Friday 1/29/16

  1. Driving out the middle
  2. Authentic American conservative
  3. Why Protestants can’t write
  4. A Christian in the White House
  5. Rebuilding Our what!?
  6. On video editing
  7. Capitalism shattered
  8. Two conservatisms


I almost always disagree with Bret Stephens, and perhaps I’m allowing my antipathy toward Ted Cruz to soften me by quoting him when he says that Cruz

is trying to do to socially moderate Republicans what Democrats did to their own social conservatives when they barred pro-life Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey from speaking at the 1992 Democratic Convention. Yes, kids, there used to be Democrats who didn’t march in lockstep with Emily’s List.

There also used to be a theory of politics that, in two-party systems, it was in both parties’ interests to pitch the broadest possible tent; to have, as the great Si Kenen once put it, “no enemies, only friends and potential friends.”

But that’s not Mr. Cruz’s theory. He believes in the utility of enemies—the media; Washington; his fellow Republican senators; other squishes—because they’re such easy foils and because he’s convinced that polarization works and persecution complexes sell. Who cares about Republican voters in New York (or California, or Massachusetts, or Illinois) when not one of their votes will count in the Electoral College? Why waste time and energy courting the center-right when doing so will earn you the permanent enmity of the permanently angry?

Note, too, that this is facilitated by “winner take all” elections, but Republicans undermined their ability to reform that system when they dubbed Lani Guinier the “Quota Queen” for proposing something different.

Frankly liberal Republicans were cut off longer ago, according to John Stoehr, in The Real Romney Legacy.

If a party can win without the middle, it will be a new thing, no?


Speaking of the middle, is that where John Kasich lives?

“No,” says James R. Rogers. “He’s an authentic American conservative.” Since “everybody knows” better, you might want to hear out Rogers.


Catholics famously can’t sing, but that’s not the end of the story:

Here is a thesis, which I offer in a gleeful fit of reductionism: Modern Protestants can’t write because we have no sacramental theology. Protestants will learn to write when we have reckoned with the tragic results of Marburg, and have exorcised the ghost of Zwingli from our poetics. Protestants need not give up our Protestantism to do this, as there are abundant sacramental resources within our own tradition. But contemporary Protestants do need to give up the instinctive anti-sacramentalism that infects so much of Protestantism, especially American Protestantism.

Assuming that the Elizabethan poets qualify as Protestants (something some Anglicans would question), they were Protestants with Prayer Books. So were the Victorians and Lewis, whose imagination, besides, was formed by medieval and Renaissance literature as much as anything. The greatest American writers have been lapsed Calvinists touched with Transcedentalism. I’ll grant you Woiwode and Robinson, but wonder if anyone really wants to claim Updike. And I stand by my thesis that Marburg has something to do with all this, even though Lutherans did not go on to great feats of fictional prowess, and two Puritans, Bunyan and Defoe, pretty much invented the modern novel. We are looking at the impact of ideas over centuries.

(Peter Leithart, Why Protestants Can’t Write)


I recently did a comprehensive Trump bashing so I wouldn’t need to do it again, and I’m not. I’m going to quote what Tucker Carlson said:

I doubt there are many Christian voters who think Trump could recite the Nicene Creed, or even identify it. Evangelicals have given up trying to elect one of their own. What they’re looking for is a bodyguard, someone to shield them from mounting (and real) threats to their freedom of speech and worship. Trump fits that role nicely, better in fact than many church-going Republicans. For eight years, there was a born-again in the White House. How’d that work out for Christians, here and in Iraq?

(Emphasis added)


I generally have not born Elizabeth Warren any notable antipathy. She has been right about some problems of corporate power that too few politicians of either party take seriously. But when I saw the title of her column in the New York Times, One Way to Rebuild Our Institutions, I was pretty sure we were going to part company.

I was right. Her statist idea of “our institutions” is not Churches, clubs, bowling leagues, PTAs, lodges book clubs, Chambers of Commerce or other mediating structures, but agency rules, executive actions, enforcement priorities, EPA, CFPB, SEC, Labor Department, The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.


This video contains graphic content and has been edited for brevity.

(Caption on FBI Video of the shooting of Oregon protestor LaVoy Finicum linked from a Washington Post story)

Whatever became of “heavily and deceptively“?


Formally, since 1992, the Democratic Party has been Clintonian in its economics—moderate, showing the influence of the Democratic Leadership Council. Free-market capitalism is something you live with and accept; the wealth it produces can be directed toward public programs and endeavors. The Clinton administration didn’t hate Wall Street, it hired Wall Street …

All this began to shatter in the crash of 2008, not that anyone noticed—it got lost in the Obama hoopla. In March 2009, when Mr. Obama told Wall Street bankers at the White House that his administration was the only thing standing between them and “the pitchforks,” he was wittingly or unwittingly acknowledging the Great Accommodation.

The rise of Bernie Sanders means that accommodation is ending, and something new will take its place.

Surely it means something that Mr. Obama spent eight years insisting he was not a socialist, and Bernie Sanders is rising while saying he is one.

It has left Hillary Clinton scrambling, unsteady. She thought she and her husband had cracked the code and made peace with big wealth. But her party is undoing it—without her permission and without her leading the way. She is meekly following.

It is my guess that Mr. Sanders will win in Iowa and New Hampshire. But the tendency he represents—whether it succeeds this time or simply settles in and grows—is, I suspect, here to stay.

For so many, 2008 shattered faith in the system—in its fairness, usefulness and efficacy, even in its ability to endure.

As for the young, let’s say you’re 20 or 30, meaning you’ll be voting for a long time. What in your formative years would have taught you about the excellence of free markets, low taxes, “a friendly business climate”?

(Peggy Noonan, of all people, in the Wall Street Journal, of all places)

I don’t just quote her, I agree with her (as I do well over 50% of the time). Obama won in 2008 partly because of the crash of the chimera we call “capitalism.” He didn’t cause the crash and I’m unconvinced that his policies enlarged the resultant slough of economic despond.

Put yourself in the position of the college grad waiting tables (a better job than the last one, too). Can you feel the Bern?


One more. This is good:

The “Left” has been losing its appeal, almost everywhere. It may be that in the future the true divisions will be not between Right and Left but between two kinds of Right: between people on the Right whose binding belief is their contempt for Leftists, who hate liberals more than they love liberty, and others who love liberty more than they fear liberals; between nationalists and patriots; between those who believe that America’s destiny is to rule the world and others who do not believe that; between those who trust technology and machines and others who trust tradition and old human decencies; between those who support “development” and others who wish to protect the conservation of land — in sum, between those who do not question Progress and others who do.

If you want to read the whole thing, buy the book.

(John Lukacs, Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, quoted by Rod Dreher)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.