Great America

ACB vs. ‘Know-Nothing’ Democrats

Republicans are almost certain to confirm an outstanding judge. But a simmering anti-Catholicism threatens to break through.

The Democrats have essentially given up on blocking the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. This does not imply, however, that they will fail to turn her hearings into a nasty farce of smears of the nominee as an adherent to a voodoo-like religious devotion, and a passionate seeker of an America with no assisted healthcare and back-alley abortions. 

The strategy mirrors the malicious fiction then-Senators Joe Biden and Teddy Kennedy threw at Robert Bork in 1987. Barrett, like Bork, is obviously a person of outstanding character and intelligence with impeccable credentials as a law professor and judge. It will not be easy for Democrats to portray such an accomplished and attractive person and personality, who departed for Washington with her husband and family of seven in a minivan, as the slavering primitivist that is their preferred caricature. 

Despite Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s wholesomeness when he was nominated to the high court two years ago, the fact that he was a man and that the United States was plunged in the tenebrous thickets of the #MeToo movement where the careers of everyone from Charlie Rose to Al Franken were terminated instantly on rather slender evidence of at worst tawdry but not aggressive behavior to women years before, made Kavanaugh a sitting duck for the sort of assault that he endured. 

The attack upon Kavanaugh was based on the defamation of his character as a high school student more than 30 years before and was produced by a reluctant and flaky accuser who cited witnesses who couldn’t recall the incident alleged, and instead professed to believe that it had not occurred. 

In this case, there can be no serious challenge to Barrett’s character—not that the challenge to Kavanaugh was serious in terms of evidence, just that the villainous charge and hysteria of the time rattled the weaker Republicans on the Judiciary committee. There are more than 70 million Roman Catholics in the United States, and approximately half of them take the religion quite seriously (including Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi). 

Take Care With Questioning

As the great majority of all Americans object to sectarian prejudice, the Democrats will have to be a good deal more careful questioning Barrett than they were three years ago at her hearings as a Circuit Court of Appeals nominee.

On that occasion, the ranking Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who also produced the principal assailant on Kavanaugh’s character, had the effrontery to express concern to Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Feinstein is scarcely qualified to inflict theological opinions on witnesses before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Further, the implication of Feinstein’s remark is that the world’s original and largest Christian religion—the largest single religious denomination in the United States—is an irrational and authoritarian organization that effectively brainwashes its communicants and requires them in their professional occupations to adopt positions inimical to the public interest or policy of the United States. This is the oldest and shabbiest form of bigotry in the country, except for slavery and its legacy. 

There will of course be an attempt to disguise the Democrats’ inquisition behind a secular curiosity about the candidate’s open-minded consideration of the legal status of abortion. Whatever views they may suspect her of harboring on the Affordable Care Act, that has nothing practically to do with her faith.            

On her previous appearance before the Judiciary Committee, Barrett was able to manage the abortion question by stating that whatever her views on the subject, precedents from the Supreme Court were the law and none of her opinions, religious or otherwise, would impede her from applying the law. Since she is now a candidate for a court that can alter or repeal, or even up to a point rewrite legislation, the question becomes more complicated. 

The Abortion Dilemma

The core of the problem is that the militant advocates of abortion, feminists who regard it as the litmus test of their status as citizens, and the wealthy and politically assertive abortion industry represented by Planned Parenthood and others, are rightly fearful of the vulnerability of the Roe v. Wade decision (1973). But instead of proposing a new and less fragile legal basis for abortion they have for decades been conducting a rearguard action and a desperate defense on the ramparts of a poorly motivated judgment.

Roe v. Wade was based on a presumed right to privacy extended to a woman’s right to absolute control over what goes on within her own body. This was a fatuous perspective; the real issue is when the unborn attain the rights of people, an issue about which there is a wide-ranging debate and all positions, from conception to delivery at term can be cogently argued as the time that fetuses become people. 

The only solution, as has occurred in other advanced countries, is a compromise, usually around five months, which satisfies neither the pro-abortion (most of them aren’t much interested in choice) nor pro-life factions of approximately equal political strength. Presumably, Barrett will repeat that her own views will not color her interpretation of the law and that she will not express an opinion on the hypothesis of a Roe challenge.  

Return of the “Know-Nothings”?

Try as they will to profess respect for Barrett’s faith and church, the Democrats are almost certain to leave the country with the uneasy feeling that they are intellectually persecuting Catholicism, insulting its membership, and are offending the permanent tolerant majority of Americans. 

Despite George Washington’s promise to the Roman Catholics of America that they would not be persecuted, there was ample anti-Catholic prejudice in the country for many decades. In 1856, former President Millard Fillmore received 22 percent of the popular vote as the presidential candidate of the American Party, which wished to disqualify Roman Catholics and immigrants from public office, and which was popularly and appropriately known as the “Know-Nothing” party. 

Many readers will remember then-Senator John F. Kennedy’s address to Protestant clergymen in Houston in 1960 deploring the implications of any widely held view that scores of millions of Americans were disqualified from the nation’s highest office on the day of their baptism. 

The fact of being a Roman Catholic is no longer a political handicap. But the entire American state federally and in many of the individual states has been moving determinedly towards a fiscal and cultural oppression of religion, and the Roman Catholic religion in particular. 

Flirting with Dangerous Fallacies

Catholic schools and institutions are fiscally and otherwise discriminated against and under the spurious guise of separating church and state, something that has never remotely been a problem in the United States, perversely authoritarian legislation has been passed in many places requiring Roman Catholic institutions to pay for activities that it conscientiously opposes, including most forms of birth control, sterilization, and abortion (“reproductive rights” is the misnomer). No church, nor all faiths combined, are any threat to the authority of secular government in the United States. 

The antagonism of the political system is intellectual and psychological. If the existence of spiritual forces and of any divine or supernatural intelligence is officially denied, a vacuum is created that will ultimately be occupied by mere mortals. That is the road to the fallacies about the perfectibility of man, the absolute rule of reason, and the elevation of leaders to pagan eminence. 

This is the issue that, ignorant though they may be of it, Democratic Senators may be scratching at in the Barrett confirmation process. It will not be thoroughly dealt with in these hearings, but it may break the surface. In this profound sense, it is an issue that could ultimately imperil our civilization. 

For the moment, however, the Republicans are almost certain to confirm an outstanding judge. 

Great America

The Third Worlding of America

This is not Norman Rockwell’s America. Indeed, it’s not even the America one might remember growing up in the 1980s and ’90s. It’s changed for the worse.

Whether it is forest fires caused by decrepit infrastructure, the use of intelligence agencies to target domestic political opponents, growing inequality, or a rejection of our political traditions, America more and more feels like a third world country.

First, consider what it meant to be a first world country. This has always been a small club: the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and, more recently, Singapore and South Korea made the cut. 

The former Soviet Union and its satellites were part of the so-called Second World. In both material and moral terms, they were decidedly inferior: little political or social freedom, shoddy consumer goods, and a malfunctioning economic system. 

The Third World was everyone else.  

Our First World Past

First world status comes from various political, social, and economic achievements. One of the more salient is low corruption. The classic symbol of third world corruption is the shakedown for bribes by border officials and police officers. For the most part, this has been absent from American public life. There is a reason Norman Rockwell painted police officers as heroic and non-threatening, and that Americans living in the most American parts of our country still talk about leaving their doors unlocked at night. 

Low levels of corruption foster another distinct feature of America’s first world status: the dominance of the private sector and high degrees of entrepreneurialism. 

While all first world countries enjoy low corruption, Europe’s governments were always more involved in it. In the United States, the government sector was historically small, competent, and responsive. Most people made their living privately. 

To the extent anyone worked for the government, it was either true public service among those who achieved their success elsewhere, or a tradeoff of more modest wages for higher job security within the civil service. Increasingly, the government sector is both higher paying and more secure, with access controlled by nepotism and racial classifications. In other words, the private sector—other than the top echelons—is for suckers. 

Another feature of American life has been low levels of crime and disorder. 

You don’t need to be a historian to see this; you merely need a set of eyes. When you see the decaying, boarded-up facades of yesteryear—the modest and orderly row homes of Baltimore, the grandiose public works of Detroit—these are the ruins of a prosperous and orderly society. They could not have been built so sturdily or well by the current denizens of these communities. They are a window into a disappearing America of prosperous small towns and orderly and civilized cities, where a middle class could live and work. Such “normalcy” exists now, if at all, in the rings of suburbs around our cities, usually more shoddily and less beautifully built than the original cities themselves.

Political normality, compromise, and restraint are other features of first world societies. These habits of self-limitation are the products of a common culture, where the goal of preserving and strengthening an existing society is taken for granted. This is the inheritance of George Washington, who stepped down after two terms. It is reflected in Richard Nixon taking advice from LBJ, and the whole country mourning the murder of JFK. Further back, it is seen in the high degrees of trust among voters for the government and its institutions, which has been falling for decades.

Many commenters like to say the country’s historical stability and wealth are the product of its ideas and creed. That’s certainly part of it, but it’s also because of the people. 

These habits developed over a long time. Our countrymen’s common background, religion, and language limited the range of domestic political disagreement. The American people were not just an assembly of economic units with nothing in common. They were a people.  

Everything fit together. The combination of austere Christian morality, a lack of formal class system, and a predictable legal regime led to dynamism, ingenuity, and growth. America went from a colonial backwater to a world power in 200 years. Unlike France, which is on its fifth constitution, or the Soviet Union, which broke apart after 70 years, the United States and its legal order have proven to be remarkably durable. 

Even so, things feel different. In the passing of a generation or two, the features outlined above feel less prominent. Politics, morality, economics, and demographics have all undergone a substantial, engineered change. Old commitments, whether to free speech or respect for religion, are in decline. New images, new habits, and new human types have emerged following the multi-faceted social revolution since the 1960s. 

It feels, for lack of a better word, more and more like we are living in a third world country. 

Our Third World Future

What is the Third World? What are its features? It is not just grinding poverty. Some of the richest people in the world and their opulent palaces can be found in the Third World. But even as the Third World has gotten comparatively wealthier, it retains many features that make it unpleasant, particularly for the common man. This is why millions of people from that part of the world risk life and limb to come to the United States and Europe. 

One feature is a lack of public spiritedness. The public space and the commons are literally trashed. In the Third World, political office is a means to enrich oneself and one’s family. This is as true for presidents as it is for mayors and lower-level officials. The endemic corruption of the Third World both reflects and reinforces an extreme tribalism, which elevates the extended family above the public as a whole. 

Elections and parties reflect these ethnic divisions, and a winner-take-all spirit prevails. This is as true in India as Iran, in Mexico as in Mauritania. In parts of the United States heavily populated with immigrant groups from the Third World, the local politics reflects the same values. Old habits die hard. 

To the extent there is a private sector in the Third World, it is intertwined with and dependent on the political one. Bribes are a necessary cost of doing business. But the real money is in public corruption, whether in the form of official or unofficial monopoly, government contracts, or the like. This is increasingly true at home, where whole sectors of the economy—health care, green jobs, aerospace, and e-commerce—are dependent on a combination of regulatory assistance, government contracts, or outright subsidies.  

As the Hunter Biden episode reminds us—along with the dozens of other well-paid relatives of politicians—self-enrichment among the political class is becoming an unremarkable feature of American life. One cannot imagine today a president ending up, like Harry Truman, near-broke at the end of a presidency. 

A related feature of the Third World is failing infrastructure. While gleaming homes, sports cars, and private affluence are well-known, public investments are often shoddy, decrepit, and obsolete. You can’t drink the water. There is little incentive to fix these things, as politics chiefly consists of individually rewarding one’s close associates, rather than benefiting the public as a whole. Complex problems remain unsolved and persistent. 

Along these lines, here at home, we see increasing evidence of both organizational and technological decline. A nation that once built skyscrapers, world-class universities, beautiful highways, and railroads from coast to coast, now finds much of it is in disrepair, with repair projects often exceeding the cost of the original construction

This does not mean money is not spent. In 2009, Obama enacted a $1 trillion stimulus. In response to COVID-19, President Trump authorized $2 trillion in spending. But what do we have to show for either? Where is the Golden Gate Bridge or Hoover Dam? For that matter, where’s our wall?

Yet another notable feature of the Third World is poverty, lawlessness, and disorder. The most jarring symbol of third world inequality and chaos are the shantytowns that surround their urban centers. 

Here at home, we now find armies of homeless and tent dwellers in our most prosperous cities. San Francisco and New York now have to deal with a public defecation crisis. There is little serious discussion of these problems. No one in power has the will to end them. At the same time, private security and gated communities are becoming the symbols of the age. 

A final feature of the Third World, now familiar at home, is high stakes politics. While democracy exists in some measure in many third world nations, it is what Fareed Zakaria has called “illiberal democracy.” Everything is on the table. Political opponents are often targeted for punishment if they lose power. Thus, every election becomes a referendum on the freedom and safety of large sectors of the populace, and thus they are often marred by fraud and violence. 

America’s traditions of a peaceful transfer of power and political decorum are disappearing. Open talk of “burning it down” and changing the rules to guarantee victories are now becoming common. There is no restraint, because the stakes are higher and the visions of America’s future come from entirely different traditions. The Left’s view is a foreign import with totalitarian implications; it is alien to the principles of due process and restraint embedded in America’s constitutional order. 

It Pays to Be a Winner

It’s all rather depressing. But the change is also undeniable. Conservatives like to talk about American exceptionalism and a silent majority, but this seems to be, especially now, mere nostalgia. America, like every nation, can undergo revolutionary change or slow decay. It’s legal forms can become devoid of substance as its people change.

The talk of tiny homes, the gig economy, and vibrancy are the coping mechanisms of a nation where a middle-class existence cannot be had for more and more people, who are weighed down by low wages, rising real estate costs, debt, and the insecurity of urban life. 

From rolling blackouts in California and millionaire “private-sector” jobs for ousted politicians in D.C., to draconian enforcement of mask mandates while arsonists shut down our streets, this is not Norman Rockwell’s America. Indeed, it’s not even the America one might remember growing up in the 1980s and ’90s. It’s changed for the worse. 

More important, the rules required to survive and thrive are quite different from those of the recent past. As in Venezuela or Iraq, politics and life are becoming “winner take all.” It’s important to know when compromise is not possible. And, under these circumstances, it pays to be a winner. 

Great America

Anthony Fauci and the CDC: Inspiring Fear Since 1983

A politician first, Fauci has always played all sides of the equation because he knows that inspiring fear will always drive public policy in the direction he wants it to go.

