Modern conservatism was created to oppose Civil Rights

New Jersey holds its primary elections on Tuesday, though voters have been casting mail ballots for the last several weeks. (Donald Trump has told his advisers that the presidential election will be decided in October, so he’s not terribly worried about how badly he’s losing now. But that doesn’t factor in mail, which means that voting really begins in early October. This year, September is the new October, and it’s already July.)

A number of incumbent Democrats are getting challenged, including Albio Sires and Josh Gottheimer in North Jersey. Gottheimer, who is being challenged by a former volunteer of his, Arati Kreibich, put out a poll several weeks ago showing him up by 41 points. That obviously makes him a strong favorite, but Kreibich has picked up steam recently and Gottheimer may have miscalculated what the electorate is going to look like. He is proud of having voted routinely with Trump, and is one of the least popular Democrats among his own colleagues, even those in his own New Jersey delegation. There are plenty of Democrats in Congress with their fingers privately crossed for a Kreibich victory. To get a sense of who Gottheimer is, this story I wrote on how he treats his staff gives more than a few clues.

Joe Biden is starting to put his transition team together, and it’s worth taking a close look at whom he’s empowering to get a sense of what a Biden administration would look like. For national security staffing, he’s leaning on Avril Haines, who was a top lawyer in the CIA and the Obama White House, whose job it was to decide whether people on the drone programs kill list were legal to kill. She was also a major backer of Trump’s pick to run the CIA, Gina Haspel. More recently, she’s been working for the controversial firm Palantir and, as my colleague Murtaza Hussain recently reported, she tried to scrub her connection to the company. We covered her on Rising as well

A new book by former Mitt Romney campaign manager Stuart Stevens, now a NeverTrumper, started a ruckus with the magazine National Review, which took extreme exception to Stevens’ claim that the party has been exploiting white grievance since (at least) the early 1960s, and rode to the defense of Barry Goldwater and his intellectual champion, National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. As it happens, I had written an entire chapter of We’ve Got People on the role National Review, and Buckley specifically, played in forging a coalition of Southern defenders of Jim Crow and Northern opponents of the New Deal. That chapter got cut for length and relevance to the broader narrative, but when I saw National Review  trying to whitewash (?) its own history, I decided to resuscitate it. 

It’s a fascinating and important history, and I’m glad I found an outlet for it. Nothing in this essay is truly original -- scholars and other  journalists have gone over this terrain before, but it remains an obscure part of our political history. You can read it here. One reader, Brad Miller, who used to represent Greensboro, N.C. in Congress, notes that I left out Buckley’s role in organizing Young Americans for Freedom, who were the footsoldiers for Goldwater. The group was founded specifically in opposition to the lunch-counter sit-ins, and the individual liberty at the heart of modern conservative was constructed so that owners  of diners could justify, on the grounds of liberty, their refusal to serve Black customers. Modern conservatism was created in opposition to the Civil Rights movement.

Speaking of history, Woodrow Wilson is back in the news, with Princeton announcing they’re taking his name off their public policy school. I guest-hosted Rising last week, and we did a segment on Wilson, and I told a story that more people ought to know, about Robert Smalls, who was born into slavery, ended up escaping by stealing a Confederate ship and piloting it out of Charleston harbor, going on to fight for the Union and then serve five terms in Congress. There’s a Wilson tie-in, and I don’t want to spoil it. The story starts around the 12 minute mark here.

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