George Will on Obama’s Militaristic Rhetoric

Saturday, January 28, AD 2012

George Will has a superb column on Obama’s rhetoric in the State of the Union Address:

Obama, an unfettered executive wielding a swollen state, began and ended his address by celebrating the armed forces. They are not “consumed with personal ambition,” they “work together” and “focus on the mission at hand” and do not “obsess over their differences.” Americans should emulate troops “marching into battle,” who “rise or fall as one unit.”

Well. The armed services’ ethos, although noble, is not a template for civilian society, unless the aspiration is to extinguish politics. People marching in serried ranks, fused into a solid mass by the heat of martial ardor, proceeding in lock step, shoulder to shoulder, obedient to orders from a commanding officer — this is a recurring dream of progressives eager to dispense with tiresome persuasion and untidy dissension in a free, tumultuous society.

Progressive presidents use martial language as a way of encouraging Americans to confuse civilian politics with military exertions, thereby circumventing an impediment to progressive aspirations — the Constitution and the patience it demands. As a young professor, Woodrow Wilson had lamented that America’s political parties “are like armies without officers.” The most theoretically inclined of progressive politicians, Wilson was the first president to criticize America’s founding. This he did thoroughly, rejecting the Madisonian system of checks and balances — the separation of powers, a crucial component of limited government — because it makes a government that cannot be wielded efficiently by a strong executive.

Wilson is of particular importance here.  Wilson’s dissatisfaction with the Constitution stemmed from the many limitations said document placed on the government.  Not only did the Framers grant few specified powers to Congress, they instituted various mechanisms that made it even more difficult for government to enact the reforms that Progressives like Wilson so desired.  Wilson wanted to convert the United States government into a parliamentary system.  Under this kind of design, instead of a legislature-dominated government complicated by checks and balances, we would have an executive-led government with few checks on the Prime Minister’s power.

Wilson was unable to transform the government to his liking.  The Constitution still divides power in so many ways that it would be theoretically be difficult for the Progressive reformers to get all that they wanted.  So instead of working within the system, the left has basically just ignored that pesky ancient document.

Franklin Roosevelt agreed. He complained about “the three-horse team of the American system”: “If one horse lies down in the traces or plunges off in another direction, the field will not be plowed.” And progressive plowing takes precedence over constitutional equipoise among the three branches of government. Hence FDR’s attempt to break the Supreme Court to his will by enlarging it.

In his first inaugural address, FDR demanded “broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” He said Americans must “move as a trained and loyal army” with “a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.” The next day, addressing the American Legion, Roosevelt said it was “a mistake to assume that the virtues of war differ essentially from the virtues of peace.” In such a time, dissent is disloyalty.

Yearnings for a command society were common and respectable then. Commonweal, a magazine for liberal Catholics, said that Roosevelt should have “the powers of a virtual dictatorship to reorganize the government.” Walter Lippmann, then America’s preeminent columnist, said: “A mild species of dictatorship will help us over the roughest spots in the road ahead.” The New York Daily News, then the nation’s largest-circulation newspaper, cheerfully editorialized: “A lot of us have been asking for a dictator. Now we have one. .?.?. It is Roosevelt. .?.?. Dictatorship in crises was ancient Rome’s best era.” The New York Herald Tribune titled an editorial “For Dictatorship if Necessary.”

Commonweal. Some things never change.

And so now we’ve arrived at Obama’s America, and the left’s impatience with the Constitution manifests itself again.

Obama, aspiring to command civilian life, has said that in reforming health care, he would have preferred an “elegant, academically approved” plan without “legislative fingerprints on it” but “unfortunately” he had to conduct “negotiations with a lot of different people.” His campaign mantra “We can’t wait!” expresses progressivism’s impatience with our constitutional system of concurrent majorities. To enact and execute federal laws under Madison’s institutional architecture requires three, and sometimes more, such majorities. There must be majorities in the House and Senate, each body having distinctive constituencies and electoral rhythms. The law must be affirmed by the president, who has a distinctive electoral base and election schedule. Supermajorities in both houses of Congress are required to override presidential vetoes. And a Supreme Court majority is required to sustain laws against constitutional challenges.

“We can’t wait!” exclaims Obama, who makes recess appointments when the Senate is not in recess, multiplies “czars” to further nullify the Senate’s constitutional prerogative to advise and consent, and creates agencies (e.g., Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board and Dodd-Frank’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) untethered from legislative accountability.

Like other progressive presidents fond of military metaphors, he rejects the patience of politics required by the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

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14 Responses to George Will on Obama’s Militaristic Rhetoric

  • Dan in Philly commented at another blog.

    “Let me be clear, O is and always has been an ordinary political hack who was picked up by a brilliant campaign because he happened to be in the right place at the right time. This brilliant campaign ran him, and ever since he’s been trying and failing to lead the country. He’s been a failure from the beginning because he’s been a fraud from the beginning.”

    Paraphrasing Camus: The “general welfare” will be liberals’ alibi for our enslavement.

  • The human being is created with body and soul, rational and immortal. The citizen constitutes government to protect and defend his unalienable rights and his freedom. For this duty taxes are levied. The present administration has decreed that all people will purchase Obamacare or pay penalties and heavy fines. The freedom of the citizen to exercise his conscience has been eradicated from the First Amendment and from the definition of man as having a free conscience, rational and immortal. With the redefinition of the citizen as having no freedom of conscience to be acknowledged by the government, the free man, who exercises his conscience in freedom is not represented by the very government that he has constituted and funds with his tax dollars. This is taxation without representation. The fines and penalties to be extorted from the citizen who exercises his freedom of conscience are just that: EXTORTION, the buying of insurance to protect oneself from damage and penalties.
    The very existence of the United States of America is contingent upon the eternal truths, inscribed in our founding principles, in our Declaration of Independence and in our U.S. Constitution, being acknowledged and practiced, to guarantee, as Abraham Lincoln said: “that government of the people, for the people and by the people will not perish from the face of the earth”.
    The American Civil Liberties Union, while ecstatically enjoying the display of brute force by our government is not exempt from the extortion or tyranny. As soon as the government decides it needs the ACLU’s land, the government will take the land under the Rural Councils Executive Order 13575. When the government decides that it no longer needs someone, or that someone begins to think for himself, or becomes a loose canon, that person may be detained indefinitely, without charges under the National Defense Authorization Act . This is the denial of free will and a rational and immortal soul.
    What Obamacare does not accept is that you cannot kill a person twice. After all the abortions are done, the immortal soul remains to indict the murderers. The immortal soul of the innocent victims cannot be silenced nor murdered twice. Obama, being a student and adherent to Saul Alinsky’s philosophy of: “Take as much as you can, as fast as you can”, has not yet put two and two together. Alinsky asked God to send him to hell. Alinsky, therefore, acknowledged God, the immortal soul, eternal life and the eternity of hell. Obama needs to get on board the next barge to be ferried by Sharon across the River Styx.

  • T. Shaw: Our reliance on Divine Providence, which John Mills’ utilitarianism and Paul Erhich’s Population Bomb, Thomas Malthus’ demographic projections, and Roe v. Wade have rejected, is simply, Our Creator providing for his children. The atheist does not and cannot speak for our founding principles: our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution. The “general welfare” absolutely includes the Preamble: “to secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our posterity”, all future generations. Less is not more. If one notices that the “more” one is promised, the “more” one gets is less. The Israelites saw Goliath and fainted at his size. David saw Goliath as the biggest target…EWTN

  • Richard the Lion Heart’s (and it seems all saxon monarchs’) Motto: “Dieu et mon droit.” I translate trust in “God and my strong right arm.”

    Henceforth, I apply the following to Obama, “pharaoh.”

    The pharaoh must go.

  • What T Shaw said – the Pharoah must go.

  • Good post, Paul. I remember Goldberg talking about this tendency toward militarizing peace time in his book Liberal Fascism. Wilson wanted to see agenda items having a “moral equivalency” to war, i think that was his term. This kind of fascist thinking was considered good by liberals back then–case in point: the “mild dictatorship” advocated by Commonweal as Will mentions. I think the only difference is the terminology used–they are more careful not to use certain words.

  • This concept deserves a nice glass of Maker’s Mark and a cigar. The connection never occurred to me.

  • I learned that the OWS folk call demonstrations ‘battles’. On a college campus in Chicago I overheard one OWSer say to another, “I’ll see you at the battle”. None of these folks could last one day in basic training. It’ funny/pathetic in one regard, but scary in that they seem to crave violence.

