Front Porch PC
The Harmless “Anarchism” of Bill Kauffman
The other day, I emailed Richard an article by Bill Kauffman praising the “reverse migration” of Blacks to the South in general, and author Ernest Gaines’s return to Louisiana in particular. Richard asked me to write a short blog on it. As I began, I found it difficult to concisely express my thoughts without saying something more substantial about Kauffman, whose worldview (or, as I’m sure he’d like to call it, “local-view”) is popular among a number of libertarians and traditionalist conservatives, particularly the “Front Porch Republic” types.
For those of us tired of the traditional Left/Right paradigm in American politics, one has to appreciate Kauffman’s attempt at a new political historiography of sorts. He champions localism, populism, and anti-imperialism over corporate capitalism, empire, and political centralization.
In this vein, he proudly rejects the neoconservatives, cosmopolitan libertarians, and the Fox News crowd, while embracing Agrarians, decentralist libertarians, and a number of figures identified with the Left such as William Jennings Bryan and Gore Vidal (who wrote the forward to his excellent book, America First.)
I’d imagine that Kauffman would happily admit that he has a Romantic and sentimental view of America that animates his commentary much more than any sort of thorough political analysis. With enthusiastic prose, he will make historical figures and contemporary political and cultural figures he champions come alive.
This can make interesting reading, but at times, it can become downright campy. In his book Ain’t My America, he describes his political beliefs as such:
I belong to no political camp: my politics are localist, decentralist, Jeffersonian. I am an American rebel, a Main Street bohemian, a rural Christian pacifist. I have strong libertarian and traditionalist conservative streaks. I am in many ways an anarchist, though a front-porch anarchist, a chestnut-tree anarchist, a girls-softball-coach anarchist. My politics are a kind of mixture of Dorothy Day and Henry David Thoreau, though with an upstate New York twist. I voted for Nader in 2004 and Buchanan in 2000: the peace candidates. I often vote Libertarian and Green. I am a freeborn American with the blood of Crazy Horse, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jack Kerouac flowing in my veins.
You get the idea.
Kauffman’s definition of a conservative becomes quite expansive when he tries to include left-wing icons such as George McGovern.
What makes McGovern conservative? In addition to McGovern’s obvious antiwar views, Kauffman praised McGovern for not dismissing Wallace Voters:
“It is not prejudice to fear for your family’s safety or to resent tax inequities. . . . It is time to recognize this and to stop labeling people ‘racist’ or ‘militant,’ to stop putting people in different camps, to stop inciting one American against another,” said McGovern, who called the Wallace vote “an angry cry from the guts of ordinary Americans against a system which doesn’t seem to give a damn about what is really bothering people in this country today.”
This is no different than the typical What’s the Matter with Kansas liberalism, or for that matter, Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race, where he said that working-class Whites opposed to immigration and affirmative action were not evil, but were merely misplacing their anger against the evil White capitalists.
A few years ago, I saw Kauffman speak at the Cato Institute about Ain’t My America. My memory is a little hazy and I cannot recreate his style, but I distinctly remember him opening up explaining what wasn’t his America: Fox News and the New York Times etc. Then he listed what was his America: he started with a number of small town and cultural pieces like “Casey at the Bat” and finished with “Straight Outta Compton.”
For those not aware, Straight Outtta Compton was the debut album of the band Niggaz With Attitude. Steve Sailer aptly called it the soundtrack to the LA Riots,
The title song opens,
Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube
From the gang called Niggaz With Attitudes
When I’m called off, I got a sawed off
Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off
NWA’s most famous song off the album is “Fuck the Police,” which includes lines like
Just cuz I’m from the CPT, punk police are afraid of me
A young nigga on a warpath
And when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath
Of cops, dyin in LA
Not exactly “Casey at the Bat.”
At the time, I thought he was being tongue and cheek, but the more I’ve reflected on Kauffman, I’ve become less and less sure.
Kauffman recently edited a volume with a hokey URL title, ComeHomeAmerica.US, which promotes America’s anti-imperialist tradition and a new Left-Right alliance based on “alarm” at “runaway militarism.” I had very little interest in reading this tome, but an ad for it frequently appeared on The American Conservative’s website, featuring illustrations of this wonderful coalition.
Who does it include? Predictably, Mark Twain and conservative anti-imperialists Ron Paul and Robert Taft are there, along with America First Progressives Smedley Butler and Robert La Follette. I can roll my eyes at the inclusion of socialist Eugene Debs and pacifist feminists Jane Adams and Jeannette Rankin. But I can only laugh at seeing Joan Baez and Martin Luther King!
