Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Old White Men

1. I’ve been meaning to get around to saying a few things about Bill Voegeli’s great diagnostic article linked by Joe below.

2. The first point concerns its perhaps (we’ll see) justified pessimism about the immediate future. If the country had had the demographic of 1992 in the 2008 election, McCain would have won. The biggest change was the decline in the percentage of white, non-college men. McCain WAS the candidate of relatively old, white, unsophisticated men. He was the candidate of my country in fairly rural GA--where he won 23K to 10K. There’s no chance in heck this demographic trend is going to turn around, of course.

3. So while I’m glad to see Fox beating the heck out of CNN in viewership (as Steve H shows us below), I sure would like to see the demographic of its audience before having a party. And because I’ve said already things about the limited appeal of Rush, Newt, Hannity, etc., I won’t repeat them--and I certainly mean nothing personal about the capabilities or intentions of those men.

4. Bill V. reminds us of the immigration debacle in President Bush’s second term. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and the issue is hugely complicated. But the outcome is undeniable: The Hispanic voters (who are rapidly growing as a percentage of the electorate) came to see the median Republican as much more racist than they used to. So middle-class, admirable, family oriented, church going etc. Hispanics voted much more like African Americans of the same description. Perceived racism trumped socially conservative concerns. Bush and McCain, whatever their practical shortcomings, shared the opinion that Republicans can’t win without holding, say, 40% on the Hispanic vote. That will likely be more true in the elections to come than it was in 2008.

5. I fear the appointment of Sotomayor was a brilliant move on Obama’s part to solidify the Hispanic vote. I appreciate the courage of the African American Shelby Steele in condemning the president for preferring "identity politics" to purely meritocratic, post-racial considerations. But it’s also true enough that presidents have often used Court appointments to further political goals. And she does have a very credible resume for the job and all that. Certainly white, male experts fell into the president’s trap by using "racism" to describe her or her views. (The president’s appointments of Republicans McHugh [Army] and Leach [NEH] were even better, of course. They were calculated to peel away even more upscale, white sophisticates away from the Republicans, and they can both certainly be justified on meritocratic grounds.)

6. There’s probably nothing stupider than the advice by Frum etc. that the Republicans should try to become more competitive by abandoning their identity as the more socially conservative, pro-life party. Social conservatism in some sense, for one thing, will somehow become the party’s way of winning a decent percentage of Hispanic and African American vote--although maybe not real soon. And the country and young people especially, all the studies show, are becoming more pro-life. Religious and moral considerations will continue to have singular power in country in trumping race, class, gender, and all that. What’s wrong with Kansas and various other states is that people have more elevated and noble view of their self-interest than any economist can explain.

7. Huckabee, who does nothing for me now, was right after all early in his strange campaign in noticing that middle-class Americans are afflicted with both moral and economic anxiety--even before the economic crisis that nobody understands but affects us all. The Republicans can’t hope to beat eloquent Democratic empathy on the economic front, although they should do everything they can to show that the best way not to be disoriented is to be personally responsible. So they have to include, in their appeal, concern for the excesses of relativism, creeping and sometimes creepy cultural libertarianism, etc.

Discussions - 32 Comments

Republicans have been guilty of stupidity and greed (although, as always, the Democrats are far worse). What part of "close the borders" can't they understand? Don't they realize that they are dooming themselves (and our country)? The time really is ripe for a new third party...a populist party that represents the folk, not the bankers nor the identity politicians nor the "new" intellectual elite. It sickens me to see the country fall apart like this.

Lawler - for demographic info on Fox see my link to the New York Times under Steve's post: average age of a Fox News watcher is over 63.

I'm wondering whether there is an "Hispanic/Latino" vote. Are Mexican/Central American/Cuban Americans inspired by a Puerto Rican nominee?

Ken Thomas raises a good point. I have often wondered if the phony "Hispanic/Latino" categorization plays more to white yuppies and students who have an interest in obtaining the "street cred" of being considered politically "progressive" than it does to any actual grouping of people with Spanish-speaking ancestry. From whence do "hispanics" originate? Hispania? What is their common thread? And aren't my Italian in-laws equally "Latin?" Is it just a matter of having brown skin? But all "hispanics" are not brown--some are whiter than most so-called "whites." And some Germans and Italians are much browner than so-called "hispanics." I also wonder whether, when you scratch the surface of Obama's "diverse" appeal, it doesn't begin to look just as affected . . .

My points are that there is more of such a vote than there used to be, it's partly the Republicans' fault, and Obama's Sotomayor appt is old-fashioned ethnic politics and not obviously affected. What's affected is the pose of postracialism. The immigration issue, studies show, does have a tendency to unify the diverse currents of Hispanics. That's not to deny that there's plenty of progressivist affectation in the category Latino.

