“The Bland Bargain” After Eighteen Years



Peter Brimelow
writes:


Steve Sailer
can`t write this Sunday. So I`m taking
the opportunity to post an old review essay that we`ve
just e-retrieved, which relates to college selection and
other contemporary craziness as well.

The book
was
Crashing The Gates: The De-WASPing Of America`s Power Elite, 

by the

late
Robert C.
Christopher, a former journalist and Pulitzer Prize
administrator. I used the review to get at a number of
American ethnic shibboleths. At the time, I remember
noting that


Norman Podhoretz
, the great editor of
Commentary, had cut out a passage on immigration
reflecting concerns that were later expressed in my book


Alien Nation
. Rereading the review now, I
am stuck with how many radical ideas Norman left in,
although he could hardly have agreed with them. Eighteen
years later, the


neoconservatives
` climb to power has left many
angry enemies among their erstwhile allies on the right.
But it should not be forgotten that one key factor in
their success was sheer intellectual energy.

I
concluded my review by pointing out the paradox that
affirmative action quotas applied in favor of
low-performing groups like blacks and Hispanics, but not
against high-performing groups like Jews and Asians,
effectively mean that WASPS in particular and whites in
general are squeezed out of elite colleges. As we note
in the text below,


Ron Unz
subsequently documented this, to general
approval, and


Pat Buchanan
cited it, to general hysteria. The
point I made then remains all too true today: “What
this really means is that WASPs (and non-Jewish white
ethnics) have not yet found a political language in
which to protest that they are in fact being
systematically discriminated against.”

[First published in


Commentary Magazine
, June 1989]

Robert C. Christopher`s

amiable journalistic survey
of the current state of
the American ethnic union begins with the sort of bang
that might be expected from a

writer
who was for many years an editor at
Newsweek:

"On
July 21, 1988, when a dark, compact man of

vaguely Mediterranean appearance
stepped up to the
podium in Atlanta`s Omni Coliseum to accept the
Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United
States, it seemed to some that American history had
entered a new era.”

Christopher then discreetly
proceeds to qualify this popular view. He notes that
although the emergence of Michael Dukakis, the son of
Greek immigrants, was hailed as "the embodiment of
the American ethnic dream"
, the nominee
himself was in fact

already deracinated to a considerable extent.

Dukakis had been educated at elite schools,

Swarthmore
and Harvard. Significantly, he was
technically no longer eligible to receive

Greek Orthodox
sacraments because his

marriage
, to a Jewish woman, had not been celebrated
in a Church ceremony.

Moreover, Christopher adds,
Dukakis`s nomination had actually been preceded by a
dramatic nationwide "disintegration of ethnic
barriers."
In the years since 1960, when John F.
Kennedy became the

first Roman Catholic
to win the

Democratic nomination
and the presidency, non-WASP
white ethnics had unmistakably arrived in force
throughout what Christopher calls the U.S. "power
elite."
The result, he believes, is an evolving
cultural synthesis, at least at this highest social
level, that cannot be identified with any ethnic group.
It can only be called, he claims, "
American."

Much of Christopher`s book is
devoted to an entertaining and perceptive account of
this ethnic eruption. As he charitably says, it has
happened so recently that scholars and journalists have
not yet had time to adjust their long-cherished theories
about prejudice and the persistence of ethnic
stratification. In politics, the last thirty years have
seen not only the first Catholic President but also the

first black
and

Italian-American
Supreme Court Justices and Cabinet
officers and the

first Jewish
and

Eastern European
Secretaries of State. In business,
surveys show that the proportion of Protestant
executives in major companies is falling precipitously,
and that a substantial majority of first-generation
millionaires are now non-WASP. In higher education,
whereas an observer in 1966 remarked that not one in a
thousand college presidents elected over the previous
seventeen years had been a Jew, by 1987 top schools like
MIT, Columbia,

Dartmouth
, Pennsylvania, Chicago,

Michigan
, and Princeton all had-or had had-Jewish
presidents. And the
Council on Foreign Relations,
grimly agreed by

Left and Right
to be the linchpin of the American
establishment, had acquired by 1986 a chairman, a
president, and half a board of directors drawn from
other than its traditional WASP male clientele.

