Sam's smear
Preposterous history from The New Republic

Mathew Brady [Public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

two-time Vice President and pro-slavery South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun.

Article Highlights

  • The explanation for conservative opposition to President Obama and his agenda must be found in our pathologies.

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  • .@JonahNRO and @Ramesh Ponnuru on a preposterous history from The New Republic.

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  • Many liberals have convinced themselves that conservatives resist Obama’s agenda because of race.

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‘Every contributor to this collection . . . blandly ignores the possibility that there could be any real issue of a rational kind in American politics today which would justify the existence of an opposition, and proceeds to a sociological-psychological analysis of the extraordinary fact that there is one.” Frank Meyer was writing more than 50 years ago, but the impulse he described is still at work. The explanation for conservatives’ opposition to President Obama and his agenda must be found not in our ideas but in our pathologies.

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.”

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