Bill V. reminds us of the immigration debacle in President Bush’s second term. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and the issue is hugely complicated. But the outcome is undeniable: The Hispanic voters (who are rapidly growing as a percentage of the electorate) came to see the median Republican as much more racist than they used to.

You have a bad habit of making stuff up. None of this is true. The Hispanic vote tracks the white vote, only skewed a good deal to the left. There was no great reversal in the Hispanic vote for Republicans, they stuck to their established pattern.

It is also untrue that Hispanics perceive Republicans as "racist", a bizare and incomprehensible charge. They vote Dem for the same reason blacks vote Dem - because they are big consumers of government services and the Dems are the party of generous government services. All of this is readily available via polling data if you cared to look instead of indulging in Nadleresque day dreaming.

As for the demogaphic trends, the Dems are working hard to use them to their advantage. And what are the Repblicans doing? Assisting the Democrats.

The immigration issue, studies show, does have a tendency to unify the diverse currents of Hispanics.

I'll wait with baited breath for you to back up that assertion with something other than Nadlers communist ravings.

So middle-class, admirable, family oriented, church going etc ...

.. do not exist in any meaningful numbers. Hispanics vote in ways intermediate between whites and blacks because their sociological traits are midway between whites and blacks. This includes high crime rates, poor school performance, and massive out-of-wedlock childbirth.

I have no idea where this peculiar fiction that Hispanics are a "model minority" came from. I suspect from the Chamber of Commerce and their pawns. But it is, in technical terms, a crock.

Quoth Bill V:

Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal laid out the most bracing half-empty interpretation of 2008. He divides the American electorate into six demographic groups: 1) whites who have not graduated from a four-year college; 2) whites who have; 3) blacks; 4) Hispanics; 5) Asians; and 6) other minorities. By Brownstein's arithmetic, McCain would have won a 50.2-to-47.9 victory over Obama-if the electorate in 2008 had been apportioned among those six groups exactly as it was in 1992.

The irony is that it was the Republicans who led the charge to change the countries demographics in ways inimical to their own interests. And many of them are continuing to do so to this day. It's hard not to conclude that for many of them, "conservatism" means the FDR style Democractic party.

Bush and McCain's determination to push amnesty while leaving the border open (was anyone taken in by the National Guard on the border thing?)was politically dumb. It made it virtually certain that the conservative base would (justifiably) revolt and that Democrats would use the revolt to paint conservatives as anti-Latino. It was a hurtful fight that they did not even win. I suspect that Bush and McCain took on amnesty less as misguided party building than as something that was in their minds simply right and just. I disagree on both the politics and the policy but McCain was willing to sink his own primary campaign over the issue and I can respect his convictions.

I think that a just as big a difference as the one between conservative "reformers" and "traditionalists" is the difference between people who self-identify as conservative and consume conservative leaning media (FOX NEWS, talk radio, conservative blogs)and people who might be open to conservative arguments but are for cultural reasons not conversant with how conservatives talk among themselves. I think that the Sotomayor nomination is a classic example of this. On one hand she deserves all of the mockery she is getting over the wise Latina thing, but I wonder how it is playing with people who think of themeselves as on neither side of our political divide. I wonder if conservatives had stuck with issues like the Supreme Court and late term abortion and the death penalty for child molesters, would many people who currently think of themselves an nonideological start thinking that maybe they are more conservative than they have suspected?

So, as is often the case, I agree with Pete. Middle-class Hispanics exist in meaningful numbers right here in my own county.

As a non conservative, the only thing that really gets me is the constant worry about how you are seen as old white racists. The funny thing is (not that I advocate or agree with this) you could probably win more votes by being racist than you do by tiptoeing around always being afraid that someone is going to call you one. Come out blasting and don't apologize or say let this go because the left will just say this and that and then we will loose the votes in this racial group(mabye that thinking is racist?). The whole premise is disingenuous.

So Brutus . . . basically your deep and powerful insight is that conservatives can can do better through dishonor than they can through honor. Genius. No one has ever made that point before. But your point is useful in its way . . . it ought to give those who are too eager to label all conservatives "racists" some pause. After all, if we really wanted to be racist it would be both easy and profitable according to our critics and to Brutus. So unless you want to say we are disingenuous, racist, and STUPID all wrapped up in one, there's a problem with this argument.

Peter L: I also want to say that, while I disagree with Frum that the GOP should abandon social conservatives and social conservatism as a means of winning larger support, I do think there is a serious point buried in his argument. There is a perception--especially among the young--of the GOP as fuddy-duddy prudes who are hopelessly out of touch with the times and unaware of the complexity that characterizes their modern sexual drama. I do not think we win them over by capitulation (it would be both stupid politics and patronizing--to say nothing of simply WRONG!) but to leave this charge unanswered is also stupid. This is exactly what we did wrong with respect to the charge of racism in the immigration debates and the civil rights debates before it.

the GOP as fuddy-duddy prudes who are hopelessly out of touch with the times and unaware of the complexity that characterizes their modern sexual drama.

