Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
They Said It:
A long period of calamity or decay must have checked the industry, and diminished the wealth, of the people; and their profuse luxury must have been the result of that indolent despair, which enjoys the present hour, and declines the thoughts of futurity. The uncertain condition of their property discouraged the subjects of Theodosius from engaging in those useful and laborious undertakings which require an immediate expense, and promise a slow and distant advantage. The frequent examples of ruin and desolation tempted them not to spare the remains of a patrimony, which might, every hour, become the prey of the rapacious Goth. And the mad prodigality which prevails in the confusion of a shipwreck, or a siege, may serve to explain the progress of luxury amidst the misfortunes and terrors of a sinking nation.
Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume II, 1781.
WILSON, TRUMP, AND THE PERMANENT RULING CLASS.
Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, the late Democratic Speaker of the House, famously intoned that “all politics is local,” which is to say that all politics is really about constituent service and the like, i.e., taking care of your home-town (or home-state) voters. In this, as in many cases, the liberal from Boston could not have been more wrong if he tried. Constituent service does matter a great deal in certain districts and in certain elections, but it is hardly the dominant political variable in most campaigns, or at least it isn’t any more.
Indeed, we would argue that most politics today is national. Heck, we would even go one step further and argue that most politics is not only national, but is inter-connected. What happens in one part of the country today can have a tremendous impact on voters in other parts and throughout the nation. Moreover, many of the problems, concerns, worries, and messes that are subsumed by the political process these days have common characteristics, common origins, and common explanations.
Given this, we feel comfortable suggesting that student protests in New Jersey and panic among the Republican establishment are inter-connected phenomena, part and parcel of the same political sentiments and impulses. Let us explain.
As you may or may not have heard, over the past couple of weeks, the high-profile student protests at the University of Missouri and at Yale spread to other campuses, inspiring other demands from other spoiled children. Among the universities hit by the second wave of protests was Princeton, at which students objected to the ongoing veneration of one of the university’s former presidents – who also just happens to have been one of the nation’s former presidents, a patron saint of “progressivism,” and the founding father of the American administrative state. We write here, of course, of Woodrow Wilson.
For most of the last century, Wilson has been a liberal hero – the man who made the world safe for democracy and who championed all of the Left’s greatest causes, from the federal bureaucracy to the Federal Reserve. Of late, however, Wilson has fallen out of favor with some factions on the Left, largely because of his views on and actions regarding race. The Los Angeles Times recounts the recent protests and the eventual capitulation on the part of Princeton administrators as follows:
In a campaign against racism reminiscent of those seen at colleges across the country, a group of Princeton students staged a sit-in that ended Thursday night after protesters and university officials compromised on a number of demands. The demands included removal of a dining hall mural of Wilson, the renaming of buildings honoring him, and the setting aside of campus space for “cultural affinity centers.”
Dozens of students from the campus’ Black Justice League, a coalition of Princeton students, began the protest Wednesday outside of Nassau Hall, the 259-year-old building housing administrative offices at the New Jersey campus. Some of them eventually moved inside to occupy the office of the campus president, Christopher L. Eisgruber.
Hours of negotiations followed, finally ending when Eisgruber and 17 students signed off on a deal that appeared to leave breathing room for both sides, but was another example of student activists harnessing their numbers and their passion to effect change. Dean Jill Dolan and campus vice president for campus life Rochelle Calhoun also signed. . . .
Here’s where the student protesters won: they got Eisgruber to promise to write to the Board of Trustees to begin talks on removing Wilson’s name from campus buildings. Eisgruber also agreed to ask the head of Princeton’s Wilson College to remove from its dining hall the mural depicting the former president. . . .
In addition, the agreement said the Board of Trustees would gather campus opinions on whether to change the name of Princeton’s prestigious Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Now, we are not usually sympathetic to campus protesters. Indeed, if you recall our pieces from the last few weeks, we’ve been pretty dismissive of the current round of campus craziness. And in this case, as in the others before it, there’s been a great deal of juvenile stupidity involved. The protesters’ demands for safe spaces and racial reeducation classes are, needless to say, typical of the campus Left’s new totalitarianism and thus worthy of derision.
