Spinning Out of the No-Spin Zone

Fox News has fired Bill O’Reilly, and that’s fine by us, as we never did like the guy. The firing is yet another undeniable embarrassment to conservatism, but probably the best way to handle it.
O’Reilly didn’t get cancelled for the usual reason of low ratings, as he remained the most-viewed commentator on cable news, but because 20 of his most well-heeled advertisers had cancelled their buys in the wake of a sex scandal. The New York Times reported that Fox News has spent some $13 million settling numerous sexual harassment suits filed over the years, companies ranging from Mercedes-Benz to the Society for Human Resource Management decided they didn’t want to be associated with such salacious settlements, and with Fox News already reeling from the recent firing of its longtime head honcho Roger Ailes over similar high-dollar shenanigans they reached the same reluctant conclusion.
All the late night comics and mainstream news reporters and the rest of the left are having great fun with it, and there’s really no denying them their unabashed schadenfreude. Fox News is the bogeyman of the left, O’Reilly was its most demonized figure, and both do look pretty damned ridiculous at the moment. Just before the firing President Donald Trump had defended O’Reilly during a New York Times interview as a good guy who never did anything wrong, and of course he’s got his own scandals about grabbing women by the wherever to deal with, so naturally the left is also having fun with that.
All of it supports a leftist narrative that conservatism is nostalgia for the good old days when business moguls used to chase secretaries around the desk with impunity, and we have admit we find ourselves hard pressed to make the case that conservatism still stands for Judeo-Christian tradition and family values isn’t really waging that “war on women” that the left used to run on. There’s a case to be made that settling suits isn’t an admission of guilt, but no one on the right was having any of that back when President Bill Clinton was settling his lawsuits with Paula Jones and the numerous other women who quite plausibly accused him of sexual harassment, and by now anyone on either side who isn’t disgusted by all of it is a rank hypocrite.
Kudos to Fox for not being such rank hypocrites, and we hope that its many fine journalists continue to expose shenanigans on both the left and right with a renewed credibility. The network retains some hypocritical partisan hacks, such as its now most-viewed host Sean Hannity, as well as those apple-polishing sycophants on Trump’s favorite “Fox and Friends” morning show, but it also does a lot of reporting that liberals can’t righty dismiss as “Faux News” the way conservatives tend to dismiss anything unsettling to their worldview as “fake news” from “The New York Slimes” or “the Washington Compost.” On the both the left and the right, and among those news outlets that still claim to be fair and balanced, it’s important than everyone maintain a certain respect for what pretty much everyone regards as proper.
O’Reilly always struck us as a bombastic, loose with facts, self-righteous prig was so easily caricatured that the late night comic Stephen Colbert became a number-one-in-his-time-slot talk-show star by caricaturing him. He’s having great fun with the denouement of O’Reilly’s career, and it’s hard to deny him the pleasure, and by all accounts he’s a happily married and devoutly Catholic and thus-far scandal-free man, so we’ll not deny him his dance on the grave of O’Reilly’s career. We still believe in a conservatism based on Judeo-Christian tradition and family values and not chasing the secretaries around the desk, though, and hope that Fox will help us to keep from anybody dancing on its grave.
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A New Day, Old Principles, and What’s Ahead

Unless the Illuminati and its “deep state” allies in the New World Order have one hell of a last-minute surprise ending plotted for this crazy election year, Donald Trump will become President of the United States today. To borrow a line from a favorite old Johnny Cash song, we don’t like it but we guess things happen that way.
If we were the sunny sorts of conservatives who go looking for silver livings we could console ourselves that at least Barack Obama is no longer president and Hillary Clinton never will be, which is indeed good news and probably enough consolation to most of our conservatives friends to get through the next four years no matter what happens, but we’re the more traditionally dour types of conservatives who can’t help noticing the gathering dark clouds within any silver livings. A nation faced with such dismal choices for leadership is already in sorry shape, and although we might have dodged the worst it that doesn’t mean the future is at all bright.
Ours is the old-fashioned style of conservatism informed by the Judeo-Christian faith’s Old Testament postlapsarian worldview, which means we have no faith whatsoever in mere humans, and it’s left us particularly suspicious of this Trump fellow. From the moment he descended down that famous escalator from Trump tower to announce his candidacy, and throughout his improbable rise to the presidency, we have repetitively noted that he’s a six-times-bankrupt and thrice-married-to-an-illegal-immigrant-nudie-model real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show-and-scam-university mogul who mocks the handicapped and brags about the married women he’s bagged and is notorious for not keeping his contractual promises and has introduced all sorts of language we don’t care to recount here into the political discourse, and despite all the winning he’s done along the way it’s all still true and troubling. Some of our conservative friends assure us that just such a follow is surely going to make America great again, as so many of our liberal friends assured us that his predecessor was surely going to bring hope and change to our land, but then as now we’ll stick with the old time religion and expect to not end up being suckers.
Our conservatism is also informed by the relatively newfangled notions of Edmund Burke, the great British statesman who supported the American revolution but as Prime Minister led his countrymen more or less peaceably through the French revolution and its inevitable reign of terror by making a persuasive case that it’s probably best not to start lopping off heads and burning down the institutions that years of fitful trial and error had so painstakingly if imperfectly erected. “Burn it down” was a constant refrain of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters during that improbable campaign, and his admirers frequently liken him to a bull in a China shop, and something in our conservative sorts of souls does not find this at all reassuring. “You have made a revolution but not a Reformation,” Burke once wrote to one of his French revolutionary friends, and he added advice to beware “the power of bad men,” words that somehow ring truer than anything in any of Trump’s recent “tweets.”
The most up-to-date conservatism we’re sticking with was best explained in ten parts back in the ’90s by the late and great Russell Kirk, who acknowledged the ambiguity of the term but said that “In essence, the conservative person is the one who simply finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos and Old Night.” He also posited that “the conservative believes there exists an enduring moral order,” “the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity,” “conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of principle of prescription,” and “conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence,” none of which remotely describe Trump’s stated plans or characteristic bluster. Kirk also wrote that “conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety,” which Trump clearly doesn’t, and that “conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability,” which Trump clearly isn’t. He argued that “conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked,” and Trump’s enthusiasm for that awful Kelo decision suggests he disagrees, and that “conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose compulsory collectivism,” which Trump will probably agree or disagree with depending on what certain communities voluntarily agree to do. The last of Kirk’s descriptions of conservatism were that “the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and human passions,” which doesn’t describe a single a moment of Trump’s life, and “the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society,” with both the recognizing and reconciling seeming beyond Trump’s abilities.
Trump does seem likely to appoint far better Supreme Court justices than Obama did or Clinton would have, and we rather like that voucher-loving Education Secretary pick even if we’d rather leave education to the localities, and we’ve long been fans of our local congressman who’s been appointed as head of the now-hated-by-everyone Central Intelligence Agency, and given that Trump is neither Obama nor Clinton surely some good is to come of it. So far Trump seems even more accommodating to Russia, though, and nothing has Trump has said suggests the national debt won’t grow, and as much as we’re looking forward to the repeal of Obamacare we’re not holding out hope that Trump will provide lower premiums and deductibles along with “insurance for everybody,” and at this point it’s going to take more than a border wall to make America great again, even if Mexico does wind up paying for it. We go into today’s new era still wondering what the hell it is about the new president’s apparent affinity for the Russian dictatorship, and because he’s already burned down that relatively old rule about releasing tax records or divesting himself from his global empire there’s no tamping down the conspiracy theories about it, and along with the doubts about his health care ambitions and apparent disregard for the national debt and longstanding treaty obligations and other painstakingly if imperfectly built institutions, along with his apparent belief in the perfectibility of at least one man, we will head into his presidency with grave concerns. We assume the liberals will be even more distressed, but at this point we find little comfort in that.
Instead, we’ll stick with the old-time religion and our more newfangled conservative principles