Christopher points out, however,
that this process is no simple

displacement
of America`s historic WASP elite.
Instead, all ethnic groups are merging. The notion of
the

melting pot
has been out of favor with intellectuals
since the 1960`s, when

"cultural pluralism"
came into vogue. But in
Christopher`s view that pot has nevertheless been
bubbling away with

extraordinary vigor
. And it is not even the modified


"triple melting pot"
hypothesized by some
scholars, roughly refining Americans into Protestant,
Catholic, and Jewish religious blocs. Intermarriage is
dissolving all these distinctions. For example, about
half of all American Catholics of Italian or
part-Italian ancestry born since World War II have
married non-Catholics, mainly

Protestants
. And whereas Jewish-Gentile unions were
rare as late as 1963, when Nathan Glazer and

Daniel Patrick Moynihan
published their influential
pluralistic study Beyond the Melting Pot,
by the 1980`s some 40 percent of Jews were intermarrying.

Kitty Dukakis
, in this respect at least, was setting
a trend.

One telling symptom of this
changing significance of ethnicity: non-WASP politicians
have been winning office, not by mobilizing their own
ethnic bloc vote as previously, but by appealing to
ideological supporters across ethnic lines. Thus there
were eight Jewish Senators in 1987, as compared to one—New
York`s Herbert Lehman
—in 1949. [VDARE.COM
note:
As of the
2006 election, there are


13
]. And four of them came from states
where Jews constituted less than 1 percent of the
population.

Similarly, Dukakis`s supposed
special attractiveness to white ethnics did not prevent
them from

voting for George Bush
. Christopher politely
suggests that ridicule of Bush`s

"preppy"
establishmentarian characteristics was
actually a thin disguise for straightforward anti-WASP
animosity. But it did not work.

Academic sociologists will no doubt
be irritated by the impressionistic and anecdotal
support Christopher musters for his assertions. But
there can be little doubt that he is on to something. In
the late 1970`s,

President Carter
told an Italian-American audience
that the U.S. was

not a melting pot but a minestrone
—each ingredient
contributing but remaining distinct. Christopher remarks
dryly that this was questionable even in

culinary terms;
sociologically, on the evidence
presented here, it was a fashionable delusion on a par
with America`s alleged

"inordinate fear of Communism."

Nevertheless, the phenomenon
Christopher describes is open to a different
interpretation, which he himself goes some way to
developing. Despite its reputation, the WASP elite, as
he points out, was never really exclusive. On the
contrary, it has shown throughout its history a
remarkable ability to assimilate other groups so
completely that their divergent origins become quite
forgotten, such as Germans (Rockefellers), Dutch (Roosevelts),
and French (Du
Ponts
). Christopher himself has an anglicized name;
others of his forebears were

Scotch-Irish,
in colonial times a

notoriously unruly
and

unpopular minority.

For the WASPs, absorbing fellow
Protestants from Northern Europe was obviously easier
than swallowing the children of the immigrants from

Southern
and

Eastern Europe
who arrived at the turn of the
century. But it is at least arguable that the post-1960
"disintegration of ethnic barriers" is simply the
latest leap of assimilation, bearing in mind that WASP
culture has itself relaxed considerably in the same
period. Christopher refers repeatedly to the

"brutal bargain,"
a phrase that

Norman Podhoretz
has used to describe the

necessary submission
of an

earlier generation of ambitious ethnics
to WASP
values. The bargain, in this account at least, now
appears rather more bland.

In fact, a determinedly cheerful
blandness pervades Christopher`s work whenever he comes
close to confronting the harsher realities of the
process he is describing. It is ultimately why
Crashing the Gates
remains an exercise in a minor
key.

One reason for this blandness is
Christopher`s own seemingly complete innocence of
anything resembling religious feeling. The idea that
WASPs or Jews might actually have some reason other than
sheer cultural inertia to want to see their children
continue their faith seems never to have occurred to
him. This, of course, makes intermarriage a much easier
issue to contemplate. It may also explain the sweeping
confidence that leads Christopher to dismiss in one
paragraph the rise of "born-again" Protestants
and

anti-abortion Catholics
-something obviously
antithetical to his brave new irreligious "power
elite"
—as "essentially rearguard actions
conducted by diehards in the lower middle class and
working class."

