Archive for the ‘Race’ Category

The Icons of Ideological Movements

May 21, 2010
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four term...

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As I noted in my last post, Rand Paul is egregiously wrong in opposing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as has been capably argued all over the blogosphere. In the ensuing discussion, Matthew Yglesias writes:

I always find it shocking that conservatives in 2010 openly say that the political founder of their movement and an icon to be admired is Barry Goldwater, and that Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign was an admirable thing that constitutes a key foundation stone of the modern conservative movement. After all, on the most important issue of the early 1960s Goldwater was totally wrong.

He goes on to lay out Barry Goldwater’s egregiously wrongheaded position on the Civil Rights Act, and writes:

Obviously liberals have been wrong about things in the past as well, but according to conservatives this was a foundational moment in their movement! Whenever I bring this up, people quickly rush to assure me that Goldwater didn’t stand shoulder-to-shoulder with white supremacists on the most important political issue of his time out of racism, instead at the decisive moment in his career he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with white supremacists out of principled constitutional reasoning that made it impossible for him to do otherwise. But this is actually more damning. You could imagine the founder of a movement being afflicted by an unfortunate character flaw that his followers lack. But the argument is that Goldwater didn’t suffer from a character flaw. Instead, having acquired a major party presidential nomination he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with white supremacists on the most important issue of the day because his sincere political ideology led to horribly wrongheaded conclusions.

Odd hero.

Well. It seems no more odd to me than thinking of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln as foundational heroes despite the fact that they held abhorrent views on matters of great importance, nor do we need to go back that far to find people lauded as founding heroes of ideological movements despite being wrong about matters of grave importance.

As Bruce Bartlett points out in his book “Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past,” leaders that today’s progressives cite as political founders of their movement thought some terribly racist things that had significant policy impacts.

Via Bruce Bartlett, here is Franklin Roosevelt, who later oversaw the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, quoted in 1925:

Anyone who has traveled to the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results. . . . The argument works both ways. I know a great many cultivated, highly educated and delightful Japanese. They have all told me that they would feel the same repugnance and objection to have thousands of Americans settle in Japan and intermarry with the Japanese as I would feel in having large numbers of Japanese coming over here and intermarry with the American population. In this question, then, of Japanese exclusion from the United States it is necessary only to advance the true reason–the undesirability of mixing the blood of the two peoples. . . . The Japanese people and the American people are both opposed to intermarriage of the two races–there can be no quarrel there.

Here is Lyndon Johnson:

President Truman’s civil rights program “is a farce and a sham–an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty. I am opposed to that program. I have voted against the so-called poll tax repeal bill. . .. I have voted against the so-called anti-lynching bill.

And another Lyndon Johnson quote, this one from 1957:

These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.

Of course, Lyndon Johnson moved in the right direction on this issue later in life, but so did Barry Goldwater, who repudiated his earlier views on civil rights before he died.

It was Robert F. Kennedy who authorized tapping the phones of Martin Luther King.

And here’s Jimmy Carter, hardly a founding father for modern progressives, but a past president in good standing:

I’m not going to use the federal government’s authority deliberately to circumvent the natural inclination of people to live in ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods. . . . I have nothing against a community that’s made up of people who are Polish or Czechoslovakian or French-Canadian or blacks who are trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods.

My point here isn’t that progressives are wrong to see FDR, President Johnson, and RFK as icons in their ideological movement — it’s that America was an egregiously racist country for a very long time, it’s become radically less racist just in the last several decades, and it’s basically unavoidable to have very racist people as icons of your ideological movement if it began at a time when the vast majority of the country’s leaders were unapologetic racists. Though I rue the fact that Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act, and would’ve voted against him solely because he was wrong on Civil Rights, the fact that he didn’t suffer from the character flaw of racism seems to me a mark in his favor.

In any case, he is no more odd a hero than a great many American icons.

(Thanks to Bruce Bartlett for rounding up those quotations.)

On Racial Profiling

May 7, 2010

After Jonah Goldberg wrote in favor of racial profiling in Arizona, and Roger Clegg disagreed, National Review’s Andy McCarthy, a former prosecutor, jumped into the fray:

…you can’t be an Islamist terrorist without being a Muslim, you can’t be the head of the Gambino Family without being Italian, and you can’t be a Mexican illegal alien without being a Mexican. It would be nonsensical not to take into account, for investigative purposes, the racial, ethnic, or religious characteristics of criminal activity if they are inherent in that criminal activity.

This argument is incredibly flawed. Yes, if you define the objectionable activity as “illegal immigration by Mexicans,” then by definition, only Mexicans are going to be guilty of it, but it would be completely unjustifiable and discriminatory to define the crime that way, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, if the “criminal activity” is illegal immigration, then folks other than Mexicans will be among the lawbreakers — indeed, in addition to the many El Salvadorans and Guatemalans and Hondurans you’ll find the occasional Irish, Koreans, Russians, Egyptians, and others who’ve overstayed visas or snuck into the country.

