Politics & Policy

The Joy of Tokenism

Or if not joy, something . . .

EDITOR’S NOTE:

This article appears in the August 9, 2004, issue of National Review.

Years ago, Henry Kissinger invited Bill Buckley to speak to his students at Harvard, in order, said Bill, to exhibit to them one of the more “exotic specimens in the American political zoo.”

We conservatives are more familiar now than we were then, but we still give off a whiff of exoticism–in certain quarters.

Recently, I was invited to attend a Renaissance Weekend. These are the famous conclaves associated with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Founded 25 years ago by another couple, Phil and Linda Lader, the weekends include people from many walks of life, talking about a variety of subjects on a slew of panels. In response to the Renaissance phenomenon, some conservatives set up a weekend of their own, the Dark Ages Weekend, ha, ha. (This type of humor is indispensable to our psyche–the conservative psyche.)

The Laders don’t want Renaissance Weekend to be an exclusively left-leaning and Democratic affair, and they go out of their way to welcome and even protect their right-leaning guests. They are, in fact, the soul of kindness, hospitality, and ecumenism. This is our kind of Democrat, National Review readers. He is a policy expert, a business whiz, and a former ambassador to the U.K. (in the second term of Clinton); she is a dynamo whose résumé includes the National Prayer Breakfast.

One of their guests plunked herself next to me and said, “You’re here because of affirmative action, you know.” I said that I favored philosophical and political affirmative action–even tokenism. I favor it, for example, on university faculties, where it’s often missing. In my day–I doubt much has changed–”diversity” meant a black Marxist, a white Marxist, a Hispanic Marxist, a lesbian Marxist . . .

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