May 18, 2008

Politics and ‘Particularism’

Without reiterating the history of this controversy in its entierty, I responded to a post that chronicled the moral failings of poor urban blacks and attributed these to a genetic disability with an itemized list of the failings of poor rural whites, and wondered aloud if that amounted to a similar disability, or whether it’s environmental. Contrary to Christopher Roach’s latest complaint, I don’t think this is “personalizing” anything. I was merely pointing out that the moral failings he excoriates in blacks are pandemic in the “white community,” so to speak, particularly in the Appalachian region that was the subject under discussion. As for the usage of “racialist” as a descriptive term, which Roach also complains about, I don’t know how else to describe someone who associates black underschievement with a genetic disability—genetic determinist?

As for the rest of Roach’s rambling screed, I’m afraid I don’t quite get the point: he seems to be suggesting another word other than racialist to describe his views, and comes up with “particularism.” Okay, then, it’s official: I’ll refer to Roach and his co-thinkers as “particularists.” Now, is everybody happy?

One comment does stick out, however, and it is this:

“It is noteworthy that Raimondo and his clique have written off Democrats, Republicans, Objectivists, the New Left, Black Panthers, Pat Buchanan, and the folks at both Chronicles and Reason in their travels.  In a moment of clarity, perhaps Raimondo would consider that making ideological purity and universalism more important than any other factor leads to an unviable and ineffective political movement.  Movements ultimately need coalitions, and coalitions require some cobbling together of majorities based on perceptions of their actual and particular interests, as well as the perceived antagonistic interests of other groups.”

To begin with, I think Roach is utilizing, here, a unique understanding of “universalism.” The term is meant to indicate a principle that covers the entire universe—or, at least, the globe. And yet I don’t think it’s exactly “universalism” to say that there are certain concepts—beginning with the American self-concept—that unite us as a nation. That’s not universalism: that’s good old fashioned American nationalism.

Secondly, I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I most certainly have not “written off” Pat Buchanan (I am an associate editor of The American Conservative, of which he is editor emeritus, if I’m not mistaken). Nor have I “written off ” Chronicles magazine, which is a wonderful publication that I read cover to cover: I have been published in their pages and I am still a member of the John Randolph Club, which was established by Murray Rothbard and Chronicles editor Tom Fleming, who remains a friend. Roach says I have also written off the Democrats, but then why all this fuss about my rooting for Obama? I’m afraid I don’t get that. As for the few remaining Objectivists, they wrote themselves off a long time ago.

Thirdly, to criticize libertarians for a lack of success, when the Paul campaign made such a major impact, and is continuing to have an impact—much larger than that made by Tom Tancredo, the candidate I imagine would most appeal to the Particularists—seems just a little odd. Paul created a grand coaliton of antiwar activists, right-wing populists, and a growing number of ordinary Americans sick unto death of the GOP’s abandonment of the principles of limited government and a foreign policy that puts America first. The campaign of Bob Barr on the Libertarian Party ticket looks like it is going to build on that achievement—and perhaps make the difference in this election.

I have to wonder where the Particularists will go, faced with a choice between Obama and John McCain. Will they make their way back to the GOP, make their peace with the neocons, and together with Bill Kristol and the rest of the Fox News commissars endlessly wallow in the collected sayings of the Rev. Wright? Who wants to bet that they’ll unite behind the Great White Hope?

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