[lbo-talk] Are Conservatives Racist?

Bhaskar Sunkara bhaskar.sunkara at gmail.com
Wed Aug 17 13:41:10 PDT 2011

I just finished reading a book for review, Michelle Ann Abate’s *Raising Your Kids Right: Children’s Literature and American Political Conservatism<http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Your-Kids-Right-Conservatism/dp/0813547989>

*(which I wrote about, in relation to the study of children’s literature, here<http://us-intellectual-history.blogspot.com/2011/07/childrens-literature-as-intellectual.html>). In Abate’s conclusion, she ponders the future of the conservative movement in relation to the grassroots enthusiasm generated by John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate during the 2008 presidential campaign. She focuses attention on the racists drawn to Palin’s campaign stops—and also on the racism of those who have shown a high degree of antipathy towards Obama since his election. This is too typical. Whereas it should come as no surprise that liberal pundits emphasize racism as the central animating factor in the modern American conservative movement—they are, after all, drawn to the sensational—that serious scholars spend so much time analyzing the racism of the conservative movement is unfortunate. Race is only one of many factors that bind the modern American conservative movement together, and not the most important such factor.

In a short post<http://us-intellectual-history.blogspot.com/2011/03/do-you-still-read-george-nash.html> on the venerable historian of conservatism George Nash from a few months back, I casually wrote in the comments section that just because Nash barely addresses race in his important 1976 book, *The Conservative Intellectual Movement Since 1945,<http://www.amazon.com/Conservative-Intellectual-Movement-America/dp/188292620X> * does not mean we should discount the importance of Nash’s insights. I went on to say that historiography on conservatism is too focused on race while ignoring or diminishing other elements. The response I got from my readers—historians, mostly liberal—was abrupt. Was I serious?



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