UNITED STATES                                                                                                             1121 Vermont Avenue, N.W.

COMMISSION ON                                                                                                         Washington, D.C. 20425 CIVIL RIGHTS

 

 

MAKING OUR PRINCIPLES WORK*

W. B. Allen

Chairman, U. S. Commission on Civil Rights

and

Professor of Government, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Californian

© W. B. Allen 1988

 

It is a pleasure to be back in a gathering of Young Americans for Freedom, back where I started. Things began, for me, with YAF and its allied organizations. I spent a lot of time in Youth for Reagan in 1966, having chaired the effort in Los Angeles County and then Southern California. But I became involved in the conservative movement even earlier than that, having been a laborer in the vineyards of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and involved in some of the struggles of the Young Republicans of that era. Now, most of you won’t remember these things. And the only reason that I take the time to mention them now is because they fix me fairly securely as a charter member of that club to which Bill Russell referred only a few moments ago. You are members of YAF. We are members of OAF, Old Americans for Freedom. We are, nonetheless, hard-core.

Now, I want to spend the brief time that we have together today with some fairly serious reflections. We’ve met frequently before. We’ve talked often about the state of conservatism, about the challenge which YAF confronts in the country as it carries on its mission. I am especially pleased that YAF is able to do what it does, namely, to set up its parallel convention, so to speak, here in the convention city. And, of course, over the years YAF has done as well with the other party. It’s important that these non-partisan representations remain a permanent part of the American political landscape. For it is through means of such non-partisan representations that we’re enabled to preserved that critical distance which allows the truth to be spoken. Here, we can assure ourselves that, however realistic, however pragmatic we are, we remain devoted to the truth. This afternoon, I want to talk about some matters of truth that are important to us all. I would begin by pointing out that two facts are

First, Friday, August 12th, was “National Civil Rights Day.” You may not be aware of that. But this memorial has been in place for several years now. Second, on that day, President Reagan proclaimed that I should serve on his appointment as Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Now, I do not maintain that the first fact bears any necessary or intentional relationship to the second. But, even as mere coincidental or correlated facts, they bear remarking and deserve a comment or two. Above all it is time to deal with that most vexing question. What do conservatives care about civil rights? My design is to say somewhat about the state of conservatism. Today, however, I choose to do so in reference to civil rights. For in some ways, no other subject shows with such clarity what has happened to conservatism these past two decades. Particularly, I will show that we conservatives have permitted the term civil rights both to be alienated from our vernacular and perverted from its fundamental sense. I will argue that those results have come about from the identical process that has resulted in ambiguity as to the state of conservatism today.

Now, that I should discuss matters of this character in this forum requires at least a passing nod in the direction of politics. By this, I mean to say that noticing your non-partisan efforts, does not say all that requires to be said about this political season, in the shadow of the great partisan display over at the superdome.

There are a number of charges that have been made about conservatives as well as about Republicans which have their own implications for our work. There’s a whole question, for example, in my position of what is the relationship between partisan commitment, on the one hand—I am, of course, a Republican and always have been—and my role as a member of an independent commission, the Commission on Civil Rights. Or, if you want to put it more broadly, what is the relationship between partisanship and statesmanship? Can one be a partisan and also a statesman? It’s a very important question. It seems to me the answer to that question is undoubtedly yes. One can be honest and also partisan. So long as one assures oneself that one’s partisanship is rooted in the best of motives and the highest understanding of those principles by which American politics ought to be guided.

It is a matter of concern to me in this political season that we can see a major political party nominate for the Office of President of the United States an individual who shows great reluctance to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but who accepts his party’s nomination by reciting a pagan oath. It seems to me that it is not unduly partisan to take notice of such things. For it is in that way that we remind ourselves of our principles and the standards to which we wish to hold our office holders.

Governor Dukakis may not have intended the apparent implication when he pulled out a pagan oath to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination, in spite of his having vetoed legislation calling upon youngsters in the State of Massachusetts to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance. But it raises questions in our minds, as to whether his peculiar celebration of ethnicity is in fact consistent with the American tradition. It has always been a part of America and American politics to celebrate ethnicity. But we have never understood ethnicity in that traditional sense as something alien. What made the immigrant important in American history has been the consistent and uniform ability of the immigrant to become an American.

