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American Happiness, Divine Damnation?

As Passover and Easter near, the heart and mind turn more intently to questions of the divine. How do we in the grubby business of politics relate to the most transcendent and the most high? A good place to start is Vice President Mike Pence’s tried and true response to questions about who he is: “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” Where is “American”? some critics sneered.

Pence could readily reply, America was there all the time—implicit in Republican at the least—for he’s surely not a Tory conservative.

Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America notes that Americans confuse Christianity and freedom in their minds, while “religious zeal constantly warms itself at the hearth of patriotism.”

We live today in a different America, one which those who have preferred Tocqueville to the founders and Lincoln seem unable to grasp. Patrick Deneen’s recent book, Why Liberalism Failed, exemplifies how a dramatic change of worldview arises from what appears a mere academic dispute.

At the heart of this dispute is our regard for ourselves as Americans and as believers. It’s not primarily about Trump, though he does figure in.

An Ignoble Lie?
Deneen has just published a version of his provocative thesis in the April issue of First Things, “The Ignoble Lie.” Here he turns the current rage over inequality into a meditation on the absence of Christian understanding and charity. It’s readily evident from his writing and ability to reach into the souls of his students at Georgetown and now Notre Dame how marvelous a teacher he is. (I’ve known him over the years.)

The core of his argument can be fairly encapsulated in this paragraph:

So long as liberalism [meaning the Declaration of Independence’s “stress upon individual rights and liberty”] was not fully itself—so long as liberalism was corrected and even governed by Christianity—a working social contract was possible. For Christianity, difference is ordered toward unity. For liberalism, unity is valued insofar as it promotes difference. The American experiment blended and confused these two understandings, but just enough to make it a going concern. The balance was always imperfect, leaving out too many, always unstably oscillating between quasi-theological evocation of unity and deracinated individualism. But it seemed viable for nearly 250 years. The recent steep decline of religious faith and Christian moral norms is regarded by many as marking the triumph of liberalism, and so, in a sense, it is. Today our unity is understood almost entirely in the light of our differences. We come together—to celebrate diversity. And today, the celebration of diversity ends up serving as a mask for power and inequality.

America is a success, Deneen appears to be saying, because of its schizophrenia. Liberalism in its classical sense has finally been revealed as liberalism in its contemporary sense. He must concur with Judge Robert Bork’s incredible assertion in Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline (1996), that “the street predator of the underclass may be the natural outcome of the mistake the founders of liberalism made.”

In fact, Deneen’s argument refurbishes older ones by Thomas Pangle and Allan Bloom. Briefly stated: The inspiration for the Declaration of Independence, John Locke, was a student of Thomas Hobbes, and their nihilism, which rivals that of Friedrich Nietzsche, is what has exploded today. It took 250 years, but it’s here staring us in our looney faces.

Deneen adds the Christian element, but it’s the same old story about the anti-tyrannical Declaration and its talk of “the pursuit of happiness” leading to contemporary nihilism. The “lie” that Deneen wants to hold in contempt is not only the famous one from Socrates about souls of different metal but also the one about the truth and justice of the American Founding.

Moreover, Deneen cleverly turns his version of America into one involving current political controversies: “Elites denounce the ‘populists’ while denying that they have fomented a class war. They deplore the obnoxiousness of Donald Trump, perfectly obtuse of their complicity in his ascent.”

Deneen is not without his fellow Catholic critics. Robert Reilly has exposed his errors about the Founding in a series of essays. Though his most thorough treatment comes in the Claremont Review of Books, the most moving passage occurs in his two-part follow-up to Deneen’s reply:

My oldest son, now serving as a newly minted Marine Corps officer, had a course in American political thought in his last semester at a Catholic university. The exclusive point of view presented by the professor was the same as Deneen’s, though he was not mentioned in the course. My son struggled as best he could against this, but the professor prevailed in convincing the majority of students that the Founding was grievously, morally faulty….

How would [Deneen] like to tell a class of Marine Corps second lieutenants that the country to which they have just pledged their lives and honor is morally base at its origins?

Reilly’s bluntness should be contrasted with Eric Cohen’s eloquent review of Deneen’s book in the Weekly Standard. Cohen portrays Deneen’s horror at “the cultural depravations all around us, from collapsing birthrates to ecological deterioration, from broken communities plagued by opioid addiction to massive governmental and personal debt, from tween sexting to the collapse of liberal education.” Blame modernity and the American Founders!

Of note are where Cohen agrees and how he disagrees with Deneen: He chides Deneen for “perhaps miss[ing] an opportunity to contribute to the renewal of a realistic version of Burkean conservatism, which he rightly seeks and which this era sorely needs.” Reconstructing liberalism need not, joining Deneen, lead to “the false hope of Trumpism.”

What Cohen, with Deneen, has done is to expose conservatism’s current intellectual weaknesses: embracing Burke, renouncing Jefferson (going back to Russell Kirk); rejecting modernity but somehow still defending religious liberty, while suppressing discussion of slavery; and failing to see Trump’s patriotism as the best political means of preserving freedom and political virtue, disparaging political correctness, and repudiating a conservatism of sanctimony. These critics acknowledge nothing about the Progressive revolution that repudiated both the restraint of the founding and religious liberty. The political revival starts with speech that has been missing for decades.

As for religious speech, the Lord’s Prayer presents the tension: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven . . . .” That is the earthly challenge for the Christian, which is captured in the American Founding. It still provides not merely the best but the only hope.

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Image credit: Thomas Jefferson drafting Declaration of Independence; painting by N.C. Wyeth/Bettmann

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Tariffs: An Allegory

Suppose you run a company with lots of employees. For a long time, among your employees have been a couple of your nephews. If you’re being honest, they are not your favorite workers. There’s always pressure to raise their wages and they are now up to $25 per hour each, which is more than they are worth. They even side with the union against you and are not generally grateful to you for employing them. Plus they are crude: they tell jokes you don’t like, drink beer, and are often just a pain in the rear.

One day you decide you are going to replace them. For just $10 an hour each you can hire three others to do their jobs, dropping your wage to $30 an hour.

At first, you are relieved. You are pocketing more money for yourself and it’s time your nephews make their own way in the world, anyway. Tough love.

But then your sister calls crying and tells you the boys aren’t doing well. Next thing you know your nephews are living in your basement and eating out of your fridge. Already, your plan to save money and avoid aggravation is a bust.

On top of this, you now start to notice problems with your new employees.

You trained Guy A and all of a sudden you realize that his cousin is starting a new company and is launching what looks like a copy of your latest design. Just a coincidence, your employee says. But now it develops that even though you hired one of theirs, his family won’t even let you sell to them anymore. They are going to buy from the cousin, even if his product isn’t the best or costs more. It’s a cultural thing, you have to understand.

Guy B has brought his whole family to your town and even though you are only paying him $10 an hour, the rest of his family is getting free services and your taxes are going up. Plus the whole family is voting against you and changing your town.

Guy C takes the money you pay him and hands part of it over to his religious leaders who regularly complain about you. One of his cousins is threatening a terrorist attack.

Wait . . . It Gets Worse
So now your town wants to hire increased security. You don’t want to to have to get involved in that effort and you don’t want your sons, who are actually contributing to your business, to have to interrupt their lives for this, either. But what about your nephews? They are still unemployed, why don’t they take on that job?

When one of them finally does you are happy to see him out of the house. But, again, the government is still sending you the bill for him. A year later he gets injured and comes back to live with you. Maybe your tough love thing was a little too much. He’s injured and now he’s hooked on pain meds. In fact, your other nephew, who didn’t go off to fight, has discovered that the only work he can find is making and dealing some of these same meds. Yep, this is working out great.

Way back when, you thought your nephews were crude, drank too much beer, and were a pain in your rear. But now you look back and that time looks positively idyllic by comparison. You have new employees who are petitioning to silence the church bells in your neighborhood because their own religious sensibilities are offended by the sound. Some are linked to terrorism and there are whole districts in your town that you know are too dangerous even to visit. Your town just doesn’t seem the same anymore.

Price Isn’t Everything
See how much money you are saving? See how your bottom line is, and should be, your one and only concern?

Sure, if the free market price were your only concern, buying from the lowest bidder would be good. But this is ridiculous. We routinely think that single issue voters are myopic, but then somehow the narrowest definition of free trade is supposed to be our single issue and if we don’t fall over on the wisdom of the elite’s purist definition we are ignorant of economics and have sold out our principles. I’m sorry, price is not the only economic concern and economics is not the only social concern. Would you go and live for decades in Pakistan just because they’d pay you 25 percent more?

I used to fall for the free trade line. I even sold it myself. I was wrong. Most of the free traders in the Beltway aren’t free traders at all. They have their hands in the cookie jar somewhere else. If we are going to live in a quasi-socialist state where we are just going to pay the rust belt in welfare what we took from them in wages, we are not saving a dime.

And then when you factor in the intellectual-property theft from China, the markets they close off to us, the fact that we have to turn to the rust belt to get our soldiers to fight the Islamists we made rich by buying their oil, the anti-American unassimilated voters we are importing. None of this is working out in the way it was sold to us.

The free traders say that whatever you tax you get less of. Well, then let’s stop taxing income. We didn’t have an income tax from 1787 until 1913. We had tariffs. Why are tariffs worse than income taxes? And please don’t bring up Smoot-Hawley, where the government double-dipped and had income taxes and tariffs, which was a huge change from the policies of the 1800s.

Libertarians and NeverTrumpers will say we have sold out our principles. In truth, we have wised up to a bigger game and we are maturely adjusting our actions where our theory didn’t work as planned.

They are stuck with failed policies, still buying into the con.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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Tariffs, Trade, and Patriotism

President Trump’s recent decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum in response to what he (and most Americans) view as the routinely unfair trade practices of China and other foreign powers has upset more than a few Beltway apple carts.

It has also triggered a lot of heated criticism from the Right—much of it amusing, some of it more thoughtful, but most of it simply wrong-headed.

For constitutionalists, this fascinating policy kerfuffle represents a rare, not-to-be-missed opportunity to review a few forgotten fun-facts about our Founders’ “original intent” on the matters of trade and taxes.

So let us examine the criticisms of NeverTrump conservatives of the president’s pro-tariff trade policies, consider what our Founders had to say about trade and in particular the policy of a protective tariff, examine where Free Traders really get their ideas about global political economy, and finally explore what “free trade” correctly conceived looks like from a truly constitutionalist perspective.

First, let’s hear the critics.

In Which the “True Conservative” Laments
Mark Levin is an honest, pro-free-trade, libertarian-leaning, one-time NeverTrumper whom many conservatives rightly admire for his animated articulation of oft-forgotten constitutional principles.

He was, until now, slowly warming to the president, on account of Trump’s mostly-conservative policy successes and the unsettling deep state sabotage that has at least partly disrupted his young presidency, and aims to end it.

But in response to this tariff policy announcement—yet another fulfilled Trump campaign promise, as it happens—“The Great One” got a bit unhinged, going so far as angrily accusing President Trump of imposing an “unpatriotic tax” on all Americans.

In this Levin merely trades his “constitutionalist” mantle of truth for his libertarian robes of righteousness. As I’ll explain shortly, both can’t be worn at the same time, at least not on this semantically sublime issue of tariffs and trade.

Speaking of “semantically sublime,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) used the occasion to grandstand on the issue, saying “If you own a steel mill, today was great for you. If you consume steel—and every American family bought something at the store tonight with metals in it—today’s a bad day for you.”

As if that analysis wasn’t reactionary enough, he went still further. “This is leftist economic policy and we’ve tried it a whole bunch of times over the last two centuries and every time, American families have suffered,” he asserted.

The only NeverTrumper who has ever said anything measurably dumber is Kevin Williamson, who famously opined that declining Rust Belt communities weren’t in any way victims of foreign interference in our economy permitted by a corrupted national politics, but instead deserved on their own moral merits “to die.” Trump’s talk about tariffs and other measures to help these communities are not sincere, he argues, but are just demagogic attempts to soothe and sedate ignorant people in the heartland.

Have any of these leading lights of Conservatism, Inc., these self-appointed guardians of GOP ideological and constitutional purity, ever bothered to study what our Founders really believed about trade? Or even what the first Republican president actually advocated about tariffs, and why?

Sadly, it seems not, because if they had, they’d realize to their embarrassment that Trump has more in common intellectually with those towering historical figures than they ever will.

The Founding Fathers Were “Leftists”
To Sasse’s not-so-subtle assertion that the tariff is a failed leftist policy tried repeatedly over the last couple centuries, resulting always and only in misery for American families, a few dispositive quotes are in order.

Sasse was certainly on to something, and in fact, may have inadvertently uncovered one of the most hidden-in-plain-sight Left-wing conspiracies of all time!

First, we’ll start with that famous Marxist agitator, George Washington:

A free people… should promote such manufactures as would render them independent on others for essentials. I shall give every encouragement in my power to the manufactures of my country.

And then there’s the crypto-Nazi, Alexander Hamilton:

Let the thirteen states be bound together in a strict and indissoluble union, concur in erecting one great American system superior to all transatlantic force or influence.

And the Trotskyite community organizer, Thomas Jefferson:

The prohibiting duties we lay on all articles of foreign manufacture which prudence requires us to establish at home, with the patriotic determination of every good citizen to use no foreign articles which can be made within ourselves, without regard to difference of price, secures us against a relapse into foreign dependency.

And that subversive anarchist who penned the Constitution itself, James Madison:

In its (Congress’) first act, a national revenue must be obtained; but the system must be such a one, that while it secures the object of revenue, it shall not be oppressive to our constituents. Happy it is for us that such a system is in our power; for I apprehend that both these object may be obtained from an impost on articles imported into the United States.

Next up, that Stalinist Henry Clay:

Poverty befalls any nation that neglects and abandons the care of its own industry, leaving it exposed to the action of foreign powers… There is a remedy, and that consists in adopting a genuine American system accomplished by the establishment of a tariff…. The cause is the cause of the country, and it must and it will prevail.

And the Bolshevik Daniel Webster:

My object is, and has been, with the protective policy, the true policy of the United States, that the labor of the country is properly provided for. I am looking not for a law such as will benefit capitaliststhey can take care of themselvesbut for a law that shall induce capitalists to invest their capital in such a manner as to occupy and employ American labor.

And then, finally, the tax-and-spend Bernie Sanders socialist, Abraham Lincoln:

The tariff is the cheaper system. By the direct-tax system the land must be literally covered with assessors and collectors going forth like swarms of Egyptian locusts. By the tariff system the whole revenue is paid by the consumers of foreign goods. By this system, the man who contents himself to live on the products of his own country pays no tax at all.

In other words, the tariff was the original “flat tax,” with an opt-out for anyone who wished instead to “Buy American” or invest in American labor! Who knew?

Wherever these “conservative” and “constitutionalist” NeverTrumpers got their ideas about global free trade (and open immigration, for that matter), it clearly wasn’t from our Founders or from the celebrated statesmen who arose during the first 150 years or so of American history.

Conservatism, Inc.’s Very Foreign Policy Principles
The thing is, we do know where they get their ideas about trade and taxes. They get them from the libertarian and European neo-liberal philosophical traditions, among whose most articulate advocates today are those from the Austrian school, notable for their principled defense of free trade not merely as an economic policy, but as a political doctrine.

The Austrian economists are, in fact, worthy of admiration and respect, mainly for their intellectual rigor. For them, the philosophical battle is between statism and freedom. Their “methodological individualism” is unique and thoughtful in its approach to economic theory that contrasts favorably with the “macroeconomic” approaches of most statist schemers, such as Keynes, at least for anyone who thinks freedom is a good idea.

