“The Party of Calhoun”

As expected, The New Republic has under its new owner, ex-Facebooker Chris Hughes, developed a keener grasp of the web. Several days ago the magazine leaked the cover of the forthcoming issue — entirely white, in a nod to the Republican Party — and conservatives flipped out.

Well, the story’s up and it’s a good one. With the subhed “Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people,” the piece covers much familiar ground (the Republican shift on civil rights from pro to con and the National Review‘s ugly role in that devolution) but the guts of Sam Tanenhaus’s argument — and the piece’s real value — concerns the state of the Grand Old Party. (Not incidentally, Tanenhaus is no liberal and is, in fact, William Buckley’s biographer.)

Conservatives, he posits, have “fully embraced” the politics of nullification fetishist John C. Calhoun, whose theories have become “the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority.”

Tanenhaus concludes:

Race will always be a complex issue in America. There is no total cleansing of an original sin. But the old polarizing politics is a spent force. The image of the “angry black man” still purveyed by sensationalists such as Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza is anachronistic today, when blacks and even Muslims, the most conspicuous of “outsider” groups, profess optimism about America and their place in it. A politics of frustration and rage remains, but it is most evident within the GOP’s dwindling base—its insurgents and anti-government crusaders, its “middle-aged white guys.” They now form the party’s one solid bloc, its agitated concurrent voice, struggling not only against the facts of demography, but also with the country’s developing ideas of democracy and governance. We are left with the profound historical irony that the party of Lincoln—of the Gettysburg Address, with its reiteration of the Declaration’s assertion of equality and its vision of a “new birth of freedom”—has found sustenance in Lincoln’s principal intellectual and moral antagonist.

Pour yourself a mug of coffee — I’m on my third — and read the whole thing.