by Wendell Talley
We’ve done just that and the resulting American aristocracy has turned malevolent, rapacious and low.
Of course we have an aristocracy. Every nation does. In the United States we don’t overtly recognize it otherwise the hot dogs wouldn’t go down as smoothly on the Fourth. Instead we mutter about “the elites” or “ruling elites”. Any word but the A word.
An aristocrat in John Adams’ definition, by way of Russell Kirk, is any person that can command the votes of two persons — his own, and another man’s. In other words they are persons of influence whether by nature, by birth, by education, by wealth, by character, by cunning or by notoriety. No one will deny the existence of such people in America.
Two large problems fester within our unacknowledged aristocracy and they need to be addressed if we are to have a healthy and thriving public square. Generally speaking, our elites are 1. obscene and 2. of a narrow political persuasion.
One type of obscenity — the $15M payoff to Meg Whitman for her role in guiding Hewlett-Packard with all the grace and skill found in the Hindenburg landing — I have discussed before.
The other type is just as retch-inducing but more accepted. It is commanded by the notorious division of our aristocratic class (Gaga, Kardashian, Sheen, et al.) With all of the subtlety of a streaker at a funeral this class of elite has used every available media tool to amplify behavior that fifty years ago was considered boorish, at best, and perverted in the main. The danger posed by these jokers lies in their softening the view of destructive character traits that will kill, pauperize or imprison an average person. The unchecked aggression celebrated by rappers — from gunplay to womanizing — is the bane of ghettoes coast to coast. Using a sex tape as a CV worked for Kim Kardashian but the mentality that uses such a ploy is a flaw every sensible father would want rooted out of his daughter. As Gertrude Himmelfarb has written, the wealthy can long sustain a lifestyle that would ruin a poor man within a week.
I’m no prude. I understand people have always done what the culture warriors impotently rail against. The difference is that in the 50s when Ingrid Bergman had an affair with Roberto Rossellini she was hectored from the public eye for five years. Today we would have seen vivid evidence of the Bergman-Rossellini tryst. The former can be reactionary and merciless in its extremes but it sets a useful boundary. The latter is viewed as more liberal and enlightened but it obliterates needed social custom.
This is where conservatives part ways with our Libertarian friends. No society marinated in slime can remain free. A debauched people is not a people capable of self-government. They will eventually demand and deserve a tyrant.
The second issue with our ruling grandees is that in important ways they share common political interests that are in profound conflict with us commoners. This is most clearly seen in the debate on illegal immigration which cuts vertically across party lines. One side views open borders as a theoretical question of fairness and universal human rights. The other as a question of being priced out of the labor market, a question of life as a self-reliant citizen or life as a journeyman mooch on the government dole.
And, generally speaking again, to the extent the aristocrat is grounded in academia, law, media, finance or entertainment he is a uniform and reflexive Leftist. Individuals are entitled to their opinions but when whole institutions are under the sway of one ideology it breeds corruption, tribalism and turns politics into a low grade civil war.
All of this leaves us with a coarsened culture, a disaffected electorate and a major political party that believes it has a “branding” issue rather than a candidate/communication/consultant issue.
The black aristocracy is a gleaming illustration in microcosm of the two problems with American aristocracy outlined above 1. Its unseemliness 2. Its political uniformity.
Appraise black America’s current existence in obscenity from top to bottom and from back when up until now. From Dizzy and Duke to Jay Z and Lil’ Wayne. From jacketed, serious men dedicated to excellence to gold-toothed, marble-mouthed vulgarians who don’t know how to properly wear a hat. From married living to baby mama drama. From King to Sharpton. From Ralph Ellison to Tyler Perry. The two generation trend has been unrelentingly downward. And I’ll note for the material optimists out there that the increase in black America’s monetary wealth over those two generations has only been outpaced by its moral degeneracy. We now face the insane proposition that a large minority of American citizens take gangsters and pimps as their cultural heroes over scholars and entrepreneurs.
