Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Last week, I wrote an article in which I argued that unless the Republican Party begins to take stock of the ever growing discontent among its conservative base, it will, deservedly, be a loser in perpetuity.

Among the overwhelmingly positive responses, I also received some criticisms.

(1)There’s no such thing as “the perfect” candidate. 

And?

Disenchanted conservatives are the last people who need to be reminded of the fact that perfect politicians, like perfect specimens of anything, simply aren’t to be found in this world.  But so what?

The disenchanted don’t seek perfection. What they seek are candidates who are conservative.  Imperfection they expect; gross imperfection they reject.

(2)We must choose “the lesser” of two “evils.”

While I’m unaware of them, perhaps there are some ethical traditions in the world that command their adherents to consciously select evil—even if the evil in question isn’t as evil as the alternative(s).  But the ethical tradition to which most conservatives subscribe is Christianity.  According to the latter, it is never, ever permissible to deliberately commit an act—any act—of evil.

Again, it isn’t “imperfection” per se that repels disenchanted conservatives, but intolerable imperfections that give rise to their repulsion.  The “lesser of two evils,” being still an evil, is, obviously, intolerably imperfect. As such, it should repel decent people everywhere.

(3)By not voting for Republicans, conservatives, in effect, vote for Democrats.

To this criticism, two replies are in the coming.

First of all, when the Republicans raising this criticism are those politicians and pundits who persist in their support of just those policies, like his foreign policy, say, that resulted in our last (Republican) president leaving the office with a 30% approval rating while his nemeses assumed command of both houses of Congress and the White House, it sounds more than a bit hypocritical, for it is they who have provided their opponents with more than enough support.

Yet no one is blinder in this respect than those Republicans who endorse amnesty, a policy that is sure to establish Democrat supremacy from this point onward.

Secondly, the conservative’s decision to refrain from voting may very well result in Democrats winning elections, but he is no more blameworthy for this than is a terminal patient blameworthy for suicide who refrains from availing himself of extra-ordinary measures that will buy him just a few more weeks of life—and suffering.  The patient knows that his decision to “do nothing” will hasten his death, but his intention is not to kill himself. In fact, his intention isn’t even to shorten his suffering but, rather, simply not to add to it.

The conservative who decides not to vote is in a similar situation. His country is sick. As much as some media personalities want for him to believe that there is all of the difference in the world between America’s two national parties, he knows that the only difference that has existed for far too long is that between a poison that will kill—“fundamentally transform”—his country quickly and one that will kill it not so quickly.

This is no hyperbole. Traditionally, America has been a country devoted to liberty, or “limited government,” as Republicans put it.  But Big Government is the antithesis of liberty.   Thus, it is the antithesis of America.  The Republican Party, however, is as much committed to Big Government as is its counterpart—even if the other guys (and gals) may want even (slightly) Bigger Government.

The disenchanted conservative, then, refuses to comply with the killing of his country.

Unlike the terminally ill patient in this example, though, the conservative who sits out elections need not have given up. In fact, he remains hopeful that his decision on this front will provoke his party to reverse course. That is, he aims to restore his country to good health. Moreover, the conservative knows well that countries don’t live by politics alone, that there are many ways in which he can fight the good fight for the well being of his homeland.

Republicans’ rhetoric is of little consequence. If Republicans don’t start governing as conservatives, as the apostles of constitutional liberty that they claim to be, then they will deservedly lose more of their base.

But then it will be these Republicans who would have basically voted for their rivals.

 

 

In Florida, a 13 year-old white boy is savagely beaten on a school bus by three black thugs.  Yet it gains not a fraction of the attention paid by the press of the whole Western world to Oprah Winfrey’s claims to have fallen prey to “racism” while perusing a fancy boutique in Switzerland.

The racial double standards accentuated by the juxtaposition of these two events couldn’t be more glaring.

Winfrey is a billionaire, one of the wealthiest, most famous, and, to the extent that she’s done more than rub elbows with the biggest names in Hollywood and American politics, one of the most influential human beings on the planet. If anyone qualifies as “privileged,” to use the left’s lingo, it is Winfrey.

