Conservatives are, not to overlabor the obvious, marginalized in the
cultural elite, even though they are powerful in the political elite. (At least some of the time, anyway). Obviously there's been an
enormous amount of ink shed about why this is, but my experience of
talking to people who might have liked to go to grad school or work in
Hollywood, but went and did something else instead, is that it is
simply hogwash when liberals earnestly assure me that the disparity
exists mostly because conservatives are different, and maybe dumber. People didn't try because they sensed that it would be both socially
isolating, and professionally dangerous, to be a conservative in
institutions as overwhelmingly liberal as academia and media.
actually fascinating to watch the inversion of liberal and conservative
positions on this one. Liberals essentially seem to be saying that
hey, they don't all get together in the tenure committee and agree to
deny any conservatives tenure. I believe them! But I'm not sure why
they think this means that the disparity is therefore not a problem. As I wrote years ago, somewhere, I doubt many bank hiring committees in
the fifties got together and voted not to hire any negro bank
managers. Yet, somehow, they didn't hire any negro bank managers.
not? Because things like social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms
about what constituted the boundaries of acceptable traits in bank
managers did all the work for them. And I doubt they got many black
applicants, because after all, why on earth would you bother? Better
to try to start a small business, or get a job as a Pullman porter,
where you had a realistic shot at making a decent income. A poll of
black high school students would probably have indicated a very small
number expressing ambitions to fill jobs that realistically simply were
not available to non-white, non-male candidates. But this is not
evidence that there is something different about blacks that makes them
not want to be successful corporate executives.
It is equally
maddening that conservatives understand this about potential
conservative graduate students, but not about potential black CEOs--and
yes, I think this remains a problem today. I'm not sure that
affirmative action is the answer, but that's a different post.
So while I completely agree that there is no one-to-one equivalence between right and left,
as Ta-Nehisi writes, I'm considerably less sure about what that
implies. First of all, I think Ta-Nehisi overstates his case to some
In this specific case, the trouble is that the right's quackery is
not merely peddled by it's fringe, but by some of its most prominent
members. During the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush didn't dispatch a
couple of junior functionaries to Bob Jones University, where
interracial dating was literally banned at the time, he dispatched himself
In 2002, it was not a small time junior congressmen who asserted that
things would have been better under segregation, it was the highest ranking Republican
in the Senate.
In 2005, it was not merely a fringe group of party activists who called for interference in the Terri Schiavo case, it was the Republican president of United States
. It was---yet again--the highest ranking Republican
in the Senate dispensing a neurological diagnosis on a woman in Florida, from his office in Washington.
2007, when Trent Lott announced his resignation from the Senate, it was
not merely state party officials claiming the good senator had been
railroaded, it was his Republican fellow Senators. During the 2008 race, it was Mike Huckabee, runner-up for the presidential nomination of his party, who claimed to not believe in evolution.
neglects to mention that it was also the Republicans who kicked Trent
Lott's butt out of the leadership for saying those things--as they
should have. And while I am in absolutely no way defending Bush's
campaigning at Bob Jones university, I think it has to be noted that
Barack Obama didn't send some minor campaign functionary to attend the
church of a minister who was saying some pretty whacked out things; he sent himself. Every Sunday.