“Conservatives have a Mandela problem” runs the headline of a December 6 Salon post by Alex Halperin. Actually, according to Halperin, [email him] conservatives—by which he means what VDARE.com calls Conservatism Inc.— have not one but two Mandela problems, rooted in its current fawning praise of the late Nelson Mandela. (To give credit where it’s due, some well-known conservatives such as Joseph Farah, David Swindle, Robert Stacy McCain, Diana West, Gateway Pundit and Tim Graham of the Media Research Center have been critical of Mandela.)
Conservatism Inc.’s first problem: the grassroots of the movement appear stoutly unreconstructed. The comment sections at most of the Conservatism Inc. websites has been overwhelmingly anti-Mandela.
The Left seems particularly fascinated by Ted Cruz’s Facebook page. Cruz gave a typical gushing statement, calling Mandela “inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe.” But many of his supporters expressed skepticism. And these were not crazed “racist” ramblings, but the same criticisms that many Conservatism Inc. operatives themselves made in the 1980s. Of the thousands of comments left on Cruz’s page, the worst the Daily Beast’s Jamelle Bouie could point-and-splutter at were:
Ted Cruz Commenters Hate Mandela, By Jamelle Bouie, December 6th 20131:
And Bouie wasn’t the only one to point-‘n’-splutter about Cruz’s evil supporters: ABC News, MSNBC, Huffington Post and dozens of other mainstream/left-wing outlets run stories about how Cruz’s Facebook fans don’t like his pandering. An Austin Chronicle columnist proclaimed the comments were just proof Teddy Kennedy was correct to say that the GOP is the “party of Apartheid” not the “Party of Lincoln” and snarked: “Poor Ted [Cruz]. Maybe he should just head back to the safer turf of praising old school race baiters like Jesse Helms.” [Conservatives Blast Cruz for Praising Mandela, By Richard Whittaker (email him), December 6, 2013].
Advice likely ignored. Sigh.
This Leftist outrage is similar to the outrage over the Republican National Committee’s tweet "Today we remember Rosa Parks' bold stand and her role in ending racism." The RNC’s suggestion that anyone ended racism was held to be in itself proof of racism. A Google News search of “‘Rosa Parks’ ‘Ending Racism’ tweet” shows over 800 stories, almost all criticizing the RNC about the tweet.
The GOP’s response to getting attacked as racists because of its pandering: More pandering.
Conservatism Inc.’s second Mandela Problem: through the 1980s, the conservative movement—from Reagan to Thatcher to Buckley to George Will—really did oppose sanctions against South Africa, denounced Mandela as a terrorist and a communist, opposed his release from prison etc. So Joan Walsh of Salon calls Conservatism Inc.’s current stance the “right-washing of Nelson Mandela’s legacy” by pointing-‘n’-sputtering at the past GOP criticism of Mandela without acknowledging they were, well, right.
Peter Beinart—whose parents immigrated to the U.S., or at least to Cambridge MA, from South Africa—was a little more honest in the Daily Beast,
From their perspective, Mandela’s critics were right to distrust him. They called him a “terrorist” because he had waged armed resistance to apartheid. They called him a “communist” because the Soviet Union was the ANC’s chief external benefactor and the South African Communist Party was among its closest domestic allies. More fundamentally, what Mandela’s American detractors understood is that he considered himself an opponent, not an ally, of American power. And that’s exactly what Mandela’s American admirers must remember now.
[Don’t Sanitize Nelson Mandela: He’s Honored Now, But Was Hated Then, December 6, 2013. Link in original]
I say “a little more honest” because the Left’s attempt to resurrect Mandela’s radical legacy is (as with Martin Luther King) a bit of a bait-and-switch. Had the Left admitted Mandela’s radical goals and tactics back in the 1980s, the international movement to free him would have received much less support from non-Leftists and he certainly would never have become a secular Saint. But now that he is sainted, the Left argues, we have to support his radical policies.
Some conservatives have tried to reconcile their past opposition to Mandela with their current go-with-the-flow encomiums. Thus black conservative Deroy Murdock acknowledged in National Review that he and other conservatives feared “that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst.” [Nelson Mandela, R. I. P. ]. The Wall Street Journal editorial obituary opened “The bulk of his adult life, Nelson Mandela was a failed Marxist revolutionary and leftist icon, the Che Guevara of Africa.” [Nelson Mandela | A would-be Lenin who became Africa's Vaclav Havel, December 6, 2013]
However, Murdock and the WSJ both praised Mandela for his subsequent racial reconciliation, and his embrace of market policies. Thus according to Murdock:
Rather than follow [socialism], Mandela looked to economic growth as the path his nation should follow… While some wish he had gone further, this was a far cry from the playbook of Marx and Lenin.
And the WSJ opined:
“Mandela ditched the ANC's Marxism and reached out to business. Somehow—another miracle—the illiberal ANC and the illiberal National Party together negotiated a liberal new constitution with strong protections for minorities and an independent judiciary.”
This is just ignorant libertarian happy talk. The “New South Africa” version of “economic growth” and “reaching out to business” (and for that matter, racial reconciliation) is actually racial socialism, redistributing wealth from the productive (white) minority to the politically-favored constituencies. South Africa’s constitution explicitly enshrines discrimination against whites with the Orwellian proclamation that “Discrimination … is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair” under the guise of “Black Economic Empowerment,” which essentially squeezes white-owned businesses and taxpayers into subsidizing black elites.
For example, two years ago the WSJ’s South African correspondent Peter Wonnacott wrote about BEE under the frank headline Black Empowerment Roils South Africa. March 9, 2011.But, typically, after Mandela’s death, Wonacott’s article about BEE was entitled “Mandela's Pragmatic Focus on Reconciliation,” and praised Mandela’s South Africa for not being Zimbabwe.
In addition to permitting anti-white discrimination, what the WSJ calls the “liberal new constitution” has a Bill of Rights that guarantees the right to “housing,” as well as “Health care, food, water and social security.” Just last year, Conservatism Inc. went nuts when Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that Egypt look to South Africa’s constitution for inspiration.
National Review’s editorial obituary began by recounting Mandela’s long history of advocating violence and ended by criticizing his opposition to the Iraq War and support of Gadhafi. But NR nonetheless called him a “great man” who deserves the “gratitude of his country.” Why? Because “South Africa could have gone the way of Zimbabwe,” but instead “took a democratic path, however stony.” And because (NR now discovers) “apartheid was wrong,” Mandela’s “stony” democracy was presumably the best compromise between Mugabe and Verwoerd.
My view: On balance, South Africa under black rule is probably a less pleasant place to live—for blacks and whites—than it was under Apartheid. Still, it is not Zimbabwe.
The unfortunate truth: Despite its institutionalized anti-white racism, stagnating economy, sky-high crime rate, and far-Left constitution, South Africa as it is now is about the best we can expect out of a black-run government in a country with a small white minority.
But, putting racial policies aside, South Africa is undeniably less “conservative” in every conceivable aspect than it was 30 years ago. Knowingly or not, the Conservatism Inc. types who praise Mandela and South Africa’s transition are in effect saying they are willing to trade public safety, conservative governance and, ultimately, economic growth, for racial egalitarianism.
South Africa was forced to choose between disenfranchising the majority of their population or having a First-World government and economy.
But as whites in America are not yet in such a small minority, they do not have to make this choice. Instead, we can just stop mass immigration.
Of course, the GOP and Conservatism Inc. can’t get past its belief that praising Leftist black icons like Mandela instead of promoting patriotic immigration reform will keep them from being called “racist.”
Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist