Monday, August 19, 2013

Nixon Reconsidered 3

I have three items for my blog post today on Joan Hoff's Nixon Reconsidered.

1.  On page 82, Hoff talks about a controversial report that President Richard Nixon's liberal adviser, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wrote about African-Americans.  The report covered a wide variety of subjects, but I noticed on page 82 that Moynihan referred to "low IQs among blacks" (Hoff's words on page 82, as she summarizes Moynihan's report).  Interestingly, after I read this, I came across an interesting column by African-American conservative Thomas Sowell, which gave examples of certain groups of African-Americans doing better on IQ tests than certain groups of whites.  Sowell attributed lower IQ scores (in certain cases) to isolation, meaning that race is not related to IQ.  You can read his argument here.

I don't think that IQ tests necessarily prove that isolated people are less intelligent than people in more cultured or developed areas.  Sowell mentions people in the fifteenth century who lived on the Canary Islands, and they were "people of a Caucasian race living at a stone age level."  Should we assume that they were less intelligent, just because they lacked progress or were away from more developed parts of the world?  I'm rather skeptical.  They are probably more intelligent than I am in areas.  For example, can you picture me hunting for my supper?  The reason that I would do better on an IQ test than them is probably that the IQ test would presume knowledge of my own culture.  I'd most likely do poorly on an IQ test that presumed intimate knowledge of another culture.

2.  On pages 91-92, Hoff says the following:

"Indeed, [President Nixon] had appointed several men who fought for a White House-dominated civil rights program: Secretary of Labor George Shultz, Assistant Secretary of Labor Arthur Fletcher, and OFCC Director John Wilks.  Instead of abandoning the Philadelphia Plan [on minority hiring in the workplace], they revised it to ensure as much executive-branch control as possible, an idea perfectly in keeping with Nixon's emerging New Federalism.  The revision also allowed the Nixon administration to keep the focus on the racism of the northern craft unions in the construction industry, rather than switching it to the equally racist hiring practices of southern textile industries.  But some prominent Democratic senators, such as Edward Kennedy, would have preferred Nixon to concentrate on practices in the South, thereby not allowing Dixie Democrats to be won over by Nixon's southern strategy.  Specifically, Nixon knew that if the Republican administration could be forced to implement nondiscriminatory federal contracts primarily against white southern textile owners and workers, such whites would stay in the Democratic camp."

That sounds rather disgusting, doesn't it?  I'm referring to Kennedy hoping that the Nixon Administration would get tough on southern textile owners in combating racial discrimination, because then more white southerners would get mad at the Republicans and vote for the Democrats instead.  That sounds like Kennedy suggesting that the Democrats exploit racism for political gain, the very thing that many liberals say that Nixon did through his Southern strategy.

Of course, I'm not sure what Hoff's evidence is that Kennedy said such a thing.  Her footnote refers to J. Larry Hood's "The Nixon Administration and the Revised Presidential Plan for Affirmative Action: A Study in Expanding Presidential Power and Divided Government," which was on pages 145-269 of the Winter 1993 Presidential Studies Quarterly.  One would probably have to check that to see if there's a quotation of Kennedy making that kind of statement.

Overall, at least in my reading thus far, Hoff does not appear to manifest too high of a regard for a number of liberal Democratic politicians.  She says that they opposed Nixon's domestic agenda because they felt he was stealing their thunder----that he was doing the sorts of things that they wanted to do, and wanted credit for.  Of course, what many liberals claimed was that Nixon did not adequately fund programs, but Hoff says that liberals would have supported Nixon's plans----even at the funding levels that he had----if a Democratic President had been responsible for them.  She also contends that, on certain domestic programs, Nixon spent more than his Democratic predecessors.

This is not to suggest that Hoff sees Nixon as perfect.  Far from it.  For example, Nixon's denials notwithstanding, she seems to acknowledge that Nixon had a Southern strategy.  She says that it was more successful on the rims of the South, allowing Nixon to be more moderate than conservative, but she also notes an example of someone within the Nixon Administration proposing that the Administration try to keep certain civil rights policies a secret so as not to offend white Southerners.  The thing is, I wonder how much of a secret Nixon's Administration could keep those policies, when white Southerners were being litigated!  And yet, I'm curious about whether the Nixon Administration's focus on minority hiring in the north rather than the south related somehow to the Southern strategy.  Hoff apparently does not want to go that far, for she simply says that we don't know George Shultz's motivation for having the policy the way that it was.

3.  On pages 97-98, we read the following about Nixon's adviser, Chuck Colson:

"Curiously, given his disregard for civil rights as a Nixonian hatchetman during the 1972 presidential campaign, Charles ('Chuck') Colson came into the White House charged with attracting ethnic votes to the Republican party by suggesting ways to improve their socioeconomic and political status.  In a fifty-two-page confidential memorandum to Ehrlichman at the end of 1971, entitled 'Issues for Spanish-Speaking Americans,' Colson accurately and persuasively argued for substantial and symbolic Hispanic programs, stressing housing, economic development, and education."

Colson doesn't look overly heroic here, since he wants for Nixon's Administration to help poor minorities for political purposes, rather than out of a deep moral conviction.  And yet, I do have to give him credit for proposing that Republicans devise ways to help poor minorities improve their socioeconomic status.  He's not like the Republican and Democratic politicians Senator Bulworth talked about, who told an inner-city church that the politicians came to the church, talked a good game to make news, and then left and forgot about their promises for the inner-city (see here).  There are Republicans nowadays who claim that they want to find ways to reach out to minorities.  I'm rather skeptical, for has the G.O.P. really cared much for minorities over the past twenty years or so?  And yet, like Colson, maybe now they will realize that they need minority votes, and this will influence them to come up with concrete policies that reflect concern about helping the marginalized to attain to a higher socioeconomic status, so that more people can have a shot at fulfilling their dreams.

(I apologize if I come across as a patronizing white liberal in the above paragraph.  I have good thoughts, but coming up with the right words to express them is not always easy for me!)

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