  • 1. Most constitutional states function passably with parliamentary institutions. Separation of powers is quite atypical, characteristic of the United States and three or four other well- established electoral systems; none of the others are ensconced in a state with a population larger than Belgium’s.

    2. During that portion of the Wilson Administration which preceded World War I, the ratio of federal expenditure to domestic product was about 0.014.

    3. One consequence of the collision of social crisis and extant political forms during the Depression was that those occupying the salient positions in all three branches of government took to simply ignoring inconvenient constitutional provisions rather than organizing a campaign to amend the constitution to alter the range of delegated powers. You might interpret that as a mark of collective faithlessness. Then again, you might interpret that as a mark of institutional inadaptability.

  • Indeed Gingrich did talk about this in Liberal Fasicsm, and he also had his own article yesterday which I should have linked to. Here it is.

  • Separation of powers is quite atypical, characteristic of the United States and three or four other well

    Precisely.

    During that portion of the Wilson Administration which preceded World War I, the ratio of federal expenditure to domestic product was about 0.014.

    I never suggested that Wilson was particularly successful, merely that he wanted to transform the governmental structure of the U.S. FDR was the one who more ably picked up the Progressive mantle.

  • It appears that for government officials to want to change our form of government and our founding principles, they do not understand nor appreciate them, nor do they have the power to change our founding principles without two thirds of the states ratifying the change. Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations was the forerunner of The United Nations. The United Nations, like global world government will force The United States to violate her sovereignty, and become subserviant to what has become one government under the World Bank. The Vatican came out with one economic world government under God, our Creator, one citizen at a time. Divine Providence. AWESOME.

  • Mary de Voe – I hope you’re not really calling for the president’s death – or his damnation. I don’t think we should be wishing people on Charon’s next boat.

    (Completely agree with your comment about extortion, by the way.)

  • If Obama won’t repent, then he deserves the fate that God award King Manasseh. It took 12 years of imprisonment in an Assyrian dungeon for him to repent. What will it take for Obama?

Don’t Know Much About History

Monday, November 28, AD 2011

Excellent takedown from Jonah Goldberg of an excruciating bit of historical illiteracy written by Kevin Boyle.  Boyle had written a review in the Times of a couple of books about the Klan, and led with this laugher:

Imagine a political movement created in a moment of terrible anxiety, its origins shrouded in a peculiar combination of manipulation and grass-roots mobilization, its ranks dominated by Christian conservatives and self-proclaimed patriots, its agenda driven by its members’ fervent embrace of nationalism, nativism and moral regeneration, with more than a whiff of racism wafting through it.

No, not that movement. The one from the 1920s, with the sheets and the flaming crosses and the ludicrous name meant to evoke a heroic past. The Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, they called it. And for a few years it burned across the nation, a fearsome thing to ­behold.

There’s a lot more silliness, including a whopper of a closing paragraph that both Jonah and Daniel Foster rightfully mock.  At any rate, Jonah responds:

The average reader with no specialized knowledge and an unhealthy faith in the wisdom and accuracy of the New York Times might find in all of this reinforcement of the conventional liberal tale of the KKK as a quirky and extremist conservative organization.

But that’s simply not the story of the second Klan. I don’t expect Kevin Boyle to hammer home the Klan’s progressive and Democratic ties. But he manages to make them all sound conventionally conservative. He doesn’t acknowledge that Woodrow Wilson was Birth of a Nation’s most famous booster. Nor does he mention that World War One was the Progressives’ war and that “100% Americanism” was touted and promoted by Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson — our two progressive presidents. He doesn’t mention that evil spirits of World War One were orchestrated by progressive wordsmiths, activists, and artists.

The Klan of the 1920s and 30s would have had more sympathy for the populist sentimentality of the Occupy Wall Street crowd than with the tea parties.  Like the OWS group, they thought the reforms instituted by the Democrat in the White House to be not radical enough.  But acknowledging as much would derail an “academic” with an ideological axe to gore.

 

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4 Responses to Don’t Know Much About History

A warped sense of community

Friday, October 15, AD 2010

Well it looks like Cynthia Tucker has been beaten out for the most obtuse observation of the past 24 hours.  Let’s hear from Chris Mathews, who decided to turn a great story about survival into a partisan political point.

Down 2,000 feet in the ground, a group of 33 men not only survived for 69 days but prevailed. What a story of human faith, hope, charity and yes, community. I know that last word drives people on the right crazy: community.

Theirs is the popular notion that it`s every man for himself. Grab what you can, screw the masses, cash out of the government, go it alone — the whole cowboy catechism.

But how would those miners have survived, the 33 of them, and their loved ones living above if they`d behave like that with the attitude of every man for himself. This is above all, and deep down they`re in the mine about being in all there together. It`s about mutual reliance and relying on others. Not just to do their jobs, but to come through in the clutch.

Not only is this a sophomoric and shameful bit of analysis, but it further proves the point that great swathes of the left fundamentally do not understand what is meant by “community.”

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20 Responses to A warped sense of community

  • Matthews is the most moronic talking head on tv, but one:

  • I just have to share this. Remember when Obama made his candidacy announcement in Springfield in 2007? I was there covering it as a stringer for a newspaper I used to work for. Man was it cold that day….and that seems like a gazillion years ago now but I digress.

    The following incident was something I did not personally see happen, but I read about it later on another blog.

    Chris Matthews was there all set up to do his “Hardball” show live, in a small tent with electric heaters going full blast. He was all bundled up, of course, and wearing a big, fat pair of hunting socks with a red stripe at the top. A passer by called out to him, in a good-natured fashion, “Hey Chris, nice socks!” His reply: “Go (bleep) yourself”!

  • What a great product of Catholic education Chris Matthews is! He has dropped the F-Bomb live on television before Elaine:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1780729/posts

  • Are we offtopic by nailing mattew’s own faults than talking about the issue of community are we? I will admit this guy along with Michael Moore are charlatans much like from the right rush limbaugh and Sean Hannity
    Anyway I would like to ask some questions from a ‘liberal’ perspective. I think we have the same ideas about community and I do agree we have lost many of our views of the world. What did you mean by

    “It is in fact progressivism that has driven a stake into the concept of community by building metaphorical walls between neighbors.”

    I will take this one piece at the time. I speak to my neighbors with no problem. Fact is once my dog ran off and I had no time because I was going to be late for work I could not call in for that my neighbor told me if they would find her they would put her in my back yard. To my surprise (not really) i got back and there she was. I am liberal but I am just like you not some monster that locks my doors and does not talk to people. Maybe i am missing what you are trying to say here I will continue.

    ” Not only do meddlesome social welfare programs enervate the drive towards personal charity, but liberal attitudes about social mores erect further barriers. In an age when each person gets to establish his own set of social values, communities drift further apart. ”

    I have been a catholic my whole life I would like to hear what you means by this. Who defines these social values if not by people? The church? The Government? I think this is were we start parting ways a little as well. But maybe I am more conservative then most. I believe that states(or local communities) should determine some of these social issues not any fundamentalist group from right or left. I see the pro-gay movement and anti-gay movement, but are our laws based on this? In many ways yes I would say that most people don’t care unless to really effects them directly. So why are we making some laws that are not hurting society. But I guess that is how we define that too. We are going to strung up on DEFINING a great example is clinton definition on sex. I think both sides need to look at this problem in depth.

    “Those that seek to protect their children from a rancid culture are forced to withdraw into their own cocoons.”

    I think you can talk about some of these radical issues like little girls looking like 30 yr old and having sex … etc .. You will find most people on the left outraged much as yourself. Yet you will disagree we need more regulation if your a true hawk right person. Yet we can disagree with the financial issues and regulation, but I hope you can agree we need more regulation on this subject. Much are the parents fault in my experience as a substitute teacher parents from both right and left will allow there kids come into school dressed a mini- pimps and whores. I believe we need schools to start enforcing better dress codes ad sending them home. I also believe if one crazy parent disagrees o well maybe we should setup some kind of mini elections to make that one crazy parent not able to get their way. Get out of your cocoons and participate in government and your community!!

    Here is a side story that makes me sad: I was doing pre-cana with my future wife and the people had us do this back to back thing. One question they asked was “Helping my community is important to us”. We both raised our hands ( win for our relationship) . We look around and saw only about 25% of the couples with hands raised. I expected more, but that is why I believe in taxes on to give to everyone evenly because 75% of people based on this experience will not give back to society so taxes is the only way to guarantee some resources are given back to society. If it was 75% to 25% i would say maybe you republicans are right by having less taxes for everyone.