— Bud Norman

Phyllis Schlafly, RIP

Iconic conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly died on Monday at the age of 92, and upon hearing the news we couldn’t help fishing our old “Stop ERA” button out of the button jar and reminiscing about her glory days. The button has been kept mostly out of the light for the past many decades and is still a bright stop sign shade of red, but so much has been changed since we last wore it that it sometimes seems from a different world, and we can’t help wondering what such an endearing old anachronism as Schlafly might have made of it.
She first became involved in conservative politics as a supporter of the old school Robert “Mr. Republican” Taft before we were even born, became a noted anti-communist spokeswoman afterwards, and by the time we tuned into our first presidential election in ’64 her book-length pro-Barry Goldwater essay “A Choice Not an Echo” was selling millions of copies and making her an acknowledged leader of the supposedly sexist right. It wasn’t until the Equal Rights Amendment debate of the ’70s that she became a household name, though, and that was when we started paying attention.
The amendment was first proposed back in the Jazz Age of the ’20s, with the support of all the upper class lady folk and the flappers, but the women working in the sweatshops and on the farms felt they needed some sex-specific workplace regulations that the amendment’s language seemed to proscribe, introducing the internecine class warfare that has afflicted the feminist movement ever since, and after that it pretty much faded away. Early into the rockin’ 70s the simply stated idea that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” came roaring back, though, and for a long while it seemed pretty much an inevitability. By then it was hard to argue with the basic idea of equal rights for women, so in ’72 the ERA passed both chambers of Congress and was passed on to the states for ratification, with the backing of the platforms of both major parties and such conservative stalwarts as Ronald Reagan, and by 1977 it had been ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states, including our very own Kansas.
By ’75 or ’76 or so, though, people were beginning to wonder what sort of peculiar policies “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation,” which was the briefly worded second article of the amendment, and to worry what craziness the courts might find even in that short and deceptively simple and seemingly benign first article, and what sorts of devils there might be in the details of that basic idea of equal rights for women. The young folks of today might find it quaint, but there were even worries that the ERA might ultimately result women being drafted into the military and creepy guys hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers. Quainter yet, the progressives of the day scoffed at the very idea they would ever suggest such foolishness, with all that women-in-combat stuff widely reviled by a feminist movement reviled by anything militarist and a young feminist and future Supreme Court Justice named Ruth Bader Ginsburg was writing an op-ed insisting that “Separate places to disrobe, sleep, perform personal bodily functions are permitted, in some case cases required, by regard for individual privacy. Individual privacy, a right of constitutional dimension, is appropriately harmonized with the equality principle. But the the ‘potty issue’ is likely to remain one of those ultimate questions never pressed to the final solution.”
As we well recall, it made for a contentious debate. Aside from all those thorny policy questions, there was also an ongoing cultural war about the broader implications of the feminist movement. The feminists frankly claimed that adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution would simultaneously ratify their most radical notions, and of course there was a backlash to that, and in all the ensuing controversy no one was more controversial than Schlafly. She became the old-fashionedly dignified face of the anti-ERA cause by pressing the conservative case against introducing language into the constitution that could lead into all sorts of consequences, and by pushing back against the more questionable assumptions of that already overreaching feminist movement. Needless to say, she was much beloved and much reviled.
Adding to both the love and the hate was that Schlafly was an undeniably formidable force. All the women she’d inspired to Goldwater’s true blue brand of conservatism were famously described as “little old ladies in tennis shoes,” but she was harder to dismiss. The daughter of a failed businessman and a highly educated housewife, she entered Maryville College at 16 and left at 19 with a Phi Beta Kappa key and a full scholarship to Radcliffe, where she earned a master’s degree in a year’s time. She worked at one of the earliest conservative think-tanks, wrote or edited 20 books, published an influential newsletter and spoke daily on more than 500 radio stations, was a regular commenter on the Columbia Broadcasting system in the ’70s and the Cable News Network in the ’80s, and always brought an old-school erudition and that old-fashionedly dignified face and a certain womanly bearing that the feminists could never quite match.
At the time Schlafly was somehow staving off any more ratifications and even getting several states to rescind while running out the clock on the Equal Rights Amendment, we were in high school and paying rapt attention. All the girls who inspired our romantic interest in those amorous days were of course avid proponents of the ERA, and then as now we were quite comfortable with their basic idea of equal rights for women, but we’ve never been able to help worrying about those devils that might be lurking in the details. We were also in favor of equal rights for all races, but had seen how that laudable idea had turned our schools in violence-ridden wastes of time, and those girls we pined for seemed to be doing well enough on their own, and the question of the draft and the “potty issue” didn’t seem something to be scoffed at. There was already a “separate but equal” precedent regarding public accommodations, with some judge or another out there eager to seize on it, and surely a law that conscripted people of one sex into combat duty but not another would violate an amendment with the plain language that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex,” and if it didn’t then what did it mean? Then as now we thought that having men use the men’s room and women use the women’s room was a sensible arrangement, and that sending only men off to war has had a similar social utility, and that in our society best efforts to “harmonize” such concerns with the “equality principle” the constitution ought to provide some wiggle room, which is why we wound wearing that “Stop ERA” button.
At the time we were less impressed with Schlafly’s more culturally conservative arguments for a more traditional notion of womanhood, being so very smitten with those self-fulfilled and enticingly assertive feminist girls, but after so many decades and so many changes we can’t say for sure that she was wrong about any of that. At this point we do feel vindicated for our long ago prediction that the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment wasn’t going to result in a dystopian future of barefoot pregnant women chained to stoves, and we’re pleased that all our former crushes have been free to make successes and failures of their lives, but we’ll lament seeing women being sent into combat and creepy men hanging around the ladies restrooms and showers, and we’ll continue to worry what further devils might yet be in the details of that basically sound idea of equal rights for all.
Schlafly stayed on the seen during the past controversial decades, and although we sometimes agree with her and sometimes didn’t we always had to give the opinions of such a formidable women due respect. Of course the left always hated her, and even in her more respectful obituaries there’s the old line about how she married a rich husband, and always taunted her feminist opponents by remarking how he “allowed” her to speak out, and offended the fundamental feminist principle of freedom of choice by choosing to embrace a traditional notion of womanhood. By the end of her long life the former Taft enthusiast and cultural traditionalist was embracing the candidacy of longtime Democrat and thrice-married Donald J. Trump more enthusiastically than we would have preferred, but we’ll forgive that final disagreement on the grounds that she was mostly against the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Not only is Clinton the latest devil in the details of that basically good idea about equality of the sexes, but she only got where she is due to her deal with a philandering husband, while Schlafly probably would have wound up just as prominent without help from her loving and loyal mate, and none of Schlafly’s critics will ever want to admit that.
Although she won the battle against the ERA, and scored a few other wins for conservatives since then, Schlafly seems to have lost the wars. Even the more conservative candidates in the Republican debates were endorsing the drafting of women last summer, the Republican nominee was critical of North Carolina’s attempts to retain the old restroom arrangements, and by now it’s a safe bet that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg won’t come riding to the rescue. The limited government notions of Goldwater seem hopelessly out of fashion in both parties, even if the isolationism of Taft seems to be making a comeback on the Republican side, and we can’t imagine that Schlafly died happy about it any of it. All the more reason we’re going to miss that formidable woman, and hope that she died happy with the personal life that her brave choices created.

