Category: US politics

What is a conservative?

Patrick J. Deneen:

By the telling of the intellectual classes, conservatism is the ideology of the elite, aligned with those who seek to preserve the wealth, status, and power of the upper classes against the egalitarian longings of the people.

Conservatism, it is alleged, was born in reaction against the efforts of ordinary people to gain some degree of political influence, economic justice, and social dignity against the brutal and inhumane oppression of the aristocratic classes. By the telling of one of these chroniclers of this nefarious ideology—Corey Robin, in his book The Reactionary Mind—“conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty, and agency the prerogative of the elite.” Per Robin, conservatism is the default ideology of those who seek to conserve the status and privileges of the elite. No other feature or quality that might pertain to conservatism—preference for the past, caution, prudence—is pertinent except inasmuch as those, or their opposites, preserve elite status.

If Robin’s definition is correct, then today’s “conservatives” are that ruling class we typically call “progressive.”

It is instructive to consider what group in today’s America is driven “by animus against the agency of the subordinate classes.” Those most invested in maintaining the current form of class division—notably through control of elite colleges and universities which relentlessly sift and distill today’s economic winners from losers, along with support from almost all the main cultural institutions such as media, foundations, NGOs, government bureaucracy, public service unions, and corporate board rooms—are wholly controlled by “progressive” elites, people who have little hesitation condemning the backwardness and deplorableness of the lower classes. For a generation, it is progressives who have relentlessly turned to unelected judges and bureaucrats—often with the assistance of corporations—to overturn duly-enacted democratic legislation. Today’s liberal elites studiously avoid considerations of class, having replaced their historic claims to defend the underclass with obsessions over identity politics that, properly implemented through “diversity” initiatives at every university and workplace, are thinly veiled efforts to keep in place the educational and “meritocratic” structures that maintain the privilege of those same elites. By Robin’s definition, today’s so-called “progressives” are “conservatives”—if that word simply means, per Robin’s narrow definition, those who attempt to maintain their status and position especially by shoring up class structures to the advantage of liberal elites.

What both older and recent history actually discloses is that conservatism as a political stance is and ought to be truly informed by and aligned with the concerns and commitments of the lower and working classes. Conservatism is the natural disposition and political home of the working classes, invested in stability, protections for families, and supportive of the formative institutions of civil society, especially religious institutions. Conservatism supports these goods by its natural disposition toward preserving the inheritances of the past, mining tradition for wisdom rather than wishing for unproven promises yet in the future, and by being attuned to the likelihood of baleful unintended consequences. It seeks to preserve the past into the present, valuing continuity over disruption, steady and unfolding development of longstanding tendencies over radical breaks, temporal continuity and stability over revolution. Conservatism seeks to conserve, to arrest decay and forestall unbridled innovation that always most heavily burdens the lower classes.

Historically, there have been two groups mainly dedicated to this substantively conservative worldview: the old aristocracy (the ancien regime described by Tocqueville) and ordinary people. What is a historical accident of a hostility between those classes is mistaken by Robin as its essence. The best and most natural arrangement for political conservatism is a coalition between a properly constituted elite aligned with the needs of ordinary people against the disruptions of, and hostility toward, the commitments of family, home, and place that have always animated the party of “Progress.”

The Left came into being by claiming the political support of the people against the old aristocracy, but conservatism came into being almost simultaneously, recognizing that this revolutionary class was actually more hostile to the basic commitments and inclinations of the working class. The Left rose to power by loudly opposing the existing aristocracy while actually undermining the conditions supportive of the working class, all the while installing their own leadership as the new elite that shrouded its status by trumpeting its commitments to equality (the basic script of the Soviet Union has been endlessly repeated, and is on full display in today’s America). Conservatism’s first and most fundamental source and allegiance derives from ordinary people as the natural constituency and beneficiaries of policies that shore up stability, attack concentration of both political and economic power, and support families, communities, and churches.

Today’s most vibrant and intellectually exciting critiques of capitalism, monopolies, globalism, cosmopolitanism, the financialization of the economy, and structural class inequality are not found on the Left (given their effectual commitment to all of the above), but among a new generation of conservatives who not only reject progressivism, but have split with individualistic libertarians and war-mongering “neo-conservatives.” Revealingly, those former “conservative” coalition partners have now found a political home with the progressives.

The allegiance of the working classes is increasingly aligned with conservative parties around the world, fully recognizing the deep hostility of both “progressives” and “neoliberal conservatives” to their way of life. The abandonment of working classes from progressive parties is the deepest underlying source of their panic over populism—the mask has been lifted. The loss of residual working class support reveals the emperor has been wearing the finest clothes, bought with assets strip-mined from ordinary people. Conservatism wandered in the wilderness in its alignment with classical liberalism, but as that ideology has been discredited and its influence over conservative parties has diminished, there is—arguably for the first time—a genuine possibility of a conservative moment in America. Conservatism rightly seeks to protect the main aims of a well-lived life for ordinary people—family, home, honest work, production over consumption, decent places, stability, and a nation that protects these goods.

Today, conservatism increasingly enjoys the support of the working classes. The next thing most needful is to replace the current corrupt elite of faux egalitarians with a genuinely conservative leadership who will actively protect, support, and promote the goods of life that should and can be widely enjoyed, regardless of one’s wealth, social status, or ranking of one’s alma mater.

 

The go-away-or-shut-up question

Back in 2008 the Freakonomics webpage created a contest for a six-word motto for the U.S. The winner: “Our worst critics prefer to stay.”

But that is not a unanimous opinion. Matt Walsh:

If you feel like cringing uncontrollably, watch this video of two girls at a swimming pool over the weekend singing about how they are “ashamed to be American” because “not all folks are free” and “this ain’t our land.” Similar sentiments were expressed by a group of protesters in DC who burned an American flag on July 4th while chanting that the flag represents “slavery, genocide, and war” and that “America was never great.”

The flag-burners are fortunate that they live in this terrible place. If they’d pulled that stunt in many other countries across the globe, they’d have been dead or in handcuffs before they finished their chant. In India, for example, you can be arrested just for wearing the flag on your clothing, much less burning it in the middle of the street. Flag desecration laws in Saudi Arabia are so strict that even lowering it to half mast is illegal and subject to severe punishment. These protesters need not worry about any of that because they live here, where they have, in fact, much more freedom than they should — freedom that now includes the implicit permission to loot, riot, and vandalize, virtually without consequence.

The fact that they live here, and not somewhere over there, is in itself quite interesting. I am obviously not the first person to ask this question, but it has yet to be sufficiently answered, so I’ll ask it again: If you believe that America is a racist dystopia that was built on stolen land, and that we have no right to be here — “this ain’t our land,” as the smarmy white girls at the pool sang — and that there is almost nothing praiseworthy or good about it, then why are you still here? Why don’t you leave? There are 195 countries in the world. Two-thirds of them are largely non-white and non-western. Why don’t you move to one of them?

