Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Loneliness of a Minority Conservative

D.R. Tucker has a fascinating blog post about Glen Loury, a black conservative who left the conservative movement a decade ago over the movement's lack of interest in Urban America. What was telling in the blog post was learning of Loury's isolationism from African Americans and conservatives. Tucker shares a story:
A 1995 New Yorker profile of Loury noted that in 1988, “…while Loury was in New York for a Public Interest board meeting, he had a revelation. Touring the Metropolitan Museum with Lisa Schiffren (who later wrote Dan Quayle's ‘Murphy Brown’ speech), he lamented the fact that, despite his prominence, he was completely isolated from his colleagues-that, in short, he had no friends. ‘But, Glenn, we're your friends,” she reassured him. ‘You're a member of a historically liberal ethnic minority, who through your own intellectual evolution have come to dissent from its convictions pretty much down the line. You voted for Reagan, you're pro-life, for family values--you're one of us.’’

Evidently, Schriffen failed to grasp the extent to which Loury felt isolated because he was a member of a “historically liberal ethnic minority.” Loury was, in short, an outcast among his own kind—and in his mind, the right wasn’t doing enough to alleviate his isolation.
Tucker gets at the heart of the matter: that conservatives of historically liberal groups, be it African American or gay, tend to feel isolated. They are viewed as suspect by their own kind, as well as by conservatives. It leads to minority conservatives to have to choose between their community and their ideology. After a while the strain is way too great and they are more likely to go with their community.

It's not that white conservatives , contrary to liberal beliefs, are inherently racist, but it's that they don't feel the need to be hospitable to minority groups. When I say, hospitable, I mean that they don't try to come up with ideas that will attract and retain African Americans.

Part of that lack of interest in trying to attract those voters lies in modern conservative belief. The way that liberals have attracted those groups is through government programs and government jobs or through laws like Civil Rights and those regarding hate crimes. Conservatives offer...what? Because of a belief in not rely on government, conservatives don't have much to offer African Americans.

That's why idea of volunteerism as a conservative program won't work. This is not a knock against those efforts, but the fact is, most inner city folk see these kind of programs already and alone they won't do much.

Which is why conservatives have to work on ideas concerning Urban America. There has to ways to use government to help spur growth and entrepeneurship instead of just giving folks a check.

When conservatives actually start thinking and bringing ideas to the table, then maybe black conservatives won't feel so isolated.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The NPR Brand

What is the word that comes to mind when one thinks of National Public Radio?

One word: liberal.

Now, I don't think that's a bad thing; it just is. No journalistic outfit is free of bias. They are made up of humans who have certain viewpoints and that means that news organizations tend to have a certain view of the world.

In what could be the best piece of writing on the NPR/Juan Williams affair, Conor Freidersdorf calls a New York Times reporter, and by extension, NPR for not admiting that they have a certain view of the world:
NPR and Fox News are actually similar in some of the ways that Mr. Stetler says they’re different. Both media organizations broadcast a mix of coverage, some of which is labeled news and other coverage it labels opinion. At both places, the line between these two styles of broadcast are a lot muddier than management likes to acknowledge. The business models of both organizations depend on catering to the sensibilities of people with a certain world view. And I am not just talking about ideology when I say that.

Despite identifying as a right-leaning independent with conservative and libertarian sympathies, NPR is much more my style than is Fox News. Sometimes when I listen to the radio network, I’m attune to the ideologically liberal assumptions that inform its coverage. But more than a political ideology, I’d say NPR’s sensibility is informed by a sort of urban cosmopolitanism and a commitment to airing a diversity of viewpoints — a commitment that is certainly executed imperfectly at times, but that is nevertheless noticeable in the coverage that is presented. I also think there are people doing reporting at NPR who try their best to give facts without bias, and believe that’s what their superiors want them to do. There are times when I think NPR coverage doesn’t do justice to conservative insights, but there are other times when I think they’ve done their best to present strong arguments with which a majority of their audience will disagree.
Like Conor, I tend to have some conservative and libertarian leanings, so there are times I notice that NPR doesn't do justice to a story about conservatives. That said, I think they try. But for me, it's pretty obvious that there is NPR has a certain cosmopolitian liberal view of the world. Now, being someone who lives in a cosmo city like Minneapolis, I'm okay with it. I don't always agree, but I'm probably not their general audience.