While she may have covered “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” Baez’s political career has been hardly one of “localism.” After she realized the Communists she had earlier championed were not peace-loving hippies, Baez has spent the last 35 years of her life advocating “international human rights”
As for King, one does not need to support Southern Segregation to view him as the antithesis of everything Kauffman purports to champion. King left the South to align himself with cosmopolitan northern Communists and socialists and pressure the federal government to undermine self-government in his “ancestral region.”
King’s antiwar views were not in the mode of Robert Taft, or even Eugene Debs; he was a vicious anti-American sympathetic to the Communists. He wrongly argued that Blacks were being disproportionately killed in Vietnam, and considered the war to be engineered by the same “racists” in the American government who promoted his career.
Kauffman’s championing of anti-White icons brings us to the short blog post I was supposed to write.
In a recent American Conservative piece “Southern Comfort,” Kauffman tries to create a tradition of decentralist, anti-imperialist, Black agrarians by bringing up the legacy of Zora Neale Hurston. A genuinely interesting figure, Hurston was brought out of obscurity by Black Communist Alice Walker. However, as Kauffman notes, she was a Bob Taft supporter who hated FDR and Truman. What Kauffman fails to note is that she opposed the Brown vs. Board of Education decision (and not just on States Rights grounds) and worked for segregationist George Smathers.
But the real object of his praise is Ernest J. Gaines, one of the many Black novelists of modest talent that have been given MacArthur and National Book Awards.
According to Kauffman,
Despite years in San Francisco exile, Gaines has placed all his fiction in rural Louisiana, never venturing even as far as New Orleans. “I picked my own back yard—and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he says. “After all, Yoknapatawpha County was good enough for Faulkner,” with whose volumes Gaines’s masterwork, A Lesson Before Dying, deserves kinship.
“My folks have lived in the same place for over a hundred years in Pointe Coupee Parish in South Central Louisiana. I can’t imagine writing about any other place,” Ernest Gaines says. “Everything comes back to Louisiana.”
So, Gaines has recently moved back to his hometown and is involved in helping the local community. Good for him. But the word “exile” is a misnomer. Gaines, of course, chose to live in one of the most cosmopolitan liberal (read: White) cities in the world, whose small Black population has been diminishing for years.
In high school, I was forced to read Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying. The near sole focus of the book was the fact that Whites in the South were racist. I confess, I was not eager to seek out any of his other work, but in my diligent research, I went to Wikipedia and read the summaries of his other books. Sure enough, every single one of them is about White racism.
Kauffman sees Gaines as part of a great trend: “The grandchildren of the Southern diaspora are going home: American blacks are returning to their ancestral region.” (No not that “ancestral region.”)
From this article, one imagines he’s speaking of Blacks upset with city life in search of localism. I’m thinking of a politically correct version of the now banned Virginia State Song, “Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny”
Carry me back to old Virginny.
There’s where the cotton and corn and taters grow.
There’s where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time.There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.There’s where I labored so hard for old Massa,
Day after day in the field of yellow corn;No place on earth do I love more sincerelyThan old Virginny, the state where I was born.
We all know it is not dreams of rural community that brings the “Southern Diaspora” back to Dixie. Rather, thank to efforts of Martin Luther King and his successors, much of the South now looks like Detroit.
The elimination of Virginia’s State Song brings up another point that Kaufmann and his “front porch” followers refuse to address. The biggest threats to localism, of both the political and cultural variety, is immigration and multiculturalism.
Virtually every increase in “civil rights” has been done at the expense of local school districts and voting boards. As Robert Putnam reluctantly noted, racial diversity is the most destructive force against community cohesion. And as most all of America before 1950 would be considered “racist” by today’s standards, eliminating every monument and other cultural institution held by said “racists” is the inevitable conclusion of failing to stand up to anti-White cultural hegemony.
Kauffman has made a few references to immigration restriction, but I cannot see a single mention in the last several years. A self-described Bill Kauffman libertarian once told me, “I’d rather eat at an authentic Mexican restaurant in the barrio than at a Taco Bell or Chipotle.”
And rather than stand against, Kauffman simply tries to imagine anti-White writers like Ernest Gaines as “agrarians” and activists like Martin Luther King as “anti-imperialists.”
I, too, would love to return to a decentralizized and non-interventionist American Republic. But this ideal will never be reached if we do not completely stand up to the Left and the onslaught of multiculturalism and anti-White racism.
I invite Bill Kauffman and his followers to join the fight.