The Florida boy who was beaten senseless, like the shop clerk whom Winfrey accused of “racism,” is an obscure figure of modest means. Again, parroting the left, he is among the “powerless” or “voiceless.”

The racially-oriented cruelty to which Winfrey’s allegedly been subjected consists in her having been denied the opportunity to inspect a nearly $40,000.00 pocketbook.

The cruelty to which the 13 year-old from Florida was subjected is a vicious beating by three black cowards.

Within the last couple of days, Winfrey’s “victimizer” has staunchly rejected her accusation.  Immediately thereafter, Winfrey began backpedaling, going even so far as to apologize for all of the attention that this incident has received.

Winfrey, you see, was less than fully truthful, if she wasn’t outright dishonest, about her treatment at the proverbial hands of the white shop clerk in Switzerland.

The 13 year-old, however, really did suffer at the literal hands of his assailants: he was beaten mercilessly and then robbed. The incident was caught on video and his tormentors have confessed to the charges against them.

Still, Winfrey’s non-incident throws the world off of its axis while the plight of this poor 13 year-old is neglected. The media rushes to elicit sympathy—and guilt—for another alleged black victim, even if she happens to be among the most fortunate human beings to have ever lived, and even if the “indignity” to which she was supposedly subjected is not exactly the stuff of which the annals of human suffering are filled.  At the same time, the media rushes just as quickly to suppress the deeds of black victimizers—even when they engage in acts of sheer barbarity.

Moving beyond these two events, there seems to be no end to the racial double standards.

First, loudly and proudly, we’re all supposed to decry racial discrimination when the discriminators are white and those discriminated against are black. To do otherwise is to betray one’s “racism.” However, unless one loudly and proudly endorses so-called “affirmative action”—racial discrimination in favor of blacks—one is “racist.”

So, the “racist” is he who seeks to place blacks at a disadvantage with respect to whites. No less of a “racist” is the person who refuses to give blacks an advantage over whites.

Second, it is “racist” for a white person to render judgments about “black America” on the bases of the actions of individual blacks.  This explains why, say, “racial profiling” is held by the professional “anti-racists” to be morally obscene.

Yet it is not “racist” for blacks (and whites) to complain endlessly about the transgressions of “white America.”  Very few white Americans—including Southerners—owned slaves or had anything but contempt for those whites, like the men who beat and murdered poor Emmet Till, who aspired to treat blacks cruelly.   Moreover, if not for the gallant efforts of legions of white Americans, the injustices of the past would be the injustices of the present.

And yet whites are judged collectively while blacks are freed of such an oppressive restraint.

Third, when whites flee those areas that lower and underclass blacks begin to inhabit, it is called “white flight” and chalked up to “racism.”  But when blacks do the same, it is called “movin’ on up” and applauded.  Though as John Perazzo noted in The Myths that Divide Us, at least as many blacks fled the chronic dysfunction of the black underclass in the 1980’s and beyond as did whites in preceding decades.

Fourth, for the scandalous rate of criminality and violence among blacks, young black men in particular, an explanation in “root causes” is always sought out. Yet “root causes” are never, ever invoked when it comes to accounting for “white racism.”  It is understandable, even justifiable, that blacks should harbor a violent, even murderous, rage toward whites for centuries of oppression.  But that whites may be wary of blacks is chalked up as the species of some raw, uncaused prejudice.

Finally, blacks commit a vastly larger share of interracial crime than that perpetrated by whites.  Relatively rarely are they charged with “hate” crimes. For example, five black guttersnipes in Knoxville, Tennessee carjack, abduct, rape, torture, and murder a young white couple, but because some of the assailants had white girlfriends and because, as far as could be determined, none of them had used any racial epithets in connection with their victims, race is deemed not to have played any role whatsoever in this outrage.

Every effort is made to discern the intentions of black perpetrators.