Whereas leftists and statists prefer a command-and-control global system (so-called “fair trade”), the Austrians argue philosophically for a global system based on contractual or “free market” principles (i.e., “free trade”).

But—and this is the critical point—they both pine for a global system.

There is no place for national self-determination or republican self-rule, much less even the concept of the nation-state itself in the cosmology of either’s globalist doctrines. They merely disagree on the particulars of implementing their respective global systems.

And this is the false dichotomy into which Conservatism, Inc., has fallen, mainly out of bad intellectual habit and lack of curiosity. Global capitalism versus global socialism is not the only option. And this is the paradigm from which Trumpian conservatism is seeking to escape.

Only leftists speak of “arcs of history” or “inevitable” future realities, a point to bear in mind next time a NeverTrumper tells you we can’t “retreat” to “Fortress America” or put the global economy genie back in the bottle lest we be “left behind” in the “global economy of the future” and so forth.

Certainly, the current international trading regime is a real thing today and it is something with which we must contend wisely. But it is important to remember that political systems are all empty abstractions only made real—or undone—by deliberate policy implemented intentionally over time. The only thing that is inevitable is the march of time, and we make more or less of that time by the degree to which we consciously shape our future by choice instead of by accident.

What delicious irony, then, that the very same Austrians, with their insights properly divided between their philosophical contributions, on the one hand, and their economic contributions, on the other, are the key to our escape from these false choices—and to contemplate the brilliance of the American system as conceived by our Founders!

A Tale of Two Mises
In his seminal treatise, Human Action, Ludwig von Mises, Austrian economist extraordinaire, makes an important distinction between philosophy (the “science of ends”) and economics (the “science of means”). The latter, he maintains, never has anything to say critical about the former, other than whether, given some goal and resources on hand to achieve it, it is feasible according to stated time constraints, or must be reconsidered or rejected.

But free traders violate this rule all the time, conflating the goal with the means to achieve it, so that any other goal than “free trade” itself is seen as “not economic.” All pure nonsense to anyone who really gets what Mises is really saying. If your goal is national economic independence, as ours at least used to be, global “free trade” is the last policy an economist would advise; but a “free trader” would tell you that you’re just not thinking economically to seek national independence in the first place.

So, setting aside the usual sophisms that make free trade both the means and the end itself, the adult question here for those who seek national independence is this: through which economic policies can we intentionally become independent and self-sufficient (dare I say “great”?) again? Or are we no longer free to do so, and if not, why not?

Behold none other than Ludwig von Mises, during a rare moment when he was speaking strictly as a free-market economist and not a globalist philosopher:

The average standard of living is in [the United States] higher than in any other country of the world, not because the American statesmen and politicians are superior to the foreign statesmen and politicians, but because the per-head quota of capital invested is in America higher than in other countries . . . Capital is more plentiful in America than in other countries because up to now the institutions and laws of the United States put fewer obstacles in the way of big-scale capital accumulation than did those foreign countries.

That’s from his famous 1952 talk, “Capital Supply and American Prosperity,” which Mises delivered before the University Club of Milwaukee. He doesn’t attribute this observation to any particular founding policy, but his conclusion is even more Trumpian (never mind Lincolnian, Jeffersonian, and Washingtonian):

No party platform is to be considered as satisfactory that does not contain the following point: as the prosperity of the nation and the height of wage rates depend on a continual increase in the capital invested in its plants, mines and farms, it is one of the foremost tasks of good government to remove all obstacles that hinder the accumulation and investment of new capital.

Our Founders’ genius was to use tariffs, not in the way of the mercantilists (i.e., to pick winners and losers in various industries) , but rather for national revenue as the least-oppressive alternative to the confiscatory income tax, which they consciously rejected; and to define the boundaries of our system, for the purpose of increasing the power and riches of our nation (in the old Adam Smith sense). They didn’t just “not hinder” capital investment; they actively promoted it.

Tariffs had the effect of encouraging continual accrual of new capital in our domestic labor, and this, not “free trade” either as an ideology or a policy, is how and why we became a wealthy nation. Indeed it is no surprise that during the present era of free trade we have reversed our fortunes, and become the largest debtor nation in history, shipping most of our capital supply and industrial infrastructure overseas in exchange for cheap goods, as Jefferson feared.

All of this leads to an important insight: There is a difference between “free trade” as a loose confederation of nations sharing labor and capital freely, and genuine union of the serious sort our Constitutional republic is intended to ensure. We tried the former with the Confederacy. It failed. So far, the latter has succeeded for nearly 300 years. There’s a reason for that.

Now let’s discuss how critical and interconnected political union is to economic union. The path for any country wishing to have “free trade” with us has always been clear since 1789, in the form of the Constitution itself.

Free Trade vs. True Political and Economic Union
Inasmuch as “free trade” is really just division of labor between members of a system masquerading as some new doctrine, and not “trade” between separate systems in a purely economic sense at all, any argument for “free trade” between the United States and another country is, according to our founding perspective, really just an argument for statehood. That is, free trade is and must be in accord with a positive and mutually beneficial argument for political and economic union.

For the states already in the union, the Austrian economic criteria for such proposition would be the degree to which the proposed new state would contribute or attract greater capital investment relative to the combined per-head quota of capital investment of the whole society after the merger.

If that math doesn’t justify it, or political union of this kind, with the responsibilities it entails between the other states in the Union and another country, is not desirable for any other reason under the sun (language, fundamental cultural differences, or the practical impossibility of defending it), neither, then, is economic union an appealing option.

Put another way, “free trade,” like “free love,” seeks to have the benefits of physical union with none of the responsibilities of cultural or political marriage, and that is the formula for cultural and systemic disaster. We have seen it wreak havoc on our dying industries and their declining communities.

The combination of falling wages resulting from the law of equilibrium performing its inexorable leveling function, and an income tax regime made necessary because tariffs were eliminated in the interest of global division of labor is the truly “unpatriotic tax” levied on all Americans by ideological free trade, Mr. Levin.

You can’t be a libertarian free trader and a constitutionalist at the same time on this issue, unless you adopt our Founders’ understanding of the need both to regulate trade and to encourage national unity and self-sufficiency as critical to the wellbeing of the country and the freedom of our citizens.

Subverting national borders is truly a “leftist” utopian policy that never works, at least not for any national good, no matter how often it’s tried—all due respect to Senator Sasse.

Religious pursuit of free trade as an abstraction against the interests of American industry is what has starved our Rust Belt communities of life-breathing capital supply, precipitating systemic cultural failure and widespread individual despair remedied only by hiring a U-Haul, Mr. Williamson.

Unless we are willing to bring in other countries as new states into our Union (and no one is making a practical argument for doing that), the idea of an assumed “free trade” between us and them is absurd.Any other relationship than shared statehood and nationhood is just trade of surplus production. It is, therefore, subject to the dictates of prudence.

It has ever been thus in the real world that even clear-thinking classical liberals like von Mises once upon a time inhabited. That it is no longer so is a testament to how far Conservatism, Inc., has drifted from the moorings of constitutional first principles.

“Free trade” as it has come to be understood today is a globalist ideology and is *not* conservative (in the sense of “conserving” the American way of life), but radical in that it is a departure from it. Nor is it an economic doctrine but a political one. In the crudest terms: It is to political union what free love is to marriage.

Free trade the economic phenomenon is just “division of labor’ by another name, and no free market supporter opposes it. Understanding the context is vital. You can’t have a division of labor between members of disparate systems; that is ”trade” in the economic sense, and negotiated between nations based on surplus.

The idea we can’t be independent and self-sustaining is not an economic idea, but a philosophic one, one that is entirely at odds with the system the Constitution was designed to guarantee.

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Chilling Sommers: Another Blow to Discourse

Among contemporary public intellectuals, Christina Hoff Sommers is among the most attacked by our illiberal Left. In the latest episode, student groups at Lewis and Clark Law School this week protested Sommers’ Federalist Society talk. Prior to her talk, these groups released a joint statement titled “Refuse Fascism in All Its Forms,” voicing concern over “a troubling event,” (Sommers’ planned lecture) which is “an act of aggression and violence.” The statement urges the school community to join in, “not to facilitate ‘discourse,’ but in solidarity with the voices that are systematically silenced.”

The video of the protest is, frankly, cringe-worthy and embarrassing. What took center stage was not Sommers but students carrying flaccid cardboard signs accompanied by a woman with the words “Stay Woke” printed on the back of her jacket. She appeared to be the group’s leader since she was the one who read a series of statements, which then proceeded to be repeated by the rest of this group of “enlightened” social justice warriors. Maybe she and her “comrades,” as she called them, should have taken the words “Stay Woke” to heart because they looked rather lethargic and phlegmatic.

Sommers was polite, gave them time to speak, and then called on them to have a debate and to reason with each other. But she was repeatedly rejected and silenced. These supposedly tolerant individuals were not interested in reasoning or having a dialogue. In fact, they obviously lacked the capacity and the requisite intelligence to reason—otherwise they would have found a different way to communicate with Sommers. It is fairly obvious they would fail spectacularly at reasoned argumentation because their statements are not based on reality or facts. No matter how many times they repeat and chant that “microaggressions are real,” the truth is they are not.

As much as Sommers is used to this kind of treatment, it should not be accepted. The protesters caused a disruption in what was supposed to be a lecture followed by a question and answer session. The Woke-Pod People chose an entirely different form of expression, which is incompatible with an intellectual presentation whose purpose is to create a discussion about the issue at hand.

The wimpy and pathetic cry of the protesters claiming oppression is utterly nonsensical because, in reality, they are the ones engaging in totalitarian tactics to suppress voices other than their own. They rely on twisting the language (in this case, “Sommers is a fascist”) to suit their purpose. But what is their purpose? I don’t think they have one, except to agitate, be “brave,” and feel good about themselves for their alleged “bravery.”

At the core of this problem is the underlying structure of higher education today which is based on Marxism. Young minds are brainwashed with cult-like tactics under the guise of tolerance and acceptance. Even though Karl Marx is almost never actually read or addressed in the classroom, his theories  are perpetuated in university and college classrooms in ways that are structurally Marxist. It really doesn’t matter what kind of theories these are. In his essay on the American intellectual scene, “In the Land of Rococo Marxists,” Tom Wolfe observed that theories “vary, but the subtext is always the same: Marxism may be dead, and the proletariat has proved to be hopeless . . . but we can find new proletariats whose ideological benefactors we can be . . . which we can use to express our indignation toward the powers that be and our aloofness to their bourgeois stooges, to keep the flame of skepticism, cynicism, irony, and contempt burning.”

The common man, who is supposed to be at the center of Marxist manifestos, is no longer there because professors and theoreticians are completely disconnected from the concerns of regular, working people. Instead, under the guise of equality and solidarity, academics and the students who have become their sycophants more than their pupils, follow them into a “post-struggle” elitist Marxism. Of course, intellectually and practically, this confused and contradictory amalgam makes no sense. Higher education institutions have become Twilight Zones without metaphysics.

Protests like these have become a habit in American schools, and it’s time to put a stop to this utter idiocy. But what can be done? What should Sommers have done? She was put in an awkward and unenviable position. Her approach to dialogue was admirable but arguing with fools is not a productive task.

Maybe we should take a page from Trump’s book. I recall an experience at a Trump rally in fall 2016. As soon as Trump started to talk, a group of students formed a chain, sat down, and broke out in an anti-fascist rant. In his usual fashion, Trump didn’t waste much time on it. “Here we go, it started already,” he said. “Go home to your mom’s basement,” continued Trump nonchalantly. With a sweeping gesture he said “Get ’em outta here.” Without any violence, police escorted the students out. Unfazed, Trump continued to deliver his speech.

Is this strategy even possible at a university? After all, the students at Lewis and Clark Law School were not the only ones bearing the mark of culpability. The school’s Dean of Diversity (whatever that means) told Sommers to speed up her lecture, effectively siding with the protesting students. Should Sommers have called out the dean publicly? Should she have left?

This will happen again, if not to Sommers then to another non-leftist speaker. We have to begin to ask practical questions and seek practical solutions because, as Trump has repeatedly demonstrated, the rules of the game have changed.

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Russia is Destabilizing America with Democrats’ Help

Colonel Stanislav Lunev defected from Russia to America in 1992. He came with a warning: Never mind the end of the Cold War. Russia was increasing its subversive activities against America.

Unfortunately, the authorities ignored his warnings. Lunev’s articles have been wiped from the Internet. His book is out of print. Lunev has only slipped deeper into obscurity as time has passed. He remains in the FBI’s witness protection program because even now the Russian government would love to see him dead.

Which brings us to today, when many Americans express shock that Russia could interfere in American politics. The media ostensibly is apoplectic. But CNN’s anchors would rather interview pundits to get Democrat talking points than bring in an authority like Lunev—so excuse me if I don’t take them seriously.

Political actors have entirely misframed the Russian threat. They informed America something shady was going onno one knows what exactlybetween Donald Trump and Russia. The Justice Department needed a special counsel to investigate links and alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

The facts in Robert Mueller’s recently released indictments, however, don’t confirm this allegation so much as they refute it. Russia supported various sides, including anti-Trump rallies.


A Multi-Year Plan

Nevertheless, the indictment does lay out a real case that Russia continues to engage in significant, aggressive operations against America. Here are the basic facts from the indictment. Russia had a multi-year plan to meddle in the 2016 election and employed hundreds of people who operated outside of American law. They printed fake driver’s licenses, stole Social Security numbers, and laundered millions of dollars. They likely spent tens of millions of dollars to disrupt and manipulate public opinion.

Mueller wrote that Russia’s goal in the 2016 election was to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.” The Russian front company, Internet Research Agency (IRA), backed Sharia Law for Americans. It also helped socialist Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong primary challenge against Hillary Clinton (though, curiously, Mueller leaves out any specifics about what Russia actually did on his behalf). They strengthened America’s far-Left to push Americans farther apart. The goal was to make Republicans and Democrats hate each other.

Today, Republicans and Democrats do indeed harbor much animus towards one another. The situation has gotten so bad that The New Yorker had to ask, “Is America Headed For A New Kind Of Civil War?” Either Russia is succeeding in their goal to destabilize America, or, Russian operations to destabilize America and the actual destabilization of America are a coincidence.

From MAGA to “Not My President,” Occupy to Black Lives Matter

The IRA made Twitter posts with the hashtag “#Trump2016.” After the election, the group organized a “Not My President” rally. Russia tried to infiltrate, tarnish, and compromise the opposing sides. Although Hillary Clinton was an exception to this pattern; Russia has always bolstered Clinton’s “anti-Russian credentials.”

Russia interacted with Black Lives Matters in a more sophisticated manner. Mueller wrote that Russia supported BLM, which fits the same pattern of destabilization by controlling and advancing a far-Left group that has provoked riots and violence. Russia also used Black Lives Matter to smear the United States at the United Nations.

There is a Russian spy craft word for this tactic: provokatsiya. First they provoke a response, and then they exploit it. Listen to Vladimir Putin speak—he use the word “provoke” regularly. It’s a Freudian thing. He projects his own behavior onto others. In December, for example, he blamed the United States for “provoking” North Korea.

A predecessor to Black Lives Matter was the far-Left Occupy Wall Street movement. Micah White, a founder of Occupy, explains that, “although it is rarely discussed, the Occupy movement received substantial support from Russia. I remember how the state-owned RT television station (formerly Russia Today) aggressively supported the movement with hyperbolic coverage of police brutality.”

