The Republican Retreat on Race

When are Republicans going to learn how to talk about race in America, and that they can’t avoid talking about it? Democrats talk about it all the time, and we can be sure that one reason they do so is that it puts Republicans on the defensive. It gives Democrats an edge, and the Republican response confirms it. When even Joe Biden starts opining about white supremacy in the American past and present, an issue that a former iteration of Joe Biden never dreamed of raising, we know that racism—specifically, anti-black racism—is a surefire political weapon. Why haven’t Republican leaders, consultants, advisors, and speechwriters taken it away? 

We saw it last week in the vice presidential debate. “Do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black?” said Senator Harris when the issue of court packing came up. “This is what they’ve been doing. You want to talk about packing a court, let’s have that discussion.” 

Her statement was clearly prepared in advance, and the first instinct of the Republican commentators I saw afterwards was to accuse her of dodging the issue. They don’t realize that when Senator Harris or any other Democrat complains about the low number of African Americans in high institutional spheres, they are handing Republicans a great opportunity. Instead of seizing that opportunity, however, they seek to defend themselves against the implicit charge of racism, usually with some version of diversity talk, claiming, for instance, that President Trump has, indeed, appointed black judges to other posts.

This doesn’t work. It’s feeble. It plays the other side’s game, lets them be the interrogators, and you the accused. You can’t win, only wiggle out of the charge this time and stay vulnerable to the charge the next time it is deployed. 

Republicans need an offense, not a defense. The lesser outcomes for African Americans is now a fact in the Democrat’s favor. It must be turned against them—which can easily happen! The inequities African Americans suffer, their low representation in elite zones, is so clearly an embarrassment for Democrats, not Republicans, that one has to marvel at the rank incompetence of Republicans and their staff members for not recognizing and acting upon it. 

Let’s take Senator Harris’ point about federal judges. How is this for a response? 

“Yes, Senator Harris, we have very low numbers of African Americans in the ranks of federal judges. Why is that? Because of bias? Gimme a break.  

Judges come from the top levels of the legal profession, as you know, Senator, but how many African Americans are in that top 10 percent? How many of the top 10 percent of graduates of highly-selective law schools are black? Do you know? (See the LSAT chart in this report.)

It’s tiny. And why is that? It is because so many African Americans in this country pass through school systems that give them a poor education. And who runs those systems? Democrats! They live in neighborhoods with high crime and low opportunity and access, and who are the mayors and council members of those neighborhoods? Democrats! They grow up in homes with no fathers, and which party mocks and derides ‘family values’? Democrats! 

So when you wonder why we don’t have more African Americans in the professional classes, Senator Harris, don’t blame us. Look in the mirror.” 

Now, why haven’t Republicans been saying this for 30+ years? Why can’t they get aggressive on race and put the fault where it properly lies? Why do they still get nervous about it? 

Because too many politicians and their advisors belong to a political class that doesn’t know anything about low achievers. They grew up in stable families and nice neighborhoods, they attended top colleges and graduate schools, and they entered elite spaces at an early age. They have no idea how to talk about dysfunctional homes, deteriorating communities, and bad schools. If you were to tell a Republican operative that the black-white achievement gap improved significantly in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but stalled at the turn of the century, and actually has worsened recently, he will likely give you a blank stare. For example, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math exam for 13-year-olds, the black-white score gap was 46 points in 1971, but dropped to 27 points by 1990. Since then, however, the gap has mostly remained in the high 20s—and it jumped to 32 points last year. But our operative hasn’t paid attention to those sorry facts. He’s been thinking about policy. Maybe he’ll say something about more charters and vouchers, or more accountability, or busting the teachers unions. What he won’t do is realize the political weapon he has in hand. 

I’ve seen this cluelessness many times. I was in a small meeting of college leaders and interested parties awhile back, a few presidents and donors and foundation people who were summoned for a loose discussion of higher ed matters and challenges. They were all moderates, most on the liberal side but perhaps a few conservatives of the establishment variety. At one point, one of them spoke up about the problem of too few minorities getting graduate degrees and suggested altering the nature and structure of those programs to make them more welcoming to underrepresented groups. To him, it was the programs’ fault that they did not produce more black and brown success stories. 

“Have you ever served on a graduate admissions committee?” I asked him. He said nothing, just looked around. I continued: “Don’t you know how hard we try to recruit and admit minority candidates? Believe me, every program in this country wants to boost the numbers. There’s a huge GRE score gap, so we minimize its role in the appraisal of applicants. We offer scholarships, write personally to them, assure them of flexibility and independence once they arrive.” I proceeded to note that to talk about what happens in graduate school without taking into account what happens during the many years before minority youths aim for college and beyond doesn’t make a lot of sense.  

This didn’t go down well. It was an elite group, and they like to believe that they can always change things for the better. They’re the ones in charge, right? They’re the best. But the problems they regretted in the meeting originate well outside the realms of Tier 1. They begin long before any of the people in that room encounter young members of historically-disadvantaged groups. They don’t want to hear about how wide the achievement gap already is in 4th grade; mention that progress has stopped for some 30 years and their eyes glaze over. It causes them great discomfort to know that African American applicants to graduate school who are ready to compete with white and Asian students are tragically few. 