I was troubled by Dukakis’ presentation of his immigrant background, because it seemed to celebrate far more the notion that he is an alien, not an American. It did not recite or cite a single American foundation, a single founding father, a single principle from the Declaration of Independence, a single principle that unites us all in that citizenship which President Reagan has so often praised as being available to any human being anywhere on earth. And then to close it with a pagan oath only seems to seal the deed that this, for the first time in our politics, is the presence of an almost alien influence.

It is also the case that one can take notice, in this partisan season, of some of the failures of partisan rhetoric and this, without at the same time being accused of being unduly partisan. I’ll give you an example.

Those who are conservatives are often accused, by liberals, of being rich. I choose my words deliberately because when they speak about it, it sounds like an accusation. It sounds like one should say, “pardon me,” “Forgive me,” “I didn’t mean it.” Much of the Democratic Party’s convention, was devoted to lambasting that supposed difference between “them” and “us.” They, of course, are poor while we are rich. Jesse Jackson, the apostle of poverty itself, has made this standard iconography of partisan rhetoric today.

I beg, however, at least to be afforded the liberty to define in what way I am rich. They may accuse me of being rich. I will accept it. But they must leave to me to say to you and to this country in what way I am rich. And I will confess immediately I am not the millionaire that Jesse Jackson is. I don’t earn even as much as the poor lady who wrote to Ann Richards at the Democratic Convention, whose letter she shared with the nation in that keynote address.

But, yes, I am rich. Rich in ways little comprehended by liberals in this country of ours today: rich first and foremost in the treasure of those principles of American citizenship whereby each and every one of us is enabled to account himself master of his own fate. That is a true wealth and I am rich in that.

I am rich in other ways. I’m rich in the secure knowledge that I live in a nation where my earnest effort, commitment to the public welfare, will be regarded and accepted as they are indeed intended, not as indications of self-interest but as indeed indications of the warmest love of this republic. I have no trouble reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. I am rich in recognizing in that pledge the design and architecture of my own soul. I am rich not alone in finding the principles which govern our lives, by which we govern ourselves, fully explaining my hopes and ambitions in this life. But I am also rich because I find wherever I travel, in these United States, Americans for whom those principles resonate no less deeply than they do within me.

These are sources of wealth of which I would not be deprived by Reverend Jackson nor anyone else. Do they accuse me of being rich? I admit it. And I say more. I say: every American is rich. And the only shame is to abuse that wealth. The only shame is to be rich without admitting it, without recognizing it. The only shame is to wage war on the richness of America.

So you see: in this partisan season, we must exert ourselves to make careful distinctions. It is not excessively partisan to note the errors of others. It is not excessively partisan to praise the strengths of this republic. And it is keeping faith with the American tradition to be willing to defend those principles wherever we’re called upon, whatever our station is. Whether it is in a hard core demonstration or in an independent regulatory commission, our task it to keep that faith.

And that’s one of the reasons I want to talk to you about civil rights, today. This is of a particular application of a remark many of you have heard me make before about the state of conservatism in general. You’ve heard me explain that conservatism is disordered, in a state of ambiguity. In the aftermath of an apparent victory eight years ago, we find ourselves not being quite certain where the conservative resolution lives, not quite certain who the conservative movement is. Finding after the victory of Ronald Reagan and eight years of that administration installed in Washington, D.C., there is in the hinterlands, out in the provinces, so to speak, disarray. The grass roots, at the partisan level, have in fact been untended. And, like vines in a vineyard left untended, there grow weeds, and the vines fail to produce proper fruit.

We know also that the voice of the movement has been thrown somewhat off-center. We’re never certain to whom to listen. We’re never quite certain what is the conservative objective. We look at areas of foreign policy and we ask, are we supposed to cheer or are we supposed to cry? We look at lost opportunities in domestic policy and we ask, is this the conservative opportunity society? Or the conservative opportunist society?

