Get PJ Media on your Apple

Roger’s Rules

Sam Tanenhaus’s ‘Original Sin’

March 5th, 2013 - 9:09 am

My note on “Original Sin” is too short to provide much detail about Tanenhaus’s evasions, misrepresentations, and general air of politically motivated mendacity, but I am happy to see that Peter Berkowitz has, in the politest possible way, waded into the fray to provide some historical detail to show just how shabby is Tanenhaus’s argument in “Original Sin.” In The Flawed Case Tying Conservatism to Racism, Berkowitz expertly picks apart Tanenhaus’s essay, which turns out to have the structure of an onion. Peel back all the layers any you are left with—nothing. “Small but telling flaws in Tanenhaus’s analysis,” Berkowitz shows, “reveal sloppiness with ideas.”

For example, he asserts that Calhoun’s doctrine advanced the lawless position that “each state was free to override the federal government, because local and sectional imperatives outweighed national ones.” Yet there is more to the South Carolinian’s doctrine than the clash of competing imperatives. Calhoun argued in the very lines from the 1831 Fort Hill Address quoted by Tanenhaus that states’ right to nullify federal law is grounded in their judgment that the law in question violates the Constitution.

And Brown v. Board of Education was not, as Tanenhaus writes, a decision that “outlawed legalized segregation”; rather, and much more restrictedly, it held that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” This may seem now to be a distinction without a difference, but the struggle over civil rights cannot be understood without appreciating it.

There’s a lot more in this vein, but Berkowitz is only warming up.  Whether he is talking about Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley Jr, or the journalist James J. Kilpatrick, Tanenhaus’s effort to saddle them with the charge of racism depends entirely on a congeries of misrepresentations. There are two points to bear in mind. The first concerns the deeply illiberal aims of what still, even now goes under the name “liberalism” but which is really a species of totalitarian leftism. Berkowitz is right: Tanenhaus’s “reduction of conservatism to a racially charged politics of nullification is not only illicit in its means but is also illiberal in its aim. It is an attempt to de-legitimize all dissent from left-liberal orthodoxy.”

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Republicans do have two interrelated problems. They do discriminate, picking ideas that numerically favor whites, but only coincidentallly so. It looks like racism to the mere blind when in fact it is a behavior selecting for personal success. The other problem is how difficult it is to seperate the plain to see advantages whites enjoy by embracing those ideas from the outward appearance that those ideas disfavor non-whites. An argument could be made that non-whites disdain those ideas because they would upset the minority cultural paradigm. IOW, race would lose its place in our political and cultural narrative if Republican ideas were given free reign. Upon a realization of that, the only defense is to keep the charge of racism alive, even if the polar opposite is true. The challenge is to find Republicans brave enough to say that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
....and now I know those ancient tags don't work anymore.

How about these?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The reasoning goes something like this: Calhoun supported states’ rights and limited government. He worried about the tyranny of the majority. He also supported slavery. Conservatives support states’ rights and limited government, they worry about the tyranny of the majority, ergo they are racists.

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc, in other words. Correlation is not causation.

Of course, don't try asking Tanenhaus to establish such causation. Ideological causation, really? He'll just blink dumbly at you. Unfortunately, so will pretty much anyone these days with pretenses to being qualified to handle ideas.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In the 90's, Michael Ramirez noted the resegregation of America in one of his cartoons called IIRC "The Dis-United States of America".
It is a classic of his work in the way it not only slams the Multi-Culti Cult, but notes some good old-fashioned American regional differences.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
that happened to my comment?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is so true that multiculturalism is the strategy for false antiracism, but is a form of resegregation. I should have added it to my blog on the fashion for "mean" that pervades our political culture. See http://clarespark.com/2013/03/04/romney-v-the-cultural-politics-of-mean/.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
View All