America • American Conservatism • Conservatives • Defense of the West • political philosophy • Post

Permanent Things: Russell Kirk’s Centenary

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Mark the uncanny hand of coincidence. When I began thinking about putting together a conference about the legacy of Russell Kirk last spring, I knew that we were in the middle of his centenary. We wanted to take advantage of that milestone, so we determined to hold the conference sometime in the autumn. After various deliberations and inspections of the calendar and other obligations, we settled, as if by accident, on October 19. I had no idea, when we proffered our invitations to the participants, that October 19 happened to be Kirk’s birthday.

In his charming book about coincidences, Father George Rutler notes that “odious” though “the superstitious misuse of coincidence is,” that perversion is “only slightly less offensive [than] the underestimation of the significance of some” coincidences. The serendipity, if not the capital-P Providence, of the date of our discussion of Russell Kirk seemed appropriate for a sage who was so conspicuously attuned to the eldritch, the inexplicable, the uncanny. After all, Kirk has always been one of those figures whose example is an admonition against the ontological poverty with which we saddle ourselves in our surrender to the beguiling superficialities of a thoroughly disenchanted secular materialism.

It was no accident, as the Marxists like to say, that Kirk’s biggest sales by far were in the demotic realm of ghost stories . . . If ghosts and other non-quotidian manifestations loom large in Russell Kirk’s spiritual geography, it is partly because he was not beholden to the exiguous dogmas of a self-declared age of enlightenment whose defining prejudice is, in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s phrase, a prejudice against prejudice.

Indeed, one of Kirk’s chief attractions is the amplitude of his worldview. He did not quite approve of Walt Whitman. But there was a largeness about Kirk’s view of the universe that was Whitmanian in its insouciance regarding logical niceties, which can seem sterile when counterpoised against the rude pulse of living tradition. I do not say that Kirk, as Whitman boasted, contradicted himself. But he assuredly “contained multitudes.” Regarding ghosts, I believe that Kirk would have appreciated, with a twinkle, what Margot Asquith said. Asked whether she believed in ghosts, the elegant wife of the Prime Minister replied that “appearances are in their favor.”

Kirk, in short, was a thinker who coaxed us to enlarge, not diminish, the existential furniture of our world…

Read the rest at The New Criterion.

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America • American Conservatism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Donald Trump • political philosophy • Post • The Culture • The Resistance (Snicker)

Why (Most) Right-Wing Intellectuals Hate Trump

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More than two years into President Trump’s historic presidency, it behooves us to think more deeply about a persistent sticking point in the political life of the nation: Why do (most) right-wing intellectuals loathe him? This kind of nearly unified opposition cries out for explanation.

After all, it is not simply that all left-wing intellectuals oppose him; that is baked into the political cake, a totally banal reality. (Is water wet?) What is more interesting is why most right-wing intellectuals despise him, wish for his failure, derive such glee from “dunking” on him on social media and in their think pieces, and the like.

To understand this phenomenon, the late Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick’s essay, “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?” is a veritable treasure trove of insight. Nozick’s 1998 explanation of intellectuals’ opposition to capitalism is remarkably relevant and can be transplanted with only minor cosmetic changes to understand why the vast majority of right-wing intellectuals oppose Trump.

Nozick begins by explaining what he means by “intellectuals,” describing them as “those who, in their vocation, deal with ideas as expressed in words, shaping the word flow others receive. These wordsmiths include poets, novelists, literary critics, newspaper and magazine journalists, and many professors.” We can certainly add “think tank scholars” and “pundits” to that list.

Nozick goes on to define his project’s scope carefully, noting that he will “identify a factor which tilts intellectuals toward anti-capitalist attitudes but does not guarantee it in any particular case.” I will do likewise, for it is self-evident that not all right-wing intellectuals oppose Trump. American Greatness writers, many scholars at the Claremont Institute, and other dispersed intellectuals are quite bullish on his presidency, or at least what it might represent as a political philosophy or art of governing: “Trumpism,” for lack of a better term. We are concerned here, however, with the vast majority of right-wing intellectuals who do strenuously oppose him, just as Nozick was concerned with capitalism-hating intellectuals.

Nozick’s basic contention is that the education system teaches future anti-capitalist intellectuals “the principle of reward in accordance with (intellectual) merit.” And in school—which future anti-capitalist intellectuals expect the broader world to imitate since as an institution it is second only to the family in shaping their attitudes and worldviews—“the smartest constituted the upper class.” Therefore, “[t]he intellectual wants the whole society to be a school writ large, to be like the environment where he did so well and was so well appreciated.” That is understandable, as a psychological matter.

In the case of the anti-Trump right-wing intellectual, however, the genealogy of their disgust is slightly different. Rather than being possessed of the silly notion that the world will be just like school, they are possessed of a different, but no less silly, notion: that politics is just their insular conferences played out in public and backed by law, or their white papers given teeth—but that, in the final analysis, there’s no substantive difference between statesmanship and academia.

This is obviously nonsense. The real world requires compromise and (sometimes) snap decisions. Very often, ideas cooked up in the ivory tower disintegrate on contact with reality, leaving massive casualties in their wake (e.g., Marxism). “Nation-building,” “globalism,” “unfettered free trade,” and “amnesty” also spring to mind as rotten ideas that (perhaps) look good on paper but are deeply, dangerously inimical to America’s interests in today’s world.

But where does this resentment come from? What about the education system causes this opposition to capitalism? Why do intellectuals feel entitled to rule or to have “the most prestige and power” or to be the “most highly valued people in a society”?

Because in the Information Age, knowledge is in many respects the key that opens the doors to the halls of power and prestige in a way that it wasn’t in ages past. Further, a capitalist society such as ours is

peculiar in that it seems to announce that it is open and responsive only to talent, individual initiative, personal merit. … Despite the created expectation, a capitalist society rewards people only insofar as they serve the market-expressed desires of others; it rewards in accordance with economic contribution, not in accordance with personal value.

So anti-capitalist intellectuals are “resentful” when they are not society’s top dogs because school has taught them  “they are the most valuable people, the ones with the highest merit, and that society should reward people in accordance with their value and merit. But a capitalist society does not satisfy the principle of distribution ‘to each according to his merit or value.’” Rather, it rewards those who best satisfy “the perceived market-expressed demands of others.” The anti-capitalist intellectual compares himself to wildly successful entrepreneurs and bristles with anger at a system that seems to “bait and switch” the metric of success.

Similarly, the anti-Trump right-wing intellectual bristles at a political system that does not “appropriately” value their “expertise” and “superior” knowledge and which, consequently, elevates a “buffoon” like Trump to the presidency—and on the shoulders of millions of those “deplorables,” no less. Anti-Trump right-wing intellectuals traffic in information, the gold standard in today’s world, something upon which we are ever-more reliant. Yet, in this arena, the American electorate defied them and their harebrained “proposals,” offered coercively, not through persuasion. Brazenly so. Thus, they resent the man who smashed their pretensions of politics-as-white-paper-drafting-session and roundly repudiated their perceived “right to rule.”

No wonder they hate him!

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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Big Media • Conservatives • First Amendment • Free Speech • political philosophy • Post • The Media

In Defense of Philip Anschutz

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The late William F. Buckley, Jr., published a book several decades ago titled Gratitude, in which, while making a case for mandatory community service, he argued that gratitude is one of the distinctively conservative virtues. Gratitude, he reasoned, nourishes continuity in society while its opposite—resentment—provokes discontent and disruption.

Buckley was hardly the first to say this. The great religions teach that a noble person is grateful for the favors he receives from others. Cicero, reflecting the view of Roman civilization, wrote that “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

These reflections are called forth partly by the Christmas season, also by some unfortunate responses to the news that The Weekly Standard has ceased publication. The decision by the owners will close the books on a spirited magazine that for the past 23 years served as a beacon for conservative thought and commentary. The Standard now joins a lengthy list of magazines that have failed over the decades because of the loss of readers or due to political fissures in society: The Literary Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, Look, Life, The Saturday Review, and Newsweek (to name a few). Others are certain to follow. Time magazine, for example, is unlikely to make it to its 100th anniversary in 2023.

William Kristol, along with several conservative colleagues, founded the magazine in 1995 in the wake of the 1994 “Gingrich election” and with a generous annual subsidy from Rupert Murdoch. It began as a neoconservative magazine, somewhat in opposition to the traditional conservatism articulated in National Review. While it covered domestic issues and reviewed current books, the magazine’s forte was always in the area of foreign policy where the editors promoted a robust role for the United States around the world.

In 2009, Philip Anschutz acquired ownership from Murdoch, and thereafter subsidized the magazine to the tune of $3 or $4 million per year, but without changing any editorial policies. It was ultimately Anschutz, in conjunction with Clarity Media Group, the corporation that managed The Weekly Standard and other publications, that ultimately decided to shutter the magazine.

As regular readers, we liked the Standard because it was informative, albeit idiosyncratic, and unpredictable, but never so on the large issues dealing with America’s role in the world and the preservation of her constitutional heritage. The writers were conservatives—mostly—but followed no party line. Many prominent journalists today got their start years ago at the Standard. Kristol, the magazine’s longtime editor, edited the magazine with a light touch, giving his writers great leeway in what they wanted to say. The editors came in for an avalanche of criticism for their support for the war in Iraq, but unlike others who initially supported it, they (to their credit) stayed the course to the end.

Several reasons have been cited for the demise of the magazine: the difficult landscape for print publications, the increasing expense of those enterprises, and the disappearance of younger readers accustomed to looking for news online or in bite-sized increments. But there can be little doubt that the magazine’s editorial stance—all anti-Trump, all the time—played a large role in the loss of subscribers and advertisers that eventually led to the owner’s decision to end his financial support.

It does not require a marketing degree to know there would never be a large audience for a conservative magazine with a single-minded mission to bring down a right-leaning president. That audience was more or less what the editors banked on when they embarked on their anti-Trump editorial position even before he took the oath of office.

As the editors soon discovered, the market for their re-tailored magazine was an exceedingly small one. As one wag commented, “why should conservatives pay good money for The Weekly Standard when CNN and the Washington Post will call us fascists for free.” That is harsh, but not all that wide of the mark. Conservatives did not subscribe to the Standard in order to read what their neighbors were hearing on CNN or reading in the New York Times.

Against this backdrop, it was surprising to see many friends of the magazine cast blame upon Anschutz for withdrawing his subsidy or for turning down offers to sell it, as if the magazine had not been drowning in a sea of troubles, some of them self-inflicted.

John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, wrote that Anschutz had “murdered” the magazine and that in closing it he had committed “a cultural and intellectual crime.” The annual subsidy for the magazine was (he wrote) no more than a rounding error on his vast fortune, suggesting thereby that Anschutz’s decision to close the enterprise was an act of personal pique or revenge.

Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs magazine, endorsed this interpretation in a post on the website of National Review. David Brooks, who was present at the creation of the Standard, devoted a column in the New York Times to the closure of the magazine, repeating Podhoretz’s “murder” line and filling the piece with a host of snotty and gratuitous insults directed at Anschutz. In his view, the collapse of the Standard is a tale of corporate greed and ignorance.

“This is what happens,” Brooks wrote, “when corporate drones take over an opinion magazine, try to drag it down to their level and then grow angry and resentful when the people at the magazine try to maintain a sense of intellectual standards.”

Brooks goes even further to attack Anschutz for closing the magazine at Christmas time, even though such decisions are often taken at Christmas time because the holiday coincides with the end of the calendar year. According to these critics, the editors bear no responsibility for the collapse of the magazine, and therefore the owner had a responsibility to continue his support regardless of financial losses or the hemorrhaging of subscribers and advertisers.

In fact, Anschutz deserves thanks and a measure of gratitude for subsidizing the magazine to the tune of $30 or $40 million of his own money over a period of nine years, during which his funds paid the salaries of the editors, the fees of countless writers, and the weekly costs of production. By all accounts, he never interfered with the judgments of the editors as to what should and should not appear in the magazine, even when those judgments proved controversial, as in the magazine’s endorsement of the war in Iraq. It appears that he was even tolerant to a fault of the magazine’s self-destructive editorial line against Donald Trump.

It is hard to see what Anschutz gained personally from his support for the magazine; he did it as an act of public service in the belief that the magazine expressed a point of view that deserved to be heard. While $3 million or $ 4 million per year may seem like a “rounding error” to some people, it is in fact real money that Anschutz could have deployed elsewhere. Many organizations around the country could have made good use of a $3 million annual subsidy. Yet he stayed with the enterprise for nine years, quietly paying its bills and keeping the operation going. No matter what some say, Philip Anschutz cannot be blamed for the magazine’s loss of subscribers and advertisers, and ultimately for the collapse of the enterprise.

Truth to tell, Anschutz is not all that different from the benefactors who subsidize Commentary, National Review, National Affairs, and other conservative opinion journals. Most are wealthy individuals who made fortunes in finance or in business and contribute substantial sums to keep these publications going. No one forces them to do it; they make these contributions of time and money as a way of investing in the moral capital of the system that made their fortunes possible in the first place.

Many of those benefactors make business decisions every day as to whether or not to sustain investments in their enterprises, or to pull out of them. Some have withdrawn support from newspapers and opinion magazines when they disagreed with their editorial positions or did not think they could sustain themselves. Does this mean that they are cruel and insensitive people? Many on the Left would say “yes” because to them all wealthy people are suspect. It is surprising to hear “conservatives” imply judgments along similar lines. If this is what these editors think of Anschutz, what must they think of the donors who sustain their own enterprises?

The editors of The Weekly Standard had every right, perhaps a duty, to follow their principles regardless of costs, but it is most ungracious of them and their friends to insist that Philip Anschutz was obliged to pick up their tab.

Photo credit: Denver Post Staff Photo by Brian Brainerd via Getty Images

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America • Conservatives • political philosophy • Post • Pro-Life • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture • The Left

John Roberts Will Be the New Anthony Kennedy

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John Roberts will be the new Anthony Kennedy. He stopped short of admitting as much in his recent rejoinder to President Trump, claiming there are no “Obama judges” or other politically motivated federal judges—a statement untrue on its face. But the implication was clear. He has already had a trial run as the swing vote—in the Obamacare case, in which Roberts deserted his fellow Republicans and joined the liberals with a tangled decision that redefined the health insurance law’s individual mandate as “a tax.”

