Monday, March 16, 2009

GOP - Principles over Principled?


I, too, embraced conservatism at one point. I did so because I saw a party that reminded me of my upbringing; valued hard work, had a do-it-yourself mentality, and embraced the notion that tomorrow will be a better day as long as you don't lose hope. The principles are still with the party - even though I am not - because exhorting principles and acting principled are two different things.
By John S. Wilson

In a piece that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel I spoke about Attorney General Holder's comments on race last month. The crux was that society should continue the dialogue on race because (1) the successes of blacks and minorities in the past 15 years - including increased college enrollment (especially among black women), increased homeownership, and more blacks in the middle class - can directly be correlated with the struggles, policy changes, and way society engaged in racial and cultural conversation during the Civil Rights era; and (2) the success of minorities has benefitted society, frankly, not just on moral grounds but also in real economic gain through an increased educational level amongst the public and higher productivity gains in the workplace. And such gains will not continue as they have if society doesn't invest in further dialogue that increases cohesion amongst various social groups. Sure, at times either side - say, whether pro Affirmative Action or anti-Affirmative Action - didn't come close to seeing eye to eye or even "agreeing to disagree" for that matter. Moreover, angst did build up on both sides, to the point, many years later the anti-Affirmative Action crowd feels "lectured to" while the pro-Affirmative Action side feels misheard.

Shelby Steele, noted Hoover Institution fellow, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that
" Today's liberalism may stand on decades of failed ideas, but it is failure in the name of American redemption. It remains competitive with -- even ascendant over -- conservatism because it addresses America's moral accountability to its past with moral activism. This is the left's great power, and a good part of the reason Barack Obama is now the president of the United States. No matter his failures -- or the fruitlessness of his extravagant and scatter-gun governmental activism -- he redeems America of an ugly past. How does conservatism compete with this?

Quite a mouthful, but what is it saying exactly? Basically, that liberalism hasn't worked, isn't capable of working, has had the ability to make whites feel remorseful and hopeful that it can work, and gives blacks a vehicle to both make whites acknowledge said remorse and earn something along the way. Steele goes on to say:

" What drew me to conservatism years ago was the fact that it gave discipline a slightly higher status than virtue. This meant it could not be subverted by passing notions of the good. It could be above moral vanity. And so it made no special promises to me as a minority. It neglected me in every way except as a human being who wanted freedom."

This comment is highly intriguing. Conservatism was able to neglect Steele "in every way except as a human being who wanted freedom." Freedom to do what exactly? And if in respect to the past conservatism offered Steele only "human status" - did he really need a political party to confirm that? Minorities don't ignore the GOP due to a need for liberal redemption; they do so because they see a party that has, for far too long, been oblivious to minorities' concerns, heritage, ambition, value system, social identity, social hierarchy, and policy interests. I, too, embraced conservatism at one point. I did so because I saw a party that reminded me of my upbringing; valued hard work, had a do-it-yourself mentality, and embraced the notion that tomorrow will be a better day as long as you don't lose hope. The principles are still with the party - even though I am not - because exhorting principles and acting principled are two different things. When women, blacks and gays look at all that has been achieved in their respective movements - stronger protections in the workplace (e.g, FLMA, support of unions), more equality (though still not enough) and opportunities in education, a seat at the political table (i.e., in congress and statehouses - more democratic elected officials are female and minority), and a seeming realization that most blacks share a similar upbringing to my own - they see a democratic party far from perfect and, at times itself divisive, but far more receptive to their yearnings for political relevance, and partly responsible for it. So contrary to Mr. Steele's rationalization of the GOP's testy relationship with minorities - it's not a matter of which party has been and will continue to give handouts as much as it is which party has been lending a hand to help.


John attends Virginia Commonwealth University with a triple major in economics, sociology, and women's studies. He blogs at Policy Diary, contributes to Hip-Hop Republican.com, and serves as a regular contributor to PolicyNet, where he writes about domestic and foreign affairs. He recently served as a legislative fellow in the office of the Honorable David Englin (D) of the Virginia House of Delegates.

2 comments:

rmrd said...

Thanks for relaying your story. I think many African-American voters are simply turned off by the faces of Conservatism. Limbaugh, Coulter etc come off as just angry White folks. SC Governor Sanford brings up Zimbabwe. RNC chair candidates belong to Whites only country clubs and send out "Magic Negro" CDs.

I don't agree with Michael Moore on solutions to health care, but I see the mess that Mitt Romney left for Duval Patrick in Mass. as indicating that the GOP is not the gold standard for answers.

The image of Romney going over to a Black family during an MLK Day parade and asking "Who Let the Dogs Out?", does not endear me to Romney either.

John S. Wilson said...

Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree with you - it certainly looks like a party with a different view. That's part of the problem when everyone at the negotiating table looks the same and comes from similar backgrounds: too much groupthink and not enough creativity or understanding. I continue to ask myself "How do Muslim and gay conservatives feel?" when they hear and see so many derogatory things being said and exemplified from their party leaders. Still haven't figured out an answer to that question.