In an alarming report issued on September 18, the Centers for Disease Control released a significant new guidance claiming that coronavirus droplets can remain suspended in the air to be later breathed in by others in indoor restaurants, classrooms, and businesses. Worse, the CDC claimed, the airborne particles can travel distances far beyond six feet—infecting entire indoor environments without good ventilation.

Three days later, the CDC withdrew the advice, saying only that “it had been posted in error” on the agency’s website. 

For nearly four decades, the researchers at the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have been regarded as heroes because of their commitment to public health and welfare. Fauci’s leadership in the early days of COVID-19 pandemic was laudable—inspiring confidence that the 15 days to “flatten the curve” would save lives by protecting hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

In fact, much of Fauci’s work and the work of the CDC truly has been heroic. In 1988, when then-Vice President George H. W. Bush was asked during the October 13 presidential debate to name a personal hero, he named Fauci. And when President George W. Bush awarded Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008, he reminded us that when AIDS, a “mysterious and terrifying plague began to take the lives of people across the world . . . it had a fierce opponent in Dr. Anthony Fauci.” 

As Randy Shilts’ 1987 book, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, points out, Fauci was an early hero in his early days as an AIDS clinician at the National Institutes of Health Hospital. But Shilts also devotes several pages of his book to what he saw as a recurring problem with Fauci: that the hero in the AIDS fight was also a political player who was willing to distort research data to try to shape policy in the ways he thought it needed to be shaped. 

On May 5, 1983—contrary to all of the research data at the time—Fauci published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association stating AIDS was transmissible by “routine close contact.” Claiming that children could catch the deadly disease of AIDS from their families, Fauci wrote that if routine personal contact among family members in a household is enough to spread the illness, “then AIDS takes on an entirely new dimension.”  

Fauci’s 1983 editorial opened the floodgates of fear about AIDS. According to Michael Fumento’s The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS, Fauci’s article moved AIDS from being “perceived as a gay disease to a ‘media event.’” Fumento’s review of media coverage via the computerized bibliographic news service Nexis revealed that during the second and third quarters of 1983, AIDS news coverage quadrupled to about 700 articles each quarter. And although reassurances were given to contradict Fauci’s felonious statements on the “casual contact” contention, the idea that “anyone” was vulnerable to contracting AIDS continued for quite a while. 

As Fumento wrote, “what really appeals to editors is raising the specter that AIDS is about to break out of major risk groups . . . If previously healthy straights were getting a fatal disease for which there was no cure and the number of cases was doubling every seven or eight months or so, the story would be in the papers every day.” 

Refusing to take any responsibility for the panicked response, Fauci blamed a “hysterical media” for taking his comments out of context. According to Shilts, Fauci had said, 

only that the possibility of household transmission might raise all these scientific implications. The lay public did not understand the language of science, he pleaded. Science always dealt with hypotheticals; this did not mean he was saying that AIDS actually was spread through household contact. Moreover, the chief villain, he would accurately note, was the press office of the American Medical Association which had so shamefully sensationalized the journal article in an effort to draw attention to a journal that always found itself playing second fiddle to Science and the New England Journal of Medicine.

No matter who was to blame, Fauci’s warnings about casual contact causing AIDS set in motion a wave of hysteria; it also set in motion a wave of government and private funding for research for a cure. 

The New York Times and USA Today ran Fauci’s flawed press release as did most newspapers in the United States as heterosexuals began to believe that they, too, were vulnerable. The media warned that heterosexuals “just like you and me” with no risk factors other than heterosexual intercourse could spread AIDS. Claiming that in 1986, the proportion of heterosexual transmission cases had doubled in one year from 2 percent to 4 percent of all cases, Fumento pointed out that the media neglected to ask the “hard questions” about the real data. 

Distortions of Data Then and Now

Blaming the CDC for distorting the numbers of heterosexual cases, Fumento wrote: “nobody was seeing these additional cases, to be sure but they existed on paper, with the trail of paper leading right back to the doors of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.” 

What the media did not tell us about these percentages was that the CDC had included AIDS cases discovered among new arrivals to the United States from Africa and Haiti who were classified as “undetermined” sexual orientation when they were diagnosed. The CDC later acknowledged that “it was probably an omission” to fail to state that the undetermined were lumped in with the heterosexuals in compiling the data on new AIDS cases: “It should have been put in there, but if somebody called we’d set them straight.” 

The distortions of data continue today. Although the threat of contracting the coronavirus that can lead to COVID-19 is very real for all of us, he rarely mentions that more than 80 percent of all deaths from the disease are among the elderly. Healthy young people are much more likely to have mild cases of the virus as even the CDC acknowledges that the vast majority of all COVID-19 patients—young and old—requiring hospitalization had at least one underlying health condition or risk factor, as did those requiring intensive care. Men are significantly more likely to die of COVID-19 than women but no one seems to worry about that.

According to the most recent data, children ages 0 to 19 have a .02 percent risk of dying if infected by the coronavirus. There are almost no cases of the virus causing problems in children under age 10. 

Yet, channeling his 1983 JAMA warnings, Fauci advised Congress in July that in some parts of the country, “schools should remain closed in the fall.” Claiming that if states reopen before meeting the criteria set out by the Trump administration, they risk reprisals of the outbreak, Fauci continues today to move the goalposts in reopening the country. 

President Trump was correct when he criticized the CDC for demanding schools do “very impractical things” to prepare to reopen. The president is also correct when he says that Fauci “wants to play all sides of the equation.” 

A politician first, Fauci has always played all sides of the equation because he knows that inspiring fear will always drive public policy in the direction he wants it to go. Some lives may be saved—but many more lives may be lost by continuing to keep children locked out of schools, parents locked out of work, and businesses closed. 

Great America

Trump’s Nomination of ACB Honors Constitutional Norms; Dems Dishonor Them

Democrats and President Obama abandoned prudence as part of political persuasion in 2016 and so they failed to get their nominee confirmed. Now they are angry that Republicans and President Trump are using it effectively.

To hear Democrats in Congress, the very nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is illegitimate. Putting up a new member in an election year, they and their media pals tell us, violates every unwritten “norm” of our system. They are wrong.

The real norm is written in a history that every first grader should know—but apparently not the likes of Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The very first Supreme Court nomination during a competitive election year—which was our fourth presidential election year, 1800—came after both the outgoing president and his party in the Senate had lost at the ballot box, but before each had left office. It led to the installation of the most consequential chief justice in the nation’s history, John Marshall.

But such ancient history is no precedent at all, the Democrats insist, for, as they tell us, Republicans confirmed a better, more modern rule in 2016, when they refused to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat before that year’s election. Maybe the Democrats and the media (to be fair, some Republicans, too) should think for more than a hot minute about the written rules for nominating and confirming justices. The written rule tells a different story.

What the Constitution Says

Now, we all know that, so far as this election season goes, the written law has been treated as simply passé. Take, for example, this rule from Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. It requires only a second or two to read: “The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Already, by extending their deadlines for receiving and counting mail-in ballots, the Democrat governors of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina have tossed that rule aside, opening the coming election to an Illinois-1960 outcome. 

In 1960, Democratic Mayor Richard Daley withheld Chicago’s vote count until returns from Republican downstate were in. Then, magically, he reported sufficient votes for John F. Kennedy to give Kennedy the state and, in that close year, the Electoral College and the presidency. 

Today, in those four pivotal states and likely others, the 2020 stage is set for another Daley-like outcome, with more time and more states in which to manufacture the so hotly desired result than Richard Daley in his most expansive dreams ever imagined possible.

The written rule regarding selection of judges (Section 2 of Article II) takes even less reading time than the one about election days. The president, it says, “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint … judges of the Supreme Court . . . .

Close study of constitutional language as originally understood is not a skill that Democratic officeholders, or their appointees to any level of the judiciary, or their pals in the media respect or cultivate. “If it feels good, do it” is closer to their New Age mark. 

What Would Prudence Dictate?

But whether you are a Republican textualist or a Democratic abstract impressionist, the Constitution is truly living when it comes to intra-governmental interplay: How it works and what it means changes with the circumstances.

So, what does “advice and consent” mean?  More specifically, what should it have meant for President Obama in 2016 when he nominated Merrick Garland for the high court versus for President Trump this week when he decided on Judge Barrett?

The distinction is prudence, a standard as ancient as politics itself. “[O]ur choice of actions,” Aristotle wrote, “will not be right without Prudence any more than without Moral Virtue, since, while Moral Virtue enables us to achieve the end, Prudence makes us adopt the right means to the end.”

The authors of the Constitution understood this enduring “norm” of political behavior. At the moment of declaring the country’s independence, the founders cited it as their guide to action: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” Can there be any doubt that when it came to requiring the president to seek the “advice and consent” of the Senate, the founders meant he should do so as informed by prudence?

The Lost Give-and-Take of Politics

So why in 2016 didn’t President Obama see that just coming up with his high court candidate and throwing his name over the wall into Republican-controlled Senate chamber did not prudentially fit what the Constitution meant by “advice and consent”? 

In that divided circumstance, “the right means to the end” meant sitting down with the Senate leader (that would have been the Republican leader from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell) and developing a list acceptable to both of them. Was Senator McConnell unmovable? How about going to senators like Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and determining candidates that would split off enough Republican votes to get around Senator McConnell?

But this kind of prudence—which is the normal give and take of politics—was never in the Obama skillset. After all, this was the president whose idea of an olive branch in budget negotiations was to invite then-Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to a speech he was giving at George Washington University, reserve for Ryan a front-row seat, and then use the speech as an occasion to denounce Ryan’s budget proposals as immoral.

In contrast, President Trump has taken a prudent look at today’s Senate. The chamber’s minority has spent four years in a scorched earth campaign to destroy his presidency and failed. In what universe would giving their advice two seconds of consideration fit within the constitutional presumption of prudence?

Senate Democrats want norms? How about the norms of courtesy and respect during the Senate hearings to come? Or will we find that, like riots in cities all over the nation, the kind of hearings they gave Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh remain their idea of our system’s new norms as the Democrats have so bizarrely determined them to be?

Great America

The History of the Supreme Court: A View from the Future

From The Galactic Encyclopedia, 3020 edition under the entry titled: “United States Supreme Court: History.”

…reached perhaps the height of its erudition and competence, with the appointment and confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett (see portrait in Volume 4, next to “Dignity, concept”). This golden age, however, would be vanishingly brief, as the election of a Democratic president (whose name is now lost to us), was followed within forty-eight hours by his commitment to one of the early 21stcentury’s primitive asylums for victims of then-incurable age-related mental decline.

The ascension of President Kamala Harris followed. While best known today as the comically unscrupulous and hapless villainess of the musical comedy “Poontroon,” written half a century later, the real-life Harris was a far more ominous figure.

Musical comedy script notwithstanding, there is no evidence that Harris attempted to influence any Supreme Court decisions through clumsy attempts at physical seduction. It seems unlikely indeed, that at the age at which she assumed the presidency, she would have attempted the methods that marked her earlier political career.

Events related later in the show, however, including the “packing” of the Supreme Court, certainly occurred, though without the literal song-and-dance. Harris and her Democratic majority increased the court from nine to 15 justices shortly before the Interregnum.

Those justices who could still be located after the Restoration resumed their seats, and new justices were appointed bringing the total back to 15, but this did not settle the matter of court size. Changes in administration continued to bring about “court packing,” a process that at first was demanded by partisanship, then enshrined as tradition.

Within six administrations, the number of justices had risen to outnumber first the Senate, and within 10 years, the combined houses of Congress. The process of confirmation necessarily was streamlined. Lawyers (the court was then restricted by strong custom to holders of “law degrees”) began to maintain Partisan Credential Files (PCFs) so that their bona fides might be quickly established during their favored party’s majority periods.

Many ambitious lawyers maintained separate PCFs showing supposed commitment to both parties, for use in either situation, leading to much embarrassment in the case of accidental submission of the wrong file. It was one of these occasions which sparked the neo-populist demand for further expansion of the court to include every American citizen holding a law degree.

While this effectively eliminated partisanship, it resulted in startlingly (or, a cynic might say, predictably) incoherent and unjust decisions. Indeed, a number of lawyers submitted written opinions consisting of randomly generated nonsense. When challenged on the practice, their response was that anything other than nonsense would be an unconscionable break with court precedent, an argument which, by then, was difficult to assail.

This, then, was the background to the final court expansion effort, spearheaded by Senator Esmerelda Cruz Trump (known as “Trump The Umpteenth” for her connection to the longstanding politically prominent family). 

Believing that moral issues, and the reading of the plain sense of the restored Constitution, should not be the realm of a legal elite, she suggested that every voting citizen be appointed to the court. This controversial step, though obstructed for months by the Neo-Communicrat Coalition, eventually was taken after the Communicrats were granted the right to generate and publish derisive slanders against all nominees (that is, every voting citizen).

This compromise was the root of the modern tradition in which, on his 18th birthday, an American citizen walks through a gauntlet of garishly-costumed celebrants shouting vulgar insults at him, until he picks up the ceremonial gavel and crushes the oddly named ceremonial “pelosi,” a ceramic female troll figurine bearing a quiver full of arrows (but never a bow). (The original significance of the “pelosi” is a matter of much speculation among scholars, and beyond the scope of this article.)

Great America

The Progressive Medusa

The hard Left believes its mission is so critical, so morally superior, that all means can be justified to achieve its noble ends. And so almost every institution that the Left has in its line of vision is now petrifying.

There was once a tradition of Democratic liberalism. But that wing of the Democratic Party no longer exists and died sometime in the 1990s. Old-style liberalism has been absorbed by Progressivism at best and unapologetic socialism at worst—in a journey on the supposedly predetermined arc of history that bends toward 1984.

The new-old leftist aim is not to operate within either the existing parameters of the Constitution as written or the customs and traditions of America—a 150-year-long nine-justice Supreme Court, the Electoral College, a 50-state nation, a Senate filibuster, two senators per state, and a secure border. All are obstructions to the drive for power. 

Given its redistributionist creed, socialism cannot afford to be patent and honest. If socialism were transparent, it never would gain majority support. Joe Biden cannot talk about the Electoral College or court packing, unequivocally condemn the violence in our urban centers, discuss the Green New Deal, name his likely Supreme Court appointments, be honest about his plans for fracking, or explain his views on the borders, because he is now owned lock, stock and barrel by the hard Left whose agendas were rejected even in his own Democratic primaries.

The Left seeks to transform America into something never envisioned by the founders, a huge all-encompassing, panopticon state, one run by anointed Platonic guardians. Our elite watchmen will use their unlimited power to force upon us an equality of result society—with themselves properly exempted.

