December 9, 2017

To me, the most striking part of this Roy Moore quote is the phrase "Even though":

Back in September, one of the few African-Americans in the crowd asked the candidate when he thought was the “last time” America was great.

“I think it was great at the time when families were united. Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another. ... Our families were strong, our country had a direction,” Moore responded, according to a Los Angeles Times report in September.

It doesn't surprise me that Moore is nostalgic for the antebellum South -- I assume most white Southern conservatives feel the same way, as do quite a few white non-Southern conservatives. It doesn't surprise me that he looks back on slavery days as a time "when families were united," even though slavery, among its other horrors, routinely separated slaves from spouses and children -- I don't expect conservatives to care much about the well-being of non-whites.

What surprises me is that he says that those were good times "even though we had slavery." He wants to have it both ways -- even as praises the slavery era, he wants credit for recognizing that slavery was wrong.

I see a lot of conservatives engaging in this kind of doublethink. They tell themselves that sexual harassment and assault are wrong (that Democrat donor Harvey Weinstein is a terrible person!), but suddenly they're concerned about a moral panic now that Al Franken has stepped down after fellow Democrats demanded his resignation. They rallied to Donald Trump's Bernie Sanders imitation in 2016, agreeing that "the system is rigged" in favor of the wealthy and powerful, but they mostly support a tax bill that shovels everyone else's money into the pockets of the wealthy and powerful. And, of course, they abhor pedophilia, but in Alabama that's not enough reason to vote for a Democrat.

I don't know how Roy Moore really feels about slavery, but I bet he believes he finds it abhorrent. I'm sure most white Southern conservatives have persuaded themselves that they find it abhorrent, too, and some of them may abhor it sincerely. But I think what they believe is that it's not as abhorrent as what non-Southerners did to end the practice. And that's conservatives' view on a lot of subjects: Yes, the elites have too much money and power, but we certainly can't alleviate that problem through ideas that are liberal -- progressive taxation, unions, strong regulation. Pedophilia is wrong, but we can't have Yankee journalists prowling around and bringing it to light.

When pressed, conservatives will concede that certain wrongs should be righted -- they just don't want anyone to come in and right them. Slavery, many of them claim, was untenable and would have ended on its own. Pedophilia and sexual misconduct would end if we'd just leave them to their churches, where Jesus will lead them on the righteous path.

Yeah, evil is evil. But liberalism is worse. That's what they think.

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