Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
They Said It:
The use of words like “creativity” and “personality” does not mean that those who use them understand the thought that made their use necessary, let alone agree with it. The language has been trivialized. Words that were meant to describe and encourage Beethoven and Goethe are now applied to every schoolchild. It is in the nature of democracy to deny no one access to good things. If those things are really not accessible to all, then the tendency is to deny the fact — simply to proclaim, for example, that what is not art is art. There is in American society a mad rush to distinguish oneself, and, as soon as something has been accepted as distinguishing, to package it in such a way that everyone can feel included. Creativity and personality were intended to be terms of distinction. They were, as a matter of fact, intended to be the distinctions appropriate to egalitarian society, in which all distinction is threatened. The leveling of these distinctions through familiarity merely encourages self-satisfaction. Now that they belong to everyone, they can be said to mean nothing, both in common parlance and in the social science disciplines that use them as “concepts.” They have no specific content, are a kind of opiate of the masses.
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, 1987.
WE COULD USE A MAN LIKE RICHARD NIXON AGAIN?
In case you hadn’t noticed, the conservative commentariat has been awash lately in op-eds and essays explaining why Donald Trump cannot, should not, and will not ever be the President of these here United States. These pieces – written by conservatives of varying prominence and intelligence – all explain why their authors won’t vote for Trump, why you shouldn’t vote for Trump, and indeed why no one anywhere should ever vote for Trump. Some are good and persuasive essays. Naturally, others are less so. Perhaps the most fascinating of those we’ve seen of late was written last week by Charles Murray and published by National Review.
For those of you who may not know, Charles Murray is one of contemporary conservatism’s few true, bona fide public intellectuals. He was also one of the first scholars to recognize the dynamic that has come to dominate our political discourse this election season when, more than four years ago, his article “Belmont and Fishtown,” and his subsequent book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, provided serious intellectual and statistical heft to the then-nascent “ruling class vs. country class” theme.
Murray’s work demonstrated rather conclusively that the nation is bifurcating into two distinct and almost totally unconnected classes, with their own distinct and almost totally unconnected value systems and cultures. America’s founding values are alive and well, Murray concluded, but only among a small percentage of the population, a new upper class that is shockingly uniform in its composition and shockingly uniform in its desire to affect “change” for the lesser people, but to maintain the status quo of absolute power for itself.
Murray was also among the first and the most articulate pundits to note that this phenomenon – the ruling class vs. the country class; the new elites vs. the new serfs – was the animating force behind the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump himself may be a scion of privilege who has never in his life had callused hands, but his campaign speaks to the people who have been left behind in the new, post-1960s America; his campaign is directed purposefully and assertively at the new “lower” class. Or as Murray put it in a February essay for the Wall Street Journal:
If you are dismayed by Trumpism, don’t kid yourself that it will fade away if Donald Trump fails to win the Republican nomination. Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course that the country has taken, and its appearance was predictable. It is the endgame of a process that has been going on for a half-century: America’s divestment of its historic national identity. . . .
As recently as 1960, the creed was our national consensus. Running that year for the Democratic nomination, candidates like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey genuinely embraced the creed, differing from Republicans only in how its elements should be realized. Today, the creed has lost its authority and its substance. What happened? Many of the dynamics of the reversal can be found in developments across the whole of American society: in the emergence of a new upper class and a new lower class, and in the plight of the working class caught in between.
In my 2012 book “Coming Apart,” I discussed these new classes at length. The new upper class consists of the people who shape the country’s economy, politics and culture. The new lower class consists of people who have dropped out of some of the most basic institutions of American civic culture, especially work and marriage. Both of these new classes have repudiated the American creed in practice, whatever lip service they may still pay to it. Trumpism is the voice of a beleaguered working class telling us that it too is falling away . . . .
The central truth of Trumpism as a phenomenon is that the entire American working class has legitimate reasons to be angry at the ruling class. During the past half-century of economic growth, virtually none of the rewards have gone to the working class. The economists can supply caveats and refinements to that statement, but the bottom line is stark: The real family income of people in the bottom half of the income distribution hasn’t increased since the late 1960s.
