Chilton Williamson, Jr.’s column “Pragmatic Destruction” (What’s Wrong With the World, December 2011) attacks American democracy with a vengeance. He seems to be bothered by the fact that Southern blacks were “freed” (his quotation marks) by civil-rights laws through the negation of “states’ rights” (my quotation marks). I don’t see how restricting a certain class of people from being educated or voting, which too many states were doing under the umbrella of states’ rights, was worth preserving.
Too many times the claim of states’ rights was used to maintain the status quo. The people in power weren’t theorizing about the Greek concept of democracy, and they weren’t reading Tocqueville to justify their position. It was mainly a power grab. By using states’ rights arguments to preserve “for colored only” restrictions, any legitimate use for states’ rights was obscured in racist tones. This is similar to what the bureaucrats of our leviathan national government do today. Mr. Williamson applauds the former and attacks the latter, whereas both should be criticized.
Mr. Williamson Replies:
I was not, in this article, arguing for anything being “worth preserving” except the Constitution of the United States. Until the 1930’s, what we call “democracy” was generally considered to be procedural in nature. That means that any changes, great or small, to the American polity in contravention of the Constitution require that they be made constitutionally—i.e., by amending the Constitution. This, of course, was not the procedure followed by the federal government in imposing the civil-rights revolution upon the South in the 1950’s and 60’s. Democracy is either procedural, or it is not worth having—indeed, it is dangerous. The fact that for the past 80 years democracy has been understood to mean something other (almost anything other, in fact) than what it used to mean proves that democracy remains our system of government in name only.
Was it worth destroying the old American constitutional democracy for the purpose of realizing the agenda of the civil-rights movement? The answer is no. The proof lies all around us.
Lessers and Evils
I am in need of some clarification regarding Thomas Fleming’s January Perspective (“In the Gutter With the GOP”). Is he arguing for Mitt Romney as the lesser of two evils in 2012? Perhaps I am misreading him when he writes, “I hate to agree with the New York Times’ house ‘conservative’ David Brooks, but at this point Romney is the only Republican candidate.”
I was a bit taken aback by this statement since, in years past, it was precisely Dr. Fleming’s writings that finally convinced me to stop voting in such a fashion. Is the question of voting for the lesser of two evils a principled or pragmatic one? My inclination was not to vote for evil (Romney) this year, but I respect your opinion too much not to ask what you’re advising.
Kansas City, MO
Dr. Fleming Replies:
Mr. Vogel can deduce from my general argument that I am not endorsing or recommending Mitt Romney even as the lesser evil. He is shallow, vain, unprincipled, and a member of a strange sect whose fundamental principles are incompatible with Christianity. Compared with his GOP rivals, nonetheless, he is a dream candidate. Go down the list and you will find freaks (Bachmann and Gingrich), frauds (Cain and Gingrich), hypocrites (Santorum and Gingrich), and shills for special interests (Gingrich). Ron Paul is the exception, but he has never been in the running.
Romney is repellent in every way, but he has run a business and has some notion of how to behave in public. I would not vote for him, probably, even against Obama, but I would breathe a sigh of relief if he were elected. That is more than I can say of the others.