We have discussed aspects of the Civil Rights movement in the Conservative Debate Handbook, in particular in Chapters 5, 13 and 19, although there are parts of others that are also relevant. We have addressed the Leftist origins and direction of the NAACP in an essay on "Civil War, Reconstruction & Creating Hate In America Today." Our personal assessment of the organization and movement should be clear. It should be equally clear, from a number of recent essays, that our personal opinion of George W. Bush has steadily declined over his years in office. Nevertheless, it was pure accident that we happened to hear the President's speech, July 20, 2006, before the annual Convention of the NAACP. Yet hear it, we did, and the speech, in our opinion, laid to rest any notion that President Bush might be an exponent of the American tradition.
In a groveling performance, the President not only clearly identified with the NAACP's historic attack upon traditional values in pursuit of a coerced Socialist/Egalitarian agenda, but he deliberately defamed the memory of the Founding Fathers. The remarks displayed the same confusion of basic concepts, applicable here to domestic issues, which this President had shown, with reference to foreign policy, in his Second Inaugural address. (See March, 2005 Feature below.)
While the President has taken some Conservative stands in the past, his discussion of underlying concepts strongly suggests that he really does not fully understand what he is doing; that, when he is right, it is for cloudy reasons; when wrong, it is because he has come to accept--without analysis or questioning--the underlying, if cloudborne, egalitarian shibboleths of the 20th Century Left. We are forced to the conclusion that George W. Bush simply lacks the intellect to recognize actual issues in fundamental philosophic conflicts between various schools of thought. But let us look more closely at what he had to say to the NAACP to support our point. Skipping over the fawning fluff, we find these examples, which we will number for clarity of comment:
1. For nearly 200 years, our nation failed the test of extending the blessings of liberty to African Americans. Slavery was legal for nearly a hundred years, and discrimination legal in many places for nearly a hundred years more. Taken together, the record placed a stain on America's founding, a stain that we have not yet wiped clean.
When people talk about America's founders they mention the likes of Washington and Jefferson and Franklin and Adams, Too often they ignore another group of founders--men and women and children who did not come to America of their free will, but in chains. These founders literally helped build our country.
The President refers to a "failed test." While that is a rhetorical device, it is conceptually vacuous. The American settler peoples did not risk everything in 1776 to humor some mysterious standard, which would satisfy the American Left 230 years later. Nor did they rise against their former Government to achieve anything for those individuals, of whatever race, that some Americans, at that time, held in bondage.
Nor, however unfortunate, is the fact that Americans did hold bondsmen for an extensive period any more of a stain on the American character, enduring or not, than similar phenomena were a stain on the character of those leaders of the ancient world, who shepherded remarkable developments in civilization and human knowledge, whether in Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, etc.. It is extraordinary that George W. Bush, who has convinced many Americans that he is a dedicated, Biblically directed Christian, would so impugn the character of the Founding Fathers over a system to all intents and purposes no different than that practiced by the Patriarchs in the Bible; one clearly recognized, later, in the Tenth Commandment, which Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai; one largely accepted through the first Eighteen Centuries of the Christian era.
Nor does worthwhile physical labor, performed by slaves in the Colonial and early American eras, equate in any policy making sense, with the formulation of direction provided by "the likes of Washington and Jefferson and Franklin and Adams."
Yet as reprehensible as a President's seeking to revive the slavery issue, 140 years after slavery ended in America, the President's comment on "discrimination" is even more contemptible. The wrong of slavery was, of course, to the slave, who was denied individual freedom. But the harmful effects of slavery were to both slave and master; each being limited in the development of personal responsibility by, in the case of the slave, having all major decisions made for him; in the case of the master, by having others perform tasks perhaps better performed for oneself. But discrimination is an attribute of freedom in one responsible for making his own decisions. It is hardly an extension of the dependent status of the slave. The whole thrust is in the opposite direction.