Similarly, it is certainly true that the Gambino crime family is a legitimate target for police and prosecutors, but I am betting that at some point non-Italians were involved in their criminal activity, and besides, organized crime is a type of criminal activity that encompasses folks with lots of different ethnic backgrounds. Count me among the Americans who want law enforcement to stop illegal immigration from any country, organized crime perpetrated by any ethnicity, and terrorism of any kind, not just the Islamist variety. It just floors me that a former prosecutor would offer up these ethnicities as “inherent” in the relevant criminal activities.

And it gets worse:

When I was a young prosecutor in the eighties, this was a lot less controversial than it has become in our irrationally sensitive times. A lot of crime is ethnic. The Westies were Irish, the tongs were Chinese, the Latin Kings were Hispanics, the YACs were Yugoslavs, Albanians and Croatian, and so on. When we were investigating Colombian cocaine cartels, the fact that someone was Colombian was part of the probable cause (and if he was from Cali, even more so).

He goes on:

No one got pinched solely on the basis of his race or ethnicity. The important thing was conduct, not status. But if I had arrested a guy named Clegg or Goldberg and charged him with being the head of the Gambino Family, the defendant would have made his ethnicity a key part of his defense; it can’t be that an race/ethnicity/religion factor is only relevant if it cuts against guilt.

Interesting bit of reasoning — it would be absurd to arrest a non-Italian for being head of the Gambino crime family, therefore the fact of being Italian would lead a reasonably intelligent person to believe that an accused Italian is the head of the Gambino crime family. Or something. It’s hard to tell exactly what Mr. McCarthy means by saying that ethnicity is “part of” probable cause.

Rhetoric the Right Should Repudiate

April 4, 2010

In the course of wondering whether an increasing federal role in health care will change the character of the American people, a perfectly sane thing to worry about, National Review’s Mark Steyn offers some questionable assertions, and links to arguments that are offensive to a degree that you don’t often see.

Here is the initial post that Mr. Steyn wrote.

An excerpt:

Ever since this health care “debate” got going, I’ve worried that American conservatives underestimate the ability of Big Government to transform the character of a people. After all, the Euro-weenies weren’t always Euro-weenies – else how would they have conquered the entire planet?

This is a rather strange considering that when various European countries built colonial empires their governments were far more tyrannical, and their people less free, than is the case today. Does Mr. Steyn believe a right-thinking American would be more at home in monarchical Spain prior to the defeat of the Spanish Armada, or Napoleonic France, or the England of King George, or the Germany of Bismarck or Hitler, than the prosperous social democracies that exist today? Mr. Steyn and I share a number of disagreements with the public policies embraced by many European countries, but yearning wistfully for the character that Europeans had at the height of their imperial power is ahistorical nonsense of the kind I’d never have expected from one of Western Civilization’s most prolific columnists before his affiliation with Rush Limbaugh’s radio show began.

In Mr. Steyn’s second post on this subject, he writes:

Even in the 13 colonies, a majority of people were not of an actively “revolutionary” disposition. In the last 40 years, the left didn’t hollow out every important American institution from the grade school to Hollywood because they represented mass opinion, but because they wanted it the most. The question is whether opponents of Obama’s dependency culture are up to their own “long march”.

The strange nostalgia is now aimed at Hollywood and elementary education circa 1970, as though they were whole then and hollow now. Again, I’ll bet Mr. Steyn and I would agree about a lot if we were both to critique the public education system circa 2010, but these sweeping assertions about recent history and the left’s “long march” would be a lot more persuasive were it grounded in specific complaints rather than talk radio style bluster.

This brings us to the post that Mr. Steyn excerpts (he leaves out the most offensive line) and links.

Kathy Shaidle writes (emphasis in original):

…the trouble with the Tea Party movement is that they tend to target their anger at only one source: Big Government.

However, angry Americans really need to face the unfaceable: that most of their fellow citizens are just as corrupt, incompetent and compromised:

Rahe talks about the American Revolution and so on. But the nation’s ethnic makeup is different now, for one thing. Way more residents/invaders/settlers from “manyana” cultures. More illiterates, more people with no sense of history.

Plus there’s the Katrina Culture. Did any of those “Help Us” types waiting on the “gubmit” to rescue them look capable of crossing the Delaware to you? They’d have been more inclined to steal Washington’s boots.

I’m honestly surprised that Mr. Steyn would link this. Even if he were comfortable with its casual bigotry against Hispanics and blacks — and I’d like to think he isn’t, though he shows no sign of objecting — he should be embarrassed by the ahistorical implication that Latin American cultures are too lazy to rebel against their governments, not to mention the hilarious sentence where Ms. Shaidle complains that people today have no sense of history, even as she asserts that there are more illiterates in today’s United States than there were in America circa 1776.

And if you want a perfect distillation of why the right has trouble attracting minority votes, here you have it: imperial Europeans were praiseworthy, Hispanics are “residents/invaders/settlers,” Katrina victims would just as soon steal George Washington’s shoes as help him, and together they’re responsible for the decline of American culture. Are these really the arguments for American decline that Mr. Steyn wants to uncritically pass along to Corner readers?

If anyone think that these are the strongest arguments for the proposition that a large federal role in health care at some point transforms the character of a people, please reconsider. Time permitting, I’ll have another post up making a stronger case for that plausible if uncertain proposition in the next few days.