It’s that same pattern again. Sponsor a movement. Foment fights among Americans. And then use it to bash America.

Willful Blindness

Russia has been waging an ideological war against America for a long time. The Soviet Union’s efforts never really stopped even after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Then and now, we can see overwhelming evidence that Russia is trying to destabilize America.

Democrats won’t recognize it though. Instead they keep yelling, “Look! A squirrel!” and forcing America to focus on the Trump-Russia-collusion mirage. But Trump couldn’t have stopped the IRA. He was a private citizen then.

The person who was responsible for stopping the IRA was none other than James Comey, who was FBI director, and thus in charge of counterintelligence, for almost exactly the same time frame that IRA was in existence. He failed miserably.

The man in charge of counterintelligence before Comey was Robert Mueller himself. It was Mueller who did nothing as Russia advanced the Occupy movement. It was Mueller who never warned America about a threat from Russia. It was Mueller who laid the foundations for the FBI’s manifest failures today.

Ultimately the FBI answers to the president, and responsibility for failed counterintelligence must also be shared among Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. In sum, there has been a society-wide failure to grasp the threats involved with Russian active measures directed at America. 

The special counsel doesn’t stop Russian operations so much as advance them. It acts as a wedge that is daily being bludgeoned between Americans. It’s hard to imagine a more destabilizing force. Further, it distracts from the true breadth and scope of Russian active measures. Mueller may have fun looking through Paul Manafort’s old tax returns, but it’s beside the point.

What is really needed is a total overhaul of America’s counterintelligence; ideology, policy, and personnel must be completely rethought. Maybe we can bring Lunev back to head up the effort. His credentials are better than Mueller’s.

Image copyright: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

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The Shape of Virtue

At the outset of this year’s Academy Awards, Jimmy Kimmel joked that he’d give the person with the shortest speech a jet ski. I really wish there had been more of a competition for that jet ski.

By the time the evening was over it wasn’t just that I was bored. I mourned the time lost. It was time I could have spent doing almost anything else. And mind you, I didn’t even watch the whole thing. I couldn’t stand to, given that even what I did see was too much. I can only imagine the feelings of someone who actually gave up the full 220 minutes of his life to watch the full show.

If there’s anything America likes less than being lectured to by a gilded aristocracy, it’s sitting through close to four hours of those lectures while that same self-appointed nobility simultaneously sheds crocodile tears, pats itself on the back, and pretends to motivate itself to action.

Hollywood: “We’re Better Than You”
In what should go down in history as the #WeKnew Oscars, there was very little in the way of real self-reflection.

Sure, we were treated to fairly standard, scripted, and overly melodramatic tropes of “we need to do better,” but those were accompanied invariably by absolving kudos for their many unrelated accomplishments. Addressing the actual moral rot in the industry—the rot that allowed for hundreds, if not thousands, of Harvey Weinsteins to engage in unspeakable and bellicose depravity, excused for decades—was not on the agenda. Instead, the entertainment luminaries—outfitted with orange anti-gun violence pins (this year’s cause celebre) while protected by men with guns—once again took to our television screens with the ostensible purpose of entertaining us and used it, instead, browbeat American society at large.

Kimmel in his opening monologue set the tone when he had the audacity to posit that if Hollywood were successful in cleaning up its act “women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.” That’s right, Hollywood—an industry where the casting couch is so common that it’s a running joke and where pedophilia and rape are excused—is really no worse than American society at large. That became the thru-line of the evening.

Thing is, no one was watching. Overnight numbers were unsurprisingly low, possibly the worst rated Academy Awards since they started tracking and down at least 20 percent from last year’s debacle. Maybe Michael Mann can devise a way to hide the decline, but the Academy surely can’t—ratings have been plummeting for years.

The show has become a parody of itself—rife with obvious herd politics, preening sanctimony, contradictory messaging, and rank hypocrisy.

The ratings tank speaks to the fact that we live in a post-awards show world. It’s not that awards shows can’t be engaging, its just that everyone knows they’re not awards shows anymore. Just as the NFL stopped being about the game of football and instead became about who knelt and who stood, the Academy Awards have become about the politics and the moralizing instead of about the transcendent beauty and power of film.

Where once the awards show was about rewarding the art of artifice, a celebration of cinema itself (and the technical awards still, for the most part, adhere to this), it is now merely about creating an artifice for the purpose of allowing a propaganda platform to masquerade as an awards show.

Imagine the Alternative!
The Academy Awards attempt to create the illusion of earnestness, but everyone—even those who agree with the message being spread—knows that it’s a false earnestness. It is play acting, and bad play acting at that. It’s a moralizing vehicle set in an awards show. And apparently, fewer and fewer people each year care to tune in to a show that exposes what moral degenerates who tolerate sexism, pedophilia, and a debauchery most normal people can’t even begin to imagine, have to say about politics, ethics, or anything else. We’d rather just enjoy the fantasies they create on the screen and enjoy the popcorn. Their true selves pale in comparison.

For all the vaunted “soul searching” I was told we’d see but didn’t, I’d have been more impressed if they were honest. If we’re not going to just talk about cinema, but use the awards as a platform for social change we may want to include new award categories perhaps. I can just imagine it:

Or maybe even a montage (there were several montages last night) of “All the colleagues we partied with and kissed up to but were forced to pretend we never liked after they were outed as reprobates.” That might have actually made for compelling television. But, as it stood, the show was tedious in its presentation, predictable in its moralizing, and flat in its attempts at emotion and humor.

Further, the evening was a confusing jumble—unsure of itself and vacillating between what seemed like a thin broth of regret and an attempt to seem determined. Before the evening was up Frances McDormand would make sure that the audience would have to google “inclusion rider” and Jimmy “Man Show” Kimmel would go on awkwardly to opine that he wished he were a woman (this is, of course, after noting in his opening monologue that the Oscar statue, by virtue of not having a penis was a perfect man). Moreover, the audience would have to figure out how Kobe Bryant’s uncomfortable history in Eagle,Colorado squared with the demands of the #TimesUp and #MeToo Movements that the industry is working so assiduously to tout, and to wonder how it was that John Lasseter, the now disgraced head of Pixar, was not even mentioned when “Coco” won for best animated picture and best song, despite his being one of the first names in the credits.

“We don’t make movies to make money,” quipped show host Jimmy Kimmel, “We make them to upset Mike Pence.” So, predictably, after “Shape of Water” won for Best Picture, Twitter exploded with irrational schadenfreude. Even Vicente Fox got in on the act, trying to make political hay out of the win:

I guess they believe that because the movie was made by a Mexican-born, naturalized American director and was (tangentially) about interspecies sex it would somehow upset Trump and Pence. From the way Twitter handled the win, you’d think Guillermo Del Toro was a DACA recipient or a misunderstood MS-13 member whose activities funded revolutionary Samizdat. Once again, politics, not moviemaking. A beautiful movie couldn’t be enjoyed or discussed without this plodding and obtuse moralizing. And they wonder why the ratings keep falling?

People don’t want that from a Hollywood awards show and that’s why the ratings steadily have been decreasing for years. If you’re going to act like aristocrats, fine. Just don’t act like priests and scholars at the same time. If you’re going to telecast your activities as a glamorous night celebrating your industry, then make it about that.

Instead the show has become a parody of itself—rife with obvious herd politics, preening sanctimony, contradictory messaging, and rank hypocrisy. I don’t doubt that in the near future an aging social justice luminary such as Gloria Steinem or Angela Davis will replace Joan Rivers on the red carpet as “What cause are you supporting?” becomes the new “Who are you wearing?” and political causes and virtue signaling one-upmanship becomes the new fashion.

This year the audience was subjected to montage after montage, and speech after speech, about “making your voice heard.” Making your voice heard? This from an industry that already has the loudest megaphone in America and the widest reach in the history of the world?  Sorry, it rang false.

And the public wasn’t buying it either.

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You Kant Be Serious

The Romantic movement pushed back particularly hard against Enlightenment ideals,” thunders Steven Pinker in his new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, a near 500-page clarion call to assemble for battle under the banner of reason and logic, which I agreed to read and review for an irrational reason. I did it because someone very close to me asked me to do it and I went against my own rational instincts—the voice of reason!—flawed and fallible a human that I am. The Romantic movement also gave us Shelley and Chopin, but let’s put that aside for a moment.

I don’t dislike Pinker. I just find him mind-numbingly tedious. He is a rock star among the pink haired crowd, for his forcible advocacy of liberal ideas, atheism, reason, and quantification. Numbers and data should define life because that’s rational, and not emotional. Anyone arguing against this is, by definition, irrational, because humans should be like Vulcans. Pinker has forceful fans on Twitter. One of them criticized a hapless humanities professor who dared offer a critique of Pinker, in the following manner:

I’m not sure that is a useful metric to quantify the impact of an intellectual argument. After all, plenty of pornstars these days get more retweets on average than the good professor. Nevertheless, I made a promise and my promise I shall keep.

What is this book about? By the time I finished, my temples grey-er and throbbing with a barrage of derivative research and pages after pages of graphs, I still wasn’t sure. What is the purpose of a book starting with the warning that “Foremost is reason. Reason is nonnegotiable?” Is this a history of enlightenment? I am not sure Pinker is a historian capable of tackling such a diverse period of time, which includes, as he mentions, an intense period of romanticism—a reactionary movement against the idea that rationality defines existence. Pinker calls himself a liberal and is worshipped as a liberal by liberals.

As I’m sure he is aware, one of the greatest liberals of all time, Lord Byron, who wanted to spread Western values to the Ottoman provinces (much to the discomfort of the far more rational practitioners of realpolitik in the British Empire) was a Romantic himself who opposed science, practiced occult, and found solace in opiates and failed romances. The Byronic hero was a broken but stoic man, carrying the burdens of the Original Sin, doomed to perish in a dark heroic death as he reflected on his failed quest. Pinker’s hero, Immanuel Kant, himself warned against this reason-emotion dualism, in a book, curiously titled The Critique of Pure Reason. Pinker somehow fails to discuss misgivings about pure reason on the part of Francis Bacon, David Hume, John Locke, or Jean-Jacques Rousseau. All of them were thinking and writing during the period Pinker calls the Enlightenment and the majority of them were liberals.

Pinker barely touches upon the conservatives, like Burke and Hobbes, and doesn’t have a thing to say about Metternich or De Maistre. De Maistre, for example, blamed the Reign of Terror squarely on rationality. On the murder of Marie Antoinette, Burke lamented, “. . . little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.”

Keats or Nate Silver?  
Pinker laments that humanities need to be scientific. Humanities are of course based on faith, according to Pinker, and therefore an enemy of reason. “The most obvious is religious faith. To take something on faith means to believe it without good reason, so by definition a faith in the existence of supernatural entities clashes with reason.” Imagine Bach’s “Matthäus-Passion,” or Bernini’s “Rape of Proserpina,” or Keats’ “Ode on Melancholy,” and then replace it with metrics or graphs. The Nate Silver-ization of the Renaissance.

Some of the accusations were straightforward. “Intellectual magazines regularly denounce ‘scientism,’ the intrusion of science into the territory of the humanities such as politics and the arts” or, “Intellectuals hate progress. Intellectuals who call themselves ‘progressive’ really hate progress. It’s not that they hate the fruits of progress, mind you: most pundits, critics, and their bien-pensant readers use computers rather than quills and inkwells, and they prefer to have their surgery with anesthesia rather than without it.” Outstanding allegations, and might I add presented without citations; extraordinary for someone incessantly harping on about data.

But there is more: “The ideal of progress also should not be confused with the 20th-century movement to re-engineer society for the convenience of technocrats and planners, which the political scientist James Scott calls Authoritarian High Modernism. The movement denied the existence of human nature, with its messy needs for beauty, nature, tradition, and social intimacy.” Right, so Enlightenment and progress are just a continuous outgrowth of the cherry-picked “good” parts of history, and all the bad that came with rationality is just due to pesky technocrats. “Science is commonly blamed for racism, imperialism, world wars, and the Holocaust.” Not strictly true. Pure rationality, sure, but not science. Science is merely a process to achieve rational goals. Nazi eugenics was the logical progression of rationality, determined to clean human stock of undesirable genetics, something logically now practiced in super-liberal Iceland by means of abortion to cleanse society of people with Down Syndrome.

The rationality Pinker defends would logically dictate that within the next 200 years there will be a mad rush for resources and territory, as the population growth in certain parts of the world is unsustainable, given that those same parts of the world are also hopelessly backward. The fate of humanity, therefore, hinges logically either on a global war or some other means of culling. In that case best not be like the Elois, or count on our species colonizing outer space To be serious about that, all gender studies research should be defunded at once and the money should be spent on space research. Pure rationality would dictate that humans should be more Hobbesian. Whatever one thinks of these solutions, Pinker should spell them out. He doesn’t, so it’s dishonest. Some might agree with that Darwinian outlook, but don’t think a majority of liberals would like that future one bit.

A Cult of His Own
It’s not that I disagree with Pinker on the facts. I very much agree with his opposition of postmodernism—the idea that there’s no natural truth, and everything is socially constructed. Ironically, postmodernists never test their assumptions of a socially constructed force of gravity from a five-storied rooftop, or go to a Shamanic healer while having a bad bout of appendicitis or psoriasis. Postmodernism is an anti-science and society ruining cult, and
Pinker rightly argues against it. But Pinker then proceeds to form a cult of his own, a cult of scientism, where there’s only one single way to approach truth, the path of empiricism, observation, and deduction. For a man of evidence, his faith in the “one true path” is revealing. Pinker’s idea of the achievements of humanity is to parade the achievements of science, which he calls the rational way, without taking responsibility for the repeated failures and terrible injustices it has wrought. Phrenology was settled science once, as was the idea that space is filled with ether.

With his manifesto, which has the bulk of a dictionary, Pinker joins a new band of academics, who define every human decision by its lack of proper information and processing of rational thoughts. If only the hoi polloi knew that society is in the pink of health. “The 21st century, an age of unprecedented access to knowledge, has also seen maelstroms of irrationality, including…the promulgation of conspiracy theories, from 9/11 to the size of Donald Trump’s popular vote.” Au contraire, one might argue it was ultra-rational that Trump supporters saw through the liberal social engineering and mindless foreign interventions. In a toxic election, a bunch of people chose an uncouth, comically macho billionaire, who instinctively wanted to cut down immigration, and slap smug Europeans buck-passing their security on American taxpayers, and stop Quixotic foreign interventions to promote democracy in the most feudal, cancerous regions of the world, instead of a cold Rosa Klebb-esque careerist who wanted to double down on a quarter century of failed policies. Who are the rational ones here?

And climate change voodoo has run its course. No rational person on the Right denies the climate is changing. They dispute that the rate of climate change is as apocalyptic as portrayed by the green Al Gore lobby and that man-made causes are behind all or even most of it. Just because conventional wisdom supports climate-change activism doesn’t mean that the views of activists are settled science. Craniometry was once settled science as well as conventional wisdom across the civilized world. To his credit, Pinker agrees with the idea that there’s too much hysteria on climate change. He writes, “Not only have the disasters prophesied by 1970s greenism failed to take place, but improvements that it deemed impossible have taken place. As the world has gotten richer and crested the environmental curve, nature has begun to rebound.” Fair enough.