That President Bush would simply accept the "Civil Rights" movement's mantra that suggests a conflict between "discrimination" and freedom, without even an attempt to actually analyze the dynamics involved, confirms some of the most uncomfortable perceptions, we have gradually developed as to his competence.
Discrimination is about making choices; about the actor (the discriminator) in the particular situation making his or her own choices, rather than having those choices forced upon him. Indeed, the right to discriminate, to decide on the basis of what distinctions, one will make personal choices, goes to the very essence of personal freedom. What the "Civil Rights" movement sought and obtained was a power in Government to take away the freedom of any individual who made decisions not to their liking. That is not an extension of freedom, but its denial! Let no one pretend that this President respects the American tradition of personal, individual, freedom when he considers our previous acceptance of that personal freedom to make choices of which the Government might not approve, a "stain on America's founding, a stain that we have not yet wiped clean."
America was not founded by those who thought that Government should have a right to deny an employer the right to hire someone based upon that employer's personal preferences, whether determined by race, creed, national origin, or any other criteria conceived to be important to that employer. A people who rose up in defiance of a claimed British right to quarter soldiers in private homes, were not about to found a new system premised upon a belief that an all powerful State or Federal Government could tell a landlord to whom he could rent, or to whom he could sell property. America was not founded on the principle that parents would have to look to the Federal Government to determine which schools, or with whom else, their children would attend. Yet, it was just these grossly expanded (usurped) new roles of that Federal Government, which the "Civil Rights" movement sought and obtained in the 1960s. But, again, personal freedom to disagree with the NAACP or the President is not a stain that we have not yet wiped clean.
2. Nearly 200 years into our history as a nation, America experienced a second founding: the Civil Rights movement. Some of those leaders are here. These second founders, led by the likes of Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr., believed in the constitutional guarantees of liberty and equality. They trusted fellow Americans to join them in doing the right thing.
The President's fawning over the "Civil Rights" movement, as a "second founding" of America, is almost a studied insult to those to whom he referred as "the likes of Washington and Jefferson and Franklin and Adams." It tells us nothing valid about either America or the "Civil Rights" movement. The remark does not offer an idealistic vision. Rather it suggests acceptance of a totalitarian mindset, exposing the flawed perceptions and flawed character of an inadequate man.
While our dissent from the values of the "Civil Rights" movement must be clear from a host of articles, our disdain for the President's comments on the subject go more to his evident misunderstanding of the actual issues than to his chosen side. A Socialist who, at least, understands what the debate is actually about, is preferable to a slogan spouting robot, who thinks that he is promoting "liberty" by crushing free will and individual choice in personal matters.
The intelligent Socialist understands that his pursuit of equality is at the expense of liberty. He may exploit--even don street clothes to lead the mob calling for "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"--he understands the game. Not so, one who thinks that the "Civil Rights" movement, Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr., were about "the constitutional guarantees of liberty and equality." First of all, there is a fundamental conflict between liberty and equality, as pursuits. To paraphrase the late R. Carter Pittman, free men are never equal and equal men are never free. The concept of Governmental intervention into a society for the purpose of equalizing the population is inherently totalitarian in concept and application. The Bolshevik and Nazi tyrannies were not aberrations in Socialist thought, they were inevitable consequences of it.
Secondly, there is very little about equality in the Constitution, as written. What there is--such as the equality of States in the United States Senate--is a check, not promotion, of social engineering. To cut to the chase, the "Civil Rights" movement largely relied on the "Equal Protection" clause of the 14th Amendment to pursue compulsory school integration, and on a general confusion as to an American purpose in pursuit of Governmental interference in private employment and housing patterns. That confusion over an imagined purpose, grows out of a misunderstanding of language in the Declaration of Independence, addressed in a Study Guide, accompanying our publication of the "Declaration" (below). The "Equal Protection" argument may be more briefly disposed of.
