Tuesday, January 16, 2018

An Insider’s View: The Sinister Rigidity of Upper-Middle-Class Progressivist America (Part 1)

In the wake of the November 2016 U.S. presidential election, an anonymous author on the ‘Alternet’ website wrote:

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

As the author notes, this analysis is at best incomplete. It is a misdirect. At worst, it’s simply wrong. President Trump received more votes from African-Americans and from Latinos than anyone expected him to receive, and he received more votes from them than any other candidate from his party (McCain or Romney) had received in decades.

Among many questions, one is this: Why did so many Blacks and Hispanics vote for Trump, especially when they were being told that Trump wasn’t their candidate?

Conversely, why did so many African-Americans and Latinos decide to vote against Hillary Clinton?

While it is true, in the words of the anonymous author, that there are “East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America,” that’s not the whole story. The larger narrative cuts across racial, regional, or class groups.

Voters of various demographic groups simply had a hard time believing that Hillary Clinton had their best interests at heart. Donald Trump spoke about revitalizing the national economy and creating jobs. He spoke of the United States as something respectable, and that, in a community of nations, the United States deserves respect.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s message to Blacks and Hispanics was that they should vote for her because they owed allegiance and loyalty to her and to her party. She demanded, expected, and assumed that they would vote for her. They responded by doing the opposite.

The argument that the Democratic Party ‘failed to understand’ the voters is incomplete. In certain situations, Hillary Clinton’s organization may have understood the voters, but either ignored them, or expected party loyalty to overcome the hardships which they were enduring.

Under the Obama administration, African-American incomes and employment reached all-time lows. African-American unemployment reached all-time highs. Hillary Clinton gave no indication that her policies would diverge from Obama’s policies.

During the first year of the Trump administration, Black employment and incomes reached all-time highs, and Black unemployment reached all-time lows. Likewise Latino unemployment reached record lows, and Latino incomes and employment reached all-time highs.

Perhaps Hillary forgot her own slogan: “It’s the economy.” Economic freedom and personal liberty do not know race, religion, region, or culture.

Trump’s simple slogans connected with a sentiment among the voters: the notion that they were tired of sacrificing their personal incomes, their net worths, and their standards of living for some vague globalist ideals promoted jointly by Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Voters were tired of being told to endure shrinking personal freedoms for the sake of some ambiguous hope or fear. The Obama-Clinton message was that the citizens should make sacrifices, not to defend the nation against some existential threat like an attacking military force, but rather to fuel dubious causes.

Trump’s uncomplicated message was that he would simply do what’s best for the nation. Trump said that he would make calculations based on measures like employment, income levels, and economic growth levels.

Although the United States has had a number of presidents who graduated from Ivy League universities, Trump is the first one to have studied economics at an Ivy League university. Perhaps some of Trump’s policies, and their successes, can be traced to the fact that he is, at heart, an economist.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hatemongering: The Politics of Irrationality

One of the paradoxes of the early twenty-first century is that the era’s rhetoric simultaneously contains self-righteous diatribes against what it calls “hate,” yet also has made it fashionable to make blatant declarations of hatred.

In 2004, a group of media personalities and celebrities joined leaders from the Progressivist movement, the Democratic Party, and the Leftist political scene to contribute to an anthology titled The I Hate George W. Bush Reader. The book was devoted, not to disagreeing with President Bush or with his policies, but rather to personal animus.

This book followed on the heels of 2003’s The Bush-Hater’s Handbook.

Yet the authors, contributors, and editors of these books proclaimed themselves to be standing in opposition to hate.

One might begin to ask for a clarified definition of the word ‘hate.’

The rhetoric of hate in the media manifested itself in a pattern of expressing the hope that someone - President Bush, Vice President Cheney, etc. - would be assassinated. Such expressions were often disguised as jokes, allowing the speaker the ready-made excuse that it was “merely a jest.”

But the pattern continued, as the Washington Post published an editorial in 2016 titled I Hate Donald Trump. But He Might Get My Vote.

There is an internal contradiction in the news media, sometimes called the “mainstream” media, as it loudly proclaims its opposition to hate, and at the same time expresses passionate hatred toward anyone it opposes.

The establishment media and those it controls - the Democratic party, the Leftists generally, and the Progressivist movement - “are the ones who use Nazi bullying and intimidation tactics and subscribe to a full-blown fascist ideology,” notes historian Dinesh D’Souza.

Thus events described as rallies against hate are in fact hate-filled rioters. The word “protester” is systematically substituted for “rioter” in various reports. As D’Souza explains,

The self-styled opponents of hate are the actual practitioners of the politics of hate. Through a process of transference, leftists blame their victims for being and doing what they themselves are and do.