Roberts also was joined by the newest Justice, Brett Kavanaugh (so much for the liberal women clawing at the doors of the court chamber) in a decision supported by the four liberal members of the court. It declined to hear an appeal in a case denying conservative states the authority to defund Planned Parenthood in Medicaid services.

But then, why wouldn’t Roberts want to be the swing vote? It would make him the most powerful man in American government, able single-handedly to change American social, cultural, or political life in historic new directions, as Kennedy did with the same-sex marriage decision.

Roberts would wield his power from an unassailable position: a lifetime term never vulnerable to public vote. Only dictators enjoy such legislative powers. Kennedy could not resist the temptation to power that came with being the swing vote, and Roberts won’t either.

Roberts was a George W. Bush nominee, but Republicans have a long history of Supreme Court appointments who went spectacularly sour for them, including some of the most liberal activist judges in history—Earl Warren and David Souter.

Harry Blackmun, a Richard Nixon appointee, was the architect of Roe v Wade. Sandra Day O’Connor, a Ronald Reagan appointee and the first woman on the court, was supposed to be an Arizona conservative. She ended up voting with the liberal bloc. Souter, about as far left as you could go in liberal activism, was nominated by the George H. W. Bush. Anthony Kennedy was another Reagan appointee, but he saved Roe, and cast the deciding vote in granting same-sex marriage rights. In doing so, he created the 4-1-4 configuration of the court, with himself in the middle on many issues.

This put Kennedy in the position of being the wise man, the compassionate sage, above the fray where he could exercise a higher spirituality, expressed in such gobbledygook sentences as this one: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life.”

The power may be irresistible, but how did it come to be? Anyone who reads Article III of the Constitution can see that it is not there at all: no judicial review, no authority to overrule Congress or the states, no legislative powers, no superiority over the other branches of the federal government. In fact, quite the opposite.

The three branches of government are not separate but equal as so many commentators insist. They were meant to be separate, but not equal. Congress was far and away the great power, followed by the president, with the courts in a weak third place. They were “the weakest of the three departments of power,” wrote Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 78. They were “the weakest because weakest in capacity,” he wrote, adding a quote from Montesquieu, an architect of tripartite government, “of the three powers above mentioned, the Judiciary is next to nothing.” Hamilton also made it clear that “there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative…”

At the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, the framers twice voted down a veto power over congressional law by the courts. They did grant such a veto to the president, but added a check and balance by making it possible for Congress to override a presidential veto. Had they granted a veto to the courts, there surely would have been a check and balance. Yet today the courts enjoy an unchecked veto power not only over Congress but over anything and everything.

The Supreme Court today essentially is a judicial dictatorship which can amend the Constitution the easy way, by a 5-4 vote. (The hard way is the path everyone else has to follow—a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and approval by three-quarters of the states).

Historically, this extraordinary judicial-legislative power comes from the unilateral seizure of it by Chief Justice John Marshall in the famous Marbury v. Madison case of 1803. The case was of minimal importance, but the implication for the future was ominous. This illegal power wouldn’t be used again until the disastrous pro-slavery Dred Scott decision of 1857, which helped bring on the Civil War by overruling Congress on its hard-earned extension of slavery laws.

Abraham Lincoln brilliantly explained the limits of the Dred Scott decision, but no president since has had the courage to defy the courts when it comes to the use of “judicial review,” the mechanism by which courts nullify laws of the people, write new laws of their own, and impose them on the entire nation. John Roberts will be the new pilot of these flights of judicial review. Count on it.

Photo credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

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Conservatives • GOPe • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • Republicans

Carlson vs. Shapiro: Requiem for the Right

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As the American Right—and, by extension, the Republican Party—continues to lumber through a long-needed period of serious transformation, introspection, and reevaluation it is hard to recall a single incident that is more illustrative of the confusion that grips so many than this recent exchange between two of the Right’s most well known media personalities: Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson.

At issue between them is the connection between the alleged political principles of the Right and the policies Republicans champion. Specifically, are the principles of free market economics the same as the principles of good government? Are those principles the purpose of government or are free markets merely a means whereby the end of good government can be achieved?

Such watershed moments help explain the necessity of the policy adjustments happening within the Republican party for those who still may not fully understand them. Whether it’s for the purpose of explaining the ineffectiveness of the old guard of “Conservatism Inc.,” or of defining the “New Right” that is rising to replace it, or both, it is crucial that something more than a cartoon understanding of the problems of our political moment inform our debates.

Carlson’s willingness to press these questions and demand a re-thinking shows, among other things, that intellectual honesty is still possible on the Right in a way that is unthinkable today on the Left. Just as important is the fact that Carlson is most definitely right in his argument; there are clear flaws in the capitalist system that should be criticized and addressed from a right-wing perspective.

The Flaws of the Free Market
Although the full version of Carlson’s interview is hidden behind Shapiro’s paywall, even the truncated 50-minute version on YouTube is a gold mine. The majority of the video is devoted to the two men’s clear differences in regards to the free market, and the contrasts could not be clearer.

Shapiro repeatedly admits that his preferred “solution” in any circumstance is simply to let the free market run its course. He returns to this again and again in three main topics he argues with Carlson: Trust-busting, trade, and automation.

Shapiro says that he would have opposed the trust-busting actions undertaken by President Theodore Roosevelt, and would oppose similar actions today. When Carlson criticizes Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick for not providing his drivers with health insurance because they’re independent contractors, not technically employees, Shapiro is dismissive. Contractors are “less costly,” which is enough to justify the policy.

Similarly, Shapiro has nothing but glib and facile answers to the pressing question of automation and its long-term effects on U.S. manufacturing jobs. In a rather unsubtle attempt to paint free-market capitalism as some sort of divine force, Shapiro claims that the answer to joblessness is a “Biblical mandate” to pack up and move to another city, in order to go on “the adventure of your life” in seeking a new job. In trying to put lipstick on the pig of economic displacement, he also makes the stretch that America was founded upon the principle of people constantly moving from place to place, and thus implies that such rootlessness is simply a part of the American Dream.

Shapiro’s non-answers for the fundamental economic problems facing the middle class underscore how truly out-of-touch one can become when slavishly attached to an ideology. For someone who has been crowned by the mainstream media as a “conservative gladiator” and a leader of the future of the movement, he could not possibly be more disconnected from the reality faced by many Americans today. Call it just a hunch, but the millions of working-class Americans whose lives have been thrown into chaos due to economic displacement probably would not view their joblessness in the same romantic and “adventurous” colors that Shapiro does.

A Free Market or a Stable Society?
While Shapiro prefers to keep deflecting to idealistic abstractions and to paint the brutal realities of economic downturns in rosy colors, Carlson is much more candid and realistic in his suggestions.

He rightfully points out that such economic outsourcing, while allowing consumers to buy “cheap plastic crap” from China for just a few cents less, utterly demolishes a very crucial way of life for many in the American middle class. While the former working class is now plagued by such issues as a spike in divorces and fatherlessness, the opioid crisis, and a rising suicide rate, the economic elites continue to expedite the process of economic outsourcing so that they can save just that much more money. Gone is the generosity of past industry bosses (the so-called “robber barons”) such as Rockefeller and Carnegie, who at least knew that they had monopolies and thus contributed something back to society through their massive philanthropic efforts (think of the countless Carnegie libraries around the country).

When Shapiro asks Carlson what he would do to address these issues, the Fox News host wastes no time in admitting that he would pursue government intervention. From tariffs like those President Trump is pursuing, to a government-mandated blocking of automation technology in the trucking industry, Carlson unapologetically supports actions that would help to achieve the greater goal of “a stable society” for American citizens.

The very idea of such a prominent right-wing media personality making criticisms such as these of capitalism is impossible to imagine as few as three years ago. But Carlson makes it very clear that although he considers capitalism to be the best economic system possible, that doesn’t make it a religion to be accepted as perfect, nor is it “some nicene creed” that he has to “buy into” in all cases whatever, damn the consequences. Capitalism is not the end of government. Government does not exist to secure its tenets. On the contrary, capitalism is merely a means by which we may achieve the ends of good government.

Using plain language  and examples relatable to regular people and everyday occurrences, Carlson is able to achieve far greater appeal than all of the “wit and logic” Shapiro is alleged to have.

Brave New World
As independent journalist Brett MacDonald said on Twitter, perhaps no other video better “highlights the divide between the establishment conservatives and the new burgeoning movement” than this debate.

In addition to clearly dismantling the old guard of establishment conservative thought and cementing the rise of a more coherent and articulate nationalism, so too does this entire episode bring about a clear turning point in both men’s careers: Carlson’s star is sure to rise, while Shapiro has undoubtedly taken a massive hit to his reputation.

For his reputation as some sort of master debater, this is Shapiro’s first major back-and-forth with an equally-prominent conservative figure in recent memory, if not ever. MacDonald said it best: This debate with Carlson proves that when Shapiro is not debating 20-something-year-old college students in his dime-a-dozen Q&A’s, on topics such as trigger warnings or transgenderism, and is instead “matched with an alternative conservative philosophy,” then he truly “has no answers to the true problems” and just defers to the power of the free market.

Shapiro wants to equate Carlson’s arguments with those of Bernie Sanders. Carlson does not flinch. There is no shame in taking up the issues Sanders raises because they are important issues that concern the voters. Sanders himself is “a buffoon” and “totally insincere” and does not address them. But if conservatives don’t talk about the things Sanders is addressing, then they foolishly abandon the field to the socialists.

Carlson also points out a level of hypocrisy among conservative elites who prioritize policies of simply “lowering the marginal tax rates” rather than policies that actually address existential societal problems, such as preserving the family structure.

In disagreeing with traditional conservative orthodoxy—daring to point out flaws in capitalism and an unthinking ideological commitment to free trade, yet without endorsing socialism—Carlson is proving that the New Right is not bound entirely by the traditional “left-right” paradigm that has been the standard for decades.

If anything, both American politics and global politics have shifted away from the original question of “Are you Left or are you Right?” Now, the new defining question is: “Are you a nationalist or are you a globalist?”

There could not be a sharper illustration of the contrast between these two sects of the American Right: Shapiro, with his Harvard education and “facts and logic,” shows that “owning” SJWs on college campuses does not translate into real, effective solutions for the problems faced by millions of Americans.

Carlson, on the other hand, is just an ordinary (and grown up) guy who has by chance been elevated to one of the most-viewed cable news personalities of all time; he even humbly admits that he primarily got to where he is now because of luck. Perhaps that humility allows him to see what Shapiro, for all of his own luck, is missing.

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Donald Trump • History • political philosophy • Post • The Culture

Decline Isn’t a Choice

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In 2009, the late Charles Krauthammer penned an essay titled “Decline Is A Choice,” in which he argued that the eclipse of American power on the international stage—the shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world—was not preordained but very much under our own control.

Now Krauthammer was careful to note that decline isn’t always a choice—he cited Europe’s descent and destruction in the two world wars, and the United States’ unintentional rise to world hegemony thereafter as two examples of this qualification. Even Krauthammer had to admit that decline can still occur even if unsought.

Never mind that Krauthammer was primarily concerned with foreign policy in his essay—he still argued that in 2009 America’s fate was not a fixed downward trajectory.

Unfortunately, the last decade has proven Krauthammer entirely wrong. Our civilization has declined, and will continue to decline, despite our best efforts.

Decline isn’t a choice; it’s an inevitability.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem
At the close of World War I, the famed Irish poet and mystic William Butler Yeats wrote one of his most famous poems, “The Second Coming,” which for a brief and glorious generation was memorized by just about every schoolboy and schoolgirl in America.

This schoolhouse wisdom articulates a vision of the course of history that is fundamentally pessimistic. It is not the “Whig” view of history, history as progress ever marching forward; nor is it Krauthammer’s more agnostic point of view, emphasizing a culture’s free will to fail or flourish. It is the view that a civilization will collapse by its own internal momentum:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

This view was later picked up by the German philosopher Oswald Spengler in his monumental Decline of the West. Spengler argued that a civilization, like any organism, has a lifespan. Eventually it will decay and die. The post-condition of life, as it were, is death; the mere fact of existence necessitates an eventual breaking-down of the organism, whether it is an individual man or a whole culture. Civilization—and empire—is merely the adulthood or old-age of a culture. The fact that America has become an empire is the sign and signal of its coming decline and eventual death.

What Nietzsche Knew
But what we fail to realize is that decline is a necessary predecessor to renewal, just as creation follows destruction. Nietzsche was the perhaps one of the few philosophers to realize that decline—epitomized by nihilism—is the precondition for renewal. In his posthumous The Will to Power, he writes:

Overall insight. Actually, every major growth is accompanied by a tremendous crumbling and passing away: suffering, the symptoms of decline belong in the times of tremendous advances; every fruitful and powerful movement of humanity has also created at the same time a nihilistic movement. It could be the sign of a crucial and most essential growth, of the transition to new conditions of existence, that the most extreme form of pessimism, genuine nihilism, would come into the world. This I have comprehended.

In other words, we need not take an entirely pessimistic view of things.

The Greeks, after putting on a series of tragedies, would always end a festival of plays with a comedy. Out of the ashes arises a phoenix. Children are born to couples who eventually pass away. Life is neither a tragedy nor a comedy, neither a winter of discontent nor a summer of content, but both together—a cycle, in a word.

To take one example (to avoid too much abstraction) the overflowering #MeToo movement has now become a new Victorianism—men and women have not re-adopted codes of conduct and segregation that were prevalent in the past.

A real, fundamental change has occurred: male sexuality has been demonized, whereas female sexuality remains liberated. The Victorianism of the 19th century conceived of female sexuality as nonexistent—it was always the male who possessed dangerous sexual impulses which might corrupt the pure and innocent female.

But the Victorianism of the present day fully admits that woman has a sexuality as willful and free as man’s while it denies man the ability to act on his own sexual impulses. In short, the fruits of the 1960s Sexual Revolution, once admitted to both sexes, are now the exclusive property of women.

This kind of antagonism between the sexes is, it appears, simply not tenable. It is a real question when—not if—this newborn arrangement will collapse.

And what will replace it? That is a more difficult question.

A reversion to sexual norms of the 1950s—or even those of the 19th century—certainly is possible. But a debate about the likelihood of either of those two outcomes is not point of this essay. What matters is that the present state of affairs will not continue for long, and that something will arise in its place to fill the vacuum.