Now, the most obvious response is that they stay here, despite feeling this way about America, because they want to fight for change and progress. But that excuse is a non-starter. The things they hate about the US are mostly things that cannot possibly be changed. And even the things that seem like they could be changed, apparently cannot be. If this country was built on stolen land and we have no right to be here, there is no social progress that will ever alter the fact or make it better. If this “ain’t our land,” even after 250 years, then it never will be. Why would you stay on land that you believe doesn’t belong to you?

The supposed systemic racism in our country would seem like something that could be fixed, if it existed, but by the Left’s telling even the election of a black president didn’t improve the problem. It’s still as much an issue now as it’s ever been, they say. America is apparently sick to its very core. Given all of this, isn’t it a matter of moral necessity that you donate your assets to an Indian reservation and move to a country that is not a haven of white supremacy?

But nobody is doing this. The option is not entertained. As they sit around burning the flag and lamenting America’s myriad sins, never once does it occur to them to lead by example and finally flee from this empire of bigotry and genocide. They have been boycotting a fast food chicken restaurant for seven years because the owner disagreed with gay marriage. Yet the United States has been embarked on a ceaseless campaign of oppression, racism, and theft (they allege) for centuries and they do not even consider boycotting it. Why?

There are only two possible explanations: either they believe everything they say about this country and choose to stay on this stolen land because they feel it may benefit them in some way, or they do not believe what they say. The first option makes them amoral opportunists, and the second makes them frauds and hypocrites. If there is a third option, it’s some kind of mix of the first two. Whatever the answer — and I suspect it may be option three — these America-hating protesters are saying more about themselves than the country they live in.

So all the celebrities that swear they’re leaving if Donald Trump is reelected are lying?

Woke up

Rod Dreher:

If you look at the front pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post these days, they are absolutely obsessed by race. And not just by race, but by a specific progressive take on race. It seems like just yesterday that we were told by liberals that it was slander to say that they were going to be going after statues of the Founders next. In today’s New York Timesthere is an appeal by a white descendant of Thomas Jefferson to take down the Jefferson Memorial, because racism. Last week, a Times black columnist demanded that “Yes, Even George Washington” has to be cancelled. On July 4, the Washington Post published a column by a law professor at Washington and Lee University demanding that not only the Confederate general’s name be struck from the school, but also the first president’s … because racism.

From the digital front page of the NYT now:

Look, Trump is often exactly what they say he is. But the lack of self-knowledge at the Times is infuriating. That newspaper focuses incessantly, and obsessively, on “cultural flash points” having to do with race.

And so it goes. This came out [Monday]:

Not just Washington journalists, but New York journalists too, and all elite journalists. Remember political scientist Zach Goldberg’s amazing finds last year on the Lexis/Nexis database, of how American journalists have gone berserk writing articles using woke, identity-politics jargon? The whole Twitter thread is here. This is one of many examples:

They’re all like that. Now, let me ask you: if you saw the number of mentions of “Jewish privilege” in the US media go from around 200 in 2012 to 2,600 in only four years, wouldn’t you wonder what the hell was going on with our media? If you were Jewish, would that not make you look for the exits?

I bring the Jewish example up for a specific reason. I have mentioned in this space from time to time over the years the profound impression made on me by an exhibit I saw back in 2000 at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. It was about how the German people had been prepared for the Holocaust by a couple decades of propaganda that taught them to dehumanize Jews. I cannot find online a representation of that exhibit; if someone else can, please email a link or post it in the comments. It might have been “Deadly Medicine: Creating The Master Race,” but I’m not sure. I have never forgotten what I learned there. The gist of it was to demonstrate that the Holocaust didn’t come from nowhere — and in fact its basis preceded the Nazi Party.

Nazi propaganda presented Jews as “parasites” — but in that, they were only exploiting a concept that had been around since the Enlightenment. For example, the influential German Enlightenment philosopher J.G. von Herder wrote that the Jews were a “parasite” on Gentile nations. By the late 19th century, with the rise of Darwinism and the eugenics movement among mainstream medical authorities, people began speaking of nations as “bodies.” Jews, therefore, were characterized in mainstream media (at least in Germany) as “parasites” burrowing into the body. Around the turn of the 20th century, there was a mass “hygiene” movement in Germany — a push for healthiness and cleanliness. At the same time, eugenics dominated medical discussion, as it also did in Britain and the United States. The most progressive, science-minded people embraced eugenics, though no one did it with the fervor of the Germans.

Take a look at this:

International Hygiene Exhibition, 1911 promotional poster: The eugenics movement pre-dated Nazi Germany. A 1911 exhibition at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden included a display on human heredity and ideas to improve it. (Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, via US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Remember: progressive, well-meaning, scientifically disposed people embraced the hygiene movement and its eugenic aims. As Christine Rosen wrote in her stunning 2004 history Preaching Eugenics, about how religion and science intersected in the early 20th century,  eugenics was a progressive cause at the time. In this 2005 interview, Rosen explained what she found in her research:

Across denominations and faiths, the Protestants, Catholics, and Jews who supported eugenics were overwhelmingly from the liberal end of the theological spectrum. This did not mean that they were politically liberal, of course, but they did tend to share a commitment to a non-literal reading of scripture and were optimistic about the benefits that modern science might bring to bear on the many pressing social problems they felt the country faced. Most of the religious supporters of eugenics had long ago reconciled their faiths with evolutionary theory, for example, and many of them had considerable experience in charities and corrections work, which colored their views about things such as degeneracy and poverty. Broadly speaking, why did they support it? These were religious leaders who embraced modern ideas first and adjusted their theologies later. Most of them did this because they sincerely believed, with most progressives at the time, that eugenics would alleviate human suffering.

Who opposed eugenics? Rosen:

Some of the most vigorous opponents of eugenics were Catholics and conservative Protestants. In books and periodicals, they registered their complaints about eugenics and its outgrowths—including immigration restriction and compulsory sterilization of the “unfit.” Catholic detractors usually cited natural law teaching in their opposition to eugenics, while conservative Protestants (many of whom still resisted evolutionary theory), drew on scripture. They did have some impact; indeed, Catholic lobbying efforts at the state level were successful many times in preventing the passage of state eugenic sterilization laws.

And:

What are your biggest concerns? If Preaching Eugenics is written in another 100 years, what will be the story of today’s religious communities and leaders?

The first concern I have is that so few Americans know the history of eugenics in our own country; they believe eugenics was something only Nazis practiced. But it happened here first. Related to this is the idea that just because the state is not imposing eugenics (as it did in the U.S. in the early twentieth century through compulsory state sterilization laws) that we no longer practice eugenics. But choosing the sex of your child or using amniocentesis to test for Down syndrome and then aborting the child are both forms of eugenics, and I share with many observers a concern about the expansion of this individual, consumer-driven form of eugenics. This, combined with our many reproductive technologies, threatens to upend our conceptions of the family, of the responsibilities of one generation to the next, and possibly even of what it means to be human.

How might we look back on today’s religious leaders in 100 years? I think we would find that they had almost entirely ceded authority to bioethicists – a profession that now tackles these questions from the ivory tower rather than the pulpit. And unfortunately it does not always bring to bear the same ethical and moral insights that religious leaders do. I hope to see much greater participation by religious leaders of all faiths in the future – in the public discussions about these new technologies and in the individual guidance they offer to their congregants.