As often happens in political conflicts, language itself is hijacked. Consider the key vocabulary words: hate, protest, and riot.

The rhetoric escalates. Harsher and harsher terms are used. Eventually a fascist movement emerges and labels itself “Antifa,” meaning ‘anti-fascist.’ D’Souza notes that

In a sick inversion, the real fascists in American politics masquerade as anti-fascists and accuse the real anti-fascists of being fascists.

In a media age in which information is reduced to a 140-character or 280-character ‘tweet,’ or to a 20-second soundbite, readers and viewers can be misled into thinking that “Antifa” is an anti-fascist organization, especially when the establishment media fails to report that organizers of Antifa rallies regularly arrive with knives and baseball bats to conduct their peaceful anti-hate events.

Consumers of news media must carefully consider and ask who is truly on the side of individual political liberty.

Enlightened Politics, Enlightenment Politics

Modern political liberty, usually residing in the structure of freely-elected representatives, is based on a view of the relationship between society and government. That view articulates human rationality as the foundation for voting and political decisions.

British philosopher John Locke (1632 - 1704) and his writings can serve as an icon for this perspective.

Given that all people seek the same things - life, liberty, and a chance to explore their opportunities in terms of personal creativity and diligence. People want security for themselves, for their friends and family, and for their possessions. People want opportunities to see what their creativity and diligence can accomplish.

In addition to Locke, versions of this view were advanced by Edmund Burke (1727 - 1797), an Anglo-Irish thinker, and by Americans Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809), Samuel Adams (1722 - 1803), James Otis (1725 - 1783), and Patrick Henry (1736 - 1799).

Historians sometimes use the phrase “The Age of Enlightenment” to label the era in which these individuals lived.

Enlightenment politics is based, then, on those things which are common to all human beings. All people have a baseline capability for rational thought, and all people share certain basic desires.

In a republic governed by freely-elected representatives, the majority will express itself in voting, and in so doing, will manifest a common human attitude, rather than the attitude of some select small group.

This ‘Enlightened’ political thinking stands in opposition to ‘identity’ politics.

According to the ‘politics of identity,’ voters should vote based on some distinguishing feature which marks them as part of a distinct subgroup. Motivated by “identity politics,” voters should vote, not based on common human traits, like the desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but rather voters should vote on what separates them from others, e.g., race, gender, religion, etc.

So there is a clear tension between “enlightenment politics” and the “politics of identity.”

The twenty-first century voter, then, is confronted with two alternatives: either one can vote as a rational human being, valuing those things which all humans value - life, liberty, and economic opportunity - or one can vote based on one’s membership in a demographic category - race, gender, ethnicity, etc.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An Inconsistent Effort: Resisting the Soviet Threat

The years of the Cold War, roughly 1946 to 1990, were marked by a curious asymmetry: the nations of liberty in western Europe and North America seemed sometimes hesitant, unsure of themselves, and ready for compromise.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, mainland China, and the international communist conspiracy were steady, unwavering, and clearly focused on their goal. As Soviet leader Khrushchev stated while speaking to representatives of western European NATO nations, “we will bury you.”

While the USSR was intent on ending liberty, some American leaders hoped that it would be possible to turn the communists into friends by helping them. This led to paradoxical behavior: sending various forms of material aid to a power structure which could never, and would never, desire anything except for the destruction of the personal and political freedoms which constitute the United States.

In 1964, John Stormer wrote:

The examples are endless. The failure of Russian agriculture has historically been communism’s weakest “link.”

As agricultural efforts in the Warsaw Pact countries, and other communist states around the world, persistently failed, hunger threatened to destabilize the communist dictatorship.

Thus unsettled, the oppressed people in those dictatorships might have a chance to throw off the shackles of tyranny. The failure of agriculture in the Soviet Socialist regions might undermine the harsh reign of totalitarianism and create an opportunity for freedom.

The worst thing that could happen to the oppressed victims of communism would be for someone to enable the communists by propping up their agricultural systems by means of artificially discounted grain imports.

But some political leaders in the United States hoped to lessen the human suffering in the USSR and simultaneously encourage friendly relations with the communists - and they hoped to do this with offers of cheap grain.

“So, in 1961,” Stormer goes on to write, an Ohio Congressman named D.L. Latta could inform his constituents that

Officials in the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Commerce Department agreed to sell surplus wheat to the Soviet Union for $.62 per bushel less than the baker who bakes your bread pays for it. Only quick action by an awakening public stopped this folly which would have supplied wheat to ease food shortages and the resultant unrest against the communists in the Soviet Union. The officials who initiated the program are still holding responsible government positions.

