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The Unjustified Attribution of Conservative Victories to Racial Animus

As soon as the votes were counted, some progressives explained that racism was the reason that the blue surge was not a tidal wave. Journalist Charles Pierce tweeted that he would be very concerned if the margin by which Gillum, the African-American candidate for Florida’s Governor, lost to Ron DeSanctis was larger than that by which Nelson, the white candidate for Florida’s Senator, lost to Scott. Others made more blanket accusations as when a prominent law professor tweeted that the limitations of progressive victories were due to racism. He got retweets in support. There is a strong echo in this latter remark of Clinton’s condemnation of half Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.”

These are frustrating remarks and reflect that bubble in which our elite media and academics live. Begin with the more precise remark. There were important other differences between Gillum and Nelson besides their race. Nelson was an incumbent, while Gillum was running for an open seat. Gillum was harmed by charges of corruption. Most important of all, Nelson was a moderate Democrat, Gillum a left-winger. Progressives emphasized the latter point until Gillum appeared to have lost. At that point, for many, race took over as the primary explanation for his loss.

The more general complaint is more difficult to address because it is much more diffuse. But there are obvious differences in the places which stayed red that do not require resort to racial attitudes for explanation. The South and the portions of the Midwest where Republicans did relatively well are more rural than the coastal states and thus much supportive of Second Amendment rights which they might believe are threatened by Democratic victories.

Even more importantly, these areas contain more churchgoers, and specifically, far more evangelicals than do the coasts. The Democratic Party appears more threatening than ever to the values many evangelicals hold. Democrats have made it clear that there is no place for pro-life activism in their party. If one believes that Roe is a license for mass murder and is now beyond criticism in a party, it becomes a moral duty to vote against that party’s candidates. And in the oral argument in Obergefell, Obama’s Solicitor General suggested that institutions that did not embrace same-sex marriage might lose tax their deductions. More generally, why would many devout religious Christians not worry that the Democratic Party might make it more difficult for them to follow their conscience on matters of morals?

The ideological and secular bubble inhabited by the elites in the media and the academy may blind them to such explanations.  As my colleague Jim Lindgren has noted, evangelicals are dramatically unrepresented in American law schools and presumably at elite universities generally. And from personal experience, I can attest that while libertarians are a vocal, albeit small, minority, social conservatives of the religious or non-religious variety are virtually absent from legal academic discourse. Living among elite academics makes it hard to imagine voters who are sincerely motivated by social and religious values.

On the other hand, the academic world is one of the more race- and ethnicity-obsessed places in America. As the lawsuit against Harvard shows, elite institutions use different standards of admissions for different racial and ethnic groups, including more demanding requirements for Asians. No institutional value is more touted today in higher education than diversity, and diversity in academia is mostly defined by three characteristics—race, ethnicity, and gender. While I have reservations about some of these academic policies, I do not attribute them to racism, but to more complex differences in worldviews and predictions of social consequences. I wish many of our elite academics and media would extend the same kind of charity to their fellow citizens.

Reader Discussion

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on November 14, 2018 at 09:02:39 am

This is a serious problem: “The ideological and secular bubble inhabited by the elites in the media and the academy may blind them to such explanations. As my colleague Jim Lindgren has noted, evangelicals are dramatically unrepresented in American law schools and presumably at elite universities generally. And from personal experience, I can attest that while libertarians are a vocal, albeit small, minority, social conservatives of the religious or non-religious variety are virtually absent from legal academic discourse. Living among elite academics makes it hard to imagine voters who are sincerely motivated by social and religious values.”

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Mark Pulliam
on November 14, 2018 at 10:18:07 am

But elite academics are sincerely motived by social and religious values, the thing is that their religion is progressivism, socialism, and sometimes communism.

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Mad Kalak
on November 14, 2018 at 10:59:56 am

I don't think "bubble" is the right idea. The Bolsheviks did not live in any bubble. Bubble suggests an environment not of your own willful making, which is emphatically not the case with these academic and media elites. The charge of racism is their equivalent of the Bolsheviks' charge of "counterrevolutionary." It is an all-purpose epithet, a 5-tool epithet. It succeeds for the same reason Ben Rhodes' Iran fiction succeeded: because most progressives, and especially progressive journalists and bloggers, "literally know nothing." They have been indoctrinated by the academic and media elite who know exactly what they are doing and are doing it deliberately and with all deliberate speed. You won't hear any progressive even wonder whether racism might have been responsible for John James' defeat, which you would if progressives were sincere and acted in good faith, which they emphatically aren't and don't.