The important things to remember here:

  1. Eugenics were totally mainstream and progressive in the early 20th century
  2. Progressive churches, and progressive institutions, embraced the movement
  3. In Germany, the mainstream press and medical establishment began to medicalize sociology and politics, speaking of the German people as a body, and Jews as parasites on that body

As I recall making my way through that exhibit at Yad Vashem, I was deeply shocked by how the exhibit traced the slow boil of propaganda — pre-Nazi rule! — training the German people to think of Jews as a biological threat. It’s terrifying because we know where all this was heading, and what the Nazis did with something that had already been put in place unwittingly by German medical institutions, the media, and leading progressives.

By the time Hitler took power, all those years of media talk about hygiene, parasites, and the German body politic had conditioned Germans to accept Nazi racial “science,” for the common good.

One more thing. The journalist Christopher Rufo writes here about the kind of thing that is getting to be common around the country:

The things he quotes are jaw-dropping. This is the City of Seattle — the local government and their employer — instructing them to hate themselves as white people, and to work to make themselves subservient to others, not in a humble sense, but rather in a racialized domination and submission sense. A couple of clips from the material:

And:

We are way past “diversity training” as a means to inculcate sensitivity to and respect for others in the workplace. This is sick, sick stuff. It is racist. They are training white people to be pushed around, allow themselves to be in emotional and physical danger, and not to resist or fight back, because they are bad by nature of their whiteness.

Presumably they consider Jewish people “white” for purposes of indoctrination, but again, it’s worth substituting the word “Jewishness” for “whiteness.” What if Jews were instructed by their employer to engage in “the work of undoing your own Jewishness” to become a more morally responsible person? What if Jews were told that in order to conform to the new order, they should give up expectations of physical and emotional safety, and that they should be wary of Jewish people who try to tell them that they are not guilty of sin for being Jewish?

I think we would know exactly what was going on.

Why do I bring this up here? Because I am increasingly alarmed by the kind of dehumanizing racial rhetoric and tropes that are becoming common in our mainstream progressive media, within progressive institutions (including government ones), and even within corporations.

“Racism is a white problem. It was constructed and created by white people and the ultimate responsibility lies with white people. For too long we’ve looked at it as if it were someone else’s problem, as if it was created in a vacuum. I want to push against that narrative.” That’s Robin DiAngelo, to The Guardian

DiAngelo also claims that non-white people cannot be racist:

In his negative review of White Fragility, DiAngelo’s book, Washington Post critic Carlos Lozada writes:

In DiAngelo’s telling, however, race relations in America are actually not “profoundly complex,” as she initially puts it, but simple and binary. White people should be regarded not as individuals but as an undifferentiated racist collective, socialized to “fundamentally hate blackness” and to institutionalize that prejudice in politics and culture. People of color, by contrast, are almost entirely powerless, and the few with influence do not wield it in the service of racial justice. People of color rarely emerge as fully formed characters in these pages, except to provide opportunities for white Americans to engage in an “authentic exploration of racial realities” — that is, to help them know when they are doing better.

In DiAngelo’s framework, if you are a white person, and you question or deny her claims, that proves you are guilty. You can either accept your guilt, or deny your guilt, thereby proving that you are guilty. But if you are white, you are bad. White skin bad! non-white skin good!

White Fragility is no fringe work. It has been on the New York Times bestseller list for the past 14 weeks. Corporations are requiring employees to read it. Here’s a snapshot of the top of the current NYT bestseller list:

Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist defines “racism” and “antiracism” in ways that shock people who were brought up to believe that a just society is one that does not discriminate on the basis of race. In this excerpt from the book — a national bestseller for nine weeks now — Kendi argues that if the outcome within a social group is not racially balanced, then that group is racist. (Presumably he would not apply this crude metric to the National Basketball Association or the National Football League, which gives the whole game away.) Kendi writes:

The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.

Kendi also demands a Constitutional amendment to establish a politically unaccountable government agency (Department of Anti-racism) that would work tirelessly to eliminate sin racism:

The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

This crackpot totalitarian idea is put forth by a bestselling author and highly esteemed academic. You readers who think that I’m an alarmist for raising the idea of soft totalitarianism coming fast to this country (the basis for Live Not By Lies) need to think hard about what’s right in front of us — and being advocated by celebrated progressives like DiAngelo and Kendi.

DiAngelo says black people can’t be racist, but Kendi says no, they actually can be. But notice the twist in his argument:

So generally white people say, I’m not racist, and black people say, I can’t be racist. There’s a similar form of denial that is essential to the life of racism itself. You have black people who believe that they can’t be racist because they believe that black people don’t have power and that’s blatantly not true. Every single person on earth has the power to resist racist policies and power.
We need to recognize that there are black people who resist it, and there are some who do not because of their own anti-black racism. And then you have black people, a limited number, who are in policy-making positions and use those policy-making decisions to institute or defend policies that harm black people. If those people were white we would be calling them what they are — racists. If they’re black, they’re no different. They’re racists.
In other words, if you’re a black person who believes in old liberal ideas, and who rejects the simplistic binary model of the world advocated by Kendi, then you are a racist.
Ideas have consequences! DiAngelo and Kendi are establishing an ideology that holds people guilty on the basis of their skin color. In Kendi’s variation, a person of color who does not agree with his views on discrimination and justice is guilty of racism. From Live Not By Lies:

Here is the same logic laid down hard: in 1918, Lenin unleashed the Red Terror, a campaign of annihilation against those who resisted Bolshevik power. Martin Latsis, head of the secret police in Ukraine, instructed his agents as follows:

Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.

Note well that an individual’s words and deeds had nothing to do with determining one’s guilt or innocence. One was presumed guilty based entirely on one’s class and social status. A revolution that began as an attempt to right historical injustices quickly became an exterminationist exercise of raw power. Communists justified the imprisonment, ruin, and even the execution of people who stood in the way of Progress as necessary to achieve historical justice over alleged exploiters of privilege.

The groundwork is being laid, I believe.

In his Fourth of July address via Twitter, Joe Biden said that we can tear “systemic racism” out by the roots. According to the new progressive dogma, “systemic racism” is what you have when a system, even if it appears to be race-neutral, results in outcomes that disadvantage non-white people. That is, even if you cannot identify a specific cause of racism, a system should be understood as racist if black people do not thrive in it. So, if black educational achievement is disproportionately low, that’s evidence of systemic racism. Black men are disproportionately represented in violent crime statistics? Systemic racism. Society made them do it. Fix the structures of society, and you will eliminate racism.

This is Marxism 101, you know. This eliminates individual responsibility, and reduces complex human beings down to the color of their skin. Taken to the extreme, you get the Red Terror: adjudicating people’s guilt or innocence based on their class (race, or other demographic distinction).

