Posted on June 12, 2018

National Review’s Wishful Thinking About Race

Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, June 12, 2018

Conservatives usually style themselves as defenders of hard truths. A conservative will tell you that raising the minimum wage actually hurts the poor, that a hawkish foreign policy can safeguard peace, and that sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is to do nothing. Pleasant fantasies are no substitute for reality, or as Ben Shapiro puts it, “facts don’t care about your feelings.” Likewise, the old slogan from Young Americans for Freedom was, “Don’t immanentize the eschaton,” a reminder that pursuing utopia is likely to do more harm than good in a fallen and imperfect world. Yet when it comes to race, many American conservatives take refuge in make-believe. They act as if good intentions will triumph over hard realities.

Perhaps no commentator is as guilty of this as National Review senior editor Jay Nordlinger, and one of his latest contributions, “Conservative Ideas and the Question of Confidence,” is a masterpiece of wishful thinking. Mr. Nordlinger urges conservatives not to give up trying to “sell our ideas,” even in states such as California. He admits Ronald Reagan could never be elected there today, but “you’ve got to try” anyway. “If you don’t pitch your ideas to people, those ideas aren’t going to have a chance.” That is a truism, but Mr. Nordlinger’s larger point is that conservatives should not succumb to defeatist thinking about demographics or tribalism, and should keep trying to pitch conservatism to blacks, Mexicans, Hmong, and everyone else. “Do we have so little faith in our ideas and their power?” he asks.

“Faith” in “ideas” is the opposite of conservatism. Classical conservatism is a defense of “custom, convention, and continuity,” to use Russell Kirk’s phrase. Conservatism is not an appeal to abstract ideas but to concrete cultural forms proven effective through long experience. “Order and justice and freedom . . . are the artificial products of a long social experience, the result of centuries of trial and reflection and sacrifice,” Kirk wrote, emphasizing that the “continuity, the life-blood, of a society must not be interrupted.” Abstract ideas, no matter how logically or beautifully constructed, can never take the place of customs and ways of being established by centuries of culture, history, and tradition.

In contrast to this humble outlook, Mr. Nordlinger mocks conservatives who doubt that conservatism can appeal to Californians who are, as some rightists allegedly suggest, “too brown” and “too illegal.” “Do we think our ideas are for limited demographics?” he asks. “What pitiful ideas those must be, then!”

Well, the doubters are right. A 2012 poll from Pew found Hispanics overwhelmingly support larger government. Heather Mac Donald, in explaining massive Hispanic support for the Democrat party, noted that “it is not immigration policy that creates the strong bond between Hispanics and the Democratic party, but the core Democratic principles of a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation.” Columnist “Washington Watcher” pointed out in 2012 that Hispanics supported increased spending on health care (75 to 19 percent) by an even greater margin than they supported loosening immigration controls (as indicated by the 71 to 26 percent who wanted to overturn Arizona’s restrictive SB 1070 immigration law.) Limited government has very little support among Hispanics generally, which is not surprising, given that Hispanics households are on welfare at more than twice the white rate.

The Second Amendment is just as vulnerable to changing demographics. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found Hispanics support gun control over the rights of owners 62 to 36 percent. They have no reason to support traditional American liberties — as the New Century Foundation report “Hispanics: A Statistical Portrait” found, only a third of Hispanics identify primarily as  “American,” with most identifying with their race or ancestral nation. As Jared Taylor warned “cuckservatives” in 2015, “[Blacks] and Hispanics and even Asians don’t share your dreams.”

Mr. Nordlinger would argue that eventually everyone can be convinced. “WFB [William F. Buckley] and [Ronald] Reagan were always talking to people, always making a case for their ideas,” he writes. Who does Mr. Nordlinger think is not talking? There has never been more blogging, podcasting, publishing, tweeting, YouTubing, etc. The main problem today is deplatforming of “haters” at the hands of companies such as Twitter.

Each year, more and more people are called “haters.” Even William F. Buckley would never get a hearing today, if only because his past defenses of racial segregation in National Review or his threat to the homosexual Gore Vidal (“Listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered”). If Roseanne Barr can become a non-person because of a single joke-tweet, Buckley’s past would certainly sink him in today’s hysterical atmosphere. Mr. Nordlinger himself ought to be looking over his shoulder.

Even the First Amendment could go if the country turns brown. A recent Cato Institute poll found a 72 percent majority of Hispanics (and 75 percent of blacks) thought “hate speech is an act of violence.” No fewer than 71 percent of Hispanics thought “our society can prohibit hate speech and still protect free speech.” Even more disquieting, 61 percent of Hispanics also thought “supporting someone’s right to say racist things is as bad as holding racist views yourself.”

Mr. Nordlinger at least lists the principles he thinks conservatives should defend.

Personal freedom. The rule of law. The Constitution, and adherence to it. Equality under the law. Equality of opportunity. Free enterprise. Property rights. Free trade. Civil society. The right to work. A strong defense. American leadership in the world. A sound, non-flaky educational curriculum. The primacy of the family. A sensible environmentalism, as opposed to green madness. Pluralism. Colorblindness. E pluribus unum.

Let’s consider some of these.