Now, in spite of his clear and objective understanding of the Trump phenomenon, Murray nevertheless thinks Trump himself is unqualified to be president; that the man is simply too contemptible to hold the office formerly held by Bill Clinton and currently sought by Hillary Clinton. For Murray, the argument against Trump boils down to character. And for him, Trump’s character is so loathsome that even the likelihood of another Clinton presidency is not enough to redeem The Donald. To wit:
In my view, Donald Trump is unfit to be president in ways that apply to no other candidate of the two major political parties throughout American history. . . .
It’s not that Trump makes strategic decisions about what useful untruths he will tell on any given day — it looks as if he just makes up stuff as he goes along. Many of his off-the-cuff fictions are substantively unimportant: He says Rex Ryan won championships when he coached the New York Jets, when he didn’t. No one would care — if it were a one-shot mistake. But it happens repeatedly. Then it gets a little more important, as when he says Paul Ryan called to congratulate him after his victory in the New York primary, announcing a significant political event that in fact did not happen. Then the fictions touch on facts about policy. No, Wisconsin does not have an effective unemployment rate of 20 percent, nor does the federal government impose Common Core standards on the states — to take just two examples plucked at random from among his continual misrepresentations of reality. That he deals so heedlessly in those misrepresentations makes it impossible for an opponent to conduct an authentic policy debate with him.
It’s one thing when a candidate knowingly deceives the public on a few specific topics. Hillary Clinton has knowingly tried to deceive the public about her flip-flop on gay marriage and her misuse of her e-mail server. That’s bad. It should be condemned. This aspect of her character should affect one’s deliberations about whether to vote for her. It’s another thing entirely when a candidate blithely rejects Pat Moynihan’s (attributed) dictum, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.”
Trump’s indifference to facts is an example of why he is unfit for the presidency — not dispositive in itself, but part of a pattern. That pattern is why “Hillary is even worse” misses the point. P. J. O’Rourke recently announced that he is voting for Clinton. “She’s wrong about absolutely everything,” O’Rourke said. “But she’s wrong within normal parameters!” Similarly, I am saying that Clinton may be unfit to be president, but she’s unfit within normal parameters. Donald Trump is unfit outside normal parameters.
For the record, we think that Murray is one of the nation’s smartest, most even-handed and dispassionate observers of social and political phenomena. As such, we find his rejection of Trump both strange and fascinating. Strange because, given his intelligence and expertise in the subject, he is nevertheless flat wrong in so many ways. Fascinating because the origins of his confusion, whether intentional or simply misguided, may greatly affect the course of the nation over the next several years.
For starters, this notion that Hillary “is unfit [to be president] within normal parameters” is pure nonsense. To be fair, we’ll grant that Murray had the great misfortune of penning this essay before the State Department’s Inspector General confirmed the nation’s worst fears about the Clinton email server. Nevertheless, that server is proof, in and of itself, of Hillary’s unique and outside-of-normal-parameters unacceptability for the presidency.
The cold hard fact of the matter is that Hillary and the people she chose to work for her put people’s lives at risk and, more to the point, compromised national security by the construction and use of her own private email server. And she did so specifically to hide her and her husband’s longstanding financial corruption. The idea that Hillary was just being cautious, that she was leery of the public scrutiny her government emails would generate is also nonsense. She made a conscious decision to hide her emails from the public and from her colleagues in the Obama administration specifically because she knew how those emails would look, i.e. manifestly corrupt. Bill and Hillary sold access to and preference on behalf of foreign contributors to the Clinton Foundation at a time when Hillary was, at least nominally, in charge of implementing the nation’s foreign policy. And then she lied about it – repeatedly and with premeditation. In a column on the Inspector General’s report, John Schindler, a former NSA official, put it this way:
The State IG report, weighing in at over 80 pages, is crammed full of bureaucratese yet paints an indelible and detailed portrait of things going very wrong at Foggy Bottom—especially under Hillary Clinton. It can charitably be termed scathing, and it leaves no doubt that Team Clinton has lied flagrantly to the public about EmailGate for more than a year. . . .
Only Hillary Clinton simply refused to use government email for government work — she repeatedly denied requests from State security and IT to usestate.gov email — and she systematically dodged federal regulations on electronic communications and records preservation by setting up her private email server of bathroom infamy. Damningly, while several former secretaries of state cooperated with the IG in this important investigation, Ms. Clinton refused to.
