Ding, dong, the witch is dead!
Keeping Things in Perspective
I’ve read a number of editorials reflecting on the life and times of Fidel Castro. They’ve fallen into two camps: moral euphoria at the death of a dictator and a recitation of his crimes; or, the mealy-mouthed moral equivalency game played by those on the left (see Obama, Trudeau, Junker, Corbyn et al.).
To be clear, Castro was a bad guy and any attempt to cover over his crimes by appealing to his good intentions is the sort of deplorable, high-minded elitism that average Joe sees for what it is: baloney.
Then again, we ought to keep Castro’s crimes in perspective: he was a two-bit thug who caused a great deal of trouble for his people and sparked fires in South America and Africa for decades. Given the chance, he may have been a monster on the scale of Mao and Stalin, but even in his own country his tyranny never reached such diabolical heights. He only brushed with global significance on the occasion of the Cuban Missile Crisis—a scheme driven by his boss in Moscow and not even of his own making.
Further, it should be added that Castro’s death is not “the end of an era.” Castro had long been out of circulation, a ghost of a man, and Cuba still labors and suffers under an entrenched, kleptocratic dictatorship created by the late Fidel. We will have more of business as usual. Continue reading
I don’t pretend to know what the Alt-right is. In fact, I’m not sure most supposed members of the group even agree on what it means.
According to white supremacists like Richard Spencer, the alt right is about white identity politics, but I have heard arguments from proponents of the alt-right that reject such beliefs entirely. One thing is clear, however, and that is that the media oligarchs wish to define the group with types like Spencer as the ultimate definition. This is why the left wins so well. They understand the age-old concept: He who controls language controls the conversation. If you can blast the airwaves and television channels with enough association of “alt-right” and other terms like “white-nationalist” and “anti-Semite”, then it starts to stick. Repetition creates memory which then forms assumptions. Once you provide a definition for the term, then the conversation moves onward, and nobody is listening to the dissenters who never agreed to being a reincarnation of Hitler’s ghost. This is because we live in a post-truth world of political media. The grinning newsreaders may look pleasant, but they are merely mouthpieces of an (mis)information fatwa. All of this is somewhat beside the point. What really interests me is why the far left despises types like Spencer so much, when he has much more in common with them than the new and surging populist conservatism of this election cycle.
Truly, Richard Spencer is a progressive. Yes, he may call back to historical examples of more ethnically homogeneous cultures as “traditional” in some way, but one of his primary examples of peaceful creation of ethnic statehood is the restructuring of nations following the first world war. I’m not exactly sure how the Paris Peace Accords and the formation of the League of Nations with the involvement of the most progressive American president of all time is supposed to represent any kind of “conservatism”, but I’m open to arguments. Spencer’s beloved concept of ethnic redistribution by fiat in order to form homogenous nations is utopian by definition. If only X social issue could be corrected by fiat, then society would be much better. This is how people talk about enacting gun control and mandating common core, neither of which are conservative in the least bit.
Look no further than what people like Spencer react against to understand how progressive he is. Spencer’s white nationalist corner of the alt-right is just as obsessed with identity politics as the radical leftists who sneer at him. In fact, he is exactly the caricature of the oppressive and self-important white male that they want to believe exists. Of course they hold Spencer up as the definition of the alt-right because he speaks their language. He lacks the nuance of conservatism because he is just as radical as the supposedly “liberal” identity politicians who are trying to make him the figurehead of the alt-right. He is the straw-man who actually believes in the white patriarchy as some kind of self-aware entity and revels in it. He’s playing their game by their rules. As a white male in the world of identity politics, you can either be a misogynist white supremacist or a flagellating self-hating eunuch. These two archetypes love and hate each-other equally, since they depend on the existence of the other to confirm the legitimacy of their paradigm.
I’ve said to people in everyday conversation about politics that the alt-right sprang into existence the day Salon started posting articles about how white men are a disease that must be stopped. The Richard Spencer wing of the alt-right is not only an invention of the left but an extension as well. Progressives compare them to Nazis because the progressives understand the underpinnings of Nazism from firsthand experience. After all, Nazism did not come from the rural plains of Germany but the universities and intelligentsia. As the old proverb goes: one fisherman recognizes another from afar. Progressive identity politics is entirely based on mythic narratives of racial power struggles, just like the Nazi ideology. If you replace the Jewish scapegoat with white males, then the picture becomes clearer. A shadowy ethno-homogenous cabal seeks to hold back the potential of a struggling race(s) and must be cast off for society to flourish. The progressive, identity politics obsessed elites choosing Spencer as the representative of their nebulous foes leaves no middle ground. It gives them the direct racial conflict they really want. Once politics boil down to a simplistic racial power struggle, there is no “liberal” or “conservative” to be found between the Richard Spencer types or the victim-autocrats of the social justice movement. They’re all just fighting over the armbands.
The Left plotting annihilation.
Thomas Sowell in his book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggle identifies two approaches to the world: constrained and unconstrained. The liberal, Sowell argues, tends towards the later while the conservative tends towards the former.
The unconstrained vision argues that reality is malleable and that “experts” can “fix” social, political, and economic problems through policy. Human nature is perfectible provided the environment he lives in his properly constructed. The constrained vision argues that reality is fixed and that man by nature is flawed. There are no permanent solutions only prudent trade-offs to mitigate conflict in the evolved system we live.
Which brings us to this election.