That goes for the Republican elite, too. When it comes to disparate outcomes for African Americans, they’re ill-informed. That’s why they don’t know how to handle allegations such as Senator Harris’. They have no confidence. They actually believe that race is a weak point, not a strong one. After all, the media and entertainment worlds have said so for decades. 

It should be the opposite. Liberal ideas and policies in education, family life, and communities have damaged African Americans for a long, long time. The Sexual Revolution has been a catastrophe for the black family. The secular outlook of liberalism has weakened the status of black churches. Liberal influences on schooling, too, whether in curricula, discipline, and unions, have sent three generations of African American kids out of high school poorly prepared for college or work. 

We need Republican leaders who will say so. Don’t fear the racism charge—meet it with counter-punches. Make the Democrats defend the zones they control. Conservatives have much better race cards to play than liberals do. The Civil Rights Movement ended 55 years ago, and Democrats have attempted to revive it with spurious fancies such as “systemic racism.” Most Americans don’t buy it. 

So, Republicans, please hire some people to teach you how to seize the race issue, not run from it. The Democrat position is flimsy; it’s rhetorical, not empirical. This won’t be hard, but you’re going to need solid facts and good arguments that tie low outcomes to Democrat policies. William F. Buckley once said (I can’t remember where) that the only way to kill a government program is to convince recipients of largesse that the program is bad for them. Let’s hear a Republican declare to an audience of African Americans, “Liberalism is bad for you—really bad—and let me explain why . . .” 

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16 responses to “The Republican Retreat on Race

  • “historically-disadvantaged groups”. This is a terrible description because it assumes the disadvantage comes from outside the group. As the author explains no one ever questions why the group is disadvantaged – to dems it is racism, repubs ignore the question.

    Why not make the question “why don’t certain groups take advantage of what America has to offer?”. Frame it in a more positive light – America has tremendous advantages for those willing to take responsibility for themselves and their decisions and do the right things in life. It is not about race, but about character.

    • If one dares to touch on what factors come into play that interfere with success, drug abuse, distain for learning & making an honest livine, one is quickly & summarily dismissed as a “racist.” It’s very difficult to get many people on board with the notion that lack of success in life is tied to personal responsibility (or lack thereof).

  • Better yet, Pence could have responded to Harris by asking her “… so tell me, what are your thoughts on Clarence Thomas”?

  • “It is because so many African Americans in this country pass through school systems that give them a poor education.”

    Mr. Bauerlein, as long as Republicans join in with Democrats on the assumption that everyone is absolutely equal in all respects, you cannot differentiate yourselves from liberals…because you have already accepted their principles. Radical egalitarianism is the cancer that is killing us. Nature does not distribute her gifts equally, and this will never change. The sooner we accept this, the better off all of us will be.

    • “For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.” – Historian Will Durant (1885-1981)

      • We should stop catering to Negro race mongers who wallow in the politics of entitlement, self pity and victimization. It is up to Negroes to start supporting both parties so as to maximize their political influence. Many of the problems that Negroes suffer from are self inflicted and have to do with bad decision making and a refusal to take responsibility for their actions. Gang membership, illegitimacy, crime, absent fathers, dropping out of school are personal choices that cannot be corrected by the blandishments of government policy. Republicans should tell the Negro community to repair the community institutions that enhance community well being and order and stability-churches, schools, etc. Their future lies entirely in their hands.

  • In the 1960s, 70s, 80, in America, were there more black professional musicians than black law students? Or black lawyers? I would hazard a guess that there were way more white law students or lawyers than white professional musicians. Black musicians and singers achieved extraordinary success, and acclaim (from the critics) in the thirty years prior to the internet era. Perhaps gladness among the music fraternity ensued as a result of the art and culture of popular music becoming a level playing field. They seemed to be so. The last thing the country needs now are programs to ‘fix’ the pop charts, if you will. CRT will be detrimental to the fostering of creativity and talent.

  • Republicans don’t fight because they desire the “minor?ty position” and that is the way it has been set up for decades. Moscow Mitch is the perfect example of this.
    Yesterday the Repubs could have had hundreds of examples of citizens who were deprived of medical care because of the ACA. 19% put off medical care due to unaffordability when the ACA was passed, and it is 33% today. But no, they never want to “win” an argument.
    When some totally absurd argument is made against Trump, we have what, 1500+ examples, where are the 25 Senators and 50 Representatives waiting on their 2 minutes in front of the cameras to defend him?

  • When democrats talk race they are accusing somebody of racism and when you start that you know they have nothing else to hang their hat on. What is their to talk about other than the successes of the Trump administration? Blacks have all the freedoms America has to offer. What else is there? There are some you can’t make happy no matter what you do and if you are uneducated and unskilled without a job it doesn’t matter what color you are you will be unhappy. I think blacks have been taken for granted by the democrat party for years and are now realizing their home is in the Republican Party.