As secretary of state, Ms. Clinton attempted a novel experiment of trying to avoid using any information systems that create records that can be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The IG report includes painful details, including how she flatly refused to use state.gov email for anything, ever, citing privacy grounds. State IT was concerned because Ms. Clinton’s work emails — all being sent via herclintonmail.com address — were winding up in the spam folders of State officials. Important information was not getting where it needed to go. She needed to use official email for official business. Except she refused.
Then we have the repeating warnings from State officials about the incredibly vulnerable nature of her ramshackle private email system from any cybersecurity perspective. These, too, were blown off by Ms. Clinton and her staff, despite several hacking efforts that staffers were aware of. Guccifer, the Romanian hacker who illegally accessed Ms. Clinton’s email during her tour at Foggy Bottom, has just pleaded guilty, and there can be little doubt that hackers more adept than he penetrated Hillary’s communications.
Yes, Donald Trump obfuscates. About that there can be no debate. Like most, politicians, he plays with the truth and makes up his own reality as he goes along. True he does so more frivolously than most, saying whatever comes to mind and whatever he thinks will help his campaign. But again, dishonesty is hardly unique among presidential aspirants. Moreover, to the best of our knowledge, he has never compromised national security with his flights from truth. And while his character may well constitute a mark against him and call into question his qualifications for the highest office in the land, it certainly does not, by itself, make him inarguably and patently worse than Hillary. Like so many of America’s elections these days, this one will be about choosing the lesser of two evils, and while Trump may indeed be one of those evils, it is hardly indisputable that he is the greater of the two. Hillary Clinton’s emails serve as proof positive of this assessment.
Unfortunately, though, that’s not even the half of it.
We have always argued in these pages that character counts, that given a choice between two candidates, we would, under most circumstances, choose the one with the stronger, more reliable character, even if the other one is closer to our preferences in terms of policy. The key bit there, however, is “under most circumstances.” There are, even we will admit, times when circumstances dictate that a candidate with perceptible character flaws is preferable. Consider, for example, the state of the country – and the world – in 1968.
The conventional wisdom has it that in 1968, the United States was losing a war on foreign soil and the people of the country were slowly but surely coming to the realization that their government couldn’t be trusted and that this war was a pointless and unwinnable disaster. Of course, that wasn’t exactly the case. It is far more accurate to say that the United States was winning a war halfway around the world, but was losing control of social and political conditions here on the domestic front. And this loss of control, in turn, was encouraging and provoking reactionaries, both at home and abroad.
In April of 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., the face of the Civil Rights movement was assassinated by petty criminal turned neo-segregationist. Exactly two months later, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated – on the campaign trail – by Palestinian thug upset about American support for Israel. For most of the two months in between the assassinations, student radicals at Columbia University staged several protests and violently occupied several university buildings. The leader of the insurgency was the young Maoist head of the campus SDS (and later a founding member of the terrorist Weather Underground), a 20-year-old named Mark Rudd, who in February of that year had travelled to Cuba for instruction in insurgency by Cuban, Soviet, and North Vietnamese representatives. Later that summer, Rudd’s SDS pals and a handful of other radical organizations staged protests and, eventually, riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Meanwhile, in Paris, similarly radicalized (and similarly spoiled, ignorant, and petulant) young people took to the streets to stage a “second French Revolution.” Students from the Sorbonne started the rebellion in early May, and by the end of the month had been joined in their efforts by millions of others, including other students, trade unionists, and various laborers. The protests, naturally, devolved into riots, the declaration of a Paris “commune” and, eventually, violent and bloody clashes between the protesters and the police.
At the same time that the children in Paris and New York were longing for the communists to come save them from their boredom, the people of Czechoslovakia were enjoying liberal reform under the guidance of new party leader Alexander Dubcek. Or at least they enjoyed the liberalization until the Soviets decided that they had seen enough and sent the tanks rolling into Prague. While the SDS and their French compatriots whined about the “brutality” of being forcibly removed from private property, nearly 100 Czech were killed as the Soviets – heroes to the SDS – began the process of “normalizing” their “disloyal” comrades.
Against this backdrop – and against the backdrop of the broader civil unrest sparked both by the war in Vietnam and the struggle for civil rights – the American people made a bold and somewhat surprising decision. They took a pass on the sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a man generally thought to be of unimpeachable character and widely known as “The Happy Warrior.” They preferred instead a man they had rejected a mere eight years earlier and who had earned the well-deserved nickname “Tricky Dick” during his 1950 race for a seat in the U.S. Senate from California. It is worth remembering in this context that when Nixon was losing his first presidential campaign, his opponent, Jack Kennedy, played upon Nixon’s apparent shiftiness, among other things employing an ad showing a devious looking Nixon with the caption, “Would You Buy a Used Car from This Man?”
