In his book A War for the Soul of America, Andrew Hartman argues that the contribution of neoconservatives to the culture wars is greatly underestimated. Today, I hope to bolster this claim by examining the number of soon-to-be-ubiquitous tropes and arguments made by Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the course of their 86-page introduction to the 1970 edition of Beyond the Melting Pot.
First, a quick introduction. Beyond the Melting Pot was a co-authored book by Glazer and Moynihan first published in 1963. Its primary thesis was that ethnicities and the cultural ties and practices based on them still persisted in New York City, which they took to be roughly representative of most urban spaces in America. Yet despite the argument about the persistence of particularity, the book was also concerned with how ethnic identity remained even after certain groups – such as the Italians and the Irish – were incorporated into political power structures through traditional practices and institutions.
The rest of the 1960s, however, dampened their hopes for continued ethnic culture combined with successful political assimilation. The civil rights movement, and especially the radicalization of some segments of black activism, had made the question of race a divisive, hotly contested arena, and several portions of the population – including white radicals – had decided to disregard the usual channels of political lobbying and representation. This was, to put it bluntly and without danger of exaggerating, simply terrifying to Glazer and Moynihan. Consequently, most of the lengthy intro of the 1970 edition concerns itself with either taking jabs at the absolutely irredeemable and unrespectable tactics of black militants, or scolding white radicals and a sensationalist press for legitimizing their claims either by agreeing with them or, much to Glazer’s and Moynihan’s chagrin, reporting on their activities and arguments.
Thus the introduction to this 1970 edition provides historians with an excellent example of how neoconservatives helped create some of the most basic talking points of yes, conservatives, but also, later on, some liberals. However, due to time and length constraints, I’m going to go over these tropes and arguments rather methodically and in list form, so excuse the lack of narrative these will be presented with.
1. Black militants ruined the chance for gently negotiating with whites. Had they been spoken softly to, they would have been much more happy to help out.
A favorite among some liberals even today, this is one of the most-repeated arguments in the book.
Black demands for power “ignored that other groups did have interests, and did have power, and would and could react against militant and arrogant demands, which owed to the black culture of the streets a good deal of their peculiar bite and arrogance. Whatever the effect of this new black style in creating self-satisfaction among those who used it, it did little to reach the other side and create conditions for accommodation.”
“For just as a ‘nigger’ can be made by treating him like a ‘nigger’ and calling him a ‘nigger,’ just as a black can be made by educating him to a new, proud, black image – and this education is carried on in words and images, as well as in deeds – so can racists be made, by calling them racists and treating them like racists. And we have to ask ourselves, as we react to the myriad cases of group conflict in the city, what words shall we use, what images shall we present, with what effect? If a group of housewives insists that it does not want its children bussed to black schools because it fears for the safety of its children, or it does not want blacks bussed in because it fears for the academic quality of the schools, do we denounce this as ‘racism’ or do we recognize that these fears have a base in reality and deal seriously with the issues? When a union insists that it has nothing against blacks but it must protect its jobs for its members and their children, do we deal with those fears directly, or do we denounce them as racists? When a neighborhood insists that it wants to maintain its character and its institutions, do we take this seriously or do we cry racism again?”
2. Moreover, an obsession with racism actually creates racism.
After listing two black politicians to be either granted significant political office or considered for it, they argue that before the rise of black power “It was becoming routine for Negroes to have ‘a place on the slate.’ Only after a decade of intense preoccupation with injustices done black people, with ‘white racism,’ ‘genocide,’ and the rhetoric of social revolution did it become a chancy thing to nominate a black for the least significant of statewide posts.”
3a. The intellectuals, liberal elites, and militant blacks are combining against the average American and the American way.
“In New York a game followed in which there were in essence the five players constituting the groups described in Beyond the Melting Pot and, in addition, an elite Protestant group. The play went something as follows. The Protestants and better-off Jews determined that the Negroes and Puerto Ricans were deserving and in need and, on those grounds, further determined that these needs would be met by concessions of various kinds from the Italians and the Irish (or, generally speaking, from the Catholic players) and the worse-off Jews. The Catholics resisted, and were promptly further judged to be opposed to helping the deserving and needy. On these grounds their traditional rights to govern in New York City because they were so representative of just such groups were taken from them and conferred on the two other players, who had commenced the game and had in the course of it demonstrated that those at the top of the social hierarchy are better able to emphathize with those at the bottom. Whereupon ended a century of experiment with governance by men of the people. Liberalism triumphed and the haute bourgeoisie was back in power.”