He continues: “Cities are less often shrouded in purple-brown haze, and London no longer has the fog—actually coal smoke—that was immortalized in Impressionist paintings, gothic novels, the Gershwin song, and the brand of raincoats. Urban waterways that had been left for dead—have been recolonized by fish, birds, marine mammals, and sometimes swimmers . . . Carbon intensity for the world as a whole has been declining for half a century.” I hope Pinker convinces his own side of that. Liberals, the supposedly pro-science faction, are the ones who believe in 72 different genders and rally against genetically modified crops. Conservatives do not line up to buy healing crystals or vagina beads from Goop.

The Limits of “Progress”
By the time I was into the second act of the book, I was feeling envious of the fate of Hypatia. What is the purpose of such a book, which provides derivative research and data? Encyclopedias do that. Great Power wars are arguably going down. Pinker, no international relations theorist, touches upon nuclear deterrence once and leaves it at that, undeterred as history to him is teleological and inexorably progressive. Civil wars meanwhile increase, the Arab Spring turns to a long winter, and post-Cold War states slide into authoritarianism. Terrorism isn’t something to worry about, as the numbers show terror attacks are down. No mention of the enormous daily surveillance and burden on the taxpayer to prevent such regular acts of terror. Pinker doesn’t cite the latest bleak research on the increasing failures of integration and ghettoization in Europe and the enormous correlation of second-generation migrants with Jihadism. Neither does he mention increasing crime in Western cities due to the weakening of law enforcement.

Why do Europeans worry? Guess they are not rational enough. For someone so reasonable, Pinker hovers dangerously close to the Leninist theory of false consciousness. What to do about Islamism? “Obviously a new Islamic Enlightenment will have to be spearheaded by Muslims, but non-Muslims have a role to play.” Ah. Simple.

I don’t disagree with the data given, I just failed to see the purpose of the book. Yes, the world has gotten better than when Vasco Da Gama landed in Western India. So bloody what? It is inevitable that progress happens with time. Science and technology progressed from Pagan Greek and Romans to Abrahamic Europeans. During the same time, classical civilizations like India and China sunk into oblivion even without having any qualitative difference in economy with their European counterparts. When Pinker says Enlightenment, he doesn’t mean a historical analysis of Enlightenment. He seems to mean a lazy caricature of it from which he can then simplistically cherry-pick and connect to “all good things” since 1700. He attributes those good things to systemic changes, while discarding all the bad, including eugenics and world wars, to individual evil. That’s not an argument, that’s a fallacy. Pinker does a classic post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Surely Pinker knows that correlation doesn’t mean causation and doesn’t justify patterns of history.

Imagine someone standing on a summer dawn in 1905, in some sunlit meadows in Edwardian southern England. Life couldn’t have seemed better. Science and technology progress was better than ever, the spirit of scientific enquiry was worshipped throughout Europe, trade was internationalized under Pax Britannica and enforced by a peerless Royal Navy, communication was for the first time truly global due to revolutionary changes, travel all around the world was free and safe, and there was overall a great power peace for almost a hundred years. The rest, as they say, is proverbial.

The fact remains, that life cannot be quantified or metricized. Polls failed to predict Brexit and Trump’s win, or Arab Spring, or the breakdown of Pax Americana after a quarter-century of unipolarity, and they overlooked the renewed great power rivalry. There were once marauding hordes destroying priceless artifacts in dark ages Europe in the name of religion, when Baghdad and Tehran were proper civilizations. They are doing the same in the Middle East now, just in the name of a different religion. History is cyclical, and data dudes are myopic, parochial, and naïve if they think it is destined only to get better.

What’s the purpose of this book, as it is clearly a terrible history of enlightenment? In Pinker’s own words, “. . . life has gotten longer, healthier, richer, safer, happier, freer, smarter, deeper, and more interesting. Problems remain, but problems are inevitable.”

Well, thanks for that, captain.

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Sympathy for #TheResistance

Recently, a Trump skeptical friend of mine shared a certain embarrassingly shrill series of tweets with me, remarking gloomily that it was “The Trump-re-elect in two tweets.”

In this he was quite correct—and was actually understating his case. The rest of the person’s Twitter feed showed an even more embarrassing rhetorical style, one that occupied her entire Twitter output. When I remarked on this to my friend, he replied with succinct and devastating understatement: “She seems unhappy.”

If a more perfect summation of #TheResistance exists, I am not aware of it. Yes, they seem unhappy. Or, to put it another way, they seem only unhappy. To be sure, a dissident movement’s being at least a bit unhappy is something we should take for granted: watching your vision for society get further away in the rearview mirror as the car is driven by a hated enemy naturally provokes emotional discomfort.

But that discomfort, though the root of any political movement, is only its root. It hardly can be expected also to act as branch, stem, and foliage. Yet, for #TheResistance, unhappiness seems to be the sole emotion motivating their cause. Consider: Unlike previous Leftist movements, #TheResistance has no inspiring musical theme—no Internationale, no Soviet National anthem—no art of any kind, not even crude propaganda posters.

What is more, it has no utopia, unless you count the idea of the world as a giant safe space. But even that is not a utopia: indeed, the movement’s own rhetoric casts safety as an insultingly small concession by the dominant society that should be granted without their having to ask for it. Safe spaces, in other words, are a necessary condition of a just society for #TheResistance, but not a sufficient one.

Fantastic Kingdoms
So what does a just society look like? Here, too, the answers are unsatisfactory. Those utopian societies that they borrow from pop culture—Wakanda and Hogwarts—are jarring mismatches with the movement’s rhetoric: the one is a racially homogenous, walled-off, Hermit Kingdom of presumptively benevolent imperialists, and the other is a relentlessly stratified, ancient boarding school designed for the children of an unalterably superior race of wizards, whose only real political conflict is whether some of those superior children are security risks for the wizarding crypto-ethnostate. It takes Soviet-level cognitive dissonance to transform either of these into societies steeped in Leftist notions of social justice, let alone into plausible utopias for social justice warriors.

What makes Wakanda and Hogwarts attractive to #TheResistance as political totems seems to be the fact that they are isolated (again) safe spaces in even more dystopian worlds. Small wonder, then, that all the movement has is unhappiness: if you believe yourself trapped in a dystopian hellscape, hope or triumphalism are not things you have time for.  This is why, despite their pretensions to being wizards or Wakandans, I believe #TheResistance’s true idol is not Black Panther or Harry Potter, but Katniss Everdeen, an exploited, underprivileged child forced into becoming an object of the dominant society’s lust for violence.

And like Katniss, boy does #TheResistance have a detailed idea of our dystopian moment.  I occasionally lurk woke Twitter out of morbid curiosity, and the picture that is painted by its residents of modern society is genuinely heartrending and terrifying, if you take it at its word. To hear #TheResistance tell it, ours is a world where a genocidal racist, sexually sadistic, bloody-minded, treasonous Russian puppet holds the presidency of the United States.

And that’s the most hopeful thing they have to say! For you see, that Caligula-esque monster is simply a tiny symptom of the real pathology at the root of our world: a pathology built by a white race that cannibalizes the potential and humanity of all non-whites, transforming potential shining examples of black and brown humanity into common criminals by poisoning the water they drink with lead, poisoning their minds by forcing them to operate in an educational system designed to disguise white special pleading as logic, and poisoning their souls with a history written to erase their humanity and heroism, nay, to erase their very existence and relevance in favor of the parasitic white race’s self-congratulation.

It is a society that, having squandered the potential of these noble beings to sustain the power of the rapacious and mindlessly destructive white man, then turns them into exploited labor in its prison systems, and which punishes them for lashing out even as it excuses the same lashing out from spoiled white boys with guns: guns they wield in expectation of the right to own, use, and abuse black bodies. To hear #TheResistance tell it, this vicious, dystopian racial protection racket refuses even to permit blacks the dignity of their own art, instead insisting they be measured against the sterile, soulless, overly technical style of ugly, irrelevant, ghoulish ghosts of whiteness past.

Sex, Ruined
Nor does the pathology stop with race. Those white boys I mentioned expect to own women, too. In fact, they quite arguably want to own women even more than they want to own blacks, and society allows all but the most pathetic among them do so. The grinning specter of a sham form of due process leers down upon millions of traumatized women trying frantically to scrub the touch of their enslavers off their minds and bodies, and laughs at their pain as they curl into fetal positions from repeated, unpunished, and unpunishable violations.

What is more, those pathetic souls who fail to own women by tricking them into bed are still permitted to control women through other, more indirect means: by gaslighting women about their knowledge by endlessly explaining things they should be presumed to know, by mobbing them even on social media where they should expect the dignity of emotional catharsis without constantly looking over their shoulder for offended male overgrown children, by thrusting their legs out from their pelvis and colonizing the very space where women sit. Sex is unthinkable: why offer your body up to those who will treat you like a masturbation aid? Why permit masculinity to exist at all? What is masculinity but the brutish confidence of violent subhumans who seek to plunder your mind for ideas, your body for pleasure, and your very lives to appease their hateful mental fragility: a fragility that exists only because they are apes who cannot keep still, cannot cooperate kindly and humanely, and cannot empathize?

Your government, even aside from the genocidal rapist who runs it, is devoted to reducing you to a statistic, to a broodmare, to anything but a human with claims on your fellow man. It expropriates what little money you earn for loans forced upon you in your youth, and what it doesn’t take for that, it gives to a vampiric class of rich baby boomers who expect to finance their lavish retirements with your stolen labor. Any claim you try to make upon the kindness and decency of your fellow man is dismissed as entitlement; any attempt to teach the world with the wisdom of your own experiences is dismissed as naivetè; any attempt to escape the rotting, antiquarian hellscape of the world your parents created through your cell phone is treated as grounds for mocking your work ethic and firing you. You are doomed to be a serf forever, a sex object forever, a wage slave forever. Meanwhile, the white, male, straight, cisgender vampire class whines about the meager fact that it cannot explicitly say your life doesn’t matter, but has to pretend to hide behind empty, white male universalist lies. And all this while the white male corporate class literally cooks the world with consumerism and greed.

What Kind of World?
Who among us, if we could be persuaded to believe a vision like this was accurate, would not throw ourselves upon the gears of all that makes society function? Who among us would not #Resist such a world?

Well, actually, most people. Even in the most totalitarian, hellish societies (see: North Korea), the majority of mankind reverts to inertia rather than to fighting back against even the most manifest injustices. It is only when people are convinced that a better, nobler way exists in opposition to their hellish status quo that resistance actually begins to accrue.

Which is why, even if the hallucinatory parade of horribles presented in the previous paragraphs were even semi-true, it would not be accepted by the majority of people, and for a simple reason: the human mind militates against despair unmoored from solutions. People are more easily persuaded to fight for a dream yet unrealized than to fight against a nightmare—after all, they have to believe the nightmare is real first. In their obsessive drive to complain, #TheResistance has forgotten to tell us what we have a right to expect from the world instead. Indeed, they seem to resent the necessity of explaining this: “Any decent person should just know,” their exponents protest. But we don’t. And even if we did, wouldn’t they rather have the right to define the world we should expect?

But they wouldn’t. Because they are not really #Resisting. They are screaming at the sky, terrified and angry there is no parent, no hall monitor, no adult to complain to and force to put everything right.

American In a Way
Believe it or not, I do not say this to condescend to them. In fact, I respect their earnest desperation far more than I respect the smug entitlement of NeverTrump. #TheResistance may be disastrously, unfathomably wrong, but they at least have a sense of loyalty and commitment to certain subsections of their fellow man: subsections bigger than the community of magazine editors. I can respect being loyal in the wrong way far more easily than I can respect dismissing the concept of loyalty altogether in the name of arid abstractions. What is more, the goals of #TheResistance are, in a misapplied way, very American: if nothing else, I do believe they seek a more perfect union, and to promote the general welfare, however warped and backward I find their ideas about how to go about it.

But more than this, I know what it is to perceive oneself living in a nightmare. Just over a year ago, most contributors to this website—including yours truly—implicitly signed onto a manifesto that treated the course of American life in a stark, apocalyptic binary: “Charge the cockpit, or you die.” And thanks to the excesses and impatience of the very people who now make up the #Resistance, most of America was prepared to agree.

But that alone was not enough to elect Donald Trump. Trump’s slogan was not “Make it stop,” or even “Standing athwart history, yelling STOP.” Trump’s slogan was “Make America Great Again,” which is to say, make it safe, rich, and proud again. In his own nonideological, ad hoc way, Trump did something that previous generations of apocalyptic-minded conservatives could not bring themselves to do: he acknowledged that America saw itself as trapped at midnight, and in so doing, gave himself cover to remind us of the sight of the first rays of dawn.

It is too early to say whether #TheResistance’s politics of wailing and gnashing of teeth will deliver them the House this November. Given the intensity of their despair and rage, it may well be enough. But just as the Right needed the outsider Trump to reorient us away from simply ruing decline, I predict #TheResistance will not be able to see its politics vindicated without a reorientation that aims to ascend toward something it holds beautiful. Only then will we see if the woke find a way to make America see the stars, or if their depression sends them back to sleep.

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Schooling for Totalitarianism

Marching in protest has become the activity du jour in America. The latest planned protest is “March for Our Lives,” scheduled for March 24 in Washington, D.C. and at high schools across the nation. Ostensibly, it is organized by the students who survived the mass shooting in Florida. But this myth has been busted pretty thoroughly, by Buzzfeed, of all outlets. It should not have taken that crack team of journalists to figure out that high school students couldn’t possibly make this happen without the “guidance” of some very powerful people. But common sense, unfortunately, isn’t the order of the day.

An organization funded by Michael Bloomberg, Everytown for Gun Safety, is the main organization behind the effort. Joining forces are people like Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, and Steven Spielberg, who donated large amounts of money. The basics of the event were likely orchestrated before the shooting even happened. The claims that this is not about politics but about student safety are preposterous because the objective is to expand gun laws, which are already quite strict.

As much as the particulars of this event are important, my objective is more to explore a cultural problem in America. Some students have gladly stepped into the public arena, reciting clichés and canards alongside the proclamation they will “not be silenced anymore.” As if! The overabundance of primitive emotionalism is astounding and the media can’t get enough of it because at the core of it all is hatred for Donald Trump.

American youth are confused. In this instance, they are being used by the Leftist machine to create a public narrative meant to evoke sympathy in the pursuit of policy changes. If you disagree—or worse yet, if you ignore these poor children (who, in case you forgot, are our future!)—then you are a cold-hearted person who lacks compassion or sympathy with the victims of an atrocity.
Miseducation in America

At the center of this emotionalism is the American educational system. “Public education” today is not so much education in the requirements of citizenship in a self-governing republic as it is  a series of collectivist events designed to indoctrinate and arm the students with a leftist ideology. I have always been amazed at the coercion that takes place in schools—not from peer pressure so much, but from the teachers.

In my native country of Bosnia (the former Yugoslavia), I was educated under the socialist system. Yet I find the collectivism in American schools to be much more potent and toxic than anything I experienced there. To be sure, our teachers were distant and cold, and they had no problem calling a student an idiot or a moron. An individual student’s unique talents were not cause for celebration. Teachers didn’t care if a student had a special set of gifts. In America, educators seem to go out of their way to note the various gifts of students (real or imagined), but the goal of such recognition is still collectivism. When everyone is special, no one really is. Here we have collectivism masquerading as emotionalism, and this was not something I had known until I came here. In Bosnia, at least, the oppression could be taken pure. Here it comes with “the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

A Marxist Mentality
How is it possible that socialism thrives in American schools? The reason, I think, is that the Marxism that is so pervasive here is not systematic but cultural and existential. It is a strange contradiction to have words “American” and “Marxism” linked together, but this is the reality we are living in today.

