“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
I’ll protect you from the corporations.
Hillary recently published a piece on CNN decrying campaign finance laws (see Citizens United) and state’s “restricting voting rights.” I’m not convinced that Citizens United is the great evil it’s cracked up to be. Jeb(!) with his grand war-chest is on life support. Trump is playing the game with pocket change. So much for buying elections. Nor do I think that efforts to improve the integrity of the voting process necessarily imprudent (we don’t want dead people voting, do we?). But I’m not interested in either of these issues at the moment. What interests me is Hillary’s belief that democracy, and more of it, is a good in-of-itself. As she puts it: “Let’s restore people’s voices and people’s votes to their rightful place — at the center of our democracy.” Clear away the barriers thrown up by corporate money and voter restrictions, let the unadulterated voice of the people ring forth, bring freedom to the oppressed, and the nation will rise to a glorious future. In this assumption, Hillary is joined by her competitor, Bernie. Of course, it’s Hillary, and she’s received gobs of money from corporations and so I suspect Hillary’s appeal is fundamentally disingenuous, and yet the belief in the will of the people is deeply ingrained in the progressive left. Continue reading