Five years ago, Tom Emmer was a Tea Party darling. An underdog in the 2010 contest for the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement to run for governor, Emmer attracted support from the then-nascent movement. After securing the party’s nod, he came within one-half of one-percent in the general election, barely losing to billionaire department store heir Mark Dayton.
Emmer went from candidate to commentator, headlining the morning show at Twin Cities News Talk AM 1130 alongside libertarian talker Bob Davis. The duo often spent their mornings eviscerating the Republican establishment for failing to uphold conservative principles.
Then, an opportunity arose. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced that she would not seek re-election. Her 2012 win had been certified with the slimmest margin to date, less than her largely conservative district suggested should occur. Added to her high-profile and controversial style on the national stage, Bachmann’s underperformance on the ballot attracted pledges of support for her would-be Democratic challenger in 2014. By stepping aside, Bachmann rebalanced the scales for a fresh face.
Emmer offered his name for the job. Having established his brand both within the conservative choir and beyond, his campaign sailed to victory last year.
Then, everything changed.
Emmer’s first vote as a newly sworn-in member of Congress was cast to re-elect John Boehner as speaker of the House. It was a vote that Bachmann had taken on more than one occasion. But while her votes had been forgiven or overlooked entirely, Emmer’s was called out with no holds barred.
The Minnesota Tea Party Alliance, an organization coordinating multiple local groups, took to their digital channels to proclaim that Emmer had “betrayed” them:
[Voters] put a man in office with the expectation that he would fight for smaller government and more liberty. However, in his first real test vote as a conservative, Tom Emmer voted wrong and against the wishes of his conservative base by voting for John Boehner as Speaker.
Emmer seemed taken off guard, as did many long-time party activists and observers who wondered who else Emmer was supposed to support. State Senator Branden Petersen, generally considered among the most libertarian, anti-establishment members of his caucus, risked the ire of his supporters to speak out in defense of Emmer. He wrote:
Tom Emmer cast the only vote that made sense. Absent a challenger to Boehner, it is absurd to think that he would strip himself of all credibility with the power structure in the House in order to “make a statement.” Let’s be clear, the only outcome was that John Boehner was going to be elected. Let us suppose that he and others did vote someone/thing other than Boehner, then what? A second ballot is what happens. AND . . . eventually Boehner would be elected. Except now Emmer used his first vote to burn all bridges but NOT in favor of a better Speaker candidate, but in favor of NO alternative. There was not a better candidate for Speaker that actually DID THE WORK to campaign for Speaker.
The Minnesota Tea Party Alliance would hear none of it, and continued hammering away.
Most recently, Emmer took another vote that again raised their ire, opting to fund the Department of Homeland Security rather than protest President Obama’s executive amnesty.
Once again, the Tea Party slammed him:
Too often, politicians go out to Washington and forget the principles that got them there in the first place. After voting for Boehner for Speaker and funding Obama’s amnesty program, it looks like Tom has become out of touch with his conservative CD6 roots.
Emmer countered through several media outlets and by attending a metro meeting of a Tea Party Patriots group, which is not affiliated with the Alliance. His case rested upon the federal government’s constitutional obligation to protect the American people from threats posed by foreign aggressors. Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty should be fought, he said, but not at the expense of national security.
For many constituents in his district, the justification seemed more like a rationalization. The vote was seen as a simple black-and-white dichotomy. Either defund Obama’s executive amenity, or betray principle.
Are these constituents right? Is the standard they’ve set reasonable?
Principles may be black and white. But their application rarely is.
A confrontational political model popular among ideological activists advocates a black-and-white approach to dealing with incumbents. Vote our way or face a primary!
There are circumstances where such a model works. But even those who teach it will tell you that battles must be carefully chosen, evaluated in the context of an overall strategy to achieve specific goals.
Increasingly, however, confrontation between activists and incumbent politicians seems random, vicious, and unmoored from any sense of purpose.
It’s a phenomenon that was referenced in remarks by the keynote speaker at this past weekend’s Minnesota state convention of the Republican Liberty Caucus. An up-and-coming force out of Texas by the name of Corie Whalen Stephens demonstrated a grasp of how to apply principle effectively – not just harp about it.
Corie comes from a state that is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Minnesota. Texas is a state where Republicans are dominant and the liberty movement is large and effective. That’s reflected in the approach that Corie takes toward politics. She’s slow to anger, slow to condemn, and very slow to write people off.
It’s an attitude scarce in Minnesota, where atrophy and attrition within the Tea Party and allied movements have left fewer stalwarts fighting against steeper odds. Those who have remained active have become increasingly desperate to see results. More than that, the standard by which those results are measured has been raised ever higher.
We see this exhibited in the relationship between Tom Emmer and the Tea Party Alliance. When Emmer voted to re-elect Boehner as speaker of the House, it was immediately condemned as a betrayal in spite of the fact that Bachmann also voted for Boehner on multiple occasions. Why wasn’t she also called a traitor? Some may have objected here and there, but any assault wasn’t on the scale of that aimed at Emmer.
The point here is not that some double-standard has been employed, but rather that the standard has been raised from when Bachmann was in office. It seems likely that the standard has been raised due to an ever-increasing degree of frustration and disappointment among activists.
Many have grown less tolerant and more absolutist in response to wave after wave of horrendous policies and disappointing conduct from those elected to office.
Corie, who comes from a state that’s in far less desperate circumstances than Minnesota, exhibits a much more tolerant attitude toward “bad votes.” It’s not that she thinks bad votes should be ignored, but rather that particular legislators need to be evaluated in a larger context. Is this person advancing the cause of liberty overall? If the answer is no, then fire away. If the answer is yes, then help them succeed. If the jury is still out, hold your fire and try to shape an environment where their future votes will be more favorable.
Such nuance does not come easy to frustrated activists who feel like corned animals. They don’t want to think. They want to act. They want to fight. More importantly, they want someone to fight for them, and they want to see that fight more than they want to see tangible policy results. So when a politician like Emmer talks about maintaining bridges with leadership so he can be effective, he’s speaking another language from much of his constituents.
What may be missing from many activists’ consideration is the hidden dimension of caucus politics in Washington. Does Barack Obama’s executive amnesty need to be opposed? Absolutely. But who came up with the idea to put DHS funding in the crosshairs? Increasingly, the strategy seems like a preconceived move by the House leadership to run a bait and switch on principled conservatives.
A while back, I wrote a piece asking whether Boehner had finally grown a spine. It was a reaction to this strategy of holding DHS funding ransom in exchange for defunding the executive amnesty. It didn’t add up why a guy who was so adamantly opposed to Ted Cruz’s defund strategy for Obamacare would try something similar with Obama’s amnesty.
But it all makes sense now: Boehner never intended for the strategy to work. He wanted overly zealous members of his caucus, motivated by the demands of desperate activists, to take the bait and vote against national security. He could then launch attacks against those members as soon as the vote went down. That’s exactly what has happened.
If this theory is accurate, then by demanding that members of Congress vote against DHS funding, constituents unwittingly did the bidding of Boehner, who wins either way with this strategy. If Emmer had voted against DHS funding, then he would have been targeted with attack ads for being soft on public safety. Like it or not, that would have been an effective narrative because most people outside the activist choir don’t think DHS should be defunded. On the other hand, by voting for the DHS funding, Emmer has evoked the wrath of his conservative base, which has the effect of alienating him from that base. Such alienation benefits the moderate establishment by isolating Emmer and making him more susceptible to bad votes when it actually counts.
If the leadership in Congress really wanted to go after Obama’s executive amnesty, they would have done so when the continuing resolution was up back in December. Or, if they wanted to wait until this year, they could have gone after the funding directly instead of tying it to all of DHS.
This was a calculated move based on the leadership’s read of how both members of Congress and constituents back home would react. We’re all sitting at a high-stakes poker table, and the leadership is playing at a level where the cards held matter far less than the ability to read tells and then manipulate others’ reactions.
For a member like Emmer to make good votes, he needs more than chastising when he votes wrong, he needs a base of support that he can count on when he votes right. The strategy theorized above aims to erode that support, and thus erode the value proposition for voting well. The strategy rests upon the predictable knee-jerk response of activists, applying their elevated level of expectation to every single vote regardless of context.
That was the subject line of an email sent out Wednesday by the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance in reference to the freshman congressman from the state’s Sixth District. Emmer this week filled the seat previously held by Michele Bachmann.
[Voters] put a man in office with the expectation that he would fight for smaller government and more liberty. However, in his first real test vote as a conservative, Tom Emmer voted wrong and against the wishes of his conservative base by voting for John Boehner as Speaker.
Similar condemnations and recriminations crisscrossed social media like missiles exchanged in a nuclear apocalypse. The ruckus was not contained to Minnesota. Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) was compelled to issue a statement rebuking detractors of his vote for Boehner. He described a hopeless scenario wherein the speaker could not have been removed:
… there were never enough votes to oust Boehner to begin with. On top of that, some people who had publicly said in the past that they wouldn’t vote for Boehner did just that. This was an effort driven as much by talk radio as by a thoughtful and principled effort to make a change. It was poorly considered and poorly executed, and I learned first-hand [from participating in a previous coup attempt in 2013] that is no way to fight a battle. This coup today was bound to fail. And in fact, it failed worse than I expected, falling 11 votes short of deposing the Speaker. At least two years ago we only failed by six.
I’ve defended and supported Sarah Palin in the past, but she has jumped the shark this time with her comments to the National Rifle Association on Saturday. Palin told the group (at the 7:16 mark in the video) that we need to put the “fear of God” in our enemies, adding:
Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.
