Quote of the Week

“If you want to know who actually has the power in our society and who is actually marginalized, ask which ideas get you sponsorships from Google and Pepsi and which get you fired.”

Kevin D. Williamson

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The Color Yellow

I’m old enough to remember a time when we didn’t have to wonder whether or not the Kremlin has a secret video of the President of the United States paying Russian hookers to urinate on a bed in his Moscow hotel room.

Source: The Pee Tape | The American Conservative by Rod Dreher

First off, Rod Dreher’s lede above may turn out to be the single line that best sums up the through-the-looking-glass world in which we have lived Donald Trump declared his candidacy on June 15, 2015.

Second, though, the entire issue demonstrates the craven cowardice of POTUS 45. A courageous person would defy the Kremlin to release the tape, and face the music rather than live with the implication that Putin could hold him by the leash of blackmail.

Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly,) the current occupant of the Oval Office has proven himself a coward of the worst order, morally unfit for any position of responsibility for human life, much less the responsibility of command, much less the responsibility of Commander-in-Chief.

The White House’s response to this situation is a litmus test of the character of its current tenant. The grade thus far is an F-.

Defining 21st Century Republicanism

Republicanism is not the defense of the status quo, or of the past. Today is not perfect, and any true telling of history belies the rose-toned filters of nostalgia. Not all social and political evolution touted as “progress” is good, and much should be resisted in favor of more measured change. But to resist change entirely is as misguided as the insistence that we live in a perfect world, and no betterment is possible. That is not Republicanism or conservatism: that is delusion with the taint of egocentrism.

Republicanism is not the belief that all progress to date, drawn from an arbitrary line in the past, is somehow misguided. It is the nature of all institutions – and government most of all – to foment efforts that are utter folly, or that are of temporary utility only. The former must be uprooted without mercy; the latter must be carefully but firmly closed. But there are those that are of lasting an important benefit and, when flawed, should only be replaced when the flaws may be removed, benefit may be increased, or the efficiency improved.  To root out necessary and valuable efforts merely because they fail an ideological test is the mark of an extremist. To do so merely because they were brought about by those less conservative is the mark of a reactionary.

Republicanism should be, instead, the effort to achieve the betterment of ourselves, our nation, and our world through the thoughtful, compassionate and more perfect application of time-proven principles. It is the hot steel of progress formed by the hammer of time-honored ideals against the anvil of our proven institutions, and tempered by the cool water of wisdom.

In governing a complex nation of 330 million souls, the head must lead the heart, not the other way around. Our righteous instincts, our desire to do the right thing by the ideals we hold sacred, those beliefs that Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” must advise all we do, but they must be subordinated to the knowledge that all actions have unintended consequences, and that no action, however worthy it might seem, is tolerable if it undermines the core principles on which our republic is based.

To be a Republican, then, is not to hew to a line that stands against progress: it is, instead, to be the rudder that guides the advance of the nation down a course that ensures its constant and timely improvement while guarding against the tempests of change and the shoals of stagnation.

An Ideology, Not a Blueprint

A great quote from Bryan McGrath in Information Dissemination:

Libertarianism strikes me (and others) as a fine bit of political ideology when alloyed with other ideologies.  Their preference for dramatically limited government helps pull Conservatives to the right, and the preference for removal of government from the private sphere appeals to many Liberals seeking to advance social policies.  Unalloyed however, Libertarianism is a quaint, interesting, and ultimately unsuitable approach to governing a modern Republic, especially a world power.

I wouldn’t limit that to Libertarianism. I’d extend it to all ideologies.

Taking Out the Trash

Reading John Bolton‘s thoughtful review of Peter Collier‘s Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick (“Blue Jeane” in June’s Commentary Magazine), I was surprised to learn that Kirkpatrick was lambasted during her career by feminists. How is that possible? A woman who succeeded in academic circles that had heretofore been dominated by men, who considered herself a feminist, and who rose to the highest levels of government, was rejected by the very people who should have been cheering her success.  Bolton notes:

As she put it, “with a bitter smile,” in Collier’s description, “Gloria Steinem called me a female impersonator. Can you believe that? Naomi Wolf said I was ‘a woman without a uterus.’ I who have three kids while she, when she made this comment, had none.” A professor at Brown named Joan Scott said, “She is not someone I want to represent feminine accomplishment.” And those were the polite criticisms.

So much for sisterhood. My point, however, is not about feminism. It is about trash politics.

I had a discussion on Facebook recently with my friend Ada Shen and a gent by the name of Greg Diamond. Greg, for those of you not following Orange County (California) politics, is a self-proclaimed “very liberal” Democrat running for State Senate in the 29th Senatorial District representing the cities of Brea and Fullerton. Greg and I would likely find ourselves debating the opposite sides of any given issue, and I have some very strong objections to some of his positions.

Nonetheless, as I told him in our conversation:

I tread carefully on feelings because I think it is high time to exorcise the ad-hominem attack from politics. We need to assume the best of intentions on the part of those with whom we disagree, not the worst (unless proven otherwise in a court of law, of course.)

I write this not to pat myself on the back, but to point out that it is possible to have a conversation with a liberal (or, in a liberal’s case, a conservative) with whom we disagree without having the discussion implode into name-calling and a suspicion that the other person is an Epsilon-minus semi-moron.

If the internet has a downside, it is that it has aided in the decline of political dialogue until most of it rests in the gutter. Enough, already. The loss of civility in political discussion does not elevate a cause, convince a skeptic, or improve the nation. Let’s give respect, even undue respect, to those who disagree with us.

After all, this is, in the end, the United States. It would be nice to keep them that way.