Such is not the case when it comes to whites.

According to the doctrine of “institutional racism,” white society is incorrigibly “racist”—even if white individuals have the best of intentions. More exactly, even if whites are consciously well meaning toward blacks, subconsciously they entertain the most degrading of stereotypes concerning them.

There are more racial double standards that could be listed. Space precludes it here.  Still, these five are plenty enough to get going that “honest” discussion of race that Eric Holder says he wants.

 

 

George W. Bush left the White House with an approval rating hovering around 30%.  Courtesy of his tenure, and his second term specifically, by 2008 large numbers of conservatives ceased to identify themselves as “Republican,” such was their shame.  At least one million of them refused to vote for John McCain.  But two years before this, their enthusiasm had already begun to wane considerably, for the Democrats hammered Bush’s party, regaining control once more of both chambers of Congress.  By 2012, even fewer conservatives showed up at the polls to pull the lever for Mitt Romney.

If all of this fails to convince the GOP that it is hemorrhaging its base, the party’s leaders would be well advised to look carefully at the comments’ sections of any number of “conservative” leaning publications—including those that are most friendly to the Republican Party.

The internet has been a great equalizer, the one outlet—the only outlet (sorry Fox News and talk radio)—for conservative-minded Americans to give uninhibited expression to their views. To judge from these views on race relations, immigration, and everything in between, it would seem that perhaps a revolution of sorts is beginning to brew among those whose voice has been marginalized and suppressed by the self-appointed guardians of Political Correctness—both Democrat and Republican.

Yet whether this is a real revolution or not, this much is clear: from the perspective of the great unwashed conservative masses, things are not looking too good for the Republican Party.

In the court of public, on-line opinion, Marco Rubio, for example, has been tried and convicted of traitorous conduct toward both his party and his country for his tireless support of amnesty.  McCain and Lindsay Graham long ago had this verdict visited upon them, but their latest attempt to secure Democrat Party rule in perpetuity via amnesty has renewed with vigor the contempt in which legions of conservatives hold them.

But everyone knows that McCain and Graham are has-beens who’ve gone as far as they are going to go.  Most troubling for the GOP is that its newest line of “conservative” stars is fizzling fast.

Paul Ryan and Chris Christie are as unpopular among the conservative base as is Rubio—and for essentially the same reason: they are viewed as “RINO’s.” What this really means, though, is that they are regarded as fake conservatives who talk the talk when they need the base of their party but dance with the Democrats at all other times.

Even Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are not above suspicion.  The former has made it clear that he supports amnesty—“a pathway to citizenship”—in principle, even if he eventually refused to endorse the specifics of the Gang of Eight’s bill.  As for Cruz, that he was once one of the architects of Bush II’s immigration reform plan back in 2000 is enough to raise concerns.  That he hasn’t done more to lead the charge against the Gang of Eight’s bill compounds those concerns.  Lip service is one thing. Going to the mat against amnesty in the manner in which Rubio and his gang have gone to the mat in favor of it is something else entirely.

The point is this: unless the Republican Party poses a genuine alternative to what the Democrats are offering, its base will continue to erode.  The formalities of its platform aside, it has shown itself time and time again to be, at best, but a lighter version—and only a slightly lighter version at that—of its rival.

Amnesty is guaranteed to consign the Republican Party to oblivion.  It also promises to expedite the left’s agenda to “fundamentally transform” America.  Far from being just one more policy among others, nothing less than the fate of our country depends upon it.   Why, then, should any conservative vote for a party that wants amnesty?

Yet it isn’t just amnesty that is dampening conservatives’ spirits.  While championing “limited government” out of one side of their mouths, Republicans actively encourage anything but the “humble” foreign policy that Bush II claimed to want back in 2000.  But Big Military is Big Government. Moreover, Americans of all stripes believe that the American soldier, being an American soldier, and not a soldier of Planet Earth, shouldn’t be deployed around the globe to fight for the sake of some abstract ideal like freedom, equality, or Democracy.