Palin doubled down on the comments in an interview with NBC News:
Would I make it again? Why wouldn’t I, yeah, absolutely. Terrorists who want to annihilate Americans, innocent Americans, our children – whatever it takes to stop them. If I were in charge, I’d be stoppin’ em.
Aside from the fact that Palin, a professing Christian, describes a sacred sacrament in the context of a practice that many consider to be torture, there is the fact that in many Muslim countries identifying with Christ in baptism can actually have deadly consequences and flippantly inserting baptism into a joke about terrorists is in poor taste.
For example, in May 2010, an Afghan TV channel broadcast footage showing alleged converts to Christianity, including scenes of baptisms. This was followed by Afghan MP Abdul Sattar Khawasi’s call in the Afghan parliament for those featured in the footage to be executed. A crackdown against Christians ensued, and around 25 converts were arrested after a group of Kabul University students shouted death threats and demanded the expulsion of foreigners accused of proselytising. There were numerous demonstrations in the wake of the TV broadcast of the baptisms in different cities throughout the country — Herat, Baghlan, Mazar-e Sharif and again in Kabul. This resulted in a Christian cleansing of sorts in Afghanistan, as hundreds of former Muslims who had converted to Christianity fled the county, including hundreds who ended up in New Delhi, India, and now live in a legal limbo, still fearing for their lives. Christianity Today reported last year:
Although the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs fleeing Afghanistan for India, the Indian government’s refusal to do so means that Afghan Christians cannot seek legal protection from discrimination from other religious groups. Such discrimination often arises from Afghan Muslims who have also sought refuge in India. Many Afghan Christians make a meager living as translators for Afghanis seeking medical care in India, but the language and social challenges continue.
In other words, the Christians who fled to India after their baptisms were shown on TV continue to be persecuted by Muslims in what they thought would be their country of refuge. Examples abound of Christian persecution in Muslim countries and the public act of baptism is one of the main ways converts are identified and targeted.
I’m not a bit worried about offending terrorists (in fact, I share that sentiment with Sarah Palin), however I do object to Palin’s insensitivity to the brave Christians who are willing to pay with their lives for the privilege of being recognized as Christians through the sacrament of baptism in hostile countries around the world.
I love ya’ Sarah, but this is one you should walk back.
Yesterday I volunteered at the campaign headquarters for a candidate who is running in the the Republican primary for the 14th congressional district seat in Ohio. State Rep. Matt Lynch is challenging Congressman Dave Joyce, who replaced Steve LaTourette (of Mainstreet PAC fame). Lynch’s campaign has an uphill battle against incumbent Joyce, who is being heavily funded by LaTourette’s SuperPAC (more than $80,000 to date). In fact, Lynch only decided to run against Joyce when LaTourette’s daughter, Sarah LaTourette, filed to run against Lynch for his seat in the Ohio House, ending the Ohio Republican Party’s de facto ban on challenging incumbents. (Yes, these Mainstreet folks really are working that hard to eliminate conservatives).
I had never met Lynch but showed up at his campaign headquarters today after seeing a plea on Facebook for help to get a huge mailing out. I decided to help with the campaign after listening to the Plain Dealer editorial board’s interviews with Joyce and Lynch. A devout Christian and running on a platform of “Faith, Family, and Freedom,” Lynch sounds less like the preachy moral majority candidates of the past and more like Mark Levin with a bit of a religious bent. Dave Joyce sounds like President Obama with a Republican bent. I enjoyed spending time with an enthusiastic group of volunteers who were committed to the conservative movement.
At lunchtime Rep. Lynch showed up with pizza and asked one of the volunteers if he would bless the food. The man recited a quick prayer he had memorized. Lynch held up his hand and said he would like the opportunity to pray for all of the volunteers. It was clear that he is a man who is no stranger to prayer. He prayed naturally and from the heart. After we all said, “Amen,” a man in a uniform (who had stopped by on his way to work) put his arm around Lynch and said he would like to pray for him. So we all prayed again. Lynch was obviously touched by the gesture.
It was such a natural, spontaneous moment. It wasn’t scripted, but everyone seemed to know what to do and it wasn’t a bit awkward. And yet, as I consider the current environment in this country with religion (and in particular, Christianity) under attack, it was in some ways a remarkable moment. Here was an elected official taking time from the heat of the campaign trail to seek God. No “Freedom from Religion” bigots could stop that prayer and certainly, no government official could censor it or demand that it be religiously “neutral” (as if such a thing were even possible).
While we’ve always had one form or another of a civil religion in America, the true heart and soul of our country has always been individuals and groups praying quietly in their homes, churches, and other meeting places. James 5:16 says that “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” God takes no pleasure in coerced prayers or prayers led by those who are not his true followers. In Proverbs 15 King Solomon writes, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.”
We don’t need to demand prayer in schools or in city council meetings — or even in Congress — to find God’s favor. Indeed, in this modern era of “Coexist” it’s likely that such prayers would be offensive to God and would make things worse. We simply need men and women, boys and girls — and elected officials — who are committed to praying and honoring God in their private lives. Such a commitment to private prayer and faith will naturally flow out of the homes and into the public square and in doing so, will positively influence public policy as Americans are drawn closer to God.
Editor’s Note: For years now Walter Hudson has been a perpetual inspiration and a joy to edit. His articles, lists, blog posts, and now podcasts dance across the fault lines of politics, culture, and religion with an always encouraging sense of optimism and clarity. See this compilation today here of his most recent podcasts: Ready For An Argument? 15 of Walter Hudson’s Fightin’ Words Podcasts Not To Miss. Also follow him on Twitter here. For more of of his work check out this collection of PJ Lifestyle’s Top 50 List Articles of 2013, which includes several more Hudson hits. This selection of 10 articles here showcases some of Walter’s most popular and engaging pieces. Please consider adding Walter to your list of #ReadEverythingTheyWrite writers. He’s been on mine for some time now…
- Dave Swindle
1. March 2, 2012:
2. May 9, 2013:
3. April 18, 2013:
4. July 17, 2012:
5. July 6, 2013:
6. July 13, 2013:
7. January 29, 2013:
8. January 31, 2012
9. September 2, 2013:
10. March 7, 2013:
Michelle Goldberg over at the Nation published an excellent article on the #CancelColbert controversy arising out of what she has dubbed the “New Political Correctness”:
It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.
Radicals thrive on crisis. The crises they are generating are evidence of how truly free we are as a nation. Panicking over statuary is as #FirstWorldProblem as you can get. Yet we should not be fooled: The chaos of radicals always has a serious motive.
Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”
Whether it is in a public forum or a private business (as with last week’s case of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich) “no-platforming” is the desired outcome of the radical-induced chaos. Whether it is used against the presumed liberal (feminism) or conservative (anti-BDS) cause, the outcome is the same: a clampdown on free speech and individual expression, marketed as kind-hearted, feel-good social legislation. Orwell would not be surprised.
In case you missed the official announcement:
From now on conspiracy theorists will no longer be receiving their memorandums, instructions, and dispatches (including “red meat” and “dog whistles”) via listservs, talk radio, blogs, or newsletters. Neither will rumors or conspiracy theories be whispered to them at the secret cabal meetings, effective immediately. All members of the vast right-wing conspiracy, the bitter clingers, the “conspiracy nuts” and tea party members have been informed that they will hitherto be apprised of important subversive announcements, apocalyptic instructions, and other missives via the Harvard Law Review.
Yes, you read that correctly.
According to Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now using the Harvard Law Review, “bastion of liberal elitism,” to communicate with ”those on the far right concerned about Agenda 21, NAFTA superhighways, or any of a range of other conspiracy theories.” Cruz has apparently signaled this shift in right-wing strategy by penning a 10,000 word essay titled “Limits on the Treaty Power,” inspired by the Supreme Court’s consideration this term of Bond v. United States, a Tenth Amendment case. Jacobs seems baffled that Cruz somehow managed to convince the editors of the esteemed publication to give him space to make the case for limits on the powers of treaties, and implies that there must be some nefarious secret message buried within the essay “replete with 181 footnotes, against the scale and scope of the modern federal government.”
The phraseology Cruz uses, according to Jacobs, “serves as red meat to those on the right concerned about the United Nations, especially those who believe that Agenda 21, a non-binding plan for sustainable development is a Trojan horse for instituting world government.”
[Note: At least the left is now acknowledging that those on the right are literate.]
In the essay, Cruz argues that, “The president cannot make a treaty that displaces the sovereign powers reserved to the states.” Citing Missouri v. Holland, a 1920 Supreme Court case dealing with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, Cruz warns that, “if Justice Holmes was correct [that Congress has plenary power to implement any treaty], then the president and Senate could agree with a foreign nation to undo the checks and balances created by the people who founded our nation.”
Such language is pure “red meat” for the right, according to Jacobs.
And then there are these secret code words embedded in Cruz’s essay: “We must jealously guard the separation of powers and state sovereignty if we are to preserve the constitutional structure our Framers gave us.”
Cruz is blowing a “dog whistle for conspiracy nuts” with this constitutional crazy talk, says Jacobs.
The RNC wants to know your favorite candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination and they’ve set up a handy straw poll on their website so you can make your views known. You can choose from a whopping thirty-two potential nominees including Rand Paul, Tea Party favorites Ted Cruz and Allen West, and a spate of
undocumented Democrats establishment Republicans.