So why, pray tell, did the American voters come back around to Nixon? Because, as his campaign slogan put it, they needed him. The world was a mess. Everyone, everywhere was angry. The counter-culture was ascendant and the Democrats were, more or less, unable to stop their party’s leftward collapse. Nixon promised stability. He promised law and order. He promised to represent the “silent majority” who rejected the anger and the radicalism of the damn, dirty hippies. In short, he stood boldly and bravely against those whom his running mate had famously labelled the “nattering nabobs of negativity.” And as it turned out, this silent majority of the American people wanted a champion much more than it wanted the well-liked, decent, but somewhat befuddled Hubert Humphrey.
Now, historians can and do debate who ultimately won the battle between Nixon and the counter-culture. But for our purposes today, the end result is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that Nixon kept his word and fought back against the nabobs. Whether or not he ultimately beat them, he slowed them down, and more to the point, he forced them to continue to fight the establishment. He didn’t give in to their demands, thereby enhancing their power and encouraging their behavior.
Think for a minute how much differently things might have turned out if Humphrey had won. Or, more dramatically, think how differently they would have turned out if RFK had not been assassinated and had won the nomination and the election, taking office as an ally to the counter-culture? Historical revisionism is, by its very nature, wildly speculative, but it’s fair to say, we think, that in this case, the nation would have been radically different.
And that brings us back to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
As in 1968, it seems that the entire nation is angry. The white working-class is unhappy that it is worse off today than it was forty years ago. The members of the millennial generation are ticked off that they spent all that money to get a degree in ethnic puppetry but now have to live with mom and dad and work making coffee at Starbucks. The old-line conservatives are mad because Donald Trump beat them. The nation’s African-American population is outraged because they think police are killing their young men wantonly. The nation’s police are furious because they think that their one-time political allies are turncoats who would sell them out to please the most obnoxious protesters. The public unions are annoyed because they don’t see why taxpayers should get to decide how much they get paid or how well they live in their retirement. The feminists are beside themselves because . . . well . . . PATRIARCHY! And Hillary Clinton is livid because Donald Trump keeps reminding her – and the voters –that her husband is a moral degenerate par excellence.
More to the point, we suppose, everyone is right, to some extent or another, to be angry. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, the country is struggling along, and its ruling class seems to care about nothing more than who goes to the bathroom where.
We’re well aware that the historical analogy here isn’t exactly perfect. Donald Trump isn’t Nixon. But then, Hillary Clinton isn’t exactly Hubert Humphrey either. Indeed, if we had to identify one difference between 1968 and today, we’d say that the imperative to elect someone other than the status quo establishmentarian is far greater today than it was back then.
Humphrey was, at least, nominally opposed to the radicals, and they to him. That’s why they blew up his convention in Chicago. The loathing between the establishment Democrats and the New Democrats was both real and mutual. Today, by contrast, the radicals have an ally in the Democratic establishment’s standard bearer. Hillary Clinton may be a corporatist huckster dedicated principally to her own lust for power, but she’s their corporatist huckster dedicated principally to her own lust for power. On social matters – abortion, guns, the patriarchy, white privilege, “cis” privilege, marriage, religion, and all the rest, she is one of them. And they know it.
Last week, Rod Dreher, one of our favorite social commentators, was especially prolific and especially profound. He started the week, noting the “re-tribalization” of the country, a process he sees in the in the various demands for individual and unique recognition currently animating the nation’s social unrest. Among other incidents, he pointed to an appearance made at DePaul University by Milo Yiannapoulos, the British journalist who serves as the technology editor for Breitbart News. Yiannapoulos has become something of celebrity during this campaign season because he is an openly (and flamboyantly) gay conservative who enthusiastically supports Donald Trump. As a result, he has courted controversy and has become something of a lightning rod for student protesters who have refused to allow him to speak on various campuses. At DePaul last week, Black Lives Matter protesters stormed the stage where Yiannapoulos was speaking, stole the microphones, blew whistles, and threatened the speaker, eventually ending the presentation because of their refusal to leave the stage. DePaul administrators, meanwhile, denied Yiannapoulos the security he had requested. And when security personnel did show up, they refused to do anything about the protesters.