Congressman Latta’s statement shows how well-intentioned efforts to ease human suffering actually supported the regime which cause the suffering.

So it was that ordinary American taxpayers ended up funding homicidal totalitarians like Khrushchev and Castro. Some U.S. diplomats thought that support from America would somehow change the minds of dictators who committed a nearly endless string of human rights violations. As Stormer notes,

Much American aid to communists is hidden in U.S. grants to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. For example, the United Nations Special Fund is giving Castro, the communist dictator of Cuba, funds to bolster his agricultural programs. The American who heads the fund, Paul Hoffman, approved the grant, and the U.S. taxpayer is paying 40% of the total bill of $1.6-million. The grant was made just after the attempted invasion of Cuba failed in April 1961.

Happily, despite such well-intentioned but wrong-headed actions, there were enough American policy makers who saw the communists accurately. Over the decades of the Cold War, the U.S. took a stand, even if inconsistently, to defend personal freedom, to defend individual political liberty, and to defend property rights.

The American stance was solid enough eventually to cause the USSR to bankrupt itself, as it finally did by 1990/1991, and collapse its economy by trying to keep parity with U.S. weapons technology.

The Soviets spent themselves into an economic breakdown by attempting to keep pace with U.S. defense technology development.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

U.S. Cold War Policy: Intermittently Self-Defeating

Between 1946 and 1990, U.S. policies were, to say the least, inconsistent. From FDR’s apparent friendly trust in Stalin’s agreements to Harry Truman’s discovery of the Soviet menace, from containment to rollback, America took different approaches at different times - and occasionally different approaches at the same time.

In 1964, scholar John Stormer identified these inconsistencies. Beyond merely being inconsistent, however, he notes that these policy quirks were not even in America’s best interests.

Quoting from the Congressional Record, Human Events magazine, and a New York Times News Service wire story printed in the Dallas Morning News, Stormer, writing in 1964, highlights the contradictions in American Cold War policy:

Nikita Khrushchev has said that peaceful coexistence involves peaceful economic competition. Our leaders agree, and place great emphasis on this aspect of the cold war in urging disarmament. Why then has the United States ...

... supplied nuclear reactors to the communist government of Czechoslovakia, railway equipment to Bulgaria, chemical plants to Yugoslavia, and synthetic rubber plants to Soviet Russia? Why has America given Russia the machinery to produce the precision batl bearings used in the guided missiles they “rattle” during every international crisis?

Why has America built the world’s most modern, most highly automated steel finishing plant for the communist government of Poland? Constructed in Warren, Ohio, the plant was dedicated as the Lenin Steel Works by the U. S. Ambassador to Poland in July 1961. The American people “lent” the communists $2.5-million to pay for it.

John Stormer presents these discrepancies. Behind them lies a question: are they the result of incompetence or malice? Are they the result of good intentions warped by naive miscalculations? Or are they the result of a deliberate effort to weaken the United States?

In the half-century which has elapsed since Stormer’s publication, elements of both have come to light: some of these actions were the result of well-intentioned efforts, others were the fruit of Soviet operatives who managed to nudge policy makers into bad decisions.

Despite such clumsy moves, and despite communist moles inside the United States, Soviet Socialism finally collapsed under weight of its own economic mismanagement, no longer able to keep paying for the military technology it needed to keep pace with NATO.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pro-Communists and Anti-Americans: Then and Now

At some point during the Cold War, there was a shift in emphasis among those who wished to undermine and overthrow both the United States government and American society.

During the earliest phases of the Cold War, the international Communist conspiracy targeted the U.S. government. Even before the Cold War, starting around 1919, Soviet operatives in the United States created an espionage network designed effect a revolution, even a “violent” revolution. (The specification of a “violent” revolution comes from the Communist Party’s own documents.)

The Cold War as generally defined started around 1946, and sometime thereafter, the shift began, moving from the overthrow of the U.S. government toward the humiliation of American society. Some historians refer to result of this shift as ‘cultural Marxism.’

Before this shift, the goals of the international Communist conspiracy were, among other things, the glorification of the Soviet Union and the subjugation of the United States into a grand Soviet empire. After this shift, the goals were, inter alia, the humiliation and weakening of the United States.

To be sure, the earlier goals and the later goals were related. But there was a shift of emphasis, as historian William F. Buckley wrote in March 1967:

Further on the question: Who are the new pro-Communists? - further evidence that the new breed is negatively defined. They are not so much pro-Communist as anti-American. But since they work at anti-Americanism feverishly and at anti-Communism not at all, the vector of their analysis and passion is pro-Communist.

