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September 13, 2010

Why Conservatives are "Racist"

Gerard Alexander argues that revisionist history makes liberals more receptive to seeing modern conservatives as racists. After all, we're just continuing as we began:

There is power in the accusation of racism against conservatives, one that liberals understand well. In an April 2008 post on Journolist, a private online community for liberal journalists, academics and activists, one writer proposed a way to distract conservatives from the campaign controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's pastor. "If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us," Spencer Ackerman wrote. "Instead, take one of them -- Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares -- and call them racists."

No doubt, such accusations stick to conservatives more than to liberals. It was then-Sen. Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat, after all, who described presidential candidate Obama as "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." If a conservative politician had offered such an opinion, his or her career might have ended; Biden was rewarded with a spot on Obama's ticket. Liberal missteps on race and ethnicity are explained away, forgiven and often forgotten; conservative ones are cast as part of a sinister, decades-long story of intolerance and political calculation, in which conservative ideology and strategy are conflated with bigotry.

As Alexander goes on to point out, the presumption of bad faith doesn't help either:

Welfare reform is deliberately anti-black (or anti-minority or anti-poor) only if conservatives secretly believe that welfare actually does help its beneficiaries and are being deceitful when they argue that long-term dependency devastates inner-city communities. Tax cuts are part of a racist agenda only if conservatives do not believe that lower taxes will enhance economic growth and social mobility for all. Conservative opposition to raising the minimum wage is anti-poor only if free-marketeers are feigning concern that increases will price less-skilled people out of the workforce (as when Milton Friedman called the minimum wage "one of the most . . . anti-black laws on the statute books") and secretly agree with liberals that increases will benefit the working poor over the long term.

By such reasoning, conservatives should oppose all government programs that they believe help minority groups. But at least one expansive policy area defies this expectation: education. Most conservatives, even as they turned against busing and welfare, continued to support large public education budgets. Many conservatives may support issuing school vouchers and shutting down the federal Education Department, but those positions concern which level of government should control schools -- not whether government should pay for education for all. Overwhelming majorities of Republicans joined Democrats in 2007 to reauthorize Head Start, the early-education program in which well over half the students are from minority groups. And substantial majorities of whites (conservatives as well as liberals) have voiced support for what sociologist William Julius Wilson calls "opportunity-enhancing affirmative action," policies that would unofficially but inevitably direct disproportionate benefits to minorities.

All these programs aim to give beneficiaries not guaranteed incomes but better chances to succeed by boosting their skills. (It was George W. Bush, after all, who insisted that academic achievement by minority students had to factor into measures of school performance.)

While I agree that both these factors come into play, I think Alexander has missed the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives: the degree to which liberals and conservatives value equality and our respective definitions of fairness.

Conservative ideology accepts inequality as a natural consequence of both freedom and biology. Men and women are both with differing talents and temperments. This innate biological inequality can be compensated for (or even overcome entirely) by our actions.

We are free to make decisions about how hard we want to work, how much education we will pursue, and what kind of work we wish to do. Undoubtedly these decisions will be harder for less intelligent, less industrious, or less talented people but this natural inequality a fact of life. Conservatives do not view innate inequality as a problem that government should try to solve.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that inequality is - in and of itself - unjust and they want government to take active steps to minimize its effects. Government can't do much about innate inequality (looks, for instance, or intelligence). But it can address inequality on the outcome side by mandating artificially "fair" outcomes. One tool liberals have used to great effect is a legal doctrine called adverse or disparate impact.

Under this theory, a person who believes he has been treated unfairly does not have to prove the defendant has actively discriminated against him. All he has to prove is that he is a member of a protected class and that some practice impacts that class disproportionately. The practice may be entirely race or gender neutral, but if it results in a lower "success" rate for members of protected class then it is essentially treated as though it were discriminatory.

Conservatives have always championed race and gender blind policies, but to liberals (whose concept of fairness lies not in guaranteeing a fair process but in guaranteeing equality of results) even the most even handed process is racist or sexist if it does not guarantee equal outcomes.

If you begin with the premise that people are born with unequal abilities and ought to have the freedom to make decisions (which may, in turn, either hinder or help them in life) unequal outcomes are a virtual certainty. But if you view unequal outcomes as prima facie evidence that the system is "unfair" (and further, that this unfairness is not the natural result of biology and individual decisions, but proof of discrimination) then race and gender blind policies will look racist to you.

After all, they disparately and adversely impact certain identifiable groups. I happen to be a member of one of those groups: women. As a woman, I know that females as a class of people exhibit demonstrable biological and behavioral differences from men. Whether those differences are great enough to explain disproportionate representation or success in certain fields is (sadly) a question that is very hard to "prove" definitively - especially if you begin with the premise that a race isn't fair unless the composition of runners reflects the composition of society and that everyone ought to cross the finish line at the same time.

What I do know is that differing outcomes alone are not enough to prove the race wasn't run fairly. That, in a nutshell, is why I'm a conservative.

Posted by Cassandra at September 13, 2010 08:45 AM

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Comments

even the most even handed process is racist or sexist if it does not guarantee equal outcomes.

They don't want equal outcomes. Do you really believe that they are keeping the blacks in their place because they want them as wealthy, influential, and powerful as the Senators, politicians, lobbyists, and corporate CEOs funding the Democrat party?

I don't think so.

Equal outcome is another convenient lie in a repertoire of lies designed solely to sabotage and destroy human progress.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 13, 2010 11:05 AM

Ymar:

You are entitled to your opinion but I'm at a complete loss as to why you believe you know what other people's motives are?