While we do not believe that the 14th Amendment was ever validly ratified (see last Chapter of Debate Handbook), it is clear that it was never intended to force integrated schools on any community that did not wish to have them. The very Congress, which proposed it, was the same Congress that set up the segregated public schools in the District of Columbia. Moreover, an even broader guarantee of equality as to every right and privilege in the Constitution of Massachusetts had been interpreted by the Supreme Judicial Court of that State, in the Sarah Roberts Case in 1849, to allow separate schools for White and Negro children. The lawyers in the Congress that proposed the 14th Amendment and segregated the District's school system, accepted the Roberts case as the applicable Case Law, which would determine the legality of their actions.
The President has every right to disagree with traditional policies and concepts, although that hardly qualifies him as a "Conservative." He is completely out of line with any facet of the Conservative tradition, when he imputes a "stain" on the American founding, because the mainstream of Americans rejected his present thinking throughout most of our history. As for his tribute to Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr., as new Founding Fathers? He should not be allowed to skate on the fact that most Americans under forty no longer realize that the named individuals were not just radical on racial issues. In their era, they identified with the whole gamut of Leftist politics, in virtual ideological war with the established values of the American experience.
Moreover, with respect to the President's claim, stammered out in one of the campaign debates in 2000, that he was a "Strict Constructionist" on Constitutional questions: A Professor of History, Alfred H. Kelly described in a speech on December 28, 1961, how he worked with Thurgood Marshall to prepare "an adequate gloss on the fateful events of 1866 sufficient to convince the Court that we had something of a historical case," in order to help the NAACP to obfuscate the historic evidence and mislead the Supreme Court in the School integration cases, as to the intent of the framers of the 14th Amendment. [U.S. News & World Report, pp. 86 - 88, Feb. 5, 1962] Instead of being appointed to the Supreme Court by Lyndon Johnson, many true "Strict Constructionists" thought the man should have been disbarred. As it was, Marshall voted with the Court Left in virtually every major case, where traditional American values were overturned, throughout his judicial career.
After a great deal more fluff, the President took up the subject of his response to the situation on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane "Katrina":
3. So we've been working together in helping the citizens along the Gulf Coast recover from one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history. . . . . I meant what I said, and I want to thank the United States Congress for joining with the administration. We committed over $110 billion to help the people in the Gulf Coast. [Note, the original pledge for New Orleans reconstruction was $200,000,000,000, but the sum now "committed" remains irresponsible.] That's money to go to build new homes, good schools. Bruce and I talked a lot about how do we make sure the contracting that goes on down there in the Gulf Coast goes to minority-owned businesses.
The road to recovery is long and difficult, but we will continue to work together to implement the strategy. . . . We've got a plan, and we've got a commitment. And the commitment is not only to work together, but it's a commitment to the people of the Gulf Coast of the United States, to see to it that their lives are better and brighter than before the storm.
We have responded in some depth to the President's original plan for New Orleans in our October, 2005 Feature, below. Here, we would respond only to this further revelation into the mental processes of George W. Bush in these comments to the NAACP. Here the same President, who a few minutes before described the traditional right of an American to discriminate in his personal decisions and associations as "a stain on America's founding," talking "a lot" with a leader of the NAACP about how do we make sure the contracting that goes on down there in the Gulf Coast goes to minority-owned businesses. Apparently, this President's disdain for discrimination does not extend to his own efforts to cater to the agenda of his new friends.
There is also an implied "commitment," in the quoted language, to one of the great myths of social engineering; the idea that you can solve one group's problem by showering them with other people's money. Certainly, refugees from the flooded New Orleans slums, housed for months at Federal expense in nice hotels, may have enjoyed a higher standard of living, for a time, after the disaster than before. So too, moving people into fancier new housing, at the expense of the taxpayers, might temporarily brighten their lives. Yet the history of Socialist redistribution of wealth projects does not suggest a lasting benefit.
The particular history of the "Civil Rights" movement--the President's "second founding" of America--has been to undermine the incentives, social infra-structure and progress of American Negroes, with catastrophic consequences to the Negro family and the self-respect of Negro youth. For all of his fawning, the President, here, only offers more of what has already failed; an approach, which has precipitated a multi-generational human disaster. Contrast this approach with the wise counsel of Booker T. Washington, offered in a link below.