Donald Trump is an agent of chaos—he overturns the established order. Many on the right and left are justified in predicting the death of neoliberalism, globalism, and liberal democracy. But this is by no means an indication that we will experience a rise in the number of political reactionaries or their creed—this is the forging of something anew.

Decline isn’t a choice, but neither is renewal.

Photo Credit: Joseph Pennell

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Administrative State • American Conservatism • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Deep State • Democrats • political philosophy • Post • self-government • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture

The Suicidal Sanctimony of Phony Conservatives

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Christine Blasey Ford made scurrilous accusations against Brett Kavanaugh for actions she claims occurred nearly 35 years ago when they were both minors. Both Judge Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, who Ford also claims was present have vehemently and categorically denied her claims. The people who know Kavanaugh, as well as decades of evidence of a life lived with dignity and propriety, support him.

Even one of the people Ford claims was a witness denies her claims. Ford says that Leland Keyser was a friend of hers and was at the party in 1982. But Keyser says she has no recollection of the party. Not only that, she denies knowing or ever being in a social situation with Kavanaugh. Keyser’s statement calls into question whether the party occurred at all, which would make Ford’s claims against Kavanaugh entirely false.

Predictably, however, Ford has been joined by Stormy Daniels’ execrable mouthpiece, Michael Avenatti. Now a Yale classmate is making claims about some nudity at a dorm party, which have been questioned or denied by people who were allegedly there. So why are some self-described conservatives signing up to help this circus along?

What’s Different Now
False accusations and smear campaigns against upstanding Supreme Court nominees are nothing new. Democrats destroyed Robert Bork’s reputation in 1987 with a campaign of lies. Republicans said never again. So when Democrats tried it again on Clarence Thomas in 1991, that effort failed.

Today, however, so-called conservatives are helping Democrats destroy Kavanaugh as they seem to miss the point: Democrats aren’t acting in good faith. There is no search for truth—the campaign to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination is just brass-knuckled power politics. Democrats will do and say anything they think will keep Kavanaugh off the bench.

The longer it goes on, the more claims they will gin up until Republicans just can’t take it anymore and slink off in defeat, leaving Democrats in control of the Supreme Court. Remember when Harry Reid admitted to lying about improprieties in Mitt Romney’s tax returns but justified it by saying he “did what was necessary.” The same ethic is at work here.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty not only thinks that Ford’s claims should bar Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court, but he told Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic, who wrote she believes Ford despite the lack of evidence, that “it’s hard to see how he could remain a federal judge.” David French agreed that the allegations, if proven, should “mar him for life.” National Review Online Editor Charles C. W. Cooke agreed, adding that he doesn’t think that makes him “irrational or a Stalinist.”

Dennis Prager disagreed and made the commonsense argument that people should be judged based on the entirety of their lives and not for things that occurred in their youth, for which there is no evidence, and which the accused has denied. For that, he earned the opprobrium of French’s wife, Nancy, in a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post. French added that she “is no longer a Republican” because Republicans tell her that “character doesn’t matter” and that “people are disposable.”

Yet, these are the people who represent themselves as “true conservatives.” They’re not and it’s time for actual conservatives to realize it and ignore them. What they really are is self-righteous moralizers and anti-social prigs.

Aiding and Abetting Political Enemies
If the Frenches and the Geraghtys of the world kept their opinions to themselves, the country would be better off. Unfortunately, they are members of a very vocal political suicide cult who falsely claim the conservative mantle yet collaborate with political enemies and work to advance the evidence-free smear of Kavanaugh. The only thing these “conservatives” seem genuinely interested in conserving is the platforms they use to reprimand the rest of us for not living up to their preposterous standards.

For those of us concerned about practical politics and the future of American republicanism, a constitutionalist majority on the Supreme Court is vital to regaining some notion of responsible self-government. It has been the object of two generations of work by actual conservatives. But these hectoring scolds are actively working to seize defeat from the jaws of victory on the basis of a patently obvious, after the buzzer, bad faith smear campaign designed to destroy a man whose entire life—not to mention the testimony of many contemporaries—contradicts the claim.

If they are successful, we will all pay the price.

These are people who must not be allowed to represent the rank-and-file conservatives who backed Trump (none of these commentators did) and who want to effect a constitutional restoration. If you want to see a fair representation of what right-leaning Americans, including women, are thinking about this situation, watch this:

Geraghty claims that an alleged awkward encounter at the age of 17 should earn a lifetime ban from the federal bench. This sentiment appears to be shared by many of his colleagues and fellow travelers. What other employment does he believe should be off limits? I wonder if he’s thought it out that far or if he’s just emoting. Should it bar someone from all legal practice? What about insurance sales? Real estate? How about Walmart greeter?

And why? What are the rules? And what other purported sins should bar Americans from public service and even employment? Failing to observe the sabbath? Idolatry? Taking home some Post-It notes from the office? Dining and dashing with college friends? I’d say that it quickly becomes absurd, but they past that point long ago. And I can’t help but wonder if this provisional Committee on Public Virtue could say that every action of their own conforms to their quickly evolving standards.

A Cop-Out of a Fig Leaf
These so-called conservatives know no sense of proportion and thus lack basic wisdom. The fact is, they have no standards. Everything is ad hoc, impressionistic, emotional, and most of all driven by a sense of seeking to preserve their own place without regard to the good of others or the country. It is ugly, petty, and graceless.

Their preferred formulation of “if the charges are true, then . . . ” is a way to declare guilt and pronounce a sentence without ever having to seeing a shred of evidence and despite vehement, categorical denials from the accused. It is vulgar and wrong. It is also counter to the standards of French’s own denomination, which teaches that the Ninth Commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of one’s neighbor’s good name. By promoting gossip, smears, and accusations in the most public way he is doing just the opposite, despite his use of the “if . . . then” fig leaf.

Let me show you how this works: “If the Frenches, Charlie Cooke, and Jim Geraghty kick puppies, they should never be allowed to have a dog.” It doesn’t definitively say they kick puppies, but it does leave a distinct odor of wrongdoing and helpfully offers a ready-made punishment.

So let’s try another: “If pundits who claim to be conservatives promote unfounded Democrat smear campaigns, then no one should listen to them.”

Or this one: “If they actively use their platforms to undermine conservative causes, then we should realize they aren’t really conservatives at all and ignore them.”

Pharisaical Pretenses
Remember that these are the very same people—the same “principled conservatives”—who claim to want dignity and propriety in our public officials. But their participation in Kavanaugh’s public defenestration makes it less likely that such people will want to serve. It is a vile spectacle. They are nothing but self-seeking virtue hustlers—the right-wing equivalent of Al Sharpton—who claim virtue while practicing vice.

The real truth is that no one is good enough for them because in their hermetically sealed world, politics isn’t a practical art at all, and it isn’t about improving the country. It’s just a game of fake virtue one-upmanship to see who can be holier than thou. It’s unrealistic, immoral, and dysfunctional. It’s just the flip side of the unrealistic utopian ideology which has made Leftist politics so destructive.

On the Right, we need to reject the hectoring moralizers and two-bit virtue hustlers. Destroying people’s lives and careers without evidence, trafficking in gossip and self-regarding sanctimony should be given no place. Like it or not, the pharisaical pretense of Geraghty, French, and company enables vile bottom feeders like Michael Avenatti who cook up sick conspiracy theories about Brett Kavanaugh in a desperate attempt to keep a constitutionalist off the Supreme Court. Shame on them.

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Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Constitution • the Presidency

Trump and Bolton Take On the International Criminal Court

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Twenty years ago—the night of July 17-18, 1998 at the United Nations conference in Rome establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC), to be exact—an American amendment to restrict the role of this new supranational global court had just been overwhelmingly defeated. An observer remarked, “the delegates burst into a spontaneous standing ovation which turned into a rhythmic applause that lasted close to 10 minutes.”

From the delegations of the European Union and from human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and a group now called Human Rights First (all of whom were staffed with many American citizens) came wild cheers and applause throughout the night, as the Rome conference rejected a series of amendments proposed by the United States to place checks on the court.

Nineteen years later in November 2017, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda officially requested permission from the court’s pre-trial chamber to proceed, for the first time, to investigate U.S. soldiers and officials for alleged “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” in Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch praised the ICC move as a “potential, if long-time overdue, path to justice.” Amnesty International lauded the global prosecutor’s request as “a seminal moment for international justice.”

On September 10, at a Federalist Society luncheon, National Security Advisor John Bolton, speaking for President Trump, responded: “This administration will fight back to protect American constitutionalism, our sovereignty, and our citizens.”

Bolton’s speech was both hard-hitting and highly principled. Rich in historical and constitutional detail, the speech examines the actions of the International Criminal Court in the context of the core principles of American constitutional democracy and the principle that the only legitimate government is government by the consent of the governed. The speech was a tour de force that should be used in classrooms as a clear example of our constitutional morality and democratic sovereignty in action.

Shocked, Appalled, and Principle-Free
Critics immediately launched attacks on Bolton’s speech, but they never responded to his principled arguments in defense of democratic self-government. A hysterical headline on the front page of the New York Times declared “On War Crimes Court, U.S. Sides with Despots, Not Allies.” Human Rights First issued a short statement that Bolton’s announcement was “reactionary fear-mongering.”

Former George W. Bush Administration official John Bellinger worried that the current White House’s actions would “hurt the court and the cause of international justice.” Indiana international law professor David Bosco called Bolton’s speech “maximally offensive to the court, often inaccurate, but also hollow at its core.”

Harvard law professor Alex Whiting of the American Bar Association’s “International Criminal Court Project” criticized what he called “Bolton’s chest-thumping remarks” and the Trump Administration’s “embrace” of “propaganda tactics.” Whiting, too, worried about the harm to the potential effectiveness of the ICC.

None of these critics bothered to engage in a principled debate with Bolton’s constitutional reasoning. Are they capable of making a principled counter-argument?

A Frontal Assault on Democratic Sovereignty
The operating principles of the International Criminal Court are in direct contradiction to the values of democratic self-government. Under ICC rules, the soldiers and officials of a democracy (such as the United States, Israel, and India) that did not ratify the ICC treaty could nevertheless be tried by ICC judges (some from undemocratic authoritarian states, who are state parties to the treaty—e.g.,the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Tajikistan) against the consent of that democratic state, if the alleged war crimes occurred on the territory of a member of the ICC. In the current situation, the alleged American “war crimes” occurred in Afghanistan, a treaty signatory, so the ICC prosecutor is attempting to assert jurisdiction.

Supporters of the ICC argue that under the principle of “complementarity” the accused nonmember nation-state has the option of trying its own soldiers and officials first. Supposedly, the ICC acts only if the nation-state is “unable or unwilling” to conduct a fair trial of its own citizens. Crucially, however, the final decision on a whether the nation-state is acting properly is, according to ICC rules, to be decided by the ICC, not the nation-state itself.

Further, the definition of what exactly constitutes a “war crime” differs. For example, the ICC relying on Additional Protocol I of the Geneva conventions of 1977 (which the United States did not ratify and, therefore, does not recognize as international law) considers an air force bombing of military targets, without prior warning to civilians in the area, a “war crime.” The United States Defense Department rightly disagrees. In prosecuting cases the ICC obviously privileges its own definitions of war crimes and international law, not those of the accused nation-state.

In short, the entire ICC process is entirely outside of American constitutional democracy and is antithetical to the universal democratic concept of “government by consent of the governed.” Hence, the ICC is, as Bolton said, a “fundamentally illegitimate” institution in principle and in practice.

Reasserting Sovereignty in a Globalized World
When President Trump referred to “sovereignty” 21 times in his 2017 speech at the United Nations many commentators pretended confusion. What was he talking about? What does a concept such as “sovereignty” even mean in our globalized world? But clearly, the Trump Administration’s policy, announced by Bolton, repudiating the attempted power grab by the ICC’s global prosecutor is a perfect example of democratic sovereignty in action.

This issue is part of the great struggle of our time between sovereign self-government and supranational globalism (or transnational progressivism). Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony, in a brilliant new book The Virtue of Nationalism, describes this conflict as one between nationalism and imperialism. It began, Hazony tells us, in the Hebrew Bible when the nationalism of the ancient Israelites was confronted by the imperialism of the Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian, and Roman empires. And it continues today as transnationalists promote a more centralized neo-imperialist EU against resistance from some nation-states more interested in maintaining their sovereignty.

The parameters of this global struggle are exemplified by two diametrically opposed reactions to President Trump’s U.N. speech. The transnational progressive Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was appalled. “This was a bombastic nationalist speech. It must have been decades since one last heard a speech like that in the U.N. General Assembly,” she fumed. “It was the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience.”

On the other hand, the democratic nationalist prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was delighted: “In over 30 years in my experience with the U.N., I have never heard a bolder or more courageous speech.”

The Americanists” Fight Back
Eighteen years ago in a 19-page academic essay in Chicago’s Journal of International Law, John Bolton asked “Should We Take Global Governance Seriously?” He concluded, “sadly the answer is yes.”

Moreover, writing September 1, 2000, Bolton argued we should take the “debate over global governance” seriously “not only today but far into the foreseeable future.” Prophetically, Bolton described a conflict between “Globalists” and “Americanists” that will be “fought out at the confluence of constitutional theory and foreign policy.”

That conflict continues today, but with a vital difference. Whereas previous administrations would equivocate on this point, the Trump Administration with Bolton as its point man, is unequivocally putting the interests of the “Americanists”—of our Constitution, our sovereignty, and our citizens—first.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

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Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Donald Trump • GOPe • political philosophy • Post • The Culture • The Left

The Rise and Fall of the Alt Right

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With Russiagate increasingly looking like a deep state and Clinton campaign-manufactured bugaboo, a new brand of leftist McCarthyism has reared its head—namely, trying to seek out members or allies of the Trump Administration with ties to the dreaded Alt-Right. So far, the only targets have been Department of Homeland Security (DHS) staffer Ian Smith, who apparently ran in some dodgy circles, and White House speechwriter Darren Beattie, who was ousted for nothing more than addressing the controversial paleoconservative H. L. Mencken Club. Like all good panics, this one began in a grain of disturbing truth, but then it snared all sorts of others, including innocents like Beattie, in its wake.

I leave the defenses of the targets for the moment, because the most relevant fact about this particular bit of heretic hunting is that it is not actually a battle to afflict the entrenched and powerful. It is, instead, a mop-up operation.