At the same, time, however, we can’t help but feel some sympathy for those who have decided – however belatedly – that Woodrow Wilson was a contemptible man whose beliefs and actions should be held up to scrutiny and recognized for what they were, namely the vile and destructive maneuverings of a delusional, utopian, anti-republican who did his very best to undermine the founding principles and documents of the nation. Wilson may not be remembered as one of history’s greatest monsters, but he should nevertheless be remembered as one of its most loathsome and detestable anti-heroes.
For starters, of course, there is the fact that the protesters are right. Wilson was in fact an inveterate racist. Writing for Salon, Corey Robin, a hardcore Leftist professor at Brooklyn College, provides some of the details:
Wilson wasn’t simply a personal, after-hours racist. Nor was he just a creature of his time, reflecting a popular racism that was already firmly in place. As president, Wilson actively worked to nationalize — some might even say internationalize — the Southern position on race, most notably by segregating, and implementing new modes of discrimination within, the federal bureaucracy, which in the years leading up to his administration had offered African Americans some possibility for advancement. Racism was central to his politics, and he made specific contributions to advancing its cause in America.
It was also a cause he had long thought about, and to which he devoted countless scholarly hours. In 1901, while he was a professor at Princeton, Wilson penned an article for “The Atlantic Monthly” titled “The Reconstruction of the Southern States.” Here’s what he said about the freed slaves after the Civil War:
An extraordinary and very perilous state of affairs had been created in the South by the sudden and absolute emancipation of the negroes, and it was not strange that the southern legislatures should deem it necessary to take extraordinary steps to guard against the manifest and pressing dangers which it entailed. Here was a vast ‘laboring, landless, homeless class,’ once slaves, now free; unpracticed in liberty, unschooled in self-control; never sobered by the discipline of self-support, never established in any habit of prudence; excited by a freedom they did not understand, exalted by false hopes; bewildered and without leaders, and yet insolent and aggressive; sick of work, covetous of pleasure, — a host of dusky children untimely put out of school. . . . They were a danger to themselves as well as those whom they had once served. . . . .
One year later, he was made president of Princeton.
And that ain’t all. In addition to segregating the federal bureaucracy, Wilson reportedly supported the Ku Klux Klan. Worse still, he was a dedicated eugenicist. As the governor of New Jersey, he signed one of the nation’s first and most draconian state eugenics laws. And as Edwin Black noted in his War against the Weak, Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, Wilson’s eugenics law was drafted by Dr. Katzen-Ellenbogen, who would later become a notorious killer doctor in Hitler’s Buchenwald concentration camp. Among other things, the law created a special three-man “Board of Examiners of Feebleminded, Epileptics, and Other Defectives,” which Black describes as follows:
The Board would systematically identify when “procreation is advisable” for prisoners and children residing in poor houses and other charitable institutions. The law included not only the “feebleminded, epileptics [and] certain criminals,” but also a class ambiguously referred to as “other defectives.”
We could, of course, go on for endless pages, detailing the violations of the constitutional order and basic human decency that characterized Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. Fortunately for you, though, we will not do so. Or at least we will not do so today. It should, we think, suffice to say that Wilson’s racism, his support for eugenics, his patronage of a permanent, professional bureaucratic class, and his clear and inarguable detestation of the nation’s founding documents are not isolated notions. The fact of the matter is that Wilson questioned the worth of most people, or at least most people who were not like him. He thought of “the masses” as deficient, unintelligent fools who were unable to govern themselves and who therefore needed to be guided by their “betters,” by people like him who had been “chosen” by God Himself precisely for that purpose.