Dreher also mentioned the protests against Donald Trump in Albuquerque, NM, at which protesters attacked police, toppled police cars, rioted for hours, and, of course, waved Mexican flags. In response to all of this – and some commentary on the Obama administration’s education dicta regarding transgender bathroom “rights” – Dreher concluded the following:
The center is not holding. The militant left is going to drive a lot of people towards the militant right. In the fall campaign, Trump is going to go full “Amnesty, Acid, and Abortion” — and the emotional reaction that seeing video of violent Black Lives Matter activists and other Social Justice Warrior militants in action (which we will see, all throughout the fall, because they cannot help themselves, and not even media spin will be able to hide it) will frighten a lot of law-and-order people into voting for Trump.
We think that’s just about right. Trump may not be Nixon, but he’ll play the same role. At the same time, Hillary Clinton will play a much different role than Humphrey played.
In a different post, Dreher mentioned a handful of articles about transgender rights and the bullying behavior of the establishment Left on this matter. One was a piece in the Washington Post by UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh, describing and explaining the new rules on the use of pronouns in New York City. Professor Volokh noted that the official legal guidance from the New York City Commission on Human Rights stipulates that:
The NYCHRL [New York City Human Rights Law] requires employers, [landlords, and all businesses and professionals] to use an [employee’s, tenant’s, customer’s, or client’s] preferred name, pronoun and title (e.g., Ms./Mrs.) regardless of the individual’s sex assigned at birth, anatomy, gender, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on the individual’s identification.
Most individuals and many transgender people use female or male pronouns and titles. Some transgender and gender non-conforming people prefer to use pronouns other than he/him/his or she/her/hers, such as they/them/theirs or ze/hir. [Footnote: Ze and hir are popular gender-free pronouns preferred by some transgender and/or gender non-conforming individuals.] . . .
What this means, Volokh continued, is that:
People can basically force us — on pain of massive legal liability — to say what they want us to say, whether or not we want to endorse the political message associated with that term, and whether or not we think it’s a lie.
We have to use “ze,” a made-up word that carries an obvious political connotation (endorsement of the “non-binary” view of gender). We have to call people “him” and “her” even if we believe that people’s genders are determined by their biological sex and not by their self-perceptions — perceptions that, by the way, can rapidly change, for those who are “gender-fluid” — and that using terms tied to self-perception is basically a lie. (I myself am not sure whether people who are anatomically male, for example, but perceive themselves as female should be viewed as men or women; perhaps one day I’ll be persuaded that they should be viewed as women; my objection is to being forced to express that view.) We can’t be required to even display a license plate that says “Live Free or Die” on our car, if we object to the message; that’s what the court held in Wooley v. Maynard (1978). But New York is requiring people to actually say words that convey a message of approval of the view that gender is a matter of self-perception rather than anatomy, and that, as to “ze,” were deliberately created to convey that a message.
What’s more, according to the City, “refusal to use a transgender employee’s preferred name, pronoun, or title may constitute unlawful gender-based harassment.” The label “harassment” is important here because harassment law requires employers and businesses to prevent harassment by co-workers and patrons and not just by themselves or their own employees; this is particularly well established for harassment by co-workers, but it has also been accepted for harassment by fellow patrons. So an employer or business that learns that its employees or patrons are “refus[ing] to use a transgender employee’s preferred” pronoun or title would have to threaten to fire or eject such people unless they comply with the City’s demands. (The logic would also apply to landlords having to threaten to eject tenants who refuse to use co-tenants’ preferred pronouns or titles, but that’s less certain.)
A second piece Dreher linked was one published by the blog 4thWaveNow and written by Dr. Kathleen “Kelly” Levinstein, PhD, LCSW, LMSW is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan, Flint. The essay is fascinating, infuriating, and ultimately heartbreaking. Professor Levinstein writes:
My daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, as am I, is now 19 years old. She had felt (and told others) that she was a lesbian most of her life. When she was 16, she began watching a TV show called “Degrassi,” which featured an FtoM character. After a few weeks, she announced that she was not actually a butch lesbian, as she had previously said, but was in fact trans. She started attending a local PFLAG meeting, where she met many trans people, including a number of FtoM trans teenagers who were raving about a certain “gender therapist.” Although the APA recommends a minimum of one year of “gender counseling” before surgery, this gender therapist (whom I consented to, before really understanding what I was doing) gave my daughter the go-ahead to have a bilateral mastectomy after only two sessions. This gender specialist never reviewed any of the Special Ed records or spoke to my daughter’s previous therapist, who had known her for a decade. And, crucially, she never asked my daughter, “Might you be a lesbian?”