  • “Personal freedom,” at least in the sense of being able to do business with whom you want, is a thing of the past thanks to “civil rights” legislation. Everything from Starbucks’ policy on loitering to who gets Oscars is an agonizing struggle to make multiracialism work — a struggle that invariably restricts personal freedom.
  • “The rule of law” is an odd phrase to invoke when there are millions of illegal immigrants in the country.
  • “The Constitution,” in the words of former National Review contributor Joe Sobran, “poses no threat to our form of government.” Indeed, the Left has largely triumphed over the last few decades by simply decreeing its preferred policy changes through the Supreme Court. In some cases, such as that of Brown v. Board of Education, there was little pretense of legal reasoning. In almost every case, there was no substantial resistance from Congress or the Executive. As a practical matter, the Constitution is irrelevant.
  • “Equality under the law” and “equality of opportunity” have long since vanished in our era of affirmative-action. The GOP Congress and President Trump have done nothing to restore equality.
  • We still have “free enterprise” and “property rights,” but a majority of young Americans now explicitly reject capitalism. At least some of the shift towards socialism is explained by race; younger Americans are more racially diverse than their elders, and non-whites are more left-wing than whites.
  • “A strong defense” and “American leadership in the world” both sound good, but both are simply means to an end. What exactly is the military defending, and what is America “leading” the world towards? We can’t even “defend” our own borders, and American “leadership” is not fighting such existential threats as the Islamization of Europe. Indeed, American tax dollars fund the Muslim invasion through grants to George Soros’s Non-Governmental Organizations.
  • The biggest obstacle to a “sound, non-flaky educational curriculum” is racial politics, imposed by leftist teachers unions and educational institutions that host entire conferences on concepts such as “white privilege.” To take just one example, Columbia University’s Teachers College hosted 300 people for a conference about combatting “whiteness in schools.” It is now common to assert that science itself is “racist” and “sexist.” School discipline has been undermined, because so many liberals find it intolerable that blacks and Hispanics require more discipline than whites or Asians. If Mr. Nordlinger is serious about education, he cannot ignore race.
  • “A sensible environmentalism” sounds good, and one way to achieve it would be through immigration restriction, which would decrease demands on space and resources. How many National Review donors favor that; or do they want cheap labor instead?
  • “Pluralism?” What does Mr. Nordlinger even mean by that? Many different centers of influence and interest? You can’t have that without freedom of association, which the government is smothering under “civil rights” laws. Does “pluralism” mean an absence of dictatorship? Part of the federal government’s intrusion into every corner of our lives is to control and suppress the conflict inherent in a multiracial, multicultural society.
  • Nordlinger may be surprised to learn that “colorblindness” is now considered “racist” in many schools. Thus, while he may claim he is not racist, students schooled in “white privilege” will not believe him. If National Review thinks it can make a separate peace with the Left, it is mistaken. Let’s welcome our fellow “racist” Mr. Nordlinger to the party!
  • Invoking E Pluribus Unum is pure ignorance. Coming as it does after “colorblindness” suggests that Mr. Nordlinger thinks the motto means bringing many “diverse” people into a single nation. It doesn’t. It means uniting 13 independent colonies into a single sovereignty. Even if it meant what Mr. Nordlinger seems to think it does, in 1782, when the motto was adopted, “out of many” would have meant many strains of European. In any case, it is only whites who have the fantasy that many races can become “one.” Throughout most of American history, American identity and white identity were all but inseparable. Non-whites recognize this even if Mr. Nordlinger does not, and that is why they are so determined to build their own tribal identities. They are happy to let whites contribute to their own dispossession by letting in ever larger numbers of inherently tribal non-whites as whites comfort themselves with fairy tales about colorblind citizenship and patriotism.

After listing his conservative principles, Mr. Nordlinger urges his readers to “give . . . a whirl” at spreading them, but concede that skeptics “may say I am naïve.” He is more ignorant than naïve. The hopeless situation in California is precisely what former National Review editor Peter Brimelow and Ed Rubenstein predicted in their 1997 NR cover story, “Electing A New People.” It began with the words, “Demography is destiny in American politics” and predicted mass immigration would unmake the Republican majority. Since NR has never seen fit to post this article on its website, Mr. Nordlinger can perhaps be forgiven for not knowing the history of his own magazine.

Mr. Nordlinger implicitly concedes that Mr. Brimelow and Mr. Rubenstein were right when he admits that the most iconic GOP president of recent memory could not win his home state today. But would he ever apologize for the expulsion from National Review of Mr. Brimelow — or of John Derbyshire or Robert Weissberg — who also made common-sense observations about race that NR can no longer stomach? One suspects the magazine, like other fixtures of the Beltway Right, polices itself not because it thinks race realists are wrong, but because they know we are right. Is Mr. Nordlinger even arguing in good faith?

What any real conservative can say with confidence is that Mr. Nordlinger’s column is profoundly unconservative. Replacing the population of not just a country but an entire civilization is the antithesis of conservatism, as massive a defiance of Russell Kirk’s admonition of “prudence” as can be imagined. Mr. Nordlinger’s refusal to consider its political consequences is hardly the act of a conservative or even an intellectual.

There were many who warned the Beltway Right about mass immigration. They were ignored and even punished. The state of Reagan and Nixon is now lost to the conservative movement and may soon be lost to the United States altogether. Texas, already majority-minority, will soon become another permanently blue state, at which point we might as well skip presidential elections and simply appoint the Democrats’ nominee.

Let it be said plainly: Mr. Nordlinger and those like him squandered our country and are leaving it in ruins. They cannot plead ignorance; that leaves only cowardice or malevolence. Even to invoke Ronald Reagan as a model is worse than questionable. President Reagan’s ruinous 1986 immigration amnesty is likely to have greater historical consequences than his Cold War policies.

President Reagan may not have known what he was unleashing. Today, Mr. Nordlinger can’t help but see it. President Reagan can be forgiven. Jay Nordlinger, and those like him, cannot.