The hard Left’s defense is that its mission is so critical, so morally superior, that all means can be justified to achieve its noble ends. And so almost every institution that the Left has in its line of vision is now petrifying.

Urban Utopia?

Large swaths of the downtowns of America’s large cities—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland—are becoming unhygienic, unsafe, and uninhabitable. Substantial corridors swarm with the homeless. Crime is increasing but commensurately redefined as a sort of cry of the heart, no-bail social activism. The cities are broke and yet demand more bailouts to spend more money that will ensure things get worse.

The summertime scenes of looting, arson, rioting, and random violence are contextualized away by both mayors and governors. They see the anarchy and chaos as a “chickens-coming-home to-roost” useful tool in this election year.

We do not know fully yet the lasting effects upon city living from the virus, the quarantine, Zoom and Skype telecommuting, and urban violence. Certainly, millions are questioning the wisdom of living in high-rises, predicating their existence on constant elevator use, and riding on crowded mass transit in this age of globalized viruses. Add in filth, crime, high taxes for terrible services, and the chance to work at home—and home can become far, far away.

Thousands of urbanites also know their taxes will only rise in relation to declining public services—and they will be collectively demonized for having the “privilege” to pay the escalating taxes from their own “you didn’t build that” careers and businesses. Stepping over human excrement, accepting that if mugged the assailant will either rarely be caught or if so, released shortly without bail, and resigned that “brick and mortar property” is not properly one’s own are all no way to go through life.

Since the 1960s, the hard Left has demanded to run America’s cities. They have had their way for decades. And the fruition is what we see now in Portland and Seattle, or on a weekend night in Chicago. In other words, they made a desert and called it social justice.

Professor LeBron

Sports was once a place to escape work, politics, and family tensions—a unifying experience where grudges, feuds, and vendettas disappeared for a few hours. Not now. Franchises became self-acclaimed woke ministries, in which poorly educated athletes—almost exclusively multimillionaires and without much knowledge or appreciation of where their seemingly limitless salaries derive—have become preachers. And they are poor preachers at that.

The more a LeBron James remonstrates with America, the more NFL athletes refuse to honor the national anthem, the more all professional sports display glitzy politicalized logos, so all the more fans who pay their salaries tune out.

The problem is not just that half the country is at odds with the politics of professional sports, but also that it watches them to see athletic excellence and root for favored teams—not to hear adolescent rants about their own moral shortcomings from supposedly victimized elites, some of whom have less than sterling characters.

Worse still, the monotonous anti-American fantasies of half-educated players are cynically predicated on their own careerist realities—and more than just constructed to appeal to woke 20-something consumers with cash for sneakers and downloads.

China, for all practical purposes, now owns not just the NBA name but the players as well. We know that because for all the loud social commentators in the league who weigh in ad nauseam about American pathologies, none would dare mention Chinese racism, the systematic and ongoing attack on the Uighurs, the absorption of Tibet, or the strangulation of democracy in Hong Kong.

The NBA is increasingly writing off America, mostly because it dreams of replacing trickling domestic revenue streams with an envisioned torrent of 1.4 billion Chinese consumers. Professional rich athletes wanted to be even more relevant. So they tried, ruined their brand, and are becoming as irrelevant at home as they are fawning embarrassments abroad.

Reeducationing

College has long ceased being a sheltered place to acquire the inductive method of thinking and disinterested empiricism, along with mastering a body of general, shared knowledge to equip the student to be aware of his past and present world. Instead, higher education seeks to teach millions of American youth how to think “correctly.”

In 21st-century America, “correctness” centers around memorizing unquestioned near-religious commandments—identity and racial politics, redistributionist government, affirmative action, abortion on demand, anti-Westernism, climate change, transgenderism, open borders, police defunding, iconoclasm, and agnosticism or atheism. All that cannot be queried without being socially ostracized, professionally hounded, or sometimes even physically threatened.

The Left sought to make the university woke and loud. It succeeded beyond its wildest dreams and so ensured that it is now increasingly mocked and bypassed, its graduates both abjectly ignorant while zealously arrogant. Life on campus was supposed to be an unforgettable, irreplaceable educational experience—a Socratic odyssey of free thought, unconventional ideas, and constant reexamination.

But it is not, and outside of the sciences and professions, undergraduate liberal education has turned instead into a sort of summer camp bore for prolonged adolescence, a chorus of nodding and chants. The virus and lockdown reminded America that going into hock for a collective $1.4 trillion in student debt while offering the nation millions of unskilled and poorly educated activists could be bypassed with online replacements at ten cents on the dollar. If universities do not have real core education, unleash ranting ideologues on their classes, and the campus experience is dreary indoctrination, what, then, is exactly lost by distance learning?

Democracy Dies in Wokeness

The new globalized media promised us real-time coverage of breaking news from around the world, spiced with televised graphics and supposedly learned insight—all part of their mission to keep a democratic populace informed and thus capable of self-governance.

But while always liberal, the media at least once knew that half the population turned on the news or read the papers not to be swayed, lectured, or insulted, but simply to get facts, occasional opinion editorials from both Left and Right, and enough information to draw their own conclusions.

Yet journalists always dreamed of becoming more than just reporters, in the sense of evolving into activist movers and shakers of politics, culture, and society. And now they, too, have gotten their wish as pop ideology replaced meritocracy.

The most boringly woke journalist is deemed the most successful, and the result is that Americans are going elsewhere for their daily information. Just as no one turns on a basketball game to hear the crackpot morality of Steve Kerr, so too few wish to learn from Brian Williams, Don Lemon, or the editorial staff of the New York Times that Americans are moral pygmies. The hard Left finally got its monopoly over the media, and predictably has destroyed its profession to save it.

Gone With the Wind

Hollywood was always left wing, but usually sufficiently subtle to insert that message within good drama, top-flight scripts, and brilliant acting.

Not now. “Casablanca,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “High Noon,” “On the Waterfront,” “Ben Hur,” “Hombre” and “The Wild Bunch” were all dramatically engaging films with lessons about fascism, imperial autocracy, appeasement, American callousness and corruption—morality embedded within, not superimposed upon, plot, action, dialogue, and characterization.

Like the indentured NBA, for all practical purposes China and its huge market now own Hollywood. We can see this both in the way that they are tailoring films for the Chinese market and delighting in their anti-American propaganda. Political correctness, the insular world from the Hollywood Hills to Malibu, and the appeasement of China explain why films cannot be critical of, or even neutral about, Chinese Communism, why light-skinned American actors are sometimes favored over their dark-skinned counterparts, and why Hollywood now focuses on comic-book action heroes, poor remakes of past classics, and psychodramas rather than tragedies.

The now-gray lions of the 1960s got their wish and took over Hollywood, and they did to it what they had done earlier to the campuses.

Seven Days in May

Our retired military once stayed out of politics. The few who weighed in to attack a sitting president usually were vilified by the press, and written off as right-wing nuts—whether it was Douglas MacArthur, Curtis LeMay, or Edwin Walker. Hollywood films like “Dr. Strangelove” and “Seven Days in May” purported to remind Americans that their liberty was always only a military coup or stand-down away.

At the height of the McCarthy period, in paranoia about coups over “Who Lost China?” and “Why not bomb Manchuria?” liberals pushed through the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in which even retired high-ranking officers were forbidden to use language disparaging their commander-in-chief. How the worm turns.

The Left once demonized retired four-star admirals and generals as warmongers, revolving-door grifters who became insider lobbyists, and corporate board cronies courted for their contacts with active Pentagon procurement officers rather than any demonstrable business acumen. A Pentagon billet was once seen as a sort of dead-end assignment among the swamp of Washington.

Not now. The Left discovered that, unlike clumsy government, the military could streamline social change by fiat. And so it did, once they got control of it. Lethal Islamic terrorism at home was reduced to “workplace violence.” Women in front-line combat units were fast-tracked. Man-made and thus correctable global warming became a military gospel. The transgendered posed no problems in combat efficacy. Promotion and evaluation had to encompass far more than combat readiness, strategic and tactical insight, and natural leadership but instead reflect diversity and proportional representation due to disparate impact.

No wonder then that by 2020 former top brass were appearing on television to brand the commander in chief a Russian “asset,” a veritable traitor based on the fables of the Steele dossier, the yarns of a likely Russian spy ensconced in the Brookings Institution, and the demonstrable rogue operations of the FBI.

The president was not just unfit, but according to those who recently ran the U.S. military, was a fascist “Mussolini” who emulated “Nazi”-like tactics to divide the country, and who built cages on the border in the fashion of the death camps of the Holocaust—and thus should be removed “sooner the better.”

Joe Biden was so enthralled at the military resistance to the president that he boasted he would win, Trump would resist leaving, and his newfound retired four-stars would help remove him from the White House.

At last, political activism finally “woke” the military. And the result is that the reputation of its once hallowed retired class is in shambles. If the Left convinced the military that sex and race could adjudicate promotion, then why not further recalibrate the military as the guardians of progressive democracy, ready to step in and remove any president deemed a right-wing nut in a just and noble “resistance”?

Indeed “coup porn” is now the media’s new obsession, endlessly dreaming how their newfound beloved brass might frog march the evil Trump out of the White House.

Again, the Left finally got what it has always wanted, and thus with its anti-Midas touch and Medusa glare turned gold into dross, and flesh into stone.

Great America

This essay is adapted from remarks delivered at the White House Conference on American History at the National Archives, September 17, 2020.

The Molotov Diploma

The radicalization we see in the streets of American cities and the radicalization of American college students may look like two separate things. But they are not.

Just before Halloween in 2015, Erika Christakis, a lecturer at Yale and associate master of one of Yale’s residential colleges, sent an email advising students to “ignore or reject things that trouble you,” rather than throw fits of rage. She was referring to Halloween costumes, which had suddenly become a major issue to supposedly mature Yale students and some Yale deans who had cautioned the students to avoid culturally insensitive garb. Christakis wrote as a specialist in child development and was counseling what most of us would consider common sense.

Yet some students at Yale erupted in overwhelming fury. In a now-famous video, a mob of students surrounded Erika’s husband, Professor Nicholas Christakis, and taunted him for over 30 minutes. Shortly after that, finding themselves lacking any public support from faculty colleagues or the Yale administration, Erika and Nicholas resigned. 

This incident marked a turning point in America’s campus culture. But it was not the only one. Barely a week later, Melissa Click, a professor at the University of Missouri, was caught on video summoning brute force (“We need some muscle over here!”) to prevent a student journalist from photographing a protest in which she was participating. 

Across the country in colleges large and small, a new race-themed grievance movement sprang to life after the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That movement had a shallow premise. The officer who shot Brown in self-defense, Darren Wilson, was acquitted, and the stories about Brown having surrendered (“Hands up! Don’t shoot”) were revealed as fabrications. But out of these sparse materials, a group calling itself Black Lives Matter was able to spread its narrative far and wide. 

And BLM especially spread it to college campuses where many black students began to form off-shoots of the movement and to issue what they called the “Demands,” with a capital “d.” What often followed was a degree of lawlessness—though mild by today’s standards. Students rampaged through the library at Dartmouth. They staged sit-ins in the presidents’ offices at Princeton and Claremont McKenna College in California. By March 2016, 86 percent of four-year college presidents had met with the leaders of these protest movements. Most capitulated to at least some of the protesters’ demands, regardless of their merits. 

Radicalizing the Radicals

I recall these episodes from a few years ago because they bear on what is happening today off-campus. The radicalization we see in the streets of American cities and the radicalization of American college students may look like two separate things. The street protests often escalate into vandalism, looting, burning, attacks on police, and murder. The campus protests generally focus on shutting down the free expression of ideas, though these sometimes also devolve into vandalism and personal violence.

So, street protest and campus protest outwardly differ. But behind that appearance lie three important connections. The first is the people—the activists—who show up in both places; second, the ideology that is crafted on campus and exported to the streets, particularly hatred of America and contempt for law; and third, the anger—that fiery emotion—that is ignited on campus and intensified by the mob in the streets.

The riots happening today in places like Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, and Kenosha have roots in what was taught yesterday on many of the nation’s college campuses. The wildly immature rage over a memo about Halloween costumes at Yale may seem a long distance from the mayhem we have seen this summer on city streets around the country, but the connection is deep. I don’t mean specifically to the Christakis mobbing or to Melissa Click’s call for muscle. I mean to the broader transformation of American higher education into an institution that is saturated with hostility for traditional American ideals. I also mean a much more specific and tighter connection between the riots and the colleges, which I will outline here.

When we put the elements of the street protests together—activists trained as provocateurs, harboring a radical ideology, worked up to explosive anger, alienated from our cultural norms, and primed for lawlessness—we have the ingredients of a full-blown riot of the sort that has wreaked a path of destruction across American cities large and small. Many of these riots appear to be planned, organized, staffed, and scheduled, often on a nightly basis for weeks on end. These are not, or at least are not generally, spontaneous uprisings, but staged events managed by well-trained experts. They are made to look like impulsive outbursts of passion, but they run according to a well-rehearsed script.

Who writes that script? The answer is fairly evident. It is the campus activists—some of whom are faculty members, some graduate students, some undergraduates, and many who might be best described as academic hangers-on, taking or teaching a course or two, and living on the periphery of the academic community. These people sometimes join named groups, but many of them float from one activist cause to another, and they are best described as a network with some organized nodes that have recognized leaders. Some think of themselves as revolutionaries, anarchists, or as front-line “workers” in the “struggle.” All of them accept without question the basic doctrines of contemporary progressive thought. These include the idea that America is systemically racist; that capitalism and free enterprise are inherently exploitative; and that climate change is an existential peril. They have spent years immersed in anti-liberal ideology, identitarian indignation, and the study of Maoist tactics. They’ve been taught that gaining power by any means necessary is the legitimate path to what they think of as “social justice.” And they are eager to put what they have learned into practice.

I would not for an instant want to say that this is a portrait of American college students as a whole, or as a majority. We don’t have high-quality studies of the percentage of students who become truly radicalized in the sense I have described, but it is surely not more than twenty percent. That’s the percent who show up regularly in attitudinal surveys saying things such as it is OK to use violence to stop the expression of hurtful ideas. A 2017 Brookings Institution survey, for example, found “19 percent of undergraduate students support using violence to shut down controversial speakers.” 

