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Monday, 03 May 2010


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You noted the standard definition of "rational": "thinking the same things I and others in my group think". It's not simply a white or black or brown or yellow thing; it applies to any group, whether it's meteorologists, Westboro Baptist Church members, Creationists, Palinites, media Village People, or Moose, Elks, Lions or Masons. Makes it hard to communicate when each side thinks the other side is insane, of course, but again, that's the human condition. Anything for a fight.


Scott, are you rejecting Praeger’s claim that it’s desirable (or, perhaps, possible) to argue from first principles?

Everything else equal, if the absence of one race or ethnic group from one side of political debate is suspect, and invalidates the claims of the political position from which they’re absent, then it seems that the overwhelming presence of a race or ethnic group from the other side is suspect as well. That is, unless you wish to claim that the interests of some groups are more valid than the interests of others.

Which raises the question, is everything else equal? Your premise is that the Tea Party movement represents a particular “white” interest. Praeger’s claim is that the Tea Party movement does in fact represent the self-interest of all Americans, but that African Americans do not recognize this fact. Neither of these claims is self-evident. Your caricature of Praeger as evil or stupid is not persuasive. You should note what Hamilton writes in The Federalist Papers #1:

I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views. Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable--the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

From survey research, we know a few things (and I should admit that this is a bit off my patch and that, as a science, this part of Political Science is progressive, so there may be a study or survey which modifies, contradicts, or invalidates the surveys I’ve read). First, whites and blacks in America disagree about the prevalence, effect, and nature of racism. Second, inequality of outcome is explained in cultural terms by whites (“destruction of the black family”) and by reference to racism by African-Americans. The salience of racism as a factor that determines the public opinion of these groups is, as a result, markedly different. We also know that racial identity is a less salient identifying factor for whites then blacks.

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard Eugene Robinson make a point similar to Praeger’s. Once racism and affirmative action are taken off the table, what does the Democratic Party have to offer the growing African American middle class?

Praeger made no claim regarding the “inherent” abilities of any group, either directly or implicitly. And, as the survey research demonstrates, you can explain the same set of facts without reference to the “inherent” abilities of any particular group. It’s dishonest for you to imply otherwise.


It continually amazes me that people can't grasp how saying minorities are racist isn't a racist thing to say.

"I don't harbor the negative tendency to attribute a negative quality to an entire race of people. No, an entire race of people are the ones with this negative attribute!"

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