— Bud Norman

Racism and the Race

For so long as we can remember, which stretches all the way back to a vague recollection of Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater, it’s been an election year tradition for the Democratic nominee to insinuate that the Republican nominee is a racist. This crazy election year isn’t one for insinuations or other sorts of subtleties, though, so Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton just came right out on Thursday and bluntly accused the famously blunt-talking Republican nominee Donald J. Trump of telling “racist lies” and peddling conspiracy theories with “racist undertones” and “taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.”
Clinton made these claims and more at a community college in Reno, Nev., during a 31-minute address that The New York Times described as “building to a controlled simmer,” and we must admit it’s a most remarkable oration. Democratic campaign surrogates have long hurled similar slurs, and as recently as last time around the Democratic vice presidential nominee was thundering to a mostly-black crowd in his most embarrassingly fake black accent that pretty much all of the Republican Party “wants to put y’all back in chains,” but this marks the first occasion when the charges were coming straight from the top of the ticket. Worse yet, for those of us who cherish memories of the previous 13 Republican presidential campaigns, the charges have never been harder to refute.
In ’64 the factual claim was that the Republican nominee had voted against the incumbent Democratic president’s landmark Civil Rights Act, which is still so revered it’s better known as The Landmark Civil Rights Act, but Goldwater’s business record and personal life showed a consistent color-blindness that still convince us he voted against it for principled concerns about property rights and such that have largely been vindicated. By ’68 the Democrats were running Hubert Humphrey, who’d first gained national attention by leading the Minnesota delegation out of the Democratic National Convention to protest the “Dixiecrats'” exclusion of black southern delegates, but the Republicans’ Nixon had a sound civil rights voting record and the best they could come up with was that his talk about restoring “law and order” to burning black neighborhoods was subliminally racist, and in ’72 Nixon was running for re-election against George McGovern, who was from South Dakota. The ’76 race pitted accidental President Gerald Ford and his impeccable civil rights voting record against former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, a one-time protege of the ax-weilding segregationist Lester Maddox, and Ford wound up with a 17 percent of the black vote that any Republican candidate of today can only dream of. Reagan won landslides in ’80 and ’84 and saw black unemployment go down and black household incomes go up, despite losing the black vote by landslide margins, and his vice president George H.W. Bush won again in ’88 despite an ad that suggested black criminal Willie Horton shouldn’t have been furloughed from prison to rape and murder a white couple, which was considered a very racist notion by some people.
With help from self-described billionaire Ross Perot splitting the crotchety old white man vote Democrat Bill Clinton knocked off Bush by plurality in ’92, and then won reelection by a landslide plurality against crotchety old white man Republican nominee Bob Dole in ’96, and all he had to do was wear some shades and play some sax and play the part of the first First Black President. In ’00 the Democrats were aghast that Republican George W. Bush had not signed a “hate crime” bill while governor of Texas, allowing some rednecks who had dragged a black man to death behind their pickup to get off light with a mere death penalty, and in ’04 the Democrats were running the son of a segregationist southern Senator against the incumbent son of a Republican Congressman with an impeccable civil rights record, and we seem to recall that the latter won a respectable 4 or 5 percent of the black vote. In ’08 the racist rap on the Republican was that he had the audacity to be running against the potential actual First Black President, and by ’12 they were reduced that preposterous vice presidential rant about Republicans wanting to “put y’all in chains.”
In this crazy election year, though, we find it hard to rise to the Republican nominee’s defense. Goldwater took the extraordinary step of integrating his family’s prosperous department stores at a time when it was bound to a negative effect on its sales, but Clinton is factually correct in noting that Trump’s record in his prosperous family business includes an expensive settlement with the Justice Department over allegations of racial discrimination at a Brooklyn apartment complex. Trump is using the same “law and order” line that Nixon coined back in ’68, and it’s still black neighborhoods that are burning, but we can’t imagine even “Tricky Dick” praising the “strong” reaction of the Chinese government to the Tiananmen Square “riots” or inviting his campaign rallies to punch a protestor in the face, and really can’t fault our ghetto-dwelling friends for wondering what he might might mean by that. The younger Bush signed off on a death warrant for that redneck who dragged a black man to death behind his pickup, and he had good reasons not to sign that “hate crime” law, but Trump paid for a full page ad in an expensive New York newspaper that called for the death penalty against some young black men accused of a horrible gang rape, and he didn’t back down after the young men were exonerated by physical evidence. Trump can’t point to the impeccable voting records of a Ford or a elder Bush or even such crotchety old white man as Dole, never having held any public office, he’s certainly no Reagan, and his long public record of providing quotable quips to the tabloid press is rife with material for Democratic attack ads.
As much as we hate to give the devil her due, Clinton is also right about Trump’s penchant for bizarre conspiracy theories. He’s a frequent guest and unabashed admirer of the downright deranged Alex Jones and his “Infowars” outfit, which is at least bipartisan crazy enough to have been spinning looney ideas about both Democratic and Republican administrations for years, including that Bush Lied, People Died nonsense the Republican nominee now spouts, and even after he wrapped up the Republican nomination he was still touting The National Enquirer for a Pulitzer Prize for exposing how vanquished rival and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’ father had been in on the Kennedy assassination. We suppose he’s still insisting that First Black President Barack Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, with whatever “racist undertones” that might carry, and as much as we’d like to believe it we’re still awaiting the long-promised proof.
Nor can we honestly deny that a worrisome segment of Trump’s support comes from some very unsavory people. We don’t mean the insignificant number of unabashedly racist yahoos in pointy-headed robes who always wind up supporting even the Republicans with the impeccable civil rights voting records because they’re at least not openly hostile to white people, but rather that small but more sophisticated number of unsavory sorts who are savvy enough to call themselves the “alt-right.” The term is newly-coined and the movement seemingly newly-fledged, and is thus hard to define at any given moment, but at all times it is explicitly nationalist and racialist and what most people would consider misogynist. They’re not much enthused about capitalism or constitutionalism or the Judeo-Christian tradition of any of that old-fashioned right stuff, and are “far-right” more in the European sense than by recent Republican terms.
They seem to have an even greater disdain for the Republican Party as previously constituted than they do for the Democrats, and in the comments section of almost any article slightly suspicious of Trump they refer to such GOP throwbacks as ourselves as “cuckservatives.” If you’re not familiar with this neologism, it’s a portmanteau of “conservative,” or “so called conservative,” and “cuckold,” an ancient term for a betrayed husband and a more recent reference to an obscure pornographic genre, which is meant to suggest that any white man claiming to be a conservative but isn’t a white nationalist secretly harbors a desire to see his wife ravaged by black men. Clinton makes the claim that they’ve hijacked the Republican Party, and as much as we’d like to disbelieve it they’re making the very same claim.
In every other election we can recall we could have said that it’s not the Republican nominee’s fault that such unsavory people are supporting him, and that it’s just because he’s not openly hostile to white people, but in this crazy election year the Republican nominee’s “chief executive officer” was until recently running a website that he bragged was “the platform for the alt-right.” Stephen Bannon’s “Brietbart News” also provided plenty of fodder for Democratic attack ads with such headlines as “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer,” “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” and “Dear Straight People: I’m Officially Giving You Permission to Say Gay, Faggot and Queer.” That last one topped a piece by “alt-right” apologist Milo Yiannopolous, who is openly homosexual and therefore feels entitled to confer such permission, and we expect there are nuanced arguments to be on behalf of the others, but this isn’t a year for such subtleties, so we’ll leave it to Trump and his campaign’s “chief executive officer” to make own defense. So far that seems to involve walking back on all that mass deportation talk that got the fans so riled up, while assuring them he’ll still be firm, and countering that Clinton’s the bigot.
If this were a year for subtleties, and the Republicans were running one of those boring old “cuckservatives” with the impeccable civil rights records and fending off just the usual implausible insinuations, we suspect that Clinton would be on the defensive. She and her party are beholden to a frankly nationalist and racialist “Black Lives Matter” movement that is openly hostile to white people, and leaving black neighborhoods in flames and putting black lives at risk in the process. Neither she nor that First Black President who promised a post-racial America have condemned the naked race hatred that had mobs chasing down black passersby in Milwaukee, and a boring old “cuckservative” who had been “tweeting” obviously bogus statistics about the serious enough problem of black-on-white violence might have made hay of that. A boring old “cuckservative” could be making a case that capitalism and constitutionalism can create an ever-expanding economy that all can share in under a constitutional system ensuring individual liberty, instead of crowing that “I alone can solve,” and we would probably be talking mostly about the Democratic nominee’s latest corruption scandals and how she’s utterly unfit to be president.
At least Clinton’s speech acknowledged that all that past Republican presidential nominees weren’t so racist as was insinuated at the time, and that Romney didn’t really want to put all the black people back in chains, and that Trump isn’t really a conservative in the sense we cling to, but we’re sure that will be long forgotten the next time the Republicans have the good sense to nominate some old-fashioned “cuckservative” with an impeccable civil rights record. In the meantime, Lord, how we hate this crazy election cycle.