To put it bluntly, the Alt-Right proper was a stillborn movement. And now, judging by the pitiful group that showed up to Unite the Right 2 last month, its members are the equivalent of the Nazis in the “Mr. Hilter” Monty Python sketch, playing records of applause while no one shows up to their speeches. In fact, to paraphrase the great Python lads, the Alt-Right may pine for the gas chambers, but it has also passed on. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet its maker. It is a stiff, bereft of life. It rests in peace. If the Left weren’t propping it up to scare people, it would be pushing up the daisies. Its meta-political processes are now history. It has run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible . . . and promptly called that choir cucks. This is an ex-movement!

How it became so is the subject of this piece.

First, a Quick Clarification
The term “Alt-Right” has shifted its meaning quite a bit in the time since it first entered mainstream usage. Back in 2016, the term “Alt-Right” or “alternative right” covered a fairly wide variety of people, from those who wanted an intellectually viable alternative to the brain-dead ideology of Conservatism, Inc., to irreverent pro-Trump internet tricksters, to populist alternative media personalities spawned from Twitter and YouTube, to ironic satirists using “problematic” language to prick the Left, to, yes, white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. It was in reference to the first four groups that Steve Bannon once proudly called Breitbart a “platform for the Alt-Right.”

In the time after Trump’s election, however, the white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, fearing dilution of “their” movement, mounted a concerted effort to reclaim the word solely for themselves, and that effort succeeded with the willing help of anti-Trump forces on both the Left and the Right. Almost no one other than those groups seriously uses the term to self-describe now, though the media loves to use it as a smear against even moderate, good-faith critics of Rawlsian neoliberalism.

Now to the Story . . .
In at least one way, the rise of the Alt-Right parallels the early rise of movement conservatism. Just as there was a need for critics of Roosevelt and later Johnson-era liberalism that hadn’t been filled, so too has there been a need for what the term “Alt-Right” literally means: namely, an alternative version of the American Right. What’s more, many people have tried, in one form or another, to create this alternative—some of whom I even worked for, such as David Frum’s FrumForum in 2009, which was attempting to create its own alternative version of conservatism.

The reason that alternative was needed, in retrospect, is a story that begins at least with the second Bush Administration. One could argue that Conservatism, Inc.’s failures were logically inescapable from the start (and perhaps they were), or that the elder George Bush actually introduced the corruption by moving sharply away from Ronald Reagan’s legacy. But official conservative organizations at least recognized that Bush 41 was a pretender after he broke his “no new taxes” pledge, and they did not much mourn his loss in 1992, even as they dreaded the election of that Arkansan triangulator, Bill Clinton.

In their fantastic book The Right Nation, journalists John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge noted that after Bush 41’s loss, staffers at the Heritage Foundation trotted out a whole pig with Bush’s name scrawled on it and cheered. This is a long way from the uncritical adulation of mainstream conservatives that Bush 43 faced for most of his term.

That adulation was far from deserved. Bush 43 left office with approval ratings lower even than post-Watergate Nixon, and he richly deserved that assessment. In fact, I can still confidently say that George W. Bush was the worst president of my lifetime. Barack Obama was terrible, yes, but at least he was predictably terrible. George W. Bush, on the other hand, had the chance to be great, but instead ended up destroying everything that was once good about movement conservatism under the guise of “reforming” it.

Bush’s “compassionate” brand of conservatism was a joke: the only objects of its compassion were noncitizens (who big corporate donors wanted for cheap labor), Baby Boomers (who wanted even more money pumped into entitlement programs), the fictional Iraqis (who were supposed to greet Americans as liberators but who really were stand-ins for defense contractors), and the poor put-upon bankers who destroyed America’s financial system yet still wanted their golden parachutes. It was smarmy, passive aggressive, corrupt comfort for the comfortable and affliction for the afflicted, made all the worse because it had the gall to dress itself up as compassion.

What’s more, unlike Trump, whose “authoritarianism” consists of being mean on Twitter, the second Bush Administration was actually frighteningly authoritarian, literally creating the modern surveillance state and outsourcing the protection of American rights to intelligence agencies which then used their new power to try to steal an election. The current scandal embroiling the FBI and other deep state agencies shows what a great idea that was.

Worse, the Bush Administration was authoritarian with people within its own party: either you were on board with every single invasion of privacy, and every single cockamamie war drummed up by its coterie of militarily inexperienced court intellectuals, or you hated America/were “unpatriotic”/were “letting the terrorists win”/were letting America’s enemies win/would have your resume blacklisted everywhere in Washington, etc., etc., etc.

It is because we have brains to remember what it is like to have Bush-era party apparatchiks setting themselves in the position of ruining even good faith internal critics of their preferred policies that we Trumpists continually make a point of denigrating #NeverTrump, where most of those apparatchiks have found their home.

From the Fringe to . . . Not Quite as Fringe
But before Trump, there was nowhere for the critics of Bushism to go, except maybe Chronicles or The American Conservative, if you were a paleoconservative, or Reason Magazine and the Cato Institute if you were a libertarian. What’s more, these were themselves orthodoxy-enforcing institutions; they just had different forms of orthodoxy. There was no room for libertarians who believed in closed borders at Cato or Reason, and there was no room for socially liberal paleoconservatives at Chronicles or The American Conservative. Even the paleolibertarian Mises Institute was too bogged down in arcane debates about whether to privatize sidewalks and legalize blackmail to be serious critics of the Bush-era consensus.

Something else had to be created. Hence, the historian Paul Gottfried put his head together with a former American Conservative editor named Richard Spencer and dreamed up the idea of something called the “alternative right.”

Unfortunately, the problem with this was that both paleoconservatism and paleolibertarianism, which I would finger as the antecedents of today’s Alt-Right, had always been marked by a cultural pessimism that could easily bleed into outright racism or antisemitism—the real kind, not the nonsense you hear about from the SPLC. It’s not an accident, for instance, that Murray Rothbard had a eulogy delivered at his funeral by David Duke, nor that one of the founding paleoconservative intellectuals, Samuel Francis, ended up a writer for the Council of Conservative Citizens, a dressed up version of the old Southern “citizen’s councils.”

Nor was this a new problem. When William F. Buckley first tried to fashion an American “conservative movement,” his first targets for exclusion were the antisemitic American Mercury magazine and the conspiracy-theorist John Birch Society. So given their just marginalization, anyone claiming to offer an “alternative Right” was always going to get the dregs of the old one knocking on their door and asking where they could sign up to become respectable again.

Because of this, the Alternative Right started out fringe, and probably would have remained that way if not for the trajectory of mainstream conservatism during the Bush and Obama administrations. Not that Obama’s effects on movement conservatism were all bad: he at least gave the GOP the chance to reject the virus of compassionate, big government, authoritarian “conservatism” almost immediately after he came to power. There was no room for big government solutions and phony Washingtonian “compassion,” at least not rhetorically, in a party defined by its mission to fight Obamacare. Of course, this irked the GOP congressional leadership, which missed being able to advocate openly in favor of the Bush-era gravy train, but with the Tea Party making up a large section of its caucus, dominating the grassroots, and financing conservative pressure organizations, they were at least mildly constrained.

This much was good. But instead of learning the lesson that “compassionate conservatism” itself had been a dud, the GOP instead came out believing that pursuing neoliberal policies was fine so long as it was disguised with orthodox 1980s era movement conservative rhetoric.

The grassroots organizations, meanwhile, were only too happy to embrace the idea that the movement needed to learn nothing from the past 30 years but that reform was always bad. It wasn’t the nature of the attempted Bush reforms that was suspect, they argued, but the very fact that Bush attempted reform at all that caused the problem. And why not make this convenient argument? It was great for the bottom line of orthodoxy-enforcing institutions like the American Conservative Union (ACU), the Club for Growth, and the entire Koch network, but it was toxic for a movement that had once made the GOP the party of ideas.

Idiotic Unforced Errors
What’s more, in reacting against compassionate conservatism, the GOP went too far and instead became the party of sneering, entitled self-proclaimed “winners.”

Look no further than Mitt Romney’s infamous remarks about the “47 percent of Americans” who would never vote for him because they were “entitled” to see the tone deafness and political stupidity of this type of politics.

But it wasn’t just tone deaf. It was also hypocritical.

In reality, Romney’s supporters were just as entitled as the 47 percent, just on behalf of different groups. Speaking as a millennial, it still galls me to hear that my generation is entitled for wanting out of student loans the terms of which many of us were too young even to properly understand, and that we took out under the false impression that a college degree equaled a good job, when the people saying it tend to be Boomers who begged for bailouts to save their 401(k)s, demanded cheap home loans so they could buy houses outside their means, and wanted government healthcare and retirements funded by the debt that they will bequeath to my and my future children’s generation. To be completely fair, both groups were legitimate victims of fraud. But as far as the Republican party was concerned, it seemed that the only victims were . . . the richest generation in U.S. history.

Small wonder Romney lost.

In other words, by the time of Obama’s second term, the Republican Party had become a gerontocratic, ideologically inflexible, donor-controlled manufacturer of orthodoxy, but not of actual ideas to solve the problems of the day.

What’s more, everyone who tried to come up with actual ideas was driven out of the movement on some specious pretext—for being racists if they cared about immigration; socialists if they cared about high drug prices or student loans; immoral, sexist, or just losers if they cared about fighting left-wing cultural Puritanism; traitors if they preferred to only fight terrorists, rather than lighting the Middle East on fire for the sake of “spreading democracy,” or playing chicken with a very nuclear and very pissed off Russia.

The Republicans had transformed from a political party into a Cold War reenactment society, and anyone who understood that time had passed since 1991 was not welcome. An alternative was absolutely, unquestionably necessary.

And right on cue, there was Donald Trump. And with Trump, the Alt-Right got its day in the sun and learned, to its woe, that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Among young Trumpists either in their 20s or their 30s, the year 2016 conjures up memories that are both exhilarating and mortifying: exhilarating because we bet our political careers on the rise of one of the most unlikely politicians in history, and it literally came up Trumps.

Mortifying, because many of us flirted with ideologies and movements that seemed dangerous, exciting, and potentially revolutionary at the time, but have since revealed themselves to be toxic and cultish. As a perfect symbol of this dual experience, I still remember being at the D.C. Trump International Hotel on election night while the New York Times showed Trump with a 95 percent chance of winning the election and practically crying with relief. I also remember Richard Spencer running around the lobby of the hotel, shouting “We did it” into his phone camera, while people posed for pictures with him.

We Wanted Something Other Than This, OK?
Many older figures may not understand this, but among young, dissident intellectual right-wingers there was a real, palpable sense in 2016 that the Alt-Right might soon displace the original Right as the intellectual center of the Republican party. This may inspire some shock. Didn’t we know what these people stood for? And the answer is, yes, we knew what they once stood for. Allegedly. The truth is, after seeing both the right-wing and the left-wing media lie so frequently and unabashedly about Trump and his supporters, after seeing them label anyone who criticized President Obama’s tan suit a racist, after seeing them cry “misogyny” when journalists were caught sleeping with their sources, and any number of other things, we were disinclined to believe that anyone the media smeared was as bad as advertised.

My own experience with this outright mistrust occurred shortly after I published the first part of a series at The Federalist explaining why Trump attracted white nationalist supporters, and how in fact his message weakened ideological white nationalists by understanding their pain without accepting their bizarre and delusional explanations and solutions for that pain. For this article, which any fair-minded reader could tell was about weakening the power of white nationalism, I got attacked as a white nationalist by David French and Matthew Continetti, not to mention literally having John Podhoretz accuse me of being a fake Jew because I hadn’t had an official bar mitzvah, an accusation I disproved with a humiliating series of tweets tracing my mother’s side of the family back to the Wolinskis of Poland. By the end, though, the question was jittering around in my mind: if supposed conservative intellectual giants who I’d once looked up to could brand me a non-Jew for the simple crime of trying to understand something that cut against their comfortable narratives, then who knows who else, or what else, they’d lied about?

And, in fact, in 2016, many Alt-Right leaders did make a tentative (and, I now believe, thoroughly disingenuous) effort to clean up their act and try to become at least a bit more mainstream. I know this first hand, because along with denunciations from Matthew Continetti, David French, and John Podhoretz, my Federalist article also attracted the interest of some of those Alt-Right leaders. In contacting me, they were quick to make it known that they agreed that the neo-Nazis and Klansmen of the world needed to be purged from their  movement and that it needed to get its house in order and compete with the dying “mainstream Right.” Jared Taylor himself solicited my opinion at one point on ethnic outreach. Richard Spencer told me, personally, that he wanted to do to the neo-Nazis what Buckley did to the Birchers.

I am sure I was not the only person so approached, or so cultivated at the time, considering the number of other young people I know who feel used and disenchanted after similar interactions with similar figures in 2016. We spoke to those people not because we ourselves were white nationalists or white supremacists—in fact, when someone asked me if I was a white supremacist in 2016, I replied with earnest confusion that I had no idea what that term even meant in contemporary parlance, because it had been so defined down, but that I certainly didn’t believe in its literal meaning, i.e., that white people should rule the world and exterminate other races, or some nonsense like this.

Yet still, I and others talked to people who, it’s obvious with hindsight, actually did believe that sort of nonsense.

Why? Partly because we believed, as Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari reported at Breitbart at the time, that their white nationalism was an ironic pose: a way to stick their thumbs in the eyes of the moralists and orthodoxy-enforcers of both Right and Left who had done so much damage to the country, and who would do the same to us for daring to question the policy orthodoxy, given half the chance. We also believed partly because the Alt-Right was punk, and edgy, and transgressive, so it felt like a bizarro version of the ’60s student rebellions. Knowing its leaders was less like seeking out political mentors, and more like bragging about knowing the early Beats, or the Sex Pistols. Vox, in spite of itself, grasped this in an article on how punk movements of the past had used ironic racism to inflate their own transgression.

Partly, we spoke to them because the Alt-Right’s opposition to utopian egalitarianism, universalism, and attempts to perfect humanity by removing its tribal character seemed more recognizably conservative than the Rawlsian-lite formulations of Jack Kemp and his heirs. But more than all these reasons, many of us approached the Alt-Right because behind what we thought was its over-the-top tongue-in-cheek racism, its intentionally cranky and confrontational political style, and its obsession with sexualized shaming of its opponents, there seemed to be actual thinking going on. And after dealing with Conservatism, Inc. on the Right and SJW, LLC on the Left, finding a place where real thinking was happening was like finding an oasis in a boundless desert.