Normalizing the Radicals and Their Radicalization

It is misleading, however, to treat the truly radicalized students as though they are somehow an aberration from campus norms. They are simply carrying the lessons they have been taught to their practical conclusions. If America is an awful, oppressive, racist place that is incapable of meaningful reform, doesn’t it make sense to tear it down—to tear it down and replace it with something infinitely better, such as a green-energy powered, socialist commune or an anarchist utopia? 

The portrait of America as an awful place is the basic premise of much that is now taught in the humanities and the social sciences. That premise is assumed in the social and political life of much of American higher education. How this happens is not very visible to the broader public. Recognizing that, my organization, the National Association of Scholars, set out a few years ago to document the ways in which so-called liberal education has been diverted by college administrators to illiberal purposes.

We published a top-to-bottom examination—over five-hundred pages of detailed description—of how one elite liberal arts college goes about shaping students’ attitudes and political beliefs. We titled it, What Does Bowdoin Teach? We went on to examine the sustainability movement and the fossil fuel divestment movement in a series of reports on agenda-driven social activism on campus. 

Then we dived into how the traditional preparation of students for the responsibilities of citizenship had been replaced on a large scale by recruiting students into left-wing political activism. That study, Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics, led us to an even more ambitious survey and report, Social Justice Education in America, where we covered the waterfront from college mission statements, to general education requirements, diversity requirements, “experiential learning” requirements, new departments, vocational training, social justice bureaucracies, themed residence halls, bias response teams, special events, social justice jobs, and accreditation. 

The plain conclusion is that where the social justice ideology takes hold, it seizes the whole apparatus of education, both formal and informal. Where does this ideology take hold? Almost everywhere in American higher education, in institutions public and private, large and small, secular and sectarian, coast to coast. 

With that in mind, it isn’t hard to understand another statistic from that Brookings Institution survey I mentioned. Above and beyond the 19 percent of the students ready to use violence to enforce their opinions, “Another 51 percent supported the use of the so-called ‘heckler’s veto’ to shout down speakers that are opposed by protesters.” 

We might think of this as just rudeness or incivility, but it is a good measure of how drastically the basic norms of intellectual inquiry have deteriorated in higher education. If some 70 percent of college students are ready, through disruption of one form or another, to prevent the expression of views with which they disagree, we have in place an institution that is more than ripe for radicalization. It has already semi-radicalized a large majority of the students, though many don’t recognize or understand what has happened to them.

This summer after the riots triggered by the death in police custody of George Floyd, hundreds of college and university presidents rushed out statements deploring what they described as Floyd’s murder and then confessing that the institutions they lead are themselves guilty of “systemic racism.” I collected more than two hundred of these statements from college presidents as well as some from provosts and deans, and then wrote each one a letter asking, politely, for an explanation of just how their college or university had been practicing systemic racism. Many did not reply, but a surprising number did. Not one was able to give a specific answer.

“Systemic racism” appears to be like the old concept of “aether,” an invisible, immeasurable, but all-pervasive substance. The leaders of our colleges and universities can’t identify it, but they are sure it exists, and its existence warrants the expenditure of vast sums of money and the creation of new forms of racial preference in the spirit of “anti-racism.” 

In 2019, the National Association of Scholars explored this world of odd responses by colleges to such racial self-recrimination in three reports, “Neo-Segregation at Yale,” “Neo-Segregation at Wesleyan,” and “The Neo-Segregation Database,” which analyzed data from 173 colleges and universities. The effort to dismantle what was left of the old prejudice against African Americans in higher education had already been pursued with imagination and rigor long before the rise of the “anti-racism” movement, and it is hard to believe that there is much left to be done, except for eliminating “reforms” that have proved counter-productive. 

The doctrine of anti-racism borders on hysteria. When college presidents embrace it one can only imagine what the social justice bureaucracies and woke faculty members will do with it, let alone the students. I say imagine, because it is too soon to know, but we have many years dating back to the upheavals of the 1960s of higher education’s enthusiastic embrace of social justice causes to go on, and by that standard, we can expect that the pursuit of racial justice will only intensify in the hands of students activists. The vanguard, of course, has already mobilized in places like Seattle and Portland.

It is possible some college presidents believe that their embrace of anti-racism will buy them time to fix some problems, even though they are unsure what needs to be fixed. We saw this before following the post-Ferguson protests: more than a hundred colleges conceded to campus-specific “Demands” issued by the protesters. The protesters, however, backed by thousands of radicalized professors, saw their victory as only the first step towards dismantling the whole system of oppression they imagined is the essence of American society. 

A really thorough account of what has happened would have to go a long way back, perhaps to the 1930s, when radical professors fleeing Nazi Germany began to bring new forms of Marxism to America. Others have written important books about the rise of “critical theory,” student radicalization in the 1960s, the role of Students for a Democratic Society and its violent off-shoot, the Weathermen, and the embrace by American academics of radical theorists such as Michel Foucault. The attack on Western civilization wasn’t initiated all at once or due to a single bad idea. The National Association of Scholars has been tracking this complicated intellectual history for decades, and one of our most recent reports, The Lost History of Western Civilization, by Stanley Kurtz, captures this larger picture. It fills out two previous NAS studies, The Vanishing West, about the abolition of Western civilization survey courses, and The Disappearing Continent, about the College Board’s manhandling of European history standards.

But here I am going to skip over the many intermediary steps to focus on what we see right now. Today’s racialized grievance movement owes its worldview to those pioneers of a new kind of anti-Americanism, which distilled contempt for our Constitutional freedoms, our prosperity, our love of country, our religion, and our whole way of life. The founders of this view also imagined that the best way to advance this doctrine of hatred would be to divide Americans by race and preach an idea that attributed all of life’s dissatisfactions to a “system” aimed at subjecting minorities to constant humiliation. 

The danger is that a republic like ours depends on each generation absorbing the values that make democratic self-government possible. Students don’t come pre-equipped with a knowledge of civics and an admiration for civilization. Leaders don’t emerge out of a curriculum of disdain for their country. Love of country and the ability to lead it have to be taught. The academic Left understood that perfectly well and set about dismantling the Western civilization curriculum and replacing it with what they called “multiculturalism”—which was really just a mask for hating America. Over time, history dissolved into boutique courses on minor themes. The larger story of how America achieved greatness was fragmented and then the fragments were discarded. But a new, larger story was made inescapable. It is the story of how America oppressed Native Americans, blacks, Chinese, immigrants of all sorts, gays, women, and children. Columbus was converted into a genocidal monster, Jefferson into a racist hypocrite. 

Today, you would be hard put to find a public high school graduate in America who hasn’t heard some version of this new story. By the time that child finishes college, he or she is very likely to have been taught it over and over, in ever more compelling ways. Moreover, that child will almost never hear the story challenged or learn anything that contradicts it. The ideology of anti-Americanism is now no longer a fringe enthusiasm. It is the prevailing wisdom on campus. Anyone who expects to be taken seriously espouses it, even if he has private doubts. The groupthink on campus proclaimsAmerica as a corrupt system of oppression that benefits the few at the top at the expense of everyone else, especially the poor and minorities. 

The Violent Application of Anti-Americanism and University Complicity

Which brings us to the riots. The riots are the full-scale expression of this attitude. If you cease to believe in the rule of law and the pursuit of justice through peaceful means, you have one thing left: a belief in sheer power exerted by whatever means available. The veterans of the Occupy Wall Street movement of a decade ago have now found their fulfillment in the Loot, Pillage, Burn, and Murder movement. 

At the root of the riots is what we teach and what we fail to teach in schools and colleges. It isn’t getting any better. 

In the last year, hundreds of school districts adopted the Pulitzer Center’s 1619 Curriculum, based on the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” which takes all of the falsehoods and anti-American mythology I have been describing to a new and even more destructive level. Stopping the spread of the 1619 ideology is my immediate priority, which is what I attempt to do in my new book, 1620

But first, let’s awaken to the dimensions of the larger problem. American education taken all in all has become the antagonist of American culture. We loyal Americans need to take it back.

How complicit are colleges in the radicalization of students? Despite what I take to be strong evidence in the reports I’ve cited that colleges and universities are active and eager participants in the effort to foster disdain for America, the colleges and universities themselves go to considerable trouble to deny it. Yes, they say, a handful of professors teach outrageous courses or Tweet appalling messages, but our hands are clean. We teach students real skills and promote real knowledge. And we have a duty to protect and promote social diversity, which inevitably discomforts the privileged old guard. 

That picture is profoundly false. The National Association of Scholars has spent a decade documenting how higher education has become the incubator of radical alienation. The old courses that taught students something meaningful about Western civilization and the American founding have simply vanished in the fire and smoke of the new hate-America-first curriculum. 

Some students shrug all this off and move on to a productive adult life. But for too many others, it becomes a vocation. Even students who are immune to the lure of radicalism pay a price. They are deprived of the education they deserve—an education that teaches a full understanding of how our self-governing, prosperous, and free society came to be and what we must do to sustain it for the generations to come. This is a loss for those students and for our country. Because if there is one thing that history teaches, it is that civilization does not endure on its own. Neglected—or attacked outright—our civilization could quickly disappear. Frankly, it is disappearing and will disappear if we do nothing to stop it.

The current wave of protest grew from the decades of efforts by the radical Left to turn our colleges and universities into incubators of seething dissatisfaction with the American way of life. Colleges learned to package this disdain for America behind the beguiling rhetoric of diversity, but in all too many cases, they leave their graduates a legacy of cynical contempt for their own civilization—and in some cases a proud delight in destruction for its own sake. Higher education shuns this verdict and sees itself as part of a noble enterprise of promoting positive systemic change. 

Those of us who cherish Western civilization need to hold higher education accountable for the systemic change it has actually accomplished, in the form of the misguided people in the streets, some of whom have an Ivy League diploma in one hand and a Molotov cocktail in the other.

Great America

Two New U.S. States? The Case for Jefferson and Greater Idaho

As rural residents in states dominated by urban Democrats begin to visualize what life would be like if they could govern themselves, the populist momentum could become uncontainable.

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

—Hosea 8:7

The U.S. House of Representatives in June passed a bill in favor of statehood for the District of Columbia. In response, historian Nicole Hemmer wrote, “should Joe Biden win the presidency and bring with him majorities in the House and Senate, he should make statehood for D.C.—and for Puerto Rico—a priority for his first 100 days in office.” Also in June, The New Republic published an opinion column stating “D.C. Statehood Is a Test of Biden’s Political Courage.”

The supposed moral rationale for adding two states to the Union has always been based on “providing representation” to these American citizens. But Puerto Rico ought to become an independent nation, and perhaps the outer portions of Washington, D.C. can be trimmed, with the trimmings absorbed into Maryland and Virginia. And “representation” isn’t the real reason Democrats want to turn Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. into states, anyway. They want more Democratic senators, and they want more Democratic congressmen.

Now that President Trump is going to attempt to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, supposedly defying precedent because it is so late in his first term, Democrats in the U.S. Congress say “all bets are off.” If fact, some Democrats, such as former Bill Clinton spokesman Lanny Davis, are returning to the party’s roots and are calling for blue state secession while mocking red states as incapable of self-government. 

Less-radical Democrats are merely threatening that if their party regains control of the White House and the Senate, they will turn Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. into the 51st and 52nd states, before moving on to abolishing the Electoral College and packing the Supreme Court.

Bring it on.

When it comes to being governed without having a voice, there are plenty of acute cases across America. As any votes-by-county map of the United States that tracks the last several presidential elections will attest, a handful of large cities control the fate of several state legislatures and, all too often, the U.S. presidency.

These cities are run by public sector unions, leftist billionaires, extremist environmentalists, and—if they behave—multinational corporations. They have concocted an agenda relying on racial tension and resentment, along with environmental fear-mongering, to con overwhelming majorities of their brainwashed urban populations into voting Democrat, year after year after year.

The Great State of Jefferson

Two examples of underrepresented populations in America are in rural California, which is controlled by voters in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, and in rural Oregon, which is controlled by voters in Portland. In the rural heartland of these states—thanks to the passed down by the urban voters who outnumber them—productive, beleaguered residents struggle to survive.

They face punitive taxes to support the urban poor, who are themselves victims of utterly corrupt “programs” supposedly designed to help them but actually designed in ways that only pour money into the hands of bureaucrats and cronies. They face an impossible array of environmental regulations that have made them unable to productively earn a living on their own land. And more recently, they’ve seen thousands of square miles incinerated thanks to years of state harassment that made it impossible for them to thin their forests.

There is a solution to this oppression. Form new states. 

This is what a growing majority of citizens in rural counties across America are concluding may become necessary, and in California and Oregon, considerable progress already has been made. The state of Jefferson is rural California’s answer to oppression from the state legislature.

The proponents of the state of Jefferson have produced a map slightly different from this one; their latest does not include the counties of Humboldt or Del Norte. Nonetheless, as momentum grows for secession, there’s a good chance the freedom-loving free spirits of California’s far northwestern counties will embrace the opportunity. The other 22 counties shown on this map appear on the state of Jefferson movement’s website as being “counties with declarations.”

It isn’t clear to what extent local politicians have formally backed the State of Jefferson movement. In 2013, the Siskiyou County board of supervisors voted to withdraw from California. In 2016, the Nevada County board of supervisors asserted they had not voted to become part of a new state. 

One thing is certain: if you drive the highways and back roads in these counties, “State of Jefferson” signs are everywhere.

The State of Greater Idaho

And then there’s the state of Greater Idaho. This movement, based primarily in eastern Oregon, is motivated by the same grievances that animate California’s secessionists. In this case, the area in and around Portland, where nearly half of Oregon residents live, elects the representatives who control the state legislature, and it makes their lives miserable.

While the “Greater Idaho” movement today wishes to become absorbed by the state of Idaho, should Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. become states, they will attract more support from across the United States if they decide to form their own new state. 

And why not? With more than 1 million people and sprawling over 78,000 square miles, they’ve got a population larger than six states, and they’re virtually tied with two more—Montana and Rhode Island.

Although it only includes portions of Oregon, for the sake of recognition, “Greater Idaho” is the name showing on the hypothetical map above. Even if the breakaway state only incorporates portions of Oregon, “Greater Idaho” is still a good name. The regions would have a lot in common culturally and politically. 

But other names can apply. “Cascadia” has been proposed as the name of a new state to be carved out of Oregon, although that movement appears to have a diverse assortment of proponents, with widely differing objectives. For example, some supporters of Cascadia want to become a new independent nation, with Oregon and Washington seceding from the U.S. and merging with British Columbia, which would secede from Canada.