Ta-Nehisi Coates, wildly celebrated by the establishment media, is the most influential writer in this genre. In this article in Pacific Standard, black writer Brandon Tensley credits Coates with giving him a new language with which to discuss racism. He writes:

At its core, what does racism do? In a word: plunder. It’s a word Coates employs—several dozen times, with a rhythmic repetition—throughout the book: plunder, plunder, plunder. “America begins in black plunder and white democracy, two features that are not contradictory but complementary,” Coates writes in “The Case for Reparations,” the 2014 essay that solidified his status as an intellectual celebrity. He uses the word again in “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” a 2015 essay: “To war seriously against the disparity in unfreedom requires a war against a disparity in resources,” he writes. “And to war against a disparity in resources is to confront a history in which both the plunder and the mass incarceration of blacks are accepted commonplaces.” Coates’ simple, repetitive exposition captures the layered valence of racism: “Plunder” speaks to theft of black culture as much as it does to exploitation of black labor.

To be white is to plunder black people — or, in Coates’s favorite phrase, “black bodies.”

Coates also famously describes “white America” as “a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control [black] bodies.”

Consider: to Ta-Nehisi Coates, white people are a racial conspiracy whose purpose is to rob black people.

This is how anti-Semites describe Jews! In Mein Kampf, Hitler divides humanity into three categories: Founders of Culture, Bearers of Culture, and Destroyers of Culture. He regards Jews as Destroyers, writing that Jews only stick together for the purpose of robbing non-Jews:

So it absolutely wrong to infer any ideal sense of sacrifice in the Jews from the fact that they stand together in struggle, or, better expressed, in the plundering of their fellow men.

The Jew, wrote Hitler, is “only and always a parasite in the body of other peoples.” As we have seen, this idea that Jews violate Aryan bodies was well-established in German mass society by the time Hitler took it up. So now we have National Book Award-winning Ta-Nehisi Coates arguing that white people exist as a syndicate to plunder black people, and to violate their bodies. And these racist tropes are accepted without pushback by the progressive mainstream.

Where is this all going? Here’s one possibility:

The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and NPR all ran big stories when armed white men in Michigan took their weapons to the legislature. Here we have armed black men coming to a Confederate monument seeking a racial clash with white “rednecks.” It was ignored by all except the Times, which ran a Reuters dispatch.

Our media elites are not reporting the news; they’re managing the news. What is the end game here? Some people on the alt-right like to say “white genocide,” but that is absurd. There are too many white people — including white people with guns — to kill.

What is more likely is that the people with privilege in this society — the controllers of its institutions — are going to ramp up their slander and demonization of whites, and implementing policies and practices that lead to their dispossession (including firing from jobs, colonizing the minds of their children in school, etc.), to the point where at least some whites are going to fight back — and not with words alone. I believe that the American media, whether it believes it is doing this or not, is seeding violent racial conflict — and that we are going to see it sooner rather than later.

Hear me clearly: racism exists, it’s a sin, and it should be resisted. But these SJWs, deeply embedded in institutions, and in command of the propaganda apparatus, are taking a genuine social problem — racism — that always needs attention, but construing it in a highly ideological way that has very little to do with addressing with this complex problem, and everything to do with advancing a narrative of command and control that demonizes an entire race of people as plunderers and parasites by nature, and incites others to despise them. We know from history where things like this go.

UPDATE: Reader Jonah R., who lives in the suburbs of a major East Coast city:

In recent weeks, I’ve watched as people I’ve called friends since I was a teenager suddenly turned into rabid Jacobins. Six weeks ago they were middle-aged white suburbanites who didn’t care about much but superhero movies, video games, and sports. Most of them haven’t read a book in 20 years. But now, as if a lightning strike gave them superpowers, they’re all authorities on Civil War history, black culture, and race relations, and they see it as their job to preach to the rest of us.

I finally realized the other day why they all seem….possessed. They’re using language that isn’t their own. They’re using poetic turns of phrase and vocabulary they’re just not capable of coming up with themselves. They have instant rebuttals to even the most gentle criticism, as if there’s a central site where they can cut a pre-fabricated response and then paste it to Facebook under their own names. They’re quoting Frederick Douglass when I know that two weeks ago they couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup with W.E.B. DuBois on one side and Booker T. Washington on the other, despite his distinctive hair. Every time someone points out an excess, like the tearing down of statues of Walt Whitman or Ulysses S. Grant, they bring it back to the Confederacy, as on-message and as mendacious as any White House press secretary, and suggest that any dissent or pushback against their righteousness is the equivalent of Klan membership. Their talking point right now is to stay focused on getting rid of symbols of the Confederacy….but next week, of course, the message will change, and we will always have been at war with Eurasia.

Nearly all of them live in suburbs that are 80% to 90% white, so they’re taking up the perceived cause of people they don’t know in real life. When a dreadful social, political, and economic backlash comes, they can retreat to Netflix and cute cat memes and leave poor black neighborhoods to cope with the aftermath.

I can handle different opinions, strong opinions, and even crazy opinions. Back when we were young, our group of friends spanned the ideological spectrum. We used to debate all sorts of issues in our idiotic, ill-informed way, sometimes with ad hominem attacks, but then we’d all go out to Denny’s and bond until 3 in the morning.

But something has changed forever. After 35 years of friendship, I no longer trust these people. When I say things like, “hey, guys, maybe we shouldn’t ban ‘Golden Girls’ episodes or tear down statues of abolitionists,” I’m usually met with stony silence, which tells me that behind the scenes on social media, they’re speculating about the other forbidden opinions I surely must hold, even though I support all of the police reforms that were supposed to have been the point of all this crap in the first place. If I don’t say anything, they post memes informing everyone that “silence equals complicity.” For the first time, I believe these people I thought were my friends would sell me out for a nanosecond of woke social media glory.

Fortunately, I have a great wife and plenty of other friends, and my social media activity has always been extremely limited anyway. I’ll be fine. But there’s a growing hole in my heart where most of my oldest friends used to be. I literally don’t recognize them anymore. They’ve joined a new religion, and I’m a heretic. When things settle down and return to some semblance of normal, having seen what I’ve seen, would I want to be friends with them again in the first place?

Jonah, I can’t remember if you are a Christian or not, but even if not, you will find a lot of helpful information in Live Not By Lies, for how to live in the kind of world your friends have created.

Politics to the death

J.D. Tuccille:

Somehow, it became a sign of bedrock conservative principles to refuse to wear a face mask anytime, anyplace, in the middle of a pandemic. Likewise, it’s now a marker of devout progressivism to shriek like banshees at anybody who fails to don a mask even for a stroll along a deserted path. Forget health concernsmasks have become signifiers of tribal affiliation.

The politicization of face masks is stupid enough, but research suggests that polarization in the United States has permeated many seemingly unrelated issues, leaving little of life unpolluted by partisanship. Those few who remain outside the scrum may have to bear heavy burdens in the days to come.

“What if polarization is less like a fence getting taller over time and more like an oil spill that spreads from its source to gradually taint more and more previously ‘apolitical’ attitudes, opinions, and preferences?” writes Pennsylvania State University’s Daniel DellaPosta in an study published last month in American Sociological Review.

DellaPosta has been on this beat for a while, co-authoring a 2015 study finding that “as people congregate with the like-minded, they reinforce their shared views, “producing a stereotypical world of ‘latte liberals’ and ‘bird-hunting conservatives.'” That earlier work helped explain the dynamic by which Americans sorting themselves by lifestyle choices that tend to correlate with politicsrural homes for conservatives and urban dwellings for liberals, for exampletend to become more ideologically representative of their chosen communities.

