January 21, 2011

"Indeed, there is an internal logic to Santorum's remarks that represents the exact opposite of racism."

Concedes Joe Klein, who supports abortion rights.

ADDED: James Taranto:
Klein ... misses the point.... What makes it racially invidious is not the underlying argument or the rhetorical inelegance with which Santorum makes it. It is the implication that because Obama is "a black man," he is obliged to agree with Santorum.

The notion that the range of acceptable opinion is narrower for a black person than for a white person (or for a woman than a man, or a homosexual than a heterosexual) is a pernicious form of bigotry. It is usually heard from left-wing multiculturalists, as when they attack Clarence Thomas for being black and taking the position that racial preferences are unconstitutional....

36 comments:

Scott M said...

A reasoned piece by Klein except for It also, I'd argue, compels Santorum to support fully equal rights for homosexuals--which he doesn't, a sad consequence of his rather straitened ideology

A gay man has just as much right to marry a woman as a straight man. Shall we start on this argument yet again? Does Klein support polygamy? When does personhood begin in Klein's opinion?

peter hoh said...

I'd say that Klein was being rather civil. Good for him.

Coketown said...

An acronym I learned in school was S.O.F.T.--Say One F***ing Thing. Meaning, in a blog post about defending Santorum, don't spend 75% of it packing in convoluted arguments about his apparent inconsistencies. Among other things, this helps maintain a sense of moral proportion. I can't take seriously, in the words of our quitting theologian, someone who equates gay marriage not being recognized by the government with murdering babies.

rhhardin said...

It's a battle of morons.

Revenant said...

Klein is right that Santorum's argument is perfectly rational, given his core beliefs.

That being said, it was an idiotic thing to say in public. Black people who believe that abortion is murder already agree that abortion needs to be stopped. Black people who don't think abortion is murder will reject Santorum's argument for being based on an invalid premise, while simultaneously being insulted that a white guy is trivializing what is generally seen as the worst offense ever committed against black Americans.

In short, it adds heat to the argument, but no light. Good for stirring up the base, lousy for swaying the undecided.

Amusingly, Klein then turns around and does the same thing -- with the predictable result that gay marriage supporters shrug (we already want gay marriage, who cares about the historical parallel) and gay marriage opponents feel angry and insulted.

Scott M said...

In short, it adds heat to the argument, but no light.

Possibly, but anything that hastens the end of PC tyranny over the language has, at the least, meager illumination.

Phil 3:14 said...

And the "double-irony" here

(PS African Americans make up 13.6 percent of the total U.S. population)

Revenant said...

Possibly, but anything that hastens the end of PC tyranny over the language has, at the least, meager illumination.

It has nothing to do with PC tyranny over the language. The problem is that it is an insulting parallel to draw unless the audience already agrees with the point being made.

Political correctness is about not offending anyone at all (or at least, not offending anyone who isn't white and male). I'm talking about not offending the people you hope to convince. That's not political correctness, that's just basic common sense.

The Drill SGT said...


He's right about that. Slaves were considered property; there was also that most odious Constitutional assertion that, in terms of representation, blacks counted as 3/5s of a person.


Santorum may be logical, but I bet Klein doesn't understand the logic of the quote from the Constitution.

The Anti-slavery forces were arguing that a slave was not a person. Slave states wanted them counted. The compomise counted them at 3/5ths

like math, don't do logic in public

The Crack Emcee said...

Revenant,

It was an idiotic thing to say in public. Black people who believe that abortion is murder already agree that abortion needs to be stopped. Black people who don't think abortion is murder will reject Santorum's argument for being based on an invalid premise, while simultaneously being insulted that a white guy is trivializing what is generally seen as the worst offense ever committed against black Americans.

Oh, stop it. If black people get something wrong then simply tell them they're wrong. Why is is always this how they feel bullshit? Santorum didn't say anything wrong. If anyone says he did, set 'em straight.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Good for stirring up the base, lousy for swaying the undecided.

I'm not sure there are many undecideds when it comes to abortion. My memory may be fuzzy but the percentages of pro vs anti abortion folks is pretty much unchanged over the last few decades. Then there is the 'just don't give a shit contingent' that won't be swayed period.

mariner said...

The Drill SGT,

The Anti-slavery forces were arguing that a slave was not a person. Slave states wanted them counted. The compomise counted them at 3/5ths

like math, don't do logic in public

You should take your own advice.

The issue wasn't slave and anti-slave. The issue was North and South. Northern colonies wanted more influence for themselves, and Southern colonies wanted more influence for themselves. It was that simple.

The issue wasn't representation of black people -- the issue was representation of slaves, and the virtuous noble North didn't want them counted at all.

(Interesting though, that we don't hear today that Yankees didn't believe black people were human.)

There were free black people in this country from day one, and there was no disagreement at all about representation for them. They were counted just like other free people in the census.

The Drill SGT said...

Mariner,

I think I said what you said in 20% of the space

Kirby Olson said...

The deeper pattern is that he's Catholic, and the bigger question is whether he has the right to be a Catholic when the secular humanists want a lock on all correct opinion.

Paul Brinkley said...

Revenant,

When I stand in Santorum's shoes, I see it as a point that needs to be made. The alternative is to never draw the link. If you believed the link existed, and said nothing, you'd feel you were letting your own argument down by failing to use this point to illustrate it in a striking manner.

That said, I must factor in your point that it doesn't sway anyone unless already swayed. Clearly, the link between slavery advocates deciding who is and isn't a person, and Obama deciding who is and isn't a person, isn't recognized by all parties. So I say Santorum's error is not that he said something insulting and therefore tactically counter-productive, but rather making his argument without first establishing his premises.

In fact, at the risk of weighting down his quote, he could draw a substantial link based on subjective opinions then and now. For example:

"For decades certain human beings were wrongly treated as property and denied liberty in America because they were not considered persons under the constitution. Many Americans did not believe they were truly human; many did, and that conflict tore our nation nearly in two. Today, the unborn of all races, are also treated as property and denied the right to life for the same reason; because they are not considered persons under the constitution. Many Americans believe they are not truly human; many do. I am disappointed that President Obama, who rightfully fights for civil rights, refuses to recognize at least the parallel between this state of affairs and that of the past, even if he will not side on the belief in unborn life."

This above is a mouthful. Perhaps a professional speechwriter or senator could do better. Santorum himself says something close enough that it draws people like me to the point of interest. In that, it may have served its purpose. People who change their minds rarely make an effort to say so publicly.

MSG said...

Establishing that the unborn child is a person does not settle the issue. A person's right to life does not normally include the right to life at the cost of the bodily substance of another person. For example, a parent cannot normally be compelled to give a life saving organ or even a blood transfusion to his child. Is an unborn person entitled to a dominion over his parent's bodily substance that would be denied to a person who is a free standing child?

edutcher said...

If they would listen, possibly one of the best way to move blacks to the R column would be reminding them of Margaret Sanger's (pen pal to der Reichsfuhrer-SS) objective in pushing abortion.

Santorum was polite, but accurate.

mariner said...
The Drill SGT,

The Anti-slavery forces were arguing that a slave was not a person. Slave states wanted them counted. The compomise counted them at 3/5ths

like math, don't do logic in public


You should take your own advice.

The issue wasn't slave and anti-slave. The issue was North and South. Northern colonies wanted more influence for themselves, and Southern colonies wanted more influence for themselves. It was that simple.

The issue wasn't representation of black people -- the issue was representation of slaves, and the virtuous noble North didn't want them counted at all.

(Interesting though, that we don't hear today that Yankees didn't believe black people were human.)

There were free black people in this country from day one, and there was no disagreement at all about representation for them. They were counted just like other free people in the census.


mariner is blowing smoke. The issue wasn't whether they were people. Legally, slaves were chattel, viewed as property. The North argued that counting them, since they weren't citizens and couldn't vote, was an unfair advantage. In similar fashion, Indians weren't counted as part of a state's population, either.

knox said...

It's a battle of morons.



LMAO

knox said...

Poor Joe Klein. I should at least give him credit for he pushing back against the ever-present, ever-random "racist!" accusation.

Paul Brinkley said...

Furthermore, I'll add that while Santorum is guilty of arguing from unestablished premises here - as, to some extent, the entire pro-life does as well - the pro-choice is at least equally guilty of the exact same error when they argue as if a fetus is not a person.

This is not to say that neither side ever argues from this premise. The debate has addressed vast swaths of contention points like this one for as long as I can remember (decades). But that does not stop heads from talking past the other side. This definitely includes a lot of the comments I'm seeing to Joe Klein's piece, as well as on HuffPo and other places. They are being intellectually dishonest. It's a huge mess. I could spend all weekend replying to every error I see, and never get closed to finished.

The Crack Emcee said...

I haven't read the actual articles Ann's quoting, just what she's putting up - regarding Taranto's:

See? They're Black, You're Black - Come On!!!

Paul Brinkley said...

MSG: I agree that establishing the unborn as a person does not settle the entire issue.

My father once explained a specific point of law to me governing land rights. If a person owns a plot of land, and another person owns every plot of land around it, including its access to a public road, then the law permits the former person the right to construct a reasonable road on the latter person's land in order to access the road. (I forget the legal term for this; perhaps Professor Althouse can refresh. It might be restricted to Texas.) A similar argument could argue that a woman is obligated to at least carry a pregnancy to term - to let the fetus "access the road".

Even that does not strike me as sufficient. An as-yet-unimplanted fertilized egg is very different from a nine-month-old fetus; there are also issues involving unwilling pregnancies. But while it does not settle the issue on the side of pro-life, it doesn't settle for pro-choice, either.

victoria said...

It is a battle of morons and, for once, i have to agree with Taranto. Never thought i would say that.


Vicki from Pasadena

MayBee said...

Taranto is right.

