This column has been posted many places, but we’ll link to The American Conservative. Pat Buchanan:
Yet, we had seen these folks before. They were Perotistas in 1992, opposed NAFTA in 1993, and blocked the Bush-Kennedy McCain amnesty in 2007.
In their lifetimes, they have seen their Christian faith purged from schools their taxes paid for, and mocked in movies and on TV. They have seen their factories shuttered in the thousands and their jobs outsourced in the millions to Mexico and China. They have seen trillions of tax dollars go for Great Society programs, but have seen no Great Society, only rising crime, illegitimacy, drug use and dropout rates.
They watch on cable TV as illegal aliens walk into their country, are rewarded with free educations and health care, and take jobs at lower pay than American families can live on — then carry Mexican flags in American cities and demand U.S. citizenship.
They see Wall Street banks bailed out as they sweat their next paycheck, then read that bank profits are soaring, and the big bonuses for the brilliant bankers are back. Neither they nor their kids ever benefited from affirmative action, unlike Barack and Michelle Obama.
They see a government in Washington that cannot balance its books, win our wars or protect our borders. The government shovels out trillions to Fortune 500 corporations and banks to rescue the country from a crisis created by the government and Fortune 500 corporations and banks.
America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right.
Adam Serwer at Tapped:
Black Americans have shed blood in every American war since the Revolution. This country, even the very Capitol building in which today’s legislators now demand to see the birth certificate of the first black president, was built on the sweat and sinew of slaves. Before we were people in the eyes of the law, before we had the right to vote, before we had a black president, we were here, helping make this country as it is today. We are as American as it gets. And frankly, the time of people who think otherwise is passing. If that’s the country Buchanan wants to hold onto, well, he’s right, he is losing it.
In this case, I think that Buchanan is invoking a genuine sense of loss of entitlement on the part of a substantial portion of white America. This isn’t to defend or justify the white privilege that created this entitlement entailed, or to justify Pat Buchanan’s nostalgia for it. Nevertheless, I think that Buchanan is pointing to something that’s very real, or at least as real as any sociological fact. White America, as the construct exists in the mind of many Americans, is disappearing, even by some objective criteria; it’s retreating deeper into exurban communities, and it’s very, very slowly ceding political and financial power. Moreover, the idea of America is changing; Buchanan has a very definite vision of what America is, and is smart enough to understand that his vision is losing traction. In this context, it’s hardly surprising that the response is a combination of rage and raw panic. That the ideological structure that supports White America is racist and has a disturbing narrative of American history is academically relevant, but it’s also not the central point. Those who hold Buchanan’s vision (and many do, although often not in terms as explicit as Pat is willing to put forth) really do find themselves under siege, and pointing out that these beliefs are both crazy and immoral has very limited effect.
And so I don’t really begrudge Pat the platform to make this argument. Rather, I think that it helps to clarify the source and meaning of much of the rage on the right, especially coming as it does from a longterm advocate of movement conservatism. It’s altogether more readable and interesting than most of what rolls down from the Weekly Standard or the National Review, in any case.
The English, lulled by their marination in American pop culture from infancy, and beguiled by the same language, can live out their days in this country never actually noting that it is an alien land – stranger than you might have ever imagined, crueler than you realized, but somehow also more inspiring than you ever thought possible. This is the America I am trying to make my home, after 25 years. It is not the America of Pat Buchanan’s or John Derbyshire’s fantasies.
It struck me almost at once, if only in the music I heard all around me – and then in so many other linguistic, cultural, rhetorical, spiritual ways: white Americans do not realize how black they are. Even their whiteness is partly scavenged from the fear of – and attraction to – its opposite. Even something as stereotypically white as American Catholicism, I discovered to my amazement, was also black from the very start. (Yes, those Maryland slaves. If you’ve never been to a Gospel Mass in an ancient black Catholic parish, try it some time.)
From the beginning, in its very marrow, this country was forged out of that racial and cultural interaction. It fought a brutalizing, bloody, defining civil war over that interaction. Any European student of Tocqueville swiftly opens his eyes at the three races that defined America in the classic text. Has Buchanan read Tocqueville? And that’s why it seems so odd to me that the election of the son of a white mother and a black father is seen as somehow a threat to American identity for some, when, in fact, Obama is the final iteration of the American identity – the oldest one and the deepest one. This newness is, in fact, ancient – or as ancient as America can be. The very names – Ann Dunham and Barack Obama. Is not their union in some ways a faint echo of the union that actually made this country what it is?
That some cannot see Buchanan’s cartoon as a travesty of history remains America’s tragedy of self-forgetting.
There’s often a kind of conventional idea on the left that the United States is an unusually racist society. And I think there’s also often a kind of image of Europe as a place where more of the progressive agenda has been achieved than in the USA. But I think that you’ll find if you look at Europe through the eyes of the liberal agenda that while the German left has certainly been more successful than the American left at securing universal health care, it’s been much less successful at promoting a tolerant, integrated, multicultural society. And allowing for the errors implicit in making any kind of sweeping generalization, I’d say that’s pretty generally the case across Europe. This Swiss People’s Party campaign poster would, I think, make Jesse Helms blush. And I’m not even sure which of the Northern League posters from Italy is the most egregious.
In the US, in other words, racial problems have been more salient for a long time since we’ve been a racially diverse society for a long time. But by the same token, for all the problems we have with us today, we’ve made enormous progress over the years. Racial and ethnic tensions are a common problem in the world, and the United States manages diversity pretty well in comparison with other places (not just in Europe) even if we fall short in some absolute terms. Just look at Barack Obama. I think we’ll be waiting a while yet before someone of non-European ancestry is elected head of government in a European country. Denmark has some great public policy ideas, but it’s also kind of made itself into the gated community of nations in a way I don’t find particularly appealing.
At any rate, in some sense it’s probably true that white America has “lost” “its” country, but that’s a good thing. It’s everyone’s country!
Razib Khan at Secular Right:
It’s not only on the Left, many Europeans think that the United States is particularly racist, until you point out to them that Americans are actually less anti-immigrant and more pro-diversity than most Europeans. This isn’t that unknown of a concept, years ago Jonah Goldberg argued for a pro-immigrant policy because it would dampen any tendency toward socialism. This sort of argument is to me a classic illustration of overemphasis on the power of the free market totally extracted and abstracted from concrete real world institutions and societies (and Goldberg isn’t even a libertarian).
Just a reminder to everyone on the Left and the Right that we don’t live in the world of Dr. Pangloss, there are trade-offs in this world.
Charles Johnson at LGF
UPDATE: Rod Dreher
UPDATE #2: James Poulos