Posted on | April 10, 2014 | 25 Comments
About three weeks ago, I briefly took notice of a debate between liberals Jonathan Chait and Ta-Nehisi Coates about the “correct” view on race relations. Ann Althouse notices that the debate has continued, and has been recapped by Clare Sostanovich.
Let me add two cents: Back in the 1990s, when some piece of legislation was pending in the Republican-held Congress — its passage in doubt because of President Clinton’s veto threat — I talked to a GOP House member who explained the basic political calculus: “It depends on whether we want a bill, or whether we want an issue.”
That is to say, they could make changes in the legislation so that the President would sign it, thus giving Republicans a chance to claim credit for the bill, or else they could pass the measure as it stood, forcing the President to veto it, and giving Republicans an issue that they could then take to voters in the next election.
It seems to me that Ta-Nehisi Coates, who offers himself as a progressive spokesman for black America, must make a similar choice: Does he want to address racial problems with the idea of doing something about those problems, or does does he just want to continue invoking a sense of black grievance that is more or less permanent? Does he want the bill, or does he want the issue?
Many conservatives have observed that liberals thrive on the political exploitation of problems that their policies never solve. As Ronald Reagan quipped: “We had a War on Poverty. Poverty won.” Of course, liberals have never stopped claiming that poverty is a problem which always demands more liberal solutions. But if they ever got rid of poverty, liberals would be out of business, and so they are politically invested in policies that don’t actually work.
All of this discussion was originally provoked by Rep. Paul Ryan’s remarks about “inner-city” culture as a cause of poverty. Talk to any upwardly mobile middle-class black parent, and they will tell you that one of their greatest challenges is trying to prevent their children from adopting that “inner-city” attitude which is too often presented in popular culture as the only way to be “authentically” black.
It’s really sad to see how often black suburbanites — teachers and accountants and managers who have worked to earn their kids a chance at life in affluent communities with good schools — are heartbroken that their sons and daughters reject the opportunities they’ve been given, instead getting involved in drugs and gangs and every other “inner-city” problem their parents sought to escape.
Such problems involve layers and layers of complexity that cannot be explained — and certainly can never be solved — merely by reference to white racism, nor by invoking a historic “legacy” of discrimination. In 2014, it is impossible to say that racial discrimination is worse than it was half a century ago, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Yet it is perplexing that liberals refuse to consider the paradoxical possibility that liberal policies of the past have in some ways caused (or at least, made worse) the problems that liberals so frequently complain about today. Go read Doug Ross’s summary of how race hustlers tried to smear the Tea Party as racist, a timely reminder of how Democrats shamelessly exploit racial division for partisan purposes.
Whatever your problem is, “vote Democrat” is never the solution.