Liberals like to believe that they hold the moral high ground when it comes to race (and a host of other issues). So you get people like CNN's Jack Cafferty claiming that the only reason for the contest between McCain and Obama to be close (on September 16) was because of (white) racism. (The most despicable comment of the campaign). And of course there was Rosalynn Carter's notorious, nasty explanation of Ronald Reagan's popularity, "...he makes us feel comfortable with our prejudices."
Shelby Steele exposes this pompous arrogance in an op-ed in the WSJ yesterday (3/16) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123716282469235861.html Steele, with typical eloquence, explains that intentions being paramount, actual results become irrelevant - the primary intention being redemption from white America's past sins (slavery, segregation, discrimination). Despite the damage that liberal racial policies have had on the black community*, the appearance of trying to "do something" is much more politically potent than the "invisible hand" of individual freedom that conservatism promises. It is this more than anything, according to Steele, that hurts the GOP's image among blacks. And white liberals get to feel good about themselves.
Steele then makes a personal point.
What drew me to conservatism years ago was the fact that it gave discipline a slightly higher status than virtue. This meant it could not be subverted by passing notions of the good. It could be above moral vanity. And so it made no special promises to me as a minority. It neglected me in every way except as a human being who wanted freedom. Until my encounter with conservatism I had only known the racial determinism of segregation on the one hand and of white liberalism on the other -- two varieties of white supremacy in which I could only be dependent and inferior.
The appeal of conservatism is the mutuality it asserts between individual and political freedom, its beautiful idea of a free man in a free society. And it offers minorities the one thing they can never get from liberalism: human rather than racial dignity. I always secretly loved Malcolm X more than Martin Luther King Jr. because Malcolm wanted a fuller human dignity for blacks -- one independent of white moral wrestling. In a liberalism that wants to redeem the nation of its past, minorities can only be ciphers in white struggles of conscience.
This should be the argument that Republicans make to minorities.
*Illegitamacy rates among blacks were around 19% at the outset of WW 2. By 1965 it was in the high 20s and by 1991 it had reached 68%, with inner city levels exceeding 80%. This despite Roe v. Wade in 1973. Such was the human cost of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society". (Not to mention the hundreds of billions in actual monetary cost).