"I wonder why other black Republicans delude themselves?"
That tweet, in response to my January 12 piece for The BRAD BLOG about my bizarre ride to the dark side of American right-wing politics, was the shortest reaction to my article, yet perhaps the most profound.
It was every bit as profound as a 2011 remark from one of the many progressive voices I was once taught to hate...
That year, actress and activist Janeane Garofalo was assailed in the right-wing press for asserting that lunatic GOP presidential contender Herman Cain suffered from a political version of "Stockholm Syndrome." During an interview on Current TV, she observed:
I wouldn't be surprised if someone did pay Cain, the self-professed "Koch Brother from Another Mother," to make his ill-fated run for the Presidency as a show of faux-diversity in the GOP, as Garofalo theorized.
However, I can't help wondering if there is indeed merit to Garofalo's suggestion that Cain simply wanted to curry favor with people in political, socioeconomic and media power (an argument she once made about former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele).
As I mentioned in the January 12 piece at BRAD BLOG, I used to resent the suggestion that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was obsessed with appeasing wealthy white people; I still remember being upset by the now-defunct Emerge Magazine's depiction of Thomas as a lawn jockey in 1996. However, thirteen years later, I found myself equally upset by what could only be described as minstrelsy on a certain cable network --- minstrelsy that seemed to justify progressive skepticism of black Republicans.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was not invited by Fox "News" Channel producers to appear on a "very special episode" of Glenn Beck's program featuring a coterie of black Republicans and his trip to Harlem in November 2009. However, I would have turned the invitation down had I received one. I had already soured on Beck by that point, disgusted by his July 2009 assertion that President Obama hated white people. As I argued with now-former friends, Beck's argument was nonsensical on its face, and did nothing to convince non-ideological Americans that Obama's political vision was flawed. Beck, I argued, should have suggested that Obama had a chip on his shoulder regarding "conservatives", since that assertion could be supported by pointing to Obama's campaign rhetoric about the wrong-headedness of the right. However, Beck asserted that Obama had a chip on his shoulder regarding "white people", something Beck could not possibly back up.
Seeing the various black Republican think-tank operatives kissing up to Beck on that November 2009 program made me itch. It was as though they were actually honored to be in his presence. It horrified me. Beck wasn't an intellectual. He wasn't a scholar. He was a shock jock. And what was the point of this "very special episode," anyway? If Fox wanted to make the point that not all African-Americans agree with Obama, why not give a black Republican a regular prime-time show? Armstrong Williams was surely available,provided, of course, you paid him enough money.
I couldn't escape the sense that this show was about Beck trying to visually prove he didn't dislike African-Americans (especially in the wake of his ugly attacks on White House advisor Van Jones), and that the black Republican think-tank types had prostituted themselves to help Beck make his point. I also couldn't help thinking that if I were an African-American progressive, I'd look upon these guys with complete contempt for not having the guts to condemn Beck for his vicious rhetorical assaults on Obama and Jones.
In a December 1997 piece about the black Republican economist Glenn Loury --- who had been chased out of the conservative movement for questioning right-wing orthodoxy about affirmative action and the "War on Drugs" --- New York Times writer Brent Staples observed:
The movement succeeded largely because it was focused --- and very well financed. Over the last 15 years, foundations and think tanks like Olin, Heritage, Hoover and Scaife have spent tens of millions of dollars boosting their positions through books, papers and intellectuals-for-hire. The rush of new money created a class of professionals who live very well cranking out ideology masked as disinterested scholarship.
Recruits were offered money, power and celebrity in exchange for ideological allegiance. But defectors who want out of the far right and into the respectable middle are peddling a more sentimental story. One after another, they have portrayed themselves as principled dupes who found out only too late that they had fallen in with zealots. The political writer Michael Lind said this in last year's manifesto, ''Up From Conservatism.'' David Brock, the former hit man for The American Spectator, said it again at his departure from the right last summer. But no one has gotten quite the mileage of the economist Glenn Loury, whose black skin and formidable intellect were weapons for the Reagan White House and the 80's think-tank set...
He turned right, he claims, after being excluded by black liberals for writing that the underclass was less a product of racism than of moral decay. After a decade on the right, he fled left again when he suddenly discovered that his chums had a dictatorial ''party line'' on race and would brook no dissent.
This is too pat to be true, especially for a man of Mr. Loury's considerable intelligence. Race-baiting, Willie Hortonizing and homophobia were part of the package from the start and actually in fuller use in the 80's than now. That Mr. Loury failed to detect a ''conservative party line'' on race while cozying up to the Reagan Administration --- and as a star on the conservative lecture circuit --- is simply implausible. It seems likely that he ignored the evidence of his senses to embrace the celebrity he considered his due as one of the first black stars on the right.
Along with Clarence Thomas and the economist Thomas Sowell, Mr. Loury had both the good and bad fortune to be in the first wave. Desperate to immunize itself against the charge of racism, the conservative establishment provided enormous professional rewards to these three. These men suffered grueling and unfair abuse from black liberals who cast them as ''race traitors.'' But judging from Mr. Loury's experience, the most tortuous part of all was playing the role of the token --- the lone black person in the room who is scripted to smile and nod his assent at the appropriate moment.
I re-read that piece after watching Beck's bit of minstrelsy, and couldn't help noting that twelve years later, Beck had an entire room full of black people who were scripted to smile and nod their assent at the appropriate moments --- an entire room of people who had issues, perhaps the issues Garofalo would describe the next year.
Did the Stockholm Syndrome that was so clearly on display in that ghastly Beck program play a role in my own journey to the right? I may never truly know the answer, though I'd love to get Garofalo's take.
What I do know is this: for all the things I regret about my involvement with the conservative movement and the Republican Party, I'll never have to regret kissing Glenn Beck's ass --- because, at the very least, I had enough sense not to do that to begin with.
D.R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer and a former contributor to the conservative website Human Events Online. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, ClimateCrocks.com, FrumForum.com, the Ripon Forum, Truth-Out.org, TheNextRight.com, and BookerRising.com. In addition, he hosted a Blog Talk Radio program, The Notes, from August 2009 to June, 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here: @DRTucker.