— Bud Norman

Commiserating With the Enemy

Mean old rock-ribbed old-school conservative Republicans though we are, we’ve lately been having some rather commiserating conversations with our bleeding-heart liberal Democratic friends. They all seem depressed that their pristine political philosophy has been dealt a blow by their party’s obviously corrupt and dishonest presumptive nominee, and they can only console themselves that at least the crazy notions of the other philosophical side and their party have turned up something even worse, and although we’ve long known how very crazy their notions are, and can see many reasonable arguments that what they’ve turned up this time around is even worse that what our party has to offer, we always wind up waving a beer and offering some empathy.
The most recent such conversation occurred at a favored ghetto dive with one of our favorite conversationalists, a delightfully opinionated fellow who is not only instinctively and intellectually a Democrat, but also professionally. By that we mean that he was once a Democratic State House Representative, has served in the party in various other capacities, and his current legal career is now largely predicated on the party’s last remaining shreds of political power in this reliably Republican state. He’s therefore quite reasonable by the standards of the liberal Democrats we run into at ghetto dives, and his statehouse career was mostly devoted to getting some state-funded railroad bridges installed north of downtown that have wound up saving us countless hours of counting boxcars and calculating how late we’ll be to that appointment on the east side, and despite his lapsed-Catholic ways he was always careful not to get too pro-choice in his heavily Hispanic district, and even if he did wage an ill-advised and quixotic campaign for drivers-licenes-for-illegals he’s mostly been a pragmatic fellow who always supported the more moderate sorts of Democrats that he thought might win something around here. He’s also the admirable sort of bleeding-heart who has done some earnest pro bono or otherwise unpaid legal work on behalf of some loser friends of ours who screwed up and needed the help, and he’s never held our mean old rock-ribbed old-school Republican conservatism against us, so we quite like the guy and usually give due consideration to his opinions.
We were heartened by our friend’s admitted distaste for his party’s obviously dishonest and corrupt nominee, and even more so by his lament that the only hiighly-popoular alternative was a self-described socialist, which he knows will never play in Kansas, or perhaps by some crazy chance some equally desultory choice imposed by the party’s dishonest and corrupt establishment at the convention, and he seemed heartened by our insistence that at least we wouldn’t be voting for the obviously dishonest and corrupt presumptive Republican nominee. He rightly predicted that we wouldn’t be voting for the obviously dishonest and corrupt most likely Democratic either, and glumly added that it was still a de facto vote for the Republican, and when we replied about how many of our conservative and Republican friends are now accusing us of a de facto vote for the Democrat he seemed sympathetic to our plight.
The argument about which candidate is actually worse inevitably followed, but neither side’s heart was in it. Despite another glorious prairie sunset our shared view from that ghetto dive was that America must have done something awfully wrong to be faced with a choice, and although we of course disagreed about what had gone wrong we could at least agree what something has gone awfully, awfully wrong.
Our friend remains cautiously optimistic that his party’s admittedly dishonest and corrupt candidate will prevail over our party’s admittedly dishonest and corrupt candidate, and as usual he makes some convincing arguments. We readily agreed that our party’s presumptive nominee isn’t so nearly as rich as he claims and nowhere near rich enough to fund a usual presidential general section campaign, and that much of the mass media would oppose him, and that all the usual electoral and demographic rules still apply, but when we pointed out that none of the usual rules would have vomited up these two awful choices he admitted to some uncertainty. His biggest complaint with the dishonest and corrupt likely Democratic nominee seemed to be that she might actually lose to the dishonest and corrupt presumptive Republican nominee, even if he predicted otherwise with an obviously false bravado, and his predictions are no more reliable than ours, so he also had to admit that his been a crazy year.
So that’s the view during a gorgeous prairie sunset from a ghetto dive in the middle of the country. At least a few of us on both sides of the center hope that the center will hold, and friendships will persist, and that somehow better choices will eventually come along.