We have had many trials in the past several years, in struggling to define a conservative movement. I want to remind you, however, why we began this process in the first place. The conservative movement did not exist to create conservatives. The conservative movement, first and last, exists to serve America. Our chief task is to know in what way America most demands our talents, our services. In order to keep a conservative movement on course, we must constantly return to our studies, we must constantly return to the question of what are the necessities of the hour? Where are the greatest threats to liberty? Where is the greatest likelihood that those principles which form us into one people, wanting to be one people, what is the greatest source of danger to those principles? And at each step of the way we will find that sometimes the answer lies one way, sometimes another. What must be consistent is our determination to pursue the truth, the right answer, the answer which says, here is where I stand, here is how I shall serve.

Now, an example of that is in this question of civil rights. You all know and have great affection for my predecessor at the Commission, Clarence M. Pendleton, Jr. You know that he launched a debate in this country over the direction and the content of our nation’s civil rights laws. You know that the debate he launched was met with violence of opinion on the part of many who resisted and opposed him and often caricatured him in ways most unfair. But you know, too, that, he held his head high and continued to carry the argument. Do you know what the argument was about? It is not enough to say, “quotas.” It is not enough to say, “preferential treatment.” It is not enough to say, “affirmative action.” The argument is about something closer to home for you and for me. It is not about welfare programs. It’s not about a permanent underclass. The argument very simply is what is American citizenship, and what is it worth?

I often want to substitute for the term, “civil rights,” the term, “rights to equal citizenship.” When you express it that way it is much easier for us to see that any system of laws and regulations which sets some citizens apart from others, which distinguishes the way in which citizens are treated with reference to their race, their background, their gender, their religion, that these cannot be laws which establish rights of equal citizenship. The last analysis is one which demonstrates that we must all find ourselves standing on the same footing as citizens in order for America to succeed.

Now, as it turns out, that has always been the conservative argument, not just in the last eight years. You’ll find that in the Sharon statement, in the discussions of that era, you’ll find that throughout the Goldwater and Reagan campaigns from early on. You’ll find that indeed going back 20 years before 1960, and throughout the whole period since that time, conservatives have always reaffirmed that, yes, of course, we believe in the Declaration of Independence.

Of course, we believe the Constitution grants equal rights of citizenship to all Americans. We believe in equal opportunity. And we believe that laws consistent with these principles will be better to solve the problem of discrimination or racism which the country has experienced. That has been our unfailing affirmation throughout the course of our nation’s history and its struggles. And yet, we have found the day has always been carried by those who prefer to count people by their noses, to set them apart, to distinguish them, to separate and therefore alienate, to blur the conception of citizenship.

The civil rights laws have not been designed and structured by that conservative opinion. That describes for us a problem, no less surely than in the case of arms negotiations. Conservatives are always confronted with a test. If we have opinions, if we have principles to which we hold, if we believe that these principles are essential for the salvation of this republic, then we are called upon not merely to hold these principles as instruments with which we criticize others, but rather to hold them as positive programs, positive agendas which we intend to demonstrate in practice, which we intend to bring specifically to the relief of such difficulties as we experience within our society.

There is a movement presently forming in Washington, D.C., an organization has been formed called the Center for Civil Rights. The purpose of this center is to try to take back the argument over civil rights, to make it again an argument in favor of equal rights of citizenship for all. It’s to attempt to do away with the unnatural distinction which the courts and the legislatures have made for over 50 years now between so-called economic liberties and civil rights as though you could divide such things up. It’s an attempt to rescue those elements of legislation  (in 1866 for example, the civil rights laws of that era), which placed the burden for enforcing civil rights on the traditional structure of Anglo-American jurisprudence, as opposed to building massive bureaucratic and regulatory edifices for that purpose. In short, the Center for Civil Rights means to demonstrate that conservative principles work, that any legitimate complaint about denials of civil rights in the United States can be handled on the grounds of conservative principles.

One of the problems that we have with conservatism today and what you might perceive as our disarray in the political arena has been precisely the result of our reluctance to undertake such positive missions. It is understandable in certain contexts. After all, let’s remember and be honest, we have never been in charge. During the last eight years, we have not been in charge. I should like you to add that to the number of familiar chants that you have. We have not been in charge. Having Ronald Reagan in the White House has not placed conservatives in charge. It is far more likely the case that the most powerful man in America today is Jim Wright of Texas. The American government has remained in the hands of liberals, not only in the last eight years but throughout the past generation.