    ” Now obviously there are communities within these communities where people who have shared values can congregate – be it Church or some other organization – but we’ve become more polarized as the gulf in moral values expands.”

    Its sad, but i do agree with this point a little. I see my future family in law they are very polarized. My future wife grew up in a home with no focus on god and my fiancee told me that she feels that church makes her feel she has more a foundation because her parents seem to only care for material possessions. We need some of these values back in our society. But as educated Catholics we know that our christian brothers and sisters believe in the same values maybe not same dogma. But this country is not only made of Christians, but Hindu, Muslim, Buddhists, etc… I think many religions have very much the same ideals and we should be a country of god. Yet it seems the atheists have been winning. We could have prayer still in classrooms but maybe it should be to a general god not Jesus, or Shiva … I think our failing is we have become very polarized and not look at things in a middle ground. Yet Americans rather have nothing than something. Either prayer that is only centered on christian beliefs or nothing. This attitude is what is making things more polarized and I hope to see some new movement pushing us back to where we were in the 50s in this country were left and right can find some common ground . I hope that is not too late.

  • At this point Chris Matthews should just be chained, strait-jacketed, and shuttled around the country in a train car with steel bars as a circus exhibit of freakish lunacy, tingling leg and all.

  • “We look around and saw only about 25% of the couples with hands raised. I expected more, but that is why I believe in taxes on to give to everyone evenly because 75% of people based on this experience will not give back to society so taxes is the only way to guarantee some resources are given back to society. If it was 75% to 25% i would say maybe you republicans are right by having less taxes for everyone.”

    You could just as easily say that nobody feels any inclination to give back to their community because they know the government will forcibly take their money and do it for them.

    It’s almost as if, by constantly telling upper-to-middle-class wage-earners that they are greedy and selfish for not wanting their job salaries confiscated to pay for things like bank bailouts and abortion clinics, they give up and actually start acting that way.

    Just a theory.

  • “Are we off topic by nailing matthew’s own faults than talking about the issue of community”

    Yes, we are, and I gotta plead guilty to helping steer the thread off topic.

    I agree, Alex, sometimes we get so caught up in this liberal-conservative, red state-blue state thing that we forget to look at the real people behind it. It seems to be an occupational hazard for people who have a strong interest in politics and social issues (and I use the term “social issues” here in a very broad sense — everything having to do with society, not “just” abortion and gay marriage, though they are important)

    I personally do not know anyone who is either totally 100 percent liberal or totally 100 percent conservative. The question is where to set the balance between these two extremes.

    On a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is total anarchy and 100 is an ironclad communist police state with absolutely no freedom at all, I’m guessing that a hardcore objectivist/libertarian would set the dial around 20; most conservatives would set it between 30 and 50; liberals would set it between 50 and 75; socialists would dial it up to about 80; and hardcore communists like the Chinese and North Koreans have it cranked up to about 95. So the majority of the debate is really taking place in about the 30 to 75 range. Again, these are just rough guesses on my part, but you get the drift.

  • “He has dropped the F-Bomb live on television before”

    I should clarify that the incident I was referring to did NOT take place on the air, but while he was getting ready to go on the air. Just wanted to clear that up.

  • “I personally do not know anyone who is either totally 100 percent liberal or totally 100 percent conservative. The question is where to set the balance between these two extremes.

    On a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is total anarchy and 100 is an ironclad communist police state with absolutely no freedom at all, I’m guessing that a hardcore objectivist/libertarian would set the dial around 20; most conservatives would set it between 30 and 50; liberals would set it between 50 and 75; socialists would dial it up to about 80; and hardcore communists like the Chinese and North Koreans have it cranked up to about 95. So the majority of the debate is really taking place in about the 30 to 75 range. Again, these are just rough guesses on my part, but you get the drift.”

    This is a great point, and it also helps explain the growing chasm between “elites” in America and those without the benefit of university educations.

    I have attended roughly five different colleges in the last seven years, from community colleges to an Ivy-league university, and political science seems to be discussed among the college-educated solely in terms of academic abstractions such as “left, right, conservative, liberal, capitalist, communist” all of which are useful terminology but none of which exist purely, or have ever existed, or could possibly exist, in the actual state of reality.

    I always hear about the “growing polarization” in American politics, but the most polarization I see is between the political class which uses these terms merely as rhetorical weapons to fight over power, and the average workers and salary-earners who recognize the real issues that undergird the rhetoric.

    For example, the Bush family and the Clinton family might genuinely hate each other, and might be convinced that they have serious ideological differences based on the topics they chose for their respective senior theses at Yale or Harvard, but the American people aren’t seeing the difference anymore. To quote the man talking about the Falkland Islands war: “It’s like two bald men fighting over a comb.” And voters are sick of it. That is where the “polarization” is occurring.

  • I’ll try to be as comprehensive as I can in response to you, Alex.

    First of all, one of the problems with political theory is that it is all very generalized stuff. When I talk about the Hobbesian tendencies in society I am trying to get to an overall trend. Are left-wing individuals themselves social misfits who hate others? Most are not (Rousseau indeed was), and indeed most of my neighbors are on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me, and are all quite nice. But what I see is that the overall trend in leftist policies tends to diminish the importance of these little platoons.

    On the point about social mores, a couple of things. Here it is important to distinguish between secular leftists and religious leftists, and on these sorts of issues there might be more division on the left. Also, contrary to my previous point, I am not really talking about policies, per se. What I am referring here is a cultural clash that is beyond the political sphere. We live in an age of moral relativism where a certain segment of society seems to think that it’s pretty much anything goes out there in the wider world. There are large swaths of society that seem to think that it’s no big deal to promote teen sexuality, for instance. How can society properly function when a large segment of it think traditional sexual mores are outmoded, and in fact when those who do have a less “liberal” outlook are outright mocked?

    Yet you will disagree we need more regulation if your a true hawk right person.

    Again, I am not talking about regulations or policies in this instance.

    As for the tax issue, I think Linus made a good point. Now, I’m not saying we have to get rid of all government assistance, but the more we rely on government to be this sort of safety net, the more it discourages others from becoming more personally involved.

    I think our failing is we have become very polarized and not look at things in a middle ground.

    Well, yes and no. First of all, there’s always been polarization. We always harken back to some mythical time when everybody compromised and got along swell. This never happened. Ever. It’s actually in the foundational design (read Federalist 10) to have disagreement. Modern forms of communication make that disagreement seem more virulent than it once was – and perhaps it is to some degree – but it’s really not much different now as back then.

    Also, I think this kind of sentiment, while nice, glosses over the fact that there are fundamentally different points of view, and they are not reconcilable. I’d rather not have my kids pray in school than pray to a generic deity that isn’t the triune God. These are not things we can compromise about.

  • Oh, and it’s certainly no diversion to mock Chris Matthews. All that philosophy mumbo jumbo was just an excuse to point out how stupid he really is. 😉

  • @Elaine
    You make great points. Yet I think our politics are starting to sound a lot like post WWI Germany that is what makes me scared.

    @Paul
    “What I am referring here is a cultural clash that is beyond the political sphere. We live in an age of moral relativism where a certain segment of society seems to think that it’s pretty much anything goes out there in the wider world. There are large swaths of society that seem to think that it’s no big deal to promote teen sexuality, for instance. ”

    I agree with this statement because I do see this from my fiancee’s mother, but I think this group of people are much smaller than you think. I think many of those who are left or right will be on common ground than some of these fundamentalists on either side. I think if we had more people participating on both sides in both government and community we would not be where we are today. As I do think it feels that these 1-5% of the people that pay into the shit of moral realism are taking over from the left. As well as the 1-5% of these too big to fail companies have taken over the republicans and some democrats.

    “Also, I think this kind of sentiment, while nice, glosses over the fact that there are fundamentally different points of view, and they are not reconcilable. I’d rather not have my kids pray in school than pray to a generic deity that isn’t the triune God. These are not things we can compromise about.”

    Why I agree yet disagree with this point. I think that prayer is needed. I don’t want to push my views on others, but I think that if lead we can have multi-disciplinary view. If our pope can meet other religious leaders and be civil why can’t we teach more tolerance. I have seen some bishops go to Buddhist meditation classes. We can disagree on praying to Jesus but i think we all see that prayer is what is needed. Why do we have to disagree on this point. If your child is praying to Jesus and the next kid is praying to Shiva i see that as a win. The next step from this is those who are not Christians opening up dialog with us and that is where we can start on a common ground to do as Jesus and spread truth, but i feel that only happened from starting in tolerant position not a fundamentalist view. Jesus did not compromise on his values and god he did show tolerance and patience. All that intolerance has given us is more wars and more polarization.

