It’s always nice when an argument breaks your way, even when it takes more than two years to do so.
In November 2010, I commemorated Mark Kirk’s Senate inauguration with a blog post noting that, as a result of his replacing Roland Burris (who himself replaced Barack Obama), the Senate now had no black members. I expressed the hope that Kirk would be “conscious of the historic nature of his Senate seat” by avoiding cultural issues, and focusing on economics. Which is exactly what he’s done.
James Taranto, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, seized on this to write a column entitled “Stuff White People Like,” in which he criticized me for assuming that blacks shared my white liberal politics. It was an attempt to discredit my concern for the Senate’s diversity by making me look “clueless” about race, to use Taranto’s word.
There are "social policies" on which blacks tend to be more liberal than whites--crime, welfare, racial preferences--but these are not the ones that divide moderate and conservative Republicans. Plainly Kirk is referring chiefly to abortion and also, perhaps, to same-sex marriage and other matters involving homosexuality. On these questions blacks tend to be, if anything, somewhat more conservative than whites. (Editor's emphasis.)
Kirk, a five-term House member, is no social conservative. In 2008 he had just a 17% rating from the Family Research Council. His views were well-suited to his suburban district, where a social conservative probably would have been unelectable. But his district is less than 5% black. McClelland, who by the way is white, shows his own prejudices when he imagines Kirk to be some sort of racial conciliator because the new senator holds views that are congenial to social liberals who are mostly white.
On February 14, 2013 the Illinois Senate voted 34-21 to approve gay marriage. All 21 no votes were cast by whites. Two black senators -- Patricia Van Pelt and Napoleon Harris -- voted “present,” while James Clayborne didn’t vote. But no member of the Black Caucus voted nay. This would suggest that, in fact, whites are more conservative than blacks on matters involving homosexuality. It’s also worth remembering that Roland Burris felt so strongly about overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that he wanted to return to the Senate to vote against it.
Taranto doesn’t follow Illinois politics as closely as I do, so I pointed this fact out to him on Twitter. Here are some of his responses.