For the small price of your personal data (name, email address, zip code), you can vote for up to three candidates and then view the results…
Well, actually, no. For the small price of your data you are asked to make a donation and then you can view…
Unlike the vast majority of polls of this sort where you’re asked for your opinion (and some of your data is mined), you don’t get to view the results. Apparently this is some top secret project of the RNC. Perhaps the outcome of the straw poll is known only to that stealthy RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, who will at some future date enlighten the unwashed masses about who should really run for president.
One has to wonder how the decision-making process went with this straw poll. Did the RNC tech team not consider that site visitors would be annoyed at being tricked into handing over their data, only to discover that they wouldn’t be shown the results of the poll? Very poor form on the part of the RNC.
Of course, there could be a more cynical reason for this omission. The RNC may not want the public to view the results of the poll — it may burst the Christie bubble we’ve all been hearing so much about or may show that Republicans aren’t all that jazzed about the undocumented Democrats that the party would like to see win the nomination. After all, how awkward would it be if Jeb Bush went down to Ted Cruz or if Rob Portman lost badly to Allen West?
If you have any doubts that the RNC is after your data and your money and doesn’t give a hoot about your opinion, note that Ron Paul is included in the poll and that you can vote more than once.
While it won’t hurt anything to join the RNC’s mailing list, it will do little to help elect constitutional conservatives. A much better strategy is to identify good candidates and donate your time and talents directly to their campaigns.
And when Reince Priebus trots out the results of this straw poll in a few weeks, believe at your own risk.
This is Week 12 of Season 3 in my 13 Weeks of Wild Man Writing and Radical Reading Series. Every week day I try to blog about compelling writers, their ideas, and the news cycle’s most interesting headlines. This Top 10 list is the series’ climax for this year, a project I’ve been planning since first asking the question December 5, 2012.
What is the future of conservatism? Which voices should define the priorities of the movement in the coming decades? Who are its most skilled proponents today? How should the movement evolve to face the threats most endangering America?
This list is my effort to advocate for both my favorite writers contributing to answering these questions and the ideas they champion.
5 quick ground rules first:
- I’m being strict with the “columnist” title – no bloggers, journalists, or feature writers. A “columnist” is one who writes a 700-1400+ word polemical article on a regular basis for an established publication or syndication.
- I’m likewise being strict with the “conservative” title – other various right-of-center ideologies (neoconservatism, libertarianism, Christian theocrats, and paleo-con conspiracists) warrant their own lists. (Which perhaps they might get next year as I continue mapping out today’s most important ideological advocates in the contests of politics, ideas, and culture…)
[UPDATE: Confused why some of your favorites aren't on this list? See: 3 Basic Differences Between Conservatism and Neoconservatism]
- In selecting these individuals, I am including them and the ideas they champion in what I’m calling Conservatism 3.0. This isn’t just a stand-alone list, it’s part of the bigger, ongoing project of my attempt to encourage ideological debate and dialogue. The columnists on this list each write books too and I’m adding their titles to my reading lists at the Freedom Academy Book Club. In next year’s installment of my “radical reading regimen” I’ll blog through their titles too.
- I’m excluding writers that I edit. All of PJM’s columnists and freelancers have been going on a separate list of my favorite writers, which I’ve been accumulating over the last six months and you can read on the last page of this post. And as an extra mention I have to go out of my way to recommend Instapundit Glenn Reynolds’s USA Today columns too. Blogging isn’t the only medium that Glenn’s mastered.
- I’m including excerpts from some of my favorite columns. Fair warning: this article today is over 13,000 words, highlighting some of the year’s best op/eds. (UPDATE: And apparently that means it’s too big for the view-as-single-page or print-this-post feature to work. I’m sorry. I assure you that was not intentional.) It’s really more of a free online e-book — a late Christmas present to all the readers, writers, activists, and patriots who have inspired and encouraged me in my own journey across the political spectrum…
10. Ross Douthat
Back in 2009 the New York Times editorial page made the very rare great decision. They replaced corporatist neoconservative baby boomer William Kristol (born December 23, 1952) with cultural conservative millennial-leaning Gen-Xer Ross Douthat (born November 28, 1979.)
Gone was the D.C.-insider establishment man, symbolic of — and in some ways a contributor to — the Republican Party’s and conservatism’s failures todays, and in was a sunny National Review writer with a film critic background and religious interests to reinvent center-right arguments with a fresh, optimistic voice. A few highlights from this year, on Reza Aslan’s Jesus recycling, the celebration of tribal criminality in Breaking Bad, and lessons for the JFK cult:
August 3, “Return of the Jesus Wars“:
The fact that Aslan’s take on Jesus is not original doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong. But it has the same problem that bedevils most of his competitors in the “real Jesus” industry. In the quest to make Jesus more comprehensible, it makes Christianity’s origins more mysterious.
Part of the lure of the New Testament is the complexity of its central character — the mix of gentleness and zeal, strident moralism and extraordinary compassion, the down-to-earth and the supernatural.
Most “real Jesus” efforts, though, assume that these complexities are accretions, to be whittled away to reach the historical core. Thus instead of a Jesus who contains multitudes, we get Jesus the nationalist or Jesus the apocalyptic prophet or Jesus the sage or Jesus the philosopher and so on down the list.
There’s enough gospel material to make any of these portraits credible. But they also tend to be rather, well, boring, and to raise the question of how a pedestrian figure — one zealot among many, one mystic in a Mediterranean full of them — inspired a global faith.
October 1, “Walter White’s Dream”:
The allure for Team Walt is not ultimately the pull of nihilism, or the harmless thrill of rooting for asupervillain. It’s the pull of an alternative moral code, neither liberal nor Judeo-Christian, with an internal logic all its own. As James Bowman wrote in The New Atlantis, embracing Walt doesn’t requiring embracing “individual savagery” and a world without moral rules. It just requires a return to “old rules” — to “the tribal, family-oriented society and the honor culture that actually did precede the Enlightenment’s commitment to universal values.”
Those rules seem cruel by the lights of both cosmopolitanism and Christianity, but they are not irrational or necessarily false. Their Darwinian logic is clear enough, and where the show takes place — in the shadow of cancer, the shadow of death — the kindlier alternatives can seem softheaded, pointless, naïve.
Nor can this tribal morality be refuted in a laboratory. Indeed, by making Walt a chemistry genius, the show offers an implicit rebuke to the persistent modern conceit that a scientific worldview logically implies liberalism, humanism and a widening circle of concern. On “Breaking Bad,” that worldview just makes Walt a better kingpin, and the beautiful equations of chemistry are deployed to addict, poison, decompose.
November 23, “Puddleglum and the Savage“:
What exhausts skeptics of the Kennedy cult, both its elegiac and paranoid forms, is the way it makes a saint out of a reckless adulterer, a Camelot out of a sordid political operation, a world-historical figure out of a president whose fate was tragic but whose record was not terribly impressive.
But in many ways the impulses driving the Kennedy nostalgists are the same ones animating Lewis’s Puddleglum and Huxley’s Savage — the desire for grace and beauty, for icons and heroes, for a high-stakes dimension to human affairs that a consumerist, materialist civilization can flatten and exclude.
And one can believe J.F.K. is a poor vessel for these desires, and presidential politics the wrong place to satisfy them, without wishing they would disappear.
“It is a serious thing,” Lewis wrote, describing the implications of his religious worldview, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship.”
It is obviously a serious mistake, from this perspective, to deify someone prematurely or naively, as too many of Kennedy’s admirers have done.
”To deify someone prematurely or naively…” – in continuing on this list, picking writers, activists, and thinkers who have influenced my thinking for years, I want to emphasize that this is not a list of conservative heroes. These are not the gods of right-wing writing circa 2013, but rather something more mundane: a chessboard. Both in specific arguments and in tactics they each simply model the methods for how to do battle.
Douthat is a knight. His approach of leading with deeper discussions of religion and culture then eschewing cliche ideological talking points is a great way to begin the discussion with skeptical or even hostile non-conservative friends and family. As the dialogue gets deeper into specifics — as you make progress in provoking others to rattle their chains in Plato’s cage by taking politically incorrect ideas seriously — it’s time to get focused on the facts about the nature of the enemies who most threaten our ability to have these free debates about God and life. I suspect that over the coming years more will make the journey from Left to Right as I and many other post-9/11 conservatives did: through recognizing the nature of the jihad declared against us and then responding in the same way that previous generations vanquished Nazism and fascism.
In his book Disinformation, Ion Mihai Pacepa recounts the story of the Ukranian folk singers known as lirniki and banduristy. In the mid-1930s Stalin’s government announced the First All-Ukranian Congress of Lirniki and Banduristy. These folk singers, mostly blind men who wandered the countryside,
“…came to the Congress from all over the Ukraine, from tiny, forgotten villages. There were several hundred of them at the Congress, they say. It was a living museum, the country’s living history. All its songs, all its music and poetry. And they were almost all shot, almost all those pathetic blind men killed.”
Americans fail to grasp socialism because, to Americans, the political is simply one aspect of culture. To the socialist, however, the political defines culture. Everything is political. And that is why pro-Stalinist liberal American intellectuals justified rewriting history to defend Stalin, the ruthless murderer of millions including blind music men, as a revered left wing icon.
The American Liberal love affair with Marxism is rooted in the social justice movement of the late Victorian era. Turning to government to solve social and economic issues paved the way for welcoming socialism into the intellectual fold. According to early 20th century liberal intellectual Diana Trilling:
“If we can say, as I think we can, that before this century the source of all political idealism was (however remotely) religion, I think we can also say that in our own century the source of all political idealism has been socialism, and, since the Russian Revolution, specifically the socialism of the Soviet Union.”
