thing to be proud of the Confederate flag. It means different things to different people and multiple perspectives can be legitimate. It is just that conservatives don't usually show so much forbearance to the symbols of movements that tried to tear apart the US, and to think about how this appears to people who are not conservatives.

4. I think there is a lot more to the Black Panthers than you wrote - most of which I really don't like, but the group does have an outsized importance in the public memory of the African American community. But we aren't talking about the history books here. We are talking about a state government celebrating the the symbols and history of an organization. If you are totally agnostic about a state government celebrating the Black Panthers, then congratulations on your consistent federalism.

Jonh M,

1. I think you would be surprised exactly how many African Americans of basically moderate or conservative opinions on particular issues also have some positive feelings toward the Black Panthers. These African Americans are no more likely to replicate the criminal actions of the Black Panthers than most Confederate flag loving white southernors are fans of seccesion and slavery. In both cases memory is working funny.

2.I think that conservatives are underperforming among Latinos and especially African Americans. People who might share (or potentially share) our policy preferences end up voting for candidates who don't because at least those candidates seem to be on their side. This discussion is actually a good example of the sociological (rather than policy) problems that conservatives face in winning over African Americans.

3. Jaffa/Socrates: What the are you talking about? I think you are confused.

That Glenn Beck is even invited to a University to speak is disturbing, almost as disturbing as John saying that "Pete" once claimed that Jaffa is the greatest thinker since Socrates. Holy crap! In fact, the same mindset that would invite Beck to speak at a university would seem to be the one that pronounces Jaffa the greatest thinker since Socrates. Did Jaffa invite Beck to Ashland? That would close the circle.

Sorry to hear that Stertinius doesn't like it when real Americans get invited to colleges. I guess he prefers it when pro-terrorists like Ward Churchill and Craig Scanlon speak.

Art Deco, the link to Glenn Beck as the keynote speaker at the Ashbrook Memorial Dinner is in the sentence that read "Unfortunately, I think The Respectable Right still has some work to do on putting (and keeping) their "Lunatic Fringe" out at arm's length."

His presence at Ashbrook doesn't render him part of the lunatic fringe - his stated views do that handily.

Ashbrook Center / No Left Turns = The Respectable Right

Glenn Beck = Lunatic Fringe

Inviting Beck to be keynote speaker at namesake annual dinner is not a good way to distance your institution from the lunatic fringe. But then, perhaps there's no desire to do that.

- his stated views do that handily.

And you keep avoiding a specific reference to them

.

Pete, without peeking, describe your state flag. I think mine has a navy background with a gold design on it including a ribbon, motto, and perhaps a woman in some sort of classical pose. I have spent nine-tenths of my life in Upstate New York and the other tenth in Maryland (whose state flag is an indescribable hodgepodge of black, white, red, and gold). That I am unconcerned that the Stars and Bars is on the Georgia state flag is unremarkable. Unlike the changes in matrimonial law you made reference to above, the state flag is not a key buttress of the social architecture and no one is going to invoke clauses of Article 4 of the federal Constitution to force New York to put Angela Davis afro on the state flag.

I might also note that the Stars and Bars are a piece of popular culture that are already on state flags and people's baseball caps and walls and knapsacks. By contrast, sticking some symbol of a defunct political organization like the Black Panther Party would be a contrivance. The states where blacks are thickest on the ground (Mississippi and South Carolina) have black populations that are abnormally non-metropolitan and abnormally evangelical (and no more than about a third of the total). I am not placing any wagers that the gang colors of an outfit which once existed in Oakland, California are going to be adopted in these states by too many people.

You need to make up your mind as to whether the Stars and Bars is a legitimate symbol or not.

'conservatives don't usually show so much forbearance to the symbols of movements that tried to tear apart the US,

This country has faced three general insurrections, a couple of rebellions against state governments, and a long run of circumscribed conflicts with the aboriginal population. In case you had not noticed, place names derived from aboriginal languages are ubiquitous in this country. The banner of the first insurrection, which tore thirteen colonies of British North America away from the other four colonies can be seen flying over every post office in the land. Who objects? Off hand, I cannot recall that there was any particular standard associated with the Whiskey Rebellion, or the Dorr Rebellion, or Shays' Rebellion.


and to think about how this appears to people who are not conservatives'.