The new study explores evidence that “many initially apolitical lifestyle characteristics, from musical taste to belief in astrology, can become politicized as signals for deeper beliefs and preferences.”

For his data, DellaPosta crunched data from the General Social Survey, which is overseen by the University of Chicago and has been compiling information about Americans’ opinions since 1972. He found growing evidence not only that Americans are increasingly at odds with one another, but that they’ve chosen partisan sides over things that have no obvious political content.

Some connections seem to accrete almost accidentally, so that sports and beverage preferences become political signifiers.

“You may have heard politicians referring to ‘latte-drinking liberals,’ for example, which captures the idea of the oil spill,” DellaPosta told Penn State News. “Why should something like drinking a latte become associated with your political ideology?”

The connections may start off as loosely linked lifestyle choices, but they become firmer as people come to associate a preference with a tribal choice shared by other fans of that preference. They then adopt a host of new preferences as symbols of their tribal affiliation.

“If every time I go to a football game, I see parking lots full of cars with Trump bumper stickers, I will tend to see football fandom as being associated with Trump support. If I already like football but do not yet support Trump, I might conclude from this that I should naturally support Trump due to my other preferences,” writes DellaPosta.

By the same token, he adds, “once I come around to drinking lattes through this practice’s association with liberalism, I might also proceed to adopt a series of other beliefs and practices associated with latte-drinking—such as driving a hybrid electric car or listening to indie rock.”

That is, many people—enough to mold much of our society—tend not to pick and choose their beliefs through careful consideration, but to purchase the package deal. Their weekend plans come with a party affiliation, and that party affiliation pushes them towards dinner preferences.

And that’s how we got to the point where “wearing a mask is for smug liberals. Refusing to is for reckless Republicans,” as Politico noted. “Prominent people who don’t wear them are shamed and dragged on Twitter by lefty accounts. On the right, where the mask is often seen as the symbol of a purported overreaction to the coronavirus, mask promotion is a target of ridicule.”

The call-outs happen even when those with naked faces are far away from the risks associated with crowds, or when those donning them are in busy indoor spaces where viral transmission is a real concern. Forget about the risks or lack thereof of infection; it might as well be an argument over MAGA caps vs. pussy hats.

As you might guess, it’s not a good thing when politics ooze across the landscape like an oil spill to pollute music choices, restaurant preferences, recreational activities, and sports fandom. This leaves a declining number of activities in which people can engage that don’t carry partisan baggage.

“Cross-cutting cleavages have collapsed to form more encompassing partisan identities with little common ground between them,” notes DellaPosta. “The existence of polarized ‘super-identities’ feeds affective polarization by leading people to simplify the outgroup (e.g., as an evil force unworthy of civil engagement) and attach negative stereotypes.”

Experiments with exposing people to different viewpoints and activities just drive the subjects further into the embrace of their chosen tribe. The sides are so entrenched, now, that there’s not much remaining that people of opposing views can mutually enjoy.

While DellaPosta doesn’t get into it, the remaining cross-cutting alignments in American culture appear to be in the hands of those who have rejected both of the dominant political tribes and their package deals of ideology and culture.

“Not all of us have chosen a side. Some of us dislike them both but are perfectly willing and able to cross the boundaries of culture, lifestyle, and partisanship to socialize and do business,” I wrote last year.

Those of us still willing to break bread or play games with people who think differently may be the best hope for the troubled world in which we live. Libertarians and others who haven’t turned life into a political package deal may need to serve as translators and peacemakers for countrymen who have lost the ability to talk to one another.

“Unify the country”?

Tom Woods:

Joe Biden keeps saying he wants to “unify the country.”
Sure he does.
His vision for “unifying” the country calls to mind the neoconservatives’ stance on promoting democracy abroad: it’s democracy if our guys win.
Likewise, it’s “unifying the country” if we all unite around the Establishment.
Not to mention: how exactly does Biden or anyone else propose to “unify the country”?
How do you “unify” (1) people who, like Ludwig von Mises, point out that the idea of liberty is, in its origins, a Western one, with (2) people who consider the West a great oppressor?
How do you “unify” people who think society ought to be able to run its affairs without the patronizing intervention of Ivy League intellectuals, and people who believe in the top-down management of society?
How do you “unify” people who want to suppress dissident voices with people who are dissident voices?
At this point, calls for “unity” are just low-IQ boilerplate.
And incidentally, which side is trying to get people fired and their lives destroyed for wrongthink? Which side condemns half the country as backward rubes? Seems like it would take some real nerve for the very same people to call for unity.
You first, pal.
And the fact is: they have zero desire to “unify” us.
Our friend Dave Smith pointed out an absolutely typical example the other day:
ABC reported that a 24-year-old Black Lives Matter protestor was killed after being hit by a car that plowed into a group of protestors.
Here’s their summary on Twitter:
“A young protester has died from injuries she suffered when a luxury car plowed into her and another woman during a Black Lives Matter protest Saturday on a Seattle freeway that has been shut down for days due to the civil unrest, police said.”
Any indication in there that the driver was black? Because he was.
Here’s Dave’s comment: “Race is only relevant when it will heighten racial tensions, so ABC doesn’t mention that the driver was black. They do, however, give you the critical detail that it was a luxury car.”
Does that kind of reporting seem designed to “unify” America?
And in case you’re wondering: it’s not just the Twitter summary. The entire article failed to mention the driver’s race, thereby leaving people to presume that interracial strife must be at the root of the incident.
Want to unite around reason and good will? That’s easier said than done in our public square these days.

Biden and every other Democrat accuse Trump of dividing the country. Which is a true yet irrelevant statement. The idea of “unity” presupposes there is unity, as in agreement, when there clearly is not unity. Not a single president in my lifetime (which goes back to Lyndon Baines Johnson, who divided his own party on civil rights, and then divided his own party differently on Vietnam) has been a unifier, except perhaps for Jimmy Carter in that two-thirds of the country agreed he did a horrible job as president.

The only way you can unify the country is by getting the political minority to agree with the political majority, or vice versa. And when will that happen?

 

Rioters vs. the Second Amendment

The Wall Street Journal:

Patricia and Mark McCloskey are the couple made instantly famous—or infamous—after a video showed them wielding firearms as they fended off protesters who had trespassed on private property outside their St. Louis home.

The Circuit Attorney for St. Louis, Kimberly Gardner, reacted by issuing a statement saying she planned an investigation, and that her office will not tolerate any effort to chill peaceful protest by the “threat of deadly force.” Never mind that Mr. McCloskey says he and his wife feared they’d be killed. As they told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “the only thing that kept those mobsters, that crowd, away from us is that we were standing there with guns.”

If soaring gun sales are a guide, millions of Americans are with the McCloskeys. This week the FBI announced a record 3.9 million background checks for June, the highest monthly total since the FBI began keeping the statistic in 1998. Adjusting to reflect checks only for gun purchases, the National Shooting Sports Foundation says this works out to 2.2 million, a 136% increase over June 2019. NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva says about 40% of these checks are for first-time gun buyers.