Yet, even liberal progressives championing socialism from the safety of American shores could not fully weather the storm caused by Stalin’s Moscow Trials. One ice-axed Leon Trotsky later and the American socialist movement was up in arms, divided over Lenin versus Stalin, arguing that the Georgian dictator was perverting Marx’s perfect plan.
Check out the previous installments in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s Ann Coulter series:
October 26: My 5 Favorite Ann Coulter Columns
The thesis of Ann Coulter’s latest book, Never Trust a Liberal Over 3 – Especially a Republican is simple: Republicans do a great disservice to themselves every time they try to play along with liberals. Given the latest infighting between the Tea Party and the French Republicans (as Mark Levin calls them) Coulter’s book couldn’t have been published at a more opportune moment. Thanks to Ann, we now have a study guide for getting it right in 2014.
But, to overcome a problem, you must first acknowledge it. So here are the five major ways Republicans are screwing over the Right. The fix is simple: Stop accepting, rewarding, and emulating this behavior if you want to get liberals out of office.
5. Expecting Politicians to be Gods.
A few critics of Ann’s seem to be blown away by the fact that, at one point, she backed the Chris Christie. How could Ann back a RINO? Poser! Fraud!
And you’ve never made a wrong decision in your life, let alone changed your mind.
As Ann wrote, “No elected Republican will do everything you want.” Neither politicians nor pundits are gods; if we thought they were, we’d be lefty socialists. So, let’s give up the notion that every politician on our side needs to back our individual political philosophy with every vote they make and start approaching politics for what it is: a team sport where a serious level of rationality is required to cultivate and follow a winning strategy. Instead of devolving into implosion mode at the instigation of the bloodthirsty MSM, reconvene with the goal of winning. It really is that simple.
This week, there are pats on the head for Ted Cruz and Mike Lee as the pundits and their GOP establishment colleagues give them condescending “attaboys” for their courageous (but misguided) attempt to make the government listen to the American people. They’re not all that bright after all, the pundits imply. Not experienced in the entrenched ways of Washington. They need to learn their place — to stay in the shadows until they’ve been in Washington for a dozen or so years and have been inculcated with the proper D.C. values. Observe the masters like John McCain and Mitch McConnell and, in time, perhaps they too can be like the Great Bipartisan Sages of the Senate. The strategists all warn that the Republicans must have a unified message. “Can’t we all just get along?” they ask.
The problem is that you can’t have a unified message when you have two creatures living in one body — either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde must ultimately prevail. At the end of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jekyll, who can no longer stop himself from turning into the evil Hyde, writes in a letter, ”I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.” Is it also time to bring the unhappy life of the Democrat-lite GOP to an end?
Michael Gerson, in his post-mortem of the shutdown debacle, made it clear that he thinks one side of the GOP is sane and reasonable and the other is completely off the rails. The establishment wing of the party, according to Gerson, “believes in building a legislative majority and electing a president to overturn it.” It’s all very civil and collegial. And it involves a lot of waiting around “for the next election” as the consultants and lobbyists line their pockets and the left continues its long, steady march across the Constitution and our individual liberties.
On the dark side, we have the conservatives. Gerson says,
[T]ea party leaders inhabit an alternative political reality — sheltered in safe districts or states, applauded by conservative media, incited (or threatened) by advocacy groups, carried along by a deep current of anger and frustration among activists — they have no incentive to view defeat as defeat. In fact, turning against tactical radicalism would involve serious political risk. So every setback is interpreted as a need for greater purity and commitment.
This is the same old “clinging to their God, guns and religion” tripe we heard from Obama, only cloaked in a stuffy D.C. political analysis, but it shows the divide between the Washington ruling elites and those who believe that not everything can be solved in Washington — that the entrenched ways of Washington are actually the problem.
Michael Bauman recalled this week a pivotal moment in John McCain’s presidential campaign, when he was ahead in the polls and left the campaign trial to rush back to Washington to deal with a financial crisis. Bauman writes:
But just like his Democratic opponents, when things got bad, McCain turned to government and returned to Washington. He could never convince the American voters that Washington is the problem because he didn’t believe it himself. He believed Washington is the solution. He still does. So does the Republican leadership in the Senate and the RNC. Do not expect him or them to beat the Democrats. They share the Democrats’ ideology and solutions. The difference between them and the Democrats is one of degree, not of kind.
As the federal government shutdown drama wrapped up, I asked if the Tea Party just wants to watch the world burn. Motivating that question was an observed division among activists on the Right between those seeking to work within the system to elect majorities and those seeking to “fight” at any electoral cost.
The latter faction claims exclusive title to principle. Over and over again, leading up to and during the shutdown, we were told that a vote for a continuing resolution which did not defund Obamacare was “a vote to fund Obamacare.” In other words, we were told that you cannot claim to oppose a policy on principle if you take an action which acquiesces to it.
As logical as it may sound on first pass, that premise deserves to be challenged. If universally applied, it establishes a standard which precisely no one can meet. No elected official, including Tea Party darling Senator Ted Cruz, can claim to have never taken an action which supports an institution or policy violating their principles. No resident of this country can either.
As a libertarian purist, if you’ve received and spent Federal Reserve notes, if you’ve paid a tax, if you’ve driven on public roads, if you attended or sent your children to a public school, if you’ve dialed 9-1-1, if you’ve claimed unemployment, if you’ve watched television or seen a movie or turned on a radio, if you’ve flown, if you’ve bought a product produced and distributed under our American system of coercive regulations — if you’ve lived in this country, then you have supported institutions and policies which violate your sacred principles.
A common attack upon the integrity of Ayn Rand cites that she took Social Security and Medicare benefits. She was a hypocrite, critics charge, because she railed against such programs throughout her career. Missed in such criticism is acknowledgement of the fundamental difference between acting as an individual under the system in which you live and condoning the specific rights-violating policies and institutions which make up that system. Being philosophically opposed to the way things are does not create some obligation to act against your own interest in a futile attempt to keep your hands clean of the system.
Spoiler Alert: Key plot elements of Atlas Shrugged discussed below.
In Ayn Rand’s influential novel Atlas Shrugged, a tension builds between Dagny Taggart, partial heir and productive heart of her family’s railroad company, and an enigmatic figure known as John Galt. Both uphold the principle of individual rights, believing that men ought to be free to apply their own judgment to achieve their own values in pursuit of their own happiness. Both believe that men ought to deal with each other through reason, persuasion, and consent. Both oppose evermore egregious encroachments by a state which throttles the productivity of individuals and threatens the general welfare of the nation. The tension between Dagny and Galt arises from a difference not in principle, but in methodology.
Dagny reacts to a rising tide of statist interventions by fighting that much harder to stay atop of it. She produces more, comes up with better ideas, and innovates new ways of defying the system while still working within it. Galt, on the other hand, has resolved to defy the system by withdrawing from it. He removes himself and his productive capacity from society and creates a new community in a hidden gulch. Over time, he and his cohort recruit new residents from among the most productive and intellectually honest capitalists in the nation. As that class begins to disappear from public view, the remaining populace wilts under the predictable consequences of collectivist policies. Dagny, only vaguely aware of Galt’s agenda, views him as “the Destroyer,” an antagonist keeping her from saving the country by steadily removing productive individuals from the economy. Dagny eventually finds herself confronted with the choice to join Galt’s strike or continue to work within a crumbling system.
Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams said he thinks he knows how to end the ongoing gridlock over the partial shutdown of the federal government and the debt ceiling. Williams said the business community should get involved, suggesting that strategic campaign donations could persuade moderate Republicans — like Susan Collins and John Boehner — to “be reasonable.”
Republicans are imploding and what they have — and I think is really key — it’s not just the markets, it’s the business community that needs to reassert itself inside the Republican Party, so that people like Susan Collins, people even like potentially John Boehner, could see that there’s some political powers from money that comes forth to Republican moderates in this fight and that people want him to be reasonable and not simply listen to the far right wing that right now is dominating the Republican Party and driving them over the cliff [emphasis added].
So has Williams finally seen the light on the 1st Amendment? Because just a few months ago he was blaming the Supreme Court — and the Citizens United decision — for the IRS targeting of conservative groups. He complained that the court’s decision unleashed unlimited “dark money” contributions to influence elections:
The calculating, big money players have long wanted to keep their donations secret. Citizens United allowed them to give all the money they wanted without having their names attached to it. … They don’t want to deal with the public fall-out of being seen as a puppet master pulling the strings of the politician they helped elect with their contributions. They don’t want to be seen as supporting corporate welfare or the gutting of labor and environmental regulations or any other unpopular causes that will line their corporate coffers.
Are we to believe that Williams now wants corporate “puppet masters” to pull some strings with “dark money” donations to keep the “far right wing” from driving the Republican Party over the cliff — out of the goodness of his heart?
Why, the man is a veritable Karl Rove — get him a white board!
This week, Ohio Governor John Kasich’s administration asked the seven-member Ohio Controlling Board to appropriate federal Obamacare funds for the purpose of Medicaid expansion, bypassing the state legislature.
The Obama administration approved Ohio’s request to amend its Medicaid program so that people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($32,499 for a household of four) would be covered. The state’s Medicaid director, John McCarthy, submitted the request Sept. 26 with a corresponding request for the Controlling Board to appropriate the federal funds without the approval of the Republican-controlled legislature, which has stalled Kasich’s plans for Medicaid expansion.
