Memo To: Frank Rich, The New York Times
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Cross-currents in American politics
In your column today, you correctly observe that there are suddenly extraordinary cross currents in American politics, that it is no longer possible to tell if the players are "liberal" or "conservative" because you have a partisan scorecard. You ask: "What next — a Republican alliance with Louis Farrakhan? Don't laugh. The idea has been advanced by Jude Wanniski, the supply-side guru who advises the uncentered Presidential prospect of Jack Kemp, and seconded by the conservative columnist Robert Novak as a way of bringing black voters into the GOP. Mr. Farrakhan no longer regards Jews as 'bloodsuckers,' Mr. Wanniski assures us, but instead offers what Mr. Novak praises as 'a cross between the Christian Coalition and libertarianism.'"
You are absolutely correct in this general observation. I have been trying to persuade the Republican Party for more than 20 years to reach out to the black community, arguing that the American people will never give the GOP control of the White House and the Congress unless it is again a national party, one prepared to represent the interests of all people. My motivation, though, is not partisan. My .expectation is that as more blacks move into the Republican Party — hopefully half instead of the 12% who voted Dole/Kemp in '96 — there also will be a movement of whites out of the GOP into the party of Roosevelt. This is because I believe the country really does need a party realignment, the first since the early 1930s, when the black vote began moving away from the party of Lincoln into the Democratic Party. Without that important shift, the Democratic Party would not have finally broken its alliance with the racist elements of the Solid South, which had been its core of support since the Civil War. In the same way, the Republican Party now needs an infusion of voters who represent the dispossessed in the minority communities, black and Hispanic. Without that infusion, its center of gravity is too heavily weighted to the interests of what we loosely refer to as "country-club Republicanism." In a realignment, more of these elements would split off to inject their weight into the Democratic Party — which has been receiving more and more of their money, but few of their votes.
Min. Farrakhan, I believe, would like to see this come about, because the current alignment of the parties forces the black vote to choose between a party that does not wish to represent them and a party that takes them for granted. The net effect, both he and I believe, has been to ravage the black population during the past 30 years with an enormous imbalance on the scale of individual responsibility and collective welfare. If the government gives a family free food, free shelter, free clothing, free health care, free education, what is left for the man in the house to provide? What if the government goes even further and requires that the free goods are contingent upon the man in the house leaving the home? Farrakhan correctly observes, as Pat Moynihan did 30 years ago, that these combined forces would destroy the family and yield only social pathologies. (I became an early adherent of Moynihan's arguments and could provide you with a portfolio of my writings on the subject beginning in 1969.)
A great part of the tension between the black community and the Jewish community in the last generation has been because of this poisonous welfare phenomenon, which in many ways came out of Jewish intellectuals who have been from the early New Deal days the "idea people" in the Democratic Party. For more than 4,000 years, the Jewish people as a distinct culture have been assiduous in preserving the family unit, which then shows up not only in the great success of Jews in their personal achievements, but also in the low incidence of social pathologies among Jews. For this reason alone, Min. Farrakhan has enormous respect and admiration for the Jewish people and Judaism itself. I am a Jew, he told Larry King on the evening of the Million Man March. The Nation of Islam is built on a foundation of religiosity that begins with the divine revelation that came to Abraham and traces itself through Moses and Jesus. In a recent issue of the Forward, Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as having said some 120 years ago that Christianity is Judaism for the masses. In my conversations with Min. Farrakhan, I've observed that of these three great religions, Islam is the most ecumenical. On his pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm X observed that it seemed the only religion that was absolutely color blind.
Neither Robert Novak nor I would have anything to do with Louis Farrakhan if we believed he were anti-Semitic. Both of us remain friendly to Pat Buchanan, who has been labeled anti-Semitic by some political columnists who dislike the tone of some of his views. We know anti-Semitism when we see it, and we know Pat ain't one. As Bill Buckley put it, it is sometimes hard to defend Pat against charges of anti-Semitism, although I did last year in an article for the Forbes MediaGuide, and Jack Kemp did, on a Sunday TV show. To tell you honestly, Mr. Rich, it is actually easier to defend Louis Farrakhan against charges of anti-Semitism than it has been to defend Pat Buchanan. This is because Min. Farrakhan has gone out of his way to renounce anti-Semitism and bigotry — which the press corps does not report. And a diligent review of the charges against him by Jewish political people turns up no smoking gun. You can buy the Final Call and send for any of dozens of audio and video tapes of speeches he has delivered over the years. You will find him angry in his observations, as when he lashed out at those Korean, Indian and Jewish bloodsuckers who take from the inner city blacks through their shops, and give nothing in return. Or you can find lashing out in anger against those secular Jews who hide behind Judaism in pursuit of the narrow political agendas, thus turning a great religion into a dirty religion. Dragging it into the gutter, so to speak, as the money changers did at the Passover feast. I've gone through tape after tape of his speeches in search of hatred and bigotry and found none. I've observed some of his followers engage in anti-Semitic demonstrations, as with Khalid Muhammad's speech at Howard University a few years back. But I've then observed Farrakhan punishing those responsible, including Khalid, although in a way that did not satisfy the Jewish community.
The stories of how Irv Kupcinet and Mike Wallace tried to bring him together with Jewish leaders, and failed, all wind up in the newspapers as evidence that Min. Farrakhan was at fault. My own inquiries tell quite a different story, one that is most inconvenient for the Jewish leaders who participated in these attempts, or for the media they control. Yes, "Jewish control of the media" is a ridiculous canard, there being virtually no issue of public policy on which Jews agree. But it should be obvious to everyone that on the issue of Farrakhan there is virtually total Jewish unity, which makes it extremely difficult for Farrakhan to get a fair hearing via the free press. Even The Wall Street Journal last week publicly acknowledged in an editorial that it had given its proxy on the Farrakhan matter to Seth Lipsky, publisher of the Forward. It has simply been my attempt, since the Million Man March, to help Farrakhan break through this media wall. It takes great patience to make progress in this area, because so many of his good-faith efforts to communicate with the white community in general and the Jewish community in particular have been grotesquely twisted and turned against him.
Last October, for example, both the NYDaily News and the New York Post ran news stories praising Abe Foxman for rejecting Farrakhan's offer to sit down and work out differences. News stories, for goodness sakes! The Times and the WSJ made no mention of his appeal. Nor did any of the media report on his public renunciation of anti-Semitism and bigotry, in response to Jack Kemp's challenge in early September. I ask my journalistic friends what good is the First Amendment if the press self-censors such important news from a man who was able to summon a million men to a peaceful march in Washington, men not of his religious faith, who heard a message powerful enough that they were willing to respond from long distances and at their own expense.
I'm taking the trouble to write this memo to you, this morning of Holy Thursday of Easter Week, because I found your column insightful and intelligent. Your columns are frequently angry and judgmental. Today's was observant, disapproving, but still questioning. I'm sure what I've written here will not cause you to throw aside your skepticism, but at least I hope I can get you to remain in an observant, questioning mode. Min. Farrakhan will be on "Fox Sunday Morning" with Tony Snow on Easter Sunday. If you would let down your guard just a little bit, you might find yourself more interested in what's going on here, leading to more questions.
I'm posting this memo on my Internet website today, at www.polyconomics.com. It will run over the Easter weekend. If you look into it, and check the archives for 1995, you will find an account of the Million Man March, which I wrote the Sunday before the March itself. At the time, I had not yet had contact with the Nation of Islam or Min. Farrakhan.