    @linus

    “For example, the Bush family and the Clinton family might genuinely hate each other, and might be convinced that they have serious ideological differences based on the topics they chose for their respective senior theses at Yale or Harvard, but the American people aren’t seeing the difference anymore. To quote the man talking about the Falkland Islands war: “It’s like two bald men fighting over a comb.” And voters are sick of it. That is where the “polarization” is occurring.”

    As I agree very much with this. Both sides that i think is even more amusing is they call left “elite”, but most on the right are “elite” as well. It is not about education this term has been thrown around since the beginning and guess what the founders of this country was “elite” all of them. I think we all need to start participating because the people that are the real “elites” are going to take over and we may see our freedoms continue to leave. Bush gave us the patriot act, and yet it still there. Obama has left that law in place and from the sounds of if we are having secret trails and people disappearing. I am afraid if it continues we will be much like nazi germany soon. I think we all both right and left need to start waking up or we may lose this type forum to agree to disagree. Yet how do we get people to participate more that seems to be a problem we have had for over a century in this country.

  • “You could just as easily say that nobody feels any inclination to give back to their community because they know the government will forcibly take their money and do it for them.”
    Linus,
    I lived for several years in that social safety-netted paradise, Europe, and came away with the distinct impression that charity was not a priority there. Tax rates are high and the attitudes that “the government takes care of that,” and “given what I’m contributing, I’m taking full advantage of my entitlements” are pervasive. I believe it’s been pointed out before that the bulk of contributions in the wake of major disasters usually come from private charities in the U.S.

    “We always harken back to some mythical time when everybody compromised and got along swell. This never happened. Ever.”
    Paul,
    Funny thing–my husband got into a conversation with a very liberal religious Sister (older than he) last weekend. She told him she couldn’t think of any president who had been treated so roughly by the press so early in his administration as Obama. Not one. Amazing how keen our perception of “rough treatment” becomes when it’s happening to a public figure we like.

  • I hope Matthews never shuts up. He demonstrates what liberalism does to someone.

  • I submit that that is also a demonstration of a warped (universal it seems) sense of journalism.

    When I listen to, read, or watch the “news” I want to be informed. It’s not that difficult: How?; How many?; What?; When?, Where?, Who?; etc. Just the facts . . .

    Seems to me the universal journalist warp is the omission of facts that don’t advance the “narrative.” Regarding the Miner Miracle: Did any US journalist report that the first thing the miners requested when they were provided with the rescue tube was a Crucifix? Or, that our Pope personally blessed and sent each a Rosary? That they asked for statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Lorenzo? There were many other faith facts that were censored.

    Finally, I wouldn’t hear/see liberal liars’ brain farts if they weren’t posted here.

  • Mr.Zummo- Thank you for your ability to articulate a fundamentally sound Catholic understanding of the co-equal principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.

    Thank you as well for using such an “equus asinus” (in the words of my beloved Latin professor), aka, Chris Matthews, to make your point.

  • It’s a mistake to conflate the political state with the social order, but it’s also a mistake to separate the two. Government can become something separate from the people, a tyrannical state, but it can also be a means by which the people practice justice and even charity.

  • but it can also be a means by which the people practice justice and even charity

    Not precisely ‘charity’, but redistribution and collective consumption. Discretionary authority in the distribution of benefits invites corruption.

  • Pingback: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. « Vox Nova
  • You know, I have to admit that I had a rather long blog written out in response to Mr. Minion’s post, but then I came to this sentence:

    The tea parties embody the worst elements of the mob rule, and mobs rarely serve the common good. There are many antecedents in history – the one that comes to mind is the riot of the Blues and the Greens against the tax policies of emperor Justinian that led to the Nika riots and the burning of Constantinople. There is no way that any of this can be seen as conservative.

    And I thought to myself, why waste time refuting that which is self-refuting.

    Affectionately,
    “that guy”

The Klan and Progressivism

Wednesday, July 21, AD 2010

(Guest post by Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative.  This post orignally appeared here at Cranky Conservative.)

Michael Zak does what all too many on the left fail to do:  crack open some history books and take a real look at the history of the Ku Klux Klan.  Zak correctly notes that when the Klan was at its zenith during the 1920s, it was a terrorist wing of the Democratic party, and that since its inception, Republicans were at the forefront in trying to take it down.

It would have been far more truthful for the congresswoman to have admitted the fact that all those who wore sheets a long time ago lifted them to wear Democratic Party clothing.  Yes, the Ku Klux Klan was established by the Democratic Party.  Yes, the Ku Klux Klan murdered thousands of Republicans — African-American and white – in the years following the Civil War.  Yes, the Republican Party and a Republican President, Ulysses Grant, destroyed the KKK with their Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

How did the Ku Klux Klan re-emerge in the 20th century?  For that, the Democratic Party is to blame.

It was a racist Democrat President, Woodrow Wilson, who premiered Birth of a Nation in the White House.  That racist movie was based on a racist book written by one of Wilson’s racist friends from college.  In 1915, the movie spawned the modern-day Klan, with its burning crosses and white sheets.

Inspired by the movie, some Georgia Democrats revived the Klan.  Soon, the Ku Klux Klan again became a powerful force within the Democratic Party.  The KKK so dominated the 1924 Democratic Convention that Republicans, speaking truth to power, called it the Klanbake.  In the 1930s, a Democrat President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, appointed a Klansman, Senator Hugo Black (D-AL), to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the 1950s, the Klansmen against whom the civil rights movement struggled were Democrats.  The notorious police commissioner Bull Connor, who attacked African-Americans with dogs and clubs and fire hoses, was both a Klansman and the Democratic Party’s National Committeeman for Alabama.  Starting in the 1980s, the Democratic Party elevated a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), to third-in-line for the presidency.

I have one quibble with all this.  It focuses too much on the partisan aspect of the KKK and not enough on its ideological drive.  After all, modern day Democrats could just claim that the Klan represented the conservative wing of the Democratic party.  This would be an error.

While most members of the Klan held what would be termed conservative views on social issues, they were hardly purveyors of Burkean conservative values.  In fact the Klan typified the Progressive/Populist movement to a tee: “conservative” socially but decidedly left-wing economically and politically.  They supported government intrusion into the economy and were backers of the New Deal.  Jesse Walker explains some of the areas of overlap between the Progressive movement and the Klan:

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65 Responses to The Klan and Progressivism

  • “They supported government intrusion into the economy and were backers of the New Deal.”

    So did, among others, Fr. Ryan–who, if I remember correctly, actually helped draft certain provisions of the new deal. Any point which applies equally to the Klan and to Ryan (and Day, and Pius XII, etc. etc.) is not really analytically incisive.

  • Rubbish. The whole point of Paul’s essay is that in regard to economic matters by no stretch of the imagination could the Klan be called conservative. Your citing of Monsignor Ryan, who was such a supporter of the New Deal that he was called Monsignor “New Deal” and criticized by many Catholics as being a near socialist, rather helps establish Paul’s point.

  • Exactly, Donald. Also, to re-iterate a point, I’m not saying that all progressives were/are racists or Klan members. Simply put, though, the Klan was not, especially at its peak, ever a conservative institution.

  • There was a strong streak of progressivism/populism amongst southern Democrats during this era, and this essay notes the reformist streak of a pretty horrific racist politician, James (“the Great White Chief”) Vardaman of Mississippi.

    http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~pmullins/chapter14.htm

  • The point: since its inception, the Democrat party has traded in class envy and hatred, e.g. KKK and progressive/socialist connections.

    Robert L. Bartley, WSJ, October 20, 2003, “The New Deal: Time for a New Look”: “The New Deal was not about economic recovery, but about displacing business as the nation’s predominant elite. . . . ”

    Walter Lippman, New York Herald Tribune, May 16, 1939, regarding the thrust of the New Deal, “ . . . one group is interested primarily in social reform and the other is interested in the control of the economic system.”

    More Bartley from above: ” . . . FDR harked back to the founder of his party. In his 1832 veto of renewing the Bank’s (Second Bank of the United States) charter, Jackson complained that its profits went to foreigners and a ‘few hundred of our own citizens, chiefly of the richest class.’ Daniel Webster replied that the message ‘wanton attack whole classes of people, for the purposes of turning against them the prejudices and resentments of other classes.’ The tradition, of course, runs strong even today in the party of Jackson and Roosevelt.”