I do not understand why it is ok to talk about "the black community" or "women's issues". That's bigotry, right?

Hagar said...

I heard the segment, and Santorum's context was that most "Black" people oppose abortion on demand, and Obama would risk alienating the "Black vote," which will be an essential Democrat bloc for his re-election.

And "White" people both North and South believed Black people were persons, but did not consider slaves to be citizens. Free Blacks were of course citizens, North and South.

Lem said...

This new civility tone seems to be taking roots..

Somebody wake me up ;)

Revenant said...

If black people get something wrong then simply tell them they're wrong.

I didn't say they were getting anything wrong, did I?

Revenant said...

I'm not sure there are many undecideds when it comes to abortion.

Judging from the polls I'd say there are a lot of people who haven't thought too hard about the matter.

For example, just under half of Americans think life begins at conception, and just under half of Americans consider themselves pro-life. That makes sense so far. But the percentage of Americans who believe that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest is around 80%! Which means... around 30% of Americans think it is ok to kill a baby if it is the result of rape? Cripes, what page of the Bible is THAT rule on?

In reality, though, I doubt anywhere near 1/3 of Americans feel that way. More likely is that they aren't entirely sure *what* they think on the subject. Most people don't spend a whole lot of time examining their moral beliefs.

The same sort of inconsistency is found on the pro-choice side of the isle, where the percentage of people who call themselves pro-choice and oppose the repeal of Roe v. Wade is much greater than the percentage of people who think abortions should be allowed in cases other than rape, incest, or medical necessity. Again, this makes no sense if the people in question have actually thought this through.

Megaera said...

@Psul: not quite sure where you were going with your reference to landlocked properties and easements of necessity, but I really don't think you would get much traction arguing real property law to redefine a human rights issue. The snappy comeback would be something along the lines of 'involuntary servitude,' which might lead either to fisticuffs or to some more interesting (or incredibly boring and academic) puns, depending on your outlook.

AllenS said...

Joe Klein -- TIME -- Journolist member. Liar. Makes shit up.

Jenner said...

Pregnancy is like access to a public road. The word you are looking for is easement, which is not a bad analogy. In some cases one person's rights will be abridged to allow another to assert his own. Interesting.

Is an unborn person entitled to a dominion over his parent's bodily substance that would be denied to a person who is a free standing child?

Dominion? The better word is accommodation. The unborn person comes with its own accommodations, so it is not as if the mother is permanently losing any of her own body parts to the baby. Once born, the mother is returned to her previous sovereign state.

So this temporary/replenishment aspect could be consistent with not forcing parents to provide kidneys, for example, but what about plasma or blood? Once born, those can be supplied by other donors. But needs while in the womb can only (notwithstanding exceptional technology) be provided by the pregnant mother.

Jenner said...

Santorum's statement isn't racist (in that is it derogatory to blacks), but it does assert that certain people should have certain beliefs. It's a good comparison to make a "consistency" argument: if you believe this about this situation, and this other situation is analogous, then to be consistent, you should have this belief.

This assertion assumes all blacks would believe that they have the same worth as any other person. That they were once considered not a whole a person, would lead one to think that every black would hold the belief that that assertion was incorrect. It's just a consistency argument.

The underlying point does rely upon the belief that life begins at conception.

Saint Croix said...

The evil right-wing version of Roe v. Wade would be something like this:

An illegal alien is not apart of the American people. Since an illegal alien is not a part of the American people, the equal protection clause does not apply to him. He is outside our laws. It is none of our business what happens to him. And we know it's a very tricky moral issue, but that's up to the people to decide. The Constitution does not speak on this issue.

And, oh yeah, you have a Constitutional right to terminate them.

Saint Croix said...

The problem is that it is an insulting parallel to draw unless the audience already agrees with the point being made.

Okay, imagine I am an abolitionist, and I am speaking to a room full of people.

Some in my audience think black people are just like white people. Others think black people are sub-human.

So what do I say?

I compare black people to white people. I say they are just like us. I draw up all the arguments I can.

Do I piss off the people who think they are sub-human?

Of course.

Do I give a shit? No. I do not.

Synova said...

So what Santorum said that was so horrible was...

We ought to realize that we're making a decision on who counts as a person and who does not.

*and*

That black people ought to have a special connection with this concept.

Klein sees this as consistent and only fusses about the slaves not being counted as a whole person thing... which he, of course, gets wrong.

And Taranto brings up the pernicious bigotry of allowing a narrower range of acceptable opinion for blacks (or women or homosexuals) than for white men.

But I don't think that Santorum did that. Yes, he suggested that Blacks *ought* to be more sensitive to the decision that some people don't count as real people... but that's based firmly on something real in the family history of African-Americans. It's more like saying that you'd expect cancer victims and their families to be more sensitive to work-place carcinogens.

The usual ought-to-believes are about economic systems and the role of government. That blacks, women and gays are supposed to have particular opinions about welfare, government oversight and interference, or the market place. None of those things have anything whatsoever to do with ethnic history, sex or skin color.

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