Chauncey DeVega has a provocative piece up at Salon on why he called Herman Cain’s CPAC speech a minstrel show.
[T]here’s no shortage of black conservatives who make a living among the pundit classes as human parrots for the right –popular for their novelty and unwilling to offer sustained critiques of policies that may, in fact, be deleterious to communities of color and the common good.
In my original essay, I referred to Cain and other black conservatives as “race minstrels” and “mascots” for the white conservative imagination. I stand by this observation. Whenever Cain and others have an opportunity to engage in “real talk” among their ideological compatriots — to make a public, critical intervention against the racial hostility that drives contemporary American conservatism — they instead stand mute or enable this hostility. When the opportunity to slap down the notion that black people with whom Republicans disagree are “brainwashed” or (in a disgusting abuse of the shared history and legacy of chattel slavery) “on the plantation,” the Herman Cains of the world encourage this lie as one more way of signaling that that they are actually the “authentic” voices of Black America.
I would argue that, while this is correct, it’s an example of how conservatism operates that is only extreme because of the centrality of race in American politics. ADL head Abe Foxman pulls his punches on Glenn Beck’s anti-Semitism because he sees Fox as conservative allies; Charles Lane, who sees anti-Semitism in nearly every statement a liberal has ever made about Israel, openly celebrates Beck for the same reason. Similarly, the Catholic church hierarchy keeps its mouth shut about the death penalty, endless wars, and the demonization of the poor; I suspect that if Glenn Beck ever gets on a tear against “evil Papists” (if he hasn’t already), they won’t squawk much about that either.
I realize these aren’t quite the same, because Abe Foxman and Joe Ratzinger don’t speak at CPAC, but there’s something about conservative love for Chris Christie that’s not so different from the reaction to Cain:
A left-wing friend of mine jokes that conservatives are “the party of affect”: meaning that conservatives tend to care much more how a politician speaks than what a candidate says. Christie almost perfectly exemplifies this rule. If he were a soft-spoken, conciliatory Northeastern budget-balancer, he’d be dismissed as a Bill Weld/Mike Castle RINO. But instead, he’s an-in-your-face confrontationalist. So he can favor handgun control and still be the Coulter choice for president. Just so long as he’s rude about it.
Conservatives like having a fat guy who looks and talks like one of the “Sopranos” as one of their own, even if he’s not that far right on many issues. And he’s happy to be claimed, even though he doesn’t agree with the real nutters on many issues.
Commitment to the People’s Glorious Conservative Revolution takes precedence over any kind of loyalty to your own ethnic or socioeconomic group and over your precise positions on many issues too. When John Galt returns and establishes gulch-on-earth, all will be as one, the black, the white, the Christian, the non-Christian, even those who favor gun control, as long as they hold the one true faith of conservatism.
Update. “Loyalty to your ethnic group” may not be the right way of phrasing it. But I’ll say what I said in the comments. I do think people should remember where they came from. I don’t think my Irish aunts and uncles should be helping the same fuckheads who called their grandfathers micks fuck over some new group of immigrants, either. I don’t.