The Political Viability of Breakaway States

Proposals to add two new states with conservative rural populations will attract substantial new support in the event of a Biden victory combined with a Democratic takeover of the U.S. Senate. There would be an explosion of new support even in the absence of statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, because if Democrats acquire total control of the federal government, the oppression rural residents are feeling in blue California and blue Oregon is going to be felt all over America. Movements by rural areas to secede will become popular from Southern Illinois to the backcountry of Minnesota.

As rural residents in states dominated by urban Democrats begin to visualize what life would be like if they could govern themselves, the populist momentum could become uncontainable.

Imagine living in a forest community, where if you haven’t yet been run off your land, you’re all just waiting to burn to death because you can’t afford to hire “permit application facilitators” and other assorted high-priced experts, along with litigators and lobbyists, in the hope that you will get a forest thinning permit from a faceless, indifferent, multi-headed, implacable bureaucracy, staffed with malevolent fanatics and insatiable leeches, who barely work four days a week, live in virtuous condos in carbon-sipping virtuous cities, and have been taught their entire lives that you are the problem.

What if, instead, you just round up some crews in trucks with chainsaws, and, for example, clear the fire roads. You just go do it. Instead of spending millions and waiting decades, you send a few men into the hills and the job is finished in a couple of weeks. Without any fuss. Then you cut firebreaks. Then you send in revitalized timber companies to thin the forests, and open a new mill.

That’s how things used to get done in America. Apply that example to everything. Farming. Logging. Ranching. Mining. Construction. Water and power infrastructure. Hospitals. Universities. Schools. Police. Crime and punishment. Government. As described, it’s all messed up today. But it doesn’t have to be.

Up until about 30 years ago, common sense and honest work mattered. Results mattered more than process. Actions mattered more than words. Things got done, they were affordable, and they didn’t take forever. But then the Democratic Party began its final, ignominious slide into what it is today—a festering parasite eating away the heart and soul of America.

The Democratic Party is now wholly taken over by thugs, crooks, idiots, cranks, haters, racist anti-racists, sexist anti-sexists, “gender”-obsessed whackos, government unions with their insatiable need for more tax revenue, “green” fanatics and their crony “green entrepreneurs” slobbering over public subsidies and captive markets, homeless advocates and the depraved “nonprofit” “supportive housing” developers raking in billions from the taxpaying suckers and solving nothing, communists, globalist billionaires, whores for foreign money, and seditious traitors.

Go ahead. Turn Puerto Rico into a state. Turn Washington, D.C. into a state. Sow the wind. Reap the whirlwind.

Great America

The Critics Are Wrong About the 1776 Commission

It’s exactly what American education needs right now.

President Trump announced a brilliant plan this month to tackle left-wing indoctrination in our schools. Dubbed the “1776 Commission,” the plan would promote patriotic education and counter the New York Times’ pernicious “1619 Project” and other woke curricula that teaches American kids to hate their country.

“Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character,” Trump said in his announcement speech. “We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.

“American parents,” the president added, “are not going to accept indoctrination in our schools, cancel culture at our work, or the repression of traditional faith, culture, and values in the public square.”

The news was greeted with the expected derision and outrage from the Left. Liberals don’t want their education plans challenged or disrupted. They want to teach kids that America was founded on white supremacy and the only redemption for her lies in the eradication of the bad old America. It’s no surprise the 1776 Commission is not popular with them.

Trump’s plan also drew criticism, however, from some conservatives and many libertarians. 

A few conservatives and libertarians see “patriotic education” to be just as bad as woke education. Kids aren’t supposed to learn to love or hate their country—they’re only supposed to learn “critical thinking.” 

Other right-leaning critics are outraged that the federal government would dare to influence curriculum. 

“The federal government shouldn’t dictate what local schools across the country teach—and in the past, conservatives have rightly denounced the idea that it should,” writes Reason senior editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown. She says Trump’s plan “sounds like the sort of propaganda we’ve come to expect from authoritarian regimes.” Brown argues the only solution to woke indoctrination is school choice. 

These arguments are silly and rely on false assumptions. Education, no matter how much we wish it to be so, will not be totally neutral or objective. Teachers will color their lessons with their own biases and views. The Quillette crowd assumes education should be completely bereft of opinions. They imagine American history classes as a long recitation of facts with little analysis. These facts aren’t supposed to engender feelings of pride or disgust—they’re just things you learn. The point of education is to apparently create “free thinking” individualists who really like Bari Weiss and Jordan Peterson. Turning American children into insufferable centrists who can’t stop talking about facts and logic is neither feasible nor desirable.

American education throughout the years sought to instill patriotism in young students, as have most education systems in serious countries. They were taught to honor both local and national heroes and to be inspired by American greatness. The inspirational, patriotic aspects of this history education made learning interesting and easier to remember. A dull recitation of facts bores students and will ensure only that they hate history. 

There is no centrist position in this history debate: you either want kids to learn a patriotic education or you are happy to tolerate an anti-American education. 

The second argument rests on the assumption that local schools should determine their own curriculum. That’s a fair viewpoint and many conservatives would agree with that. The fact remains, however, that schools today rely on the federal government for funding. So long as that is the case, it’s not unreasonable to expect the federal government to have a say in how that money is spent. 

Additionally, schools don’t create their curriculum in a vacuum—they often rely on national models or comply with the standards set by their states. To argue that the Trump Administration should stay out of these discussions leaves the field wide open to teachers’ unions, “education experts,” and other reliable leftists to determine what your kid learns. Liberal elites want the “1619 Project” as the standard history of America and, without government resistance, they have the power to impose it on every school in the country.

The government is supposed to protect and to serve the people. A serious country would not give the final word on education to unaccountable elites—it should be in the hands of the people we elected. A government that funds the poisoning of young minds without complaint fails in its basic duties.

Parents do have the power to band together and demand patriotic education from their local schools, but it would help them immensely if they had an alternative curriculum on hand as their preferred choice. Trump offers that with his 1776 Commission. His plan also offers hope to parents who don’t have the power or numbers to keep their kids from learning to hate America and hate themselves for being white. It’s outrageous that any school would teach such pernicious ideas to young Americans, even if the local liberal school board favors it.

School choice is not a real solution to this problem, either. Many parents lack options when it comes to giving their kids an education free of Black Lives Matter propaganda and white privilege training. Private and charter schools often teach the same nonsense as public schools. 

Homeschooling is an option, of course, but a difficult one for working parents and parents of limited means. It also makes little sense to tell millions of Americans to homeschool their kids when their tax dollars are going to public schools. What’s the point of paying taxes if one doesn’t get the benefits of public services or a say over how those tax dollars are spent? School choice may work in individual situations, but it doesn’t solve the larger problem at all. It leaves it there to fester and as it continues to infect even more generations of kids with less proactive parents.

The 1776 Commission is exactly what our country needs. Leftists want to wipe away our heritage and declare the founders evil white supremacists. The Left says our defining feature is slavery, not the character of the people who settled here or the principles of our founding documents, without which we might never have ended slavery. The Left’s narrative sees white people as the great villains of history and demands they atone for their ancestors’ alleged sins. America’s history, as they see it, is something to be ashamed of.

This is what will be taught in American schools if we do nothing. The 1776 Commission aims to do something about that and promises to restore education to its proper purpose. We want our children to love our country, not hate it. We can only accomplish this through a new education that ditches the Left’s poison and honors our cherished inheritance.

Great America

Barrett Will Sail

The Left is going to find Amy Coney Barrett a tough nut to attack. She is smart, pleasant, and competent. Her personal history is an open book of service and commitment.

As I write, President Trump has just confirmed what the rumor mill has been disgorging with increasing confidence over the last few days: Judge Amy Coney Barrett is his pick to replace the feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at 87 a little over a week ago, as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The wheels of government tend to turn slowly, but Donald Trump has once again demonstrated that if need be, they can be made to turn with dizzying speed. 

He did it last spring when he mobilized the awesome resources of American business to produce a mountain of medical materiel in record time to meet the emergency sparked by the Chinese virus. 

And he just did it again by nominating Judge Barrett to meet the political emergency threatened by anti-democratic forces massing to upset the 2020 election. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has already announced that Barrett’s confirmation hearings will begin October 12. With the Republicans holding a 53-47 majority, and with no more than two likely defections (at most), she is likely to be seated before the election on November 3. It is imperative that the Supreme Court, which may be called to rule upon various electoral anomalies, be sitting with its full complement of nine justices. 

Barrett graduated first in her class from Notre Dame Law School and then held two clerkships, the second for Justice Antonin Scalia. She was in private practice briefly before returning to teach law at Notre Dame, where she still teaches. In 2017, President Trump nominated her for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

I became aware of Judge Barrett in 2018 after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Her name appeared on a shortlist of candidates for Kennedy’s replacement. In the event, President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh, whose disgraceful treatment during his hearings by Democratic senators and the media is still horrifying to contemplate. 

Will Barrett face the same level of unhinged vituperation? I think it unlikely, though I remember a conversation I had with a well-informed legal observer in the immediate aftermath of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “Well, the public was so repelled by that spectacle that Trump’s next nomination is likely to go more smoothly,” I said. 

“No,” insisted my friend. “Next time it will be much worse.” 

It’s early yet, but the response to Barrett’s nomination has been nearly comical in its combination of hysteria and nonentity.

Gosh. Worse than Christine Blasey Ford claiming Kavanaugh assaulted her 30-odd years earlier at a high school party? Worse than Michael Avenatti (remember him?) with his harem of stooges charging the mannerly Kavanaugh with all manner of sexual impropriety? Worse than Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) haranguing him or Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) attempting to parse entries from his high school yearbook? I am not sure how it could be worse. 

Doubtless, Barrett’s Catholicism will be an issue, as it was during her confirmation hearings for her current position. We’re certain, I think, to get variations on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s “the dogma lives loudly within you” meme. It was supposed to be a crushing remark—Dogma? Dogma? Who pays any attention to dogma in these sophisticated times? 

Its effect, however, was to turn Barrett into a hero for many. There are more than 70 million registered Catholics in the United States, some 22 percent of the population. That is a reality that any politician will have to conjure. Not all of them are “devout” in the way that Joe Biden says he is. 

When he came to office, President Trump promised to nominate judges and justices in the stamp of Antonin Scalia—that is, jurists who saw their task as interpreting the law in light of the Constitution, not promulgating public policy from the bench. 

This he has done. And, as her record indicates, this is exactly what Amy Barrett will seek to do. As she noted during her earlier confirmation hearings, the fact that she is Catholic is “irrelevant” to the job of being a judge or justice. “A judge,” she said in 2019, “is obligated to apply the law as it is and not as she wishes it would be. She is obliged to follow the law even when her personal preferences cut the other way, or when she will experience great public criticism for doing so.”

It is early days yet. But as of this writing, the response to Barrett’s nomination—it’s been building ever since Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and Barrett’s name was again in the mix—has been nearly comical in its combination of hysteria and nonentity. A “SCOTUS Rapid Response Action Guide” has been circulating for a while with tips on how to protest President Trump’s nomination, whoever it might turn out to be. 

To me, one of the many things to admire about Judge Barrett is her commitment to family. She has seven children, two of whom are adopted from Haiti, and the youngest of whom has Down Syndrome. Bizarrely, the Left has seized on this aspect of Barrett’s life, especially her adoption of two “children of color,” as grounds for criticism. Someone on Twitter speculated about whether the adoption process in Haiti was on the up and up. But it took a professional race hustler to crank up the absurdity to genuinely woke proportions. 

Ibram X. Kendi, Henry Rogers, author of the bestselling How to Be an Antiracist, really got the ball rolling with a Twitter thread that began with the declaration that 

Some White colonizers “adopted” Black children. They “civilized” these “savage” children in the “superior” ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity. 

Desperate, what? Take a generous act and filter it through your racialist scrim to turn it into something nasty and culpable. 

It’s of a piece with the gambit that People of Praise, a Catholic group to which Barrett belongs, was the inspiration for Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. (Our paper of record was on it!) It wasn’t, as publications from Vox to National Review have acknowledged. 

No, the Left is going to find Amy Coney Barrett a tough nut to attack. She is smart. She is pleasant. She is competent. Her personal history is an open book of service and commitment. A sign of how hard a time the Left is going to have in any campaign to discredit her was a list of strategies I saw in the responses to Kendi’s tweet. There are a few items of boilerplate: she was critical of Obamacare, for example, but then so are a lot of people. 

My favorite observation, though, was this: “Name deceptively evokes Coney Island, a place that is good.” 

Is that it? Is that all they’ve got? Pretty pathetic, I’d say. 

I am looking forward to cheering Justice Barrett after she sails through her hearing and the Senate votes to confirm her nomination to the Supreme Court. 

Great America • Online Censorship

Facebook’s ‘Fact Checkers’ Need To Check Their Privilege

Social media users believe “fact checking” is a tool to censor them and to manipulate the spread of information. They’re right.

There is a significant power differential between Facebook and its users. Instead of merely providing an online platform to share photos, musings, and articles of interest to a circle of friends and followers, Facebook monitors user-generated content and reserves the privilege to remove it, restrict its dissemination, and even block a user’s ability to post or comment for a period of hours, days, or weeks (unaffectionately known as being in “Facebook Jail”). Without warning, Facebook may even disable an account, to deplatform a user.

One way Facebook monitors user content is with faceless third-party “fact-checkers.” Facebook explains—sorta—how they are chosen:

Independent fact-checkers on Facebook have applied to be signatories to the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network Code of Principles. Independent fact-checkers investigate stories in a journalistic process meant to result in establishing the truth or falsity of the story.

Though I haven’t been subjected to “Facebook jail” (yet), a recent post of mine was flagged by Facebook “fact-checkers” as “false information.” My post summarized Tucker Carlson’s September 15 interview of Chinese virologist Li-Meng Yan, and is one of many posts on Yan’s allegations that Facebook has flagged.

I stand by my post, which states facts that are demonstrably 100 percent accurate—even Snopes says so:

1) Li-Meng Yan is a Chinese virologist, whose work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and extensively cited by other researchers.

2) Li-Meng Yan is in hiding for fear of her life.

3) Li-Meng Yan was interviewed by Tucker Carlson.

4) Li-Meng Yan told Tucker Carlson that she will soon publish a paper showing that the COVID-19 virus was manufactured in a Chinese lab.

5) Li-Meng Yan told Tucker Carlson that she can also prove that the virus was deliberately unleashed on the world by the Chinese government.

Quod erat demonstrandum (which is Latin for “Zuck you, Facebook”).

