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Roger L. Simon

Who’s the Racist? Sam Tanenhaus, Meet Dr. Benjamin Carson

February 11th, 2013 - 12:13 am

I have to be honest.  I only got a few hundred words into Sam Tanenhaus’ New Republic cover story “Original Sin: Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people” before I clicked off. Besides being your normal impatient ADD-infused ‘net surfer, I found what I read of Tanenhaus to be stultifyingly banal and predictable.

But perhaps that’s because I harbor residual resentment toward the New York Times Book Review (the periodical he edits), which gave favorable notices to each of my first nine books (written as a liberal) and completely ignored the last two (written as a mildly center-right conservative) as if I had suddenly had a lobotomy.  You be the judge.

I also might have been peeved because, unlike Tanenhaus (he’s a decade younger than I am), I actually participated in the civil rights movement, going down South and so forth and then took the horrifying step of voting for George W. Bush.

But it’s deeper than that.  I think Tanenhaus is full of it and reactionary. A lot of what he writes is based on projection, a kind of “wish” that the Republican Party would be racist or a white people’s party when it is the other way around.

(I wonder if Tanenhaus remembers not too long ago when the late Andrew Breitbart offered one hundred thousand dollars for anyone with evidence that someone at the Tea Party demonstration in DC on the day that ObamaCare passed in 2010 had uttered the n-word — as alleged by John Lewis and others — and not a soul came forward for that hunk of change.)

Indeed if the GOP is branded forever as the “party of white people,” it will be folks like Tanenhaus who are responsible, not the Republicans themselves. And our country will be much the worse for it.  It might even be a disaster.

As I imagine Tananenhaus realizes, others of us think it is the Democratic Party that is the party of racism, dependent as it is on the need for America to be perceived as a racist society in order for it to succeed.

Allow me to roll back a few years to explain how dangerous this is.

When I first began blogging back in 2004, before the days of PJ Media, a man named Michael Berman approached me via email, wanting to meet.

I didn’t know who he was, but when we had lunch I learned he was the brother of longtime  Democratic Congressman Howard Berman and a political pro, adviser to John Tunney and Henry Waxman, among many others. I gathered he was something of a political wizard, the inventor of certain forms of targeted mailing.

Michael B. was interested in me because I had made a political change, left to right.  “You did it because of 9/11,” he said.  It was more complicated than that, but I nodded.  “I was years ahead of you,” he continued.

I looked at the man.  The brother of the very liberal Howard Berman had made a political change years before me?  “Why” I asked.

“Because of what the Democratic Party did to black people,” he replied.

I was momentarily stunned, but it didn’t take me long to understand what he meant.  We were sitting in a trendy restaurant on the Sunset Strip, not so very far from South Central Los Angeles, an area I knew well from teaching screenwriting at the Watts Writers’ Workshop.

From my observation, nothing ever really changed in South Central — even after the various riots.  The Democratic Party had set up a patronage system that almost made it impossible to see genuine improvement, instead elevating the likes of Maxine Waters to exploit her own people while keeping them dependent on the welfare system.  The Great Society itself had done that too — set up a new form of servitude for the very people it pretended to help.

Later, when I took over PJ Media, I got to meet a lot of amazing black people who understood that — from Shelby Steele and AlfonZo Rachel to Joe Hicks (himself a former Black Panther). Sam Tanenhaus, of course, doesn’t get it.  He continues the traditional, fuddy-duddy liberal line.

It’s easy to make fun of Tanenhaus.  Matt Welch at Reason points out the racial make-up of The New Republic (you’ll never guess), and the ever-amusing Ace of Spades has his fun.

But again, it goes deeper. Ironically, as Tanenhaus’ article appears on the cover of TNR, perhaps causing sufficient controversy to ignite interest in that otherwise fading publication, a video has surfaced online of a speech by Dr. Benjamin Carson.  Dr. Carson, an African-American professor from Johns Hopkins, had the temerity to say a few obvious things about our country in front of Barack Obama of all people.

If you haven’t seen his speech, do so immediately.  It would be interesting to know how Sam Tanenhaus reacted, if he watched it. Of course who would want to listen to Carson? He’s merely a pediatric neurosurgeon (is anyone closer to God than that?), while Tanenhaus is an editor at the New York Times.

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