“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
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.*
Say what you will about Clinton, at least she has the sense to pay heed to the demon Kissinger. I may like Bernie’s non-interventionist ways (and that’s about the only thing I like other than the fact that he channels the crazy uncle), but his hating on Nixon’s right hand man is sophomoric at best (Bernie: “Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.”). It is rather amusing: a socialist Jew hating on a socialist-killing Jew. Blood doesn’t run thicker than water, apparently. Continue reading
The other day Trump gave a speech outlining his foreign policy at the National Interest. Short on details, it was strong on instinct. Predictably, the hawks and moralists have gotten into a tizzy. Their monopoly is being challenged by the Republican front-runner and they are panicking that the blustery child that is Trump will convince the mob that the emperor is wearing no clothes. Trillions of dollars, tens of thousands of lives, millions of refugees, and a multitude of wrecked countries: after three decades the war party’s record of liberal internationalism and regime change has not only left the world more unstable and innocents dead, but wasted American blood and treasure. Good intentions indeed. Continue reading
A few days ago David Brooks put out a hilarious, ironical piece called: “I Miss Barack Obama.” Well, I assumed it was tongue-in-cheek for the first few paragraphs. It’s sad really, and perhaps a testament to how much politics has worn Brooks down over the years. Yes, this primary is exhausting, but Brooks looks to be coming out the other side like a statue buffeted by harsh winds and sand for a thousand years: so worn down that he offers only approximations of realism and a hint of a coherent figure. After reading it I got the impression that the poor guy really needs a vacation. As the old saying goes: if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Brooks is still in the kitchen, but he had a fainting couch placed conveniently beside the stove. He has approached a psychotic break brought on by stress. As an amateur student of the human psyche, that is my diagnosis. I have three observations which led to this conclusion, and each one logically follows the prior.
“How could Nixon have won? Nobody I know voted for him.” —Pauline Kael
The quote is tongue-in-cheek and somewhat apocryphal (Kael, a highbrow film critic for The New Yorker, was aware of her own elitist bubble) but it is apropos to the Trump phenomenon.
Over Christmas break I had a conversation with our traveling correspondent, Argos (see his reports from Belgium, Jordan, and Sweden). A white collar, pragmatic conservative not given to flights of fancy over winning the culture war through legislation, he expressed some discomfort with the Trump’s boorishness and doubts over his electability. I caught up with him the other day to discuss the subject again.
The mood has changed and it’s telling, though anecdotal. Simply put: if the election was tomorrow, he’d vote for Trump in a heartbeat.
The junior senator from Florida keeps rising in the polls, but despite his shot in the spotlight, the boy wonder still has yet to strike a reverberating chord when it comes to foreign policy. Posturing from the Rubio camp has inflated a makeshift foreign policy puppet that masquerades as Reagan-ology, back to reclaim American exceptionalism. In reality, the “Rubio Doctrine” is little more than a pedagogical turn on the heels of American exasperation in the face of seemingly endless pomp and circumstance. An unhealthy ignorance, inherent in Rubio’s and other Republicans’ campaigns, festers under the assumption that American greatness can be dredged up with old slogans and party playbooks. While seeking to emulate the prowess of Reagan, Rubio has embraced the lucrative narrative of exponential military growth as the end-all, be-all for international qualms and conflicts.
Jeb Bush has distanced himself from his brother’s decision to invade Iraq, and the Republican presidential candidates have joined him in this. Nevertheless, the Republican field still excoriates Obama for “not finishing the job” and pulling the troops out. Now there is talk of sending troops back in, of getting tougher on Assad, on re-instituting sanctions on Iran, and sending weapons to Ukraine. As much as this is “not the party of GWB” the bluster about existential threats emanating from different corners of the world and charges of human rights abuses are strikingly similar to the tone preceding our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. After a decade of grave misadventures abroad, you would think that the Republican Party would take a step back to reevaluate but not much seems to have changed. The party can’t seem to buck their George W cowboy.
Back in August, John Ellis Bush gave a speech at the Reagan Presidential Library where he addressed foreign policy and the growing threat of terror from ISIS. The language was cushy, and focused on “support,” “international aid,” and “diplomacy” as solutions to halt ISIS and remove Assad. Apart from a few fun memes about ISIS recruiters on Twitter, and the tragic thought of ISIS’ black flag rising from Iraqi cities where American soldiers once died, the speech was an utter bore, which seems to be Bush’s norm: boring, boring, boring. In one of the United States’ most predictable (and fascinating, depending on how you look at it, and depending on whether Russ Baker’s book is factual) first-families, Jeb somehow finds a way to be the worst of the entire lot.
With a father and brother whose administrations were primarily defined by an obsession with all things IRAQ, Jeb seeks to straddle two drifting positions. On the one hand, family ties and allegiance to neo-conservative hawks encourages delicate caressing of the IRAQ invasion, and the expansion of U.S. interest abroad. On the other hand, Bush seeks a Reagan-man reinvention in the hopes that he will be seen as a peace-broker: someone to tear down walls and bring about international calm — “peace through strength; trust but verify.” With unanimity across parties on the failure of the Iraq War, Jeb acts like there is little left in the Bush foreign policy coffers, when the polls say something quite different.