The Corner

Numinous Nomination

E-mailbag, in response to my comment on Tanenhaus:

It all brings to mind Richard Brookhiser’s wonderfully accurate term, “The Numinous Negro” (I couldn’t get a link to his essay, but here’s a column by Jonah talking about it).

If you recall, the “Numinous Negro” is a construction, often by white liberals, of a near-divine, never-wrong, completely non-threatening black person (usually a man).  It’s essentially the whole reason behind most of the characters played by Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, every law movie ever set in the South with a white lawyer and a black client, etc.  The Numinous Negro isn’t a black man– he’s a plot device to make the white characters look better for having listened to them, cared for them, patronized them.

So. . . can we have the Numinous Conservative now?  Unfortunately not as elegantly alliterative as Brookhiser’s phrase, but I believe it’s just as useful.  It captures all of the “conservatives” who don’t really exist in the real world outside of Washington restaurants or New York op-ed pages.  You know, the ones who aren’t crazy, who display the required level of disdain for “teabaggers,” Southerners, Christians, Sarah Palin, etc.  Liberals can point to these people as the “smart and acceptable” conservatives who just so happen to think exactly like they do.

I’ll leave it the Corner to populate that list with their favorite Numinous Conservatives.  After the last year, we have plenty of choices. . .

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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