BUT whatever his

insensitivity to religious sentiment,
Christopher is
acutely aware of prevailing political emotions. This is
most obvious in his treatment of the continuing failure
of blacks, and to a lesser extent Hispanics, to achieve
the ranks of the "power elite." (Asian immigrants
are already doing so, and also intermarrying on an
impressive scale.) Throughout the book Christopher
undeviatingly ascribes this failure to "racism"
on the part of whites. Ignoring the

internal problems of the black community
, he
consistently maintains that blacks will join the
mainstream if only
that racism is eradicated.
He does admit, however,
that his attitude "smacks of pollyanna."

Similarly, Christopher rarely al
lows himself to dwell on any of the problems associated
with the "disintegration of ethnic barriers"
since the 1960`s. He notices unhappily the paradox that
this "disintegration" seems to have been

accompanied
by "affirmative action"racial
quotas
—and

bilingual education.
But he has no insight to offer
on the developing Lebanonization of America`s "common
culture,"
and quickly drops the topic.

This is particularly unfortunate
because of the interesting role quotas have played in
"de-WASPing"
the American elite. Many top American
schools were originally founded by one or another of the
WASP religious sects. When these schools were in effect
nationalized earlier in this century, WASPs essentially
lost control of their own major ethnic institutions.
More recently, many of these schools have simultaneously
imposed minimum entrance quotas for blacks and Hispanics
and lifted or relaxed maximum quotas for Jews and
Asians. Since quotas are a zero-sum game, this can only
mean that WASPs (and white ethnics as well) are being
squeezed out. In particular, the WASP elite has less
room to continue its invigorating transfusion of
"scholarship boys"
from the poor Anglo-Saxon
hinterlands like Appalachia, an ethnic reservoir that
Christopher for some reason says must be excluded from
his discussion.

For example, Christopher reports
that a third of the student body of his own alma
mater,


Yale
, is now Jewish. Assume a
black tenth and an Asian tenth
(at least), and WASPs
are already down to less than half of an institution
they once owned-even before accommodating Catholics. In
strict logic, quotas should be uniformly applied. But,
says Christopher, "no educator of any substance has
even by implication proposed such measures—if only
because in the contemporary United States, it is
impossible to advocate systematic discrimination against
the members of any ethnic or religious group without
incurring an intolerable degree of public obloquy."

What this really means is that WASPs (and non-Jewish
white ethnics) have not yet found a political language
in which to protest that they are in fact being

systematically discriminated against.
Christopher is
not about to help them.

[VDARE.COM
NOTE:
Ron Unz
made the point about whites being discriminated against
in the
Wall
Street Journal, November 16, 1998,


Some Minorities Are More Minor than Others
. Unz
wrote: "

Seen in this light, the
well-known hostility of `angry white males`  toward


affirmative action programs
may represent less the
pique of the privileged and more the resentment of the
discriminated-against. "

Pat Buchanan made

exactly the same point,
quoting Unz, in


The Dispossession of Christian Americans

and


Our Self-Selecting
Elite,
and all hell broke loose. Among the
people attacking was


Arianna Huffington,
who quoted it in her column


How Long Can Americans Stand Pat?
September 23,
1999. Go, as they say, figure
]

Questions of justice aside, does
this matter? Does ethnic composition have consequences?
Once again, Christopher takes refuge in blandness. For
example, he notes that American academia has become
steadily more left-wing in tone as non-WASPs have moved
into the professoriate. But then he produces an
astonishing explanation: political conservatism in
academia has been shown to correlate with religious
belief, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish. And a
conservative believer is necessarily at a disadvantage
in academic competition with a liberal skeptic—because
he "insists that a large body of dogma must be taken
as given."

Actually, entirely secular liberals
are extremely insistent on their own

large body of dogma,
as anyone can testify who has
watched the

hysteria
that overcomes an officeful of American
editors and journalists when any article discussing
ethnicity or race is proposed. Under these
circumstances, Christopher`s bowdlerized and finally
unserious account of this profound subject is probably
about as much as can be expected.

Peter Brimelow is editor of

VDARE.COM
and author of the much-denounced
 Alien Nation: Common Sense About America`s Immigration Disaster,

(Random House –
1995) and


The Worm in the Apple
(HarperCollins – 2003)