Educators deny the importance of liberty and sovereignty of the United States and encourage students to think of themselves as “global citizens.” Every time they do this, they also deny the sovereignty of an individual. For all the emphasis on developing “critical thinking skills,” students do not know how to think for themselves, to make judgments, to express an opinion. They learn not to question the ideological set of static principles that do not allow freedom of the mind. Correct opinion is a product of history and evolution. Teachers exist, merely, to point it out and students exist, mainly, to accept it.

Whether we look at the state of education and thoroughly Marxist teachers, or recall that awful spectacle of the Women’s March, we see one commonality—personal dissatisfaction. Life in America, for the most part, is a life of comfort. What we’re witnessing is a group of people who are deeply unhappy, living lives with little transcendent meaning, caught up in some quest to connect with meaning. And so they create social and cultural problems that do not exist that they might create movements dedicated to addressing them.

The protesters rely entirely on the notion of collectivism and ideology as their personal identity comes from the directives of the group. Being caught up in the sway is an occasion of celebration and social media affirmation. Without understanding this act, they are submerged and lost in the groupthink, and as a result, they have dehumanized themselves as well as their intended target.

By definition, a Marxist ideologue is interested primarily in agitating the perceived powers of the society. The intent is to create cultural and social disorder and, finally, chaos. The demand (in this instance, gun control) and the result are really not that important. It is the perpetual movement that gives a shot of ideological elixir into the otherwise lifeless zombies that roam in America. The constant agitation is the drug that an ideologue craves. It provides the necessary release until another fix can be obtained.

The Path of Collectivism

I’ve survived a war, lived as a stateless person in a refugee camp, and have experienced great difficulties of starting a new life in a place I had quickly to assimilate into in order to succeed. Seeing these empty and meaningless complaints happening in America, makes me wonder what has happened to this country that I chose as my adopted home? If anyone should be angry, it is people like me, who escaped chaos and are finding themselves in another kind of chaos brought forth by these kinds of fantasy struggles.

The path of collectivism is the path of a non-thinking person. It leads to the loss of individual agency, accountability, and therefore liberty. Collectivism stands against the foundational principles of America. In 1765, John Adams wrote “that liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.” But Adams also knew that without proper knowledge or clear thinking, we could not keep liberty secure. In order to preserve the idea and the reality of America, Americans need to realize that they are living in an age of false narratives and soft totalitarianism. The hope does not lie in change. It is in the recognition and affirmation of our Founders’ ideals that have given birth to this nation.

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#MeToo Is Not for You, Monica

Like a recurring toenail infection, here she is again. Monica Lewinsky, in the pages of Vanity Fair, now claims sisterhood with the #MeToo movement.

For the young unfamiliar with the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal or for older folks who, through intensive therapy, have purged those memories from their brains, let’s return to those days gone by when feminists thought powerful men cavorting with their female subordinates was perfectly acceptable as long as he had the right politics.

It began when then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s roving sex drive was drawn to Paula Jones, a state employee. Like a potentate from ancient times, Clinton dispatched an underling—a uniformed state trooper—to summon her to his presence. Expecting some task associated with her state job, she was surprised when, after entering his hotel room, Clinton dropped his pants. She feared she’d be fired but summoned the fortitude to refuse the crude demand he then made. Later, she filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment.

Clinton’s defenders attacked Jones, calling her a trashy nobody with big hair, chasing a $100 bill that Clinton haters had dragged through a trailer park. But there was a new sex harassment law, ironically signed by Clinton, which made past sexual interaction with subordinates evidentiary in such cases. The world soon learned of White House intern Monica Lewinsky’s affair with President Clinton.

The original Clintonian version of the affair was that Lewinsky was a deluded stalker, pursuing the sexually irresistible B. J. Clinton. Hillary said her husband had been alone with Lewinsky only because he was kindly and counseling her in private all while remaining innocently unaware that Lewinsky was fantasizing about an Oval Office romance. Counseling the troubled was part of his strong Christian faith, Hillary insisted. He might even have popped open a Bible and read Scripture to Lewinsky but a soiled blue dress spoiled that narrative. Had the dress had gone to the drycleaners, the White House, aided by a poodle press, would have called Lewinsky a trashy, nutty nobody, chasing a lot of $100 bills being dragged through Washington. And, indeed, in spite of that dress, many tried.

But  the White House knew it had to turn to a new strategy. It was “just sex” and “everyone lies about sex” and Ken Starr, the fellow given the sordid task of sorting out Clinton’s perjury, was the real pervert for voyeuristically intruding. Lewinsky went along with the Clinton line. Perhaps she thought she could wrap herself in the romantic role of a woman true to Love even when it led her astray. Consider, however, how it started.

In a Time magazine interview, Lewinsky said that one day in the Oval Office, when Clinton admired her outfit and suavely said he’d like to see what was under it, she responded by turning and lifting her skirt to display her thong. “It was very subtle,” she said, “If you put your hands on your waist and you locked your thumbs under your short jacket and just sort of lifted it, about two inches, it was a tease. And it was part of the flirtation.” Lewinsky’s “subtle” flirtation was more than enough to rev up Clinton and the White House became their garden of love. Then the Jones lawyers showed up.

As he was deposed, Clinton fell back on lawyerly word play such as what the meaning of “is” is. When asked if he had sexual relations with Lewinsky with the definition of relations being: “the person knowingly engages in or causes contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person,” Clinton, under oath, said “No.” In front of TV cameras, while waving a finger to show his outrage, he repeated his insistence that he did not have sexual relations with “that woman.”

Later, he had to admit that while “legally correct,” this was not true. To a federal grand jury he explained, “If the deponent is the person who has oral sex performed on him, then the contact is with—not with anything on that list—but with the lips of another person.” It was Slick Willie at his slickest. His perjury got him impeached but not cast out of office. In the end, he left the White House as a star in the Democrat firmament, not because he was innocent but because he had shown himself powerful enough to get away with his transgressions.

Lewinsky didn’t fare as well. Andrew Morton published a book about her life. But while it made a few bucks, she didn’t become the admired heroine of in a tragic storybook romance. She couldn’t even get a date as men were embarrassed to be seen with her. She faded into 1990s iconography like pogs and Beanie Babies, and then she popped again up when anti-bullying became the cause du jour.

By claiming to have been a victim of bullying, exactly like the tragic kids who have been taunted by bullies into committing suicide, she was finally a celebrated victim instead of the butt of jokes. When late night talk show hosts had joked about her, they were being bullies, though no price was to be paid by them for their tastelessness. When Internet posters mocked her, they were bullies. Ken Starr, for trying to uncover the truth, was a bully. Indeed, everyone who didn’t celebrate her was a bully. It played well with some, but most saw her “bullying” as the inevitable consequence of bad decisions. Instead of becoming the spokeswoman of the anti-bullying movement, she was seen as an exploiter of it.

Now, Lewinsky is chasing a new bandwagon. She insists she was a victim of an abuse of power. She was just a lowly intern, employed in the first job she’d had after college. He was nearly three decades older and the president. Presumably, when she lifted her skirt, she now thinks he should have said, “No, thank you, my dear. Put it away, please. I am too pure of heart to give in to my fleshy fancies.” Indeed, he should have done that but she had to know that this was unlikely. Her self-portrayal as victim doesn’t hold up. She sought out his advances by making her own, however much she now regrets it. Clinton apparently taught her the foundation of Clintonism: the gall to claim virtue when unvirtuous. She should be reminded that Paula Jones was a #MeToo victim, not her.

Anti-Trumpers sometimes wonder why America elected Trump. He toots his own horn louder than those 76 trombones in The Music Man. On Twitter, he snaps back quicker than a poked snapping turtle and like that turtle, doesn’t let go. He has funny hair and a New York accent that renders “huge” as “yuge.” But despite his faults, he has become the champion of those who despise what the ruling class has done to America. That hatred was founded for many in the Clinton years, when a man who twisted truth like a Boy Scout tying all the knots in the manual in a single shoestring, won the day.

Over and over, in the years since, Americans have seen rule breakers getting a pass while those who keep their noses clean get pushed around. Whether it’s millions of illegal immigrants demanding amnesty, IRS bureaucrats abusing their power, or lies about police shootings being treated as unassailable truth, the abuses go on and on. Then the poster girl of ruling class license ran for president.

Hillary has wallowed in scandal after scandal: cattle future cheating, Whitewater, Travelgate, misused FBI files, etc., etc., up to and including her evading a subpoena by purging her illegal email server. But when she claimed to be the defender of womanhood from the sexual depredations of men it struck a sour note that only her most devoted disciples didn’t hear. The rest of us remembered how she had played Whack-a-Mole with her husband’s accusers.

It wasn’t the only reason she lost but her expectation that her hypocrisy would be accepted yet again vividly illustrated her contempt for the electorate. That blue dress helped save America from Hillary.

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Donald Trump on Love and Justice

One of the most revealing moments of Donald Trump’s presidency so far went completely unnoted. “We all learned a lot,” he said following his recent discussion with the nation’s governors, which centered on his well-publicized support for arming qualified public teachers and staff. Speaking of the sheriffs who held back from entering Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the February 14 shooting, Trump elaborated: “They don’t love the students, they don’t know the students. The teachers love the students and they want to protect those students . . . .”

Here Trump articulated the principle that governs his view of justice and politics—defend those you know and love. Later on in these exchanges with the governors, the president displayed his judgment in criticizing schemes for “hardening” schools with automatic door locks and even smoke bombs, reminding his audience of his career as a builder. Advocates of these and other measures know nothing of building and those who reject self-defense know even less about human nature.

Yet it is Trump whom our supposed intelligent observers mock for his alleged lack of intellectual heft and sophistication. Thus, my favorite writer at National Review, Richard Brookhiser, could write in a recent column:

Followers of Harry Jaffa, the most important Lincoln scholar of the last 60 years, rally round a Republican who does not know why the Civil War happened. Straussians, after leaving the cave, find themselves in Mar-a-Lago.

Of course, and maybe more to the point, Trump knows who won the Civil War and, unlike some of conservatism’s current and past intellectuals, he approves of President Lincoln. In his courageous memoir of his time at NR, Brookhiser recalls how Jaffa won him and other editors, including founding editor William F. Buckley himself, over to Lincoln.  

In response to Brookhiser’s lament that Trump has somehow shattered Buckley’s influence on conservatism, my favorite psephological political analyst Henry Olsen observes:

Trump has given every element of the conservative movement what they want, save one. He has never given the movement intellectuals . . . a coherent argument for his vision that meets their approval and a demonstration that he is a serious man.

Perhaps these intellectuals should be open to the possibility that they are, again, missing something others—intellectual or not—see a bit more clearly. Trump showed his seriousness, for those open-minded enough to see it, with the governors. Arming qualified weapons-handlers among teachers goes to a general principle of fighting for the common good and defending the rights of those being tyrannized. The principle holds true, too, when it comes to trade, borders, wars, and terrorism: we should not think of ourselves primarily as victims, at our own expense and to the advantage of others. Citizens should not be lambs lining up for a slaughter. Trump’s talk in this instance, and in others, functions as a Franklin Roosevelt-style “Fireside Chat.”

Against Brookhiser’s elegant portrayal of a Buckley-elevated conservative movement subsequently destroyed by Trump and his followers, Olsen argues that “movement conservatism has been dying from sclerosis for years.” As he has elaborated in his American Greatness columns, he wants a revitalized conservatism that combines the talents of the two most successful American politicians of the 20th century: Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt. He would not annihilate Progressivism but roll it back to its bare bones, with government-supplied safety nets. Government would be strong but not oppressive. It would lift burdens, not create new ones.      

Olsen contends that movement conservatism overlooked the views of “the plurality of Republicans,” who “aren’t movement conservatives at all.” And, he goes on, “most movement conservative voters care more about religious liberty and social issues than they do about the size of government, and that Trump has formed a covenant with them that allows them to overlook his many sins.…”

But this is too cynical a view of religious supporters of Trump. If we must speak of overlooking sins, why not also assail the morality of David, Solomon, and even the lowly Jephtha, all of whom delivered Israel at moments of peril? Or that prophet of “unclean lips,” Isaiah?

This distorts, it seems to me, the Christian interest in religion. Christians are religious not in order to become moral but because we hunger to know and love the Father-God who made us. As a consequence of such knowledge and love, we become more moral than they were, but this is a consequence and not a motive for Christians.

As Harry V. Jaffa  criticized Allan Bloom for seeing the world primarily through books, so might Trump or his defenders criticize conservative intellectuals for disregarding the political souls of the voters—those celebrated first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book who may have a better grasp on the meaning of being “one nation” than some intellectuals may have.

Moreover, contemporary intellectuals generally disdain religion (Buckley being a major exception) in the name of an often atrophied notion of reason. As important, conservative intellectuals, entranced by Buckley’s run for mayor, were not serious about their politics, again in the name of the intellect. Not that they didn’t have many good ideas, including the founding of the Conservative Party in New York. But political seriousness was recognized in passing. Too often political discourse spoke to other conservative thinkers; involving the people, in the engine room of democracy, was unconnected.

Conservative intellectuals, as does their genus, overlook the two great poles of the soul and of the cosmos: politics and theology—the near and the far—of political philosophy. Here Trump, judging by his knowledge of human nature, seems closer to the great questions of life than are most intellectuals. And he has a seriousness about politics lacking in our national politicians since Reagan.

Thus, one sells Trump short by taking “Trump and Trump supporters seriously as an authentic expression of the modern American right.” They are, rather, an authentic expression of the American soul.

John Marini warns what a further delayed reconstruction of American politics might involve, from his essay “How the Ruling Class Rules” in the Winter 2018 Claremont Review of Books:

The verdict on America is not yet in, but as long as democracy includes the capacity to choose new leaders and transform political institutions, the rule by bureaucrat kings, however well organized and intended, remains precarious. If, on the other hand, the path of least resistance is to enjoy the benefits of rational rule rather than reestablish political rule, then only “the pitiless crowbar of events,” in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s words, can reawaken the desire for freedom and self-government.

Which is the path of least resistance ahead of us now? Trump the builder is not this crowbar wielder, as much as some conservatives would like to portray him.

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Parkland, Populism, and a Doomed Generation

Democracy dies in darkness, but truth dies in broad daylight in a culture that no longer values the rule of law and the primacy of deliberative debate over partisan political point-scoring.  

Take a slow, deep breath and you’ll detect the carrion whiff of small-r republican rigor mortis hovering over almost every major story in the mainstream nightly news right now.

It is especially pungent in the story of the moment, the deadly shooting on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The bodies of the dead had barely cooled before an activist media’s surprisingly organized gun control campaign swung into action, systematically exploiting the emotions of the grieving parents, the traumatized students, and a shocked nation.

Instead of taking a deliberative, listen-first approach as President Trump has been attempting to do—a hallmark of constitutional republics—CNN and partisan Democrats in the mainstream media were at the ready with the chorus, echoing now louder than ever, that the “NRA is complicit in murder.”

As usual, however, hard facts trickle out over time and have a clarifying effect. The National Rifle Association was not to blame for the series of uncanny and grossly negligent missteps by our own government at all levels that allowed the demonic thoughts in the shooter’s lonely and disturbed mind to metastasize into violence. People were on to the possibility that the shooter might do something horrible because of his pattern of disturbing behavior that ultimately culminated in the horrific slaughter he, and he alone, willfully committed. But reports went unheeded.