The gender therapist (whom I believe has an unholy financial alliance with the surgeon) gave my daughter (then 18 and one day) the go-ahead for the $30,000 surgery (covered for all university employees and their families where I work). My daughter is now on testosterone (which she clearly is unable to evaluate the risks and consequences of).
To give you some sense of my daughter’s level of understanding of what it means to transition, she told me recently that she believes that the testosterone “will grow her a penis.” I had to break the news to her that, although this is the mythology in the PFLAG meetings (where a number of the other young trans people are also autistic), this is not the case.
She has been taken advantage of. Healthy organs were amputated. This is insurance fraud, poor clinical practice, a violation of APA standards, unethical and unjust.
In the post-essay interview section of the article, the blog and Dr. Levinstein continue:
In recent years, activists have agitated for disabled people to be treated as having the same “agency” to make medical decisions as non-disabled people. In fact, when anyone brings up concerns about young people with autism being questioned about their transgender identity, they are accused of “ableism.” Do you have any thoughts about this?
Yes, I agree – anyone asking for critical thinking about these issues with autistics is accused of ableism and transphobia. This is often an effective silencing tactic. I have found no allies in the autism community. Instead, there is a vilification of anyone daring to ask questions about these issues, including the evidence of MtoF physical, sexual and psychological violence against women. Women who publicly question receive death threats, threats to rape us and our children, burn us to death with gasoline, decapitate us, and so on. This all coming from people who claim they are our “sisters.”
Given that your daughter was recently hospitalized for health issues related to her use of testosterone, have you found any medical professionals who are willing to speak up about this?
I have found no health professionals willing to go on the record against this. Everyone is afraid of professional suicide and threats of violence. I am standing alone.
This is shocking and horrifying. And it is the new reality on the cultural Left. As we noted two weeks ago, both the mainstream media and the Democratic political establishment treating the issue as merely one more battle in the broader war for “civil rights.” They’re treating transgender rights as merely the latest successor to minority rights, women’s rights, and gay rights. It is not, of course. It’s not anything like the others, for a variety of reasons, most importantly the still poorly understood psychology involved in “gender dysphoria.” But to say that, to suggest that it might not be the best idea in the world rush headlong into government coercion with respect to transgender matters is to open oneself up to charges of bigotry and hatred. And the Democratic establishment – including both Barack Obama and his presumed successor Hillary Clinton – is among the most prominent, potent, and aggressive advocates of this new “reality.”
Sadly, we could go on and on (and on and on . . .) about the state of the culture and the government’s intimidation of those who dare disagree. But we suspect you get the point. None of this is to say that Donald Trump will be able to anything about this decay or about various government entities’ role in it. Likewise, none of this is to say that he will do anything, even if he can. There’s no telling what he will do, which is one of the big problems with his candidacy; he’s the wildest wildcard in the political arena in decades. Nevertheless, Trump has made “political correctness” and his opposition to it centerpieces of his campaign. The media talk about his opposition to Muslims or to Hispanic immigration or his wall. Hillary Clinton talks about his personal “war on women.” All of which ignores the fact that his most enticing attribute for millions of voters is his apparent willingness to stand up to the cultural orthodoxy and tell its advocates to pipe down, that they’re ruining this country.
We don’t mean to imply that any of this can or should offset Donald Trump’s other clear deficiencies. It is, however, to say that Trump at least offers a politically salient alternative to the current status quo, which is untenable long-term. And in so doing, he points out the real problems with a potential Clinton revival. Hillary Clinton is a creature of the establishment, no doubt. But the establishment in this case is part of the problem. It is every bit as radical in its intentions as was the counter-culture fifty years ago. And Hillary Clinton, her political views, and ambition are very much products of that counter-culture, more so even than Barack Obama.