The earlier generation included people like Alger Hiss, Owen Lattimore, and Thomas Arthur Bisson. Their allegiance was more directly to Moscow and the various intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union.

This newer generation of the international Communist conspiracy was typified by Frank Marshall, Bill Ayers, and others. Such men were less constrained by their affection for the Soviet Union, and more directly motivated by their desire to harm the United States.

Decades later, yet another generation of the international anti-American conspiracy would emerge: a generation of political thinkers whose ideologies were no longer framed within Cold War terms. The Soviet Union had fallen, and internationalist Communism had morphed into a version of ‘progressivist’ politics.

Cut free from the Soviet intelligence agencies which had directed earlier Communist operatives, this third generation did not trust, understand, nor appreciate the United States, its Constitution, or its people.

In effect, these people did not see the Constitution as guarantor of personal political liberty; did not see the American people as essentially freedom-loving and good-natured, if imperfect; and did not see the United States as a land which, albeit imperfectly, sincerely strove to offer equal opportunities.

This most recent generation of the conspiracy largely eliminated all ties to Moscow and to doctrinaire Marxism, embracing instead a vaguer and more flexible progressivist socialism, the goal of which was statism. Free from any obligation to promote stalinism, these conspirators instead focused their efforts on diminishing the United States militarily, economically, and diplomatically toward other nations, and internally weakening both its social institutions and its constitutional governmental institutions, to pave the way for the hegemony of non-constitutional governmental institutions.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, then, the United States finds itself threatened no longer by Soviet Socialism, but rather by a group of anti-American Americans whose goal is to weaken and humiliate their native land and their fellow citizens.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back When Harvard Was More Diverse

Andrew Ferguson’s book about the college application process contains, in passing, a vignette about Harvard and about the typical Harvard alumnus. After decades of various efforts to recruit more African-Americans, women, Latinos, and other demographic groups into the student body, Harvard has become less, not more, diverse than it had been in the distant past.

Yes, the student body now contains more African-Americans, more Latinos, more women, more Asians, and more representatives of other demographic segments. But it contains fewer diverse ideas and opinions.

In his book, Ferguson recounts a conversation with an acquaintance who interfaced with many Harvard grads:

“In a way you had more human diversity in the old Harvard,” a friend once told me, after a lifetime of doing business with Harvard graduates.

Diversity is not ensured by the optics of gender or skin pigmentation. Diversity is ensured by a spectrum of worldviews.

But the same university admissions process that included more African-Americans, women, and Latinos was the same process that insured that, among the incoming freshmen, there was a homogeneity of thought.

“It used to be the only thing an incoming class shared was blue blood. But bloodlines are a pretty negligible thing. It allows for an amazing variety in human types. You had real jocks and serious dopes, a few geniuses, a few drunks, a few ne’er-do-wells, and a very high percentage of people with completely average intelligence. Harvard really did reflect the country in that way back then.

Those who currently matriculate, not only at Harvard, but at many of the nation’s universities, have learned to shape themselves to look like what the application process wants them to. They’ve learned to write the same moving essays about overcoming obstacles, and to check the same boxes on their personal profiles for the admissions department.

They’ve spent years practicing, learning to give the right answers to the questions on the college applications. Some of those questions are, by the way, bizarre.

The diversity which is absent at many modern American universities is the diversity of human types.

“You still have a lot of blue bloods getting in, multigeneration Harvard families. But now a majority of kids coming into Harvard all share traits that are much more important than blood, race, or class. On a deeper level, in the essentials, they’re very much alike. They’ve all got that same need to achieve, focus, strive, succeed, compete, be the best or at least be declared the best by someone in authority. And they’ve all figured out how to please important people.”

What has asserted itself on campus, then, is not diversity. It is a type of group think.

Instead of lively debate, many campuses are dominated by a shocking uniformity.

Harvard grads disagree with this, of course. They like to say that the new Harvard represents the triumph of meritocracy.
No, my friend said. “It’s the triumph of a certain kind of person.”

If we speak of diversity on campus, we might ask how that diversity is measured and defined. To merely count noses of different colors is crass, coarse, and an insult to everyone’s humanity.

When students leave the university, and enter the everyday world of neighborhoods, schools, and grocery stores, they will not be surrounded only by people who spent the first eighteen years of their lives learning to give the right answers to the college application questions.

A campus with a true diversity of thought will better prepare its graduates for life after college, when they will encounter all types of people.