The Controlling Board consists of the chairs of the Senate and House Finance Committees (currently Republicans) and a Republican and Democrat from both houses. The director of the OMB (a Kasich appointee) serves as the board’s president. Generally, the board’s duties include transferring funds between line items or fiscal years, allowing for emergency funding, and approving grants and loans made by the Department of Development. There is speculation that the two Democrats and the Kasich appointee would vote for the Medicaid expansion, so Kasich would only need to secure one additional Republican vote to win approval from the board. Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said he believes Kasich has the authority to turn the decision over to the Controlling Board. “I’m certainly a defender of legislative rights, and I would think a better solution would be a legislative option, but the governor does have that authority,” he said.
However, questions remain about the authority of the board. The Ohio Revised Code prohibits the Controlling Board from carrying out any action “which does not carry out the legislative intent of the general assembly.” But Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols justified the action, saying, “Only the General Assembly can authorize Medicaid to spend funds in this way, either through a bill or the Controlling Board.” Kasich, vacationing in Europe, was not available for comment, the Dispatch reported.
Voicing opposition last week to the continuing resolution that would fund the entire federal government except for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) delivered an emotional, rhetoric-filled speech on the House floor. Calling the bill a “wolf in wolf’s clothing,” Pelosi said it would result in cuts to biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health.
“The underlying bill to shut down government, the continuing resolution, is reason enough to object to it because that bill will cost at least one million jobs in the course of the next year,” Pelosi said.
Declaring “we are not here to expand government,” Pelosi went on to reveal something that many of us have suspected for years — that government is the progressives’ god:
It will not only do that, it will cut our investments in the future: in education, in biomedical research – the National Institutes of Health has the biblical power to cure [emphasis added].
Pelosi went on to say, “Where there is scientific opportunity, we have a moral obligation to meet that scientific obligation with the resources to respect the talent, the intellect, the God-given intellect of the science to cure.”
This is not the first time Pelosi has endowed the National Institutes of Health with biblical powers. At a press conference in March of 2011 celebrating the first anniversary of Obamacare, Pelosi made the same claim:
There’s a cut in funding for the National Institutes of Health. This is not a healthy thing for our country because that research has answers. You know that every family in America is one telephone call, one diagnosis, one accident away from needing the kind of biomedical research that can cure–really have the biblical power to cure in a very, very special way and so to cut back on that research is wrong.
Pelosi didn’t elaborate on the “very, very special way” that the NIH has the “biblical power to cure,” and she doesn’t explain how cutting government funding to the mighty federal government would hamper the Almighty’s ability to cure the sick. Many would rightly argue that a government bureaucracy is not particularly well-suited to delivering health care, let alone biblical healing.
With all the Republican elitist consternation and wind-baggery about the liberty-minded wing of the party trying to defund Obamacare, you’d be hard-pressed to know who’s playing for which team these days. Gloria Borger told Anderson Cooper on Thursday that she talked to a “senior Republican” who said Republican leaders were more angry with the defunders than with Obama.
More angry with Ted Cruz and Mike Lee than with President Obama who is tanking our economy and steering our foreign policy ship into dystopian, post-superpower waters? If true, the comment is very instructional about the lack of contrast between the GOP establishment and the Democrats.
“Republicans will get blamed for a government shut down,” they say or, “We’ll lose the Independent vote,” as Karl Rove belly ached in the Wall Street Journal (with the lofty poll conducted by his SuperPAC to prove it). Former McCain advisor Ana Navarro huffed, “I think of it as very destructive and unseemly. Who wants to join a dysfunctional family? So I see why independents would be antagonize by watching this spectacle.” As if anyone from the losing McCain campaign should be advising the GOP about winning elections? Nevertheless, the McCain/Romney/Bush wing of the party has abandoned the fight against Obamacare and has instead taken up arms against conservative Republicans.
Rush Limbaugh likes to say, “Liberals always tell you which conservatives they fear the most.” The same is true for Republican establishment moderates — and these days they’re all downing handfuls of antacids and scheduling extra therapy sessions at the thought they might have to cede power to the likes of Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and others in the “Wacko Bird” wing of the party.
The late Andrew Breitbart said in his memorable CPAC speech in 2012,
“Everything has changed. Everything has changed in the last few years. Conservatives used to take it and we’re not taking it anymore.”
The phenomenon occurs among activists on the Left and the Right. Regardless of their ideological perspective or particular cause, amateur activists sabotage their own effort at every turn. Whether due to ignorance of processes or – more likely – stubborn defiance of reality, citizen activists focus too much on grinding their axe and not enough on achieving a goal.
Three recent examples warrant consideration. First, in Maine, a group of libertarian Republicans including a National Committeeman authored an open letter to the state party secretary tendering their resignation from the GOP following a rules fight which didn’t go their way at a meeting of the RNC. Dave Nalle, former national chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus, an organization working within the party to steer it toward greater advocacy of individual rights, called the mass exodus a “betrayal” in a public Facebook post:
After years of working to gain those positions of influence and as a key component of a liberty coalition which controls the state party, they have thrown everything away because of losing one battle over the rules with the RNC leadership.
Did they go into this thinking it was going to be easy to change the Republican Party? I respect their efforts and commitment up to this point, but what they have done puts liberty movement control of their state party in jeopardy and hands additional victories to the malefactors who run the national party. It weakens the movement nationwide and sets a terrible example for others.
In Minnesota, the Occupy movement has splintered as Occupy MN announced that it was cutting ties with a spin-off organization called Occupy Homes MN on account of the latter becoming “commercialized” and “profitable.” City Pages reports on the schism, citing a public statement from Occupy MN:
Many of us helped create, volunteered with and were arrested with Occupy Homes, until unethical tactics serving the goal of evolution into a profitable Non-Governmental Organization achieved dominance.
Last but not least, activists made a stink following an incident at the Republican Party booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Volunteers arrived to work a shift at the booth wearing campaign t-shirts supporting a libertarian challenger to Congressman John Kline. The state party chair, fulfilling his fiduciary responsibility to protect the party brand, required the volunteers to turn their shirts inside-out while representing the party in an official capacity. The move sparked a firestorm of protest from liberty activists within the party. A former candidate for the state chair position rallied support on Facebook by noting:
Neither Kline nor Mr. [David] Gerson [the challenger] is endorsed for the 2014 race to keep MN CD 2 in GOP hands.
Apparently, political parties have no vested interest in promoting their elected officials or protecting their brand by not associating it with non-endorsed challengers. So goes the protesters’ argument.
Each of these examples and many more which could be cited indicate an activist mindset which I refer to as anti-activism. Like a gerbil running on its wheel, anti-activists expend tremendous energy toward getting nowhere. That becomes problematic for more thoughtful activists who focus on affecting public policy rather than protest for its own sake. Let’s consider 6 ways activists sabotage their cause.
For season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen, each weekday morning I juxtapose excerpts from my book readings with a selection of the previous day’s headlines and noteworthy excerpts. The goal is to make fresh connections between the events of the day and the bigger picture of history and humanity’s place in the universe.
Of the news stories in today’s round-up, the ones in particular that I’d point attention toward have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with science and history. At The Scientist we learn a bit about the ancient Incan practice of human sacrifice. How did victims go more willingly? The priests got them stoned and drunk — for as long as a full year before their murder in the name of Incan nature deities.
Another story at CNN discusses new theories into why monogamy developed:
Although parental care and dispersed female ranges are also traits of social monogamy, male infanticide is the one that appears to have preceded, historically, the shift to social monogamy, the researchers say.
“Our analyses suggest that socially monogamous species are much more likely to have low male infanticide rates,” study authors wrote.
The risk of infanticide goes down because one or both parents can defend a child against another invading male, they argue. It also appears that species practicing social monogamy have a relatively shorter lactation period, which allows fertility to resume more quickly and reduces the incentive for other males to swoop in and kill offspring.
This may be an uncomfortable thought, but researchers suggest that male infanticide may have put pressure on our ancestors to stay in long-term couples.
A few related videos on infanticide in nature and the human world today:
“I don’t think it’s problematic to say that a four month old baby is not actually a person. I think that’s simply true.” – Peter Singer on MSNBC in December 2011
Here’s a hypothesis that I’m starting to roll around in my head as I continue my research both in old books and new headlines: the practice of human sacrifice is a side effect of cultures based in polygamy and slavery. When a people starts producing children whose parents don’t want to raise them then the culture needs to find some way to get rid of them. And if human life isn’t sacred, if we’re just smart chimps and talking space dust animated by chance, if we really do live in a secular, materialistic world, then in the words of our likely future president, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Tuesday Dawn Book Reading:
Page 98 of America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity for the 21st Century — Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come by James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus:
Tuesday Morning News Round Up:
Lead PJM Stories From Tuesday:
Roger L. Simon: Christie, Paul, Libertarianism, and the NSA
So, as an example, when I watch Fox’s John Stossel — whose echt-libertarian cable show is one of my favorites when he’s concentrating on domestic issues — speak of foreign affairs, I think I’m listening to an idealistic nine year old at a Quaker meeting. What happened to the smart, clever fellow who was just talking? He went down the drain of ideological purity.
It’s time to think about walking and chewing gum at the same time. In other words, why can’t we lean libertarian on some issues and not on others? Life doesn’t have to be that simple and classifiable with buzz words. In fact, to be ideologically rigid in any way is not, well, libertarian.
Victor Davis Hanson: Life in the Twilight
Then there are the lies of our age all put to the purpose of egalitarian “fairness,” but they are lies nonetheless. Of course, this is not entirely new: the Rosenbergs were really guilty of selling us out. So was Alger Hiss. Mumia Abu-Jamal was a cop killer. Che was a sadist. Castro killed more than did Pinochet. Woodrow Wilson was a classic racist at a time many of his background were not anymore. I could go on, but the legendary and politically exempt icons the left gave us were mostly lies.
