The most painful cognitive dissonance in politics is when the Democratic Party bien pensants are faced with black conservatives (with a small ‘c’). It’s an impressive list: Ben Carson, Condoleeza Rice, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Allen West, Larry Elder, Kevin Jackson, Deroy Murdock, Mia Love and plenty more. Indeed while some of them have had similar middle class upbringings to Barack Obama, a significant number – such as Thomas, Carson and Sowell – were born into very straitened circumstances, more redolent of the kind of impoverishment, discrimination and social deprivation claimed by Black Lives Matter, than anything experienced by the POTUS himself.
Thomas is the best case in point of how the Dems and media liberals deal with this issue – they try and destroy it, whilst trying to circumvent the charge of racism. Thomas is a truly outstanding legal mind. He sits on the Supreme Court, and while all of its members are great writers, thinkers and dissenters in different ways – the utimate being the recently deceased Antonin Scalia – Thomas remains a brave and clear sighted challenger of ‘liberal’ interpretation of the laws and the Constitution.
In 1991, when Thomas was a controversial nominee for the SCOTUS (controversial because of his conservatism, not his legal skills), he was accused of sexual harassment more than 8 years earlier, by Anita Hill, a black colleague. You can read fair summaries of it all here and here. Who knows what the truth was, but it bore the marks of the kind of frenzied opposition that had earlier finished off the SCOTUS nomination of (white) conservative Robert Bork, led by revolting ladykiller Ted Kennedy. Even if Hill’s allegations were all true, they still pale in comparison with the extensive documented antics of Ted and of course, Bill Clinton. But they weren’t conservatives.
Anyway, people can make their own minds up about the rights and wrongs of these nominations, but Thomas has done 25 years at the top now, and his mind is as sharp as ever. In the appalling world of no platforming, safe spaces and snowflakes (an NUS defence of which is here), his intellectual rigour is more needed than ever. I quote the following Thomas lines from 2001, which are even more relevant today than 15 years ago. Bizarrely, these words in praise of free speech and open debate from an elderly black conservative American judge trace a direct line to the free speech ex-Marxist libertarians of Spiked Online, exemplified by the awesome Brendan O’Neill. A noble lineage.
Today, no one can honestly claim surprise at the venomous attacks against those who take positions that are contrary to the canon laid down by those who claim to shape opinions. Such attacks have been standard fare for some time. Complaining about this obvious state of affairs does not elevate one’s moral standing. And, it is hardly a substitute for the courage that we badly need.
If you trim your sails, you appease those who lack the honesty and decency to disagree on the merits, but prefer to engage in personal attacks. A good argument diluted to avoid criticism is not nearly as good as the undiluted argument, because we best arrive at truth through a process of honest and vigorous debate. Arguments should not sneak around in disguise, as if dissent were somehow sinister. One should not cowed by criticism.
In my humble opinion, those who come to engage in debates of consequence, and who challenge accepted wisdom, should expect to be treated badly. Nonetheless, they must stand undaunted. That is required. And, that should be expected. For, it is bravery that is required to secure freedom.