  • Donald, so what if “many” Catholics–who, exactly?–criticize Ryan for being a “near” socialist on account of his support of the New Deal? Many other Catholics, both American and European, supported the New Deal and interpreted its interventions not as Socialism–there was, after all, still private property in post FDR America–but as necessary interventions made by the State to secure the common good. The point is not that Ryan was or was not right about the New Deal. The point is rather that any argument which claims that the KKK’s support of government intervention and the New Deal tells us anything interesting about the group’s ideology is laughable when you consider the wide array of other groups that also supported the New Deal. This fact simply doesn’t bear on what distinguishes the KKK from other such groups, and so is not analytically incisive.

    Do you understand this point?

  • Progressives and KKK may have been eugenic but for different reasons. The KKK to preserve the purity of the white race. Progressives to get rid of “the unfit”. Republicans supported NSM 200 for the same reason -to get rid of the unfit.

    Tribalism and racial tensions, IMO, are great tactic of the devil to get us at each others throats. Ethnic Catholics have gotten sucked into this as well.

  • The political realignment later that century changed everything. Go to stormfront.org and see if people still support big government.

  • The point is rather that any argument which claims that the KKK’s support of government intervention and the New Deal tells us anything interesting about the group’s ideology is laughable

    Only if you are of the belief that support for the New Deal came from any truly conservative quarter. Of the vaguely named “groups” which supported the New Deal, how many of them can be termed conservative? There were also other elements of the Klan’s platform that clearly favored populist and statist intervention mentioned in the post and the cited articles. Support for the New Deal is hardly the only evidence of the Klan’s non-conservatism.

    he political realignment later that century changed everything. Go to stormfront.org and see if people still support big government.

    Yes, the current manifestation of the Klan is not as statist as the old Klan, but the several hundred whackados that still cling to the white power mantra of the Klan support protectionist policies that are not much different than what was being touted back in the 1920s. More importantly, I was focusing on the Klan when it was a relevant political faction in this country, not a couple of hillbillies who have computer access.

  • Perhaps another way to address the New Deal issue is to point out that it is but one of many things that demonstrate the Klan’s populism. While perhaps support for the New Deal in and of itself is not evidence of the Klan’s non-conservativism, that, in conjunction with the other aspects of their general philosophy show a group that had more in common with the Progressive movement than with traditional conservatism.

  • Paul,

    I don’t find the term “conservative” to be a helpful descriptor here, as it lends itself to imprecision and, at times, equivocation.

    For example, is it or is it not a “conservative” position that government intervention in the economy should be avoided? Well, depending upon whether you are talking about 16th century England or 21st century America you will get two different answers. What we usually mean when we talk about “conservative” economic policies in the twenty-first century is, as you know, more precisely described in terms of neoliberalism, with all its attendent arguments and assumptions, which themselves need to be spelled out, and about which many different people (eg. Bill Clinton or Ross Perot) disagree in particular cases.

    But even assuming that we’re limiting “conservative” to our own historical moment, there are a variety of “conservatisms,” each one of which defines the term in a very different way. Are neo-conservatives, for example, really conservative, or are they ugly reinstantiations of Wilsonian progressivism? Depending on whether you lean more toward First Things, toward the Front Porch Republic, or some other “conservative” blog, you will find different answers to this question. So that’s a brief explanation why, in general, I think labeling historical events/movements from differing periods to be “conservative” or “progressive” is not so helpful, and tends instead to make us read the past as if it were simply an extension of our present obsessions.

  • I was focusing on the Klan when it was a relevant political faction in this country, not a couple of hillbillies who have computer access.

    The upland South generally has a small black population and has had competitive electoral politics since the Civil War. I doubt it was ever fertile territory for the Klan. (Which makes Robert Byrd’s history all the stranger). IIRC, one of the principals of Stormfront in recent years has been James Kelso, who grew up in the Pacific Palisades section of Los Angeles. I think David Duke’s background was decidedly bourgeois as well.

  • I don’t find the term “conservative” to be a helpful descriptor here, as it lends itself to imprecision and, at times, equivocation.

    Thanks. Please tell Paul Krugman et al.

  • The Klan, Nazis, and the “white nationalists” of today were all motivated by a desire for white advancement. In the Klan’s heyday, welfare programs primarily aided whites. Today, it is perceived to mainly aid minorities. The racist philosophy hasn’t changed but the policy implications have. They’re rent seekers who will move into whichever house, progressive or conservative, that best promotes their agenda. If they lived in Mexico, they’d be all for free trade with their white brethren in America.

    I will say that today’s liberals should reexamine their protectionist and non-interventionist positions, considering the fact that racists correctly believe that the effect of protectionism and sometimes non-intervention is the advancement of the white race at the expense of non-whites.

  • In the Klan’s heyday, welfare programs primarily aided whites.

    In 1924, about 88% of the population was caucasian. It is not surprising that the ‘welfare programs of the day’ (orphanages, poor houses, veterans’ hospitals, asylums, and sanitoriums) had a predominantly caucasian clientele.

  • AD, exactly, which is why racists didn’t oppose it at the time.

  • Glad to see this article here, Paul. Did you notice how the realignment / Southern Strategy came up?

  • Progressives, exemplified in the political arena by the likes of Woodrow Wilson, sought to radically alter (or simply ignore) the US Constitution so as to permit greater state intervention into most areas of our lives. Wilson wanted America to model itself after Great Britain, turning itself into a Parliamentary system. They wanted to rip apart the institutional mechanisms that the Framers designed that slowed down the machinery of government. Popular reform, according to the Progressive movement, had to happen quicker and without those pesky contrivances like separation of powers and indirect elections (in other words, American republicanism). The system had to be massively overhauled and cater to popular whims.

    This is admittedly a rather crude generalization, but I think it captures the key points of the Progressive movement. And while I’m sure not every man who took that oath on Stone Mountain or at various locations around the country for the next couple of decades agreed with or even knew about each of these tenets, they were by and large sympathetic to most of these goals.

    Call it whatever you want to. Just don’t call it conservative.

  • Glad to see this article here, Paul. Did you notice how the realignment / Southern Strategy came up?

    Yep.

    As discussed at my blog there are several problems with this counter-argument. It tacitly assumes that Republicans and Democrats switched places. Disaffected racist Democrats switched parties, goes the logic, except that they all seemed to switch to a party that was even more hostile to the KKK specifically and was more supportive of granting civil rights to blacks. Curious. It almost makes you think that there just might have been something else to this realignment.

  • “In fact the Klan typified the Progressive/Populist movement to a tee: “conservative” socially but decidedly left-wing economically and politically.”

    I don’t even know about the social conservatism. How do you define that? “Progressivism” extended well into the sphere of morality, only in that day, it was called eugenics and racial hygiene. Many states in this country once had eugenics laws on the books, while racists promoted abortion, sterilization, contraception, and other means to reduce undesirable populations. That’s not the kind of “social conservatism” I know.

    Its safe to say that Nazism and its American equivalent were almost as fanatically dedicated to equality as their leftist counterparts – they just wanted equality among one race.

    We see plenty of that today as well; among the “progressive” elements of the pro-immigration debate, there are vicious Hispanic racist groups. “For the race everything; for those outside the race, nothing” is the slogan of one of their groups. They march with signs that say “whitey go back to Europe” and other racially charged rhetoric. And they know full well that in this country, they are semi-officially allowed to conduct themselves as full blown racists without any political or media censure by the self-hating, self-loathing white liberals.

    I don’t see anything particularly “racist”, therefore, about protectionist policies. Hispanic racists want open borders and free trade to facilitate the reconquista.

    I agree with WJ’s comment:

    “I think labeling historical events/movements from differing periods to be “conservative” or “progressive” is not so helpful, and tends instead to make us read the past as if it were simply an extension of our present obsessions.”

    If one must use such labels, at least make them proper nouns. An old-timey Progressive is not a modern progressive necessarily, anymore than an old-timey republican is a modern Republican.

  • The realignment was complete at the party leader level by LBJ though it would take a generation to trickle down. Compare LBJ to Goldwater and Nixon. You’re not suggesting that racists should’ve preferred LBJ to Goldwater, are you?

  • Compare LBJ to Goldwater and Nixon. You’re not suggesting that racists should’ve preferred LBJ to Goldwater, are you?

    Oh of course not. As we all know, LBJ was a forward-thinking saint who didn’t have a racist bone in his body. He was motivated by only altruistic motivations to advance the cause of Civil Rights. Just ask him:

    “I’ll have those n*ggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”

    That’s right, LBJ.

  • Right, Paul! Blacks were so dumb not to vote for Goldwater.