It’s gotten around my place of work that I was at the very least sympathetic to Trump and his supporters. I defended the reasons why people supported him on a number of occasions. Now, of course, I supported him, but for rhetorical purposes I removed myself as much as possible from the conversation and approached the Trump phenomenon clinically. Perhaps it was cowardly, but the Left was throwing around terms like “misogynist” and “racist” so it was best to keep them off with a nine-foot pole. Sometimes they got too close (“You’re not going to vote Trump ARE YOU?!) and I would just remind them that my vote doesn’t matter anyway (“New York is going for Hillary. Darned electoral college.”) and then they would grin and agree. A little obfuscation buys you an audience. Continue reading
“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
A friend and I have been discussing what presently holds America together. It’s a grandiose question full of dire import (the end of the Republic, the death of America) and the potential for overwrought hand-wringing and silly wishful thinking (if only we had a George Washington!).
Both Left and Right and had staked out their territory on their respective positions and demographics. As of 2016 we seemed heading towards a turning point: would the Left finally triumph in a definitive sense? Was this the Flight 93 election? The tribes were well-established, the battle lines drawn, but then along came Trump who not only rewrote the political playbook, but re-framed American politics and national identity. What has he done?
Whither Have We Come? Whither Shall We Go?
From the start, America was a pragmatic and propositional nation. The early colonies didn’t exactly get along with each other. The constitutional convention was called for out of necessity, and the resulting constitution bears the marks of compromise. To call the American founding purely pragmatic, though, would be to miss the significance the Founders and their compatriots placed on ideals (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) and the importance of sound character (Never tell a lie. Early to bed, early to rise…etc.). Bereft of these propositions, Americans feared a descent into tyranny. The Founders were optimistic, though wary of human failings. The Constitution itself was designed to keep human ambitions and passions in check but was not sufficient to curb abuse. Men must be self-governing. As Lincoln put it some years later, “If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher.” The American experiment could work if Americans remained good citizens. Continue reading
They’re dancing now.
The fever pitch of this election has only started to abate. As people realize that Trump isn’t the second coming of Hitler, tempers and passions will cool. The pessimist in me thinks it will be, in the end, a return to business as usual. The optimist in me expects the economy to roar and the conservatives to lock down the Supreme Court for a generation. If we can avoid stupid wars, that would be nice too.
I’m not that old. This is the first presidential campaign I’ve really paid any attention to (the last one I was happily removed overseas). But that’s where reading books and talking to older people provides perspective.
There’s this couple I’m close to. They’re educated conservatives. They’re good people, and as long as I’ve known them, they’ve been peaceable folk. The last eight years of Obama, though, knocked the stuffing out of them. They didn’t like his policies or his condescending, arrogant tone. Hillary was as bad or worse. The last eight years plus the prospect of another four put them on edge like I’ve never seen.
On first reading, I fist-pumped my way through Decius’ grand smashing of the sleepy, next-election-we-will-win, post-Reagan conservatism. On second reading, I was a bit more circumspect. Here are my two cents.
Rhetorically, the piece begins with shocking metaphors: charge the cabin of the hijacked plane; Russian roulette with a Hillary semi-automatic as opposed to spinning the cylinder with Trump. It’s Trumpian in its bluster, and anyone who takes it overly seriously has no sense of humor or hyperbole. How long before people begin to get it? He’s New Yorker. That’s how they talk.
That said, the article resonated with me. Continue reading
A recent hack from Gucifer 2.0 has revealed that the DNC has intentionally sought to minimize the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the Democratic Party. In an effort to contain the virulence of these activists, the DNC has recommended that its operatives and politicians listen politely to the activists but limit their influence. The memo also instructed candidates to advocate policies that “rebuild the relationship between police and community” by exploring ways to reform police training and limit abuse. The position clearly leans towards the “cops are guilty” mentality, but also demonstrates the DNC’s unwillingness to let their radicals get out of line.
This, of course, prompted a reply from BLM: “We are disappointed at the DCCC’s placating response to our demand to value all Black life. Black communities deserve to be heard, not handled. People are dying.”
No surprise there.
And of course, this underscores Trump’s message: the Democrats don’t care about African Americans, they just care about the votes of African Americans. Consider the fact that for decades the Democrats have controlled some of America’s biggest cities and African Americans still languish in the ghetto. Something isn’t working and Trump’s saying as much. While the liberal media has gone ballistic over this, they refuse to countenance the fact that they, not hick Republicans from the midwest, bear responsibility for the state of the inner cities. African Americans, more than anyone else, have suffered in countless ways over the past decades under Democrat rule and now under the Obama administration (the slow “recovery” has hurt them more than most). If a black Democrat in the Oval Office can’t help his own people out, why not take a shot with the billionaire? Oh, and the alternative? Hillary: a woman whose husband oversaw the slashing of welfare benefits and a dramatic increase in black incarceration. And yet the Democrats still maintain a chokehold on the black vote. The irony: before emancipation the Democrats owned the black vote (3/5s per slave) but now they completely own the black vote (one whole vote per person!).
But Trump actually wants to change that and he’s forcing the Republicans, who have for too long disregarded the black vote as not worth the effort, to actually acknowledge the barriers that confront African Americans. Trump is insisting that the GOP stop talking about abstract freedom, and limited government as the panacea for everything, and actually make a case for how they will make things better for Americans, including minorities. Truth is he has always talked about making America as a whole great again, now he’s just playing the left’s game and emphasizing minorities who are part of that thing called America.*