No Transparency, No Accountability

On September 23, President Trump held a roundtable discussion at the White House with Attorney General William Barr and several state attorneys general on protecting consumers from social media abuses. In his remarks, the president noted that “countless Americans are banned, blacklisted, and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules” and that this discussion “is focused on concrete legal steps to protect an open Internet and a free society, including steps to ensure the social media companies cannot deceive their users with hidden efforts to manipulate the spread of information.”

Many social media users believe that “fact-checking” is one of the tools used to censor them, and to manipulate the spread of information—in this case, information related to COVID-19 that does not fit the progressive narrative.

Facebook doesn’t describe the journalistic process that establishes the truth or falsity of a story, or the credentials of the person(s) evaluating stories on public health or other specialized topics. But if I were “curious how Facebook works with independent fact-checking organizations,” I could click a link (which led to still more links, like peeling back the layers of an onion) to learn more. Here’s some of what I learned:

1) Facebook removes content that violates its “Community Standards,” which includes a section on False News:

We want to help people stay informed without stifling productive public discourse. There is also a fine line between false news and satire or opinion. For these reasons, we don’t remove false news from Facebook but instead, significantly reduce its distribution by showing it lower in the News Feed.

I am an experienced, award-winning health/medical writer; completed the pre-med course requirements in college; and have a master’s degree in science and medical journalism from NYU Polytechnic. Unless Facebook’s “fact-checkers” have equivalent credentials, they are not equipped to judge the accuracy of content relating to medical research and public health issues.

2) Facebook uses third-party fact-checkers who are certified through the nonpartisan International Fact-Checking Network in certain countries who rate content as being false, altered, partly false, missing context, satire, or true. These countries are specified on a page that provides information on how to dispute a fact check rating. The third-party “fact-checkers” in the U.S. include: Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, Science Feedback, and Reuters Fact Check.

If Facebook’s “fact-checkers” are unable to distinguish the difference between an objective report of an event (Yan’s interview) and an opinion about that event (analysis of what she said), they should find another line of work.

3) The International Fact-Checking Network is run by the Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism school and research organization located in St. Petersburg, Florida. Judging by the quality of the “fact check” on my post, the “counselors” heading up the effort seem to have forgotten what just-the-facts reporting looks like.

I learned about real fact-checking at Time  in the waning days of the “Mad Men” era, when the company was Master of the Media Universe. Anyone who’s been in journalism long enough knows how notoriously nit-picky Time  fact-checkers were. Every detail was substantiated. For instance, if a reporter mentioned in an article that an interview subject drinks black coffee in the morning, the fact-checker would zero in on that detail and ask how he (in those days, the reporter was usually a he) knows that. If the reporter said he conducted the interview over breakfast, he would’ve had to submit an itemized restaurant receipt. Unless Facebook’s “fact-checkers” have been trained as rigorously as the legendary Time  fact-checkers, they are not trained well enough.

Is Facebook Routinely Libeling Users?

“Libel” is publication of a written statement that damages the reputation of another party.

Social media platforms have a broad legal exemption from libel law under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and are not liable for user-generated content that is libelous. However, I believe a case can be made—paging Harmeet Dhillon—that when Facebook publishes a rating about the truth or falsity of a post, it is not merely a conduit for content but is creating content as a publisher. Further, Facebook also exercises editorial control as a publisher when it selects content allowed to be published on its platform or removed.

I believe that labeling my post “false information” libels me by demeaning my credibility as a health and medical writer. My profession holds me to an ethical standard of truth and accuracy that Facebook is publicly accusing me of violating. So too, when a medical doctor or scientist posts an expert opinion or an article he or she has authored that is labeled “false information.”

Facebook offers a process by which a user can dispute a rating, which involves sending an email to one of its third-party fact-checkers. If truth is not a defense to libel according to this “fact-checker,” I can always exercise the option of sending a “lawyer letter” demanding Facebook cease and desist labeling my post “false information,” and demand a retraction of their faulty fact check.

During the roundtable discussion at the White House, the attorney general reported that, at the president’s direction, the Department of Justice sent proposed legislation to Congress that reforms Section 230 to “require greater transparency and accountability when platforms remove lawful speech,” and to let users “pursue civil claims against online platforms that engage in bad-faith censorship.”

Congress is consumed with President Trump’s nomination of a new justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Supreme Court, so other important matters like pandemic relief for idled workers and censorship relief for social media users will languish for the foreseeable future. But if the proposed legislation is enacted, it may become easier to dispute arbitrary and inconsistently applied “community standards” for user-generated content, and to force a reversal of heavy-handed tactics like politicized fact-checking and shadow banning to censor thought and squelch information that Silicon Valley tech titans don’t think you have a right to know.

Great America

In Preemptive Defense of Future Justice Barrett

Democrats will be desperate to throw everything they can at the Senate’s walls to see what sticks in a mad rush to stop Judge Barrett from ascending to the highest court in the land. Happily, none of it will work, nor should it.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing last week at 87 is a sobering reminder that death is the great equalizer in human affairs. For if even a legal giant like Justice Ginsburg—the “Notorious RBG” as she affectionately was known to her many fans—succumbed to it, then so must we all. We should take this opportunity to pray for the repose of her soul and reflect on how fragile our supposed grip on life really is.

Even so, we cannot let something tragic, even something tragic and mysterious like death, distract us from the important, pressing business facing our nation. President Trump has nominated Ginsburg’s replacement and, as many expected, it is Amy Coney Barrett, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, professor at Notre Dame Law School, and Roman Catholic wife and mother of seven (her youngest is special needs and two are adopted from Haiti). Full disclosure: Notre Dame Law is my alma mater, and I took two seminars with her.

In a very tangible sense, she is the anti-RBG, especially on life issues (evidenced most strongly by how she and her husband have built their family). Of course, this will drive the Left and Senate Democrats insane. They likely will try to attack her along four lines, none of which will include, thankfully, a salacious-but-obviously-false, 11th-hour “gang rape” charge of the sort that was perpetrated, shamelessly and shamefully, against then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh (because that sort of thing just doesn’t work on women, let alone an even-keeled mother of seven like Barrett).

The attacks will come on abortion, the Second Amendment, healthcare, and her personal life—though not necessarily in that order (and, of course, the Democrats may shock us all and outdo even their hysterical, tyrannical behavior in l’affaire Kavanaugh; stay tuned).

Abortion

On abortion, Barrett, admittedly, is an easy target if you’re committed to preserving the status quo or expanding abortion access. She is an openly faithful Catholic mother of seven; before knowing anything else about her judicial philosophy, opinions she’s written in abortion-related cases, or her scholarly writings, that fact screams loudly and clearly, “Roe is on the chopping block.”

But even leaving that aside, Roe demands to be overturned because it is, in the words of Judge William H. Pryor of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law”—easily on par with Dred Scott and Plessy. Not even liberals like Ginsburg would defend the sweeping decision on its own terms, and constitutional scholar John Hart Ely (who personally supported abortion) once said of Roe that it “is bad because it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”

In her time as a judge, Barrett twice has dealt with the abortion question. In 2018, the 7th Circuit ordered a rehearing en banc (i.e., a full-court rehearing of a case originally heard by a three-judge panel) in a challenge to an Indiana law requiring fetal remains either to be buried or cremated after an abortion. But the 7th Circuit vacated that order and reinstated the original opinion blocking the state from enforcing the law.

Barrett joined a dissent written by her colleague, Judge Frank H. Easterbrook. Easterbrook addressed a separate provision of the law that also had been struck down but was not at issue at that time. That provision would bar abortions based on the fetus’s race, sex, or disability (e.g., Down syndrome). Easterbrook characterized it as an anti-eugenics provision and suggested that there is nothing in the Constitution that would deny a state the ability to pass such anti-eugenics protections.

The Supreme Court later reversed the 7th Circuit’s opinion on the fetal-remains provision but did not weigh in on the part of the decision that struck down the ban on abortions based on race, sex, or disability, leaving Indiana unable to enforce that provision. Justice Clarence Thomas, with his characteristic flair, memorably blasted abortion as rooted in an ugly eugenic history.

Later, in 2019, Barrett indicated she wanted the full 7th Circuit to rehear a challenge to an Indiana law requiring young women to notify their parents before obtaining an abortion after a three-judge panel had ruled it was unconstitutional. Indiana asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, and the justices sent the case back to the lower courts this summer for another look. Also in 2019, Barrett joined an opinion that upheld a Chicago ordinance barring anti-abortion “sidewalk counselors” from approaching women entering an abortion clinic, something she had to do given Supreme Court precedent on the issue.

It seems reasonably clear that Judge Barrett is skeptical of the so-called right to an abortion, but as a lower-court judge, she is bound by the regime of mass slaughter that was enacted by the raw will of the Supreme Court in 1973. The Democrats will attack her for this, but it will be out of panic that their core sacrament, abortion, will soon be, well, aborted—right into the ash heap of history where it belongs.

Second Amendment

In the 2019 case, Kanter v. Barr, the 7th Circuit upheld the mail-fraud conviction of the owner of an orthopedic footwear company and as a result, his right to keep and bear arms was abrogated. He contended that laws prohibiting people convicted of felonies from having guns violate a person’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. The majority rejected that argument, explaining that the government had shown that such laws are related to the government’s important goal of keeping guns away from people convicted of serious crimes.

Judge Barrett dissented (start at p. 27), arguing that at the Founding, legislatures took away the gun rights of people who were believed to be dangerous, not of just anyone who had committed any felony. So, for Barrett, the laws at the heart of Kanter are too broad because they ban nonviolent persons from possessing a firearm without any evidence that they pose a risk. Barrett stressed that the Second Amendment “confers an individual right, intimately connected with the natural right of self-defense and not limited to civic participation.”

It would be incredible to watch Democrats try to paint Judge Barrett as an extremist on guns given the way they—for the past three months—have excused, downplayed, ignored, and even tacitly encouraged violent mobs’ looting businesses, destroying property, and even murdering supporters of the president—all with revolting impunity.

On second thought, the campaign ads would write themselves. Please do it, Kamala!

Healthcare

A common Democratic talking point about this nomination—aside from their irritating bellyaching about how unfair it is that President Trump, exercising his duly conferred constitutional powers, will be nominating someone that the Republican-controlled Senate wants to confirm in an election year (which has happened frequently throughout our nation’s history)—is that Republicans are trying to kill Obamacare through the courts and that RBG’s replacement will be integral to that devious plot.

On this, they will likely have some ammunition. Of Obamacare, then-Professor Barrett wrote, “In NFIB v. Sibelius [2012] Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.” NFIB, recall, was the case in which Roberts miraculously found Obamacare’s individual mandate to be both a tax for some purposes and also not a tax for other purposes (actually, it’s a penalty now!) in order to save the law.

That decision was completely unexpected, and it has been criticized widely. Judge Barrett is not wrong to have observed in a law review article that Roberts tortured a statutory provision to make it say something it didn’t (but also mysteriously did, too) in order to save a landmark law out of a misguided desire to preserve the Supreme Court’s “legitimacy”—but she should be prepared to defend herself nonetheless.

The Republicans will have her back, and she is right on the law regardless.

Personal Life

The fourth and final line of attack will be her personal life. In an era when the politics of personal destruction are the norm, this is an entirely expected, if deeply unwelcome and ugly, avenue for the Democrats to take in opposing Judge Barrett.

Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) stated, while questioning Barrett during her confirmation hearing for the 7th Circuit back in 2017, that “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Other senators, including vice presidential hopeful Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), openly have questioned whether a Catholic nominee could be a judge—apparently completely ignorant of Article VI, clause 3 of the Constitution, which states in no uncertain terms that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Good old-fashioned anti-Catholicism is back en vogue!

She will be slammed for her affiliation with the “People of Praise,” a lay organization of Catholics. To that, I say: yawn. It didn’t stick then, and it’s not going to stick now; different strokes for different folks; etc. The absolute best they’ll be able to do is caricature her as a fanatical religious zealot who wants to impose her twisted “Handmaid’s Tale” vision of the world on everyone else. But they were going to do that, anyway.

Normal, well-adjusted people will see a fair-minded, civil, compassionate, intelligent woman who respects our Constitution and the rule of law it secures—including the twin rights to life and self-defense, which sit at the foundation of our society, not to mention the right of religious freedom: the right—the duty, really—to order your life in relation to God as you see fit, leaving others the freedom to do likewise.

Democrats will be desperate to throw everything they can at the Senate’s walls to see what sticks in a mad rush to stop Judge Barrett from ascending to the highest court in the land. Happily, none of it will work, nor should it.

Great America

An Immigrant’s Love Letter to America

I now look at the American flag and my heart bursts with pride. The story of this country and its founding is a miracle. Not everyone who emigrates here feels the same way.

America, we need to talk.

I was born in paradise, on the beautiful island of Jamaica. I was born a British subject, and Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II was the ultimate head of my church and state. Because I was brought up speaking the Queen’s English, and was a bookish kid to boot, words have always mattered to me. Conflating similar yet different terms may win you cheap rhetorical points, but it really ticks off this grammar nerd.

People who say “immigrant” without specifying legal or illegal aren’t arguing for a distinction without a difference; they’re trying to trick you into believing something that’s just not true.

America was always a glamorous plane ride away from my young life in Kingston. The United States was a land of plenty. It’s where we flew to shop for toys and fabric to make our clothes. To my 11-year-old self, Americans chewed gum and spoke with a funny twang, and pointed out the overhead compartments and emergency exits. I loved imitating them, but never imagined I could become one of them.

One day, my paradise crumbled. Mobs ruled the streets and terrified the adults, and America became the emergency exit for my family. We had to leave so much behind. It was a strange time to parachute into 7th grade at St. Rose of Lima School—where I had to diagram sentences and stop putting the letter “u” in color and honor.

To add to the discomfort of showing up as one of the very few non-Catholic kids in the middle of the school year, and not knowing the Pledge of Allegiance and being terrified the nuns would find out, on my first day of school I raised my hand to ask an innocent question that made sense in English English, but turned out to be rather awkward phrasing in American English: “Excuse me, does anyone have a rubber I can borrow?” (It means “eraser” in British English.) Those synonyms turn out to have distinctly different meanings in and out of the Commonwealth.

Awkward. But I learned.
But this is also why I, and many legal immigrants, have our hackles raised by the facile substitution of “immigrant” to cover both resident and illegal aliens.

The movement that almost broke my country and added to the Jamaican diaspora was Democratic Socialism, which has failed everywhere it’s been tried. It drove us out of paradise. At the end of the day, mob rule is incompatible with idyll. My family landed as Green Card holders (the colloquial term for resident aliens) in the United States of America in 1976—the bicentennial year—and red, white, and blue was everywhere.

