Gimme That Old-Time Bigotry!
In a recent tirade against Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Pat Buchanan lamented that the new hypocrisy of affirmative action has supplanted the far clearer, more righteous “old bigotry” of days gone by. “One prefers the old bigotry,” Buchanan claims, because, “at least it was honest, and not, as Abraham Lincoln observed, adulterated ‘with the base alloy of hypocrisy.’”
It’s not exactly news that Pat Buchanan rants against self-proclaimed “affirmative action babies” like Sotomayor or against the pointy-headed, liberal academic establishments that embrace them. He evokes the fairly boilerplate conservative mythology of a free-market meritocracy, claiming that the ONLY reason Sotomayor achieved anything in life is because of policies that institute “race-based bigotry against white males so that persons of color can receive the rewards of society that they could not win in free and fair competition.” (NB: What Buchanan fails to note is that when Sotomayor arrived at Princeton in 1972, the university was just beginning to reverse a 223-year-old BAN on the admission of women – hard to get into a school based on merit when the school’s policy is to throw your application in the trash. Just saying.)
Either way, we’ve heard it all before.
But Buchanan goes a step further, to a place where few conservatives dare to tread. Few conservatives are so bold as to wax nostalgic about the good old days of institutional racism and sexism. Segregation, Jim Crow, “separate but equal”? That was “honest”! The bucolic past when laws restricted women’s rights and financial independence? Those were the glory days! You got to hand it to him for being truthful, at least — the myths of meritocracy evaporate once you evoke old-school bigotry.
The other thing that bothered me about Buchanan’s rant was the Lincoln reference. Something didn’t feel right. Did the great emancipator really mean that the possibility of equal opportunity contained the “base alloy of hypocrisy?” Was this really what Lincoln meant? Did Lincoln secretly celebrate bigots?
Uncomfortable with this, I decided to go to the source to see, in context, what Lincoln actually said. The full quote, written in a private letter in 1855 to a Lincoln’s long-time friend, Joshua Speed, read as follows:
As a nation, we began by declaring “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
And there you have it. DESPOTISM! Now, THAT’S good government.Tags: affirmative action, pat buchanan, sonia sotomayor