The trouble was that, like most perceived oases in boundless deserts, this seeming Oasis turned out to be a mirage. This was recognizable the instant the movement ran into the headwinds that all unexpectedly successful political movements face. When Richard Spencer’s audience gave him the Nazi salute in December, 2016, neither Spencer nor his allies took the opportunity to throw those responsible under the bus as idiot Nazi Live Acton Roleplayers (LARPers). Instead they retreated into conspiratorial theorizing that the people responsible were Feds, or Jews, or something. In fact, the more you asked questions the movement didn’t want to answer—like why the traditional family had broken down, or why whites had acquiesced to policies that diluted their power, like, say, the Immigration Act of 1965, or even how European identity could all be subsumed under whiteness given the multiplicity of different cultures and identities involved—the less satisfactory the answers got. It turned out that these guys were just as allergic to thinking as were the denizens of Conservative, Inc. The paleoconservative intellectual Thomas Fleming noted this with particular acidity in a 2001 article at VDARE:

But so many of them prefer their little Sci-Fi fantasies about a once and future kingdom of the Great White Race. Just make this a white man’s country again, and everything will be all right. [sic] Well, it won’t be. White people ruined this country, out of greed, cynicism, and impotence. While we are fighting the big battles to reassert American control over American sovereignty (our border, our markets, our security), we had better be doing our best to revive the dying organism of American civilization.

And that was really the problem—that as good as they were at making cutting mockery of their ideological rivals, the Alt-Right was just as incapable of introspection, and thus despite their vaunted love for Western civilization, were unwilling to learn seriously from it how it had made itself vulnerable to attack or subversion. Everything that ever went wrong in history for their worldview was someone else’s fault—usually some group or other that felt persecuted, but should’ve shut up and taken it because they didn’t really have it so bad. Never mind that the struggle of dissident, despised people to be heard is a part of Western Civilization going back to Socrates. Never mind that the Alt-Right itself felt persecuted, and they weren’t shutting up and taking it, so why should anyone else? If so many groups were just naturally not going to belong in their utopian ethnostate, then how could it be expected to survive in the case of demographic collapse, or in foreign affairs, or in well, anything? No answer. Well, okay, some people thought the answer was genocide, or the asinine concept of “white Sharia,” but those answers… weren’t particularly credible, to say the least.

I was particularly repulsed by this conspiratorial, “blame everyone else” mindset. As the child of a charismatic deadbeat father, who had spent all the family’s money on bogus business ventures and then blamed us for holding him back and eventually fleeing, leaving me to be deprogrammed by my mother, I knew the perils of charismatic conspiracists. When the Alt-Right turned down that road, I flinched—pulling back like a burn victim faced with a hot stove.

I am glad I did. For soon Charlottesville came and every pretense the Alt-Right advanced for being a movement interested in ideas and moving beyond neo-Nazism and Klansmanship evaporated. As always, the movement has its excuses about what happened there, such as that the police were negligent, or that Antifa courted danger by mobbing cars, but the fact of the matter is that it was delusional to ignore the possibility that a rally advertised using the symbol of the Luftwaffe and the Confederate flag, which featured several hundred people chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” while waving tiki torches, might meet some resistance from the locals and indifference for their safety from the police.

The Civil Rights movement was organized and dedicated enough that its members survived being targeted with fire hoses, yet the marchers for “White Civil Rights” couldn’t plan for mere police indifference and the prospect of violent attackers? This hardly excuses the violence of Antifa, but Antifa didn’t kill anyone. One of the Alt-Right’s people did. This could’ve been the moment the movement’s leaders had to show they truly were different. But the temptation of solipsism proved too strong, and so the movement retreated into conspiratorial wound-licking rather than advancing proactive engagement with the situation, and owning up to their own part in it. It fell to President Trump to point out that the violence on both sides was unacceptable, and to denounce it and to take the criticism for weeks over it because he did not simply dismiss the violence directed at them.

This is not to say the Alt-Right is some evil and terrifying conscienceless monolith—such a depiction only wins them converts. The Alt-Right itself likes to fancy itself the First Order in Star Wars, or the Death Eaters in Harry Potter. But the only thing they have in common with Imperial Stormtroopers is the inability to hit their targets, and they are hardly Death Eaters: more like the Dursleys with delusions of grandeur. They are not harmless—Charlottesville shows that all too well—and they do attract a number of people who are social pariahs for reasons beyond ideology, who are capable of very frightening things. Their main ability to endanger, however, comes from their ability to attract, and that ability comes from their being treated as if their ideas are too dangerous to be talked about, or understood, or engaged, when they are, in fact, merely quotidian expressions of resentment buried under layers of ironic and cool-looking polish.

You Keep Saying That Word . . .
On that note, many Leftists have pleaded against “normalizing” the Alt-Right. In so pleading, they are, in point of fact, its best friends. In addition to the fact that the judgment of the news media and tech companies about what constitutes the Alt-Right is somewhere between highly suspect and laughably absurd, every Twitter ban, or YouTube demonetization, or Cloudflare snitfit against the Alt-Right merely makes it look more like the forbidden fruit that inspires young people to seek it out.

Normalization would do the opposite of what Leftists think it would do. A movement that survives based on the appearance of being cool and outside the mainstream always has a hard time being normalized, and the Alt-Right especially could not survive the process. Because to be normal is everything the Alt-Right does not wish to be: normal movements can be abandoned. Normal movements can be put in historical context. Normal movements are prosaic, not exactly a label that aspiring world historical Nietzschean figures enjoy.

And really, in many ways, the Alt-Right is painfully prosaic: its leadership is nothing more than a group of alienated aesthetes and intellectuals who have done so much collective daydreaming that they have forgotten how to bear witness to reality. Its devoted adherents are as quixotic and sad as the sorts of people who donate to NAMBLA earnestly believing that the legalization of pedophilia is just around the corner. Inevitably, they will turn on President Trump as well. Like communists who accused FDR of being a fascist because he left the American capitalist system intact, so too will the Alt-Right eventually brand President Trump a Social Justice Warrior because he failed to usher in the world of “The Man in the High Castle.”

But the true failure is theirs. Underneath the gloss of memes and fashy haircuts and slick references to Friedrich Nietzsche and Carl Schmitt, the Alt-Right is essentially a movement of insular self-pity and longing for a past never experienced and not understood. The biggest problem that has killed the movement is the insularity: Alt-Righters are capable of building echo chambers that would make Brooklyn Heights blush. Ironically, in retreating to those echo chambers, they are imitating the mistakes that made Conservatism, Inc. vulnerable to them. After all, it was the refusal to be introspective or self-critical that drove so many away from movement conservatism, and to the Alt-Right, in the first place.

Now, Alt-Alt-Rights have started cropping up in response. For those interested in the preservation of a specifically Christian nationalism, without all the fuss about race, the Traditionalist or Medievalist movements sprang up. For those interested in preserving Western (and usually specifically Anglosphere) culture, the Alt-Light or New Right emerged. And for those who simply wanted to express the old fashioned, patriotic, American nationalism that the neoliberals Left and Right so tried to suppress, President Trump is esteemed as a symbol of hope. He deserves that esteem. President Trump has the White House. Those who profess allegiance to the “Alt-Right,” rather than merely being smeared by association, only have the comments sections.

The sad, mundane truth about the rise and fall of this Alt Right is simple: it fell because, like the infamous Crying Nazi Chris Cantwell, it was all fat and no meat. It was too prosaic to live up to its own hype. Soon enough, the last vestiges of moral panic about the movement will fade as people grow tired of endless stories about this or that Trump administration official who retweeted this or that “undesirable unperson,” shows like South Park will wring whatever humor it can out of the movement’s dying throes, and then what remains of the Alt-Right will be what it always has been and will likely continue to be: Boring. Predictable. Unoriginal.

Or, as President Trump might put it . . . Sad!

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Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Law and Order • political philosophy • Post • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution

Polarization Over Kavanaugh Is a Good Thing

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The heated polarization over Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court is a sign that the country is ripe for a serious reckoning with what makes a judicial nominee—particularly one to the U.S. Supreme Court—“qualified.” It shows that America is once more willing to take on the burden of doing politics with respect to the judicial branch. And since the court’s power is extremely broad in scope, it’s both necessary and good that the nation is soberly deliberating about this vital question through its elected representatives.

Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of the legal blog Lawfare, is of a different opinion, however. He is worried about the state of America’s judicial confirmation process. In the pages of The Atlantic, Wittes laments that we are in the death throes of the “Confirmation Wars” that rage about us. Judge Kavanaugh, he writes,

will be confirmed because there are 51 Republican senators in office and a Republican vice president who can break a tie if need be. While he may get a few Democratic votes, he will get confirmed—indeed, he will get a vote at all—because Republicans right now have the raw political power to confirm him on their own. That political constellation of power exists because people expect him to vote in certain ways on certain types of cases, to deliver certain specific outcomes on issues they care about. Democrats will oppose him for the same reasons.

While this constitutes a deviation from past practice, it’s difficult to see precisely what’s either technically or substantively wrong with the situation that Wittes and those who agree with him decry.

Technically, at the political-constitutional level, the Senate is well within its power to withhold its “advice and consent” and so reject any president’s (judicial) nominee for any reason—or no reason at all. As we’ve seen, the Senate can refuse even to give a nominee a hearing. While that has incensed some, the reality is, in appointment matters, the Senate has the final say, and nobody who’s being honest doubts that.

As a substantive matter, Wittes’ view—namely, that nominees should be on the auto-confirmation track if they’re well-credentialed and have the right “temperament”—is only coherent if one believes that a nominee’s having the right judicial philosophy is a nice “value add” but isn’t strictly necessary to be a qualified judge.

But that’s wrong. Judicial philosophy—how one views the Constitution and conceives of one’s role as a judge, particularly how one understands the limits of one’s own authority—is by far the most important component of being a good judge. And the post-Bork Senate is finally showing that it understands this.

Whether each party consciously understands why it supports the judicial philosophy that it does—“originalism” for the Republicans, “living constitutionalism” for the Democrats—is wholly beside the point. What does matter, however, is that it has happened. And it has forced us to confront an uncomfortable reality: For Republican and Democratic senators alike, only a certain type of nominee is confirmable (i.e., the kind that has the judicial philosophy to which these senators are partial, regardless of why they are partial to it).

This is as it should be, the lamentations of “proceduralists” like Wittes notwithstanding. What matters more than anything else with respect to the judiciary is that the judges who get confirmed won’t one day reveal themselves to be robed tyrants. The country had enough of that from the Warren court. The old confirmation process was possessed of a certain decorum, yes, but it was at the same time not well-suited to detect and then smoke out nominees who would go on to rule by judicial fiat. Plus, it was only able to be so genial because only one judicial methodology, what we today call “originalism,” was understood to be legitimate, and most judges operated within that framework.

Until the 20th century, that a judge would be a natural-law originalist went without saying. But, beginning in late-19th and early-20th century America (and even earlier in a non-American context), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. precipitated a legal revolt, with the aim of reconstituting the judiciary into one that would rule with an eye toward reifying the best social consequences. The Holmesian judiciary would base its decisions on economic, social science, and statistical reasoning at the expense of the actual text of any given law. He and his disciples pushed “living constitutionalism” into the mainstream, where it had no right to be and where, regrettably, it remains to this day. “Originalism” only became a self-conscious legal theory in the 1980s as a counter-reaction to Holmes’ legal rebellion, but it has always existed.

It simply won’t do to lament the “politicized” process we have today, as Wittes and others do; that critique means nothing. In the United States, judges always have been subject to political-electoral rule and control. On the front end, they need to run the presidential-nomination-and-Senate-confirmation gauntlet, and on the back end, they can be impeached. (Judges need to be impeached much more frequently, as it happens.)

Here’s Wittes again: “Our debate about judges takes place in the language of principle. We pretend to debate judicial philosophies, when we all know there was no philosophical objection to confirming Merrick Garland” (emphasis added).

Wittes goes too far, however. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) stated reason for blocking Judge Garland had to do with the timing of an election, to be sure, but we must ask: Were McConnell and Co. flexing their political muscles just for the sake of flexing? Or because they opposed Judge Garland’s becoming Justice Garland and therefore gaining the authority, along with just four other justices, to impose his will on the entire nation? Obviously it’s the latter; the move was highly risky and thus it needs to be justified on grounds other than, “Screw Obama!”

At some level, the GOP understands that a non-originalist/“living constitutionalist” judicial philosophy is inherently disqualifying of a judicial nominee (at least one to the Supreme Court), and it doesn’t matter if that’s just because the nominees they oppose “would give us results we don’t like.” In this case, even if not in some others, the ends really do justify the means, and that’s because nominees bring their background assumptions onto the bench with them; judges whose basic disposition is non-originalist simply cannot be trusted to act as judges ought to act, how the Constitution envisions they’ll act.

The Constitution is far too important to be left in the hands of judges who see its provisions as having about as much solidity and force as silly putty. We cannot risk handing over the Constitution to judges who have no qualms about torturing it to say something it plainly does not whenever it’s politically expedient.

What we need is even more polarization, more rancor, over the judiciary. This polarization in our body politic is akin to a fever in a human body: Just as a fever combats sickness, so, too, does polarization. Except, instead of the flu, America is fighting the virus of judicial tyranny.

A Justice Kavanaugh would be the beginning of her recovery.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Identity Politics • political philosophy • Post • Religion and Society • The Left

Explaining the Left, Part III: Leftism as Secular Religion

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One of the most important books of the 20th century — it remains a best-seller 59 years after it was first published — is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.

Marx saw man’s primary drive as economic, and Freud saw it as sex. But Frankl believed — correctly, in my opinion — that the greatest drive of man is meaning.

One can be poor and chaste and still be happy. But one cannot be bereft of meaning and be happy — no matter how rich or how sexually fulfilled one may be.

The greatest provider of meaning for the vast majority of human beings has been religion. In the West, Christianity (and on a smaller scale, Judaism) provided nearly all people with the Bible, a divine or divinely inspired text to guide their lives; a religious community; answers to life’s fundamental questions; and, above all, meaning: A good God governs the universe; death does not end everything; and human beings were purposefully created. In addition, Christianity gave Christians a project: spread the Good News, and bring the world to Christ. And Judaism gave Jews a project: Live by God’s laws of ethics and holiness and be “a light unto the nations.”

