Broadly speaking, what we call the West are the countries and peoples formed by the meeting of Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Hebrew religion. There’s a great deal of diversity within the West, but religion, ideas, art, literature, and geography set it apart from other civilizations.
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.
No man suffered greater fools more, and yet managed to persevere. No wonder, especially in years like this, he remains our most revered President.
(I always wonder, looking at that photo, what he would say if someone ever referred to him as “POTUS.”)
Revisionist historians and economists keep trying to stomp on FDR’s legacy. But declaring that WPA workers were unemployed is just silly.
It has been over seven decades since the end of the Second World War, so it is the ideal time for us to re-examine the historical period bracketed on the one end by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and on the other by the infliction of the Iron Curtain upon Eastern Europe. We are sufficiently removed to give us historical perspective; most of the players have passed from the scene; and we now have access to troves of formerly classified or sequestered information that offer valuable new information.
There is no reason for The New Deal to be above that renewed scrutiny. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the nearest thing that America has among its 20th Century citizens to a national saint, evinced by a continued flow of laudatory popular histories. But if we examine that legacy with anything less than unalloyed vigor, we risk learning the wrong lessons from the time.
As we cast about for policy solutions for the present, we cannot afford sentimental nostalgia. That goes every bit as much for the Age of FDR as it does for the Age of Reagan.
The first Bush administration promised Gorbachev that Nato would not move ‘one inch to the east’, in the words of the then secretary of state, James Baker. But Bill Clinton ignored the Russians’ wish to keep a cordon sanitaire and his predecessor’s promise by pushing Nato expansion to the east – betraying a trust, in Russia’s view. The eastward march of Nato continues. One can only imagine the American response if the roles were reversed.
Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
I don’t often link articles from Salon, but this one is likely the perfect read for an Easter Sunday: a brief reminiscence of two cousins, one dubbed “Mrs. Democrat,” and one “Mrs. Republican,” who wielded power in Washington for decades on the twin engines of their heritage and their personal gravitas. In the process, they helped lay the groundwork for more women to step into roles of power and leadership in the US.
I will confess that I am a longtime fan of “Mrs. L,” not simply because she was Teddy Roosevelt’s favored child or because she was a Republican, but because she made it her life’s duty to tweak the nose of the Washington establishment. She demanded and received homage from presidents and power-brokers, smoked a pipe in her later years, and the sofa in her parlor boasted a crocheted pillow with a characteristic bastardization of the Golden Rule: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, come sit by me.”
Read the article, and pick up a copy of Marc Peyser’s book on the battle between the two women. It is a great read about Washington behind closed doors told through the story of two extraordinary women.