This is a warning to the Defund the Police movement about unintended consequences. The more progressives push policies that mean cops won’t be around when people need them, the more they are inviting Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves.

244 years ago

Declaration_Pg1of1_AC

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

#NeverTrump vs. President Biden

Jonathan V. Last appears to believe that the Republican Party has been irreparably damaged by Donald Trump:

I had a lovely email exchange with a reader the other day who was making the case that while yes, Donald Trump is evil, unified Democratic control of the government would be at least as bad. And that in the post-Trump future, while the Democrats spin off into woke socialist land, the Republicans will once again become responsible, classical conservatives who can be trusted with power because the party will be retaken by grownups such as Mike Pence and Nikki Haley.
He may well be right.
But it seems to me that this scenario is a low-probability event.
Let’s stipulate that the most likely outcome for the medium-term future of American politics is awful. We’ll probably get some version of Don Jr. squaring off against AOC in 2024. That’s because the science is settled: We live in the worst possible timeline.
But to think that the Republican party will walk away from where it is now, you have to believe a few things that seem unlikely.
For starters, you’d have to believe that Donald Trump is going to disappear and decline to exercise any dynastic ambitions. This would run counter to information already in evidence about the Trump family.
Next, you’d have to believe that there were places in the party for non-Trumpy, non-conspiracy crazy, non-nationalists to get footholds. Well, here is a fun fact from Dave Wasserman: When Trump took office there were 241 R’s in the House; 115 of them have resigned, been defeated, or retired/are retiring.
What’s left of the elected party will be the Trumpiest parts.
The biggest factor, though, is what Republican voters actually want. And the evidence keeps piling up that the Republican party today is reasonably representative of voter preferences. Nearly half the GOP is against wearing masks in public. Less than half of Republican voters say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine. Then there’s the Q-Anon believers who keep winning primaries. So far, they’ve gotten 600,000 votes.
On the one hand, 600,000 is a small fraction of the 330 million people in America. But on the other hand, these folks are just getting started and have only gained entrance to a handful of primaries so far.
Here is a useful comparison. If you a Republican, ask yourself how pernicious you believe the Squad’s influence is within the Democratic party.
Now understand that come January, Q-Anon believing House members will likely outnumber the Squad.
So that’s the Republican side of the ledger. Come 2021, is this Nikki Haley’s party? Or Father Coughlin’s?

All interesting points. But what happens if indeed Biden becomes president and, as always happens, drags the most reprehensible elements of his party into power with him?

Stanley Kurtz explores one issue:

President Trump had a great riff at his rally the other day in Phoenix. It was all about “abolish,” about how the Left wants to abolish the police, ICE, bail, even borders. Trump’s riff is effective because it is true. The Left has gone off the deep end, and they’re taking the Democrats with them.

Well, there’s another “abolish” the president can add to his list, and it just might be enough to tip the scales this November. Joe Biden and the Democrats want to abolish America’s suburbs. Biden and his party have embraced yet another dream of the radical Left: a federal takeover, transformation, and de facto urbanization of America’s suburbs. What’s more, Biden just might be able to pull off this “fundamental transformation.”

The suburbs are the swing constituency in our national elections. If suburban voters knew what the Democrats had in store for them, they’d run screaming in the other direction. Unfortunately, Republicans have been too clueless or timid to make an issue of the Democrats’ anti-suburban plans. It’s time to tell voters the truth.

I’ve been studying Joe Biden’s housing plans, and what I’ve seen is both surprising and frightening. I expected that a President Biden would enforce the Obama administration’s radical AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) regulation to the hilt. That is exactly what Biden promises to do. By itself, that would be more than enough to end America’s suburbs as we’ve known them, as I’ve explained repeatedly here at NRO.

What surprises me is that Biden has actually promised to go much further than AFFH. Biden has embraced Cory Booker’s strategy for ending single-family zoning in the suburbs and creating what you might call “little downtowns” in the suburbs. Combine the Obama-Biden administration’s radical AFFH regulation with Booker’s new strategy, and I don’t see how the suburbs can retain their ability to govern themselves. It will mean the end of local control, the end of a style of living that many people prefer to the city, and therefore the end of meaningful choice in how Americans can live. Shouldn’t voters know that this is what’s at stake in the election?

It is no exaggeration to say that progressive urbanists have long dreamed of abolishing the suburbs. (In fact, I’ve explained it all in a book.) Initially, these anti-suburban radicals wanted large cities to simply annex their surrounding suburbs, like cities did in the 19th century. That way a big city could fatten up its tax base. Once progressives discovered it had since become illegal for a city to annex its surrounding suburbs without voter consent, they cooked up a strategy that would amount to the same thing.

This de facto annexation strategy had three parts: (1) use a kind of quota system to force “economic integration” on the suburbs, pushing urban residents outside of the city; (2) close down suburban growth by regulating development, restricting automobile use, and limiting highway growth and repair, thus forcing would-be suburbanites back to the city; (3) use state and federal laws to force suburbs to redistribute tax revenue to poorer cities in their greater metropolitan region. If you force urbanites into suburbs, force suburbanites back into cities, and redistribute suburban tax revenue, then presto! You have effectively abolished the suburbs.

Obama’s radical AFFH regulation puts every part of progressives’ “abolish the suburbs” strategy into effect (as I explain in detail here). Once Biden starts to enforce AFFH the way Obama’s administration originally meant it to work, it will be as if America’s suburbs had been swallowed up by the cities they surround. They will lose control of their own zoning and development, they will be pressured into a kind of de facto regional-revenue redistribution, and they will even be forced to start building high-density low-income housing. The latter, of course, will require the elimination of single-family zoning. With that, the basic character of the suburbs will disappear. At the very moment when the pandemic has made people rethink the advantages of dense urban living, the choice of an alternative will be taken away.

That’s all bad enough. But on top of AFFH, Biden now plans to use Cory Booker’s strategy for attacking suburban zoning. AFFH works by holding HUD’s Community Development Block Grants hostage to federal-planning demands. Suburbs won’t be able to get the millions of dollars they’re used to in HUD grants unless they eliminate single-family zoning and densify their business districts. AFFH also forces HUD-grant recipients to sign pledges to “affirmatively further fair housing.” Those pledges could get suburbs sued by civil-rights groups, or by the feds, if they don’t get rid of single-family zoning. The only defense suburbs have against this two-pronged attack is to refuse HUD grants. True, that will effectively redistribute huge amounts of suburban money to cities, but if they give up their HUD grants at least the suburbs will be free of federal control.

The Booker approach — now endorsed by Biden — may block even this way out. Booker wants to hold suburban zoning hostage not only to HUD grants, but to the federal transportation grants used by states to build and repair highways. It may be next to impossible for suburbs to opt out of those state-run highway repairs. Otherwise, suburban roads will deteriorate and suburban access to major arteries will be blocked. AFFH plus the Booker plan will leave America’s suburbs with no alternative but to eliminate their single-family zoning and turn over their planning to the feds. Slowly but surely, suburbs will become helpless satellites of the cities they surround, exactly as progressive urbanists intend.

