Soapbox: The Safe Space Issue

UC Berkeley ‘identity’ groups protest for safe spaces, block passage to white students
The College Fix
October 25, 2016

[Stepping onto soapbox:]

Attention students of the University of California, and, by extension, students of all public institutions of higher learning across this great state:

If you need a space free from debate, from intellectual challenge, and from viewpoints that you find objectionable, I am sorry, but you have come to the wrong place.

As a California taxpayer and a UC alumnus, I am more than happy to pay my taxes to ensure that you are safe from physical harm on campus, and will not tolerate violence against you from any source as long as you do none to others or their property. I will also not tolerate racism, threats of violence, or any form of coercive pressure upon you to conform to a point of view or ethos, whether that coercion is social, physical, or academic. You have every right to expect that there is room for you to state and defend your ideas.

But I will not pay one red cent either to protect you from ideas, opinions, and images you find objectionable, or from having your ideas intellectually manhandled, disproven, and perhaps even ridiculed. You are adults, ostensibly with the discernment and maturity to handle the intellectual challenges that are an integral part of the university experience.

Neither will I support you being sheltered from poor grades, providing they come not because of the opinions you hold, but because of your failure to defend them in accordance with the accepted standards of Socratic debate. Nor will I pay to protect you from poor grades if they are the result of your failure to support your argument to the academic standards that are the foundation of a liberal education.

That is not just my selfish opinion: it is stated differently, but that’s the fine print that comes when you sign your name to your enrollment forms.

An American university is not a four-year vocational school for entitled, sheltered, pampered members of the managerial class. It is a program to inculcate in you the intellectual rigor you require to take on positions of responsibility and leadership. That program is conducted via the time-honored means of adversity, challenge, debate, growth, and learning.

So if you lack the requisite discernment and maturity, if your own opinions and self-image are so fragile that you are unable to handle intellectual challenge, may I suggest, with love and respect, that maybe you are not yet ready for a university experience, and that perhaps you should pursue a different path until such time as you are ready?

So leave.

Or, better yet, get over it. Go back to class/your dorm/the library/the coffee house. Stand up. Shout your opinions. Make yourself count. Voice your anger. Fight injustice. Go to class. Learn from your professors and your adversaries how to make your voice not just heard but persuasive. And grow.

Because you may not have noticed it, but the world is not a safe place. In fact, it is getting more dangerous by the minute. The only way you will save it is by learning – and learning early – to live in a world filled with people who think, do, and express things that you find personally execrable. More important, you will need to be able to discern between someone who comes to those believes honestly, sincerely, and thoughtfully; and those who espouse their beliefs out of fear, greed, and/or ignorance.

Hail, California, and have a nice day.

[Stepping off of soapbox.]

Save

Trump’s West Wing and the Hill

Trump faces a challenge similar to the one Ronald Reagan confronted and had only partial success in overcoming: namely, that of finding enough good people to take the reins of government. Without the president discovering better new talent, the usual suspect will quickly return: the ones who gave us the Iraq War and whose economics led to the Great Recession.

Source: Donald Trump’s Triumph | The American Conservative

Yesterday, my old friend and schoolmate Howard Bliss asked me if I could beg a single boon of the President-Elect, what would that be?

I said, simply: “Appoint an absolutely stellar cabinet. Then listen to them.”

Dan McCarthy over at the American Conservative points out that this is going to be a tough job. Elected as an outsider, Trump cannot resort to using the usual suspects who will simply revive failed policies of the past. At the same time, he needs people who can help him navigate the frustrating complexities of Capitol Hill and the government bureaucracy. This task will test every ounce of Trump’s executive abilities, and his appointments will tell us much.

A relatively weak White House is an opportunity for Congress to restore a balance of power between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. They must absolutely do it. But they can only do so if they are well led and determined – individually and as a group – to do so.

This is where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground, and should work together. Congress is on a long, meandering path toward becoming a rubber-stamp legislature, Constitutional guarantees notwithstanding. That trend needs to be arrested, and now is the moment in history to do so.

The Trump Era Dawns

On the global stage Trump’s populism and nationalism makes him very much a man of his times, with parallels to figures as diverse as Marine Le Pen, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and of course Vladimir Putin. But in the American context he is like nothing we have seen before — a shatterer of all norms and conventional assumptions, a man more likely to fail catastrophically than other presidents, more constitutionally dangerous than other presidents, but also more likely to carry us into a different political era, a post-neoliberal, post-end-of-history politics, than any other imaginable president.

Source: The Trump Era Dawns

We walk a very narrow bridge with this President.

This is not the time to give up, tune out, and go back to The Way We Lived Before. The Trump Era demands a new kind of American Citizenship, one that is constantly informed, regularly engaged, and frequently activist.

This president and the Congress are going to need to hear from us, and we’re going to need to be more visible, more thoughtful, and more persuasive than ever to get our points across.

Welcome to the Trump Era.

Now get busy.

Don’t Leave America

To everyone who is considering leaving America because of the election result:

Don’t.

We need you. This is a wounded, damaged country, but if you love it – if you have a shred of patriotism left in you, you owe it to yourself, your children, your loved ones, and this nation to stay and help the rest of us rebuild.

Stay. And let’s create an America for the 21st Century.

American Bully

Alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Mr. Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Mr. Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump.”

Source: Fearing Trump, Bar Association Stifles Report Calling Him a ‘Libel Bully’ – The New York Times

Leaving aside the delicious irony of a bunch of lawyers declining to speak openly because of a fear of being sued, this is a new low in American democracy.

Not even Richard Nixon, in his worst days, was this much of a bully to his enemies. This man does not only belong in the White House, there is some question in my mind as to whether Americans have a moral obligation to shun any enterprise into which Donald Trump has placed his name, his interests, or both.

The Moose and the Elephant: Leaving the GOP

Lean a little more to the right, maybe?

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.

John Kasich’s Missed Opportunity with Women

Source: John Kasich tells women to avoid drunken parties so they don’t get raped.

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.