So I do not fault conservatives for not having remade the world. If we ever have to fault ourselves (and it will always be mutual, this finding of fault), it must be for flagging in an effort that sometimes seems to be just too long and to require just too much sacrifice. We cannot flag. We cannot give up, however difficult it may seem, however tiresome the struggle.

Why do we know we must persist? Because we find, year by year, that the American people believe the things we believe. Though we are not in charge, though the government is in the control of others, they who are in charge do not represent the best of this country. That means that our political institutions are out of sync with the will of the people. Our political institutions are out of sync with the principles of self-government that we have generated and sustained over 200 years. But the fact that the political institutions are out of sync is no excuse for us to surrender to what would become, in the end, merely despotism.

We can reclaim America. We can reclaim our institutions. We can reclaim our principles, if we will not tire. So let us consider bringing the health-producing results of our principles into play on precisely this question of civil rights. Let us join with these efforts now beginning to purge our laws of their worst characteristics and to replace them with laws that will indeed reaffirm what we believe.

I’ll give you one example and close. There has been recently an outcry which you perhaps may not have heard, because it has existed entirely on the Left in the United States. It’s an outcry against the fact that the Supreme Court decided to review a decision from ten years ago called Runyon vs. McCreary. This fall the Court will review that decision. And the civil rights establishment (the ACLU and indeed, if you simply go down the list of all those who participated in the campaign against Bob Bork, you will see the whole army laid out before you), the civil rights establishment has already produced massive numbers of amicus briefs and coordinated strategies to try to persuade the Court not to overturn the Runyon decision.

So what they view this latest development as, is a conservative attack on a right gained in the Runyon decision. That right, in the eyes of conservatives today, was very simply the right of one party to force an unwilling party into the contract wherever their races or genders differ. That’s how it’s interpreted. And so conservatives have taken the position that, yes, it should be overturned. Now they haven’t been as organized as the Left has been. They don’t have any amicus briefs involved. They’re not quite sure what to do. They’re speaking with many voices, not with coordination. But that has always been the conservative impulse. I believe that impulse is mistaken. I believe it fails to understand the significance of the 1866 law, relied upon in the Runyon case.

I agree with the conservative characterization of the Court’s interpretation from ten years ago. It was an interpretation that says that Congress has the power to enforce laws which enable black people to make contracts with white people whether white people want to or not. That’s wrong. That’s not what the amendment, the 14th Amendment meant to assure. The 13th Amendment had nothing to do with it at all, despite what they say in the decision. And it’s wrong in terms of a proper understanding of rights and contracts. And so conservatives have a right to be upset about it. But how to change it? I suggest you change it by re-establishing the right of contract, not by backing off from that first decision.

Back off from the first Runyon decision, and what do you have left? Only the apparatus of Title Seven for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. What apparatus is that? A regulatory apparatus. One which allows faceless bureaucrats to make the laws which govern our laws and our society.

What did you find in the 1866 law originally? Not a regulatory apparatus, but litigation, Anglo-American jurisprudence, damages for injuries done, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Now, think for a moment what the difference is. If we could restore the impulse of the 1866 law, we could both get rid of the wrong interpretation of that law in Runyon vs. McCreary and get rid of the bureaucratic apparatus of 1964. Furthermore, if our principles are right, we could do more to put an end to discrimination in American society, then all of the bureaucratic efforts in the last 25 years have succeeded in doing. And you know as well as I do, that far from having eliminated discrimination, the last 25 years have only heightened it. It parades sometimes under fancy names, different names, never admitted as discrimination, sometimes called “benign discrimination.” But it has only been race discrimination. Our objective must be to eliminate it all together. And that must mean, therefore, reducing the role of government and increasing the role of individuals in determining the course of their own lives. When we fall back on litigation, in the Anglo-American tradition, the responsibility for enforcement is with the individuals. That doesn’t rule out the possibility of governments giving friendly advice and assistance. But it does rule out regulators determining whom we employ, when and where, how we look upon the people we work with, and how that should be interpreted. It throws us back upon, our own resources.