If America’s suburban voters understood that all this is what Biden and the Democrats have in store for them, it could easily swing the election. That means President Trump now has another “abolish” to add to his list: Joe Biden and the Dems want to abolish America’s suburbs.

There’s just one hitch. Incredibly, although AFFH is arguably Obama’s most radical initiative, Ben Carson’s HUD has still not gotten rid of it. Instead, Carson suspended enforcement of the rule early on and then tinkered around for three years trying to come up with a replacement. What Carson has developed so far is something you might call “AFFH lite.” While this possible replacement removes many of the regulation’s excesses, Carson has so far retained the most egregious feature of AFFH. He still wants to use HUD money to gut suburban single-family zoning. How Carson can even think about taking this stance in the face of President Trump’s explicit directive to reduce and remove excessive federal regulation is a mystery.

It will be very tough for President Trump to make a political issue out of Biden’s housing plans so long as his own cabinet secretary is talking about killing suburban single-family zoning with AFFH. I think Carson’s wobbling on AFFH explains a lot about why Democrats have become so bold with their plans to undo suburban zoning. If even the Trump administration goes along with federal attacks on suburban zoning, the Dems figure they’ve got political cover. Time was when Obama administration officials would turn somersaults to deny that they were going to control suburban-zoning decisions, even when it was obvious that this was their plan. Now, Biden and Booker are remarkably open about their desire to densify the suburbs and get rid of single-family zoning.

The Democrat war on the suburbs is a golden gift to President Trump, but he won’t be able to make use of it until he throws over Carson’s AFFH lite and completely guts Obama’s wildly radical regulation. Then Tump can go to town on Biden and the Dems for making war on the suburbs.

If there were ever proof that Biden has shed his centrism and been taken over by the Left, this is it. Biden got the nomination by declining to endorse the most radical plans of his rivals. But take a look at Biden’s housing plans and it’s clear that he is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Left. Progressive urbanists’ long-cherished dream of abolishing the suburbs is now within reach. With AFFH restored to its original form by a President Biden, enforced to the hilt, and turbo-charged by the Booker strategy, suburbs as we know them will pass from the scene.

With them will disappear the principle of local control that has been the key to American exceptionalism from the start. Since the Pilgrims first landed, our story has been of a people who chose how and where to live, and who governed themselves when they got there. Self-government in a layered federalist system allowing for local control right down to the township is what made America great. If Biden and the Democrats win, that key to our greatness could easily go by the boards.

The coronavirus’ real heroes

During the Pandemic of 2020 the term “hero” has been applied to health care workers and EMTs (including paramedics) who have cared for people who have been hospitalized for COVID-19, in the same way the word was applied to police officers, firefighters, EMTs and the military in the wake of 9/11.

Ken Langone writes about another group deserving praise:

When future historians tell the story of this pandemic, I hope American capitalism is not so despised and maligned by the professoriate that they leave out the pivotal role private enterprise and individual autonomy played, not just in slowing and ultimately defeating the virus, but in getting the country back to work.

It was individual Americans who started socially distancing in March, as COVID-19 took hold in Italy and many mayors and governors were still calling fears of contagion from China overblown, if not bigoted. By the time our leaders came around to the crisis, millions of American workers and their employers were already taking steps to keep each other safer. And while Republicans and Democrats in Washington played politics with financial aid aimed at blunting the great economic pain necessitated by shutdowns, thousands of businesses, trade associations, and patrons were starting relief funds for the most heavily impacted.

Among the companies that could stay open, I will admit I am biased in my pride for one in particular.

Home Depot, the company I helped found, boosted wages and doubled overtime to acknowledge the valor of workers who wanted to stay on the job during some very scary times. Knowing that kids were at home because schools were closed, Home Depot expanded paid time off to help parents and made hours more flexible for older workers who were deemed at risk for COVID-19 infection. Many other companies offered similar incentives.

When it came time to attack the virus itself, businesses around the country showed the same decency and ingenuity, quickly repurposing to meet demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gowns for frontline medical workers. Apparel company Brooks Brothers and MLB uniform tailor Fanatics switched their stitch to make masks. So did hockey company Bauer and retail stores David’s Bridal and Jo-Ann Stores. A NASCAR team, North Carolina-based Stewart-Haas Racing, helped its neighbors by putting idle racing transports back on track, delivering 2 million medical masks to Novant Health facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Whiskey and vodka distilleries, especially small, locally owned ones, switched to making bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Cutting-edge manufacturers used 3-D printers to make PPE. Charlottesville-based women’s shoemaker OESH made a mask that had soft edges, making its seal as strong if not better than what would be provided by N95-rated masks. There wasn’t time for FDA approval (which is a question we should take up later), but the skillful engineering made the mask a success.

One Delaware company, ILC Dover, worked with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to shorten the regulatory review process from one month to a week. That way the company could make its new Powered Air Purifying Respirator hood, which provides 100 times the protection of an N95 mask, available to health-care workers attending to patients with COVID-19.

National big-box stores, corner-store pharmacy chains, and delivery services really stepped up in hiring temporary workers. Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, Costco, 7-Eleven, Ace Hardware, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Instacart, FedEx, UPS, and grocery chains around the country all upped their hiring to meet demand and provide opportunities to the recently unemployed.

Perhaps most strikingly of all, tech companies have really shined. Amazon, Uber Eats, GrubHub and dozens like them made it possible to keep a social distance while keeping the homestead supplied with groceries and supplies. Tech companies didn’t just keep us fed, they kept us on the job. Employers used existing, but often untapped, IT capabilities provided by companies such as Zoom, Microsoft, Apple, and Google to transform a cubicle and conference-room workforce into a remote team interacting through a camera and video screen. In the short term this kept a company’s productivity up, and long-term applications could create a more flexible workplace that could better support parents or employees who want to live in a rural area.

Of course, the biggest heroes are yet to earn their fame. Hard at work are the world’s leading scientific and research minds toiling for vaccines and treatments. Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna all have billion-dollar investments into fast-tracking a cure.

Throughout this entire ordeal, which is far from over, our blinkered press has focused on the negative, on anecdotes of price gouging, temporary supply-chain disruptions and shortages, and companies that saw outbreaks in the workplace.

But it takes a special kind of dumb to look at all the institutions that came up short under the pandemic and put free enterprise anywhere near the top of the list. Our free-enterprise system is the best at allocating resources and responding to crises. The private sector should be praised, not demonized, for its efforts during this pandemic. The examples are numerous, and they keep on coming.

The best thing the government did, arguably, is get out of the way. Government watchdog Americans for Tax Reform has identified more than 600 rules or regulations that were changed to give companies the room to innovate and adapt to meet the demand for equipment and other goods created by the pandemic. My hunch is these are probably 600 regulations that do not need to come back once this is over.

We are not a perfect country, but we do have something that will always help us prevail — either over a pandemic or the next pitfall we encounter. We have regular people who dare to do heroic things.

Americans don’t need to be told what to do, and companies don’t need command-and-control regulation to do what’s best for a community. That’s because Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit is the biggest factor flattening the curve.