The irony in all of this is that Charles Murray, of all people, understands how and why all of this matters. As many of you likely know, Murray is best known for his co-authorship (along with Richard Herrnstein) of The Bell Curve, a book that examines the nature and societal importance of intelligence. It was a groundbreaking work based on massive amounts of research. And while Murray and Herrnstein were careful to emphasize the fact that intelligence is not entirely genetic and that environment does, indeed, play a significant part in its development, critics latched on to one, rather small conclusion in the book, which suggested that intelligence is, at least in part, heritable and varies by race.
Serious scholars have, understandably, debated and assessed this particular finding of The Bell Curve, some finding flaws in both its methodology and its conclusions. The popular press was not so kind, however, and not so disciplined in their response. Murray and (the late) Herrnstein were labelled racists and were drummed out of polite society. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the “gold-standard” racial watchdog, categorized Murray a “white nationalist” because of his work on The Bell Curve. For more than twenty years now, Murray – a serious and methodical scholar – has been treated as a pariah simply because he and his co-author wrote something that the political and media establishments deemed unthinkable.
Over the span of these twenty years, of course, the list of unthinkable thoughts has grown longer, deeper, and far more severe. Today, it is unlikely that Murray would ever even get The Bell Curve published, largely because no publisher would dare risk his business to do so. The “closing of the American mind” – to borrow a phrase – has continued apace and today has serious social, economic, and geopolitical consequences. And Hillary Clinton is a part of the establishment that has made it so.
Again, none of this is to say that Donald Trump will put an end to this stealthy social revolution. But Hillary Clinton most certainly won’t even try. Indeed, she will do her very best to exacerbate it. That’s who she is. That’s what she believes. It is dishonest. It is deranged. And it is dangerous. And coupled with her clear undermining of national security in pursuit of email “privacy,” it more than makes her unfit for the presidency “outside of normal parameters.”
Our suspicion is that all of this – the Left’s ongoing radical war against dissent and its expression – will continue to play out over the next few months and will have a significant impact on the election. The more the protesters burn police cars and incite violence in the name of stopping Donald Trump from speaking; the more the culture and certain government entities push the culture wars and the mainstreaming of radical ideas; the more campus “crybullies” insist that free speech and free thought are unwelcome at institutions of “higher education,” the more Donald Trump will appear to be not just a default choice for president, but a rational choice as well. He will appear to many ordinary conservatives as the one man who is standing athwart history yelling “You’re fired!” By the time November rolls around, many people will, indeed, believe that the country “needs” Trump, just as it “needed” Nixon nearly a half-century ago.
The one question we still have in all of this is one that addresses the motivations and intentions of the conservatives who remain ever so animated by their NeverTrump fervor. Some of these people – Charles Murray, for example – are serious, intellectually accomplished scholars who have spent the last several decades observing the social and political scenes. Others – like Jonah Goldberg – are genuine and competent people who have spent most of their adult lives involved to some degree or another in the analysis or practice of national politics.
Given this, both factions of the NeverTrump coalition should be taken seriously by conservatives and should, under normal circumstances, be considered thoughtful and earnest commenters on their party’s choice a presidential nominee. And yet, something doesn’t quite seem right to us. The NeverTrumpers’ fears and doubts strike us as underwhelming, particularly given the character of his likely general election opponent. Heck, Goldberg, of all people, should know better, since both he and his mother both played critical roles in making the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair public and thus exposing both Bill and Hillary for what they really are, i.e. power-hungry creatures of appetite. Simply stating that Trump lies or that he is of dubious character doesn’t quite cut it in this case. Trump is of dubious character, you say? Well, have you seen the other guy (gal)?
Now, we know that this type of rationalization for a candidate is hardly satisfying, intellectually or morally. But that’s pretty much the nature of national politics these days. So why should Trump be any different? What is it about him that the NeverTrumpers really fear and that they are hiding behind a smoke screen of concern about his fabrications?
We can think of no reassuring answers to these questions, and that bothers us. We like and respect most of these people and would very much like to know why they’re really so adamantly opposed to Trump. Moreover, we’re curious just how far they’ll go to discredit him or to keep him from the White House. And if their efforts result in a Hillary Clinton presidency, are they fully cognizant of the implications, both in partisan and cultural terms? This stuff is important. And we think that their fellow conservatives – ourselves included – would like to know some of these answers before November.
Copyright 2016. The Political Forum. 8563 Senedo Road, Mt. Jackson, Virginia 22842, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.