— Bud Norman

Choosing Sides in a Civil War

We like to think ourselves the ruggedly individualistic and rebellious and anti-establishment type, not just despite of but also because of our unabashedly old-fashioned conservatism, and we proudly bear a few scars to back it up.
In our elementary school days we watched on television as American cities burned to the ground in protest against “the establishment,” and it struck us a damned fool thing to do even if the impeccably establishment and academically-credentialed Kerner Commission and all the cool kids thought the arsonists had a point. By junior high the left’s “long march” through the educational establishment had already begun, and even as we watched with dismay as President Richard Nixon’s “law and order” administration collapsed under the weight of its own lawlessness and disorder we continued to resist any sort of riotous indoctrination, to the detriment of our grades. By high school we were were listening to country music of the genuinely good ol’ boy KF’n’DI AM radio on the cold winter drive to show up early to devour the library’s otherwise unread copy of the notoriously-right wing National Review, and looking up the high-brow philosophers and economists and historians it cited to develop an intellectual framework for our temperamental distaste for the Carter era, and of course that didn’t do our grades any good. After two more years of a higher education establishment where the left’s long march had reached as far as a heartland cow college we defiantly dropped out, which entailed years of endured servitude handing out copy and working as a “dethwriter” on the obituary desk before we got a by-line, and even that hard-earned honor entailed another twenty years of daily in-fighting with the powers that be on a metropolitan daily newspaper, even here in the heartland.
Now we we prefer to write whatever the hell we have to say without the infuriating constraints of those respectably humorless and highly credentialed yet utterly uneducated metropolitan daily newspaper editors, even if it isn’t nearly so remunerative, and we like to think we’re still as surly and anti-establishment and ruggedly-indvidualistic and old-fashioned conservative as that long-haired snot-nosed punk of our junior high days, but suddenly the definitions of “conservative” and “establishment” and “Republican” and “Democrat” and everything else in our political lexicon seems up for debate. While the Democrats are choosing between an outright socialist who give the governmental establishment unparalleled authority and the most thoroughly corrupt crony-capitalist of the republic’s history, who struggles to explain why she’s not a socialist, the Republicans — our people, in whom we have long sought solace — are now engaged in a great civil war testing whether conservatism or any movement so conceived and so dedicated is defined by all those high-brow thinkers and principled arguments made by the likes of those fancy-pants know-it-alls at the now notoriously lily-livered and supposedly establishmentarian National Review or a blind fealty to the “Make America Great Again” juggernaut of real estate and gambling mogul and reality show star and former professional wrestling performer Donald J. Trump.
With the war already underway and the Iowa Republican caucus just a mere week away from tomorrow, now seems a time for choosing. We’re tentatively going in with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and are proud to join with those still-ruggedly individualistic writers at National Review in going all out against this Trump fellow. The venerable magazine — and it’s not a “paper,” as Trump incorrectly insists — has assembled a wide range of conservative thinkers for formidable argument that Trump’s proposed trade wars with China and more socialistic-than-the-socialist’s health care schemes and promises of all sorts of favorable insider deals do not portend well for the economy, that his meanderings between a let-Russia-lead to “bomb-the-s**t out of them” foreign policy also do not bode well, and that a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt and very recent Democrat who has never felt the need to seek God’s forgiveness is an unreliable ally of the more religious and culturally traditional wing of conservatism. We also note that except for the predictable schoolyard taunts that Trump prefers, and the frequent outright racist screeds from supporters won’t hold Trump responsible for, and there’s the strangely anachronistic argument that anyone who isn’t marching in lockstep with Trump must be supporting some evil creature called “Jeb!,” but the most common retort from Trump and his acolytes is that “at least he fights.”
By “fighting” they seem to mean that Trump and his people are “tweeting” the most ill-natured tantrums against the allegedly irrelevant National Review or whatever less-than-beauty-queen woman has dared disagreed with the man who would make America great again, and his willingness to mock the handicapped and disparage America’s prisoners of war and crack cringe-worthy menstruation jokes and otherwise strike blows against “political correctness” while going along with the politically correct line on racial quotas and other matters of real concern. By “establishment,” we no longer have no idea what Trump’s supporters mean to describe.
At the outset of Trump’s campaign we assumed he meant the likes of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas and current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who have so frequently angered such rebellious and old-fashioned conservatives as ourselves by signing off on big government crony-capitalist scams from ethanol subsidies to private property land-grabs to big-bank bail-outs and all those deficit-spending budgets, but now we’re told by Trump himself that Cruz was a loose cannon to have opposed all that as a Senator and that nobody in the establishment likes him as a result so the master deal-maker is best suited make the deals that will increase the ethanol subsidies that Iowa voters have a special interest in and uphold that “wonderful” Supreme Court decision that allowed him to tear down a widow’s home and build a parking lot for his casino and assure the next round of bail-outs that he didn’t think were big enough the last time around and pass a plan that cuts taxes and doesn’t decrease spending and will somehow end with a surplus. As Trump now touts his half-hearted endorsements from Dole and his lingering Congressional pals we guess the “establishment” is now those much-maligned ink-stained wretches still toiling for The National Review, still standing athwart history shouting “halt!,” still mustering their reasoned arguments and long-held principles and quoting those old high-brow economists and philosophers and historians, and sounding so very effete and faggy to the true Trump believer. One commenter huffed that she’d never heard of The National Review until this attack on Trump, and she seemed to think that made her more credible.
The true Trump believers will counter that we just don’t get it, and those illiterate internet commenters often think the argument more persuasive if they write it as the more un-parsable “You. Just. Don’t. Get. It.,” but in fact we readily understand the anger and frustration they have with the “establishment,” both on the left and to a somewhat lesser degree on the right as well. We’ve been railing against it for years, and likely will until our dying day, but we will confess that we truly do not get how an oft-bankrupt real estate and gambling mogul and reality show star and former professional wrestling performer who openly boasts about how he made his fortune to by doling out contributions to the likes of the Democrat’s thoroughly corrupt establishment and the Republicans’ hated Senate Majority Leader, and now proudly proclaims their support in his “anti-establishment” campaign against that loose cannon who challenged them, is supposed to hold his all-knowing thumb up against the poll winds and find the cure for what ails us.
Trump was the loudest to proclaim his opposition to the bi-partisan and ultimately disastrous establishment consensus on unfettered legal and illegal immigration, if not the first, but he was scolding Mitty Romney for a milder and more sensible “self-deportation” policy as recently as the last presidential race, and he now says his big beautiful wall on the border is going to have a big beautiful door, and he’s talking all sorts of deals with the bi-partisan establishment, and we’re pleased to note that we don’t have to settle for Jeb! on the issue. The next Republican candidate will have a tough stance on border enforcement, and would have without Trump, and that’s more to do with the party and the people at large than anyone who might hope to lead it.
All sorts of playground taunts might come our way, but we’re used to that, and we’ll be missing that tempting opportunity to burn the Republican Party down to the ground that so many Trump supporters urge, but even in our disgruntled middle age that seems a damned fool and not all conservative thing to do, so we side all with those effete eggheads at The National Review and all their reasoned arguments and the high-brow economists and philosophers and historians they cite, as well as that good ol’ boy sensibility that also informs our decisions, and all the timeless truths they have formulated. As a general rule we don’t trust white knights in shining armor promising Hope and Change or to Make America Great Again, and we once got the same whiff of a disastrous cult of personality from the man peddling the former as we do from the man now peddling the latter, and it’s all the more suspicious when it comes from the make-believe world or academia and community-organizing or reality television and insider deal-making.
At this late and perilous date we’ll go with Sen. Ted Cruz, the loose cannon with the fixed principles. That’s our anti-establishment and old-fashioned conservative instinct, and if you don’t like it, and you think it sounds effete and faggy and sure to lose against an outright socialist or a crony-capitalist who got large donations from a supposedly “anti-establishment” Republican on the other side of that corrupt establishment, well, at least we fight.

