New York Times columnists Charles M. Blow (“Whose Country Is It?”, March 27) and Frank Rich (“The Rage is Not About Health Care,” March 28, 2010) are denouncing with smug delight and stentorian admonition the “bullying, threats, and acts of violence” (Blow) following the passage of the Obama health care bill.
“Small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht” is what Rich calls the apparent excesses of a tiny minority of anti-Democratic health care bill protestors. His own crypto-racist presuppositions are apparent in Blow’s evisceration of those he terms “extremists:”
Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.
Let me posit for Mr. Blow an alternative scenario: For the Left,
Even the optics must be disturbing. A (nationally recognized) woman (Sarah Palin) opposed the health care bill that passed the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal opponents included a practicing Catholic (John Boehner) and a Jew (Eric Cantor). And prominent black men (former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and former Godfathers Pizza chairman Herman Cain) didn’t want the black man in the White House to sign the bill into law. It’s enough to make a New York secular liberal go crazy.
Frank Rich., fueled by the same reactionary unction as Mr. Blow, writes something eerily similar in his piece:
The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play.
Again, allow me to rephrase:
The conjunction of a black Republican National Committee Chairman and a female conservative vice-presidential candidate – topped off by a wise African-American conservative on the Supreme Court and a powerful evangelical committee chairman – would sow fears of disenfranchisement among the tiny self-anointed secular elite in the media and the academy no matter what policies were in play.
However, unsatisfied with smarmily tarring all conservatives with the base brush of bigotry, Rich returns to the 1964 Civil Rights Act as further evidence of the Right’s calumny (apparently ignorant of the fact that more House Republicans voted for it than Democrats). Blow goes one better, asserting that Tea Partiers, per a Quinnipiac University Poll, shows them to be “disproportionately white, evangelical Christians and ‘less educated … than the average Joe and Jane Six-Pack’.”
Ah, the Evangelical Slur rears its head: conservative Christians just don’t have the smarts the rest of society possesses. This assertion is to intellectual credibility what the Big Mac is to nutrition. The tired asseveration that evangelicals are pear-headed ignoramuses fails the test of serious scrutiny. According to a comprehensive poll done in 2004 by GreenbergQuinlanRosner Research for the PBS program “Religion and Ethics,” “About 22 percent of white evangelicals hold 4-year college degrees, compared with 27 percent of the general population. (One) quarter (27 percent) of white evangelicals have some sort of post-secondary education, compared to 26 percent of the general population.”
Sadly, Blow and Rich were silent when images of a decapitated George W. Bush, of guns being placed to his head, and tee-shirts bearing the message, “Kill Bush” were rampant among the Left. Throughout most of the 2000s, the blogosphere was flooded by horrible messages of hate and vileness and violence directed at the 43rd President. Most of us on the Right attributed these sickening things to a minority of political opinion, yet remained troubled that MoveOn.org, Michael Moore, Arianna Huffington and other pop culture “acceptables” accepted and encouraged Bush hatred as though it were merely boisterous patriotism. Jonah Goldberg correctly calls this “liberal fascism.” Now that a handful of people go too far, suddenly conservatives (both Tea Partiers and Republicans) are (I derive this list from exactly two op-eds over a three day period in the New York Times):
- Homicidal (at least rhetorically)
- Apocalyptic (not to be confused with apoplectic – see above)
- Mad (Tea Partiers)
- Anemic (Republicans)
- Bigoted (Tea Partiers)
- Violent (Tea Partiers)
And most are, I suppose, bad dressers, to boot.
Both Blow and Rich conclude triumphantly that white conservatives are a dying breed and that the demographics of America doom the (overwhelmingly white) Tea Party movement to failure. Here, to borrow a phrase from the late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, Blow and Rich experience “an isolated spasm of lucidity.”
America’s racial and ethnic composition is indeed changing. Conservatives need to take seriously the reality that sometime in the mid- to late-century, American whites will become merely the largest plurality in a multi-ethnic nation. We have to do a far better job of winsomely and thoughtfully engaging people of color and persuading them that the conservative vision of personal responsibility, limited government, lower taxes and true social justice (for the born and the unborn) is the best course for our – and I emphasize, our – nation.
But Blow and Rich should consider the wisdom of America’s greatest President, Abraham Lincoln (a Republican, no less!): The hen is the wisest of all the animals because she never cackles until her eggs are hatched.
The battle over the ideas and convictions that should shape our country should never include in its ranks those pathetic souls on either extreme whose malevolence, whether racial, ethnic or ideological, inspires their political conduct. But Charles Blow and Frank Rich should beware of cackling too soon.
Whose country is it? All of ours. Of “We, the people,” who lived not under a whimsical state manipulated by a Leftist bourgeoisie elite, but a constituted political order grounded in a written text and the unwritten but palpable virtue of an informed citizenry. Conservatives are fighting to keep it. And we’ve just begun to fight.