Note that when we say that Wilson believed that certain individuals were “chosen” to be the people’s rulers, to govern over the masses as representatives of the gods, we are neither exaggerating nor euphemizing. Wilson actually believed that he – and others like him – had been ordained, picked by God to carry out His will. Fortunately for all of all of humanity, God gave unto the world the United States of America. And unto the United States, he gave Woodrow Wilson. In his 1921 book, Making Woodrow Wilson President, William Frank McCombs, then-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, related the following conversation with Wilson immediately after Wilson’s victory in his first presidential race:
At last the President-elect deigned to recognize me. He imperiously beckoned me into his library. When we reached there, I said: “Governor, I came over to offer you my sincerest congratulations upon your election and to express my hope that you will have a happy and successful administration.”
The president-elect took my hand in a frigid, mechanical way. His stenographer started to leave the room. He said to the stenographer: “You need not leave, I shall continue my dictation”. Surprised, I inquired: “What does this mean, Governor”? The governor fidgeted a bit and jerked out: “It means that every word that passes here is to be recorded in black and white”.
Then I became provoked and insisted upon an explanation of the affront which I believed had been deliberately offered me. When I protested, the President-elect, with a heartlessness of which up to this time I was ignorant, turned upon me and in measured tone said: “Before we proceed, I wish it clearly understood that I owe you nothing”. I modestly suggested that I might be given credit for doing a little toward his nomination and election.
Haughtily, Governor Wilson retorted: “Whether you did little or much, remember that God ordained that I should be the next President of the United States. Neither you nor any mortal or mortals could have prevented that”!
This statement is emblematic, not just of Wilson’s belief in his own righteousness, but of his beliefs about the nature of governance in the “modern” world and the chosen priesthood that should perform a government’s indispensable tasks. Wilson is, quite often, portrayed as a conflicted “Progressive” in that he supported the women’s suffrage movement, yet insisted on the segregation of the federal civil service – meaning, in practice, the banishment of blacks from the bureaucracy. In truth, there is no conflict. Wilson supported expanded suffrage because he saw democracy and voting as mere necessary evils, the process by which the people – whom he described as “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish” – had their limited say in the trifling matters of politics.
At the same time, he wanted his bureaucracy to be pure, to be cleansed of the riff-raff – including racial minorities – because he believed that the bureaucratic “experts” were necessary to carry out the important work of government free from the influence of the democratic process. “The bulk of mankind is rigidly unphilosophical,” Wilson wrote, “and nowadays the bulk of mankind votes.” Therefore voting and politics had to be separated from the important business of government, which is to say professional “administration.”
Wilson saw mankind as fallen, though not necessarily irredeemable. With proper guidance and instruction – to be provided, naturally, by the bureaucratic priesthood – man could be saved, not just at home, but throughout the world. It all hinged on the “professional” bureaucratic class, though, which is to say that man’s salvation was dependent on the formation of a class of administrative experts who were the “right kind of people.” Naturally, racial minorities were not the right kind of people in Wilson’s view, which is why the protesters at Princeton have a valid grievance. But then, most people, minorities or not, were not the right kind of people to Wilson. The right kind of people were trained specifically in the “science” of administration and had the knowledge and reason to impose effective administration upon the nation and the world, the will of the people be damned.
Now, Wilson was not the first Progressive president, and he was not the president who fostered the greatest expansion in the largely unaccountable bureaucracy. Those distinctions belong to the Roosevelts, respectively. Nevertheless, Wilson was the founder of the notion of a pure and permanent ruling class to play the role of a benevolent God watching over the melting pot of huddled masses which was largely made up of Americans of limited intelligence who were, horror of horrors, breeding freely.
We have no idea how it came to pass that some Princeton students not only came into possession of an unexpurgated American history book, but actually read it, and, even more importantly, understood and believed it. Moreover, we have no idea whether this sudden “revelation” will cause him, her, or them to dig further into the dark history of the liberal movement and America’s ruling class. But the fact is that their protest is arguably the first student uprising against the ruling class itself rather than against some nefarious, right-wing element within the ruling class that needs to be defenestrated so that the liberal dream can be realized.
And while we are not prone to be optimistic on the subject of America’s college students, we would like to believe that this could be an indication that the ruling class is about to gain a new and potent enemy.