  • So, blacks vote for progressive Dems (even former KKK) because . . .

  • Because they are generally more responsive to black interests. If you’re black and your choices are a candidate who supports the Civil Rights Act and the other who doesn’t, it’s not a difficult choice.

    I should clarify that I’m not saying that all Democratic positions favor blacks. Some clearly do not (e.g., school vouchers) but on the whole, the scale tips in favor of the Democrats. That also isn’t to say that issues apart from race aren’t important but at least on issues where race is a factor, there is reason to trust Democrats over Republicans.

    To say otherwise is to imply that blacks are so dumb that they vote against their own interests and values.

  • AD, exactly, which is why racists didn’t oppose it at the time.

    Were there or were there not black inmates in these institutions?

  • While we are at it, is it really your opinion that the relatives of some fellow mad and dying of tertiary syphilis in a state asylum are ‘rent seekers’?

  • I think progressives do seem to think more in terms of group identity so early on it was unions, immigrants and the KKK. Now it has changed to racial groups, women, gays and unions. And that leads to this good of the herd mentality that I find troubling.

    Classical liberals – Hayek for example -wanted to see people as individuals first. Maybe part of the fight in the GOP are between those who want favor the individualist mind set and those who want to preserve
    or rescue a way of life, through get tough laws if necessary.

    As some one who reveres the bill of rights, my sympathies are with Hayek. The tradtionalists though, using the government to enforce morality which seems to be a Catholic view. But that seems to me like the government coercing consciences from which I viscerally rebel.

    Learning

  • “The point is not that Ryan was or was not right about the New Deal. The point is rather that any argument which claims that the KKK’s support of government intervention and the New Deal tells us anything interesting about the group’s ideology is laughable when you consider the wide array of other groups that also supported the New Deal. This fact simply doesn’t bear on what distinguishes the KKK from other such groups, and so is not analytically incisive.

    Do you understand this point?”

    Oh I understand what you are arguing and it is rubbish. Conservatives in this country uniformly opposed the New Deal. Paul was making the point that the Klan supported the New Deal and were on the Left in this country on economic issues, and therefore to consider them to be conservatives is ludicrous. Your choice of John Ryan to support your contention merely indicates that you know little about the career of Monsignor Ryan.

  • “To say otherwise is to imply that blacks are so dumb that they vote against their own interests and values.”

    That’s more or less what some black political speakers, such as Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, argue. Not necessarily that blacks are “dumb”, but that they’ve been sold a false ideology of resentment and entitlement by the post-MLK “civil rights” leadership, i.e. Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, et. al. Peterson sees black resentment of whites as the key to keeping blacks dependent upon big government.

    Of course you can always label him an “Uncle Tom” if you like.

  • I find it somewhat ironic that progressives will tout books like What’s Wrong With Kansas under the premise that blue collar and rural whites are so dumb that they can be hoodwinked by religious and cultural charlatans into voting against their economic “best interests”, yet recoil at the notion that blacks might be voting against their own interests and values.

  • People vote against their own interests and values all the time, usually due to a misperception of the politicians they are electing, a tribal affiliation to one party no matter what (Parts of Illinois still vote the way they do due to partisan differences dating back to the Civil War) and intense peer pressure.

  • AD, using your logic racists shouldn’t be protectionists because it will help some black people. And I’m pretty sure “rent seekers” was in reference to racists.

  • To be fair, neither national party is in anyone’s interest.

    It is always a question of which is least bad. And sometimes people put more faith in candidates than they do parties. Quite often in fact.

  • And I’m pretty sure “rent seekers” was in reference to racists.

    Who had no relatives in asylums, sanitoriums, veterans’ hospitals, or poor houses, right?

  • AD, using your logic racists shouldn’t be protectionists because it will help some black people.

    No, that is not my logic. Prior to 1933, common provision by public agencies was manifest in institutional care provided by state employees. The employees in question were seldom on the payroll of the central government (the Veterans’ Administration excepted). I think there were some pensions provided by that agency, but that’s about it. It seems rather contrived (though I suppose not beyond the realm of possibility) that the absence of income transfer programs prior to 1933 is attributable to anyone’s supposition that the beneficiaries would be black; I would suggest that the contours of common provision were determined by the common opinion that some sort of conditions so merited (schizophrenia, war injuries) and some did not (general impecuniousness).

  • Not necessarily that blacks are “dumb”, but that they’ve been sold a false ideology of resentment and entitlement by the post-MLK “civil rights” leadership, i.e. Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, et. al. Peterson sees black resentment of whites as the key to keeping blacks dependent upon big government.

    That necessarily means that they’re dumb enough to fall for it. You’ll find plenty of blacks who aren’t fans of Jesse Jackson or Sharpton but they still vote Democrat. And yes, I would consider Jesse Lee Peterson an Uncle Tom. It’s one thing to say that the black community bears certain responsibilities. All blacks would agree with that. But it’s quite another to say that the government bears none when it comes to aiding blacks.

    Don, I find it far more likely that blacks for Democrat because they have a rational reason to.

  • People vote against their own interests and values all the time,

    Or they have their own strata about what matters in public life, which can be regrettable indeed.

  • That necessarily means that they’re dumb enough to fall for it.

    RR, most people do not follow public affairs. They have other things to do with the space available in their head, things rather more important for their immediate livlihood.

  • But it’s quite another to say that the government bears none when it comes to aiding blacks.

    Do you mean blacks as blacks or blacks as individuals in certain social circumstances?

  • AD, what is your explanation as to why racists turned against wealth redistribution programs?

  • “And yes, I would consider Jesse Lee Peterson an Uncle Tom.”

    Wow, ok. Well at least you’re honest about your contempt for black people who dare to disobey the party line.

  • No, I’m okay with Colin Powell, Condozella Rice, and Justice Thomas. But at least you’re honest about your belief that anyone who disagrees with Peterson’s self-hatred does so for partisan reasons.

  • AD, what is your explanation as to why racists turned against wealth redistribution programs?

    I am not familiar with the degree to which the two positions have been correlated over time.

    Huey Long advocated redistributing assets and there was a point in time when both George McGovern and William Loeb advocated confiscatory estate taxes, though for different reasons. However, this sort of thing has been fairly unusual in American public life.

  • RR,

    You’re really unhinged on this one. You usually defend the center-left view quite reasonably, but not this time.

    You seem to be insisting that blacks ought to vote as a herd, that individual black people couldn’t possibly have interests apart from blacks as an abstract group. It isn’t as bad as slavery, but it is still a form of dehumanization.

    You think Peterson hates himself? I’ve read his book, I’ve heard him speak, and I’ve met him in person – nothing could be further from the truth.

    You’re so desperate to cling to this narrative, and to keep black people squarely in the D column, that you’ll resort to saying malicious things about a person you know nothing about. It scares you that the black man might stop unthinkingly towing the line, doesn’t it?

    Peterson’s message is a Christian message, a deeply Christian message – that people must let go of their hatreds in order to liberate themselves from oppression.

  • You seem to be insisting that blacks ought to vote as a herd

    No, I didn’t.

    You’re so desperate to cling to this narrative, and to keep black people squarely in the D column

    No desire to keep blacks in the D column here.

    It scares you that the black man might stop unthinkingly towing the line, doesn’t it?

    I’d be more than happy if he stopped unthinking.

    Peterson’s message is a Christian message, a deeply Christian message – that people must let go of their hatreds in order to liberate themselves from oppression.

    Yes, blame the victim. That’s exactly what’s wrong with him.

  • Yes, blame the victim. That’s exactly what’s wrong with him.

    You labeled the man an Uncle Tom simply because he refused to toe the line that you expect him to toe. It is fitting that you should do so, because in a discussion about racism it’s helpful to have a reminder of one of the nastier forms of racism – that of the left-wing, paternalistic variety. We wouldn’t want black people to have to think for themselves and try to help themselves, now would we. Superman whitey to the rescue.

  • Just for the record, the Klan did have some GOP supporters in the 1920s, most notably Gov. Edward L. Jackson of Indiana, elected with the explicit endorsement of the Klan, and the all-time worst governor of Illinois, Gov. Len Small. By the mid-1920s more than half the seats in the Indiana legislature were held by Klan members — representing three political parties!

    Perhaps the Democratic connection to the Klan was largely a Southern phenomenon, since in the northern states, and especially in large cities, the Democratic Party was (and in many cases still is) firmly controlled by Irish and other ethnic Catholics — exactly the kind of white people the KKK most despised.

    I say this not to cast any aspersions on present-day Republicans but simply to point out that the Klan’s bigotry crossed political boundaries.