Here, then, is an area in which disarray among conservatives threatens to produce the same kind of results we saw in the Civil Rights Restoration Bill, the Grove City Bill, where we’ll just take one step more into that dark night of building regulatory, despotic control of American society. If we can coordinate the response which says, we know how to deal with people’s just complaints better, we can lead the path towards new legislation which gets rid of the multi-form complex system of laws. And, do you know, there are nearly 157 civil rights statutes in this country, and that doesn’t mention regulations. It is impressive, to say the least, how extraordinarily complex the whole structure has become and all centered in an administrative system, a Napoleonic system, by which we’re governed through the whims of bureaucrats, far more than through the rule of law.

Conservatives can do something about this. But to do it, conservatives would have to take seriously the task of solving civil rights problems. We need to do this, in order to justify our own principles. We need to do it even more, in order to rescue our country.

America needs you. America needs YAF even more today than in 1961. You are the people, of course, who make the sacrifices. I’m preaching to the choir. I know that. But I always say, being the son of a Baptist preacher who remembers these things, I always say, the choirs deserve stroking too. So I don’t mind preaching to the choir.

We have a job to do which in some ways has only just begun. I am glad you’re there to do it with me.

 

Questions from the Audience:

 

(Inaudible question concerning the Center for Civil Rights)

It’s officially established. It’s in Washington, D.C. It’s called the Center for Civil Rights, which is a division of Landmark Legal Foundation. Its present address is on Second Street but I don’t remember it exactly. [102 Second Street Southeast, Washington, D.C.] And they can use all the help and support that you can offer to them. And if you know people who would take an interest in things like filing amicus briefs in civil rights cases, or if you know a good civil rights case that they can intervene in, what they’re going to do is try to defend people’s civil rights using conservative principles. They’re not going to worry so much about the reverse discrimination cases. Their idea is, the way to get rid of reverse discrimination is by solving the original discrimination problem so you don’t have to use reverse discrimination.

You know, let me just say one other word about that. Because I want you to understand exactly why I recommend this system. There are two ways once you find yourself living in a house that’s been poorly built and perhaps you built it yourself and it’s jerry-rigged. There are two ways to go about replacing that house. You can tear it down and then build new one. But there’s one inconvenience of simply tearing it down. You have to sleep out doors while you build a new house. Or you can build a new house around the old house. After you constructed the more solid frame around the weaker frame then remove it from within. Many of us are now thinking that it’s time to build around and to render obsolete the old system. For we have worked a long time at the notion of simply tearing it down and gotten nowhere whatever. Now we want to make it obsolete because we really do believe in conservative principles, which is to say, in the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

(Inaudible question concerning the Tawana Brawley Case and, more generally, racism).

Taking your questions in order, I believe the case, the Tawana Brawley case in upstate New York, is a reflection of the character of Reverend Sharpton, in that it may be that the whole thing is a fraud, as has been alleged. I cannot answer that. That’s a question of fact. Because I can say, because this is not the first case that the Reverend has been involved in, that would lead any reasonable human being to be suspicious of him, that he has a character which is highly doubtful. And therefore, I think it bespeaks well of the American people that they are suspicious, skeptical about him. I don’t think it says anything more about their reaction to that case. Had it been people of integrity and good character who brought the case, I think we would have seen a different reaction in the American people.

[The second question had to do with whether the people are racist. And if so, is racism the kind of thing that can be made a crime?]

(Inaudible question concerning housing discrimination)

Personal choices is what you’re asking about. And it’s perfectly clear that there is no system of legislation conceivable by man that can eliminate discrimination. It is a mistake to think that it is our task in this society to eliminate discrimination. Indeed, you could even go so far as to say that if it weren’t for the support businesses receive from the state, there would be no room at all to raise the question there. But we know that these choices are not the core of the matter. In the period following the war, the War of American Union in the 1860s, what the legislatures were concerned to do was to prevent the power of the state, being brought to the support of private discrimination. That’s what they aimed at. They did not aim at individuals. They realized that, in a self-governing community, individuals must make these decisions for themselves. And they must sort themselves out over time.

