If ever there was any proof needed that the left long ago won the so-called “cultural wars,” it was supplied in spades this last month.
And it was supplied by none other than self-styled “conservatives.” Yet in proving that the left is victorious, these “conservatives” also proved the truth of another proposition by which some of us have been swearing for quite some time:
They are not now, nor have they ever been, genuine conservatives.
In the wake of Charlottesville, “conservatives,” the men and women of the Fake Right, have been competing ferociously with one another in a “disavowing” contest. They have their sights set on the same prize that “conservatives” covet more than any other: Acceptance by the left.
Those “conservatives” who make their living in academia, Washington D.C., and, importantly, the media, ache to be embraced by their leftist counterparts. Let’s call them “Needy Conservatives.”
You can always detect a Needy Conservative by the topics on which he (or she) chooses to focus; the terms in which the discussion of the topic is framed; and, perhaps most significantly of all, the topics that he chooses to avoid discussing.
But, specifically, by far and away the biggest give away that one has encountered a Needy Conservative is the latter’s readiness to disavow “white supremacy” or “white racism.”
Needy Conservatives are in a tough spot. On the one hand, whether for votes or ratings, they need to convince their constituents that they are real conservatives, i.e. enemies of the left. On the other hand, they need to convince the left that they are no less committed to the left’s ideals—namely, Equality—than are leftists themselves.
These needs on the part of Needy Conservatives account for why it is not uncommon to hear, say, “conservative” talk radio hosts defending police against but another spurious charge of “racist” brutality vis-à-vis a criminal black suspect while qualifying his defense with assurances that he’s sensitive to the “racism” to which blacks are supposedly subjected on a daily basis.
These needs explain the propensity of Needy Conservative politicians and media personalities to renounce Islamic regimes and Muslim terrorists for their violations of “human rights,” “gay rights,” and “women’s rights.” Islamic regimes and “Islamo-fascists” must be resisted because, in other words, they are insufficiently progressive, i.e. insufficiently committed to advancing the leftist understanding of Equality.
These needs account for why Needy Conservatives, when they do think to speak to the pathologies plaguing the black under and lower classes, scarcely ever, if at all, highlight the astronomical quantity and often barbaric quality of black-on-nonblack crime. Nearly 90 percent of interracial crime involves black perpetrators and nonblack victims. Yet Needy Conservatives, so as to avoid the risk of being cast from Respectable (leftist) Society, choose to focus instead on black-on-black crime. This way, they can frame their critique so as to make it appear that it reflects, not any prejudice or anger on the part of Needy Conservatives, but his compassion for…blacks.
These needs make sense of why Needy Conservatives, rather than subject the indiscriminately applied term “racism” to the rational interrogation that it richly deserves, prefer instead to engage in the characteristically leftist tactic of charging others with it. Hence, Needy Conservatives are forever reminding contemporary Democrats that, historically, it was their party that served as the first home of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, etc. And they constantly blame Democrats for “racist” policies like high taxes, “affirmative action,” welfare, and teachers’ unions that, allegedly, account for why black areas in Democrat-controlled cities all over the country are economic wastelands and warzones.
These needs explain why it is that Needy Conservatives, while trying to sound tough on immigration, spare no occasion to signal to the left that they are all in favor of legal immigration. And, to hear these Needy Conservatives tell it, there is no point at which they would oppose immigration—from anywhere—as long as it’s legal!
We could easily expand on this list of examples of the neediness of Needy Conservatives.
Most recently, though, as was mentioned, Needy Conservatives betrayed their twin needs when they expressly and repeatedly “disavowed” those who the leftist press calls “white supremacists.” They exposed their neediness when they castigated President Trump for, supposedly, failing to do the same—or at least failing to “disavow” “white supremacists” with the same “moral clarity” possessed by Needy Conservatives.
Five comments are in order here.
First, the Needy Conservative’s need to be embraced by both his more conservative constituents and his counterparts on the left is undoubtedly psychological as much as it is professional: The Needy Conservative wants to genuinely be respected, or at least not looked down upon, by his leftist peers in Congress and/or the (predominantly leftist) media.
Second, because the Needy Conservative chooses the path of least resistance; because he favors profits (or votes) and social respectability over and above truth and real virtue—specifically, the virtue of courage, the courage to correct errors and combat evil, however unpopular and unpleasant these tasks may be—the Needy Conservative’s positions on the aforementioned issues amount to so much moral window-dressing.
He has purchased virtue on the cheap.
Thirdly, it should be obvious that Needy Conservatives, in couching their positions in terms of the left’s ideological framework, strengthen the left’s hold over our politics and culture. Less obvious, perhaps, is that Needy Conservatives are equally guilty on this score insofar as they continually “disavow” “white supremacy.”
Neither since Charlottesville nor at any time before then have I ever disavowed the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, or any other species of “white supremacy.” I never disavowed these things for the same reason that I never disavowed ISIS; whale gutting in the Arctic; breast feeding; black, brown, yellow, and red “supremacy”; Hinduism; and a practically limitless number of other entities and activities.
I never disavowed such things because I never avowed them in the first place.
When Needy Conservatives disavow “white supremacy,” they imply that they—and, by extension, all conservatives—have cause to distance themselves from “white supremacists.” After all, white leftists are never called upon to disavow “white supremacy.”
Donald Trump has never been called upon to disavow any of the Democrats with whom he regularly buddied around before he ran for the presidency as a Republican. Nor has he been expected to disavow rape, say, because a convicted rapist, Mike Tyson, endorsed his presidential candidacy.
No, Trump has been called upon by his enemies in both parties to disavow only “white supremacy.” This is because they know that his disavowal, like that of every Needy Conservative, conveys the tacit impression that there had existed a relationship that needed to be repudiated.
The disavowal, in this context, conjures the impression of a severing of ties. Subtly, it comes dangerously close to an apology, an admission of guilt.
Fourthly, the Needy Conservative, as I already noted, through his adoption of leftist terms and tactics and his disavowals of “white supremacy,” further ensconces leftist ideology into the fabric of the culture. Yet his disavowals also reinforce the leftist lie that conservatives are intrinsically “racist.”
Finally, all of this moral grandstanding and PC preening is for naught, for at the end of the day, when it suits the left’s purposes to declare it so, Needy Conservatives will once again become the “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” “Islamophobic,” and “xenophobic” reprobates for which the left has always seen them.
Jack Kerwick [send him mail] received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture.
Previous article by Jack Kerwick: Fact vs. Fiction