I have family members who believe unequal outcomes are somehow "unfair". I don't agree with them but I can guarantee you they're not out to destroy human progress.

The misapprehension they are under is that they don't believe having the government equalize outcomes will have the same effect we think it will. I know, because I've had innumerable arguments with these folks.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 13, 2010 11:46 AM

From the link you pointed to:

"Adverse effect of a practice or standard that is neutral and non-discriminatory in its intention but, nonetheless, disproportionately affects individuals having a disability or belonging to a particular group based on their age, ethnicity, race, or sex."

Interesting, isn't it, that with policies that liberals support, "good intentions" count for everything and the typically bad results mean nothing?

Posted by: alanstorm at September 13, 2010 12:00 PM

My one argument would be the reference to "the" finish line.

If you view the world as only one race (verb not noun), then yes the results are unequal. But I'm not running the same race my husband is. I'm running a race next to his. We have goals we are working toward together, I have goals, he has goals... Our Venn Diagrams have a lot of overlap, but they are not the same.

My husband is VERY good at his job. But he cannot do mine. And vice/versa. Or, rather, neither of us would be as good at doing the other person's job. Part of this is practice, and part of it is inclination.

It drives me batty to get told over and over again that we define our own successes, and then have the same people go off on a tearing rant about inequalities in specific outcomes. But if we have the freedom to choose something, we also have the freedom NOT to choose something.

I read Harrison Bergeron with horror now, because it doesn't seem as far fetched as it used to.

Posted by: airforcewife at September 13, 2010 12:00 PM

If you view the world as only one race (verb not noun), then yes the results are unequal. But I'm not running the same race my husband is. I'm running a race next to his. We have goals we are working toward together, I have goals, he has goals... Our Venn Diagrams have a lot of overlap, but they are not the same.

I think this is true, though, even of people running the same race. For instance, I value autonomy over pay. To me there is an explicit tradeoff between the two, so I'm willing to accept lower pay for greater freedom from interference.

This comment was meant to describe the liberal view of fairness rather than my own view:

...especially if you begin with the premise that a race isn't fair unless the composition of runners reflects the composition of society and that everyone ought to cross the finish line at the same time.

I see no reason that everyone should even want to *run* the race at all, or that everyone should be presumed to have the same goal.

Even in a real "race" (as in running) some folks run to win, some just to finish. Some run the race as a motivator to keep them exercising. So looking at unequal outcomes (even if we all had the ability to run at the same speed, which we don't) as evidence of unfairness would still make no sense :)

Posted by: Cassandra at September 13, 2010 12:08 PM

...and last night I heard "Lady Gaga" comment that everyone was just as valuable as anyone else.

My reaction to that was four words, not polite.

"Bulls***. That's patently false."

Posted by: DG at September 13, 2010 02:07 PM

My favorite quote for today on "equality" comes from the ineffable Ezra Klein:

A lot of the rise in inequality has been among a small sliver of the population. The top 1 percent, for instance, has gone from capturing about 8 percent of the national income to 18 percent. But there's no obvious skills differential between workers in the top 1 percent and the workers directly beneath them. It's not like hedge fund managers are the only guys able to use Excel.

*Word*

Posted by: Cassandra at September 13, 2010 02:14 PM

...and last night I heard "Lady Gaga" comment that everyone was just as valuable as anyone else.

Yeah, we're worth about $8.50, but it depends on market fluctuations in the price of trace elements...

http://www.detoxmetals.com/content/XENOBIOTICS/Environmental%20chemicals%20in%20human%20body.pdf

Posted by: BillT at September 14, 2010 05:54 AM

Watch out Documentaries about Race and Gender online visit http://www.cultureunplugged.com

Posted by: yogesh at September 14, 2010 09:04 AM

"It's not like hedge fund managers are the only guys able to use Excel"....this remark reflects very clearly the tendency of the "progressive" class to view everything through the lens of credentials and "skills," ignoring meta-skills..or, for example, what used to be called *character*.

Two fund managers, for example, might have equal abilities to use Excel and even an equal understanding of the quantitative side of financial analysis and of market history. But one has the courage to make a contrarian bet against, say, mortgage-backed securities. The other follows the herd and buys a few hundred million of them...

Posted by: david foster at September 14, 2010 09:20 AM

Hey, don't forget about the hedge fund managers that had the meta-skill to flat out lie to their investors about how awesomely awesome mortgage-backed securities were to have in their portfolio.

They earned every penny of their bonuses!

Posted by: Craig at September 14, 2010 11:35 AM

Hey, don't forget about the hedge fund managers that had the meta-skill to flat out lie to their investors about how awesomely awesome mortgage-backed securities were to have in their portfolio.

Democrat Green Religion backed hedge fund managers, heh.

But I guess Gore didn't inform you of that elite investment option, given how you are just a low paid underling not even close to the ranks of the elite.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 14, 2010 12:38 PM

...don't forget about the hedge fund managers that had the meta-skill to flat out lie to their investors about how awesomely awesome mortgage-backed securities were to have in their portfolio.
They earned every penny of their bonuses!

Not unless their bosses explicitly told them to cheat and lie. It may surprise you to learn this, but there are people who manage to make fortunes in America without cheating and without lying.

That's a very ugly thing to say. All the more ugly since I don't notice anything like evidence to back it up.

You can get ahead in any field by lying and/or cheating. The existence of bad apples in any field says nothing about the field in general.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 15, 2010 10:46 PM

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