Total Systemic Failure

There is also now the surreal possibility that the federal  government policy pioneered by Broward County prevented proper reporting of the warning signs that otherwise would have precluded the killer from buying his AR-15 legally based on the existing background check system.

Highlighting this systemic failure, an armed deputy on duty at the school has already retired, one of as many as four who failed to confront the killer or were ordered to stand down during the critical moments of his shooting spree, when innocent lives could have been saved.

Contrast that with the recent Texas church shooting, which was halted not by armed cops actually doing their jobs but by a trained NRA member who happened to have his AR-15 in his truck, and wasn’t afraid to run toward the sound of gunshots and engage the shooter.

It was uncanny how quickly that mass shooting went down the media memory hole. It just didn’t fit the narrative.

Yet, somehow this school shooting is 100 percent the NRA’s fault, and anyone defending the right to keep and bear arms today is to be judged as complicit in the gunman’s crime.

CNN’s town-hall-turned-shark-feeding-frenzy on gun control last week witnessed a United States senator and a representative of the NRA being treated like the accused at a Soviet-style show-trial, as they were shouted down, called murderers, and told by teenagers-turned-lobbyists that if they didn’t toe the mob’s line on the NRA and embrace the urgency to ban assault weapons immediately, they were as guilty as the shooter.

Dana Loesch, the NRA representative, had to be escorted by private security from the building as the townhall participants shouted “Burn her!” as if she were a witch for merely pointing out—or trying to point out—some inconvenient facts that the activist-packed crowd didn’t want to hear.

At no point in that unsettling and disturbing specimen of deliberate political theater did any one of the “random” citizens have the self-possession to call out the sheer illogic of the Left’s position.

How is a government that just demonstrated it can’t stop a solitary 19-year-old gunman despite dozens of visits by the authorities and dropped tips to the FBI—a government that even failed to deploy armed deputies already on campus—how can that government actually protect any of us? Why should we trust that government to take over our own means of self-preservation in a crisis?

We’re fools if we do, is the only intelligent answer. The what-if’s that could have prevented this tragedy have nothing to do with the Second Amendment, other than to underscore the need for it.

But worse than the illogic of it is the vitriol and refusal to face the facts that such demonstrations inspire. In this we are reminded of the legitimate reasons our system was designed on republican principles—to allow our elected leaders to take a more circumspect and deliberative approach to the hot issues of the day—not just to spout off and ignite knee-jerk emotional reactions for popular consumption in our media.  

This is real cause for concern since it gets to the heart of our very form of government. An attack on the facts and calls for action without debate is an attack on nothing less than our social contract.

Every Election a “Flight 93 Election” From Now On?

On this and many other matters, we are witnessing in real-time the politically assisted suicide of both the rule of law and the quest for truth. In the role of Dr. Kevorkian are our hyperpartisan media, and the influence of foreign interests—and I am by no means talking only about the Russians. They believe they have Gen Z where they want them: in a frenzy of mob emotions, bereft of the critical facts, and looking for someone—preferably an easy, faceless acronym or “-ism”—to lynch. Though Trump will do, too.

The same networks that love to decry the president as a rank “populist” over the anything-but-emotional issues of trade imbalances and taxes, illustrate how hollow their denunciations are by orchestrating their own populist pogrom against defenders of the Second Amendment over the highly charged, but mostly unrelated issue of the nature and causes of suburban school shootings.

Ever since the 2016 election, it’s become increasingly clear to anyone who advocates republican self-rule that the generation now coming of age is a generation being primed for tyranny by the social and global media.

For those of us who still admire republican self-rule, free markets, and national sovereignty, every election is a “Flight 93 election” until this generation gets its head screwed on straight. But they need our help, not our condemnation—let that be reserved for the media hypocrites using them to manufacture a rush to judgment on what happened at Parkland.

Unless we somehow manage to alter the media-controlled trajectory of our public dialog, Gen Z will be doomed, rendered ill-suited for the kind of civil discourse even a nominally democratic, much less a Republican self-governing society assumes.  We will have lost our republic.

Before it’s too late, let’s charge the cockpits of America’s newsrooms for their sake.

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Forget Gun Control: Bring Back Mental Hospitals

After another inexplicable act of violence in Parkland Florida claimed 17 lives, the usual chorus (and some of the not so usual chorus) is screaming for gun control. We don’t need gun control; we need nut control.

With the first one constructed in 1773, our country has a history of building and maintaining mental hospitals. In 1955, the United States had more than 100 mental hospitals with a population of over 560,000 people.

The U.S. population in 1955 was around 165 million. Today, with a population around 323 million, we can safely assume more than 1 million people would be institutionalized by 1955 standards.

Where are these millions of people who should be in mental hospitals? Living in our communities, wandering the streets while arguing with imaginary figures, or in prison having been declared to be insane, but competent after having committed a crime.

Many purportedly smart people run around decrying inanimate objects for causing death and mayhem. Our streets, schools, workplaces have become killing grounds because any lunatic can get his hands on a gun (or guns) and carry out a massacre. But a closer inspection of the headlines reveals a myriad of machete attacks, people pushed into oncoming subway cars, a man holed up in a bunker, and ex-cop on a bloody rampage—and who can forget the bath salts man who cannibalized a man on the streets of Miami? And so it goes with each bizarre and horrible story replaced by the next stupefying act of insanity.

Why is this happening? Guns? We’ve had guns for centuries.

The real and ignored reason is a policy called “deinstitutionalization,” which is a fancy way of saying “let’s close the mental hospitals to save money.”

Like most bad ideas sprouted in the 1960s, poor judgment coupled with the fever of the civil rights movement thought it would be a good idea to give crazy people “rights” and let them live in the community. Now, 60 years later and “off their meds,” they terrorize their families and hold entire communities hostage. In an earlier, “less enlightened” time they would have been committed and cared for in a mental hospital at the taxpayers expense. People like the Parkland shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter, the Arizona Congresswoman shooter, the Denver theater shooter (dressed like the Joker no less) would have all been put away a long time ago. The homeless, who self-medicate with booze and illegal drugs, the machete killers, the subway pushers all would have been brooding from within the confines of their local mental institution.

Closing the mental hospitals was a particularly cruel idea. The notion that people with raging mental illnesses could be medicated and set loose upon the streets and in our communities is insane in its own right. This is an arrangement from which no one benefits. How does such a thing happen?

It is simple. The fiscal “conservatives” of that day saw a way to cut the expenses of operating large mental institutions. They made common cause with the Left of that time because they believed in that nonsensical notion of people having a “right” to wander the streets and sleep in their own feces. It’s a political partnership made in hell.

And when it fails, we tend to blame the guns, the drugs, or the bath salts. These simple minded schemes are much easier to sell to an already dumbed down public and much easier than actually rounding up the nuts and putting them back in mental hospitals. The current arrangement offers nothing to those suffering from serious mental illness or to their families who seek help before it’s too late. Nor does it improve the quality of life in our society. It is unspeakably cruel to tell someone that they are merely enjoying their freedom to sleep on the streets.

And as it happens, we aren’t really even saving any money. Today, the costs are spread to the prisons, the courts, the emergency rooms, the streets of our cities, our schools and universities, and our concert venues, and all paid for in triplicate with the blood of innocents. So once again let’s ban guns, box cutters, cargo vans, machetes and samurai swords—but by all means let’s not have a serious discussion about 60 years of poor mental health policy.

We need to reopen the mental hospitals and start filling them once again.

Image copyright: arquiplay77 / 123RF Stock Photo

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America is Athens and That Should Scare You

Harvard University professor Graham Allison worries that the United States and China may be headed toward a destructive conflict. In his most recent work, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? Allison posits that the current geopolitical situation may be akin to that of the era which led into the Peloponnesian War two millennia ago. Allison assesses that the United States is similar to ancient Sparta and China is most like ancient Athens.

According to Allison, the United States is like Sparta because we are a status quo power intent on keeping the international order as it is currently structured. China, on the other hand, is similar to ancient Athens because it is an upstart power that desires to remake the world order in its own image.

Allison’s postulation is an interesting one but  I believe he may have his metaphor exactly backwards. Yes, the United States is presently a status quo power and, yes, China is an upstart nation. However, that is where the comparison ends. In fact, the United States has far more in common with ancient Athens than it does with Sparta, and China (along with Russia, too, for that matter) has far more in common with warlike Sparta.

Ancient Athens was always a force to be reckoned with in Greece. But, it did not become the dominant power until the Persians began their invasions of Greece. At that point, the Athenians along with the Spartans and several other, smaller city-states banded together to repel the Persians. Ultimately, the Persians would be defeated, the Spartans would return home, and the Athenians would push to expand their power.

Because of its geographic location at the tip of Greece, sitting on a small peninsula that juts out into the Aegean Sea, Athens depended heavily on maritime trade and had constructed a potent navy to protect that trade (and exert its power overseas). In other words, Athens is considered among scholars to have been a “thalassocracy.” The thalassocratic nature of Athens also explains why Athens (like so many maritime powers throughout history) was both a democracy and a very cosmopolitan society. Athenian culture and democracy was ubiquitous throughout the Greek world. Their thinkers and educational system were second-to-none.

Sparta, on the other hand, was a land-based power (otherwise known as a “tellurocracy”). Its army was feared; its culture was highly militaristic; the political system of Sparta was a mixture of autocracy and oligarchy (it had a king but the king also had an advisory committee of 28 members culled from the elite warrior class of Sparta). While strong, Sparta was neither the most advanced nor the most well-educated among the Greek city-states. Yet, it was a feared state because of its martial prowess and, more importantly, its ruthlessness.

The United States today, to pick up on this formulation, is actually more akin to Athens.

Like Athens, America today has a democratic political system, it also enjoys a strong tradition of being a maritime power, American culture (for better or worse), like that of Athens, also has a truly global reach, and its economic prosperity is predicated upon easy access to sea-based trade. Additionally, just as Athens had the Delian League, a collective security alliance of countless Greek city-states, the United States sits atop a network of global alliances, from multilateral institutions, such as NATO, to more informal bilateral ties, like its alliances with Japan and South Korea. And, just as the Athenians exercised hegemony over the Delian League (much to the chagrin of most of Athens’ purported allies), the United States engages in similar behavior with its allies. Further, as the Athenians did through the Delian League, the United States has tethered the global economy to its currency, the dollar. Herein lies the source of America’s power today. But that power is fading.

Unfortunately, the United States has overreached. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has engaged in a series of endless (and ultimately pointless) wars that have drained its treasury, overextended its military, and degraded its standing in the world. The Iraq War of 2003, in particular, alienated the United States not only from the world, but specifically, from its allies. Meanwhile, the financial crisis in 2008 (coupled with long-term economic mismanagement in the form of a $21 trillion debt) created strategic openings that both the Chinese and Russians have gleefully exploited.

Shortly before the Peloponnesian War broke out between Athens and Sparta, the Athenians could have pulled back at several points and reconciled their urge for empire with the need to keep the peace in Greece. Arrogance (and ignorance) led not only to alienation of traditional Athenian allies, but also to an unnecessarily antagonized Sparta, who, following their joint victory with Athens over Persia, had been content to mind their own business until Athens interfered with them.

A similar movement today is afoot. I believe that Graham Allison might be correct in his fears that we are headed toward a modern version of the Peloponnesian War. Yet, I also believe that his assessment that America is like Sparta because it is a status quo power and China is Athens because it is an irredentist power, is faulty. After all, as Mark Twain once said, “history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.” The United States has far more in common with Athens than it does with Sparta (right down to its current, toxic “democratic” political culture).

If I am correct, then we should be doubly more worried than we would have been at Allison’s comparison. If (more likely when, at this point) war between the United States and China does break out, the United States—Athens in this case—would lose. Unless the American people can wrest control of their representative democracy from the hands of radicals, we will simply be too weak, too divided, and too confused to prevent ourselves from blundering into what will likely be the most devastating war of our history.

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Trump Enforces Immigration Law

Americans could view immigration policy three ways: Through the lens of a citizen, a client, or a consumer.

First, there is the small r-republican view of immigration through the lens of citizenship.

Second, there is the progressive view of immigration which passes through the lens of identity politics. What matters is not an individual’s citizenship or ability, but one’s race, ethnicity, and gender. In this framework, there are clients and there are service providers who manage the clients.  The overarching framework is the administrative state.

Thirdly, for some Cato Institute libertarians what matters in immigration policy is neither the citizen nor the client, but the consumer. For them, the rights of the transnational consumer in the global marketplace are superior to the right of free people to rule themselves by determining their own immigration policy.

Immigration enforcement by the Trump administration is an example of an attempt to restore republican government, small r. It is based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people. Thus, in immigration policy (including enforcement) Trump believes that we should put the interests of Americans first, before the interests of foreign citizens.

These core principles of sovereignty, consent, and putting the interests of Americans first are directly challenged by two forces in America today: progressives and some libertarians.

On the transnational progressive Left, Nancy Pelosi makes a clear case for open borders. “We are all Americans—north and south in this hemisphere….This is a community with a border running through it.” So much for the concept of American citizenship

But is this much different from Libertarian Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute? He declares:

America’ core founding principle is the Enlightenment theory of natural rights….Freedom of movement is indispensable to the full use of those rights. To restrict an immigrant’s ability to move to the United States not only infringes upon his natural rights but also upon the natural rights of Americans who want to hire the immigrant…

Thomas G. West in The Political Theory of the American Founding explains that the Cato approach violates the core principle of government by consent of the governed. West states: “Since citizenship is the effect of a compact, there is no right to immigrate unless there is consent on both sides.” In other words, illegal immigrants are here without the consent of the people.

Let us now examine immigration enforcement by the Trump administration, which is a classic example of how small r republican government is supposed to work. What we see is the unitary executive in action, properly understood, with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tom Holman, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, chief of staff John Kelly, and the president all on the same page regarding immigration enforcement.

To begin with, Trump’s first year saw an increase by 25 percent in interior enforcement which had plunged to a ten year low in Obama’s last year.

Under new leadership, ICE is going into sanctuary jurisdictions. Acting Director Holman said “If he [Jerry Brown] thinks ICE is going away we are not… “as matter of fact we are going to increase our enforcement presence in California.” In December and January ICE conducted raids in California, New York, Chicago, and New Jersey arresting criminal aliens, In New Jersey, 80 percent of these illegal immigrants had prior felony convictions. These crimes included: sexual assault, kidnapping, the production and distribution of cocaine, theft, and child pornography.

Some argue sanctuary policies are needed so that illegal (and legal) immigrants will not be afraid to report crimes. This myth has no basis in reality. A 2009 analysis by the University of Virginia and the Police Executive Research Forum found no decline in crime reporting after the implementation of a tough enforcement program.

Take the example of Prince George’s County in Maryland which has been a sanctuary county since October 2014. Since that time, as the Washington Post has reported, “people live in fear” because of MS-13.  Gang control over local businesses is “enforced daily through extortion and intimidation.”

The rebirth of a once defunct MS-13 in the United States was fueled by fresh recruits from a massive wave of almost 200,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America. This wave was facilitated by the Obama Administration and gave asylum to boys, 16, 17, and older (they did not insist on any reliable proof of age) and placed them with illegal immigrant relatives where they were often recruited by MS-13.

The Trump administration has cracked down on MS-13. ICE conducted Operation Raging Bull from September to November 2017 and arrested hundreds of MS-13 gang members in “secessionist,” excuse me, I mean “sanctuary jurisdictions.” Their crimes include murder, kidnapping, sex-trafficking, drug-trafficking, assassinations, extortion, and blackmail.