Providing a pathway to citizenship to someone whose very first act upon stepping on American soil was to break the law is like setting up a pathway to homeownership for the lovely couple who broke into your house.

America isn’t for everyone. I didn’t fall in love with her right away, Bicentennial fireworks notwithstanding. The freedom to choose your own path is liberating . . . and scary. The responsibility to improve the lives around you is enlightening; and sobering. The right to speak freely is exhilarating, and makes you vulnerable.

Over time, I learned that America always picks herself up, dusts herself off, and reaches out a hand to help the other player off the floor. When tragedy strikes anywhere in the world, Americans open their hearts and their wallets and are at the ready to board a plane to help. 

I now look at the American flag and my heart bursts with pride. The story of this country and its founding is a miracle. And so, at the turn of the century, I became an American citizen. I am no longer a subject. I took an oath “that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Not everyone who emigrates here feels the same way. Some arrivals are purely transactional in nature—“give me a safe place to stay and I’ll pay taxes and behave but I’m not falling in love with you.” That’s OK. It’s why the law provides for resident aliens to come to the country and participate in her freedoms without taking the ultimate step of becoming citizens.

Which is why people who arrive without bothering to even fill out a form or come through a legal point of entry are doing the wrong thing. Tossing citizenship around like Halloween candy is grossly offensive to those of us who jumped through all the hoops, waited in all the lines, and took all the tests. 

I can understand the impetus to want to help everyone—it’s very American, after all. But providing a pathway to citizenship to someone whose very first act upon stepping on American soil was to break the law is like setting up a pathway to homeownership for the lovely couple who broke into your house. Words matter.

Americans, like no other people in the world, can do and be anything. There’s no caste system here. You can start at the bottom and work your way to the top and vice versa. Even better, you get to choose what is top and bottom for you. You get to spend your treasure and your time however you want. From Figure 8 races and demolition derbies in Jackson Hole, to swimming with dolphins in Key West, you get to do you. I’ve gone from a scared new immigrant who didn’t know that Americans had different words for things like erasers to a college graduate to a corporate event planner to a working actress to a mother of four and a one-time political candidate.

I love America and its miraculous founding, and every day I see people claiming that this country isn’t that great. Clearly, lots of you don’t know how good you have it. Robby Starbuck is a friend and filmmaker who also rejects what he calls “linguistic tricks” and who, as a Cuban American, appreciates and loves this country. He produced a love letter which his talented musician wife, Matriarch, did the music for and our fervent hope is that it reminds us all what this country is really all about. 

There’s only one thing I can’t be as a naturalized American citizen. I can’t be president. But I sure can be a participant. As I eventually learned to say every morning at St. Rose of Lima, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Watch this love letter, and then please participate—peacefully—in the electoral process.

May God continue to bless the United States of America.

[i] Rubber, n. Eraser. Item to rub out one’s written mistakes.

Great America

Barrett Did Not Affirm the Illinois Lockdown Order

What she actually did was to prioritize religious liberty.

Twitter is awash with false claims that Judge Amy Coney Barrett should not be nominated to the Supreme Court because she supported the draconian lockdown orders issued by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. More mendaciously, some are claiming that she supported the Democrat Pritzker in excusing violent rioters from the lockdown requirements through which ordinary law abiding citizens are required to suffer.

This falsehood is magnified because it obscures what Barrett actually did in the case: she affirmed a hard-won exemption for religious worship from the generally odious lockdown.  

The plaintiff in the case, the Illinois Republican Party, challenged only the worship exemption (not the lockdown generally), arguing that it was wrong to exempt only religious services from the lockdown. Why the GOP geniuses didn’t just challenge the constitutionality of subjecting their own political activities to the lockdown is anybody’s guess.

But given the argument the Republicans in fact made, Barrett concluded that religious worship occupies such an elevated status, even as compared to other First Amendment-protected rights, that it was not categorically illegal for Pritzker to limit the exemption to religious services.

Again, the Illinois Republican establishment was not challenging the lockdown order generally (or anything to do with failing to enforce the orders against rioters). Federal judges aren’t supposed to go beyond the issues raised by the parties in order to reach points that they would prefer to rule on. We call judges who engage in that practice by a familiar name: “activists.”

Those who are debating the merits of Judge Barrett’s nomination should at least get the facts straight about the cases she rules in, and what her legal rulings actually say. When you consider that she strongly endorsed a very protective view of religious liberty, Barrett may be exactly the one religious conservatives want on the Supreme Court to stand against waffling from Chief Justice John Roberts.

Great America

Getting the Politics Wrong on Supreme Court Nominees

The nominee on the president’s shortlist who is the easiest to confirm to this particular vacancy is by definition the wrong nominee, and the GOP consultant class knows that.

Several outlets identify 11th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Barbara Lagoa as a leading contender to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. President Trump has described her as “highly thought of . . . I don’t know her but I hear she’s outstanding.”

While her sparse record as a federal judge indicates good legal reasoning and writing skills, why in the world is she being considered for the nation’s highest court? The rest of the president’s statement offers a clue: “I’m getting a lot of phone calls from a lot of people.”

During her 10 months on the federal bench, Judge Lagoa has penned 11 opinions, only three of which are even formally “published,” meaning the other eight have no precedential legal weight in future cases. More than half of her opinions are in routine areas of criminal law, and the others mainly involve questions of state law in cases that happen to be filed in federal court. Her previous 11 months on the Florida Supreme Court yielded only one authored opinion—one confirming that Governor Ron DeSantis had properly invoked his authority under the Florida constitution to suspend the Broward County Sheriff from his duties.

None of her 11th Circuit or Florida Supreme Court opinions deal with any of the legal issues of interest to conservatives: nothing on administrative state questions, no property rights or environmental cases, no First Amendment cases, no federal constitutional issues at all, nothing whatsoever touching on social issues such as abortion or marriage. 

Nothing in her 11th Circuit or Florida Supreme Court work offers any clue of how she would approach any of the questions that make the Supreme Court the ultimate branch of government for conservatives today.

None of this is to say she is a bad judge, and certainly not to impugn her character or her exemplary accomplishments in life. As an attorney reading her opinions, I am confident she would give my clients a fair hearing and a competent decision in the ordinary procedural questions, criminal cases, and contract disputes that occupy most judges’ attention. Her work to date is actually rather bland by comparison to many on President Trump’s Supreme Court short list.

With her name appearing in numerous articles and conversations alongside Amy Coney Barrett as a leading contender, there is nothing in Lagoa’s 11th Circuit or Florida Supreme Court writing to justify her inclusion in those conversations.

Conservatives are eager to have a Supreme Court justice who will transform the court even more than Clarence Thomas did when he was confirmed to succeed Thurgood Marshall three decades ago. We want a justice who is reasonably likely to be a decisive vote in efforts to reign in the administrative state, give a reasonable rather than ideological reading to congressional statutes, and restore the vitality of important safeguards in the Bill of Rights. 

Not least among those rights, there is that little thing about not being deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. It would be generous to even call Lagoa’s federal judicial record on any of these issues “sparse.” There simply isn’t one.

Barrett’s work as a law professor and over the past three years as a federal judge on the 7th Circuit (authoring nearly 80 opinions on a wide range of important topics) gives plenty of reason for confidence that she would fulfill that role without morphing into a Souter or Kennedy, and fair promise that she would emerge as an intellectual leader on the Court in the mold of Justice Scalia, for whom she clerked. 

One need not think badly of Barbara Lagoa to conclude that nominating her would invoke the specter of prior unforced Republican errors such as the addition of David Souter to the court by George H. W. Bush, and his son’s failed effort to nominate his friend and White House counsel Harriet Miers.

So why is a federal judge with no record of distinction on any issue important to conservatives so close to the nomination? As President Trump said, “I’m getting a lot of calls from a lot of people.” Those people, reported to include Florida’s Republican governor and both Republican U.S. senators, want their candidate to get the gig. Because gigs, and not the good of the nation, are what the average politician is about.

Meanwhile, Republican political operatives are out in force proclaiming that Lagoa would be easier to confirm than Barrett, and would win Florida for Trump. I have written previously that the claim Lagoa would help Trump with “winning Florida” lacks any evidence of having been a successful tactic in any other presidential campaign. But the argument that Lagoa will be easier to confirm sounds like a talking point written to sell a bad idea.

The nominee on the president’s shortlist who is the easiest to confirm to this particular vacancy is by definition the wrong nominee, and the GOP consultant class knows that. They are arguing for the president to trade in his one clear opportunity to transform the Supreme Court for a generation, in exchange for gratifying a group of Florida politicians who want to notch one in the usual Washington game of spoils division.

President Trump needs to deliver for conservatives on this opportunity now, and tell the phone callers for Lagoa that this has to be America’s time, not theirs.

Great America

‘Reclaiming the American Dream’ Focuses on the American Worker

The same strength and determination that built this country will bring us back to prosperity after the pandemic. The hardworking people of this country don’t ask for much—just a fair shot at their American dream.

America’s status as “the land of opportunity” is unique in the history of the world. In this country, people from any background can start their own companies or rise to the top of their chosen career fields solely on their own merit, hard work, and determination. Anything is possible here, and everyone can achieve his or her own “American dream.” 

As conservatives, we understand that however each dream may be defined, it is based upon two essential ingredients: liberty and opportunity. Both are necessary for people to pursue and achieve their goals—empowering individuals and strengthening their families and their communities. The open door to upward mobility in our free enterprise system has been key to making and keeping America great. 

Unfortunately, decades of often well-intentioned but ill-conceived government policies gradually have restricted liberty and narrowed the door to opportunity for too many. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic and its related economic fallout have created even more obstacles.  

Before the pandemic began, President Trump and our previous Republican majority in Congress made great strides and enacted policy reforms that produced a record-breaking economy and unprecedented opportunities for all Americans. To return to that prosperity, we must reject the Left’s dangerous calls for socialism and instead commit ourselves even more to advancing reforms for the good of the American worker. 

To that end, the Republican Study Committee’s American Worker Task Force has published a new report, “Reclaiming the American Dream: Proposals to Empower the Workers of Today and Tomorrow.” Our report, which is the product of more than a year of concentrated study and collaboration, includes more than 100 policy ideas to accomplish three major objectives—refine existing education goals, refocus labor policy, and reimagine the welfare state. “Reclaiming the American Dream” recognizes that work gives purpose and meaning to people’s lives, enabling Americans to achieve their God-given potential and turn their own American dreams into reality.

Our suggested reforms are based upon the belief that each individual has inestimable dignity, value, and potential—and that everyone deserves better than a lifetime of public dependency.

Our approach will remove more barriers to achievement by reducing government overreach and returning the power of self-determination to the people themselves. In education, for example, we present ideas to better equip students to succeed in a changing economy—recognizing that there are more pathways to success than just a four-year college degree. Instead of allowing millions of students to incur mountains of debt earning degrees that do not offer a significant return on their investment, we would shift the strategy to ensure that America’s workforce is better prepared for in-demand jobs through career and technical education apprenticeships as well as skills-based education. 

In labor policy, we would eliminate more of the senseless regulations, counterproductive tax policies, and labor laws that suppress freedom and hinder individual achievement. The status quo is failing the American worker, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our approach would unleash the full potential of the American people by refocusing labor policy to provide workers more control over their futures.  

We also believe that reimagining welfare is long overdue. Instead of measuring success by how many people become self-sufficient, our current system defines success by measuring the growth of each government assistance program and the taxpayer money spent on them. This backward approach has trapped too many Americans in a hopeless cycle of dependency, deprived millions of their true potential, and hamstrung the full power of our economy. The fallout from the pandemic now threatens to ensnare millions more. Our suggested reforms are based upon the belief that each individual has inestimable dignity, value, and potential—and that everyone deserves better than a lifetime of public dependency.

Times of great challenge reveal the character of a nation—and our character is the strongest on earth. The same strength and determination that built this country will bring us back to prosperity after the pandemic. The hardworking people of this country don’t ask for much—just a fair shot at their American dream. We owe them that, and we can ensure that opportunity and expand their freedom by enacting policies that will unleash their full potential. Our report explains how.

Great America

Republicans, Confirm a Supreme Court Justice Immediately

Grow a spine, Republicans; stand with your own voters, and do what needs to be done — as soon as humanly possible.

Political hell broke loose when America learned, just as the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah was about to commence, that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a decades-long liberal lion of the Supreme Court and erstwhile feminist trailblazer — had succumbed to pancreatic cancer. In a presidential election year already marked by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic unleashed upon the world by a geopolitical archfoe, a once-in-a-lifetime pansocietal conversation about race, and unprecedented political rancor fanning the flames of a grieving nation’s cold civil war, the passing of “RBG” has upended anew the battle lines for November.

Within hours of Ginsburg’s passing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed that a nominee to replace her would receive an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. President Donald Trump soon came out in accord, notwithstanding Democrats’ hysterical howls alleging hypocrisy based on the purported “precedent” of how McConnell and Senate Republicans snubbed President Barack Obama’s own election year Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016, following the passing of conservative titan Justice Antonin Scalia (never mind that McConnell’s strategy was expressly predicated upon the fact that the presidency and Senate were, at the time, controlled by different parties).

Throughout the Trump presidency, Democrats and their “resistance” allies have claimed the mantle of vaunted defenders of political customs and institutional norms — a would-be collective bulwark standing between the dreaded Orange Man and the collapse of America into an authoritarian banana republic. The Washington Post, Beltway insiders’ favorite liberal paper, went so far as to change its tagline to “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” And one can hardly tune in to CNN or MSNBC without hearing ad nauseam about encroaching fascism from Trump and his purported brownshirts.

In reality, something approximating the opposite is true. In the Trump era, Democrats, leftist activists and their media mouthpieces have repeatedly vowed to irrevocably alter the very basis, structure and essence of our American experiment in self-governance. We are told that the Electoral College is a retrograde edifice and a tool of white supremacy. We are informed that the defining structural feature of the U.S. Senate — two seats apiece per state, no matter a state’s size — is a pawn for the tyranny of rural America over urban America, James Madison’s countermajoritarian warning against the insidious threat of “faction,” in “Federalist No. 10” notwithstanding.

More recently, in the aftermath of the McConnell/Trump pledge to fill Ginsburg’s seat, Democrats have taken to issuing the coarsest and most reckless of threats — unleash their antifa-Black Lives Matter arsonist puppets to set aflame America’s urban corridors, “pack” the Supreme Court by adding numerous (liberal-held) seats, admit Puerto Rico and possibly the District of Columbia as new states (holding aside the brazen unconstitutionality of the latter possibility). Democratic leaders seem to have forgotten one of the principal lessons one ought to learn in kindergarten: Threatening a temper tantrum if one does not get what one wants belies any pretense of emotional maturity or basic civil decency.