— Bud Norman

Walking Down the Street Toward Civilizational Decline

Call us old-fashioned fuddy-duddies, or say that we’re newfangled feminists, but we have long held to the opinion that a woman should be able to walk down a public street without being subjected to the most boorish sort of behavior by men. We had thought this would not be at all controversial, with conservatives who decry the coarseness of our popular culture and liberals who take a preening pride in their concern for women finding rare room for agreement, but apparently this is not so.
Judging by the reaction to a widely-viewed hidden-camera video of a day in the unhappy life of a woman pedestrian trying to deal with the frequent unwanted attention and overtly sexual remarks and occasional threatening actions of passersby, the notion that she or any other woman is entitled to more civil treatment by her fellow citizens is either the worst sort of left-wing grievance politics or a right-wing racist plot. The video was produced by a group calling itself Hollaback, which is dedicated to the eradication of what it rightly calls “street harassment,” and has stirred up quite a fuss. More people have viewed it than tune into even a highly-rated network sitcom, pundits from across the political spectrum have weighed in, and typically illiterate comments with non-stop capitalization and an abundance of exclamation marks to emphasize the writers’ seriousness have proliferated across the internet. Thus far the vast majority of opinion, from all ideological sides, seems to be that women should not only accept such rudeness on the streets but learn to like it.
The “progressive” version of this absurd argument is based on the uncomfortable facts that the woman in the video appears to be white and most of the boorish and obnoxious men she encounters appear to be black or Latino. This is enough for Brooklyn Magazine to declare that “the audience is supposed to be, namely, those who seek to protect and defend white women, aka the already existing power structure.” At The Daily Dot the headline was “Thousands of satisfied racists are sharing that viral cat-calling video.” Someone at The Root found the video reminiscent of D.W. Griffith, which was not meant as a compliment to its innovative cinematic technique bur rather a complaint that “some of the video’s intentional choices seem to play on the ‘Birth of a Nation’ trope that white women simply aren’t safe from sex-crazed black and brown men.” The venerable commie rag The Nation found the video “deeply problematic,” and suggested a remake starring “say, a black trans woman.” Not to be outdone, the fashionable internet magazine Salon sought to imbue the rude remarks and sexual innuendo with righteous truth-to-power political significance, writing that “This kind of harassment can be a way marginalized groups talk back to the white gentrifiers taking over their neighborhoods.” There have also been frequent references to Emmitt Till, the young black man who was lynched in the Jim Crow-era south for making untoward remarks to a white woman. The behavior shown in the video is less common among white collar workers or in the suburbs where they live, so there’s the all-important class angle as well.
This outcry has been sufficient to elicit an apology from Hollaback for not including more boorish and obnoxious Caucasian men in the video, complete with an unconvincing claim that by some extraordinary coincidence technical difficulties rendered most of the white guy footage unusable, and we will concede based on our own observation that boorish and obnoxious men come in all hues. Still, we think it’s all hooey. Much of the liberal commentariat seems willing and even eager to stipulate that such boorishness is more common in black and Latino neighborhoods, as it allows them to defend the behavior on grounds of cultural relativism or ethnic authenticity or whatever the prevailing academic theory might be, even as they fault the filmmakers for not adhering to a strict quota system. The idea that a group that adopts such a hip-hoppy name as Hollaback and couches all its arguments in feminist rather than chivalrous lingo is aiming for an audience of aged rednecks rather than the modern urban woman is ridiculous, as is the notion the modern urban woman is hoping for a racist lynch mob to come to her rescue. If Brooklyn Magazine yearns for a future power structure that does not protect and defend certain women because of their race, and if The Nation truly believes that, say, a black trans woman has a more unassailable right to walk down a public avenue without being harassed than a natural-born white woman, and if Salon actually means to imply that men have a right to enforce racial segregation and prevent economic improvement in their neighborhoods by making a woman of another race uncomfortable on the streets, then all are peddling a strange brand of “liberalism” that is both immoral and unworkable in a working society. Nor are we convinced by arguments that a certain behavior is acceptable because white collar suburbanites don’t do it, no matter how strenuously they are stereotyped as sexual repressed Republicans. Certainly none of these arguments can explain why the unfortunate woman in the video should endure such outrageous remarks from men she has never given any offense.
Race and class will always trump gender in the liberal trinity of holy causes, so such nonsense is to be expected, but we have been disappointed by the reaction on the right. Two of our favorite destinations on the internet are Powerline and Instapundit, and both were dismissive of the Hollaback group’s complaints. The former characterized the behavior seen in the video as “friendly, flattering, inappropriate, or, in one or two instances, creepy, although never threatening,” while the latter dismissed it as a “first world complaint” in comparison to the far worse conditions faced by women in areas controlled by the Islamic State. Rush Limbaugh had an uncharacteristically ambiguous take on the video on his popular radio show, taking pains to correctly point out that the black and Latino New Yorkers depicted are most unlikely to be Republicans or part of that party’s alleged “war on women,” but his callers had no sympathy for the women no matter the political affiliations of her tormentors. With all due respect to the imminent gentlemen at Powerline, we wonder which of the gratuitous comments about the woman’s anatomy they considered “flattering” and which were merely “inappropriate,” and how many minutes a thuggish-loooking young man must follow a woman in lockstep before it crosses that nebulous boundary between “creepy” and “threatening,” and whether the same standards would apply if it were their wives or daughters on those streets. Instapundit’s estimable Prof. Reynolds can be forgiven for chastising the feminist movements for its appalling failure to support its sisters in a third world that is somehow exempt from moral judgments, but wrong to suggest that women should wait until their circumstances degenerate to that level before voicing reasonable demands for civil treatment on public streets. Conservatives have been obligated to resist feminism’s unreasonable demands for so long that it has by now become an ingrained habit, but it’s a strange brand of conservatism that will justify the most boorish behavior of some of its political opponents rather than cede any rhetorical ground to others.
We were heartened to see longtime conservative standard-bearer The National Review give space to a young woman staffer’s plea for a more polite public square, as well as a thoughtful piece about the left’s inherent contradictions and the difficulty of addressing the problem through legal mechanisms, but were disappointed to note that most of the comments were as hateful and vile as anything you might find in a YouTube posting. In most cases the anonymous comments at any of the numerous sites posting the video seemed to have little to do with political ideology and much to do with bitter personal experience. The angriest men are obviously seething with resentment toward some pretty woman that they had futilely attempted to woo on a passing encounter, no matter how crude or clumsy their efforts might have been. The angriest women are openly resentful of the male attention the woman in the video attracts, despite the very unappealing nature of the men. There is much commentary on her physical appearance, as if a woman relinquishes a right civil treatment once her breasts grow so large or her buttocks attain a certain roundness, as well as her wardrobe, as if a very ordinary combination of black t-shirt and black pants has such an overwhelming effect on the male libido that it must be replaced with mandatory burqas to protect the women of indeterminate race and ethnicity underneath, and enough anger over unsatisfactory sex lives to fill a thousand hip-hop and heavy metal recordings. Much of it is expressed in the most vile language that the inarticulate writers can manage, and perfectly illustrates what we mean we speak of the coarseness of our popular culture.
All attempts to defend the men in the video in apolitical terms are also unconvincing. In some instances the intent of the remarks shouted at the woman are open to interpretation, and on some streets in America might be considered friendly, but in New York City that social compact has always insisted on what the sociologists call “civil inattention” and in every case the woman makes clear by her facial expression and demeanor that anything else is unwelcome. A remark about the buttocks of a unfamiliar woman might be intended as a compliment, but only by someone by too stupid and insensitive to give a moment’s thought to how it will likely be received. Such behavior might well be acceptable in the context of a black or Latino culture, but lynching black and Latino people for such behavior was once acceptable in the context of of southern cultures, and there’s an argument to be made that neither should be acceptable in the context of contemporary American culture. Some of those anonymous commentators seem to think that romance will vanish once boys are taught not to speak to unfamiliar women without permission, but we note that was the harshly enforced rule in the Romantic Age and content that “Hey, baby, nice ass” has rarely led to true love and family life and happily ever after. The oft-cited argument that boys will be boys is easily refuted by the fact that not all of us boys behave this way, and would fear the wrath of their pre-feminist Christian mothers and hairy-legged feminist ex-girlfriends if they ever did.
As much as we sympathize with Hollaback’s complaints about such boorish behavior, we can’t support its call for legislation to deal with the problem. Writing a law that distinguishes between a friendly “hello” and a more intrusive greeting, or takes into consideration the social standards of a small southern town and the crowded sidewalks of New York City, will ultimately prove impossible and will inevitably have a chilling effect on the freedom of more essential speech. What’s needed is the same sort of powerfully pervasive social stigma that was once used to discourage out-of-wedlock births and welfare dependency and vulgarity but is now only employed against racial slurs and any squeamishness regarding homosexuality. A solid coalition of pre-feminist Christian mothers and hairy-legged feminists and cultural conservatives and oh-so-concerned-about-women progressives could do much to ensure a woman’s right to walk down a public street without being subjected to the most boorish sort of behavior by men, but that seems unlikely.