Under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has demanded documents and threatened subpoenas for 23 sanctuary jurisdictions under the 1996 immigration law. Justice has threatened to recoup funds previously delivered and cut off future grant money to 23 jurisdictions which include: Chicago, Cook Co, NYC, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Louisville, KY, Jackson, MS, and the states of California, Illinois, and Oregon.

The Department of Justice under Sessions is re-examining the policy of “Administrative Closure” which many considered a “back-door” amnesty by the Obama administration.

There are 350, 000 cases that have been closed “administratively,” simply at the discretion of the federal government. To be clear, these are illegal aliens that could be subject to deportation for various offenses. In addition, the regular backlog now stands at around 658, 000 cases. Put the two together and there are at least a million possible problematic cases of aliens living in the United States. Attorney General Sessions is reviewing this whole process to examine categories that might be re-opened as well as adding DOJ judges to speed these cases along.

Next, there is the matter of the K-1 fiancé visa. Let us examine this category of vetting concerning who is permitted to enter the United States. The woman involved in the mass murder terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California was admitted to America under the K-1 fiancé visa

There are two steps to the K-1 visa. The first step is a petition by the U.S. citizen to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to request permission to enter the United States for his or her fiancé. This step is supposed to involve a face to face interview with an official of USCIS, but this interview was often skipped during the Obama administration.

During Obama’s last year in office, 90.5 percent of these petitions were approved. During the first year of President Trump, with more serious vetting, the approval rate fell to 66.2 percent. Step two is the interview of the alien fiancé by a U.S. State Department consular official overseas. This step was 99 percent approved under Obama. Under Trump, the denial rate increased by 20 percent. In other words, there has been a lot of fraud and poor vetting in the K-1 visa process which is now being cleaned up by the Trump administration.

Finally, there is VOICE, the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement” office.  This is an office created by an executive order of the president to assist victims of illegal immigrant crime. Some “conservatives” wrote in National Review that VOICE “would serve no good purpose.” Actually, the office serves several good purposes.

The creation of VOICE is a challenge to the sanctuary jurisdictions that protect criminal aliens and then release them into the general population, where they are free to commit even more crimes against Americans. Like, for example, Kate Steinle’s murderer in San Francisco who had illegally entered the United States six times, had been deported five times and had served over a year in various prisons for numerous felony convictions.

We need to delegitimize the entire sanctuary movement. The “center of gravity,” in this political war over immigration enforcement is the occupation of the moral high ground or the grand narrative, that explains the immigration story to the public. The creation of VOICE is one instrument among others, that should be used to seize the offensive in fighting for an immigration policy that serves, first and foremost, the American people.

It is important to note that almost all of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement measures have been fought tooth and nail by progressives, by some libertarians and “conservatives,” and by elements of the administrative state, particularly an increasingly lawless judiciary. Never doubt for a moment that on this issue progressives and many libertarians are allies and that both of them are major adversaries of immigration law enforcement and, thus, of democratic sovereignty.

Note. This article is based on a talk presented at a Claremont Institute-Heritage Foundation panel on February 22 on “Trump, Executive Power, and the Bully Pulpit.” The information discussed is based on the work of Andrew Arthur, Jessica Vaughan, Dan Cadman, Preston Huennekens, and David North at the Center for Immigration Studies.

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Schiff Losing the Memo Wars

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) launched the third salvo in the “Great Memo Wars” over the weekend, and after overshooting his target, it’s apparent that the Democrats either didn’t know what they were doing when they released their rebuttal memo on so-called “Russian collusion,” or they were again seeking to create confusion or misdirection.

Perhaps unwittingly, however, Democrats did confirm a couple of the main facts related to use of the Fusion GPS/Steele dossier’s role in securing FISA warrants for Carter Page and the broader Russian investigation.

In sum, the Democrats admitted that Department of Justice and FBI used a piece of partisan propaganda to secure a legal warrant to spy on U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. In addition, that the DOJ and FBI obtained this warrant via a falsified application filled with lies of omission about the deeply partisan nature of the dossier’s author and funders.

Democrats argue in the Schiff memo that the dossier compiled by ex-spy Christopher Steele played only a narrow role in securing the warrant. But this claim stands at odds with the Grassley-Graham memo which states: “Then on March 17, 2017, the Chairman and Ranking Member were provided two relevant FISA applications, which requested authority to conduct surveillance of Carter Page. Both relied heavily on Mr. Steele’s dossier claims.”

Steele has admitted, under oath, that he received and included “unsolicited-and unverified-allegations” in his dossier. Yet the DOJ and FBI still used this dossier, filled with misinformation from unknown Russian sources and unverified allegations, and used it to secure a FISA warrant. It doesn’t matter if you believe the Democrats or Senators Grassley and Graham as to the extent the dossier was used: all parties agree it was used for the FISA warrant.

It’s noteworthy that despite current claims that the dossier was narrowly used, Democrats felt distinctly different about it a year ago. Schiff had it read into the Congressional Record, with CNN breathlessly reporting that there was in fact a dossier used to secure a warrant to spy on a Trump associate. These same Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media are now back-pedaling faster than an outfielder who underestimated a fly ball. They sold the American people on the unquestionable veracity of this earth-shattering dossier, but now they can’t downplay its importance enough.

While the Democrat memo is a sad attempt to distance the Democrats and the Left from the dossier, it’s notable that in its 10 pages, the memo is deafeningly silent on the issue of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s testimony in front of the House Intel Committee in December 2017. According to the Nunes memo, McCabe testified that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] without the Steele dossier information.” Democrats on the House Intel Committee have claimed in media appearances that Nunes’ claim is untrue, yet not one attempt existed in their memo to refute McCabe’s claim.

The dossier wasn’t just used once to renew applications for a FISA warrant. Instead, usage of the dossier occurred multiple times, potentially four times according to the Nunes’ memo. Consider the timeline of what took place: On October 21, 2016, the FBI applied for and received a FISA warrant to spy on Page using the dossier (how pivotal the dossier may have been in the request to the court doesn’t matter; it was used). Then fast forward to early January 2017, when James Comey testified under oath that he described the dossier to then-President-elect Trump as “salacious and unverified.” But remember that with FISA warrants there are 90-day renewals. Sometime later in January, Comey signed off on a renewal application that used, according to the Nunes memo and Grassley-Graham memo, that very same salacious and unverified dossier as part of its justification.

The Grassley-Graham memo states that the FISA applications, two of which they had in hand, relied heavily on the Steele dossier. This likely means that in the first 90 days of spying on Carter Page, there was little that was legally compelling gained from that surveillance and monitoring. There was not enough to buttress FBI and DOJ efforts for renewal of the warrant. Therefore, the dossier again became justification.

Lest we forget, in this entire process, securing a FISA warrant is supposed to be, as Andrew McCarthy of National Review has pointed out, a last, extreme measure. It does not appear that the FBI attempted to interview Carter Page at any juncture, despite having a previous relationship with him. Instead, according to the Nunes’ memo, the dossier was used in every FISA application by the DOJ and FBI; every 90 days, four times, meaning over the course of 360 days of spying on Carter Page, they were still having to use an unsubstantiated and unverified piece of partisan propaganda to justify their continued spying.

It’s important to note, Page was not necessarily the only victim here. With Page’s phones tapped and his online activities monitored, it’s quite likely that over a year’s time potentially hundreds of innocent Americans had their private conversations monitored and their privacy invaded. Anyone who contacted Page or contacted by Page ended up swept up in this investigation.

Now we got to where we’re at in this entire back and forth because someone lied to somebody along the way and likely for political purposes. Despite the claims of the Schiff memo that the Justice Department and FBI were “transparent” about where the dossier originated, the paragraph dealing with the subject reads: “An identified US Person, who indicated to Source #1 that a US-based law firm had hired the identified US person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. . . The identified US person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. . . The FBI speculates that the identified US person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.”

There’s a very simple term for the above words: lies of omission. Such as in never stating that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC were involved in the funding of the dossier by paying a law firm to commission it.

Yet the question does remain as to where the lying began. It is safe to speculate that it occurred when the FISA application had to be signed off on by the Justice Department and FBI lawyers at the very beginning. They would have seen the supporting documents and would have known the source of the dossier. It’s important to note that these lawyers are not junior level lawyers, but senior level, and ones who deal with the FISA courts on a weekly, if not daily basis. It is potentially at that juncture that the FISA application documents were in fact falsified through lies of omission.

The entire process of the FISA courts is based on the honesty and integrity of senior lawyers and management at the Justice Department and the FBI. If federal agents and prosecutors fooled the FISA judges by lying about the source of the underlying documents (i.e., the dossier), the trust between Justice, the FBI, and the FISC courts must now be shattered. If, God forbid, the FISC judges knew who funded the dossier and still approved the FISA warrants, then we are living in a police state where fake partisan dossiers can be used as justification for spying on American citizens.

None of the scenarios are good as to what took place with the Steele dossier and the FISA warrant process. What is becoming clear, however, is that people at the Justice Department and FBI need to be investigated, prosecuted, and the guilty parties must serve jail time. At minimum, the entire FISA regime needs to be re-examined and likely reformed. If there are no serious investigations, and no serious reform, then we are imperiling the rule of law, and allowing the unelected bureaucrats in federal law enforcement to further erode the republic.

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The Benedict Predicament

At least half of Americans sense that their country has been taken from them. In 2016, they voted for Donald Trump despite obvious reasons not to: churchgoers, despite his lack of religiosity; women, despite his womanizing, small business people, despite his big business identity; advocates of civility, despite his plain incivilities, and so on. They voted for protection against government, big business, the media, the educational and even the religious establishments, which wage a cold civil war to push them and their “deplorable” way of life to society’s margins.

But the election’s aftermath confirmed fears that mere voting cannot reestablish traditional American priorities. It has done and can do little to lessen the ruling class’s relentless pressures on how we live our lives. How to save a way of life while avoiding surrender, or a hot civil war, is the subject of anguish, and much debate.

In principle, the solution is simple, sufficient, and deeply rooted in American history: what some call “subsidiarity,” previously practiced in America as federalism. As culturally diverse people sort themselves out over a vast land, only despotism can force each part to live in ways repugnant to its majority. Hence, I suggested in 2017 that just as people on the Right should be content with the majority of Californians’ decision to be a “sanctuary” from national immigration laws, those on the Left should be just as tolerant of Texans or North Dakotans deciding to make their states “sanctuaries” from Federal Court decisions concerning abortion or a bunch of other things.

But avoiding civil war on this basis is inconceivable now because the Left believes it has the right, duty, and power to force universal adherence to its dictates’ utmost details. Nor can surrender purchase peace, because the Left’s dictates do not and cannot have a final form. Endlessly evolving, they are less about what is being imposed on America than about inflicting righteous punishment on inferiors—the appetite and power for which increase with every success.

That is why the prescriptions of “conservative reformers”—for example, Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republicdeny reality. They suppose that economics, ever the ground of compromise, is the dividing line between Right and Left. Hence they posit that the American Left is amenable to retreat from confrontation, to live-and-let-live.

But money has never been the point. America’s Left already has the bulk of the nation’s wealth. Residents of places such as Weston, Massachusetts, the suburbs of D.C. and of Silicon Valley, vote for the nation’s farthest-Left candidates with higher percentages than do those of zip-codes along the country’s Martin Luther King avenues. Power is what the Left wants, endlessly to replace the insufficiently faithful with the more faithful in ever more positions of power, from whence they ensure its causes’ triumph and its foes’ abasement. For Americans whose main concern is money—e.g., Wall Street—coming to terms with the Left amounts to playing the same game—just with different rules—pleasing different people by . . . pleasing them.

For Americans for whom money is a means rather than an end, the Left’s hegemony over American society’s commanding heights is an existential problem. Over the past two decades, increasingly, we have begun to learn to live defensively in a world controlled by people who hate us, and whose ways we do not want ourselves or our families to imitate.

In this regard, Rod Dreher’s 2017 book, The Benedict Option, is valuable. The book’s title is its primary problem for us. At the turn of the sixth century A.D., the young nobleman Benedict of Nursia chose retreat to monastic life less as an intrinsically desirable option than as a way of dealing with Rome’s rot. The degree of rot around him imposed the degree and modalities of retreat. We, along with Dreher, have all too little trouble envisaging the persecution of Christians that our ruling class may inflict on us.

Judicious retreat is not an option, but a rational reaction to our predicament. We have already learned that with rare exceptions, the higher reaches of life in the corporate world, the media, academe, the major bureaucracies are now inaccessible to Christians—or, indeed to anyone who does not celebrate the ruling class’s cause du jour, or who voices sympathy with “mere Christianity.”

As time has passed, silence and tact are ceasing to afford protection.We are learning to make life plans accordingly. The spread of homeschooling, the lines to get into charter schools, the sacrifices made for private education, the increasing popularity of alternatives to meaningless, expensive college degrees, attest to Americans’ coming to grips with our educational system’s top-to-bottom rot. The booming market for guns is neither more nor less than a gauge of decreasing confidence in the authorities’ capacity to keep us safe. Rarely, nowadays, do marriages or even “relationships” occur between people on opposite sides of society’s divide over abortion. Thus has conservative America already taken the biggest step to separate its most intimate redoubt from ruling class influence.

No one doubts that more such adjustments will happen—not so much by choice as by necessity. Recent experiences in totalitarian countries leave no doubt about the difficulties and odds arrayed against trying to raise families and living in counter-cultural mode. The smaller the enclave, the harder it is to do that.

Rather than counseling retreat for its own sake, Dreher urges such involvement in the public square as may continue to be possible, always keeping in mind that the goal is not to reform any other community, much less of the United States of America. Regrettably, that has ceased to be in our power as much as it had ceased to be in Benedict of Nursia’s power to save Rome. Rather the purpose of political activity must be to save what can be saved of one’s own family and community’s commitment to the good life as orthodox Christians and (and orthodox Jews) have always understood it.

Judicious retreat may not be enough to avoid a civil war, never mind to deal with the other crises that sweep away nations. If war comes, it must be fought. Whether or when a time might come when such part of the American regime as may have survived could leaven something new and worthy, is not for us to know.

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Equal Justice Under Law: ‘Well, We’re Waiting’

Atop the entrance to the United States Supreme Court is engraved a solemn promise for every American to see: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

Unconscionably, it is a promise that historically was broken with respect to many Americans, whose unjust treatment is rightly recorded and recounted as a reminder that, where the rights of some citizens are infringed, the rights of all citizens are endangered. Concomitantly, wherever some citizens are considered above the law, justice for all citizens is imperiled. Consequently, the ongoing effort to fulfill the promise of equal justice under law is essential to preserving and promoting social cohesion. In the effort’s absence, citizens lose trust in the authority of government institutions. In a nation founded on the “consent of the governed,” people may begin to rethink their consent to abide the decision makers and their decision-making.

It is this lack of institutional trust that the swamp’s political and media elites have ignored in their less-than-objective and largely inaccurate denunciations (and rationalizations) concerning the rise of President Trump. No, it wasn’t all the “-isms” the elites suggest have inspired the “deplorable” movement. These smears only served to reinforce the seminal objection of large swaths of the citizenry spurred to vote for Trump: namely, people believe the swamp does what the swamp wants, whenever it wants, because the swamp can with an impunity born of political position and power.

For Trump voters especially (though this should be true for all Americans), swamp supremacy has been a galling inversion of the constitutional prescription that citizens are the sovereigns and their government is the servant. In other words, it is a betrayal of the promise of equal justice under law.

