The Corner

Affirm the Stereotype or Be Stereotypical!

From a reader:

It would be refreshing if the National Review took the occasion of Jesse Helms’ death to reflect on American conservatism’s historical complicity with racism, rather than to make jokes about fringe left definitions of racism.  All I have seen on the Corner are breathless eulogizations of Jesse Helms.  If you really wanted Americans outside of your base to take people like Ward Connerly seriously, you would call a spade a spade, and denounce Jesse Helms’ racist legacy as a stain on conservatism.

Me: I have no problem with reflecting on conservatism and race. But I find these sorts of finger-wags tiresome. The gist seems to be: “Agree with my unfair stereotype of conservatism or be guilty of conforming to my unfair stereotype of conservatism.” If conservatives are the racists he suggests they are, why aren’t NRO writers celebrating Helms’ alleged racism rather than denying it? Maybe folks around here don’t think the liberal line is true (in whole or in part)? And as such, throwing Helms under the bus to appease the fingerwaggers would be nothing more than an act of cowardice.

If the reader could break out of the Corner and read some of the pieces we have posted on the homepage, he might at least contemplate that Helms’ career is more complicated than the mean-spirited and agenda driven mainstream media obits have suggested. 

As for longer and broader considerations of conservatism and race, I can’t recommend more highly Bill Voegeli’s piece in the new CRB.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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