Good Friday Morning! This week I thought I’d take a different path and write out some of the observations I had watching the violent Antifa marchers in Charlottesville, VA. I compared some of those notes to last year and found that not much had changed in my analysis. Links follow.
Aside from the Conservative Institute, you can also find me this week with a column at Ricochet.com. Unlike last time, this piece is for members only of Ricochet: You can join Ricochet here. And I do recommend their ever-growing network of podcasts, which you can find on all popular podcast platforms. They have a show for every topic you can imagine, and the list continues to grow.
My piece is: We need complete transparency in government use of artificial intelligence. I lay out the case for why we need clarity in each government use of AI, especially in decision making and data conclusions. If we don’t get our heads wrapped around this topic soon, I fear would start damaging constitutional rights.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
Alex Jones is a right-wing nut job, no doubt. Facebook and other social media platforms trying to enforce ill-defined hate speech codes are even nuttier, and there’s a reason US law has rejected the idea.
I was reading the Wall Street Journal over the weekend and came across a piece on how there are now pro-rat groups in Paris, France, trying to stop the local government from exterminating rats. It’s an interesting story that reveals a growing problem on the green-leftist side of the aisle.
Watching Charlottesville 2.0
I spent part of the week watching and reading accounts of the marches in Charlottesville. The media scrum was the same at both events, then and now, but the outcomes were far different.
There were roughly a couple dozen white nationalist marchers at the event. Far lower than last year. Whereas there was a dramatic uptick was the number far-left wing Antifa marchers who spent their time rioting and attacking police and journalists.
After the first march in Charlottesville last year, I wrote a long form piece saying we had entered a time of reactionary politics, with the pendulum swinging harder left and right.
Reactionary politics is where there’s usually one big surge from one side of the political aisle, and then when one side of the culture reacts against it, things move in the opposite direction. We saw this happen in the 1960’s, for instance, when the excesses of liberalism there led to a stretch of Republican Presidents from Nixon to George H. W. Bush, with only Carter breaking up the string.
Progressive pushes have always led to conservative retrenchments in this country. Last year I wrote:
Donald Trump is, I’d wager, the first reactionary President in American history. Note, I’m not saying he’s Hitler, Stalin, or anything close, but rather that he represents a delayed reaction from the American public.
Typically, in the aftermath of a recession the scale of which we had in 2008/09, you’d expect the reaction to be almost instant. Barack Obama was the first wild swing of the pendulum, and people wanted a complete shift from what caused the Great Recession.
Voters reacted sharply in response to the Great Recession. However, instead of reflecting that reaction, Democrats went further left and pursued more liberalization. Barack Obama and the Democrats never followed a reactionary path and reigned in the government and society.
Hence why only two years later, Republicans retook the House. Mitt Romney was never a true “reactionary” candidate, despite being plenty conservative, and failed at winning over those voters. But Republicans made gains again in 2014, and Trump won the White House in 2016 giving us the delayed reactionary President.
It’s worth noting; Democrats acted like their 1930’s liberal peers, they began pushing socialism and a socialist – Bernie Sanders – as their harbinger of change. Fringe elements began taking over in a reaction against establishment values of people like Hilary Clinton.
In other words, both political parties are facing reactionary pushes from the edges of the spectrum: Trump’s vulgar reactionary politics, which stands against whatever the mainstream parties want, and Bernie Sanders, who would overthrow the entire system for socialism (similar drives are happening in Europe).
Mainstream liberalism and conservatism are no longer in control of the major political parties. Each is beholden to external fanatic elements that seek to subvert and destroy American order and traditional American political ideas.
I think that analysis still holds true to our moment right now. Both sides are in the midst of a populist moment, bent on destroying everything around them.
But I don’t see the two sides as the same in this situation.
John Winthrop first referred to the place his people were building in America as the “City on a hill,” using the analogy from Jesus. And I think that’s an appropriate analogy to use, but I’d tweak it slightly.
Becoming that great city on a hill is a process, a journey, and most nations are always going along trying to grow into that city. America, in many respects, has fulfilled that calling for the better part of a century, but we’re always trying to become better, to prove that analogy right.
Traveling towards that city on the hill requires going up a mountain, and the closer you get to that status, the steeper the climb and narrower the path.
It’s hard enough maintaining that path with everyone on the same page. It seems impossible when two major factions in the country are wildly diverging from one another.
W. Ben Hunt made this observation in one of his latest Epsilon Theory notes. Pew Research finds that conservatives and liberals are diverging so starkly that it’s destroying any middle or centrist position. He makes an excellent point in saying:
So what’s the problem with a bimodal distribution? The easiest way to think about it is to compare the size of the purple area (where both the Republican and the Democrat electorate overlap) with the pure blue area (Democrat with zero Republican overlap) and the pure red area (Republican with zero Democrat overlap). When the purple area is smaller than both the blue area AND the red area, a centrist politician (someone between the median Democrat and the median Republican) can win neither a national nomination nor a national election in a two-party system. For any centrist candidate or policy, there exists a winning majority of voters on both the left AND the right who will favor a competing candidate or policy on both the left AND the right. This is what it means to say that the center cannot hold.
This chart is why incumbent Republicans who speak up against Trump or Trump policies lose their primaries to 9-11 Truthers and that incel-in-training kid in 10th grade history class who proclaimed that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery. This chart is why incumbent Democrats who aren’t outright Socialists lose their primaries to latte-sipping, fashion-forward young things who honest-to-god believe that Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat had some pretty good ideas if you just stop and think about it.
When pollsters ask that “Right track/Wrong track” question, the answer is increasingly becoming everyone agreeing that we’re headed in the wrong direction. But we’re so divided that trying to fix the trend is becoming impossible.
Which brings me to the analogy of going up a hill, to be that shining city.
When America first began ascending that hill in earnest in the 20th Century, we essentially had guardrails on the sides of the mountain road. We were the only unscathed world superpower at the end of WWII that required little to no rebuilding. The USSR, though our long-term foe for the century, actually helped provide a unifying focus.
Yes, some people liked communism and were soft on the Soviets, but in general, US policy ensured we stayed on course towards defeating both the Soviets and communism. The defining battle of beating the Soviets, rebuildings allies, and advancing American ideals provided a coherent American vision for the century, and those guardrails sustained us, even when we disagreed.
The problem is that we’re still headed up that mountain, but we feel as though the guardrails are gone.
The margin for error may still be ample for America, we can even mess up more than most and be fine, but that margin feels smaller than it did after WWII. And without any defining vision or guardrails, a shrinking margin feels even more modest.
We haven’t gone off the side of the cliff with Trump, but his erratic behavior when the guardrails are gone from the road agitate people more than other Presidents in the past.
For conservatives, I believe this is especially true, which is why the few guardrails and restrictions they can place on Trump, the better. Conservatives, both evangelical and in the Federalist Society crowd, have forced discipline on Trump in picking smart, conservative judges. Trump knows he can’t mess that one area up.
Trump also knows he can’t overly anger his evangelical base. He has to support religious liberty and the pro-life cause.
Everything after that is mostly up for debate, but there are some fences around Trump, from a set of people with core ideological views of the world.
Watching the Antifa marchers and the right of Bernie-lite politicians supporting any socialist idea out there makes me wonder: what guardrails can the left place around their crazy wing?
Since the time of JFK and LBJ, liberalism hasn’t had a driving orthodoxy to rally everyone around. They believe and support general classes and groups of people, but the actual ideology that connects conservatives isn’t present in modern liberalism.
They’ve so accepted the premises of moral relativism that they’re incapable of fighting against an idea they see as evil (besides conservatism).
So while I don’t see Trump driving the American bus off the side of a cliff because of no guardrails, do wonder about Democrats. There was clear opposition to Trump, both ideologically and literally within the Republican Party, including up to the election. There remains to this day a large contingent group of conservative writers and thinkers who regularly criticize the President.
Where is this on the left?
Where is the widespread dislike for Antifa? Where is the extensive questioning of socialism re-entering the party? If you view old ideas like fascism as bad, you should equally hold communism and socialism in the same light.
Where are the left-wing guardrails that would keep them from running the bus off the side of the cliff?
I don’t know of one on the left, nor do I see one developing. That concerns me for the future of our politics and country. Because eventually, Democrats will retake power of all the branches of government. These cycles come and go.
Who or what will control the Democratic Party then? No one knows.
Links of the week
Justice Dept. Says State AGs Misunderstand Cody Wilson Settlement: DOJ asks a judge to deny state AG’s injunction request in 3D-printed gun case – Stephen Gutowski, The Washington Free Beacon
Colorado Defies the Supreme Court, Renews Persecution of a Christian Baker – David French, National Review
End the Double Standards in Reporting Political Violence – David French, National Review
Picking the Best – Jonah Goldberg, National Review
Let’s Hope There Is No Tape of Trump Using the N-Word – Johnathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard
The Myth That Christians Destroyed the Classical World Dies Hard – Richard Tada, National Review
Vox’s Consistent Errors on Campus Speech, Explained – Musa Al-Gharbi, Heterodox Academy
Ex-KKK member denounces hate groups one year after rallying in Charlottesville: A former grand dragon of the KKK said he went to Charlottesville last year to spark a race war. He has since had a change of heart. – NBC News
Satire piece of the week
Dems: We Have To Enact Socialism So We Can Find Out What It Is – The Babylon Bee
U.S.—Democrats across the country have begun urging the nation to enact socialism “so we can find out what it is,” stating that we won’t know exactly what the politico-economic system entails unless we pass it into law.
Speaking to CNN Wednesday, Christine Hallquist, one of the nation’s first transgender gubernatorial candidates stated, “I’m not sure I even know what socialism is,” but added that she agrees with her party’s increasingly favorable view of the failed economic system.
“We need to pass it so we can find out what’s in it,” Hallquist added. “That’s the best reason to pass sweeping overhauls of things like healthcare and our economy: so you can test your policies on the nation like a bunch of little guinea pigs.”
Thanks for reading!