Continuing to approach in good faith persons acting in bad faith, wishing for charity from persons who revile you as an enemy and your beliefs as worthy of physical suppression--wasn't it Einstein who held that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity?

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QET
on November 14, 2018 at 14:27:22 pm

Professor McGinnis is not wrong in his observations and arguments, although his focus is directed at the cosmetic facade of the issue rather than the foundation. To begin with, Professor McGinnis is addressing a group of claims that is so blinkered, rote, and unthinking that its proponents could not pass a Turing test:

"There are observable differences in characteristics between races."
That's racist!

"There are no observable differences in characteristics between races."
That's racist!

"Very few people have a singular race."
That's racist!

"Race matters."
That's racist!

"Race doesn't matter."
That's racist!

"Racism is bad"
That's racist!

The continued survival of the "race card" is a hangover of the civil rights advances of the 20th century. The loudest proponents of continued racial grievance are not brave and enlightened champions of equal rights. They are not even virtue signaling; they are virtue poaching. They want to claim credit for past victories won by better people than them. They want to force people of good will to assume the role of cartoon villains so that they can shame them and bully them to pretend that the safety of their computer screen or the friendly confines of the modern progressive campus are the practical equivalents of 1870s Birmingham. The claims of people who see racism everywhere, and make ridiculous assertions such as that only white people can be racist are not to be taken seriously because they are not serious. The people calling names think they are serious, but they are not.

But there is a larger issue. If you list the atrocities of the past two centuries, including those that are blemishes on the history of the United States, you begin to notice something. Make a list: The trail of tears, chattel slavery, Jim Crow, the Sand Creek Massacre. Now be a little more broadly focused and include the Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust, the Holodomor, the Cultural revolution in China, the Armenian Genocide, the Khmer Rouge killing fields, Babi Yar, South Sudan, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. The one thing that all of these catastrophes have in common, the primary cause of all of them, without exception or subtlety, is this: identity politics.

Identity politics is a vicious feral animal that cannot be domesticated. It is responsible for more human suffering than any other invention of mankind. Those that smugly claim that religion is responsible for most warfare apparently are unaware that religious identity is an identity and warfare on that basis is simply another version of identity politics. Anyone who cannot take their fellow humans as they are found, and ignoring each individual person's virtues and vices, without imposing upon them abstract virtues and vices that are claimed to inhere in groups, is guilty of identity politics and is heir to a tradition of hate, resentment and eventually evil.

But I'm willing to be persuaded. If anyone would like to point out the benefits of identity politics, other than as a path to raw political power, I am willing to listen.

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z9z99
on November 14, 2018 at 14:47:47 pm

And in support of the above comments:

From today's Seattle Times:

Hate Crimes are UP 50% (ha, in the ultra liberal Seattle Area).

A cursory review of the numbers, supplied by the DOJ indicates that even "burglaries" may be, in fact are, considered HATE CRIMES.

What is next? running a red light in a minority area?

He who defines the question, doubtless supplies the answer.

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gabe
on November 14, 2018 at 14:52:52 pm

So McGinnis would attribute the Left's incessant, now 50 year-long, insidious use of the race card in the Culture War not to its conscious, calculated choice of political weapons but to the "ideological and secular bubble inhabited by the elites in the media and the academy..."

Such thinking is truly naive, utterly at odds with political reality and the product of a debilitating intellectual bubble characteristic of the Republican Party ante-Trump.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on November 14, 2018 at 14:56:17 pm

Hi, Pukka. Glad you decided to come back.

Z

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z9z99
on November 14, 2018 at 20:59:47 pm

Ausgezeichnet!

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Pukka Luftmensch
on November 15, 2018 at 15:22:44 pm

"Such thinking is truly naive, utterly at odds with political reality and the product of a debilitating intellectual bubble characteristic of the Republican Party ante-Trump."

AND I may add being funded by LEFT WING BILLIONAIRES as shown below:

https://pjmedia.com/trending/report-never-trumper-bill-kristol-gets-funding-from-left-wing-billionaire/

Yes, our Dear "conservative" public intellectual Bill Kristol is more than enthused to take money, and ostensibly directions from a Leftist plutocrat.

How bloody delightful.

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gabe
on November 18, 2018 at 19:12:58 pm

The most "sophisticated" people and institutions take the most simplistic view of human relations and incentives. It's so tired, boring, and disappointing.

Dori
www.LittleLibertarians.com

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Dori

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.