Now, we know, since that era, that if in fact you deprive the state of the power to sort people out by race or gender, that the free market will operate against any such discrimination. We have the work of the economist from the University of Chicago, Gary Becker, which proves to us how costly discrimination is in a free market environment.

So, on two grounds we know we don’t have to worry about private discrimination. One, if it’s not the power of the state, it’s not despotic. It’s not unjust. It’s merely a personal quirk, an eccentricity. And, two, no one can persist in it unless he wants to pay a great premium in the free market. That’s why, by the way, economic liberties must be brought together with civil rights. You cannot separate them.

The court tried the separation in 1936. It said we aren’t going to care about economic rights. We’re only going to talk about the rights of so-called “discrete and insular minorities.” Well, that was the beginning of the end in the United States, because the “rights of discreet and insular minorities,” when they do not include economic liberties, close the door to entrepreneurship, close the door to development, to participation in the free enterprise system.

So, my answer to you is no. You cannot make discrimination illegal. Yes, you can make discrimination disappear simply by guaranteeing freedom.

(Inaudible question concerning quotas).

My opinion of quotas is that they are inconsistent with American principal and unjust in the light of nature.

(Inaudible question concerning the housing troubles in Yonkers, New York).

This is a wonderful case that I will use to illustrate the ambiguities we face in the struggle today. My advice to the four councilmen is, first, praise. I believe that they have done the right thing to defend the rights of self-government, and to liberate themselves from the arbitrary despotic authority of a judge who’s exceeded all reasonable limits for his office. So I praise them for that.

But I do not, in praising them, necessarily exonerate them. I don’t know the facts. But I do know this. This case was brought by the United States Justice Department under William Bradford Reynolds, prosecuted by, therefore, the Reagan Administration, by people who believe that there was a pattern of state-imposed discrimination in Yonkers. And that something ought to have been done about it.

Now, understood except for the moment, arguendo, that the Justice Department was right, that they have the goods on these folks. And they know that they not only discriminated but they used the power of the state to enforce their discrimination. And that connection is, by the way, that’s the problem, not the discrimination itself, but the connection, the reliance upon the state.

If that’s true, is there a way out of that that doesn’t lead to the problem created by Judge Sand in Yonkers? I say, yes. The way out is to foster a system of litigation by those persons directly harmed which affords them compensatory and punitive damages for the harms done. But what is the alternative in Yonkers? Not litigation that goes to any person who’s been discriminated against, but a broad social rule, where a judge says you will build houses someplace. You will go out and find some nameless, faceless poor people and put them in it, some nameless, faceless—well it’s not entirely faceless: nameless black-faceless poor people, and put them in the housing.

But these are not necessarily the people who were discriminated against. That’s social policy. That’s not litigation, ajudication. That’s the mistake that’s made. It’s laws that insist on regulating black classes instead of dealing with individual injuries that are destroying our country. So that, had we had the choice to pursue a model of litigation that would have located the people who in fact were discriminated against, we would have deterred the people of Yonkers from making the decisions that they made. And I think you’ll find that that principal of deterrence works far more throughout the entire country for the simple reason that it doesn’t reinforce the improper authority of either a municipality or a state or the federal government to make racial decisions. So that would be my response to that situation.

Let me just say one more time I do not pretend at this moment to master the facts. I’m only reporting to you the Justice Department decision that this needed to be prosecuted.

(Inaudible question concerning Martin Luther King).

My feelings on Martin Luther King and that era are very complex. That’s the era in which I came of age, of course. I know something about the civil rights movement. If you will consult my most recent writing on the subject in a volume of essays called, Slavery and Its Consequences, published by the American Enterprise Institute and released only last week, you will see a lengthy discussion of what I think about the whole era, its impact on my life and the lives of other people. It is certainly the case that Martin Luther King spoke to things that Americans treasure and believe.

The best example of this is to look at what happened in Washington in 1963, the time of the march on Washington. And we’re celebrating now the 25th anniversary of that, in effect. When King stood up there on the Mall in Washington, surrounded by the memorials of Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson, and cast aside his prepared speech and spoke in the idiom of the Founding Fathers, he spoke the language we all speak and believe. And insofar as he did that, the civil rights movement was what was often called in those days, a “Come Home, America” movement, an appeal to the best instincts of our society, an appeal of our being one society, rather than our being splintered in the fashion of Lebanon, into distinct, different groups.