OK, I'm thinking. Are they thinking about how their petty kvetching and attitudinizing appears to a wider population?

I think that conservatives are underperforming among Latinos and especially African Americans. People who might share (or potentially share) our policy preferences end up voting for candidates who don't because at least those candidates seem to be on their side. This discussion is actually a good example of the sociological (rather than policy) problems that conservatives face in winning over African Americans.

I will offer alternative hypotheses:

1. Voting behavior in the black population is an ingrained cultural habit.

2. Voting Democratic is a manifestation of communal identity, much like voting Unionist is for presbyterians in Ulster.

3. FWER, public dramas (e.g. Michael Nifong out to screw Collin Finnerty or Ruth Sherman reading Nappy Hair to her students) are more powerful mobilizing agents theirin than mundane matters like tax rates and social policy

4. Public opinion is far more influenced therein by a vociferous leadership group who have their shticks they follow and their deals to protect

.

In a couple of generations, these social psychological factors may dissipate. Until then, you can do your best to put forward good public policy. However, what you say is just going to be static to a lot of people and the good that you do unnoticed. Too bad, but that's life.

Art Deco, Are you really wondering why conservative's tolerant attitudes toward the Confederate flag combined with a censorious attitude towards the symbols of past black radicalism tends to alienate many African Americans? I'm not for forcing anyone to renounce their love of the Confederate flag and I'm not about to join the admireres of the Black Panthers. It is just that conservatives displayed great cultural sensitivity in wooing white southernors is the 1960s and 1970 and that a similar sensitivity will be needed to make significant gains in the African American community. Those gains won't rise or fall based on conservative attitutes about the Black Panthers. But we should be open to the possiblity that African Americans who might be with us on taxes or abortion or gay marriage or whatever, might have a very different interpretation of the past (and this past is often a bigger obstacle to working with conservatives than principle or policy) and that we ought to work very hard not to offend them - without selling out our own integrity or pretending to believe clear untruths. We might also have something to learn from their perspectives.

Art Deco, As to comment 25: All your numbered points are valid in themselves and help explain why conservative probably cannot realistically hope to win the majority of the African American vote in the froseeable future. But we can hope for better than 10%. One of the striking things about the African American vote is that (on the Presidential level), the African American vote is at least as lopsided now as a generation ago when memories of the fight over the 1964 Civil Rights Act were fresher. Here is what I wrote on this subject on my own blog http://www.thenextright.com/blogs/pete?page=1

"The failure of the (none too energetic) conservative efforts to make gains in the African American community highlights the difficulty that conservatives face in increasing their vote among African Americans beyond the 7% to 9% that seems to have more-or-less bought into the conservative narrative. Any conservative approach that has even a chance of breaking through to other parts of the African American community must appeal to deep principles - basic shared opinions about justice and injustice - and offer policies that plausibly offer tangible improvements in people's lives. That is the only approach that can even hope to overcome the obstacles of history, personal sentiment, and peer pressure that alienate many African Americans of basically conservative policy inclinations from supporting organizations or individuals associated with political conservatism - the Republican Party most of all.

When conservatives have tried to reach out to the African American community, it has been more stylisitc than substantive. The outreach has involved photo ops with African American minsters and schoolchildren and speeches to groups like the NAACP and appearing on programs whose audience was largely African American. The speeches and interviews usually involve a lot of vague talk about the free markets and individual oppurtunity and stuff, but not much that a listener can grab on to and say "Yes, that will make and improvement in my life." That kind of boilerplate will win few over and especially not an audience that is basically suspicious.

The one place where conservatives have been truly articulate and sometimes specific has been education. But while education reformism should be part of any appeal, it is not enough by itself. Improving failing schools is a serious concern but it is only part of life, and many African American children don't actually attend failing schools. A conservative politics that seeks to engage the African American community will need to have the breadth of a real politics and engage a wide variety of issues.