Given the disgraceful abundance of evidence, it makes diabolical sense why the swamp ignores this primary motivation of “deplorable” voters: bluntly, for going on a decade, the swamp’s political and media elites have committed and are even now covering for their own abuses and potentially criminal activities, such as: “Fast and Furious,” Benghazi, IRS (and possibly FBI) political targeting; Hillary Clinton’s classified emails on an unsecured server; unmasking American citizens; leaks of classified information; NSA and FISA abuses, Uranium One, etc.

Compounding the this crisis of confidence among citizens in the promise of equal justice under law is the fact a special counsel, in what is tantamount to an unconstitutional general warrant, was appointed outside of Department of Justice guidelines to investigate possible “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia. The investigation is based upon a bogus dossier concocted by a former foreign agent who, paid by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, actually colluded with Kremlin-connected Russians to affect the outcome of a U.S. election because he was “desperate” to stop Trump.

Further, the congressional committees investigating and uncovering abuses and potential crimes in this debacle of justice have met with stonewalling from executive branch agencies over which they have oversight. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has even been threatened by the media’s swamp denizens with calls to have the special counsel charge him with obstruction of justice for conducting his constitutional duty of congressional oversight. Yet, while these congressional investigations continue to reveal Obama-era abuses and potential crimes, Congress has no power to prosecute them. And rightly so.

That constitutional duty falls to the president and thus, now, to the Trump White House. Whether this administration is pursuing investigations into any of these matters is a subject of much conjecture, in which one gleans citizens’ creeping fear the swamp will again evade accountability for is misdeeds and malfeasance. This fear is not unfounded, for the swamp is adept at papering over rather than prosecuting is miscreants and criminals. The swamp’s rationalization for this unequal justice under law is that to air its “dirty laundry” would erode public confidence in its institutions—i.e., the swamp.

Elected to drain that swamp, it would be a final, biting irony if the Trump Administration succumbs to this canard rather than to exhibit confidence in the public’s ability to handle the truth; and heed the public’s demand for and need to uphold equal justice under law—a demand and need succinctly articulated by the esteemed jurisprudential scholar, Judge Smails: “Well, we’re waiting!”

Who sane can blame the public for its lack of trust in the swamp? After all, thanks in large part to President Trump, the public is already well aware of and enraged by the ways the swamp thinks itself above the law and has conducted itself in a manner “so illegal!”

Wonder if the president knows someone who will do something about it any time soon?

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When Seconds Count, Police Under No Legal Obligation To Act

As with many hot-button issues, Americans are sharply divided over Second Amendment rights. Liberals argue that only trained police officers should be armed and citizens should rely on them for protection. Observers from the Right counter that a trained “good guy with a gun” could limit the number of casualties in the critical minutes before police officers get to the scene.

Both arguments share a fatal flaw: Neither the police, nor private citizens, are legally obligated to come to your aid if you are being assaulted, robbed, or injured.

To Protect and Serve?

U.S. courts have ruled repeatedly that police officers cannot be held liable for failing to respond, except when they have affirmatively promised protection to a particular person—say, a witness testifying against a gangbanger. The facts in such cases are chilling:

  • The District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of a case against the Metropolitan Police Department for negligent failure to provide adequate police services in a 1981 ruling. Three women who were raped, beaten, and tortured for 14 hours by two home invaders sued, because two of them were reassured that officers were on their way each time they called 911 over a period of 30 minutes. They had reported two men had broken into their townhouse and were assaulting their roommate. Eventually, the intruders discovered the presence of these other roommates.
  • In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 10th Circuit and ruled that police do not have a constitutional duty to protect, even when a court-issued protective order requires arrest for a violation. Authorities in that case failed to take action when a woman repeatedly called the police station to report her estranged husband had kidnapped her three daughters. As the mother tried futilely to get help, the husband murdered the girls and went to the station where he was shot and killed in a  gun battle.
  • The Manhattan Supreme Court dismissed a 2013 suit against New York City by a Long Island man attacked on an uptown No. 3 subway by a Brooklyn man who had stabbed his girlfriend, her mother, and his stepfather, and then ran a stranger over with a car, in a drug-fueled killing spree. Two police officers on the lookout for the perp watched from the motorman’s cab as he repeatedly stabbed the passenger, who managed to wrestle him to the ground and disarm him—at which point the officers left the safety of the locked cab and handcuffed the murderer. One of the officers admitted to a grand jury that he didn’t come to the passenger’s aid because he feared the assailant could be armed with a gun.

Law enforcement officers swear an oath of honor to protect the community at large, not to protect specific individuals. And some cannot act, because of department protocols—for instance, Orlando police treated the Pulse Nightclub terror attack as a hostage negotiation while waiting two hours for a tactical unit to arrive—or because they are ordered to stand down, as was the case in Chicago during a Trump campaign rally in March 2016.

There is no guarantee a cop will be around when you need one, or that one will intervene even if they are present.

Mistakes Were Made

The Associated Press called the February 14 mass murder at Stoneman Douglas High School an “abject breakdown at all levels” that involved errors by a plethora of social workers, mental health counselors and school administrators, as well as local and federal law enforcement.  

Home visits documenting violent behavior and warnings from several people—including a tip about the killer’s plans that had been passed on to the school resource officer by the Broward County Sheriff’s office—could have prevented the attack or the shooter’s  ability to purchase a gun, but were routinely dismissed.

The atrocity was compounded by the incompetence or cowardice of the school resource officer and four other Broward County deputies on the scene, and by confusion over whether Coral Springs Police Department officers who entered the freshman building were tracking the shooter on a live security camera feed or viewing a tape-delayed recording.

Police departments have varying protocols when a lone officer is the first responder at the scene of an active shooter. While some allow the officer to stop a shooter “by arrest, by containment, or by use of deadly force,” others require waiting until other officers arrive and can form a “contact team.” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel’s contention that he has given “amazing leadership” to the agency notwithstanding, it is unclear which protocol the Broward County Sheriff’s office had put into place. Clearly, there were enough armed deputies crouched behind their vehicles to have formed a contact team.

The Coral Springs Police Department apparently follows a very different active shooter protocol and stepped up.

Sgt. Jeff Heinrich was off duty and watering a baseball field at the school, where his wife teaches and his son is a student, when he heard the first rifle shots ring out. Though he was unarmed and out of uniform, he ran toward the sound of the gunfire. After rendering first aid to a student shot in the leg, he returned to the building where he met up with a member of his department’s SWAT team. He put an extra Kevlar vest over his t-shirt, borrowed a handgun and ran into the building with his colleagues.

Bye-Bye Bystander

Ten states—California, Florida, and Wisconsin  among them—enacted laws requiring people to notify law enforcement when a stranger is in peril. But moral obligation notwithstanding, in the United States there is no legal requirement to come to the rescue of another, unless he or she created the peril to the person, or has a “special relationship” with the person—for instance, a spouse, the parent or babysitter of a minor child, or a business owner with employees in the workplace.

In a 1907 case, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the manslaughter conviction of a married man who stashed his mistress in the basement instead of seeking medical attention after she deliberately overdosed morphine in an apparent suicide attempt, on the grounds that there was no duty to rescue. A century later, the Superior Court of New Jersey reversed a lower court decision and held that passengers in a car that rear-ended a motorcyclist had a duty to call for emergency assistance or to stay with the injured motorcyclist to ensure that another car didn’t run over him. In this case, the 18-year old driver and his friends made 44 cell phone calls over a two-and-a-half hour period, none of them to 911, and had fled the scene; the victim died when he was run over by another driver.

Before giving up all hope for humanity, consider there are also courageous people who rise to the occasion and put themselves in harm’s way to help others in danger. While the killer in Florida was fulfilling his desire to “become a professional school shooter,” unarmed teachers and students tried to disarm him, shielded students from the bullets, or helped people hide in classrooms:

  • Wrestling coach Chris Hixon raced towards the sound of gunfire in a golf cart and was killed while attempting to disarm the shooter.
  • Geography teacher Scott Beigel and JROTC Cadet Peter Wang, who opened doors to classrooms and shepherded students and faculty inside, were both killed. Anthony Borges was shot in the back and in both legs as he frantically tried to close and lock the door to a classroom, and helped save roughly 20 students. Culinary teacher Ashley Kurth pulled as many as 65 people into her classroom and hid them in a storage area, and journalism teacher Melissa Falkowski hid 19 students in a closet.
  • Football coach Aaron Feis was slain when he threw himself in front of several students to protect them from getting shot. JROTC Cadet Colton Haab hustled as many as 70 students into a JROTC classroom and covered them with Kevlar sheets. Haab, who survived, told a reporter that he was thinking about “how I’m going to make sure everyone goes home to their parents safely.”

How many people do you know who could be as brave, quick-thinking and level-headed in an active shooter scenario or other emergency?

An Army of One

Police officers are taught the “first rule of law enforcement” is to go home alive when their shift ends. Critics contend that this ethos leads to unnecessary civilian deaths. But as we saw in Parkland, Florida, there is a thin line between restraint and inaction.

While many armed citizens successfully confronted an armed assailant or stopped an assault, there is no guarantee that the good guy with a gun will put his or her life on the line to protect a stranger. In some cases, fear of legal jeopardy may also deter an armed bystander from intervening.

The harsh truth is that you are the only person you can count on to protect you and your family. Do you want to leave it to chance that the police or an armed bystander will get there in the nick of time, and will act? You’re forced to, because politicians who take donations from gun control activists have passed unreasonable gun control laws that effectively negate your Second Amendment rights.

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You Can’t Win the Budget Battle Until You Win the Trust War

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) ended Saturday, and it went out with a bang. During a panel discussion about the #MeToo movement, National Review columnist Mona Charen accused the Republican Party of being hypocritical on women’s issues because a “sexual abuser” and  “harasser” (her words) is “sitting in the White House.” She attempted to shame Republicans for endorsing Roy Moore in Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election in December.

In a weekend interview on MSNBC, Charen admitted her disgust with Trump—and the GOP—extends beyond his alleged sexual misconduct: “There are a great many of us . . . who do not accept this and just want someone to tell the truth, that it matters he is immoral and unethical in his treatment of women and in many other respects,” she said.

The battle between what Charen calls “traditional” conservatism and what she sees as something new and derides as “Trumpism,” won’t subside any time soon. Last week, the anti-Trump Right mocked CPAC—including fair criticism for inviting Marion Le Pen to speak—for its fealty to All Things Trump. The de facto leader of the NeverTrump tribe, Weekly Standard editor-at-large Bill Kristol, and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough lamented how CPAC was “unrecognizable” from the days when the gathering was controlled by “Bill Buckley, small government conservatives.”

Meantime, Death of Expertise author Tom Nichols, a NeverTrumper and  expert tweeter, complained in a USA Today column that “Republicans once believed in limited government, fiscal restraint” but are now “bellowing drama queens whose elected representatives blow up spending caps [and] bust the deficit.” (Let’s pause to recall that most NeverTrumpers pushed for budget-busting wars earlier this century and had no qualms about doing so at the time.)

Yet the budget is a legitimate concern and I heard from a few conservatives at CPAC that they worry it’s being overlooked. While the NeverTrump crowd’s antidote to “but Gorsuch!” seems to be “but deficits!” more equanimous folks on the Right are also worried that core, green-eyeshade principles are being abandoned in favor of big, beautiful walls and fights with journalists.

In an interview with Chris Buskirk and me on the first day of CPAC, Ed Morrisey, a senior editor with Hot Air, questioned whether the rank-and-file would push back on Trump’s populist approach and return to legacy issues such as balanced budgets and entitlement reform: “This is supposed to be a fiscally conservative party and we’re throwing a lot more money at the federal budget than we used to. Conservative values are reducing the federal budget, reducing the deficit, entitlement reform. These are the types of things that just aren’t being addressed in this first year of the Trump administration.” (Buskirk acknowledged there was little, if any, appetite in Congress to tackle those issues right now.)

It could be the public’s interest in closing the federal budget gap is waning: Only 48 percent of Americans list the budget deficit as a priority, including 59 percent of Republicans. Entitlement reform, including shoring up Social Security and Medicare, does rank high among Republican voters. But considering the party’s failure to reform Obamacare as promised (thanks  to obstruction by “traditional conservatives”), it’s hard to see how any meaningful changes to the largest entitlement programs will be prioritized in an election year.

So, why is budget hawkishness not only largely ignored by Trump and the GOP, but by mainstream Republican voters as well? I would argue (and did in an interview here) that Trump supporters on the Right are more energized by the president’s willingness to challenge our institutional elites, who have for too long denigrated American values and beliefs with impunity, than they are by mundane pencil-sharpening exercises. The cultural war that was launched with vigor nearly 30 years ago by some of the very people now decrying it, such as Bill Kristol, is at a boiling point. Most Republicans and a handful of commentators on the Right such as Dennis Prager know this; the Acela-corridor snobs do not.

Take, for example, the president’s war on the news media. Here is what both NeverTrump and establishment Republicans ignored: Over the past 15 years, Republicans’ trust in the media has tanked. In 2003, only 35 percent of Republicans said the news media “gets the facts straight.” By 2017, that figure was an abysmal 14 percent. While negative opinion for the past two years has probably been fueled by Trump’s attacks on “fake news” outlets such as CNN and the New York Times, it was dropping steadily before Trump even announced his candidacy, as the media became increasingly hostile to Republican ideas. Gallup summed it up this way: “The finding that a solid majority of the country believes major news organizations routinely produce false information is one with potentially significant consequences. As one example, these views may be related to Americans’ diminished trust in most major U.S. institutions and rising cynicism about the U.S. political system and elected officials.”

Other polling bears that out, and it’s unrelated to Donald Trump. Republicans’ favorable view of financial institutions, labor unions, and academia is below 50 percent. Since 2015, Republicans have developed a sharply negative opinion of higher education, with only 36 percent saying colleges and universities have a positive effect on the country. (The left-wing mobs that greet any conservative speaker on campus will further solidify that opinion.) And, of course, no institution earns more dismal marks than the government, and not just from Republicans. Overall confidence in the federal government is near an all-time low and only 22 percent of Republicans entrust Washington to do what’s right either all or most of the time, down from 52 percent in 2005. Congress doesn’t fare much better; 83 percent of Republicans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

The only politician who has given voice to this deep mistrust and, in some cases, rage, is Donald Trump. That’s why an overwhelming majority of Republicans think Trump is a strong leader, trustworthy, and able to get things done. (Sorry, Mona.) Facing down the ruling class, even in an uncouth and semiliterate manner, is not inconsequential. The NeverTrumpers and establishment Republicans have never had the stomach for it, which is why they remain completely flummoxed by Trump’s appeal. It’s why you don’t hear the base rallying for budget cuts or Social Security lockboxes. There are only so many political battles that can be waged at a time, and as far as the majority on the Right is concerned, this one is more important. Plus, what’s the use in pursuing governmental reforms when no one trusts you to get it right? It’s sort of like talking about gun control policies while overlooking the egregious incompetence at every level of government that failed to stop the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. Remedy that first before looking for new government fixes.

Fundamental “conservative” budget issues should still matter in Trump’s Republican Party. But until the ruling class’s integrity is restored, green eyeshades will take a back seat to boxing gloves. And those for whom budgetary concerns are their primary focus should reconsider their priorities for a while. The budget mess isn’t going anywhere, but we are in no position to fight it now until we win the political battle. It’s no one’s fault but their own that they lack the trust and the support to win their arguments. It’s time for them to side with their (mostly) political brothers-in-arms and take on the neighborhood thugs; the Democrats and cultural elites, not Trump supporters.