In our age, Nobel laureate, exempt Al Gore proved a fraud: the feminist who was accused of groping a woman in crazed sex-poodle fashion; the stern green scold who cashed out to a fossil-fuel exporting sheikdom; the tax raiser who scrambled to sell out before capital gains taxes rose; the humanitarian who profited from anti-Semitic authoritarians; the man of the people who hyped a crisis and then offered a high-priced carbon-offset remedy for it.
If Todd Akin helped to spark a pseudo-war on women, what did the current careers of Eliot “Client #9” Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, and Bob Filner prompt — the idea that progressive and feminist men, if they are really going to enact hope and change, from time to time should have sabbaticals from their careers after frequenting young prostitutes, sending photos of their genitalia to women, or twisting and squeezing the posteriors and breasts of female employees? Is there a creepy squeeze, and then again a politically correct one? Should there be a camp where John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Weiner, Spitzer, and Filner are taught to behave?
I think the answer goes something like this: “Of course Spitzer, Weiner, and Filner are creeps, but until the public turns on them, they are our creeps and still good point men in the war against reactionary America.”
We are not publicly to confess other disturbing truths. The vastly inordinate rates of criminality in parts of the inner city cannot serve as an alternate exegesis to racism to explain why Americans of all races make the necessary adjustments of where, when, and how they navigate. That thoughtcrime is “racist.”
Rick Moran: A Fight that Had to Happen
Dr. Tim Ball and Tom Harris: The Age of Hyperbole: How Normal Weather Became ‘Extreme’
Bridget Johnson: Drone Concerns Overshadow Confirmation of New FBI Director
Vik Rubenfeld: Report from Egypt: Violence Against Morsi Supporters Is a Response to Bombing, Kidnapping, Torture and Killing
Roger Kimball: From ‘Anti-Communist’ to ‘Counterjihadist’
No one talks about anti-Communists now because that threat — under that name, anyway — has more or less passed. Today’s anti-Communists are the Islamophobes, those folks (like me) who think that the Islamic effort to spread Sharia (i.e., Islamic law) is fundamentally incompatible with liberal democracy with its principles of free speech, freedom of religion, and political equality of men and women.
“Islamophobia”: what sort of beast is that? A phobia, as I have been at pains to point out in this space and elsewhere, is an irrational fear or hatred. Is it irrational to fear and hate an ideology that denies the equality of the sexes, murders apostates and homosexuals, wishes to subjugate the non-Islamic world, and has consigned Jews and Christians to the perilous second-class citizenship of dhimmitude? (“First the Saturday People,” runs an Islamic slogan, “then the Sunday People”: first we’ll deal with the Jews, then move on to the Christians.)
Who rules the language, rules the world. Orwell knew that. And so does the Left. “Islamophobia” is a mendacious neologism designed to obscure the reality of Islamic ideology. Major Nidal Hasan shouts “Allahu Akbar” and murders 13 people at Fort Hood. What do you call that? I call it “Islamic terrorism.” The Obama administration insists it’s “workplace violence.” In 2007, some young Muslim packs a Jeep Cherokee full of propane canisters and detonates it at the Glasgow airport. What do you call that? I call it “Islamic terrorism.” Jacqui Smith, then the British home secretary, insists that we call it “anti-Islamic activity.” (How’s that for an example of the “no-true-Scotsman” fallacy?)
PJ Lifestyle Featured on PJ Home Page:
P. David Hornik: American? Israeli? Who Am I?
This year around 4th of July time, as in previous years, a few people asked me if I was doing anything to celebrate. Although some American Jewish immigrants in Israel hold 4th of July events, I said that, as usual, I had no such plans.
Why not? For one thing, I no longer see myself as part of the American polity. My visits to the States now occur only every few years and are quite brief. I feel myself to be foreign there, not knowing the society and its ways nearly as well as I do in Israel.
But what’s wrong with a little “ethnic” nostalgia? Why not go to a little 4th of July party and recall the ethos and ideals of the old country? Isn’t it where you were born and lived the first thirty years of your life?
To answer all that, I need to dig deeper.
New at PJ Lifestyle:
Kathy Shaidle: Both Sides Now: Joni Mitchell Blasts Hometown, Deep South as ‘Bigoted’ — After Wearing Blackface
Theodore Dalrymple: Should An Alcoholic Be Allowed To Get a Second Liver Transplant?
Becky Graebner: Bon appétit: The Best French Food in Washington, D.C.
Also Around the Web Tuesday:
Daily Mail: Editor jailed for seven years and sentenced to 600 LASHES after starting ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ website
The editor of a Saudi Arabian social website has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an Internet forum that violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought, Saudi media reported on Tuesday.
Raif Badawi, who started the ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia, has been held since June 2012 on charges of cyber crime and disobeying his father – a crime in the conservative kingdom and top U.S. ally.
Al-Watan newspaper said the judge had also ordered the closure of the website.
Charles C. Johnson at The Daily Caller: Weiner didn’t declare costs for lavish 2010 wedding
“I’m here because of Huma,” Clay Adam Wade, a junior staffer, explained to me.
The sentiment was repeated to me again by some fellow interns.
Their hope was to make a connection with Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, and thus forge a potential connection to her longtime boss, Hillary Clinton, to get an inside track for a campaign position if she ran for president in 2016.
I’d just like to give a shout out to Noah Rothman, editor at Mediaite and the site’s most balanced, interesting writer. I’ve been a fan of Mediaite for awhile — the site’s actually pretty balanced and fair when one discounts the resident progressive flamethrower (who I will not dignify by naming. He knows who he is and someday after he grows up will be ashamed of himself for his hateful attacks against my friend and colleague J. Christian Adams.) But really make a point to follow Rothman’s items — his author archive is here — he continually finds great media gems and keeps up on important stories such as Benghazi and PRISM.
Noah Rothman: Hysterical Liberals Rush To Protect The Clintons From Minor Threat Posed By Weiner’s Misconduct
A recently conducted Public Policy Polling survey of the Democratic landscape ahead of the 2016 primary shows Clinton beating all her opponents by a 40 point margin. With 52 percent support nationally, Clinton’s closest competitor – the sitting Vice President of the United States – receives only 12 percent support. The party’s other rising stars languish in the single digits.
In head-to-head matchups, Clinton bests all the Republican Party’s potential presidential candidates, but only by single digits. She is within the margin of error when tested against New Jersey Gov.Chris Christie, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Substitute Joe Bidenfor Clinton, and those tight races become routs, with Paul, Christie, or Bush becoming the 45th President of the United States (though Paul’s margin of victory is also at the top end of the margin of error).
On Tuesday, Fox News obtained documents showing that the federal government is initiating a program designed to “nudge” Americans toward particular behaviors. The “Behavioral Insights Team” to be formed would work with the White House, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, among others. The document, emailed by White House senior adviser on social and behavioral sciences Maya Shenker to a university professor, states, “Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people achieve their goals.”
Michael Patrick Leahy: Major Virginia Paper: Film ‘Fast Terry’ Flays McAuliffe
On Monday the Virginian-Pilot published the first review of Fast Terry, the new documentary film produced by the conservative non-profit group Citizens United, and it is not good news for the film’s subject, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia.
According to the review’s headline, the documentary “flays McAuliffe’s Virginia [business] deals,” that “haven’t met the bold job claims Virginia’s Democratic nominee for governor once boasted they would.”
Julian Walker, the Virginian-Pilot’s political columnist, wrote in his review that “[t]hrough a mix of narration, press clippings, McAuliffe excerpts, and on-camera interviews, the gubernatorial candidate is cast as a cash-obsessed politician who’s given false hope to job-starved residents of two rural communities.”
Let us never forget that the same media currently in hyper-drive to push Weiner out of the race is the very same media that played a willing accomplice to Weiner’s comeback strategy. In July 2012, People Magazine ran a fluffy cover profile of Weiner and his family. In April of 2013, the New York Times Magazine ran a very consequential cover story that pretty much did the same.
Moreover, after Weiner officially announced his intent to run for mayor of New York, the national media lapped up the comeback story like it was fat-free, soy-based ice cream.
David Gergen on Richard Nixon: His Inner Demons
Americans knew he could be mean and duplicitous, but I sensed they voted for him because they also thought he was smart enough and tough enough to keep the Soviets at bay. They were right.
If your home is threatened, you want a German shepherd, not a cocker spaniel.
In my early days as a junior lieutenant, I mostly saw the bright side of Nixon — the one who read books recommended to him by his early counselor, Pat Moynihan, and debated the virtues of World War I generals with Henry Kissinger. Only when I had more experience and he invited me in closer did he begin to reveal the rest of him — the dark side.
Fundamentally, I believe that as Carl Jung argued, each of us has a bright and dark side, and that the task of becoming a mature, integrated adult is to conquer one’s dark side or at least bring it under control.
Nixon simply did not have that dark side under control — he had demons inside him and when they rose up in fury, as they did so often, they could not only destroy others but destroy him, too.
About 90% of bird species demonstrate social monogamy; this is true for less than 3% of mammals.
Living in pairs makes sense for birds because successful child rearing requires both parents to incubate and provide food for the babies, which hatch from eggs. On the other hand, in mammals, the fetus grows inside the mother, and she lactates to feed the baby — activities in which males don’t play a role.
Typically, male mammals mate with multiple females in a single breeding season, a system called polygyny. If a male animal’s evolutionary goals are to survive and reproduce, monogamy represents a problem; staying with one partner limits his seed-spreading potential.
In primates in particular, however, about a quarter of species display social monogamy. The phenomenon appears to have developed about 16 million years ago, which is relatively late in the history of primates, according to a new study led by Christopher Opie at University College London.