  • You labeled the man an Uncle Tom simply because he refused to toe the line that you expect him to toe.

    If he toes Uncle Tom’s line, what else am I supposed to call him?

    We wouldn’t want black people to have to think for themselves and try to help themselves, now would we.

    I’m the one here claiming that blacks can think for themselves. Others here and Uncle Tom are arguing that they cannot.

  • Yes, blame the victim. That’s exactly what’s wrong with him.

    Whatever this fellow Peterson’s message is or is not, nursing grievances in the sort of social circumstances there are in this country is bound to be a superlatively unproductive activity.

    I can think of three or four public policies which have been or might be quite beneficial to the black population and a mess of others which are less beneficial (or injurious) and do collateral damage to boot.

    I have been reading newspapers for thirty five years or so and the indicators I have seen are that the fraternity of black politicians so rendered has no interest in the former and is militant on behalf of the latter. All of which is regrettable.

  • If he toes Uncle Tom’s line, what else am I supposed to call him?

    You haven’t demonstrated how he actually fits this disgusting label. The ball’s in your court.

    I’m the one here claiming that blacks can think for themselves.

    Yeah, you keep thinking that RR. It’s amusing to see someone so wrapped up in self-denial.

  • Paul, I will keep on thinking that blacks can think for themselves regardless of what people here claim.

    AD, that politicians have conflicting interests should be no surprise. Those who stick to principles against pressure are rare.

  • AD, that politicians have conflicting interests should be no surprise. Those who stick to principles against pressure are rare.

    Your response is perfectly non sequitur.

  • Did the Klan support the New Deal? I thought by that point the organization was all but defunct.

  • If he toes Uncle Tom’s line, what else am I supposed to call him?

    It’s not clear to me how you can think Peterson “toes Uncle Tom’s line” but not Justice Thomas. Their politics seem pretty similar.

    Incidentally, I was just reading the Wikipedia entry for Uncle Tom, and it’s fascinating how an originally admirable character was turned into a term of abuse.

  • It’s not clear to me how you can think Peterson “toes Uncle Tom’s line” but not Justice Thomas. Their politics seem pretty similar.

    Because it’s not about politics. You can be a black right-winger and still not be an Uncle Tom. I admit that I don’t much about Justice Thomas’ views on race other than his opinions in the Michigan cases which I found reasonable. I could be wrong about him but I give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/26/080526fa_fact_packer

    I just chanced on this piece in which Pat Buchanan says it was Nixon’s strategy from the start to attract the Southern Wallace Democrats. One memo stated “We should do what is within our power to have a black nominated for Number Two, at least at the Democratic National Convention.”

  • If you are going to cite Buchanan restrainedradical, you really need to go to the horse’s mouth. Here is a column from 2002 in which Buchanan,while lambasting his usual bug-a-boo the “neo-cons” denies that the Southern Strategy was about race.

    http://buchanan.org/blog/pjb-the-neocons-and-nixons-southern-strategy-512

    “Richard Nixon kicked off his historic comeback in 1966 with a column on the South (by this writer) that declared we would build our Republican Party on a foundation of states rights, human rights, small government and a strong national defense, and leave it to the “party of Maddox, Mahoney and Wallace to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice.””

  • Notice that rr still has not offered any evidence to justify his claims about Peterson. Evidently, though, it has something about daring to think unlike other black people about race.

    And yes, the fact that we even use the term Uncle Tom at all is pretty sad, doubly so when we consider the nature of the character in the novel.

  • I just chanced on this piece in which Pat Buchanan says it was Nixon’s strategy from the start to attract the Southern Wallace Democrats.

    Exactly what public policy pursued between 1969 and 1977 would have done that? The Philadelphia Plan, perhaps? How about the Office of Minority Business Enterprise?

    Politicians seek votes. They do not inquire too much into the inner lives of members of the electorate in so doing. Is it your contention that Nixon should have told a quarter of the American electorate to not vote because they were unfit to vote or perhaps cast a ballot for Hubert Humphrey?

  • Don, the piece I linked to quotes directly from the horse’s mouth.

    AD, Nixon apparently rejected Buchanan’s more racist proposals but I think it’s safe to say that Nixon painted the party as somewhat less hostile to racists than the Democratic party. Why did Strom Thurmond switch parties?

  • Paul, I agree. The hateful charge of Uncle Tom, like the puerile psychobabble about “self-hatred,” is a scoundrel’s refuge and should have no place on a blog grounded in reason and Catholic morality. Very disappointing. Reasonable men can believe that government welfare systems are poisonous to culture and the human spirit, and that includes reasonable black men.

  • I have no insights as to why Strom Thurmond did what he did at any point in his life.

    Barry Goldwater had a libertarian objection to civil rights laws. It was enough to garner Goldwater a mass of support in the Deep South, a ballot from Thurmond among them. However, that view was quite atypical in the Republican Party (80% of the Republican congressional caucus casting votes for such legislation) and not replicated by any other post-war Republican candidate for that office.

    The breakdown of the political monopoly of the Democratic Party in the South began in 1952 and was not complete until 1994. It was a process that antedated and post-dated the more limited range of years when agitation over the terms of race relations was salient (1955-71). You might consider that Southern voters, like anyone else, can be motivated by a number of vectors and concerns. Characters like Richard Russell and James Eastland were no longer functioning as effective gatekeepers on these matters, the national elites of the party were often represented by the likes of Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern (critics of America as a political society who made the position of the Democratic Party as a voice of Southern identity increasingly untenable), and the modal view of Democratic politicos on other questions was incongruent with Southern preferences.

  • Notice also how RR mocks and dismisses Peterson’s Christian message about overcoming hatred of others as some sort of delusion that perpetuates his oppression by “the man”.

    What crude materialism! I guess God’s love and salvation aren’t enough either – he better start doling out celestial welfare checks and establishing racial quotas for admittance into heaven.

Chutes, Ladders, & Progressivism

Monday, September 21, AD 2009

I came across this comment a while back, and I think it summarizes the experience of many of my fellow law and MBA classmates (all of whom are recent graduates or current students):

I don’t know how it was elsewhere, but the game my friends and I were sold had breezy constant ladders and shallow painless chutes. Now the ladders are falling apart or growing queues, and the chutes have proved to be sudden and devastating.

Now, on the one hand, it’s almost never rational to expect wonderful career opportunities to be awaiting one at every turn. And the graduates he’s talking about – people with sparkling resumes from the most prestigious undergrad and graduate schools – are hardly Dickens-level sympathetic protagonists. On the other hand, endless career opportunities are what many grad school admission offices are selling. And for many students and recent graduates of these institutions, six figures in debt with rapidly eroding job prospects,  the recession has been a rather traumatic experience.  This is certain to have a number of consequences, but I’ve been idly speculating that twenty to thirty years down the line, when they will be in a position to influence public policy, these individuals are likely to be more sympathetic than they might otherwise to redistributive policies. And, as it turns out, there is actually a recent academic study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that supports this idea. Here is the abstract:

Do generations growing up during recessions have different socio-economic beliefs than generations growing up in good times? We study the relationship between recessions and beliefs by matching macroeconomic shocks during early adulthood with self-reported answers from the General Social Survey. Using time and regional variations in macroeconomic conditions to identify the effect of recessions on beliefs, we show that individuals growing up during recessions tend to believe that success in life depends more on luck than on effort, support more government redistribution, but are less confident in public institutions.  Moreover, we find that recessions have a long-lasting effect on individuals’ beliefs.

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3 Responses to Chutes, Ladders, & Progressivism

  • Good point, John. I suppose the other influencing factor might be how quick and what kind of a recovery we see in the years to come.

  • After this administration I expect the political pendulum to swing strongly against anything smacking of government redistribution of wealth for a good long while. In this administration I think we will see a New Deal that is a flat failure. (It is arguable that the first New Deal was also a flat failure but such was not the opinion of a solid voting majority of the American public.)

  • I was more thinking of the different ways that economic downturns seem to have affected people. My dad’s parents were both 19 in 1929, so they had a very, very depression era mentality. Nothing was ever thrown away which might be useful, a huge emphasis on savings and paying off debt, always working extra hard and squirreling things away for the expected next crash.

    Compare that to people who weathered the 1980/1982 recession, or like me who came out of college in the post 9/11 slow-down. Maybe my co-workers and I are way a-typical, but aside from a tendency to brag back and forth over beer about layoffs that we’ve seen or experienced, seeing a couple years of rough employment doesn’t seem to have slowed anyone down much or changed their habits.