But it’s actually even worse than that. Going back decades, it is the Democratic Party and their leftist black-robed allies on the bench that are almost exclusively to blame for the sordid state of our judicial politics and our actual judiciary alike. It was Ted Kennedy and his brother-in-arms, Joe Biden himself, who permanently altered the course of judicial nominations when, in 1987, they ruthlessly savaged and personally destroyed Robert Bork, President Ronald Reagan’s eminently qualified nominee for the high court. They upped the ante in 1991, smearing Clarence Thomas with well-orchestrated, highly dubious workplace sexual harassment allegations so outrageous that the jurist — a Black man who grew up in the Jim Crow South — described the outrage as a “high-tech lynching.”

Democrats largely opposed the 2006 confirmation of Samuel Alito, nuked the filibuster for lower-court judicial nominees in 2013, and pulled out every stunt imaginable in the all-out war that was Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle in 2018 — a fight so bitter and acrimonious so as to make the Bork and Thomas precedents look timid by comparison. As Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently wrote to committee Democrats: “Compare the treatment of Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh to that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, and it’s clear that there already is one set of rules for a Republican president and one set of rules for a Democrat president.”

Leftist judges on the bench for a half-century have only further hardened conservatives’ perception that the judicial game is rigged, constitutionalizing a myriad of issues on the most legally farcical of grounds and removing from the ambit of our democracy countless issues about which decent people might disagree, and which ought to be left for the voters to decide. With the narrow exception of gun rights, there is not a single hot-button legal or cultural issues where conservatives, dating back to the Warren Court, have been by and large successful. Originalists and legal conservatives usually try to play by the rules; their leftist, outcome-oriented brethren have no such compunctions.

The Democratic Party deserves to have a conservative replacement for Ginsburg jammed down its throat. And leftist activist judges, the left-leaning legal profession and left-dominated legal academia all deserve the same fate. Grow a spine, Republicans; stand with your own voters, and do what needs to be done — as soon as humanly possible.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

Great America

Scenes We’d Like to See . . .

. . . that the establishment media won’t dare touch.

In the 1960s, the Phillip Morris company produced Lark cigarettes and deployed trucks with banners reading “show us your LARK pack.” Mad magazine showed what happened when that truck drove by a cancer clinic. Mad also offered “Scenes We’d Like to See,” a one-page feature lampooning fairy tales and such. The current reality show of politics, often beyond satire, could use that kind of treatment.

Many voters, for example, doubtless would like someone to ask Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris: “Your relationship with Willie Brown has been described in print as ‘poontronage.’ How did you first meet Brown, and what was the basis of the relationship? I mean, you were 30, he was 60, and Brown was not exactly Billy Dee Williams.”  

It’s a fair question of a woman who probably won her 2010 California attorney general race by ballot fraud. She now goes around touting a “Harris Administration,” when she’s running under Joe Biden, a man she savaged in the primaries as a segregationist, and worse.  

For his part, the former vice president could stand some questioning from a real reporter, something like, “Mr. Vice President, in January 2017, why did you request to unmask General Michael Flynn?” Or, “Mr. Vice President, how hard was it to get that Ukrainian prosecutor fired?” Or, “Mr. Vice President, you are on record that the Chinese are ‘not bad folks.’ Have Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party ever done anything with which you disagreed?” 

Consider also Marie Harf who, prior to joining President Obama’s reelection campaign, was a spokeswoman for the Central Intelligence Agency, where she “crafted the CIA’s media strategy on a wide range of sensitive national security and intelligence topics.” Harf also served in the State Department as a senior advisor for strategic communications to John Kerry. Like many from the previous administration, Harf has become a fixture on television. Some journalist might ask her: “Was Alger Hiss innocent?” which is not a trick question. Or, “Do people still become terrorists because they can’t find a job?” 

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is the most ardent evangelist of the Green New Deal. Many economists would like somebody to ask her, “What is a marginal tax rate?” or “Which had the more powerful economy, Castro’s Cuba, or Hong Kong?” Or how about “John Maynard Keynes praised F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Did you ever read that book and, if so, what do you think of it?” Those are fair questions for someone who wields so much influence over Democratic candidates. 

Former CIA boss John Brennan had a high profile during the Russia and Ukraine hoaxes. By all indications, no reporter asked Brennan, “any regrets for voting for Gus Hall in 1976? After all, the man was a Stalinist.” That’s a scene many in the intel community would surely like to see. 

By all indications, nobody ever asked Barack Obama: “Mr. President, in Dreams from My Father you dedicated 2,000 words to ‘Frank,’ whom you publicly identified as known Communist, Frank Marshall Davis. Why did Frank disappear from the audio version of the book, and failed to appear in anything you wrote after that?” That remains a fair question for someone who was the most powerful person in the world for eight years, and who is taking a high-profile role in the 2020 campaign.

“Mr. President,” someone might ask, “in the 2017 Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, David Garrow said Dreams from My Father was not an autobiography or a memoir. Garrow said it was a novel and you were the novel’s most important ‘composite character.’ What is your view of that judgment? I mean, it questions your whole narrative.” 

A reporter familiar with the deep state might ask: “Mr. President, the texts of the FBI’s Lisa Page and Peter Strzok said the president wanted to know ‘everything we’re doing.’ What was your role in the operations Midyear Exam and Crossfire Hurricane?” 

Those are scenes we’d like to see, but they are unlikely to play out under the establishment media. For a detailed explanation of why, see The Treason of the Intellectuals, by Julian Benda, with a foreword by American Greatness columnist Roger Kimball. 

Maybe Obama and his handlers will get into it in the new 768-page A Promised Land, slated for release on November 17, two weeks after the election. See if Frank makes a comeback, and if the ex-president comments on David Garrow’s 1,460-page opus. The biography escapes mention in Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Ben Rhodes’ The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House, both released in 2018. 

Mad magazine aside, you just can’t make up this stuff.

Great America

Women Are Not OK

A healthy regime, seeing widespread insanity among its women, would ask “Why”?

I try not to watch videos that extremely socially maladjusted people have recorded of themselves crying in their cars. They seem to go viral too often. And too often, the subjects are women: women who earnestly believe that abortion is fundamental to female flourishing. Women whose nature has been thwarted, disassembled, and denied by a political environment that opposes family formation in every imaginable way. Women whose consumption of spiritually subversive content on the internet is so out of control that they think public demonstrations of extreme emotional incontinence count as a legitimate form of discourse.

A person could spend all day on the internet, entertaining himself with the spectacle of widespread mental illness and antisocial ugliness, especially among woke women. One would never want for material. But delighting in their misery is neither charitable nor productive. 

However detestable, these women are deeply pitiable. Their vitriol says far more than they imagine; they are hurting.

A series of viral videos is not the only indication that women are not OK. Statistical analysis indicates ever-increasing mass singleness, loneliness, mental illness, prescription drug abuse, alcoholism, obesity, and chosen infertility among American females. 

A healthy regime, seeing widespread insanity among its women, would wonder . . . why? If the regime could not answer why, it might attempt to answer so what? Or propose a way to respond, at least. Ours does none of that. The American regime refuses to recognize female suffering as such, in part because it refuses to politically distinguish between men and women. Our stubborn refusal renders us incapable both of identifying and addressing the problem.

Instead we labor under the liberal delusion that human beings are merely “individuals”: irreducible atomic units, indistinguishable from (and equal to) one another in the drive to survive on an individual basis. To regard a human person as an individual is to make people into abstractions, whose choices can only be legitimately analyzed and understood in a material or economic sense. Everything in America reduces along these lines. Sex, culture, friendship, religion, political affiliation, “gender identity”: all of these become matters of notional value and arbitrary choice in the liberal landscape. 

When human relations degenerate to contractual, transactional, and infinitely fungible ties, serving no higher purpose other than immediate utility or preference, women suffer uniquely. Not, I stress, more or less than men, but uniquely. In “The Ethos of Women’s Professions,” Edith Stein wrote, “abstraction in every sense is alien to the feminine nature. The living and personal to which her care extends is a concrete whole and is protected and encouraged as a totality; this does not mean that one part is sacrificed to another, not the mind to the body or one spiritual faculty at the expense of others.” 

How can a creature, oriented mind, body, and soul toward the creative vocation of motherhood, survive in a world that regards all of her natural tendencies as superfluous, strips them of their holistic value, and subjugates them to the demands of the market?

The damage of woman-as-bloodless-abstraction is clear in the “sexual marketplace” as well as the workplace. Women’s immediate utility in the former is as an elaborate masturbation machine for men. In order to play along with the dominant dating scene of the day, women must neatly separate their emotional lives from their physical being. In the workplace, this principle of immediate utility requires a woman to suppress her biological imperatives indefinitely. Again, she must divide her creative life from her natural desires. In both examples, she may be disposed of at any point. This constant fracturing of her identity, compounded by the persistent threat of abandonment and impermanence, is especially psychologically traumatic for women.

Is it any wonder women have gone completely insane? 

Ironically, the Terminally Online girls crying about Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Twitter owe much of their predicament to her for helping to instantiate this radically distorted view of the human person into law. Women have been working against nature ever since, and we aren’t any better for our effort. We aren’t even richer for it. Our labor is as cheap as our dignity. Millions of failed relationships and dead babies later, too many of us wish we’d never been born.

Great America

Conservatism, Inc. Informs Us That Opposition to Lagoa Is Racist

With instructions like this, one can be forgiven for doubting that institutional conservatism wants to win.

For an alarming example of institutional conservatism’s response to the emerging conflict on the Right over judicial nominations, look no further than John Fund’s recent column arguing for Barbara Lagoa to get the nod over Amy Coney Barrett as the replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Fund’s piece is based on the absurdly pandering claim that Lagoa would be easier to confirm because Democrats will be wary of attacking a Hispanic nominee as they rely on Hispanic votes. This is daft.

Fund omits that the Democrats’ savaging of Miguel Estrada inaugurated their use of procedural tactics to close the federal bench to good nominees. Estrada being Hispanic failed to tame Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) then. Has anything happened since to make him feel any heat from Hispanic voters?

Fund’s claim is even weirder when you add the stakes in this nomination. The last vacancy in which an iconic liberal was replaced with a robust conservative followed Thurgood Marshall’s retirement in 1991. A few of the older kids might remember the dignified hearings over which Joe Biden presided on the nomination of one Clarence Thomas.

Is that the restraint into which Fund hopes Lagoa’s Cuban birth will shame Chuck Schumer?

John Fund is too experienced a political hand to forget the treatment Democrats gave Thomas and Estrada. So what is he doing? I have no brief against Judge Lagoa, but Fund’s arguments for her can only be read as capitulation in the face of victory. And the only counter he makes to critics on the Right is that they are—you guessed it—racists.

What are his talking points in her favor? And how persuasive are they? Any of them taken alone suggests unfamiliarity with the recent history of Republican Supreme Court nominations. But taken together, his piece amounts to a purposeful call to stack arms.

First, he argues that Lagoa’s nomination to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last year had the support of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Planned Parenthood), whose defense of Roe v. Wade in confirmation hearing is as ill-informed as it is intransigent. So, if you want to make a transformative appointment based on Feinstein’s opinion, do you want the judge she easily voted for, or the one to whom she famously glowered “the dogma lives loudly in you.” Fund wants us to prefer the one Feinstein supported over the one Feinstein could only bigotedly denounce.

Fund also says Lagoa is the choice because her hearings were peaceful, while Barrett’s were only mostly peaceful. This is an attempted con, and you are the mark if you believe it. As if Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were treated well as Supreme Court nominees because their confirmation to the circuit courts were nonevents.

John Fund is serious about grasping generational defeat from the jaws of unlooked-for victory: if you are a right-winger who is not sold on Barbara Lagoa, you just might be a racist.

Nothing about what is to come will be peaceful. Any competent political analyst would acknowledge that what the Democrats are preparing right now for whoever is nominated will be the most astonishing “shite show” in the history of the U.S. Senate. And yes, I include the caning of Charles Sumner on the Senate floor.

This confirmation will mark the most significant shift in the Supreme Court since Thomas was confirmed in 1991. And Thomas joining the court did not approach creating a Kennedy/O’Conner/Souter-proof majority. This nomination could do exactly that: a five-member squad that won’t need to deal with Chief Justice Roberts if they don’t want to. The entire Left will consider this worthy, in fact demanding of, their last desperate throw. They will leave no weapon unused.

Against the logic of this, does Fund think that the Left will stand down? It is incompetent to even imagine they would. Going into this den, why would you prefer a nominee who had an easy confirmation over one who has already stared down Feinstein and her unhinged colleagues and acquitted herself with mastery?

If this is not enough Expert Professional Conservatism, Fund informs us that Lagoa’s nomination would win Florida for Trump. Aside from the slight problem that a “go it safe, don’t anger the Left” nomination would certainly lose Trump the Great Lakes states and Mitch McConnell the Senate, that might be totally cool.

If it were even true. Home state Supreme Court nominations have no demonstrated track record of delivering that state for a president. Eisenhower appointed liberal William Brennen to the Supreme Court in 1956 ostensibly to woo New England liberals to the cause of his reelection. Eisenhower swept New England in both of his elections, along with most of the rest of the country, so there is no proof Brennen got him anything electorally. But Brennen stayed on the Court until 1990, contributing heavily to its leftward drift until he was replaced by David Souter, whom we were assured would be a “home run for conservatives.” Talk about being tired of winning.

That brings us to the reason conservatives might be skeptical of Lagoa, especially in comparison to Barrett. Where Barrett has such a solid paper trail, suggesting to almost all observers that she would vote to overturn Roe, Lagoa has been a judge since 2006 with little to indicate what she thinks of such things. Fund expertly assures us that her short time as a federal judge (following several years on the Florida bench) and lack of paper trail on constitutional questions should be no more a cause for concern on the Right than it was for, that’s right, David Souter.

At this point, I am wondering if Fund is trying to break into the sort of satire best left to the pros at the Babylon Bee and CNN.

But Fund is serious about grasping generational defeat from the jaws of unlooked-for victory: if you are a right-winger who is not sold on Lagoa, you just might be a racist. Good thing we have the expert professional conservative guidance to know that wanting the better choice for America’s future is evidence, as it always is, of racism.

With instructions like this, one can be forgiven for doubting that institutional conservatism wants to win.