— Bud Norman

The Art of Bankruptcy

Maybe it’s our grumpily conservative political views, or perhaps a certain prairie roughness in our manner and speech, but people often seemed surprised to discover what avid culture vultures we are. In warmer weather we frequently stroll a few blocks through our elegantly aging Riverside neighborhood to visit the Wichita Art Museum, even making the trek during a blinding snowstorm this past brutal winter in order to catch the opening of that terrific George Catlin traveling exhibition, and many a snooty easterner has been taken aback by our familiarity with the finer arts. That’s largely due to our early and ongoing exposure to the Wichita Art Museum, which has taken aback many a snooty easterner with a an unexpectedly fine collection that includes John Steuart Curry, Stuart Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Thomas Eakins, Albert Pynkham Ryder, Winslow Homer, three Edward Hoppers, with two of them major works, and perhaps the most major work by Mary Cassatt.
Such works of art have long exerted a powerful influence on us, ever since Mom first dragged us down to the museum intent on getting her young’un’s some refinement, and remain one of our favorite things about living in Wichita. They can’t help but affect our reaction to an intriguing story in the invaluable Weekly Standard about far-off Detroit, where that beleaguered city has reached a tentative deal to prevent its municipal art museum from selling off its even most significant collection to pay off the debts of decades of mismanagement by a corrupt coalition of Democratic machine politicians and union bosses. The article makes a convincing case that the deal flouts reasonable bankruptcy laws, favors pubic pensioners over other rightful creditors, and reeks of a political cronyism redolent of the Detroit auto industry bail-out, but acknowledges that at least Detroit will get to keep its art. It’s difficult to weigh such competing values, especially for such grumpily conservative culture vultures with a certain prairie roughness such as ourselves, but we’re inclined to go with keeping the art.
The deal would have such well-heeled do-gooder groups as the Ford, Kresge, and Knight Foundations shell out $330 million for the museum’s collection, along with another $350 million from the state of Michigan, and comes with a promise to keep the collection in Detroit and add all the proceedings to the bankruptcy payout to Detroit’s public employee pensioners. We have no sympathy for public employee pensioners, who did so much to drive the city into bankruptcy, and feel sorry for those municipal bondholders who won’t get in on the loot, even if they were suckers to place a bet on Detroit, but otherwise the arrangement does not offend our conservative sensibilities.
We rather like that such long-dead red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalists as Ford, Kresge, and Knight are riding to rescue of Detroit’s high-cultural heritage, for one thing, even if the average snooty easterner wouldn’t acknowledge the irony. The same corporate titans that the arty types always disparage have always been the essential patrons of American arts, even if the refined aesthetes won’t notice until their guillotines have finished their dirty work. This requires an amusing amount of denial by the culturati left, especially here in Wichita where the much-vilified Koch family is by far the most generous benefactor of the arts. A punctiliously politically correct friend of ours is affiliated with the Wichita Art Museum, and when we noted that the aforementioned terrific George Catlin exhibition was underwritten by the Fred C. and Mary Koch Foundation she huffily protested that at least there was no money from their evil spawn Charles Koch. We pointed out that the patriarch of the family fortune was an unrepentant John Bircher who earned his anti-communist bona fides by going toe-to-toe with Joe Stalin business negotiation over his pioneering oil-extraction techniques and would probably consider his sons pinko sell-outs she was eager to change the subject. At least her collection’s survival wasn’t dependent on on such a mean old anti-Semite as Henry Ford or the Wal-Mart of his day, the indignity that has befallen the culturati of Detroit. The Knight foundation was named after the co-founder of the newspaper chain that we used to toil for, and the Wichita Art Museum’s inaugural collection was bankrolled by the founder of the local newspaper that it long ago bought out, but somehow our friend won’t be so embarrassed by that.
None of the various strains of conservatism can object to those individuals who have prospered in the capitalist system contributing to the cultural life of their country. Once those contributions have been necessarily bequeathed to the care of the collective, however, the matter does become more complicated. We are sympathetic to the libertarian arguments against public financing of the arts, as most of our satisfying cultural experiences have been with garage bands and Hollywood movies and dime novels and other artists who would never stand a chance with those highfalutin grant-givers, and a certain prairie roughness in us makes us susceptible to the populist argument that the south-siders shouldn’t have to pay even the few pennies they’re being charged to indulge our hoity-toity Riverside tastes. There’s still a strain of conservatism that seeks to conserve the very best of our cultural heritage, however, and ultimately we find it most convincing.
Somewhere in the middle of the liberal-caused fiasco that is Detroit you will still find an extraordinary collection of truth and beauty and the best of Western Civilization, and that is worth conserving. Most Detroiters will prefer the noisome distractions of The Jerry Springer Show and the latest hip-hop releases or the virtual or actual orgies of violence that are staples of the local culture, but those lucky few who happen to wander in might find more worthy aspirations. Rescuing Detroit will require cruel doses of capitalism and a routing of the public sector rackets that have driven the city bankruptcy, but it will also require considerable art.