All this has disappeared for most Westerners. The Bible is regarded as myth, silly at best, malicious at worst — there is no God, certainly not the morality-giving and judging God of the Bible; there is no afterlife; human beings are a purposeless coincidence with no more intrinsic purpose than anything else in the universe. In short: This Is All There Is.

So, if the need for meaning is the greatest of all human needs and that which supplied meaning no longer does, what are millions of Westerners supposed to do?

The answer is obvious: Find meaning elsewhere. But where? Church won’t provide it. Nor will marriage and family — increasingly, secular individuals in the West eschew marriage, and even more do not have children. It turns out, to the surprise of many, that marriage and children are religious values, not human instincts. In the West today, love and marriage (and children) go together like a horse and a carriage for faithful Catholics, Orthodox Jews, religious Mormons and evangelical Protestants — not for the secular. I know many religious families with more than four children; I do not know one secular family with more than four children (and the odds are you don’t either).

The answer to the great dearth of meaning left by the death of biblical religion in the West is secular religion. The first two great secular substitutes were communism and Nazism. The first provided hundreds of millions of people with meaning; the latter provided most Germans and Austrians with meaning.

In particular, both ideologies provided the intellectual class with meaning. No groups believed in communism and Nazism more than intellectuals. Like everyone else, secular intellectuals need meaning, and when this need was combined with intellectuals’ love of ideas (especially new ideas — “new” is almost erotic in the power of its appeal to secular intellectuals), communism and Nazism became potent ideologies.

With the fall of communism and the awareness of the extent of the communist mass murder (about 100 million noncombatants) and mass enslavement (virtually all individuals in communist countries — except for Communist Party leaders — are essentially enslaved), communism, or at least the word “communism,” fell into disrepute.

So, what were secular intellectuals to do once communism became “the god that failed”? The answer was to create other another left-wing secular religion. And that is what leftism is: a secular meaning-giver to supplant Christianity. Left-wing religious expressions include Marxism, communism, socialism, feminism and environmentalism.

Leftism’s guiding principles — notwithstanding the principles of those Christians and Jews who claim to be religious yet hold leftist views — are the antitheses of Judaism and Christianity’s guiding principles.

Judaism and Christianity hold that people are not basically good. Leftism holds that people are basically good. Therefore, Judaism and Christianity believe evil comes from human nature, and leftism believes evil comes from capitalism, religion, the nation-state (i.e. nationalism), corporations, the patriarchy and virtually every other traditional value.

Judaism and Christianity hold that utopia on Earth is impossible — it will only come in God’s good time as a Messianic age or in the afterlife. Leftism holds that utopia is to be created here on Earth — and as soon as possible. That is why leftists find America so contemptible. They do not compare it to other nations but to a utopian ideal — a society with no inequality, no racism, no differences between the sexes (indeed, no sexes) and no greed in which everything important is obtained free.

Judaism and Christianity believe God and the Bible are to instruct us on how to live a good life and how the heart is the last place to look for moral guidance. Leftists have contempt for anyone who is guided by the Bible and its God, and substitute the heart and feelings for divine instruction.

There may be a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam, but the biggest clash of civilizations is between the West and the left.

COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM

Photo Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

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Center for American Greatness • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • statesmanship

A Taxonomy of Conservatives: The Candidate

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He has a firm handshake and a confident smile. He is already planning his congressional run with his staff and advisors, but for now he will have to do with being the student government president and then a local politician. He is well versed in the conventional platitudes of political rhetoric but also has an uncanny ability to tell you exactly what you want to hear. You can never really tell who he is or what he believes, but you’re still going to end up voting for him. After all, he is “the candidate.”

Fifth in a series. Read part one, part two, part three, and part four.

Growing up on a steady diet of “The West Wing” and Fox News, the candidate spent years perfecting his political persona. By the time he reached college, he had developed a false sense of modesty to mask his otherwise off-putting unbridled ambition. He’ll skillfully deflect questions about his political aspirations and will always deny that he wants to run for office. He’ll explain that politics is a dirty business that requires tremendous levels of personal sacrifice. Why would he put himself through all of that if he didn’t have to? But… of course… he has to. It’s his duty to work in public service—after all, he’s the only person who can fix all of the problems that we have. So, can he count on your vote?

Much to the candidate’s chagrin, there is an age requirement to run for national office. And so, he settles in for his runs at student and local government. Realizing that conservatives are social pariahs on campus, he cultivates his image as a well-meaning pragmatic practitioner who won’t drag ideology into his decision making. He works hard to solve the practical problems that affect average students on a day-to-day basis and he runs one hell of a ground game on campus. And because of this, everyone knows him. And though many know that he’s a conservative, he doesn’t make it central to his identity. Instead, he makes it easy for liberals to excuse away his political affiliation. “Oh, he’s from a small town in a rural state . . . he’ll come around eventually.” “Oh, he means well and he is so devoted to his religion . . . besides, look at his dreamy eyes.”

The candidate spends his summers working as an intern at the White House or at a congressional office in order to bolster his credentials and his resume. And after college, he will enroll in law school or in the military—after all, he has a few years to kill before he can stage his congressional run. But make no mistake, he started fundraising three years ago and already knows his district inside and out. He has also made significant inroads with the Republican establishment and regularly schmoozes with conservative pundits. He has Karl Rove on speed dial and Frank Luntz as his personal mentor. And much like the Bookworm, he has convinced all of the party elders that he is the last hope for western civilization.

Ultimately, the candidate positions himself as a necessary fixture of campus conservatism. He is pragmatic enough to engage with the mundanities of student government politics while being enigmatic enough to avoid the ritual tarring and feathering of conservative students. He is also ruthless enough to routinely win campaigns. His entire life is aimed at holding political power and spends most of his time working toward that goal. With enough intelligence and diligence, there is little question that he will eventually become a congressman or a senator. And there is no doubt that conservatives need good, hard-working career politicians to fill the ranks of government.

But the candidate has a major weakness. He is following a well-defined path and is checking boxes. And because of this, he is unable to take risks or truly to speak his mind in public. He always has two sets of positions: the ones that he actually believes, and the ones that he will ultimately embrace as part of his future campaign. And he must constantly assess how any particular statement, action, friendship, or life choice will affect his political career. There is a chance that he will at some point become a leader, but at least for now, he is a follower, following the path that others set a long time ago. Ultimately he cannot call his own shots because he is too beholden to the establishment systems that allow him to function.

Most candidates are well meaning—they have been instilled with a sense of duty and service and truly want to make the world a better place. But be wary. The higher the candidate climbs up the winding path of politics, the harder it will be for him to discern the line at which the means no longer justify the ends; and given his lifelong practice of pragmatically playing politics, there is no guarantee that he won’t bound over it with gusto.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Declaration of Independence • political philosophy • Post • self-government

The Timeless Principles of the Declaration of Independence

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The Continental Congress voted on July 2, 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain and approved the final wording of the Declaration on July 4. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail during the period leading up to declaring independence: “Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act.” This involvement of “the whole People” was not a new practice, but one that had been cultivated for generations.

Declaring independence was done in the name of the people:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation (emphasis added).

Invoking the people in the first line of the Declaration was not simply a rhetorical flourish or a dramatic overture; the former British subjects, now American citizens, were actively involved in severing ties and forming a new nation.

Calvin Coolidge, in his speech on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, stated that the act of declaring independence “represented the movement of a people.” He explained further:

It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions . . . . The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.

The people Adams and Coolidge described did not rise up spontaneously. The recognition of duties, liberty, and rights began in the century prior to independence. It was simultaneously a civic, cultural, and political formation that continues to this day and consciously must be perpetuated.

Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, discovered the principle and the life of American freedom in the township and recognized that it fostered self-governance. It nurtured the growth of freedom because of what it permitted and required and because of its limited scope. “Interests, passions, duties, and rights came to be grouped around the township’s individuality and strongly attached to it. In the heart of the township one sees a real, active altogether democratic and republican political life reigning.” Though initially confined to the emigrants in New England Tocqueville observed, the two or three principal ideas that formed the bases of the social theory of the United States and were combined in New England “penetrated the entire confederation.”

The freedom that was cultivated among the New Englanders thus became a part of the habits of the nation. This point cannot be given too much emphasis. In his chapter on the principal causes of maintaining the democratic republic in the United States, Tocqueville points to mores, which he understands as the habits, opinions, usages, and beliefs of the people, as regulating and directing the democracy of the United States. These mores, Tocqueville explains, are habits of the heart and of the mind; they comprehend the moral and intellectual state of a people. The experience of the township instilled in the immigrants and their descendants the love of freedom and the habit of governing that Tocqueville saw as crucial to sustaining democratic institutions. What Tocqueville observed was consistent with Adams’s description of the people’s involvement in declaring independence.

The assertion in the Declaration that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed again recognizes the active participation of the people. The practice of consent began as early as 1610 with the Mayflower Compact that united the first settlers of the Plymouth colony. In his 1821 speech commemorating the Declaration of Independence, John Quincy Adams described the compact as “a social compact formed upon the elementary principles of civil society, in which conquest and servitude had no part. The slough of brutal force was entirely cast off; all was voluntary; all was unbiased consent; all was the agreement of soul with soul.” The shared root of the words consent and consensus is from the Latin consentire, to be in agreement, in harmony.

The Plymouth settlers drafted a compact that bound them into a body politic for better ordering and preservation, to enact and frame just and equal laws, acts, and constitutions for the general good of the colony. These same settlers were also British colonists. It is their descendants who severed ties with the British for not recognizing their inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The colonists exercised their legitimate right in 1776 to separate and withdrew consent from being governed further by the British.

The events leading up to independence began when the British levied taxes on the colonists with the passage of Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765. Individual colonies protested by sending letters and petitions to the British Parliament, but James Otis of Massachusetts, who had been advancing arguments invoking the natural rights of the colonists, suggested an intercolonial conference. Representatives from several colonies met as a body to formulate a response in the form of a Declaration of Rights and Grievances. The colonists in their private capacity also published letters and pamphlets arguing against the taxes.

While boycotts had greater impact toward ending British taxation, this initial intercolonial meeting was significant because it was a first attempt at providing a coordinated response to the British through a representative body. Following on this, the First and Second Continental Congresses met in Philadelphia in September 1774 and in May 1775, respectively, to address British actions that the colonists deemed hostile or contrary to their interests. Committees of Correspondence between the colonial governing bodies also served to develop ongoing intercolonial communication, which informed both private citizens and legislators.

We can begin to discern a pattern that has been woven into the fabric of America from these three examples: the local governments observed by Tocqueville as cultivating self-governance, private individuals adhering to a compact of their own design, and cooperative intercolonial bodies articulating rights and seeking redress for grievances. The tradition of convening groups of people, citizens, to seek common ground or resolve disputes, appointing representatives to governing bodies to meet on behalf of the people, and formulating a united response after debate, is a long standing tradition in America that preceded the formation of the states and the nation and was instrumental in declaring independence successfully from the British.

The citizenry was not only habituated to these practices, their representatives were as well. Coolidge made the following observation as it specifically related to declaring independence:

This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion . . . It was in no sense a radical movement . . . It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

The orderly process mentioned by Coolidge is one that has become a hallmark in America, but it goes beyond the elected representatives carrying out the wishes of the electorate. Two organizations that spawned significant movements in the United States modeled their Declarations after the Declaration of Independence: the American Anti-Slavery Convention in 1833 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Woman’s Rights Convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York.

Both acknowledged the rights in the 1776 Declaration, but the Anti-Slavery advocates sought to complete the recognition of those rights for all and the Woman’s Rights advocates sought to expand them. Their efforts to accomplish their goals overlapped and included sending forth agents, circulating tracts, enlisting the pulpit and the press, purifying churches from the practice of participation in slavery, encouraging the labor of freemen, petitioning state and national legislatures, and organizing Anti-Slavery Societies and holding Women’s Rights Conventions throughout the country. Their efforts to disseminate their arguments and persuade the citizenry and their elected representatives is consistent with the practice that was followed by the colonists and subsequently citizens of the newly formed United States upon declaring independence.

Among the finest examples in the twentieth century of shaping and influencing debate through an orderly process consistent with that which started with the colonists was Martin Luther King’s non-violent protests. In his “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” King explained the steps he took to achieve full recognition of those rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence. He was in Birmingham because it was the most segregated city in the United States. It had, in King’s words, an ugly record of brutality; there was no justice to be had in the courts, and the city fathers refused to engage in good-faith negotiation. Requests to the Birmingham economic community to “remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs” also failed. Like the colonists some two centuries previously whose efforts at negotiation with the British failed, King’s efforts also failed. He saw himself standing between the forces of complacency and those who called for violence. It became clear to him that other methods had to be tried; he decided on a course of direct action.

King wrote, “We would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: ‘Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?’ ‘Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?’” King prepared the protesters, in an orderly manner, for a non-violent protest with a specific aim: “The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.” This is one example of the colonists’ experiences differing from King’s efforts: in spite of repeated efforts, the British refused to negotiate; King fared better, though not before grave trials and sufferings.

While many were critical of King’s efforts, he responded:

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue . . . . I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

Similar to the efforts of the colonists who declared independence and proclaimed that they were To assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, King used various means to achieve an equal station for those living in Birmingham and all other places that continued to suffer the gross injustices that festered in those places that previously denied life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Anti-Slavery Society and the Women’s Rights Convention acted in a similar fashion to King and the colonists; they raised the tension by bringing to the forefront matters that needed debate. There were disagreements, but the goal was to seek a remedy and resolve the tension. The practices that date back to the colonists of acting in concert to right wrongs, to do so without violence, and to advance reasoned discourse in order to persuade have been used repeatedly throughout the nation’s history.

Returning to Tocqueville’s discussion of township, he warned that freedom can only be sustained when the institution has been among the people and its existence is part of their habits and customs. “In order to defend themselves successfully they must have completed all their developments and have been mixed with national ideas and habits.” We should remind ourselves of these practices, in private capacities and public, and embrace them anew to resolve our contentious debates.

Editor’s note: This essay is based upon a speech delivered at the St. John’s College Graduate Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 4, 2018, “Does the Declaration of Independence Still Speak to Us Today?”

Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

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American Conservatism • Donald Trump • GOPe • political philosophy • Post • Republicans • the Presidency • Trump White House

Farewell to the ‘Conservative Movement’

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The #NeverTrumpumpkins define themselves by their visceral distaste for the president. He offends their fastidious sensibilities, outrages them with his unfiltered Twitter musings, and violates their sense of propriety with his secular hedonism and sheer joy in his own vulgarity. That he’s also delivering the most conservative administration in history is, to them, beside the point—because Trump neither represents nor embodies “movement” conservatism. And therein, for them, lies the problem.