To give two examples: A conservative health care reform plan that lowered premiums and increased security (so that a family did not have a break in coverage if the main earner switched jobs) might have wide appeal in the African American community if it was plausible and well argued. Late term abortions where the mother's life is not in jeopardy are also widely (but not unanimously) unpopular. One is an issue that offers real people, real benefits in their lives. The other appeals to basic issues of right and wrong. Neither of them are in any sense "African American" issues. They are issues on which political conservatives and some portion of the African American community can make common cause based on common interest and common principle. But those are only two examples and no doubt other issues could be framed to much the same purpose.

Focusing on these issues does not mean being soft. Conservatives will have to vividly explain both what is right with conservative policies, and what is wrong - both in abstract morality and everyday damage to people's lives - with liberal policies. Advertizing experts and speechwriters can design the exact form of the speeches and commercials, but they need to bring home the reality of lives lost, the frustration of living standards stagnating and the gnawing anxiety caused by bad politics and bad policy. The message will have to be in part hard hitting and it will send up howls of protest from liberals that a generic Republican speech to the NAACP never would.

Such an approach is sure to be counterattacked. That is life and politics. Part of the counterattack will be on the morality and merits of the policy. That challenge is pretty familiar. But part of the counterattack from the liberal side (probably a large part) will be "welfarequeensWillieHortonKatrinablownleviesracistKKKContractOnAmerica" style ad hominem attacks and guilt by association. Conservatives will need to contrast a politcs of shared values and a better life for individuals and families with a politics of historical resentment. Conservatives will also have to be honest about the real roots of that resentment and be up front about past conservative mistakes while focusing on common values and improving lives. They will also need to point out how the politics of resentment is being manipulated to defend horrible ideas and policies that do real harm to real people.

In one sense, conservatives have wanted it too easy. They have hoped that some photo ops, and some speeches that focused on "free market, oppurtunity, bootstrap, uplift "cliches would win them enough marginal gains in the African American to flip a few key states. They wanted to make gains by just showing up and demonstrating what nice guys and girls conservatives are. Not gonna happen that way - though of course it is a good thing to be seen as a nice person. Doing better among African Americans is going to involve winning some political fights over principle and policy. It is going to mean going out there and it is going to involve taking some tough and sometimes low hits. But conservatives are already taking the hits, they just don't realize it.

Expectations for such an approach must be reasonable. African Americans will not be voting for conservatives by 9 to 1. Conservatives will not be getting 50% + 1 of the African American vote in the forseeable future. What can be hoped for is to win over that fraction of African Americans who have conservative issue preferences but who currently vote for liberal candidates, to make some converts from the basically nonideological, and to make political conservatism a legitimate option within the African American community."

Are you really wondering why conservative's tolerant attitudes toward the Confederate flag combined with a censorious attitude towards the symbols of past black radicalism tends to alienate many African Americans?

Pete, you have given not one concrete example of anyone being censorious of anything inert (bar the Stars and Bars).

The Republican Party has a corps of pollsters and advertising men who have, for more than four decades, failed at efforts to ameliorate the problem they have with the black electorate. Somehow, I doubt you have the case cracked.

#25 pretty much nails it.

Art Deco, no doubt I don't have the case "cracked". Assuming that conservatives cannot do better because they have not done better is destructive circular reasoning. Conservatives have not worked all that hard to do much better in the black community. They assumed that they would better spend their time and resources maximizing their margins among more right-leaning (and white) constituencies. They also assumed that those right leaning constituencies could, if mobilized, deliver a majority of the vote. Both those assumptions were correct, but for demographic reasons are becoming outdated. Conservative majorities, if they are to come, will also have to include far more nonwhite voters than they have in the past. Finding excuses about why conservatives can't do better in this generation (not necessarily the next presidential election) might make us feel better and it avoids any sense that conservatives have any responsibility for either how we got here or for getting to a better place vis a vis the African American community. We can just put forth good public policy and hope that in a generation or two or more, that African Americans will come around. And if they don't, we will tell ourselves that it is their own fault. We did all we could, just like we have been doing.

