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Democrats and Race

by Christopher Chantrill
March 24, 2008 at 9:27 pm

ONE OF THE things we conservatives constantly try to do is step out of the default liberal mindset.

It’s hard to do, even as a conservative, because liberalthink defines reality in America. To think another way requires real effort, especially for a social animal like homo sapiens.

Liberals all seem to think that Barack Obama’s speech last week was at the least a fine and principled contribution to America’s conversation on race and maybe much more. Conservatives tend to be disappointed. We wonder if Obama couldn’t have seized the opportunity and really declared for a post-racist America.

But maybe the big issue is what Obama’s candidacy is doing for race relations within the Democratic Party. The Washington Post’s Krissah Williams writes about veterans hanging out at two American Legion posts in Pennsylvania, one predominantly black, and one predominantly white.

[I]n the two worlds of these veterans, Obama’s speech was one more dividing point. Rather than bringing the men in Post 733 and Post 420 closer together, it seemed to highlight the gap between them.

White Air Force veteran Dan Dowett talks about Obama backing “a preacher that to me sounds like a treasonous person.” Black Army veteran Ross Mounds says “the controversy over Wright is just the excuse some whites are looking for not to vote for a qualified black man.”

Then there’s the view from other voters. Victor Davis Hanson asked several non-black voters what they thought of Obama’s speech last week. The reaction was significant.

“Forget the speech. I would never vote for Obama after listening to Wright.” In some cases, the reaction was not mild disappointment, but unprintable outrage.

The question is whether the liberal narrative on race really matters any more. Obama’s speech, to one liberal acquaintance, was

the best from a politician on race in a generation. He dispansionately [sic] examined interiors and exteriors of both whites and blacks.

As a conservative I would say that Obama mouthed liberal pieties, trashing the white working class and excusing black racism.

It is, of course, the white working class that has been asked to pay the most for the liberal race politics of the last half century, whether it was forced busing, integration of ethnic neighborhoods, or affirmative action at the firehouse. Educated whites might get knocked around a bit by the lefty profs in university, but they could always escape from liberal race politics by going into business and living in white middle-class suburbs.

Suppose that Rev. Wright turns out to be the last straw for the white working class?

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Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.


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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


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