I wonder how long until the real amount the price would go up will be revealed by more serious economists who actually understand how businesses operate…
Speaking after the attack the woman, who suffered horrendous burns to her face and body, said: ‘I saw a man approach me who was carrying something in a bottle.
‘He threw it over me and after a few seconds it started burning. I was crying: “Please help me! Please help me!”‘
It is thought Yannick Ntesa, 25, sprayed the acid and made his getaway in a red BMW with
Abdul Motin, 28, and 31-year-old Ahad Miah.
The 44-year-old mother, from Plaistow, fled to a neighbour’s home where water was poured over her burning clothes.
Revealed: How an alcoholic mother and being kicked out of home for being gay turned Bradley Manning into the biggest leaker in U.S. history
‘Slave maid’ who says she was trafficked by Saudi princess and kept against her will in Florida home ‘used to fly first class with her employer’
WEINER EXCLUSIVE: Shamed politican’s sexting partner offered sex for cash and bragged about milking sugar daddies she called ‘super-pathetic’ for thousands of dollars
Three former Penn State officials accused of covering up Sandusky abuse claims are ordered to stand trial
Penn State University’s ex-president and two former top school administrators have been ordered to stand trial on charges accusing them of a cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Prosecutors showed enough evidence during a two-day preliminary hearing to warrant a full criminal court trial for ex-president Graham Spanier, former vice-president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley, Judge William Wenner said.
The Judge described it as a ‘tragic day for Penn State University’ at a hearing on Tuesday.
I could have saved Tony Soprano: Heart doctor claims we’ll soon be able to bring the dead back to life after 24 hours
Protestants are ‘more creative’ than Catholics and Jews – who don’t have an adequate outlet for their feelings
FBI reveals teen sex slaves worked Super Bowl after biggest child prostitution bust EVER sees 105 victims rescued and 150 pimps arrested
The FBI said 60 percent of the children rescued were in foster care or group homes when they ran away.
‘With no way to survive on their own they are lured into a life of being trafficked for sex,’ Hosko said.
Girls are enticed into the sex trade with compliments and offers of making money ‘and then they are trapped in this cycle that involves drugs, it involves physical abuse, it may involve torture… so that they are tied to the pimp,’ he said.
Hosko added: ‘Commonly they don’t see law enforcement as their friends’ but rather as a threat of arrest.
To identify victims of sex trafficking, agents went undercover in major cities and posed as men looking for sex. They also used Backpage, a website that is used to sell girls for sex.
The conservatives have finally purified the Republican Party, dispatching moderate infidels in primary after primary, demanding fealty to their agenda of huge tax cuts and drastically lower spending. They have used their sizable numbers in Congress to help realize that agenda, with periodic assists from a president who has always been more fiscally responsible than his enemies would admit.
Congratulations Tea Partiers! According to former Obama speechwriter Favreau, even though you were sabotaged in your efforts to get tax-exempt status you still managed to take over the GOP!
Oh wait, who are the “conservatives” to whom Favreau refers? Just about everyone conservatives and Tea Partiers would label a RINO:
These are Republicans like Chris Christie, who has witnessed the vital importance of robust federal aid in the wake of a terrible storm. These are Republicans like Jeb Bush, who has tried to reform public education without completely dismantling it. These are Republicans like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the handful of senators who have sought compromise with Democrats over issues such as immigration reform and finally ended the historically exceptional blockade of perfectly qualified executive-branch nominees so that the president can fill the jobs his administration is required to perform.
Looks like the goal posts of who counts as a “conservative” and a “moderate” are a bit different in the Land of the Beasts.
Last week we posted an exhaustive supercut of every movie reference from the first five seasons of The Simpsons. Now NextMovie is back with another installment for Seasons 6 through 10, and it’s more referential than ever.
Michael Barone: Fissures on the Left
Rich Lowry: Daniels vs. Zinn
A People’s History is a book for high-school students not yet through their Holden Caulfield phase, for professors eager to subject their students to their own ideological enthusiasms, and for celebrities like Matt Damon, who has done so much to publicize it. If it is a revelation to you that we treated Native Americans poorly, and if you believe the Founding Fathers were a bunch of phonies, Zinn’s volume will strike you with the power of a thunderclap. And one day, maybe, you will grow up.
The caterwauling in the Daniels controversy about the importance of academic inquiry is particularly rich, given that Zinn didn’t believe in it. He had no use for objectivity and made history a venture in rummaging through the historical record to find whatever was most politically useful, without caring much about strict factual accuracy. “Knowing history is less about understanding the past than changing the future,” he said. He joined his propagandistic purpose to a moral obtuseness that refused to distinguish between the United States and its enemies, including Nazi Germany.
Stanley Kurtz: Regionalism: Obama’s Quiet Anti-Suburban Revolution
The consensus response to President Obama’s Knox College speech on the economy is that the administration has been reduced to pushing a menu of stale and timid policies that, in any case, won’t be enacted. But what if the administration isn’t actually out of ideas? What if Obama’s boldest policy initiative is merely something he’d rather not discuss? And what if that initiative is being enacted right now?
A year ago, I published Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities. There I described the president’s second-term plan to press a transformative “regionalist” agenda on the country. Early but unmistakable signs indicate that Obama’s regionalist push is well underway. Yet the president doesn’t discuss his regionalist moves and the press does not report them.
Scott Johnson: Reporting from Amsterdam: The Anne Frank Museum
Anne and her family lived in hiding in “the secret annex” above Mr. Frank’s office with four others for just a little over two full years before someone turned them in to the authorities. Who turned them in? Was it for the reward of 7.50 guilders per Jewish head that the Nazis conferred for such tips? Whatever the motive, the act was pure evil. We learn from Melissa Muller’s very good biography of Anne that we have some idea who the perpetrator might have been. This is one aspect of the story that the museum does not touch.
John Hinderaker: Hillary for President!
But I digress. We already knew that a movie titled Rodham is in the works. It will focus on Hillary’s role as a 26-year-old staffer on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. Since Hillary played no perceptible role in the Watergate affair or its aftermath, the movie could make for a boring couple of hours. On the other hand, actresses like Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon and Amanda Seyfried are reportedly in the running for the role of Ms. Rodham–because, I guess, they look so much like Hillary.
Paul Mirengoff: The Obama-Zinn Connection
From time to time, we have noted President Obama’s lack of knowledge about American history. The most recent manifestation — his claim that Ho Chi Minh was inspired by America’s Founding Fathers — suggests that Obama’s ignorance is to some extent willful.
Obama filled out his education in American history as well as politics while he was working in Chicago. Mike Kruglik had been a doctoral candidate in American history at Northwestern before he became an organizer, and when he and Obama talked, they discussed the reasons why a nation supposedly dedicated to freedom and equality provided so little of either.
They talked about the differences between the populists and the progressives and the reasons why ordinary people never seemed to get anywhere in modern America. Kruglik recalls that Obama had a special interest in the work of the radical historian Howard Zinn.
At Pyschology Today:
- Of course, introverts are good little telecommuters and can be very productive away from the bustle of the office. Hallmark is generous about allowing employees to work at home, but supervisors keep watch to ensure employees who prefer working on site aren’t overburdened by being called upon again and again for last-minute jobs or to put out fires, just because they happen to be there. (So introverts, take note: Too much of a good thing is sometimes not nice. Monitor thyself.)
Ashley E. McGuire: Modesty is the New Sexy
The Sexual Revolution was predicated on an idea that women could somehow claim equality with men by imitating the sexuality of men. Men can have sex without fear of pregnancy, so they can have it all the time. Whether they do or not is a different conversation. But anyhow – women bought the idea that if we could untether sex from consequences – we could be equals. But in the words of Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield, “Women play the men’s game, which they are bound to lose. Without modesty, there is no romance—it isn’t so attractive or so erotic”.
Modesty is the great equalizer of the sexes. A dying strain of feminism still bangs the oppression drum and argues that it’s the last relic of male hierarchical control over women or some such. But take a quick look around and see how well that worked out for them. When there is eros, woman wins. But eros only flourishes when the virtue of modesty makes the heart rise and swell.
The Scientist: Inca Children Got High Before Death
Three Inca children found mummified in a shrine near the peak of a 6,700-meter Argentinian volcano consumed vast quantities of corn alcohol and coca, the plant from which cocaine is derived, for a year before they were sacrificed as part of their society’s religious practices. The children, a 13-year-old girl known as the “Ice Maiden” and a boy and a girl between the ages of 4 and 5, were likely sedated to keep them compliant in the death ritual, according to the authors of an analysis of the mummies published Monday (July 29) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The 500-year-old mummies are among the most well-preserved samples ever discovered, mostly due to the frigid conditions of the high altitude tomb in which they were found in 1999. (See “Pneu-mummy-a” from the November 2012 issue of The Scientist for a story of previous research done on the remains.) Detailed biochemical analysis of the mummies’ hair provided a record of what substances were circulating in the blood as new hair cells formed. Led by forensic archaeologist Andrew Wilson of the University of Bradford in the U.K., researchers discovered that the children ingested alcohol and cocaine for about a year before their death, and that consumption spiked dramatically in the weeks before they were killed.
Wednesday Book Reading:
The Cult of the Black Mother, a reinvention of orthodox Kali worship, as described on page 182 of Robert Anton Wilson’s Schrodinger’s Cat: The Universe Next Door
Do you have an article, video, or blog post that you think I would like and that I should include in this round-up? Do you edit a publication that I should start checking each day? Are you a publisher with books that might fit in with one of the seven days’ research themes in the Radical Reading Regimen? Send me an email at DaveSwindlePJM AT gmail.com.