If the party of “limited government” wants to be treated seriously by both their one-time friends and foes, it has got to radically revise its stance on Big Military.

The GOP has some major soul searching to do. Unless it does so soon, its base will continue to shrink.   Anyone with any doubts on this score will have them dispelled quickly enough by the most casual perusal of what conservatives are saying at any number of places on-line.

 

If, as Eric Holder claims to want, we have ourselves an honest discussion of race, then we should determine, or at least try to determine, what it means for one to be a “racist.”

Is a “racist” one who has certain kinds of thoughts?    

“Thoughts” aren’t necessarily beliefs.  Fantasies, sensations, emotions—in short, perceptions of all kinds, are thoughts. To experience thoughts isn’t automatically to believe in those thoughts.

That a person’s thoughts are an insufficient basis for judging his character can easily be gotten from an infinite number of examples from everyday life.  A person who fantasizes about being a hero is no hero until he actually acts heroically—and even then, as Aristotle would be quick to note, the true hero isn’t just one who acts heroically; the hero is he who habitually acts heroically.  In any case, there is all of the difference between imagining oneself a hero and acting like one. Conversely, one who only thinks about ripping off the head of the person who cuts him off on the highway, or, say, imagines himself killing the lowlife who raped and murdered one of his loved ones is no killer until he actually kills.

Similarly, whatever a “racist” thought might be, he who has such thoughts is no more a “racist” than is the person a killer who merely has thoughts of killing another.

Is a “racist” one who holds certain kinds of beliefs?

For the same reason that thoughts generally can’t establish character, neither can thoughts that are beliefs do so.  A person is what he does. The familiar objection that beliefs are the basis of actions can be met by one very simple reply: it simply ain’t so.

First, it is not at all uncommon for the average person to have any number of beliefs that he never acts upon. As even his star pupil Plato recognized, Socrates was wide of the mark when he sought to account for wrongdoing in terms of ignorance of the good.  All too frequently, we act wrongly in spite of knowing that we are acting wrongly.  We act contrary to our beliefs, for the old Enlightenment fiction notwithstanding, human beings are not logic-chopping machines.

Second, even if it was true that our beliefs are always the bases of our actions, any belief can lead to more than one possible kind of action.

For instance, the belief that animals are inferior to humans need not motivate its holder to treat animals unkindly.  It could—and, as we know from experience, it more frequently than not does—drive the believer to go to great lengths to make sure that animals are protected.  The believer in animal inferiority could be an “animal lover” or an “animal hater.” For that matter, his belief could lead him to be altogether indifferent toward animals.

Similarly, a white person who believes in, say, the inferiority of blacks could support or oppose “affirmative action,” Jim Crow, slavery, reparations for slavery and Jim Crow, “historically” black colleges and universities, etc. Such a person could believe that while blacks are inferior to whites, it is precisely because of this that whites have a responsibility to care for blacks, to provide them with opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have left to their own resources.

Or a white person who believes in, for instance, the moral superiority of blacks may be moved to either a murderous envy or an admiration that propels him to seek out the company of blacks for instruction (or redemption).

But notice, in all of these examples, it is the actions that follow from the beliefs, not the beliefs themselves, that elicit opprobrium or approval.  Actions are praiseworthy or blameworthy, while beliefs are true or false.  If one is immoral for holding a false belief, then all of us are immoral, for there isn’t one among us who hasn’t entertained false beliefs. But if all of us are immoral for holding false beliefs, then we are still left wondering what is so distinctively objectionable about false beliefs that are “racist.”

Of course, one may contend that only some false beliefs, say, those beliefs of a moral nature, are immoral.  “Racist” beliefs could fall into this category.  And one could further argue that such false beliefs are the function of a corrupt character.

This, sadly, will not do.

In fact, it even proves the point that it is not beliefs, but actions, that are moral or immoral, for a corrupt character is nothing other than a vicious character, i.e., a character that is the product of acting viciously.

Is a “racist” one who acts in certain ways?

