Those who have been reading this blog for some time will notice that we have, once again, undergone a facelift. This time it is for more that aesthetic reasons: it is meant to signal a change.
For a long time, this site and my political activities have been devoted to the fruitless effort to rescue the wagon that is the Republican Party from its accelerating slide down the steep slope to the right. After five years, I have come to terms with the fact that this is a hopeless quest. Long before Donald Trump reared his bilious physiognomy above the political parapet, it was clear that the party was in deep need of change, and that far too few Republicans either acknowledged this or had the faintest inkling of what that change might look like.
But the past few months, culminating with Trump’s nomination at the most shameful political gathering since the last Reichsparteitag in Nuremburg in 1938, have provided sufficient evidence that the GOP is incapable of meaningful, deep reform, even in the face of its most severe existential crisis in a century. The party’s lurch beyond conservatism points our republic toward a dark and terrifying future. We can either get off the wagon and do something, or we will by inaction consign the nation to the darkness.
And while I consider myself to be a conservative, I have found that the term has become so abused as to be almost meaningless, and that I have as little in common with the vast majority of conservative pundits and politicians as I do with those of the left.
Political conservatism to me is a dedication to two things: first, the principles that motivated the Founding Fathers as embodied in their writings and in the Charters of Freedom (The United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights); and second, the proposition that even the best system of governance is infinitely perfectible and thus dynamic. Conservatism should not throw itself athwart the road to change, but should embody ongoing reform informed by a wise balance of caution and progress.
Sadly, the most vocal proponents of conservatism seek to twist it into something far more regressive, robbing it of its balance in the name of dogmatic orthodoxy or more nefarious motives. When slavish devotion to free markets leads conservative thinkers like Thomas Sowell to inveigh against Teddy Roosevelt, the right no longer stands for reform but for a backslide into the cauldron of laissez-faire capitalism, robber barons, corporate monopolies, corruption, and vast income inequalities. The future promised by this sort of conservatism is not America: it is decline and dissolution. Christian conservatism would see America declare itself a Christian nation, and impose Christian values in the classroom, the bedroom, and the examination room. A theocracy dominated by plutocrats is the promise, enough nearly to rename the GOP the Banana Republican party.
Either we consign the GOP to the past, or we consign ourselves to the dystopia it promises.
In an effort to be a part of a better future, one informed by a conservatism that captures the promise of the 21st Century while holding true to the enlightened vision forged in the 18th, I am today leaving the Republican Party. I do so with a heavy heart and great reluctance. But to paraphrase my wife when she speaks of her own roots, I love the Republican Party, but the GOP that I love does not exist anymore.
But I also do so with a belief that such changes are good for the country, if for no other reason than they compel us to cast off the fetters of short-termism and special interests and enable us to engage in a more visionary and constructive conversation. This is what motivated Ronald Reagan in 1980, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and the men and women who put everything on the line 240 years ago to craft a new nation.
I will share more about where the Bull Moose is headed in the coming weeks.
Here is the question: does the growing income divide suggest that everyone needs a bachelor’s degree to have positive long-term prospects? Or is the real solution something less obvious and more complex?
It is now time to have a serious discussion in this country about offering choices to our kids at the secondary school level that will either prepare them for academia or prepare them to become civil servants, tradespeople, artisans, and craftsmen.
Plenty of late-night voices have weighed in on Brexit. But Samantha Bee’s Monday night take really got interesting when she got into the effects of the referendum’s success on British society—namely, the empowerment and (at least self-perceived) normalization of white supremacists. Racial and ethnic slurs on social media and in the real world, along with calls to “get out of our country” and even a “make Britain great again,” have threatened minority populations in one of the world’s great strongholds of diversity.
I was good and ready to hate this clip. I am not a fan of Samantha Bee, who strikes me as aught more than a professional attention-monger and Jon Stewart wannabee pumping out glandular lefty hyperbole to get cheap laughs from everyone living on the blue side of the aisle.
But this clip may be the best thing she’s done since starting her show. Please ignore the headline. Bee does not say that Brexit is all about white supremacy.