  • Political Suicide

    For a professional politician to speak the truth about racial differences is for that politician to commit political suicide. As explained in the novel, Retribution Fever, this context is the consequence of passing the Hart-Celler Act of 1965.

    Two, biological characteristics distinguish humans from other animals and plants. Firstly, an opposable thumb and forefinger allowing delicate manual manipulation. Secondly, higher intellect allowing sentience.

    All humans are equal in having an opposable thumb and forefinger. All humans are not equal in intellect with intellect varying among individuals and, on average, among races and sub-races as hundreds of studies both anthropological and biological have shown.

    Based upon Marxist/Leninist dogma, The Left denies such variation, and a largely weak, passive, and dependent American population has accepted the denial of reality.

    Any nation that denies reality dooms itself to a dismal destiny. A destiny this fragmenting, declining nation on fire is fulfilling in the moment.

    The question asked should be. How do we deal with the reality of variation, so that each citizen can become all that he is capable of being? The answer lies with the Science of Human Behavior as described in Retribution Fever.

    • Before any progress can be made, the quest to achieve “equal outcomes” must be abandoned. Assessments of intellectual capacity can be made early on in the public school system with people being guided towards endeavors that are a good fit for their capabilities but noooooo, too much indoctrination going on with the objective to keep many down & dependent so they are so much easier to control.

  • Call BLM’s bluff. Call for the genocide of all white people and everyone to the right of Pol Pot. Go on CNN and demand the extermination of all whites, up the chimney like the Jews in Sobibor. See what Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon have to say. I bet it’s mumbling and silence.

  • The GOP is doomed. An entire essay on ‘race’ and the only ‘race’ that is discussed is Blacks. The way to seize the ‘race issue’ is for the GOP to be explicitly pro-White. It’s clear the GOP is too liberal to do this, so some other party will.

  • Yes, absolutely.
    But in order to contend on this skin-color field we must begin, not at the end (to Prof. Bauerlein’s point) with the racially imbalanced appointments of Federal judges….not even in the middle with hard questions about the number of qualified Black graduates or the impact of mediocre schools and deteriorating neighborhoods. Rather we must start at Ground Zero…. and there begin with nothing less than an absolute rejection of what the Radical Left believes is foundationally true: that what is past is present….that guilt & victimhood are blood-borne….that DNA is destiny.

    No it isn’t; no, they aren’t; no it’s not.

    Certainly we are the product of our history…children of our parents….grand-children of theirs…and so on. But unless Great Great Great Grandpa was a Gazillionaire Robber Baron / French King — really, what difference does our ancestral human story (ANY of our ancestral stories) make to us today? Do any of us even know – let alone benefit or suffer from – the lives made by our mostly unknown 128, 5th Great Grandparents?? Of course not. No one does, not really, not in any significant or ongoing way.

    It doesn’t matter whether those long forgotten individuals were treated cruelly or unfairly….or if they themselves were the cruel and unfair. They are not who we are; we are not who they were. What happened to them did not happen to us; what they did, we did not do. The only real constant is that we all are – they all were – absolutely unequal, each to the other. Carrying our own, unequal sets of genetic luggage, we arrive in the unequal lives our unequal parents unequally made. The question is not are we unequal – for of course we are, just as they were (each to the other) – the question is: what will we do with these unequal lives we have all been given.

    5th Great Grandpa faced that question; we face that question…and our 5th Great Grandchildren will themselves face that same question.

    Do we really believe that it is their fate in that dim future (just as we must believe it was our fate in our time) to inherit, at conception, the same set of historical injustices & disadvantages, carried down over centuries that our own 5th Great Grandparents carried….just as we say we inherited ours? Do we really believe that, as innocent babes, crying in their cribs, that they will be sprinkled by the History Fairy with more or less of that Historical Unfairness Dust?

    My God — That is utterly ridiculous. It’s always been utterly ridiculous.

    To believe such an idiocy is to also believe that as free men and women we have no free will. This we must refuse absolutely.

    So it is not the neighborhoods, or the absent fathers, or the lousy teachers, or the underfunded schools (though none of those things helps); rather it is the choices we make, each one of us, every day, to live rightly or wrongly…to press on or pull back…to stand or surrender…. to live or to lie down. That is the key.

    Glenn Loury, in his masterful essay, “Why Does Racial Inequality Persist” put it this way: “The 21st-century failures of too many African-Americans to take advantage of the opportunities created by the civil rights revolution are palpable, yet they are denied at every turn. This position is untenable. The end of Jim Crow segregation and the advent of equal rights for blacks were game changers. A half-century later, the deep disparities that remain are shameful and are due in large part to the behaviors of black people.”

    ….due in large part…to the choices we make or fail to make.

    That is exactly where this discussion must start.
    Given that, everything else must follow. We are free men; we make free choices; we rise or fall accordingly. Life is consequence. And one of the hard consequence of bad choices, consistently made, is the distinct and significant lack of qualified Black jurists available for selection into Federal Courts.

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