If anyone can be said to be a “racist,” then, it is he who acts in certain ways. The question that remains, however, is in what ways can we expect for the “racist” to behave?

To judge from the popular manner in which the “racist” is spoken of, it would seem that the “racist” is he who treats, or aspires to treat, the members of other races cruelly, or at least more cruelly, than he treats those of his own race.

Now, is the “racist” despicable because he acts cruelly and it is always despicable to treat others cruelly, or is the “racist” despicable because he acts cruelly toward the members of other races and it is always despicable to treat the members of other races cruelly?

If the first, then it is cruelty that is objectionable and the cruel person’s reasons for acting cruelly are logically and morally irrelevant.  If the latter, then we’re left wondering why cruelty grounded in racial animus is somehow more egregious than cruelty springing from other considerations. Is the man who beats his wife to death because of his possessiveness somehow less despicable than one who hurls racial epithets at a stranger?

Presumably, the “racist” is despicable because his cruelty is wildly irrational.  Race, so goes the conventional wisdom, is as trivial a characteristic as is a birthmark. But if this is what makes the “racist” so despicable, then it isn’t the racial, but the irrational, character of his cruelty that offends our sensibilities.

This, though, can’t account for our revulsion to the “racist,” for it is far from obvious that the moral and the rational are one.  And even if they were, why is the “racist’s” irrationality supposed to be so much worse than that of anyone else?

If one is a “racist” due to one’s actions, then must these actions be habitual?

During the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings, Dan Rather was asked if he thought Clinton was a “liar.”  He replied that he did not.  Rather explained that a lie on this or that occasion does not a liar make, for the liar is he who lies as a matter of course, as a matter of habit.

One of the oldest ethical traditions of the West is the same tradition that, in some form or other, informed as well the ethical thought of other civilizations.  It is called “virtue ethics.” Confucius is among its most notable proponents in the East, Aristotle in the West.  The idea here is that morality is a matter, not primarily of observing rules, but of developing one’s character, developing virtuous habits: we are what we (habitually) do.

With this in mind, we can revisit Rather’s general point.  If a person who lies only once or only on the rarest and most extraordinary of occasions cannot properly be judged a liar, then is it so that a person who acts cruelly toward the members of other races only once or on the rarest and most extraordinary of occasions cannot properly be judged a “racist?”  In other words, is it not more accurate to say of such a person that while his actions in this or that circumstance are “racist,” he is not a “racist?”

Now, suppose that a person does habitually act cruelly toward the members of other races. Does this establish that he is a “racist?”  Not necessarily.

“Racism” is an “ism.”  Like every other “ism,” it is, ostensibly, a creed or doctrine that tolerates no competitors. For the “racist,” his race trumps all other considerations; his loyalty is first and foremost to his race.

Suppose, for example, a white man dislikes blacks and goes out of his way to treat individual blacks cruelly (whatever this might entail) but has no problems with any other race.  Maybe he is even in awe of, say, some Asian groups. While this makes such a man a cruel man, and perhaps even a “racial” man, does it make him a “racist” if it is only one other racial group that he dislikes?

Think of it this way.  The true individualist is one who elevates his creed, his individualism, above all else, including his family.  As such, the individualist, if there is any such thing, is a most unenviable figure.  The lover of individuality, on the other hand, is a different sort of figure altogether, one who recognizes that his individuality need not and does not conflict with his other attachments and, in fact, is constituted by them.

Similarly, maybe the white person who acts on his dislike for blacks while showing respect and even reverence for other races is not a “racist” but, say, an affirmer of “raciality.

Even this analogy, however, may not be sound, for while the proponent of individuality loves his individuality, the person in our example who dislikes blacks but respects other races may not have any special affection at all for his own race.  He may not even be a lover of his own “raciality.”

Conclusion

Toward that honest discussion of race that Eric Holder says he wants, I pose these questions. To my knowledge they have never been raised.  Sadly, I don’t expect that many people—least of all the Holders of the world—will pay them any mind.