— Bud Norman

Toasting the Tea Party With a Beer

Here’s wishing a happy fifth anniversary to the “Tea Party,” even if we’re not quite convinced of the date.
This whole “Tea Party” phenomenon has never been defined to our satisfaction, much less given a precise time of birth, yet activists associated with the movement and their antagonists in the media both marked Thursday as an anniversary because it came five years to the day after CNBC reporter Rick Santelli delivered a stirring on-air rant against the “stimulus package” and the rest of budget-busting spending that was going on in the heady early days of the Obama administration and his Democrat-dominated Congress. So far as we can tell the “Tea Party” stands steadfast against debilitating public debt, even more steadfastly against attempts to eliminate it with higher taxes, and holds an instinctive suspicion of big government even when it is on solid fiscal footing, which is a perfectly sensible philosophy that pre-dates the invention of the on-air ran by several centuries and has been an essential component of America’s politics since before the founding of the republic, but we suppose Thursday seemed as good a time any to take stock of the movement.
That such unfriendly media as The New York Times felt obliged to mark the more-or-less made-up anniversary with grudgingly respectful coverage indicates that the “Tea Party” packs a powerful political punch. The movement was responsible for the Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and holding it ever since, which has resulted in somewhat smaller deficits and thwarted further “stimulus packages” as well countless other attempts at Democratic mischief on issues ranging from gun control to immigration. Such modest accomplishments have not satisfied the “Tea Party” faithful, who are currently working to purge the party of House Speaker John Boehner and any other insufficiently rock-ribbed Republicans, but judging by much of the anniversary coverage they seem to have at least succeeded in forcing the party far enough to the right to infuriate the left. As moderate and weak as Boehner often is, and no matter how preferable a more conservative and confrontational leader might be, the “Tea Party” should take some solace in the certainty of how very much worse a Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have been. Boehner would have been worse without “Tea Party” pressure, too, and we happily predict it will continue to pull the party in a properly conservative direction.
It’s an unusually good wind that blows no ill, however, and for all its positive effects on America’s politics the “Tea Party” has caused occasional problems for conservatism. In the 2012 election the “Tea Party” was helpful in retaining the House majority and bolstering the totals of several Senate candidates, but also cost the party some winnable seats by choosing not-ready-for-prime-time candidates in Delaware and Connecticut and Nevada and Missouri and assorted House districts, and we suspect they were among the missing McCain voters who cost Mitt Romney a chance to defeat Barack Obama and thus make all things possible. The “Tea Party” infused the Republicans with a much needed spirit of amateurism in its very best sense of doing something for the love of it and not for financial gain, which of course is how a democracy is best achieved, but too often its newly-enthused candidates were simply amateurish in the worst sense of the word. The “Tea Party’s” aversion to professionals is understandable, even laudable, but as it purges the ranks it would do well to remember that a certain amount of professionalism will be needed against such a formidable pro outfit as the Democrats. A characteristically high-minded notion of the “Tea Party” that it’s better to lose to a radical leftist than vote for a less-than-pure conservative needs to be re-thought, too, as it is likely to result in a few more radical leftists surviving the upcoming mid-term elections that would have been otherwise necessary.
Also, the “Tea Party” is yet another one of those good ideas that have suffered bad marketing. That “Tea Party” moniker was always a bad choice, as the reference to the Revolutionary Era has little appeal to a younger generation that was taught the Howard Zinn version of history and only knows the Founding Fathers as a bunch of slave-holding 1-percenters in powdered wigs, and it also provided fodder for the late night comedians to make smutty “tea bagger” jokes and portray the movement as a bunch of crazy old white men in tri-corner hats. The brave defiance of the Boston Tea Party should remain an inspiration to any freedom-loving Americans, and the contemporary “Tea Party” isn’t nearly so white as the environmental movement or feminism or most another liberal cause, even if whiteness were an inherent flaw in a political philosophy, and the late night comics can’t possibly explain in their monologues why a $17 trillion dollar debt isn’t a looming catastrophe, but that hasn’t stopped the critics from making the term a pejorative to much of the population. Freedom is always a hard sell when the opposition is offering free stuff, and the “Tea Party” has often been clumsy in making the pitch.
On the whole, however, we think the “Tea Party” has had a salutary effect on America and is likely to do even more good between now and November’s voting. The movement has stopped the Democrats from doing some very stupid things, pulled the Republicans kicking and screaming in the right direction, and perhaps even learned some of the lessons that their more weak-willed but wised-up intra-party opponents mastered long ago. We also hope those less steadfast sorts of Republicans have learned that the Tea Party’s principles of fiscal sanity, limited government, and individual liberty must prevail before or after the looming disaster. If it doesn’t, the alternative is unthinkable.

— Bud Norman

You Say You Want a Revolution

We have resigned ourselves to the fact that winter will never end. The first week of May has brought snow, sub-freezing temperatures, yet another global warming speech by Al Gore, and a glum realization that the cold and gray will persist for the rest of our days.
The political climate is every bit as dispiriting, but even in this endless winter of our discontent we are not yet readying a musket for an armed revolution against the government. One always hopes things won’t come to that, of course, but one never knows. Revolutions have always become necessary at some point, and there are reasons to believe that many of our fellow citizens expect it to happen sooner rather than later.
One reason is a recent opinion poll conducted by Farleigh Dickinson University, which found 29 percent of registered voters agreeing that “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” Only 47 percent of the respondents said they disagreed, hardly a reassuring show of confidence in the safety of our liberties, with 18 percent neither agreeing or disagreeing, 5 percent saying they were unsure, and 1 percent shrewdly refusing to give any answer at all. Those not registered to vote might be more or less inclined to foresee the necessity of an armed revolution to remain free men and women, but in any case there seems to be a very sizeable minority of Americans who share this concern.
The sentiment is so widespread that 18 percent of Democrats concede the possibility of an armed revolution becoming necessary, although it is hard to say what reasons they might have. Perhaps they are worried about the possibility of another Republican administration in the next few years, or they regard the soon-to-be-bankrupt entitlement programs as liberty, or are quietly hoping that a few years of revolutionary bomb-throwing will pay off with a prestigious professorship somewhere down the line just as it did for the likes of Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, and Kathy Boudin. Regardless of the rationale, 18 percent is a significant chunk of the party of Hope and Change and all things government, and an even larger 27 percent of independents also believe a revolution might soon be required.
Republicans are most inclined to think so, with a whopping 44 percent of them agreeing with the poll’s premise, but at least they have made their many reasons loud and clear. On countless issues ranging from health insurance mandates to expanding regulatory bureaucracies to a spread-the-wealth economic program to bans on everything from that rusty old musket to big ol’ cups of soda pop, many Republicans have consistently argued that the constant and rapid expansion of government’s size and power eventually encroaches upon personal liberties to an intolerable extent. This oft-stated theory also holds that when a long train of abuses and usurpations reduce a people to despotism, to paraphrase the Declaration of Impendence, it is the right, it is the duty of the people to throw off such a government, and a good many of the Republicans we know take this very seriously.
Such insurrectionist talk is clearly taken seriously by others. The Department of Homeland Security has famously warned that Barack Obama’s election as president would unleash a wave of white supremacist violence and warned the nation’s law enforcement officials to be on the lookout for disgruntled military veterans, Army training materials explain that Catholics and Evangelical Christians are every bit as dangerously extremist as al-Qaeda’s brand of Islam, and numerous Democratic politicians have publicly fretted that those crazy Tea Party people are going to don their tri-cornered hats and take up arms. Such nervousness about a right-wing uprising are so prevalent in government that we suspect the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who were so uninterested in the Boston Marathon bombers even after explicit warnings from the Russian government felt obliged by multi-cultural sensitivity to be snooping around some Free Republic poster instead. The view is also common to much of the media, who immediately suspect conservatism any time something blows up, and the more strident liberals of our acquaintance are downright doctrinaire about it.
Such worries, we think, are exaggerated at the moment. The Tea Party people that we know are all lawn-mowing, credit card-carrying, fastidiously law-abiding folk who are disinclined by a conservative temperament to quit their hard-earned jobs and wage an armed revolution against the government. They certainly don’t have the same romantic notions about it that Professors Ayers, Dohrn, and Boudin once had, or that the Occupy Wall Street hobos in their Che Guevara t-shirts still have. Instead they believe that prudence will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and instransient reasons, to further paraphrase the Declaration, and they don’t believe we have yet reached the point that rebellion is necessary. Not yet, anyway, and the defeat of the recent gun control bills and the resistance of many state governments to federal over-reach and the prospect of a mid-term election next year all give hope that we can avoid that point through democratic means.
When something blows up and it turns out the work of an Islamist rather than a conservative, as is so often the case, the same people can be counted on to thoughtfully consider what they have done to provoke such an unpleasant act. They never seem to ponder why a full 29 percent of their countrymen, many of them lawn-mowing and cred card-carrying and fastidiously law-abiding folk, might think it possible that they’ll need an armed revolution in the next few years. Nor do they wonder why only 47 percent dismiss the possibility. Perhaps they should give it some thought.

— Bud Norman