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Get real

Campaign 2008 | It's time to learn what it's like to be a minority

Issue: "Obama," Nov. 15, 2008

All right. Which way would you rather have lost-in a landslide or by a squeaker?

Many WORLD readers, I imagine, see a long winter ahead. The trouncing at the polls was thorough, painful, and unambiguous. It confirmed the claims of many analysts that the conservative coalition assembled by Ronald Reagan a generation ago has all but disappeared.

So if there is any sense of realism at all, the Nov. 4 drubbing should silence (at least for the next election cycle or two) conservatives' perpetual pipedream that we in fact represent a majority viewpoint among the American electorate. If only we could get the right candidates, conservatives have argued, and a little fairness from the mainstream media, and slow down the flood of illegal immigrants, the votes would certainly go our way.

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Forget all that. We're a minority, and we ought to get used to it.

Indeed, if the 2008 election accomplished nothing more for the conservative movement than to bring us face to face with the reality of our own minority status, it might still be seen as a very good year. Getting real is usually the first step toward solving any deep-seated problem.

In politics-just as in your family finances, or your spiritual walk, or dealing with some personal addiction-ending the pretense and welcoming the reality is always a wholesome and necessary step. In retrospect, winning the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections probably didn't help sharpen our perspective. Those razor-thin victories prompted us to think we had more clout than was ever really ours. They misled us into a habit of sometimes brash pretense.

Maybe it's time for Reagan conservatives like me to pay a humble visit to some of our African-American brothers and sisters and take a few lessons on what it means to find yourself in a perpetual minority role. I don't mean this merely in a symbolic or metaphoric manner. I mean real, nitty-gritty, face-to-face sessions-as in black face to white face. Maybe that would help us adjust to how we should and shouldn't act now that we're discovering what it means to be on the short end of the stick.

Try this very specific case in point as a personal test. Did you catch the news item the weekend before the election about how several reporters for conservative-leaning newspapers were booted from the Obama plane to make room for staffers from Jet and Ebony magazines? You can get upset and angry about that, if you want. Or you can respond with optimistic humility: "Maybe it's my turn to learn to be in the minority."

Or maybe we could quietly approach some of our Jewish friends. Jews, after all, are actually a minority group among minority groups; blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but Jews just 2 percent. We could ask them to go way back, even to Old Testament times, and recount for us how their ancestors managed to keep hope alive when the odds against winning anything at all were overwhelming.

I would ask my Jewish friends especially to remind me, by reading from Deuteronomy 7, that the Lord has a unique perspective on what it means to be a minority. "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery."

Neither ancient Israel nor Reagan Republicans have had a corner on political cockiness and arrogance. Bringing proud and overconfident people down to size seems to be one of the Lord's main tasks-both in the Bible and in modern history as well. But especially for those of us who claim to know something of the nature of that God, and who are blessed to be pretty well acquainted with His revelation of Himself in the Bible, wouldn't it be a good thing to humble ourselves-and not have to wait for another political cycle for God to do it to us?

If you have a question or comment for Joel Belz, send it to jbelz@worldmag.com.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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