THE MOYNIHAN GAMBIT: I’ve long been a fan of Stanley Crouch, ever since I first saw him on Charlie Rose’s show in the late 1980s or early 1990s. In his latest New York Daily News column, he praises Bush’s outreach towards blacks, as he dedicated June Black Music Month at a White House event entitled Harlem’s Song:
If this event was indeed part of a grand strategy, Bush seems well on his way to redirecting the ethnic tone of the Republican Party in a way that may not automatically make black people feel friendly toward it but that could, over time, bring issues of importance to Afro-Americans to the front and put party affiliations in the back.
I thought about all of that walking around the White House as the rehearsals were going on. Integration was everywhere. It felt good to see the military personnel and all the guests representing the many faces of the nation just as much as they did under President Bill Clinton.
Further, with Bush’s emphasis on educational policy, with his appointments of Rice and Powell, with his pledge to refurbish Frederick Douglass’ home, with his $15 billion relief package for black Africa and with his recent admonishment that federal law enforcement agencies should not profile any ethnic community unless the issue of terrorism is at hand, this President is changing his party.
Were Bush to go further and make it clear that federal assistance will be made available to all communities bent upon removing the anarchic thugs who, to cite one example, have been responsible for the killing of 10,000 people in Los Angeles over the last 20 years, many would have to stand up.
That would be a policy coup that neither the civil rights establishment nor the Democrats – or black Americans – could easily dismiss.
I agree. And Bush has the perfect slam-dunk triangulation strategy to go with it, and leave Hillary gasping for air:
When he announces the program, he can simply quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s classic essay, “Defining Deviancy Down“:
In the words spoken from the bench, Judge Edwin Torres of the New York State Supreme Court, Twelfth Judicial District, described how “the slaughter of the innocent marches unabated: subway riders, bodega owners, cab drivers, babies; in laundromats, at cash machines, on elevators, in hallways.” In personal communication, he writes: “This numbness, this near narcoleptic state can diminish the human condition to the level of combat infantrymen, who, in protracted campaigns, can eat their battlefield rations seated on the bodies of the fallen, friend and foe alike. A society that loses its sense of outrage is doomed to extinction.” There is no expectation that this will change, nor any efficacious public insistence that it do so. The crime level has been normalized.
Consider the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In 1929 in Chicago during Prohibition, four gangsters killed seven gangsters on February 14. The nation was shocked. The event became legend. It merits not one but two entries in the World Book Encyclopedia. I leave it to others to judge, but it would appear that the society in the 1920s was simply not willing to put up with this degree of deviancy. In the end, the Constitution was amended, and Prohibition, which lay behind so much gangster violence, ended.
In recent years, again in the context of illegal traffic in controlled substances, this form of murder has returned. But it has done so at a level that induces denial. James Q. Wilson comments that Los Angeles has the equivalent of a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre every weekend. Even the most ghastly re-enactments of such human slaughter produce only moderate responses. On the morning after the close of the Democratic National Convention in New York City in July, there was such an account in the second section of the New York Times. It was not a big story; bottom of the page, but with a headline that got your attention. “3 Slain in Bronx Apartment, but a Baby is Saved.” A subhead continued: “A mother’s last act was to hide her little girl under the bed.” The article described a drug execution; the now-routine blindfolds made from duct tape; a man and a woman and a teenager involved. “Each had been shot once in the head.” The police had found them a day later. They also found, under a bed, a three-month-old baby, dehydrated but alive. A lieutenant remarked of the mother, “In her last dying act she protected her baby. She probably knew she was going to die, so she stuffed the baby where she knew it would be safe.” But the matter was left there.
The police would do their best. But the event passed quickly; forgotten by the next clay, it will never make World Book.
Did I say “leave Hillary gasping for air”? Maxine Waters would reach for the smelling salts as well.