I believe that my libertarian friends call those prudes "Christians."

Well I agree with the being out of touch problem, although I think Frum's emphasis is not being embarrassing to urban intellectuals such as himself. Example one: Sara P shouldn't have let the kid have the bad, it interferes with her education. Republicans seem, in general now, old AND stupid AND not seeing what's going on now with their own eyes. To Matt and against Frum, there are plenty of young Christians, who manage to aim at being chaste without being prudish. And it's not like today's version of the sexual drama isn't pretty darn stupid--what offends me, as they say, is not the immorality but the stupidity of most depictions of it in the various media, especially movies.

It does not matter to me what David Frum's motives are if he is on to something that rings true. If he is embarrassed at Washington cocktail parties, then he's picking up on a problem. Whether that problem is one of perception or one of substance can be debated and ought to be debated. But the observation from a guy like Frum--who is clearly, NOT an idiot--ought to count for something. You're always arguing that the GOP cannot be an exclusionary party and expect to win. I agree. And there's room for guy's who are embarrassed by social conservatism at cocktail parties . . . and social conservatives, if they are smart, will seek to find ways to make them less embarrassed instead of looking for ways to hit them over the head . . . even if it sometimes seems to them that THEY are getting a pretty good drumming from those who are "embarrassed." Again, the answers Frum proposes to the perception problem may be wrong (and I think they often--though not always--are) but I think we make a mistake and miss the point when we let a legitimate (and possibly instructive) observation be ignored or condemned because we are suspicious of the personal or psychological motives of the observer. I didn't like it when Frum did it to Limbaugh and I don't like to see it done to him.

You missed my point: it is discuraging to see conservatives slink away when race is mentioned. Then to talk openly about how this or that policy needs to be xyz in order to get the mexican vote, assuming that mexicans vote not on moral sense of what's right but some ethnic collective of mind.

I think you may be right Brutus . . . I’m not sure I understand, at all, what you are talking about or to whom you are addressing your original grievance. You are angry at Republicans for being inept at attracting so-called Hispanic votes . . . or you are angry at them for bothering at all? It is unclear to me. I agree that to assume that there is a voting bloc called "hispanic" that votes merely out of some ethnic collective of mind is wrong as a matter of course. But I think Lawler is correct to suggest that the evidence shows some strong unification of diverse currents of "hispanic" when it comes to the issue of immigration. What I don’t think is that this unification demonstrates a collective ethnic mindset. I think it shows the natural impulse of human beings who believe themselves to have been insulted to react against it. The other side of the immigration debate has been very successful in painting any and all attempts to enforce immigration laws or secure the border, as stemming from racist or anti-"hispanic" prejudice on the part of Republicans and other "backward" whites. In many cases, Republicans and fellow travelers have been only too happy to help make that case for them. When people feel insulted, they tend not to feel inclined to listen to your arguments--no matter how good they are on their merits.

I think it is just silly for Republicans to pretend that this has not happened or that there has not been, in many cases, some justification for people to feel insulted by the rhetoric and behavior of immigration activists. It is just as patronizing to "hispanics" to not bother and try to convince them to look past the yahoos among us because we think they won’t listen (or, worse, because we’re worried about ticking off the yahoos) as it is for the other side to assume that they can to carry on forever by whipping people up into a frenzy of ethnic pride as voting principle.

I will try to be more clear. Instead of saying, for instance, we should not get to excited about boarders because then we loose the mexican vote and won't win the election just stand on princple and if they want to paint you as racist so be it. If you are not being racist, which I don't think it is, then why slink away when in reality you probably have as much to gain as you do to loose by standing up even if the left calls you racist. How about this for a pragmatic approach, don't be racist; when they call you racist stand firm; you win the the racist vote and go back to spreading all the good that republicans do.

The longer these diverse 'Hispanic' groups are in the U.S., the more they will take on a monolithic identity. Why? Because they are surrounded by whites, blacks, Asians and others. Like people everywhere, they will close ranks...guaranteed. The dirty secret of "pluralist society" is that they tend to promote big, chunky meta-identities (i.e., political blocs -- for example, white ethnics have melted into 'Americans', but only because of more extreme diversity). So, get used to it.

Julie's comment 19 is what I meant or close enough. We do need a reasonable immigration policy (one that allows some immigration for ordinary manual labor), need to know who the heck is actually here, and have control over the border. But all that's not the same as being anti-immigrant or anti-immigration. Republicans need to nail down that distinction.