Movements are, almost by definition, attractive to the young and the emotionally immature. Followers love to follow; even more, they love to memorize catechisms and rote talking points, which they parrot on the air and in column inches, as if by simply asserting their “principles” they are proving them as well.

Eventually, though, both content and context are lost and only the talking points remain. The argument from authority becomes as circular and self-referential as any obscure religious contretemps, and of interest only to the anointed. Which is why they fall upon each other with the glee of zealots who have been given orders to purge the heretics by any means necessary.

I have coined a portmanteau term for this state of affairs: “preenciples.” You know what they are: smaller government, less regulation, free trade, federalism, etc. It’s a creed, constantly professed, acolytes of (fill in the blank: Mises, Hayek, Strauss, Buckley) reassuring each other that by consulting the sacred texts they will always have the correct views on the issues, and thus ensure their place among the elect.

Political creeds, however, are generally the provinces of the Left, which believes in history’s “arc” and “iron laws”—“scientific” dialectical materialism, socialism, communism, and the rest of the intellectual charlatanism (including psychiatry and sociology) that has followed in the wake of Rousseau, Marx, Lenin, and Mao. “Little Red Books” and Five-Year Plans are the staples of this form of political worship.

I’ve addressed the programmatic Left in my two most recent books, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace—a study of the eternal battle between good and evil, centered on the moral nihilism of the Frankfurt School of 20th-century Communist philosophers—and The Fiery Angel, a series of interlocking essays regarding some of the touchstones of Western art and culture, from the Greeks through the 20th century, and how they provide the antidote to the spiritual poison injected into Western veins by the Frankfurters and their fellow travelers in academe and now journalism.

Now, does everything from the Oresteia to Wagner’s Ring cycle form a coherent, intellectually and emotionally consistent “conservative” program, by which we can live our lives? Clearly not.  The great works of art are and must always be non-didactic. Politicized art is worthless; but art that has political resonance generally stands the test of time.

To my ears, then, the constant harping in some quarters on “movement” conservatism is reminiscent of everything I’ve ever heard from the Left, or experienced in East Germany and the old Soviet Union. I’m not suggesting that “true” conservatism involves replacing one (transient) set of “preenciples” with another one, albeit far older. Rather, my argument is that conservatism isn’t a movement at all. Nor should it be. Rather, it’s a simple acknowledgement of timeless verities and a willingness to defend them against malevolent faddishness masquerading as “progress,” whose object is the destruction of our culture and its replacement with… well, nothing.

In short, it’s a recognition of great cultural peril, and the willingness to do something about it.

Think of the struggle between Right and Left in military terms. We are the defenders of the citadels of Western culture, which are our hard-won patrimony. Leftists are the attackers, always seeking to undermine, to sap, to breach, to assault; for them, as for Hillary Clinton in her Wellesley senior thesis, “there is only the fight.” They stay awake nights trying to figure out new ways to bring the walls down; as I like to say, they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit.

But attackers have a problem: they generally need three times the manpower of the defenders in order to win. A well-defended, confident citadel, with plenty of provisions, doughty defenders, and at least one supply line, can hold out forever. Constantinople eventually fell to the Muslims after 700 years of battering, and then only because the Western Roman Empire had collapsed a thousand years prior, and Byzantium’s relationship with the emerging nation-states of Europe was often fraught; the Crusaders, after all, sacked the city even before the Turks did.

On the other hand, in 1565, the 6,000 or so Knights Hospitallers and other fighters on the island of Malta held out against Turkish force numbering nearly 40,000. And, of course, in World War II both Leningrad and Stalingrad repelled the might of the Wehrmacht after prolonged and deadly sieges.

The “conservative” advantage, then, lies not in a set of policy prescriptions but in its bedrock beliefs, which center on the necessity of preserving, protecting, and defending the Western civilization that eventually codified those principles in the U.S. Constitution, and which itself is now under attack. By articulating a set of policy principles, “movement” conservatism puts those principles on the negotiating table, and over the course of the past 75 years or so, has gradually bargained them away for a mess of pottage.

Real conservatism, however, conserves. It understands what’s a stake, whom to fight, and how to win; after all, it has more than 3,000 years of experience, much of which was recorded and remains accessible today. The Left tries to combat this disadvantage (via its control of the educational system) by delegitimizing and eradicating the past. By cutting us off from our cultural wellsprings, they hope to disarm and demoralize us. Don’t let them.

For in the end, the only truly “conservative” principle is to conserve. It may not be pretty, it may not be couth, but it’s all that really matters. We win, they lose, as a great man once said.

Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Donald Trump • political philosophy • Post • Republicans

Populism: The ‘Extremist’ Vision of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Reagan

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At the heart of the current conflict in American politics is the belief among privileged elites that grassroots members of the pro-Trump movement—the “populists”—are ignorant low-lifes, “deplorables” who should stay in their trailer parks and be barred from the halls of power. That perception justifies in their minds actions ranging from boycotts and blacklisting to window-smashing protests and illegal spying on political adversaries.

Consider Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA who recently likened President Trump to Hitler. A man responsible for literally billions of violations of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, Hayden heads an institute in his name at George Mason University outside Washington, D.C. One of the Hayden Center’s programs is dedicated to “examining the ongoing assault on evidence-based institutions, like intelligence, the media, the law, and academia, in a post-truth world darkened by the rise of populism and autocracy.”

The tin-foil-hat language, from the organization of a person who has held immense power, takes your breath away. Consider the suggestion that our world is being “darkened” by populism.

Why the negative connotation of “populism”? Roger Kimball, editor of the New Criterion and of the recent book Vox Populi: The Perils and Promises of Populism, notes two reasons: One is that commentators associate “populist” with “demagogue,” which originally meant “a popular leader.” The other is that they have:

a disdain for the unedified masses, the soil in which populism takes root. Anyone who watched the commentary on Brexit, Donald Trump’s campaign, the early months of his administration, or the recent French election will have noted this. . . . [T]he populist politician is said to forsake reason and moderation so as to stir the dark, chthonic passions of a semiliterate and spiritually unelevated populace. “Populism,” that is to say, is wielded less as a descriptive term than as a delegitimizing one.

In politics, to define your opposition is to discredit it and, ultimately, to defeat it. Today’s populists must define their movement lest the establishment do it for them.

In defining modern populism, I start by pointing out that it is as American as the Declaration of Independence.

In 1776, in his draft of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that forms of government are illegitimate if they establish the dominion of one group over another, “that  all men are created equal & independent.” In keeping with this principle, Jefferson in his draft called slavery an “execrable commerce,” one of the “horrors” perpetrated by King George III.

In 1813, Jefferson wrote to John Adams about the “aristocracy” that should be honored and entrusted with power—an aristocracy not of privilege, not of wealth and birth, but of virtue and talent:

. . . I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. . . . There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents . . .  The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. . . .  May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendancy.

In an 1824 letter to Henry Lee, Jefferson noted that, in a free society, people naturally divide into two parties, one that protects privilege and one that represents the people.

Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves.

Concluding the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln declared that the Civil War was being waged so “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Ronald Reagan, running for president in 1976, campaigned against the “Washington buddy system,” and a Reagan brochure that year proclaimed his opposition to “the forces that have brought us our problems—the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business and big labor. If America is to survive and go forward, this must change. And it will change only when the American people vote for a leadership that is not part of the entrenched Washington establishment, leaders who will not be fettered by old commitments and friendships . . . ”

Equality under the law. No ”artificial aristocracy” based on wealth and birth, only a “natural aristocracy” of virtue and talent. A party that identifies with the people and has confidence in them as the safest repository of power. A government that is of, by, and for the people. A movement that stands up to the old-boy networks, the “buddy system,” and other forms of entrenched power.

If you’re a member of the elite, comfortable in your unearned privilege, nothing scares you more than populism, the idea put forth by crazy extremists like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan.

Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Defense of the West • Europe • political philosophy • Post • Religion and Society • Russia • The Culture

Putin and Russia Through an Orthodox Lens

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America has been in the grips of Russia hysteria for over two years now, and it hitting a fever pitch this past week following President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. In Beltway circles, Russian hysteria among the commentariat has morphed into an extraordinary Putin hatred. From potential ally, to rival, enemy, thug and mass murderer, we have heard it all.

But do we even know Vladimir Putin and what drives him? Yes, he is an ex-KGB officer, that we all know. Beyond the superficial, what do we know about Putin and his geopolitical goals for Russia?

Although Putin made his career as a Soviet agent and apparatchik, it’s a mistake to view him exclusively through the lens of the Cold War. Obviously, Putin’s understanding of Russia has been shaped by the great events of the 20th century—the expansion of the Soviet empire, the bloodshed and sacrifice that Russians endured in the war against Nazi Germany, the buildup of his nation as a nuclear superpower. But in trying to understand Russia today, it is necessary to look closely at the Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

“Putin’s Guru”
Solzhenitsyn was a Soviet dissident, arrested for a letter he wrote home from the battlefield during World War II. He was sent to the gulag, the vast prison work camp system, where millions of Soviets met their deaths under the most horrifying of conditions. Solzhenitsyn survived and went on to write his magisterial work, The Gulag Archipelago, a detailed history of the horrors of the Soviet political prison system. He won a Nobel Prize and was one of the 20th century’s greatest historical and literary figures. Solzhenitsyn’s indictment of the Soviet Communist era was one of the critical pivots in history that helped spell doom for the Soviet Union.

Solzhenitsyn’s life, his faith and philosophy, his love of “Mother Russia” have become a major guiding force in Putin’s life and ideas. People have come to call Solzhenitsyn “Putin’s guru.” Solzhenitsyn was a dedicated Russian patriot; his faith in Russian Orthodoxy and his love of country were his bedrocks. That he lived to see the fall of Soviet Communism and to play a part in the revival of the idea of Russia as a great nation and a restoration of the Russian Church surely warmed him in his later years. He returned home to Russia after years living in exile in Vermont, whereupon he was visited and honored by Putin personally.

Beyond the revival of Russia and the Orthodox Church, it is also critical to understand Solzhenitsyn’s sharp criticism of the West. Read Solzhenitsyn’s famous Harvard speech of June 5, 1978. Until then, Solzhenitsyn was a darling of the conservative movement in America, and rightly lauded as one of the leading intellectual figures in the fight against Communism.

For some, he retained that status. But for many others, his remarks at Harvard and his later writings attacking America and Western culture, as well as his embrace of pre-Revolutionary Russia under the Tsars, drove many away. He became a crank and outcast.

In that Harvard address, Solzhenitsyn said the West was decadent and morally weak. He told the assembled students and faculty:

Should I be asked . . . whether I would propose the West, such as it is today, as a model to my country [Russia], I would frankly have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society as an ideal for the transformation of ours.

After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced as by a calling card by the revolting invasion of commercial advertising, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present debility?

We (the West) turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which has imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs . . .

Putin wholeheartedly has embraced Solzhenitsyn’s point of view. He has spoken often about the decadence of the West, of the West’s lost spirituality and its moral decline. He has embraced not only the philosophy but also the ideas of Mother Russia, the old Russian Empire, the honoring of the Romanovs and Tsarist Russia. He has also actively helped in the incredible revival of the Russian Orthodox Church and has publicly, repeatedly, professed his faith in Eastern Christian Orthodoxy.

Russian Nation, Church Indivisible
Many will say this is just a ruse. Putin, the former KGB Communist, could not possibly be a Christian. Surely he’s using the Russian church to reignite Russian nationalism. Who knows what lies in a man’s heart? For what it’s worth, Putin has made many and repeated public claims that he is a Christian. (Although, obviously, ordering the arrest and murder of dissidents at home and abroad is not something Jesus would do.) He talks about the story of his miracle cross that survived a fire and how his mother secretly baptized him as a baby during the Soviet era and that he became a believer even before the fall of the Soviet Union.

What’s more, Russia is going through a national religious revival. In the past six years, 5,000 churches have been rebuilt, 7-in-10 Russians claim to be members of the Russian Orthodox Church, up from 37 percent in 1991. More than 10,000 new clergymen have been ordained in the last six years. Church attendance is up and there are even reports, though incomplete, of a recent increase in the birthrate of European Russians. This is in stark contrast to the numbers shown in the whole of the rest of Europe.

While this shows that Putin and modern Russia have in many ways have done a turnaround from the Communist era, it does not in any way signal the birth of an American-style open, free and pluralistic society. Religious freedom as Americans know it does not exist in Russia today; many sects are either outlawed or persecuted. Open and free elections and an American-style free press do not exist. Again, Putin is not looking to the West as a model for the future of Russia.

What Americans need to understand is Russia is not playing by the rules of the European Union and the new world order of nations. Putin sees himself as a kind of latter-day tsar, a leader of the new Russian Empire. Modern Russia is looking to its far past for its inspiration and for its meaning. It has found its true core in the revival of the Orthodox Church.

Russia has always been partly in the West, but also of the East, the East of Byzantium. It may very well now see itself as the true inheritor and now savior of Christendom in the wake of a morally declining West. The fallout from this and the implications are far-reaching, for the most part unknown and in need greater study.

Time for a Dramatic Rethinking
Just one example of this brings things into focus. Russia under Putin has once again become the protector of Orthodox Christians, everywhere but particularly in the Middle East.

On December 5, 2017, Putin met with the Patriarch of Antioch and pledged to help rebuild Christian churches and communities in Syria. Syria’s Christian community, once 30 percent of the country’s population, is now down to 10 percent. These communities have existed since the time of the Apostles, representing some of the oldest Christian communities in the world. In the past decade, many of them have been slaughtered, forcibly converted to Islam, or driven out of Syria altogether. Many of the Christians in Syria are Eastern Orthodox, but certainly not all. The question is, where is the West? Does anyone care?

Russia is no doubt a rival, yes, in many ways an adversary. One thing is for certain, so long as we “read” Russia and Putin through a Soviet and Cold War lens, we are never going to understand what Russia is thinking or why it acts in the manner it does. Wars are started through such misunderstanding, so it is time for a dramatic rethinking.