But one of the reasons that I like NPR is that even though they want to pretend that they have no opinion on matters, they do strive to be inclusive as best they can. That has gotten the network in trouble, with liberal listeners getting steamed, as they did a year ago, when NPR did a story on a speech given by former Vice President Dick Cheney criticizing the President.

On the other side, Fox News doesn't pretend that it's above the fray. They cater to Red America with what many consider an alternative to the "liberal media." In some ways, I like that Fox doesn't try to live in the fantasy land of objectivity, but because it is trying to placate conservatives with red meat, it doesn't do a good job at all at presenting the other side. Liberals are carictures, not real people. Fox basically acts like a very partisan blog that affirms one's views.

At the end of the day, NPR is as much a brand as it is a new source. It has a specific audience that it caters to as much as Fox caters to a specific audience.

What happened this week is that NPR had to own up to its brand after trying to pretend it didn't exist.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Answering a 21st Century Question with a 20th Century Answer

Walter Russell Mead doesn't buy that the Democrats are going to lose in the midterms because of the economy or just because its the midterms:
Forget the excuses: bad economy, midterm blahs. Franklin Roosevelt inherited a bad economy from his GOP predecessor. And the Depression wasn’t over by the 1934 midterms. Far from it. Unemployment still stood at 21.7%. The Depression still had six years to run...

In 1934 Democrats gained 13 seats in the House and an impressive 9 in the Senate. Today, they are heading for what George W. Bush would call a ‘thumpin.’

Why? Basically, because voters believed that the Democrats had the answers to the country’s problems. Deficit spending, government intervention, support for the labor movement, heavy infrastructure investment: people believed that the only way forward was to have more of these things.
Mead notes that when the Democrats came back into total power in 2009, the tended to think that the answer was simply a repeat of what they did some 70 years earlier: lots of deficit spending. But this time, instead of helping the Democrats, it has lead to their undoing:
What is killing the Democrats this fall isn’t the midterm blues. It isn’t the bad economy. It is something much deeper, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. The national economy is changing in ways that make traditional Democratic solutions less useful even as change makes traditional Democratic concerns more important. Yes, inequality is rising. Yes, the standard of living of many Americans is no longer rising. Yes, access to vital services — especially, but not only, health care and higher education — is increasingly difficult for many Americans to secure. Yes, the financial system went haywire in the last twenty years, generating enormous amounts of wealth for some without creating lasting value for society as a whole.

All this is very real, and for many Democrats and die-hard liberals it makes the call of the New Deal impossible to resist. That the history of the 1930s was repeating itself was the core conviction of many Democrats as President Obama took the oath of office. The economic crisis was a liberal opportunity not to be missed. Just as the Depression allowed FDR to transform American society and grow the government, so the Great Recession would allow President Obama to reconfigure the role of government in America today.
What Mead is talking about is the "Blue Social Model" something he discussed earlier this year. The Democrats thought that the advent of Obama meant the advent of a new liberal age...which would look like the old liberal age.

But the thing is, the Blue Social Model has been unraveling since the 70s. What once worked, is not working so well now.

Mead thinks that the way forward is a kind of governing libertarianism ( my words); a government that would free the economy to encourage small businesses to flourish, using the marketplace to provide social services like health care and providing an affordable plan to rebuild America's infrastructure.

The problem is that most of these suggestions are an anathema to Democrats because it would mean going against vested interests.

One would think that the Republicans would be the ones that could step into this breach and create a new social model (the Red Social Model?) that would be the blueprint for the 21st century. The problem is at this point the GOP is not interested in coming up with new ideas. Like the Democrats, they are stuck in a past history- in this case the 1980s- thinking that tax cuts all the time should be the answer to all our nation's ills.

While the GOP is on the path to winning back Congress, they will do so without a viable idea on how to tackle our economy. If the public rejected the Dems for wanting a 1930s style solution, they will oust the GOP for their 1980s-style solution. It's time both parties look to the present and come up with ideas for the present, not some glorious past.