Which, of course, brings us back to Donald Trump.
We are not – repeat, NOT – predicting an alliance between liberal college students and Trump supporters. We are simply pointing out that the ruling class is feeling heat from numerous directions, including, miracle of miracles, some of the so-called educated members of the millennium generation, who are likely to get even more irritated at the lies they have been told as they enter a workforce that has been devastated by the ruling class’s deliberate disregard for the future it is leaving its liberal progeny.
And let us now note that the truly interesting thing about this attack on the ruling class is that the Republican establishment is every bit as afraid of it as are the liberal elites, largely because the Republicans too are an integral part it the ruling class; which is to say they feed at the same trough, steal from the same coffers, and serve the same wealthy constituents.
And there is no better evidence of this fact that the fear that Donald Trump is sowing among the establishment ranks of the Grand Old Party, or as Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds has taken to calling it, one-half of the “permanent bipartisan fusion party.” Writing at The Hill, Niall Stanage has the scoop:
The Republican establishment is nearing full-blown panic about Donald Trump.
The demise of Trump’s candidacy has been predicted by centrist Republicans and the media alike virtually since the day it began. But there is no empirical evidence at all to suggest it is happening . . . .
Despite all that, Trump has led the RealClearPolitics (RCP) polling average in a virtually unbroken spell for four months. The only person to briefly wrest the lead away from him, Dr. Ben Carson, appears to be fading. And numerous polls show Trump drawing double the support of his closest establishment-friendly rival, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Add to all this the fact that Trump’s lead over the rest of the GOP field has expanded since the terrorist attacks in Paris, and it becomes clear why anxiety among his many Republican critics is reaching new heights . . . .
We know what the benign explanation for this is: the “establishment” is deeply invested in seeing the GOP win next year and is panicked simply because it believes that Trump will screw everything up. He’ll win the nomination, but will offend so many voters along the way that he’ll virtually ensure a Hillary Clinton victory. And even if he does somehow manage to pull it off, he’ll be a disaster as president, embracing a host of liberal policies, discrediting the GOP for a generation or more.
Like we said, we know this is the conventional explanation, and we’re somewhat sympathetic to it. Of course, we also know that it’s mostly garbage.
The Republican establishment is afraid of Donald Trump – in a panic, as Niall Stanage puts it – because Trump represents a threat to THEM. From their perspective, Trump isn’t a threat to the GOP as a whole. And he isn’t a threat to the country. He is a threat to the people who have made quite a nice living being the slightly-more-conservative half of the ruling class. Donald Trump imperils their wealth, their power, and their control over the course of the nation. Donald Trump, you see, is not the right kind of people.
Over the past couple of weeks, two stories that might otherwise have gone unnoticed nevertheless caught our eye. The first of these involves a meeting between two of Trump’s rivals – one in business, the other in politics – that was facilitated by the preeminent figure in the Republican establishment. Over the weekend, Bloomberg News reported that Karl Rove had confirmed that he had introduced top fundraisers for Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to billionaire casino mogul and bigshot Republican donor Steve Wynn. Needless to say, it isn’t hard to guess what interest Rove would have in helping Carson and why he would choose to put the candidate in touch with a man who has both the means and the motive to topple Trump. After all, Rove is the man who has spent the last two decades ensuring that the GOP is the Bush-family party. All of which is to say that there is likely no one who would stand to benefit more than Rove from Trump’s collapse and the emergence of a “consensus” establishment candidate. If Jeb Bush gets new life, then Rove does as well.
Lastly, we know that the portion of the Republican electorate that is leaning toward Trump and Carson is no mood for Karl Rove or his political gamesmanship. He is, in fact, the type of establishment “leader” whom much of the party’s base has grown to detest over the last decade or so. Rove knows this, of course. In fact, some wags have speculated that he is trying to sink Carson by associating his name with the surgeon’s campaign. We have no dog in that fight. We know simply that Rove’s emergence as a player in this campaign would only heighten the Republican rank-and-file’s belief that the electoral system itself is corrupt and favors the permanent ruling class and its aspirations over the will of the people.