I think that a big part of the problem that conservatives trying to make inroads into the Afican American community will face is going to be the question of honor. African Americans and conservatives (mostly white)have very different narratives of the last forty years and where to place praise and blame. Even a white conservative and an African American that might agree with the white conservative on most of the issues of the moment might have very different interpretations of the past - on what to think about Ronald Reagan for instance. And the past matters. It is one way of telling friends from foes. And the particular naratives of the past are important to both African Americans and white conservatives. Trying to find enough common ground on the past to work in the present will involve both sides giving a little. Conservatives gave a little when courting white southernors. It isn't like conservatives talked alot of Lincoln in South Carolina. Many white conservatives will be tempted to shrug and say that the gulf of memory is too wide to be bridged in this generation. That common principles and common policy preference are not enough to form a durable political alliance if they haven't already. The question is whether conservatives are willing to leave their comfort zone and make the investment in time, energy, and creative thinking to improve their showing in the African American community - especially since there is no sure promise of political reward.

Strunk and White, Pete.

I checked my 1981 atlas. The list of state standards with a portion of the Confederate battle flag thereupon was as follows:

1. Georgia

2. Mississippi

Art Deco, Whether it was in the atlas or not, South Carolina too, but what is more important than the number of states is how the GOP presidential candidates reacted to the flag controversy. I'm not even saying that they were wrong exactly. It was a question of coalition politics and this kind of politics often means tough choices. I'm just saying that conservatives would do well to bring a similar attitude to attempts to bridge the gap with the African American community. If conservatives can bring the same nuance and understanding to 1960s black radicalism that they bring to Confederate history, if they can craft rhetorical appeals to African Americans despite their differences on Reagan as well as they have managed to craft rhetorical appeals to white southernors regardless of the differences they might have on Lincoln, then that would be a very good thing.

The South Carolina flag was a white on azure design, incorporating the profile of what I believe is a palmetto tree.

Sorry, I meant the confederate flag flying over the state capitol. I should have been more clear.

Count on a "conservative" discussion of race -- which entails some very serious and interesting issues -- to degenerate into pointless posturing about the Stars and Bars. I'm sure the liberals are quaking in their boots, guys.

David, that is a fair point (though I think there is a little more to it than your comment would suggest, its not like thats ALL we have been talking about ). What are some of your thoughts?

Art Deco, you said:

(responding to my referring to Glenn Beck as part of the lunatic fringe and saying - his stated views do that handily.)

"And you keep avoiding a specific reference to them."

Well, who asked me to provide examples?

How about you take your pick from these many examples?


http://mediamatters.org/issues_topics/tags/glenn_beck

This one's a classic, but there are many, many more from recent weeks and days, of course:

http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:fKF5qTNj6ooJ:www.outlawjournalism.com/news/%3Fp%3D349+muslims+camps+%22glenn+beck%22&cd=14&hl=en&ct=clnk

His comments on the subject of mass imprisonment of muslims in the United States were in the form of predictions. I do not think he is much of a prognosticator, but he is not being completely unreasonable as their is precedent for just this sort of thing happening (to the California Japanese) during the years running from 1942 to 1945. Predominantly Italian neighborhoods in the Bay area we also under martial law at the time.

Had John Pilger or Noam Chomsky made such a prediction, it would have likely been accepted without comment by the respective constituencies of each. How Glenn Beck differs from men such as these is in in the idiom he favors and in his assessment that should such a thing occur, it would be as a consequence of the alienation of the muslim population from the majority, and that the muslim population itself would bear some responsibility for this. Debatable, not lunatic.

Count on a "conservative" discussion of race -- which entails some very serious and interesting issues

Touche

If conservatives can bring the same nuance and understanding to 1960s black radicalism that they bring to Confederate history ..

Confederate history, with its opposition to a strong central government, overlaps neatly with some key conservative ideals.

Black radicalsm does not, to put it very mildly. There can be no accomodation there. You might as well wonder about the possibility of an "understanding" between conservatives and Marxists.

I think you would be surprised exactly how many African Americans of basically moderate or conservative opinions on particular issues also have some positive feelings toward the Black Panthers.

By all means, enlighten me as to your source for this information. As Art Deco noted, the BP was a California street gang.

You might as well argue that the GOP needs to be more respectful towards the KKK, which would be a close analogy to what you are actually saying.

Comparing Glenn Beck with Chomsky is about as dumb as saying that CO2 is not a toxin. Chomsky's theory of phrase-structure grammar is probably comparable to Beck's theory that the Iowa supreme court ruling on gays would close down churches.

