Letters to the Editor

Letter: Heritage Foundation leader's talking points disappoint


To the Editor:

I heard an interview by Joshua Johnson, NPR’s host of The 1A, with Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James.

I listened hopefully, thinking this person’s life experience as an African American might bring a new perspective and ideas to that all-too-predictable institution.

Alas, in a few minutes, she managed to lay down every talking point and thinly veiled bit of racism and reactionary thinking I have heard from Heritage, CPAC, and the Republican party.

Prominent were two main points: Liberal ideas of the Democratic party about social welfare have been tried for 30 years, and they haven’t worked; and she effectively claimed if black people simply quit being fooled by those who promoted welfare programs, and if they just followed the good ol’ advice they used to get from their good ol’ black parents and grandparents, if they were just better-informed and bold in their thinking, they would become conservatives like her.

In other words, liberals and Democrats have tried handouts for 30 years, and have created a bunch of lazy, irresponsible people.

It’s funny, but I must have missed that reality. I can’t recall any welfare or “entitlement” program in this country that hasn’t been attacked, understaffed, and strangled for funds. It hasn’t been going on for only 30 years, but for the history of the republic. The self-described conservatives of this world have done an effective job of undercutting every attempt to build a robust safety net. And I’m quite sure people who have been unfairly denied real-estate loans, offered deteriorating schools for their children, harassed by the police and hounded into ever deeper poverty by fines for missing court appearances because they had no way to get to them, might not appreciate more lectures about personal responsibility. They might need some help from a robust government working on their side for a change.

Kay Cole James wants to convince Americans they are really conservatives and don’t know it yet. I see myself as a typical American, with some conservative and some liberal ideas. But the conservatism I hear from her is nothing other than the same talking points that have been rolled out for a long time by people who see almost all work for the common good as a threat to their prerogatives.

Kay Cole James, if you should develop a little more compassion and courage, I will listen to you again. Meanwhile, I am just disgusted.

John R. Seraphine