The other story that piqued our interest was one that appeared in the New York Times last week and hinted at the transformative power into which the Trump campaign has tapped. According to the Times, Trump has been courting and is about to receive the blessing/endorsement of several high-profile black evangelical preachers. The Times reported thusly:
Donald J. Trump will take the next step in his religious outreach effort next week when he announces the endorsement of a group of 100 African-American pastors and religious leaders at his Manhattan headquarters. . . .
Mr. Trump has held several meetings with black religious leaders this year as he looks to broaden his appeal, and it appears that he has closed the deal with some of them.
Darrell Scott, the pastor of the New Spirit Revival Center in Ohio, helped organize the coalition of religious leaders and said that after meeting Mr. Trump in person he was convinced that Mr. Trump was the candidate best suited to be president. He also said that the public portrayals of Mr. Trump as a racist and demagogue seemed unfounded after they spoke.
“I was looking for some subtle hints of racism,” Mr. Scott said. “I didn’t see it at all.”
Mr. Scott, who said he was a registered Democrat who had voted for President Obama, said that he had been impressed by Mr. Trump as a leader and that he liked his ideas for improving the economy. He said that when he closed his eyes and listened to all the candidates, he found Mr. Trump to be the most appealing.
Will this amount to anything? We have no idea. But we find it fascinating.
You see, when he ran for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama presented himself as a “new” kind of politician, someone who could change the nation and change the world, a man who brought the people hope. A great many people, including a great many Republican political veterans who should have known better, bought what Obama was selling. And a great many of them were disappointed to learn that the only thing that differentiates Obama from the rest of the permanent ruling class is his arrogance. In a field filled with arrogant SOBs, Obama has proven to be on a whole new level, almost as if he believes himself to be “ordained” by a higher power to rule over the people of the world.
And who among Obama’s past supporters could be more disappointed by the purportedly blessed “lightworker” and his over-weening self-reverence than the black community? While Obama interminably prattles on about the weather and the threat that sunshine poses to global stability, the black community in this country is suffering from high unemployment, low job growth, stagnate wages, and a collapsing education system. While Obama preaches about the human rights of Syrians, the black community in this country believes that their own human rights are threatened by the police forces constructed and employed by the Democratic Party machine. While Obama insists that his presidency has been a stunning and unprecedented success, the black community in this country sees little evidence of that alleged success.
As you may have noticed, when we write about education, we’re fond of using a famous quote from the 1983 report from the National Commission on Excellence in Education: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” Well, the same principle applies here. If a Republican president had done to the black community in this country what Barack Obama has done over the last seven years, it might well have been viewed as an act of racial aggression, the start of a race war.
We have long believed that one of the two greatest threats to a Hillary Clinton presidency is the state of black America under Obama. Black voters turned out for him in unprecedented numbers, both in 2008 and in 2012, providing the margin of his victory in both elections. But why would the same voters turn out in the same numbers for Hillary, given that Obama let them down? Hillary is far more a creature of the ruling class than Obama ever appeared to be. And she would be just as likely as he was to favor ruling class concerns, maybe more so. Her only hope is that the black “leaders” who are also members of the ruling class can keep their constituents marching in lockstep with stories of the horrors that would occur under Republican rule. Of course, as more and more young black men and women wake up to the reality of the favoritism and corruption created and encouraged by the urban Democratic machines – like the one in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago – that is likely to become more and more difficult to do.
So the bottom line is that we have a ruling class that is not only under fire from Trump but from a band of college students who happened by some strange happenstance come upon a history book that is not on the university’s recommended list, and quite possibly a portion of the black community that sees that the threat to them is not coming exclusively from right-wing racists but also from corrupt city bosses.
The good news then is that it seems that the ruling class, which has “enjoyed the present hour, and declined the thoughts of futurity” may be running out of time, much as the ruling Romans did a couple millennia ago. The bad news is that the cleanup, if the nation is lucky enough to get someone to lead it, is going to be difficult, to say the very least.