We skip over the President's attempts to justify the "No Child Left Behind Act," intruding the Federal Government still deeper into local education. The program, of course, has no Constitutional foundation, thus further giving the lie to the pretense that George W. Bush is a "Strict Constructionist." We discuss relevant educational and legal considerations in Chapters 5 and 28 of the Conservative Debate Handbook, also linked below. The President's comments to the NAACP show the same shallow grasp of the problem he has shown in the past, thus adding little by way of a different perspective to our other comments in this review. We turn, then, to what, at first blush, almost sounded like a lone dose of Conservatism in the President's address:
4. I hope we can work together in an America where more people become owners, own something, something that they can call their own. From our nation's earlier days, ownership has been at the heart of our country. Unfortunately, for most of our history, African Americans were excluded from the dream. That's the reality of our past.
The right to own property is certainly one of the most basic aspects of American society; the pursuit of property, fundamental to the American tradition. To be fair to the President, while in recent generations Government has been largely an impediment to the individual's quest for property, such measures as the Homestead Act, in the days of the frontier, contributed to many families taking an initial step up the ladder to affluence. But the President does not propose allowing poor families to settle on Federal Lands in the West, and rise by their own efforts thereafter. Rather, his further remarks suggest more direct subsidies by the Federal Government to help those whom he calls "African Americans"; including discriminatory loans for down payments and closing costs, and for racially defined businesses. Does such discrimination "stain" the President's legacy? Is there much left to stain?
The President's statement that "African Americans" (Negroes) were excluded from owning property is simply not true. Even in the slave states, during slavery, there were free Negro property owners--including more than a few, who themselves owned slaves. While it used to be legal to deed property with restrictive covenants, which effectively prevented defined groups from acquiring housing in particular neighborhoods, these never translated into a general prohibition of ownership. Why does this President feel a need to exaggerate previous disabilities--to promote an ongoing sense of resentment--among those whom he addresses? Does he have any common sense, or is his purpose pure demagoguery? Does he even understand reality? Or has he become simply a parrot for agitators, intent upon dismantling the America we inherited from the true Founding Fathers?
5. Owning a home is a way to build wealth. Owning a home is to give something they can leave behind to their children. See, one of the concerns I have is that because of the past, there hasn't been enough assets that a family can pass on from one generation to the next. And we've got to address that problem. And a good way to do so is through home ownership. Owning a home gives people a stake in their neighborhood, a stake in the future.
Again, the first impression is Conservative. Our problem with the statement is two-fold: Increasing the role of Government is not a way to pursue such goals. The stake to be passed on as the stake in a neighborhood, to be meaningful, must be earned through the efforts of the individual families involved. Government subsidies or meddling, more often than not, will only destroy incentives to do what is actually needed. But, back in the context of the rest of the President's speech, the most egregious problem is that the "second founding" of America, in the "Civil Rights" movement, has been totally destructive of the idyllic objective he seeks to picture.
The essential medium for passing property from one generation to the next, as in maintaining healthy neighborhoods, is the family. This is true whether you are dealing with Caucasians (Whites), Negroes or any other race that is able to acquire material possessions. And the historic impact of the "Civil Rights" movement and the values it was identified with--values to which this President has now pledged support--have been more destructive of the Negro family than had anything connected with the history Mr. Bush derides. Consider the sequence of events, and decide for yourself.
In the 1890s, when the self taught educator Booker T. Washington came to the fore as the leading spokesman for American Negroes, 80% of Negro births were legitimate, in family units. Booker T. Washington never sought to blame others for Negro poverty--nor to pursue dependence upon Government;-- rather he sought to meet problems with self-development and individual responsibility. In short, to seek and achieve a better life in the same way that the White settlers to America had sought and achieved a better life.
A group of White Socialists set up the NAACP, in 1909, to promote a confrontational approach to American race relations, which Booker T. Washington had rejected. However, although Washington died in 1915, his influence remained effective in American Negro society, well into the "New Deal" of Franklin Roosevelt (1933 - 1945). Under that influence, the Negro family structure had improved. By 1930, over 85% of all Negro births were into traditional family units.
What followed were a series of sociological disasters. While not all attributable to the "Civil Rights" movement, they are clearly attributable to the change in direction, which the NAACP and other organizations on the Left actively promoted. Certainly the ADC program, adopted in the late 1930s to grant a Federal subsidy, while taking the stigma out of having babies out of wedlock, was a significant contributor. Yet, by the early 1950s, the Negro illegitimacy rate was still below 20%; the White rate below 2%. The true explosion took place after the triumph of the "Civil Rights" movement, which deliberately attacked the importance of lines of descent (racial identity), and by implication continuity, undermining perhaps the most powerful motivator for constructive behavior.
Thus the White rate, 1.86% at the time the Brown vs. Board of Education decisions launched the quest for compulsory school integration in the mid-1950s, rose to 2.29% in 1960, and 3.96% in 1965, a year after the passage of the "Civil Rights Act" of 1964 (even while invention of the birth control pill made it easier to prevent undesirable conception). The Negro rate, which had risen to 20.24% by 1955, went to 21.58% in 1960, and to 26.32% in 1965. Obviously something was undermining the family structure in America. But Mr. Bush's "second founders" believed in "equality." And if everyone was "equal," there was obviously less inducement to adhere to the standards of those once perceived to be better than society's failures--or for any girl to listen to her conservative grandmother. But the breakdown was just getting started in the 1960s!
By 1999, the year before this President was elected, 22.1% of all White births were out-of-wedlock, almost 12 times the rate at the time of the Brown decision. In that same year, 69.1% of all Negro births were out of wedlock, almost 3 1/2 times the rate at the time of Brown. Had the newly elected President Bush had any comprehension of social dynamics--of cause & effect--he would not have encouraged a mindset, which for half a century or more, has been systematically dismantling the instinctive values which motivate human progress. One can--and certainly should--seek to promote good will and kindly interaction between the races. That is no reason, whatsoever, to undermine anyone's identity with his origins, lines of descent and cultural heritage. The President's "second founding" of America was equivalent to taking a wrecking ball to an historic shrine.
Booker T. Washington wrote a book Up From Slavery, to chronicle his own self-directed progress. A fitting biography of the NAACP and the "Civil Rights" movement might be entitled Down From Responsibility. It would chronicle the deliberate undermining of a people's hopes and potential--two people's hopes and potential, for White Americans have lost just as truly as have Negro Americans.
6. In the century since the NAACP was founded, our nation has grown more prosperous and more powerful. It's also grown more equal and just. Yet this work is not finished. That's what I'm here to say. The history of America is one of constant renewal. And each generation has a responsibility to write a new chapter in the unfinished story of freedom.
That story began with the founding promise of equality and justice and freedom for all men. And that promise has brought hope and inspiration to all peoples across the world. Yet our founding was also imperfect because the human beings that made our founding were imperfect. Many of the same founders who signed their names to a parchment declaring that all men are created equal permitted whole categories of human beings to be excluded from those words. The future of our founding, to live up to its own words, opened a wound that has persisted to today.
Enough, Mr. President! For one with George W. Bush's intellectual endowments to be lecturing on the imperfections of the Founding Fathers ought to rankle even the most passive American patriot, as well as any objective student of history or human psychology. But, again, enough! For anyone who does not understand how clearly the President has misrepresented the founding concepts of America, take a few minutes to read the Declaration of Independence, linked below, with the brief study guide included. Draw your own conclusions. America is too important for us to allow her to be destroyed by fatuous men spewing slogans in high places. It was in understanding the dynamics of human interaction that we gained Liberty. Eternal vigilance, alone, will not preserve Liberty. We need to better comprehend the nature of the underlying threat.