All politics are tribal. And so it follows that all politics are ethnic, however and at whatever scale you decide to define the ethnos. Race in part generates and delineates tribal identities. Tribal identities drive politics. Them’s the breaks. Not everyone’s willing to admit to this state of affairs, of course. But trying to play the game of politics while studiously ignoring the racial warp thereof is like trying to beat someone at Risk without acknowledging the defender’s-advantage mechanic. It’s going to be much more difficult than anticipated. Your hopes will be frustrated. Battles that you reckoned you had in the bag will turn into spectacular losses. There will be some factor in play, some valence that you can’t quite put your finger on, making nonsense of all your carefully laid plans.
In the current political milieu of the US, almost all of the major ethnic groups spare themselves such troubles. They understand they are caught up, to one extent or another, in ethnic conflict. They talk and behave accordingly.
Black Americans do so in the most highly visible and most frequently histrionic manner. This is true of the lowliest Fergusonian who took to the streets (and through the smashed windows of gas stations and beauty salons) because a white police officer justifiably shot his black thug assailant. It’s also true of the blacks who occupy some of the highest offices of the land, such as President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Senator Chappelle-Nadal, et al. They all see themselves as vying for power as a race. They advocate openly for their own people’s interests, over and above appeals to the common good. Their propositions are couched in terms of what is good for their own. Racial outgroups are vilified as need arises and without apology.
Black Americans aren’t the only ethnic group in America that does these things, of course. Like I mentioned above, almost all of them do. Jewish interest groups, for instance, are more richly funded, better organized, and far more deeply entrenched than black ones. It’s just not considered polite to point that out. Asians, Mexicans (and other recent “migrants” from south of the border), Indians of both varieties, Arabs, hell, the Somalians inexplicably residing in Minnesota—they all conceive of an “us” and a “them” that track fairly accurately along racial lines, and when it comes vote time or protest march time or time for a candlelight vigil they galvanize in favor of that “us.” Doesn’t matter if it comes at a cost to “them.” Even white liberals seem to recognize the ethnic dynamics of our national politics. They’re as quick as anyone to point out that it’s white people with their big bad privilege and their evil racist institutions and their “troubled legacy” of colonialism who are the problem. They know who the enemies of progress are and they can identify those enemies by skin color.
(Well… skin color and state of origin. But who’s keeping track of such niceties? Certainly not the minorities who soak up and internalize this “Kill whitey!” rhetoric. I mean take the “Black Brunch” activists. They sure as heck aren’t mobilizing across the South and storming Waffle Houses full of NASCAR fans. No. They’re going after hipster restaurants in blue metropolises, vegan-friendly lunch spots chock full of dutiful Obama voters. Don’t they know that’s friendly fire? Oh well.)
My object here is not to bemoan contemporary hypocrisies about race, like the one that frames explicit ethnic pride and advocacy as natural and just for every group in America except whites. But neither do I look down on anyone who feels aggrieved by such a state of affairs. It’s just that I don’t see much use in lamenting them. With whom are we going to lodge our complaints? It’s part and parcel of my thesis that political matters are not arbitrated in the rarefied air of philosophical discourse but in the complex and messy realm of tribal loyalties, of human biases, of competing interests. Whom do you expect to give you your fair hearing?
My object is simply to point out the fact that everyone on the political scene in America acts on the understanding that politics have an ethnic or a racial dimension. Everyone except for white conservatives that is, except for middle America. (I’m not saying that there aren’t white conservatives who recognize that politics have said dimensions, only that there are no conservatives with anything resembling mainstream clout who act on them, much less with the assurance and forthrightness that their counterparts from other demographics do.) I just want to point out that, by all appearances, white conservatives exists in a totally different world than black politicians and Jewish lobbyists and Mexican activists for immigration reform. White conservatives exist in a world where it’s a virtue to be colorblind and meritocratic. Everyone else exists in a world where it’s a virtue to advance the interests of their families, their communities, their children’s children.
The reasons for this anomaly are complex and beyond the scope of this post (at nd probably even the keen perspicacious intellect of your humble correspondent) to untangle. I’d assume our current straits owe much to the hostile takeover of our colleges in the mid-twentieth century. Ever since, the ideas trickling out of them and into society at large have been hostile to the culture and even the existence of middle America. The discourse these occupied colleges gave rise to, with its shiny array of freshly-minted slur terms to demonize all defenses of middle America, has been particularly effective in bludgeoning any conservative who bucks the trend of pretending that we live in the aforementioned monochromatic universe. But for my money this is one of those huge, multidimensional phenomena. There are many other factors, some of them, like the loss of community that accompanied the rise of nationwide mobility for an educated middle class, completely devoid of insidious ideological motivations.
Nevertheless, the current situation is one in which American conservatives operate at a tremendous disadvantage. When Washington decides that it’s time to throw open the borders and flood the nation with cheap labor and cheaper votes, conservatives (it’s especially important here not to confuse DC Republicans with conservatives) have to engage in all sorts of proxy arguments to object to their own forthcoming inundation. We have to make economic arguments, to harp on epidemiological concerns, to appeal to currently existing (and ritually ignored) immigration laws (the tried-and-true “But you’re not playing by the rules!” tack). We have to engage in these sophistries because the most obvious and immediate argument against immigration, i.e. “mass immigration will further strain, displace, and distort the America our grandparents intended for our grandchildren,” is unavailable to us. And against all these prodigies of intellectual effort, our opponents merely have to appeal to the welfare of the ethnic groups they’re importing. “Look at these poor people. They deserve a spot at the table.” When you observe the lopsidedness of these rules of engagement, the fact that we’re losing doesn’t seem so surprising.
The question then becomes, of course, “well how do you get white conservatives to acknowledge that all politics are ethnic and act accordingly?” And I’ve got a harebrained scheme or two of my own in that regard. But for now I just wanted to point out that American conservatives have allowed themselves to be severely handicapped in the politics game, in large part because they’ve agreed to ignore (or at least to exclude from their rhetoric) one of the fundamental mechanics of that game, while their opponents have made no such concession. I don’t think white nationalism necessarily follows from these observations. But I do think that in these dread latter days any “conservatism” that doesn’t go to the mat for the ethnicities who historically originated and maintained the culture they want to “conserve” is, as the scare quotes might suggest, not worth the name.