I think BP is right about what actually happens in a big pluralist society . . . or at least he is right about what seems to be happening in this one since there also seems to be no one in the Republican party with the nerve and the brains to stand up and fight against it. The Democrats can't do it because they accept the premises that underlie this low inclination of human nature to splinter itself as definitive. It is dumb for Republicans to ignore this impulse and pretend it doesn't exist, because that is to deny reality and not to see the thing you're up against. Republicans ought to--as they used to do (at least in theory and, sometimes with great success in practice) aim at the higher side of our nature by appealing to reason. The racial and identity distinctions between us have no deeply important pull on our souls that we are bound to respect to the exclusion of what unites us all as Americans. If they could start making this argument with force and without flinching in public (emphasizing the positive and soaring part of our nature), they would go very far indeed. Democrats, in order to hold on to their power, would be forced to start coming out of the closet and revealing their sometimes bizarre and (actually, slightly racist) views on identity politics.

Another way to put it might be this: they have racist policies and we've got some racist people. Which is most dangerous? It is probably time for Republicans to admit (and, publicly to lament) that we have got a sizable chunk of people (though they are, probably, very much the minority) who are, in fact, distasteful and ignorant racists who do a poor job of concealing their racism. However, the policies these "racists" are supporting are not, on their face, racist. And this shows the power of our ideas over and against those of the Dems. We elevate the ignorant . . . Democrats, on the other hand, have more clever racists in their midst. These racists (which, of course, does NOT mean ALL Democrats) conceal their racism much better because they do it through policies that give the appearance of being in the service of the minorities they disdain. They seek to tear down rather than elevate. In other words, we get the yahoo racist jerks (but we rein them in by forcing them to accept race neutral policy) and they get the more Machiavellian and upturned nose racists who chose to be Democrats because their policies comport more perfectly with their worldview and give them the advantage of appearing to be benevolent while, at the same time, give them a chance to lord it over the races they disdain. If we could fess up to the yahoos (carefully, of course), might it not force the Dems to confront their sophisticated racists and, also, force the public to confront the clever and implied racism in Democrat policy and rhetoric?

Julie, don't underestimate the "pull" of racial identity. We are tribal, even in this era, and we hunger for some kind of common identity. While I would absolutely love it if people could rally around "truth, justice and the American Way," I'm doubtful that ideas can trump something hardwired like perceived kinship and in/out-grouping. The Democrats know this and use it quite effectively. Republicans, on the other hand, either deny it, claim to be reforming, or not-so-secretly embrace it (the whole 'Willy Horton' thing). Instead of "dealing" with it, we need to get a handle on the's not too late, and whether you are an enlightened person above racial awareness or a knuckle-dragging KKK'er, the fact is the country would benefit from more gradual demographic change. This is what the majority of Americans want, but neither party has been willing to give it to us.

I don't entirely discount what you say, BP, but your hopes seem utopian to me . . . that genie is out of the bottle. She probably never could have been kept in there once the promise of America became more widely known, hungered for, and possible as a matter of physical reality/transportation. There's a useful heuristic element to your concerns, but what to do in reality? Prudence demands something else than saying, "I wish we could do it in a different way!" Because you won't undo it. That's why neither party will touch it in the end . . . Besides, the thing you are describing about the human condition and its pull toward the tribal is a low thing that--while it can't be simply discounted--ought not to cause us to genuflect at its altar. It pushes people toward the irrational and, therefore, it has to be tamed. One way that it is tamed is by constant public talk about our potential for something higher . . . and, if we can't beat out the hunger for a common identity (as we probably shouldn't) then we can direct that hunger to a higher kind of identity. We all ought to hunger to be . . . Americans.

Very high-minded, Julie, but you sound far more utopian than I do. I want to restrict immigration...most countries do it, and far more effectively than we do. On the other hand, you appeal to a grand scheme of assimilation that has no track record. Even the Romans, who were assimilators extraordinaire, understood that they were the originals and the colonials were just that. It's an old story. While it is not politically correct to say it, I think that "global" humanity will be most peaceful and content in relatively homogeneous cultural groupings...interacting of course, and exchanging as well. I think most of the world (particularly the east Asians) understands this, but the foolish West just juggernauts on...e pluribus unum!!! It's a juggernaut that will run over our children's children.

Novus Ordo Seclorum.

It will fail for in part due to the reasons BP listed, but not without ruining billions of lives in the proscess. We may be headed for some global anarchy, the great failure of the modern despotic state is their inability to restrict the flow of free information and it is going to kill them; I fear they will take many a sould down with them.

Touche, Julie, but idealistic people always justify their positions with what "should be" or "ought to be." Our technologies have changed, and our philosophies/rationalizations have changed, but our Paleolithic brains have not! There are, of course, a few people who can live (and die) for high ideals (e.g., Thomas More), but most people most of the time need something more concrete (like being surrounded by people who look like them, talk like them, and pray like them). I'm just sayin'.


Are you advocating a new order of the ages?

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