Sam’s Smear - National Review Online

I don't consider myself a defender of the "conservative" movement, and certainly not of the GOP with its recent variations on large, intrusive government. Still, many of the slanders against the Republicans are also leveled against libertarians.

A portion of a response to a recent New Republic cover essay makes a fairly good argument about how the left consistently portrays its opponents as nothing more than racist, sexist, religious zealots. Of course, many of us self-described libertarians are not religious social conservatives. The claims of racism and a lack of empathy get old.
Sam’s Smear - National Review Online
March 12, 2013 5:00 A.M.

Thus many liberals seem to have convinced themselves that we resist Obama’s agenda because he is black. It is a theory that does not depend on evidence. Liberals read elaborations of the theory not to understand the world around them but to feel the warm glow of moral superiority.

It is a glow that suffuses the long cover story Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the New York Times Book Review, recently wrote for The New Republic. Titled “Original Sin: Why the GOP Is and Will Continue to Be the Party of White People,” Tanenhaus’s essay purports to show that Republicans’ crippling weakness among non-whites ultimately has its roots in the infatuation of conservative intellectuals with — John C. Calhoun. Yes, the antebellum politician best known for his defense of slavery as a “positive good” is, on Tanenhaus’s telling, the real founder of the conservative movement: “When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun.”

Now Tanenhaus doesn’t want you to think he is saying that today’s conservatives are just a bunch of racists. Certainly not. He is up to something much more subtle than that. “This is not to say conservatives today share Calhoun’s ideas about race. It is to say instead that the Calhoun revival, based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority.” With that to-be-sure throat-clearing out of the way, Tanenhaus continues with an essay that makes sense only as an attempt to identify racism as the core of conservatism.

Rarely has slander been so tedious.

That slander does not consist of reminding us that many conservatives, including William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review, were grievously wrong about the civil-rights movement. That fact is something all conservatives should ponder. Nor does it consist of suggesting, correctly, that certain conservative principles — federalism, traditionalism, economic freedom, judicial restraint — contributed to this moral error (just as certain liberal tendencies led The New Republic and the New York Times to make their apologias for Mussolini, Castro, and Stalin). Instead, Tanenhaus seeks to make, without defending, the dubious claim that any invocation of these principles is necessarily an implicit or explicit appeal to Calhoun’s worldview.
I'll admit it — I don't know much about Calhoun and don't imagine I ever will know as much as Tanenhaus seems to know. I am an economic and political libertarian, with my views shaped by a variety of scholars.

No, I don't agree with President Obama on much of anything. But, I also disagree with Thomas Sowell on some economic points and dislike the ideas of "conservatives" like Alan Keyes as much as I do most progressives.

Sometimes, you simply don't agree with someone.


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