And in that sense, I, like everyone else, would have to praise the contribution of Martin Luther King. But we who lived (as well as those of you who have studied) that era know also that, towards the end, Martin Luther King began to do things that seem to suggest that he no longer had the same affection for American principles. He seemed to internationalize his struggle. He seemed to be more conversant and more willing to play with principles of socialism or some kind of international order.

To that degree, he would seem to have compromised what he originally offered. He had first made himself a spokesman for the best things in America and ended by having ceased to be a spokesman for any but some Americans. And I find that a tragedy. And, therefore, I would say my ultimate reaction to his life is that it was a tragedy. An unfortunate one.

(Inaudible question concerning South Africa).

What are my opinions about the civil rights implications of the relationship of the United States with South Africa? My opinions about that, which I’ve also published previously, is that there are no civil rights implications of that relationship, anymore than there are civil rights implications of our relationship, with the Soviet Union or any other country.

I have also, though, published very serious concerns about the nature of the campaign against South Africa..

Let me just remind you how the campaign began in order that you’ll understand why I think this is something very important for us to pay attention to. It was in the aftermath of the 1984 election, that the series of demonstrations in front of the South African embassy and consulates began. Because in that 1984 election, of course, the Left was decisively defeated. 1980 to begin with, 1984, every state in the union save one went overwhelming for President Reagan. The nuclear freeze movement was completely defeated. The attempts by the nuclear freeze people to switch their agenda to a politics of a people of color which became ultimately rainbow politics. This is their language for social democracy. And these are the people who are not Democrats per se but socialists who had decided to co-opt the Democratic Party, to pursue their agenda.

Those policies were defeated in 1984. The Left had no issue left in 1984 with which to appeal to the American people. That was the first time in an entire generation, since the end of the Second World War, really, that the left had nothing on the American agenda which it could manipulate to keep itself before the camera’s eye, to manipulate public attention, the attention of the media.

I described this at the time. And at the time I predicted, since the Left lives in America only as the Spanish moss you see hanging from trees down here as a parasite, since it lives in America only off its ability to survive in the media, I predicted that it would have to generate a new issue, something to replace the nuclear freeze and all the things it had lost.

And I predicted the new issue would be America’s weakest spot, America’s sore spot, race. And that the new politics of Leftism, for our time, would be the politics of racial division. Now, I do not say this retrospectively.

I do not say this as an attempt to characterize the Jackson campaign, after having seen it and trying to vie with others who seek to explain it. I said it before it all began. Immediately. The night of the 1984 election, commenting on CNN and in an essay published afterwards, I said that they will try to divide the country along the lines of race. And they will find an issue suited to that purpose and exploit it. It wasn’t two weeks later before the South African Embassy was under siege. You know what the story has been since then. You know how the movement spread through the networks of the Left across the campuses. You know the various cities which have adopted disinvestment ordinances under the same impulse. You know how legislation such as that in the State of California refuse even to listen to people like Chief Buthelezi from South Africa and voted a disinvestment policy. You know what the whole campaign has been about.

Its purpose has nothing to do with South Africa. Its purpose is to keep the Left in the eye of the American media. It succeeds both in terms of the campaign against South Africa and particularly in the form of Jesse Jackson’s presidential candidacy, which is far more a media phenomenon than it is anything else. It is true he receives a substantial number of votes. It is also true that not much more than ten percent of all the votes he received came from white members of the Democratic Party. In short, his presence in the race signifies the accomplishment of the end I originally predicted. Divide along lines of race. Tease the open wound. Create bitterness. And sow the conditions for discord.

So we shouldn’t react to the campaign against South Africa as a mere hypothetical, abstract foreign policy question. It goes to the heart of domestic politics. It is aimed at the heart of America.

Well, if you have no other questions, it’s been a pleasure.



* Presented to the Convention of the Young Americans for Freedom, New Orleans, August 15, 1988, and published in a shorter version in Vital Speeches of the Day, vol. 55, no. 2 (Nov. 1, 1988): 37-40.

 

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