Michael Lind's Revisionist Libertarian Smear

Michael Lind's Revisionist Libertarian Smear

By Ben Domenech - June 12, 2013

A few days ago Robert Tracinski had a strong rebuttal of Michael Lind's absurd thesis regarding the absence of libertarian nations in history. Tracinski's response was that you really don't have to look further than American history to see libertarian ideas applied successfully across the country. Aside: There are other examples, albeit in smaller nations - the monarch of Liechtenstein, Prince Hans-Adam II, is a pro-life Catholic libertarian who has actually written a book on libertarian state administration. You can see a segment with Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge with him. But I think Tracinski's response is better, because it is applied to a much broader scope of time and territory than minor nation-states.

In any case, Lind has now responded by yelling about racism at the top of his lungs through a cardboard tube contraption of his own devising. The bulk of the piece is not worth reading, but I would draw your attention to the very last portion, in which Lind attacks Calvin Coolidge, about whom many libertarians have very positive feelings, cherrypicking a quote to transform Coolidge into an early stage Pat Buchanan.

This goes beyond the offensively stupid, which is Lind's typical oeuvre, and enters the realm of sheer revisionist fantasy. Considering the world it operated in, the record of the Harding-Coolidge administrations is one of the most racially progressive in the 20th Century. Harding opened his presidency with a clarion call for anti-lynching bills, giving speeches in the Deep South criticizing the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Coolidge continued the practice, again and again raising anti-lynching laws which were repeatedly filibustered by Southern Democrats (in 1922, 1923, and 1924). Both men appointed African Americans to senior positions and ran segregationists left over from the Wilson administration out of power.

Coolidge particularly took to the podium on repeated occasions to speak on behalf of the rights of all men; he spoke on the rights of African Americans, Catholics, and Jews; and he criticized directly the message of the KKK in his remarks to the American Legion. He argued that in war: “No man's patriotism was impugned or service questioned because of his racial origin, his political opinion, or his religious convictions. Immigrants and sons of immigrants from the central European countries fought side by side with those who descended from the countries which were our allies; with the sons of equatorial Africa; and with the Red men of our own aboriginal population, all of them equally proud of the name Americans... Divine Providence has not bestowed upon any race a monopoly of patriotism and character.”

And this was not just a matter for public expression. In 1924, Coolidge received a letter which claimed the United States was a "white man's country" and needed to be kept so, particularly when it came to black candidates running for office. Coolidge wrote in response: “I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. They took their places wherever assigned in defense of the nation of which they are just as truly citizens as are any others. The suggestion of denying any measure of their full political rights to such a great group of our population as the colored people is one which, however it might be received in some other quarters, could not possibly be permitted by one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party. Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution. It is the source of your rights and my rights. I propose to regard it, and administer it, as the source of the rights of all the people, whatever their belief or race.”

More on Calvin Coolidge's race record is here. The contrast is notable here: coming as he did in the wake of Woodrow Wilson, perhaps the most racist president in our history, Coolidge's record stands in stark contrast in word and deed. Wilson's record was an unmitigated disaster for race relations: a former Klan member who enjoyed telling racist jokes in public (to applause), he supported segregation to the hilt, including formally introducing segregation to the federal government. He appointed radically racist individuals to key positions, and his administration was one which allowed for the rise of exactly the kind of racist activity Harding and Coolidge had to confront. The Party Wilson left behind descended into a pit of racial crisis, with the "Klanbake" 1924 convention chock full of racist rhetoric, and even a cross burning.

Of course, it's not fair to tag Michael Lind with excusing racism, or racist leaders, as long as they share his political ideology. It's certainly not as if Lind writes clumsy love poetry glorifying Woodrow Wilson. Oh, wait.

Benjamin Domenech is editor of The Transom. Click here to subscribe.

Ben Domenech

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter