Friday, 5/2/14

    1. Political gossip wind-down
    2. The UCC bumps up against an anti-fraud law
    3. American foibles, America’s future
    4. Ideas have consequences daily snippets

1

Mark Levin rises to the defense of Sarah Palin by glossing over her obscenity and insisting she’s a hot political commodity being savaged by sexists unloyal to The Movement. H/T Rod Dreher.

But Pete Spiliakos at First Thoughts begs GOP Candidates to “Give the People Some Respect.” I’m betting he was inspired to think that by Palin’s weekend comments:

Mitt Romney is a good guy. He just doesn’t want you to know it. He tithes. He helps the less fortunate. And, Rick Santorum reports, while volunteering at a homeless shelter, Romney acknowledged that the people there “are used to being ignored. Mostly by people like me.”

But this is the same Romney who said he was “not concerned about the very poor.”

The point isn’t that Romney, Palin, and Huckabee are bad or mean-spirited. Romney is a classic pillar-of-the-community type. Palin was, in her short time, a reforming governor. Unlike with Hillary Clinton (to say nothing of a cipher like John Edwards), it isn’t difficult to create a list of Palin’s significant policy achievements. She successfully worked with her state’s legislature to overhaul government ethics laws and to fix her state’s structural budget deficit. Huckabee was the two-term governor of Arkansas who has been an astute critic of his party’s inability to appeal to people who are at or under the earnings median. They are intelligent and accomplished people who are choosing to play dumb or mean-spirited.

Palin, Romney, and Huckabee have one thing in common when they spew these problematic statements. They are talking down to their audience. They are assuming that their listeners are callous, hostile, shallow, or (most recently) sadistic. This isn’t accurate. Palin has become less popular as she has become more bombastic.

There’s a lot of good stuff where I put an ellipsis. Really.

This makes me think that Palin recognizes that her hour truly is past and is focusing on vacuuming up bucks. It would be tempting to do the same were I in her position.

Or maybe, since Republican candidates persist in talking down to their audiences, they really do think – in a Mark Levin, loyalty-to-The-Movement sort of way – that this is the road to victory. Spiliakos:

But Republican politicians and consultants seem to have contempt for conservative voters, which ironically leads politicians to say things that repel persuadable voters and do nothing to energize the conservative base. It would be much better and perhaps even easier for Republican politicians to proceed from the assumption that conservative voters are intelligent and basically decent people rather than greedy, angry brutes. They might even convince some non-conservatives to listen to them. And they might even do a little to undermine the myth that conservatives don’t care for the poor.

That’s the kind of Republican party, if it was put into action and not just words, I could respect again.

Rod Dreher, too, passes along some kind thoughts about The Sarah Palin that might have been.

2

Leah Libresco at the American Conservative has some interesting, and I think correct, thoughts on North Carolina law which some United Church of Christ (UCC) ministers say interferes with their religious freedom to perform religious-only same-sex commitment ceremonies. It wasn’t done on purpose. It’s what happens when an older anti-fraud type law bumps up again a religious novelty.

I have no use for what the UCC has become, but in our Constitutional order, there’s no place for a law that forbids, however inadvertently, a progressive pastor or pastrix from pronouncing ineffectual blessings on sodomy.

3

Speaking of our Constitutional order, Ethika Politika commits click-bait:

Let’s admit something right at the outset: The Muslim critique of American society is largely correct.

We really are a materialistic people, prone to decadence and preoccupation with sex. We’re profligate with our resources—wastefully so.  Self-indulgence is our default setting.  We seek constant distraction in sports, vulgar entertainments, titillating imagery, sentimentalism, and amusing trivia.  Our sense of religious/cultural identity is fluid (not to say shaky).

We’ve lost the sense of propriety in our public conduct and any correct understanding of how the sexes should behave and interact.  We’re sloppy and immodest in dress, crude in speech, disrespectful of authority, and disdainful of conventional standards of decorum.

Indeed, we barely understand what the word “conventional” means anymore.  We’re skeptical to the point of pretentiousness about anything that smacks of tradition.  We value novelty over heritage, cleverness over wisdom.  And the attitude we like to put forth as our personal outlook is cynicism, which we present as sophisticated insight.

Naturally, I’m painting with a very broad brush here.  These are generalizations, and they’re extreme.  But if we each examine our own hearts, we can’t help noting—that is, if we’re honest—how some or all apply, at least to a degree.

It is this impression of the U.S. to which new immigrants often react so negatively when American culture presses its relentless influence upon their family lives.  And it is what inflames hatred of America when this rude and unpleasant picture of us gets distorted to the point of caricature by foreign media and even the films and TV shows we export overseas.

There is, of course, another side to life in the United States …

Muslims, Secularists, and The American Idea goes forward from there, centered on The American Idea which is increasingly threatened by Muslim and Secularist absolutists. But I must wonder whether the author doesn’t feel, as I do, that the game is over when his conclusion reads like this:

Reasserting The American Idea, with all the religious freedom and tolerance it implies, is the best option we have.  A moral vacuum will not remain empty forever.  Sometime soon, we might find our national life changed in ways that are not so hospitable to the free-wheeling American character.  It’s happening in Europe and Canada, where Islam is demanding and, in gradual steps, gaining a protected status no faith has enjoyed since the post-Reformation era.

If it happens here, both tolerance and The American Idea will have run their course.

A shrewd businessman once told his new pastor, after the inaugural sermon, “Don’t try to tell them everything you know in the first sermon.” I know or intuit a lot of things about The American Idea that I lack time to write and that you might not care to read if I did. Suffice for now that I less fear the wrath of God for the nation’s shortcomings than I fear the natural eventuality of them. I have no substitute for The American Idea, but I suspect that something like militant secularism will prevail for a while before something like militant Islam replaces it.

4

Today’s Ideas Have Consequences excerpts:

  1. By far the most significant phase of the theory of the gentleman is its distrust of specialization. It is an ancient belief, going back to classical antiquity, that specialization of any kind is illiberal in a freeman. A man willing to bury himself in the details of some small endeavor has been considered lost to these larger considerations which must occupy the mind of the ruler.
  2. It is explained by Plutarch with the observation that “he who busies himself with mean occupations produces in the very pains he takes about things of little use evidence against himself of his negligence and indisposition to what is really good.”
  3. Visitors to Germany after the collapse of the Third Reich reported hearing scientists say, “What have I to do with politics? I am a technician.” It is impossible that such people should feel a sense of guilt. To give these or any modern people a sense of guilt, it would be necessary to go back and explain the sin of Prometheus. Similar pleas no doubt would have been made by the toilers at Oak Ridge had the decision gone against their side.

I take heart from #1, though I don’t think he’s commending ADD/HD or trafficking in gossip as the contrast to specialization.

#3 has some bite, yes?

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.