Photo credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Americanism • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Europe • NATO • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Culture

NATO Now Serves the Interests of the Transatlantic Ruling Class

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If we’re to believe the recent NATO summit’s communique and the mainstream media’s commentaries about it, the alliance serves roughly the same essential purpose today as it did in 1948, and Americans had better heed European Council President Donald Tusk’s thinly veiled warning: rein in President Trump’s criticisms of NATO, because its members are about the only allies America has got.

But although the people who run today’s European and American societies are perhaps closer to each other than in 1948—which accounts for their dogged defense of “the alliance”—in fact, they themselves have changed in ways that obviate the purposes for which the alliance originally was formed.

The point of departure for understanding U.S.-European relations is that the relationship between “the people who count” on both sides of the Atlantic are so good precisely because they  have become aliens to their own peoples. And, since all are in the process of being rejected by their own peoples, they are each others’ natural allies. But against whom are they allied?

What is the purpose of this alliance and what does it mean to us Americans?

Herewith, a summary of these moral and political changes, whose importance dwarfs the massive material transformations that the world has undergone in the past 70 years.

Defense of the West

In 1948, Europe faced the mighty Red Army, prostrate, poor, and penetrated by Communist organizations. But its principal figures—Konrad Adenauer, Charles De Gaulle, and Alcide De Gasperi—were devout Christians leading peoples who, chastened by war, were eager to safeguard and bolster what remained of their civilizations. All were conscious of their dependence on the United States of America for pretty much everything and grateful to us for it. That moral-political strength made up for a lot of material weakness.

It should be remembered, too, that keeping fellow Christians from succumbing to godless Communism moved that generation of Americans almost as much as the realization that the Soviet conquest of Europe would be very dangerous for us. Most came to believe that an alliance that reassured a weak-but-willing Europe was the best way to prevent it. Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, in tune as they were with ordinary Americans as well as with European leaders of their era, had no trouble forging a North Atlantic alliance based on the axiomatic commitment to nuke the Soviets were they to invade Europe.

Progressive Infection

NATO’s rot started in America. John F. Kennedy’s 1960 election brought to power progressives, who self-identified as “the best and the brightest.” Shaped intellectually and morally by the doctrines of (eventual Nobel laureates) Henry Kissinger and Thomas Schelling, they saw men like Adenauer and De Gaulle as of a piece with the American conservative persons and ideas they were displacing.

At the first NATO meeting after Kennedy’s inauguration, they removed the U.S. commitment to nuke the Soviets. They also removed the U.S. medium range missiles on the necessity of which that generation of European leaders had staked their legitimacy. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, these American did their best to foster the rise of progressive Europeans, who would be partners in the grand pursuit of “detente” with Moscow. They got what they wished, and then some.

In retrospect the 1980s, dominated as they were by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl, were a brief anomaly.

Today, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have the opposite of 1948: political weakness born of the ruling class’s civilizational renunciation undermines vastly increased economic and (in the United States) military power. Russia’s army, backed by scarcely a tenth of the European Union’s GDP, would have little trouble making prisoners of NATO’s forward-deployed forces and reaching the Atlantic.

An Alliance to Protect the Ruling Class’s Power and Prestige

Today the transatlantic ruling class has its own civilizational agenda, manifested by its subsidies for constituencies both business and cultural, ranging from “renewable energy resources,” to education, the arts, and lifestyle. Far from allied to safeguard and promote Western civilization, this ruling class treats its cornerstone, Christianity, as unmentionable at best and usually as the main feature to be extirpated from people’s lives. This class also regards self-rule, the capacity of people in towns, regions, or nations to decide by vote how they shall live, as among the evils to be done away with. It treats as enemy anything—thoughts, practices, institutions—that limit its own its own power and prestige. For their power and prestige, after all, are what it is allied to protect.

Since ordinary people in each and all of NATO’s countries pose the clearest and most present danger to that power and prestige, whenever any country’s people have challenged the  power or prestige of their local member of the club, the other countries’ ruling classes have treated it as an attack on themselves. Under this updated version of the famous Article 5, the allied transatlantic rulers have warned, on pain of horrid consequences, the people of Britain to stay in the EU, the peoples of France to elect anybody but Le Pen, the peoples of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and most recently of Italy, not to vote as they did.

Most of all, they warned Americans not to elect Donald Trump.

Nothing has equaled their fury against him. This, of course, has little to do with Trump himself. Rather, it is the transatlantic allies’ reaction to their inability to bend the American people to their ways. The American people’s adherence to Western civilization, our inflexible desire to rule ourselves, is the negation of everything for which this class stands. And because America is what it is, the election of an anti-ruling class candidate has inspired European peoples to do likewise.

As the transatlantic allies have lost election after election, they have retreated to their bastions in the supranational institutions, the banks, the corporations, the media, etc. Their objective seems to be to punish voters—psychologically if in no other way—to convince them to repent. Their hands will have to be pried off the levers of power.

Because such things as Russia’s power, the Third World’s physical occupation of the Europe and the United States, never mind the international military balance, do not threaten what the transatlantic ruling class is allied to protect, they cannot be bothered to take these questions seriously. Hence, for the American people, NATO as it exists today is yet one more ruling class institution to be overcome.

What good—and it may be considerable—that Americans might achieve by working with Europeans would have to be pursued with such peoples as have freed themselves from the transatlantic ruling class’s power.

Photo credit:  DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Democrats • Elections • Identity Politics • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • self-government • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

The Democrats’ Declaration of Dependence

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This Fourth of July, as Americans celebrated our nation’s Declaration of Independence, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) issued its own Declaration of Dependence.

Yes, the socialism that linked the historically murderous regimes of Hitler’s Nazis, Stalin’s Bolsheviks, and Mao’s Red Guards is now the economic policy guiding the elite of the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy. Somewhere, Henry Wallace is looking up and smiling.

How’s that for “radical,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez?

Being a party that still must rely upon pesky elections for obtaining power, the multitasking DNC overtly played the identity politics game to gin up its midterm voter turnout and covertly ensured its new adherence to socialism was hog whistled to the Left. (“Hog whistling” is when Leftists communicate amongst themselves their desire for free stuff at others’ expense with the taxpaying public being none the wiser, though soon to be poorer.) Hence, it is what the DNC didn’t say in its Declaration of Dependence that is instructive, if ominous.

There was no mention of either “liberty” or “freedom.”

Instead, “equality” was the word of the day for the DNC propagandists, who misunderstand the term and apparently believe the United States was founded as a revolutionary experiment in socialism, which has yet to be obtained within our woefully imperfect union. Why? Because the DNC thinks individual liberty is the reason for America’s societal ills. (Newsflash: the Left calls you “deplorable” for a reason.) It’s why the DNC is enthralled with the oppressive administrative state which is designed to make decisions for you since you can’t be trusted to do so.

And no ideology better subordinates and, in over 100 million cases, kills the individual for the “good” of the collective than socialism. (As the deranged crank Rousseau euphemistically put it in a manner that would make the DNC propagandists proud: the recalcitrant, God, guns, and religion clinging, liberty-loving individual should be apprehended by the state and “forced to be free,” i.e., free not from government but from his life.)

Doubtless, the few who knew socialism’s barbarous history in the 20th century decided to skip past it and, instead, tried to pretend their support of this radical, malevolent economic theory was historically “justified.” For, unlike Jefferson, today’s Democrats have deliberately conflated our inherent moral equality (which is the origin and cause of our right to liberty) with material equality. If the DNC weren’t so averse to the concept and practice of your individual right to liberty, it would have quoted Jefferson’s passage from the Declaration of Independence more fully:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Note, that Jefferson wrote the “pursuit” not the attainment of happiness. He and his founding generation knew that amongst truly free citizens equality before the law would result in the equality of opportunity, and an inequality of outcomes. Thus, as American citizens, we have both the unalienable right to liberty because of our equality before the law. No one may rule us without our consent. No one is more expert about what we should do with our liberty than we are.

Now, however, the DNC wants to curtail liberty to enforce material equality through government power. It is the same siren songs of socialism once heard in nations from Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union; and, unless you want to wind up like them, they must be soundly rejected.

Indeed, it remains to be seen how many rank-and-file Democrats will be putting their John Hancock on the DNC’s Declaration of Dependence. Many already have, because they are ignorant of human nature and of history and, for the more moronic of liberal mind, they hold out hope that “this time we’re smart enough to make socialism work!”

Still, there is some hemming and hawing about signing on to full socialism, not least of all among the Democrats who have to get elected to make a living. After all, it’s not just conservative taxpayers forking over the free stuff to government dependents. There’s going to be a whole lot of economic redistribution going from base voting limousine liberals to the people they’ve economically exploited, too. (In the DNC’s mind, wealth is only accumulated by exploitation of the poor—unless you were president and wrote some books and made movies on Netflix.)

To those trembling hands uncertain about whether to sign on to the DNC’s Declaration of Dependence, let us paraphrase another Founder, Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up their essential liberty to purchase a little prosperity, deserve neither liberty nor prosperity.

Since we’re all in this free republic together, my Democratic friends, please read the historical fine print before you sign. Like all of socialism’s other false promises, we’ll get neither liberty nor prosperity. But we will get impoverished, re-educated, and/or killed.

If you think there’s still a decision to make, seek professional help; and remember: Free stuff isn’t free, and liberty is not negotiable.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Conservatives • Donald Trump • political philosophy • Post • The Culture • The Left • The Media

An American Awakening

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What a fascinating and momentous time we live in—a time that may well be remembered as an awakening of our great nation. President Trump, the catalyst, has changed the debate in this country on seemingly everything from identity politics and immigration to trade and foreign policy. Barack Obama said he wanted to “fundamentally transform” the United States, and did his best to carry out that promise to the detriment of the country. But it seems Trump could be the greater “transformative” president. All for the good—a transformation back to our constitutional and historical roots after almost a century of progressivism.

And he certainly is changing the Republican Party along with we’ve come to know as the “conservative movement.”

Critics will say that Trump is “not a conservative” and that he doesn’t have any governing philosophy but, as they have been with almost everything when it comes to Trump, the critics are wrong. Trump does indeed have a governing philosophy. It just isn’t the one we have been hearing from Republican leaders for the past 40 years—including everyone from Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, the Bushes, Paul Ryan, and all of the leading conservative think tanks, National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the rest. Trump’s philosophy goes deeper and further back than our self-destructive dalliances with globalism, “free trade,” open borders, what’s good for Wall Street, and an imperialistic, “neoconservative” foreign policy.

Trump’s “conservative” critics will insist he’s not even a Republican—and if by “Republican” they mean Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, or Jeb Bush, then right they are. But the Republican Party wasn’t created in 1994, it was founded in 1854. The Party has gone through many changes since then, but it was founded on principles that predate it as a Party, that go back to the early days of our Republic. Leaving the GOP aside, there are rich philosophical traditions running through American history. Trump it can be said, is beyond “party,” as he is not even a politician in the classic sense. And in that vein, he is drawing from many philosophical roots.

Trump has been called a nationalist and a populist. He is certainly a bit of both of those, but it is very difficult to define Trump by political labels. One thing seems certain; there has never been a more “American” president than our current one. He is a self-made man in the truest sense in the American tradition. Trump is part Andrew Jackson, Andrew Carnegie, Buffalo Bill Cody, with plenty of P.T. Barnum thrown in. He is a can do, rough-and-tumble, builder, creator, frontiersman; employing brains, brawn and yes, a fair amount of hucksterism to achieve not just his dreams, but America’s promise.

His political philosophy is American nationalism, or in the tradition of the 1830’s, he is a believer in the American System. A lot of people, as I have, draw the comparison of Trump to Andrew Jackson, and in personality and the “larger than life” persona, there is much to compare. But in political philosophy, Trump is more Whig than anything. Under the leadership of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, the Whig Party believed in a strong active federal role in stimulating economic and industrial growth.

Henry Clay’s greatest admirer was Abraham Lincoln. As a Whig congressman, Lincoln later helped to found the Republican Party based, in part, on a strong Whig platform (which included a tariff policy) and famously said, “The legitimate object of government is ‘to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they cannot, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves.” While the Left has misinterpreted that quote ad nauseam to the great detriment of millions, there is a legitimate American tradition for a federal role in building, maintaining, and securing growth and opportunity for all.

Trump harkens back to this earlier time in our nation’s history, a time of tremendous growth and potential, a time of Lincoln, the pre-progressive era of America. He wants opportunity for all; he is a champion of the working class, the forgotten men and women. He believes in the individual and liberty, and in believing that the government has a role, not overbearing and intrusive, he is certainly not simplistically laissez-faire.

This leads to another fascinating epoch in our history, the recurring “Great Awakenings” that have swept through our nation. We are in the midst of another “Awakening” and though this one will be more cultural than religious, there will be strong religious undercurrents. This Awakening is an inevitable occurrence in response to the relentless attacks on our culture, faith, and traditions from the Left. The millions of Americans who still believe in the greatness of the American Founding and its impact on our culture and our history were not going to lose their country in without a fight.

I don’t know how much of a believer in God Trump is, none can be so arrogant to know with certainty what drives a man in the realm of faith. But for a man who has “fallen” in many ways during his life, he seems to have an unerring ability to see with clear vision the necessary and critical role that religion plays in American life and in our culture. The man of the “Access Hollywood” tapes has become the champion of Christian American and the great protector our Judeo-Christian values. No one saw this coming.

The election of Trump, his rise, and his presidency are a part of this very long and overdue awakening. For that we can be very thankful, but, of course, its success will depend upon more than him. We have to succeed. And that success hangs by a thread. The Left is at war with Trump, which is to say that it is at war with America. They will stop at nothing to derail this Awakening. Trump is just a stand-in for America and for us. If they succeed at that, our great Republic will pass into the sunset, forever.

Who predicted this? That Donald Trump may go down in history as another Churchillian or Lincolnesque figure; a leader who saves our republic? We need to pray that he succeeds; we need to engage and fight, not just in upcoming elections, but every day in our culture, in our communities and in our everyday lives.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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America • Americanism • Declaration of Independence • Lincoln • political philosophy • Post

Lincoln on America’s Founders: “They Were Iron Men”

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Abraham Lincoln delivered this address, which has come to be called “the electric cord” speech, in Chicago on July 10, 1858.

Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, sometime about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them.

We are now a mighty nation, we are thirty—or about thirty millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country,—with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men,—we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men, they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity that we now enjoy has come to us.

We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations.

But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things.

If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, (loud and long continued applause) and so they are.

That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.

 

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