She has the intelligence to understand that Britain’s history with the EU is fraught and complex. She does not mention, but surely understands, the fundamental miscalculations made by Eurocentrists in their quest to turn an economic union into a single polity of two dozen states. She acknowledges the social and economic disruption caused in Britain by the unprecedented (since 1066, anyway) immigration it has experienced. And she reminds us of the growing dissatisfaction among the working-class and middle-class in Britain with the uneven distribution of the benefits of globalization, and a frustration with political elites.
So she does not say that the Brexit vote is all about white supremacy. Her key point is this: whatever the reasons for the Brexit vote, it has given Britain’s vocal minority of racists and xenophobes the mistaken impression that half of their country agrees with them.
And that’s the kicker: whatever other reason you might have to vote for or against Donald Trump, you must acknowledge that by voting for him you are aligning yourself with some of the meanest, most ignorant pond-scum among our fellow citizens, and in so doing reinforcing their belief in the legitimacy of their baseless hatreds.
Watching the video, the one American – aside from Donald Trump – who looks really foolish in all of this is Van Jones. Bee shows one of Jones’ videos, and he is almost hyperventilating in his angst about how Brexit means that the door is wide open for Jim Crow (or worse) to return to America.
Jones is proof that there are those in America who reduce the Brexit to a battle between white supremacy on the one hand a liberal inclusiveness on the other, not in an effort to tell the truth, but in order to hijack the issue for their own narrow political ends.
To her credit, Bee resists going down that road. She seems to understand that the way to steer America clear of its darkest future is not to attempt to drag the nation to the opposite extreme, but to forge a consensus around the center. One can only hope that such reasonable voices dominate the American dialogue in the months remaining before the election.
Secessionism is a virus. The United Kingdom has it in a very bad way. The pangs for independence are resurfacing in Scotland, and now Northern Ireland appears ready to punish Britain for dragging it out of the EU – or at least to use Brexit as an excuse for a departure.
A little silver lining on a day laced with dark clouds. Radicals should have a voice, not a veto, and Corbyn is better suited as Labour’s voice from the fringe than a potential national leader.
That said, Parliament is now rudderless, suggesting that this is no time for those of us in the US who are powerfully conscious of our nation’s influence on the world stage to cast a vote for someone unable or unwilling to use that influence to stabilize a shaky planet.
If you dive past this headline and go back to the source material, you must acknowledge that there is some common sense in what Governor Kasich is saying. I’d tell my own daughter the same thing.
But there is shared culpability here. As a conservative, a person of faith, and the father of a son, I believe that a man has a singular responsibility to contain his urges, to understand that despite the behavior of one’s peers that it is not acceptable to take advantage of a woman, and that indeed he is obliged to take upon himself the responsibility to protect women from harm or offense. I believe that a man who does not do those things is not only no gentleman, he is a thug, aught better than an animal, and should be treated as such.
Naturally, women should minimize their vulnerability. But the preponderance of culpability lies with the aggressor, and as fathers, teachers, clergy, and society, we must start teaching our young men to behave like gentlemen or suffer the consequences.
This was not a “blame the victim” moment to the degree that Slate makes it out to be – Kasich did speak at length about the importance and value of campus policies to protect women, and channels for them to receive justice.
At the same time, I was deeply disappointed that he did not take that one additional step – to point out that while women are not excused from their need to exercise caution, men are never excused from their obligation to protect the vulnerable. He could have made the point that these tenets of personal responsibility – for ourselves and for each other – are fundamental parts of the American character too often ignored by the proponents of nanny statism, and by students of our universities. That would have been a home run.
But in failing to address the totality of the situation, he played into the hands of those who contend that the GOP is waging a war on women, and he made his hamstringing of Planned Parenthood look like the actions of an elected moralist rather than a leader for all Americans.
A disappointment. And another clue why he failed to capture the imagination of even those of us on the right who see ourselves as moderate. I’ll be thinking about Kasich’s failed campaign a lot today as my state goes to the polls.