“The difficult question we face today is whether black groups that insist – rhetorically or not, who is to tell? – on armed revolution, on the killing of whites, on violence toward every moderate black element, should be tolerated. Even if they are, however, they should not receive public support and encouragement. Intellectuals in New York have done a good deal to encourage and publicize this kind of madness.”
3b. And the media is guilty of the same thing.
“In the 1960’s, the black Invisible Man became the working class and the middle class, people who had been leaders in their communities. They were now pushed aside by young militants, who were supported by white mass media and some white political leaders.”
4. Reverse racism.
Approvingly quoting Michael Lerner: “An extraordinary amount of bigotry on the part of the elite, liberal students goes unexamined. … The violence of the ghetto is patronized as it is ‘understood’ and forgiven; the violence of a Cicero racist convinced that Martin Luther King threatens his lawn and house and powerboat is detested without being understood. Yet the two bigotries are very similar.”
Back to Glazer and Moynihan: “In the course of the 1960’s, the etiquette of race relations changed. It became possible, even, from the point of view of the attackers desirable for blacks to attack and vilify whites in a manner no ethnic group had ever really done since the period of anti-Irish feeling of the 1840’s and 1850’s. This was yet another feature of the Southern pattern of race relations, as against the Northern pattern of ethnic group relations, making its impress on the life of the city. There was, of course, an inversion. The ‘nigger’ speech of the Georgia legislature became the ‘honky’ speech of the Harlem street corner, or the national television studio, complete with threats of violence. In this case, it was the whites who were required to remain silent and impotent in the face of the attack. But the pattern was identical./ The calamity of this development will be obvious. The whites in the North responded much as did the blacks in the South.”
5. Northern innocence.
“The Northern model is quite different. [From the Southern model.] There are many groups. They differ in wealth, power, occupation, values, but in effect an open society prevails for individuals and for groups. Over time a substantial and rough equalization of wealth and power can be hoped for even if not attained, and each group participates sufficiently in the goods and values and social life of a common society so that all can accept the common society as good and fair.”
6. The black community did not know how to do politics correctly; if they had, they would have had a much easier time.
“There was another political failure of the sixties, and this was the failure of Negroes (and Puerto Ricans) to develop and seize the political opportunities that were open to them. It was less clear in 1960-61 than in 1969 how massively Negroes (and Puerto Ricans) abstained from politics, in some of the key ways that counted, for example, voting.”
“To our minds, whether blacks in the end see themselves as ethnic within the American context, or as only black – a distinct race defined only by color, bearing a unique burden through American history – will determine whether race relations in this country is an unending tragedy or in some measure – to the limited measure that anything human can be – moderately successful.”
“The white ethnic groups were familiar with the processes of bureaucratic advancement – how long a time was necessary at one level to reach the next. Many Negroes, excluded from this kind of experience, were not, and were unaware when they made demands for Negroes in high position in various bureaucratic organizations, government and nongovernment, how shocking and immoral these demands appeared to those who had served their time.”
Alas, this does not exhaust the list; but I had to stop somewhere, lest the length of this post get out of control.
A final note. In the midst of the section on “The Catholics and the Jews,” Moynihan and Glazer spend several pages expounding on what they perceive to be a rising demonization of Italians in popular culture, arguing that they have been accused of “persistent criminality.” I have absolutely no idea where this idea came from, if anyone else was articulating it at the time, or if it has even the remotest basis in reality. The only evidence they really offer is the popularity of shows and movies about the mob, and Robert Kennedy going after said mob. It is strange, I think, to think books like The Godfather made people dislike Italians – my impression is that it made them incredibly cool, especially, after the movies came out, amongst young people in the black community – but perhaps this is wrong. Any thoughts?
 Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italia ns, and Irish of New York City (Second Edition) (Cambridge and London: The M.I.T. Press, 1970), xvii.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, xl-xli.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, xxii.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, lxii-lxiii, emphasis in original.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, lxxxvii.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, xliv.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, lxxiii.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, lxxiv – lxxv.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, xxiii.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, xviii.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, xl.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, lv.
 Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, lxvi-lxviii.