 

The most obvious title for a year of all time

Kyle Smith writes about “The Year of Stupid”:

It turned out that the novel coronavirus was only the second-most-infectious disease to spread through the U.S. this year. Satan’s Cupcake has, after all, been diagnosed in less than 1 percent of Americans. The not-so-novel imbecility virus is, on the other hand, ravaging the minds of everyone from news reporters and politicians to brand managers, high-school kids, and utility-company executives. The fervor out there is often compared to the French Revolution, complete with the installation of a toy guillotine/vegetable chopper in front of Jeff Bezos’s house. But this revolution has a distinctly 21st-century American flavor: Let’s hear it for libertéégalitéstupidité. Has any people’s uprising ever been this moronic? It’s like a sketch-comedy spoof of history, Bastille Day reenacted by the characters from Anchorman.

Item: In Minneapolis, the City Council votes unanimously to disband the police department and replace it with a “department of community safety and violence prevention” driven by “a holistic, public-health-oriented approach.” So, a Committee of Public Safety, then? Should Minneapolis ever follow through on this barmy scheme, which it won’t, I guess the Mini Apple can look forward to friendship bracelets instead of handcuffs, armed robbers getting suites at the nearest Hilton Garden Inn instead of jail cells, and lots of holistic counseling sessions for rapists. If there’s one thing we owe black folks, it’s to let criminals roam unchecked in their neighborhoods while rich, white, and well-connected people surround themselves with private security. People like, er, the members of the Minneapolis City Council.

Item: In Washington, D.C., working with the loud backing of leading public intellectuals who claim Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans did nothing to free the slaves, a mob of the historically challenged gather around a statue commemorating emancipation that was universally understood as a moving symbol of the liberation of black America until ten minutes ago, before the super-spreading of the stupidity virus. Protesters at the Emancipation Memorial have for days threatened to give Lincoln and a freed slave the Saddam Hussein treatment and drag them off the plinth they’ve shared for 144 years. Over the weekend, a young woman yelling at a pitch that would cause a dog’s eardrums to explode screeched, “Why are you protecting it?” The calm and historically literate older black gentleman at whom the question was directed patiently asked, “Who paid for it?” The answer to his question was, of course, “freed slaves.” But she didn’t know, so she hopped around as though suffering a full-body case of Jimmy legs and screamed, “Why are you fighting me?” A black woman with a keen interest in local history, Marcia Cole, pointed out on a local news program that the slave depicted in the statue “is not kneeling on two knees with his head bowed. He is in the act of getting up. And his head is up, not bowed, because he’s looking forward to a future of freedom.” Instead of looking up he’ll soon be looking at the bottom of a river bed or a ditch if the mob gets its wish, as today’s mobs usually do.

Item: Hulu removes an ancient episode of The Golden Girls from its streaming platform, presumably never to be seen by human eyes again. It seems two of the famed Filles d’Or were wearing mud treatments on their faces when they met the black family into which one of their sons was about to marry. Hilarity ensued. Betty White’s character Rose said, “This is mud on our faces, we’re not really black.” Scenes from, or entire episodes of, Community30 RockThe Office, and Scrubs were similarly memory-holed. An exasperated Twitter user wrote that not a single black person in America was offended and called the removal “white guilt knee-jerking into reactionary performative allyship.”

Item: A Latino truck driver, Emmanuel Cafferty, is publicly humiliated and fired from his job at San Diego Gas & Electric Company because he allowed his left thumb to touch his left index finger while driving a truck. Since the OK sign is coded as a white-power gesture among batty people who spend way too much time freaking out online, Cafferty was canned by panicky superiors. “To lose your dream job for playing with your fingers,” he said, “that’s a hard pill to swallow.” The motorist who pulled the pin on this social hand grenade on Twitter later deleted the tweet, allowed he may have gotten “spun up” about the non-meaning of the non-incident, and said he hadn’t intended to cost the man his job. Oops.

Item: Woke flume riders demand that Disneyland and Disney World rethink their popular Splash Mountain attraction because of racism. What racism? Well, the rides themselves, which feature cartoon animals, are not racist in any way, but they’re linked to the 1946 Uncle Remus film Song of the South, which features heavy use of regional accents by black and white actors and which CNN tells us has a “romanticized view of the antebellum South.” The movie is set entirely during Reconstruction, as anyone who has ever seen it could tell you, but why see it when you can just denounce it? The ride, meanwhile, is being reimagined to depict characters from The Princess and the Frog, a movie built around black protagonists in New Orleans. Here’s hoping Disney has enough wit to acknowledge our age of absurdity by rechristening it “New Orleans Mountain.”

Item: One David Shor, a white data analyst for the firm Civitas, is ritually degraded for accurately tweeting the results of a paper by a black Princeton professor, Omar Wasow, which found that violent protests tended to decrease voter support for the Democratic Party while nonviolent protests tended to bolster it. Shor’s white colleagues were incensed that anyone might mention research showing that burning down neighborhoods tends not to endear the voters to your agenda, and their obloquy got him a pink slip.

Among the very dim and very woke, some seem to find the Robespierre model too dull and have installed Stalinism as their O.S. As Martin Amis explained in his Stalin book Koba the Dread, “You might denounce someone for fear of their denouncing you. You could be denounced for not doing enough denouncing; the only disincentive to denunciation was the possibility of being denounced for not denouncing sooner. . . . Children who denounced their parents became national figures, hymned in verse and song.” Recently, on TikTok, a girl racked up 277,000 likes for a video in which she reenacted how she had supposedly shouted at her “Republican father” over dinner that he was a “stupid f***ing dinosaur.” This never happened, as the girl admitted to HuffPost; her parents actually “support the movement and are horrified at what happened to George Floyd.”

Today’s youngest radicals are taking the family denouncing a step farther; children are anonymously using social-media platforms to denounce other children, with the stated goal of destroying their future career prospects or chances of being admitted to college. The denouncers get rewarded with today’s equivalent of verse and song: the fawning news-media profile. A 16-year-old student in Smithtown, N.Y. told the New York Times, “I’m not trying to target freshmen or middle schoolers, but people who are about to go to college need to be held accountable for what they say. . . . I don’t want people like that to keep getting jobs.”

Terrified parents hoping to buy insurance against their pubescent children being socially murdered via Facebook post while they’re trying to get into Wesleyan are clamoring to fend off the race police by getting a copy of one of the signature texts of the Year of Stupid: the cartoonish board book, Antiracist Baby, which is ostensibly for two-year-olds but is plainly aimed at grownups, like a woke successor to Go the F*** to Sleep. Garbled lessons include, “Some people get more while others get less/Because policies don’t always grant equal access.” Never mind that there is no way “equal access” can possibly guarantee that no one gets “more while others get less.” That’s just normal, 2019-level stupid. What makes this book extra-strength, 2020-level stupid is its assumption that you should roll up the social-justice artillery to a tiny human in diapers who thinks Elmo is real. Have no fear, Sesame Street watchers: Even if you don’t get Antiracist Baby for your second birthday, you’ll get plenty of chances to learn socially approved, grownup kinds of stupidity soon enough.

Keep in mind the Year of Stupid is only half over.