Put it this way: my great-grandfather (and yours) would be astounded that there is an entire class of black people who get rich by calling other black people Nigger. And that they are excused by another class of blacks who say it’s ok because the name callers use an -az ending to the slur instead of -er and because it’s said in a rhyme.
Appraise black America’s monolithic and unquestioning loyalty to the Democratic Party. To the confounding of many pundits, neither President Obama’s stance on gay marriage nor the staggering unemployment rate for blacks dented blacks enthusiasm for Mr. Obama. Despite (or maybe because of) a catastrophic first term the black aristocracy (think: Oprah, Magic, Spike) held Obama tighter. Samuel Jackson cut campaign ads for him. Chris Rock and Jamie Foxx were undaunted supporters of the Obama administration. At times, Whoopi Goldberg seemed seconds away from physically attacking people in order to defend Obama’s honor.
The man had done nothing except be identifiably black and have a D next to his name on the voting ballot. And, really, that’s all it takes when the influential are writing the story on your behalf. Obama could have given his campaign speeches standing in front of a burning cross while wearing a Klan hood and he still would have outpolled Romney in black precincts.
The Obama campaign and Democrats, in the main, do not have to hire consultants to operate an air campaign to get the black vote. The black aristocracy does it for them. I spent election morning listening to black radio stations. Between songs (and sometimes over songs) the deejays were busy whipping votes for Obama’s reelection. They were much more effective than any campaign ad could have been.
This is where the hapless, hopelessly white and perennially unhip GOP staggers onto the stage. The Republican Party surveys a landscape of violent, chaotic and morally atrophied ghettoes from sea to shining sea and concludes that the kingmakers in such a setting are pastors. Who in the world thinks a populace that leads the league in incarceration rates, bastardy, and accounts for 30% of all abortions is under the sway of Gospel preachers?
Tellingly, the Obama campaign didn’t. They relied on “barber shop and beauty salons” “Condo captains” along with “Faith captains” (i.e. laymen) to corral the black vote. They did not take it for granted. They organized with people in the neighborhood.
To turn the black vote, the GOP and interested conservatives (there are some, aren’t there?) are going to have to learn a fundamental lesson. It is not a matter of consultant driven media buys versus grassroots activism in the case of the black voter. What is necessary is to have a relationship with the black elite so that they function as consultants or guides that will facilitate the building of an effective grassroots presence in black districts.
The black aristocracy mirrors the larger aristocratic class — it is unhealthily monolithic in its political allegiance. It will not do to plead for votes on behalf of Republicans. You might as well ask Kobe Bryant to knowingly score baskets for the opponent. The Republican Party is not black America’s team. Don’t sit down with the black elite while wearing the Republican uniform.
Most of the black aristocracy do not enjoy their position by virtue of birth or family tie. They worked their way to the platform they now enjoy. They have an understanding of what success in America requires. They care about the plight of black lower class if for no other reason than many of them are the first generation in their family to escape it. They know the way of the belt-less, gold-toothed crowd is a crippling folly. They may not be credentialed historians but they know the history of their families and their neighborhoods. They know it has not always been shot through with dysfunction.
We know, and have the numbers to prove, that the federal government creates dependence not independence. It creates clients for its services not functioning citizens.Conservatives need to sit down with these folks and be question askers and note takers. Find a way to help them effectively help the people they care about and conservatism will get a hearing.
Developing an emancipationist sentiment, as Ishmael Reed puts it, would serve conservatives well if we are to expand from people hearing our ideas on education reform, prison reform and economic reform to people believing in and following our ideas. The emancipationist sentiment requires being on the scene when a black mother is thrown in jail for attempting to send her children to a better school. It requires ears and eyes in the places we don’t go.
If conservatives don’t like the narrative being spun about us in black neighborhoods we will have to engage the story tellers to change it.
Wendell blogs at The Talley Sheet
Author Wendell Talley
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