See the first three and a half weeks’ round-ups:
- Week One
- 1. Monday, July 8: “We Ought to Defeat Capitalism With Its Own Weapons, Comrades…“
- 2. Tuesday, July 9: Can We Just Fast Forward to 2040? Please?
- 3. Thursday, July 11: Researching the American Family’s War to Beat Death…
- Week Two
- 4. Monday, July 15: Turning On Mankind’s Magical Machines To Battle Mother Earth’s Cruel Monsters
- 5. Wednesday, July 17: ‘So, You Know How You Felt on 9/11? Yeah, That’s How We Feel When It Comes To Race.’
- 6. Thursday, July 18: ‘… And There We Can Still Maintain Our Mysterious and Dreadful Freedom.’
- 7. Friday, July 19: ‘Evil Always Takes Advantage of Ambiguity.’ – G.K. Chesterton
- Week Three
- 8. Monday, July 22: ‘His Father Urged Him to Study Marxism, But Valentin Preferred Science.’
- 9. Tuesday, July 23: ‘Perhaps The Final Secret of the Illuminati Is That You Don’t Know You’re A Member Until It’s Too Late to Get Out.’
- 10. Wednesday, July 24: Is Anthony Weiner a ‘Deviant’ or a ‘Normal’ Male?
- 11. Thursday, July 25: ‘The Most Ancient Conflict in Western Culture, Between Jew and Egyptian, Continues…’
- 12. Friday, July 26: Weiner’s Wild Women: Are Sydney Leathers and Huma Abedin His Succubi?
- Week Four
- 13. Monday, July 29: Malcolm X: ‘The Jew Cries Louder Than Anybody Else If Anybody Criticizes Him.’
- 14. Tuesday, July 30: ‘My Father Was a White Man.’ – Frederick Douglass, the Archetypal Anti-Slavery Republican
Congressman Louie Gohmert stands out as a real class act. Recent years have seen a severe restriction in the ability of citizens to tour Capitol Hill, limiting access to a new visitor center and vanilla-guided tours on strict paths and schedules. Gohmert will happily get you around that. Members of the House hold the privilege to escort visitors virtually anywhere, and Gohmert has become well known among his constituents and friends for his impassioned late-night tours littered with an encyclopedic knowledge of American history. He has been known to spend up to five hours with groups touring the Capitol, and clearly cares about infecting those he encounters with his love of the United States and its founding principles.
Thus it comes as no surprise when he prescribes the simplest of solutions to the ongoing scandal involving the federal targeting of Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny. “We need to be dismantling the IRS,” Gohmert told PJ Media.
Former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas called the recent IRS fiasco troubling — but writes that the only way Congress can protect the freedoms of Americans from a long pattern of suspected IRS abuse is to “shutter the doors” of the agency “once and for all.”
“The bipartisan tradition of using the IRS as a tool to harass political opponents suggests that the problem is deeper than just a few ‘rogue’ IRS agents — or even corruption within one, two, three or many administrations,” Dr. Paul writes in his weekly column, “Texas Straight Talk. “Instead, the problem [lies] in the extraordinary power the tax system grants the IRS.”
Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, excerpted in the video above, calls the recent scandals examples of tyrannical government. All of these men prove correct.
As the IRS scandal continues to develop, it highlights a deeper and more fundamental injustice in our social order, an ongoing First Amendment crisis fostered by the intersection of tax policy, campaign finance regulation, and civil rights law. Any response to this most recent episode which does not address the root systematic injustice will be incomplete, inadequate, and morally inexcusable.
Bioshock Infinite releases next Tuesday, March 26. A highly anticipated prequel to one of the most widely acclaimed video games in history, the title stands poised to awe not only with inspiring visuals and thrilling gameplay, but with a controversial critique of American Exceptionalism.
Film critic Roger Ebert earned the ire of gamers a few years ago when he ruled declaratively that video games can never be art. Emerging from the resulting swarm of agitated youth, Ebert later relented slightly, if only to admit that he really ought to experience video games before banishing them from the realm of artistic consideration.
An intriguing debate regarding what makes a thing art is woven through both of Ebert’s pieces linked above. However, the argument may be moot. It seems fair to say that when a craft begins to express complex ideas regarding the human condition, when it begins to stimulate thought and debate on matters of genuine import in the real world, when it can affect how you think about issues and what you believe about your world, it achieves the status of art.
By that standard, the video game industry has produced a bounty of artistic titles amidst a sea of thoughtless cookie-cutter fare. Of course, this makes video games no different than any creative medium. There exist far more vulgar scratches on bathroom stalls than masterpieces hung in museums, far more trashy romance novels than genuine epics, and certainly more popcorn flicks and action movies than truly inspirational films.
Like any medium, games can evoke powerful emotions and make compelling philosophical statements. The element of interactivity can heighten such moments beyond the experience of a novel, painting, or film. No longer a mere observer, what happens in a game happens to you. The world of the game and the characters which inhabit it change, live, and die according to the choices you make.
The inherent power of the medium proves all the more reason to treat it seriously as an influential artistic form. Therefore, as Bioshock Infinite makes its case against the notion of American Exceptionalism, we do well to pay attention and respond.
Obstructionist. Intransigent. Obstinate.
These words among others, used in reference to the Tea Party and fiscally conservative members of Congress, bark past teeth bared in animosity. Critics of the Tea Party lament its uncompromising stance against proposals like the recent fiscal cliff deal. Content to tolerate mere rhetoric, these critics draw the line at standing on principle when it actually counts. NPR’s Alan Greenblatt places the Tea Party at a crossroads:
In the coming year, the returning [Tea Party Republican] members [in Congress] will have to decide whether they want to continue practicing a politics of purity, advocating strong and unyielding positions, or accept that governance generally requires a good deal of compromise.
Compromise sounds reasonable on its face. Absent any context, the term invites a sense of begrudging contentment. Certainly, compromise permeates our everyday lives. Every relationship we engage in requires compromises subtle and plain. It remains true that gestures of goodwill go a long way toward fostering mutually beneficial arrangements. However, that assumes both parties act in good faith. It also assumes that a given compromise serves a profitable long-term goal.
Opponents of the Tea Party have no such qualifications in mind. They advocate compromise as an end in itself. The notion springs from a fundamental reverence in our culture for sacrifice. Misinterpretation and misapplication of Judeo-Christian tenets have fostered an irrational sense of nobility for giving up something of value in exchange for a lesser value or even nothing at all. Such counter-productive sacrifice is demanded from Tea Party-backed members of Congress by folks like International Business Times commentator Joseph Lazzaro. Contemplating the immediate economic repercussions of allowing the country to fall off the fiscal cliff, and writing before the deal’s passage in the House, he explains:
Now, the typical, moderate, independent American, assessing the damage that a long-term failure to reach a budget deal would cause, will no doubt reasonably argue that surely the Tea Party faction will compromise – for the good of the nation. I.E. that the Tea Party will approve the current tax/budget bill.
Unfortunately, however, if that independent American is thinking reasonably, i.e. views a compromise as a rational, prudent stance, he/she is not thinking like a Tea Party member of Congress. Pressured by their extremist supporters, Tea Party members of Congress have shown no inclination to compromise and agree to a fair deal, no matter how much damage that obstruction and intransigence causes to the credit markets and the U.S. and global economies. Obstruction, driven by an extremist conservative ideology – no matter how much financial and economic destruction it triggers – has been the Tea Party’s preferred strategy, if the alternative is a compromise that leads to increased income taxes and an agreement that includes support for the liberal social safety net.
On the night of the election, once it became clear which course the nation chose, I received an email from a fellow activist with the subject line “1776-2012,” a pronouncement of death for the idea that was America. While many may dismiss such proclamations as sour grapes, reflection confirms more truth than hyperbole.
Consider: If the quintessential American idea is the one articulated in our Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” then the developments of the past four years culminating in the re-election of the most radical executive in the nation’s history is its eulogy.
The passage of Obamacare demonstrated that the Democratic Party was willing to abandon all pretense of representative government in order to secure power over individual lives. The upholding of that law by the Supreme Court demonstrated that the Constitution is effectively meaningless. Tragic as those developments were, this — the electoral affirmation of President Barack Obama — is a crowning catastrophe. It signals more than political or legal corruption. It indicates a cultural sea change whereby the People have rejected the Declaration. To survive and one day thrive, it is critical that the Tea Party accept this reality.
Instead, there is denial. PJM’s Rick Moran tells us not to worry, pointing to exit polling data as evidence that this latest election is just another ebb in the normal flow of national politics. That data suggest that 53% of Americans believe government has become too activist. Never mind that these are the same voters who just doubled down on the status quo. Some local coordinators attending Tea Party Patriots’ first post-election conference call imagined a conservative plurality which could make a third party viable. Never mind that the most successful third party in the country secured less than 1% of the popular vote. Others renewed their prescription to take over the Republican Party. Never mind that Tea Party-favored candidates were systematically rejected by primary voters in states from coast to coast, or that the Republican National Convention took an intentional step away from grassroots organization to ensure future conventions are neat little coronations for the presumptive nominee.
All this grasps at straws. The central presumption underpinning Tea Party resistance in the Obama era has been that a rabid majority of “We the People” is chomping at the bit to “take our country back.” While there have been remarkable local successes, noteworthy down-ticket primary victories, and frequent rattlings of the establishment cage, the movement’s ability to reshape the political landscape has been blunted by a grim reality. This government, essentially unchanged after November 6th, is of and by the People even as it treads upon the Individual.