Art Deco: I think a careful (or rather, less sloppy) reading of Beck's actual words, fully in context, makes it pretty clear that he wasn't simply predicting, but threatening.

In any case, you've addressed (albeit poorly) one of the 200 or so things he's said that put him in the "lunatic" camp - and I'm assuming that about a third of what they list on that site isn't fully crazy, just despicable.

I think a careful (or rather, less sloppy) reading of Beck's actual words, fully in context, makes it pretty clear that he wasn't simply predicting, but threatening.

Mr. Beck is not a U.S. Attorney, nor the superintendant of any one of our or federal police forces, nor a general officer in any department of the military. He is a private citizen proffering his opinion. About the most he can threaten to do is incite his listeners to send crank mail to Ibrahim Hooper.

Comparing Glenn Beck with Chomsky is about as dumb as saying that CO2 is not a toxin. Chomsky's theory of phrase-structure grammar is probably comparable to Beck's theory that the Iowa supreme court ruling on gays would close down churches.

They both offer topical commentary on American politics and contemporary history. That Glenn Beck has no scholarly publications in psycho-linguistics is quite irrelevant.

36: Pete, see Comment #11.

John M., The black radical nationalist tradition includes elements of self- reliance and suspicion of state paternalism along with some really crazy ideas - though before we get too smug, none crazier than the idea that people with one skin color have a moral right to own people of a different skin color. Anyway the point of understanding and nuance is not to win over black marxists anymore than the same attitude toward the Confederacy would be to win over "white guys who want to establish a new country in which white people will be allowed to own black people". In both cases this approach to history would be both to find what is really good and true in both histories so that people who agree on particular issues (say abortion) can work with each other in the present and to be fair.

Well speaking for myself I have been surprised at how many African Americans I have met who combine mainstream opinions on the issue of the day (ranging from generally liberal to generally conservative and none of them were academics)while having some positive feeling for the black radical tradition in general and the Black Panthers in particular - mostly because that is the most famous such group. Now this needs to be put in context. They weren't in favor of shooting cops and they knew that the black radical tradition didn't offer the answers. Their admiration was rueful in part. But there was also a sense that it was a form of standing up for the black community in the face of a history of violent oppression even if many of the specific ideas were misguided and some terrible things were done. I think there is some real merit to their viewpoint even if I disagree in parts (there are of course pure apologists and not much common ground can be found with them, just like with hard core Confederate apologists).

Conservatives can't really get on board with the 60s and 70s black radical agenda any more than they can get on board with the full Confederate agenda and anyway that isn't where most peoples' (of any color) attention is. It is just that conservatives, if they want to make gains in the African American community, are, in part, going to have to be as sensitive to African American history as they have been to the history of southern whites. As this conversation is indicating, that will, for many conservatives, be very tricky if not painful.

David, sure, but I was wondering if you could expand on that if you have the time and inclination. I probably agree with you that the liberal narrative regarding civil rights struggles of the 60s and 70s is wrong in places (but I'm not sure all the same places as you), but there were also problems with the conservative responses to the civil rights issue. There has been an attempt by some conservative writers (William Voegeli and Kevin Smant come to mind) who have tied to grapple with where conservatives went wrong without falling into the self-serving "liberal-establishment catechism". Where (if anywhere)would you say conservatives (say Goldwater and the National Review crowd) went wrong in the handling of the civil rights issue?

Pete, there is a difference between being verbose and being persuasive.

Art Deco, I'm not sure that whether you feel persuaded is the most important thing here. Its just folks talking.

(A perusal of Art Deco's own blog explains his behavior here.)

47: My short answer is that they didn't take the problem seriously enough. But how high a price one is willing to pay (in freedom, constitutionalism, and order) to fix the problem, or whether one thinks (like liberals) in terms of fixing as distinct from improving the problem, are both separate questions.

David, fair enough and there comes a point where raking 60s conservatives over the coals about this stuff becomes a kind of backpatting for those of us who don't have to make their sometimes tough choices on this issue. We should try to see where they might have done better, and what we can learn from their mistakes (and their triumphs of course) but they deserve nuance and understanding too.

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