    I think the big determining factor will be: in 2015 or 2020, will people remember long years of uncertainty and hard times, and feel like they need to save all the time and avoid debt in order to be prepared for the next one, or will they talk about how they worked up from the bottom and had it as hard as everyone, but from the vantage point of having basically “caught up” within 2-3 years?

The Great NYU Kimmel Food Court Occupation comes to a bloodless end. (Or "how NOT to spend your college tuition")

Thursday, February 26, AD 2009
[I’m aware we have just entered into the Lenten season and should be reflecting on more serious matters, but this was too good to pass up — bear with me.]

Last week a group of “student-empowering, social-justice-minded” students and assorted ragamuffins and rabblerousers from neighboring colleges (many affiliated with TakeBackNYU) had the stunningly-brilliant idea of barricading themselves in a food court in New York University’s Kimmell Center, “in a historic effort to bring pressure on NYU for its administrative and ethical failings regarding transparency, democracy and protection of human rights.”

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7 Responses to The Great NYU Kimmel Food Court Occupation comes to a bloodless end. (Or "how NOT to spend your college tuition")

  • One expects some idiotic behavior from college students. Heaven knows that I engaged in some during my time at the University of Illinois. However these mopes were abusing the privilege.

  • Oh blessed be the Lord of Hosts. My new fave RC blog includes mention of my co-favorite story of the previous week- ranked with the unfortunate demise of Mr. Travis T. (for The) Chimp. Loads of fun to watch these spoiled underedjumacted brats perform a community theater version of 1969 Student Takeover. With modern props- cell phones, laptops, sleeping bags. Loaded with their fourth rate Marxist rhetoric. Their solidarity with the Palestinians- which I assume does not work well with the university’s loyal Jewish donors. Yet I see this pointless exercise as a valuable expose. As Mummy and Daddy are paying 48 large per year so little Johnny or Susie can stage their hissyfit in the cafeteria- We Demand Vegan Meals, of course. The whole exercise serves as a horrible failure of the university’s mission. Badly planned, horrifically executed, ended with whimper and nothing resembling bang. If their esteemed professors are experts in the art and science of thinking, their charges have been badly trained, or sleeping off last night’s buzz in 8:30 class, or lack the wherewithal to adjust to these academic requirements. Regardless- NYU exposes itself as a bigtime scam. Start to bad comedic end of demonstration.

  • Meh, you can send your kids to UF and pull a “don’t taze me, bro!” for much less $ and get a lot more airtime out of it..

  • They live in the age of Olbermann rants, Starbucks overloads, and liberal claptrap.

    I can just see how Vatican III would look like with guitar strumming-non-clerical wearing priests and nuns staging a protest in Mother Teresa’s mess hall inside the Vatican. Bring in the Swiss guard telling them that they need to leave in order for the homeless and destitute can be served.

    LOL

  • High-larious.

    I’m glad that we have brave minds like this willing to facilitate when conformity oppresses.

  • Pretty funny and a sad commentary on what the scions of the elite classes seem to believe exercising their ‘rights’ and being ‘socially responsible’ mean.

    Don’t taze me bro

When to be Progressive

Monday, January 26, AD 2009

Being a contarian sort of creature, I’ve been wanting for some time to write a post on why the progressive instinct is sometimes the right one. I’m quite certain that neither conservatism nor progressivism, properly understood, is the only possible view for the moral and reasonable citizen — and yet I find myself impeded in this by being in fact a very temperamentally conservative person.

First off, I’d like to suggest that as most precisely used “conservative” and “progressive” (I’m avoiding the term “liberal” here because it strikes me as having an even more confusing and increasingly imprecise meaning) are very relative terms. The progressive seeks to change current social structures, attitudes and political institutions in order to make them better. He seeks to progress. Conservative seeks to preserve existing structures and institutions, and when he accedes to change he urges that it be done slowly in order to avoid the disruption which rapid change often results in.

I would argue that there are some times when we should follow the progressive instinct, others when we should clearly follow the conservative one, and many in which it is a matter of debate which should be followed.

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51 Responses to When to be Progressive

  • “A society without the means to change itself is without means of its own preservation.” – Edmund Burke

  • Chesterton has m any essays on being progressive; he is generally critical. And the reason foe that is the failure to define [even more or less] what is meant by being “progressive”. A brake-less car running downhill is progressing at greater and greater speed.

    The good of progress can lie only in progressing to a particular goal.

  • I think Gabriel nailed it. The whole idea that “change” is good is simply wrong, as wrong as the notion that “change” bad. Neither is true, if the change is good in intention, rightness of the act, and a result that is good, it is good, otherwise it is bad. Those generally referred to as “conservative” here are those who resist changes they believe to fail one of these tests, and to be in favor of those changes which they believe to pass all of these tests. My best understanding of “progressive” is the imperative to change the rightness of the “act” or even the definition of “good result”.

    I’m not sure I would consider the American Revolution progressive, it was not a revolution as such but an establishment of independence based on established principles and natural law, that is much different from a revolution.

  • Chesterton is a man with a thought on everything, and now that I think about it there’s one which touches closely on what I was trying to get at here. In 1924 newspaper column he wrote:

    “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types–the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine.”

    Now, I would agree that many progressives now (as in 1924 and as in 1789) hail change for change’s sake, but I think to a great extent that stems from a shorthand in which they assume that everyone must share their ideas of what the goal of society ought to be. One can hardly progress without a goal you’re progressing towards, and if you ask someone why they support same sex marriage or abortion rights or some such you won’t get, “Because that’s a change” but rather “Because marriage should be any kind of loving compact between two adults” or “Because women need to be equal to men not slaves to their wombs.” I think those are things we should run away from terribly fast rather than progressing towards the, but they’re definitely goals.

    Indeed, in the wider sense, I’d argue that one of the basic differences between progressives and conservatives is often that progressives believe human society is mutable and that we can thus achieve a world with no proverty, or no ignorance, or no war. So progressivism often seeks big, world changing solutions which will solve big problems. Conservatives are (or ought to be) much more modest in their goals and recognize that society is not perfectable. But in this comes the danger of hesitating to correct evils that _can_ be ameliorted.

    As for the American Revolution, my question would be: To what extent were the principles and natural law which formed the basis of the Declaration of Independence truly seen as established at the time? Only a couple generations before the people asserting the right of the representatives of the people over the rights of the king were the Roundheads of the English Civil War and the Parliamentarians of the Glorious Revolution — in neither case people one could label as “conservative”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m highy supportive of the ideals of the American Revolution — I’m just not sure one can rightly label them “conservative” within their own context — whereas in our present day to a great extent it is conservatives who want to hold on to a more classical American vision of representative government while progressives seek a much more all-encompassing modern state.

  • DarwinCatholic,
    As for the American Revolution, my question would be: To what extent were the principles and natural law which formed the basis of the Declaration of Independence truly seen as established at the time? Only a couple generations before the people asserting the right of the representatives of the people over the rights of the king were the Roundheads of the English Civil War and the Parliamentarians of the Glorious Revolution — in neither case people one could label as “conservative”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m highy supportive of the ideals of the American Revolution — I’m just not sure one can rightly label them “conservative” within their own context — whereas in our present day to a great extent it is conservatives who want to hold on to a more classical American vision of representative government while progressives seek a much more all-encompassing modern state.

    I think if you accept my premise, that conservatives are not opposed to change by nature but that the change must meet the overriding principles of good intent, right action, and good result, then the American declaration of independance is conservative (not that it is not “progressive” either). The right of self determination has a long history in jurisprudence, recognized in the Magna Carta 500 years before. Keep in mind that the turning point for the declaration was not the fact that the colonies were subject to royal rule as were all the constituencies of the British Empire, but that they lacked the representation which was afforded to the English alone. In fact, it was not strictly King George alone who was oppressing the colonies but the British Parlaiment.

    In my point of view, to be conservative is to believe in certain absolutes principles, and then to apply those principles to the situation of the day. Take the “New Deal” it was opposed by conservatives at the time, but today the damage of dismantling the Federal welfare state that it resulted in would be so grave that no mainstream conservative would support it. On the other hand, most conservatives believe that reforms can and do improve the situation, and so they support them.

    Progressivism, I think decries the possibility of absolutes which might interfere with the remaking of society to the absolute equality they seek.

    Matt

  • We cannot escape the Enlightenment, liberal framework of our existence. It is in everything, which is not all bad…..but I would say – with a recent VN debate on my mind – that a sentiment of morality, custom, the good, virtue, is the way to go….anti-ideology, anti-totalizing. This is not so much “conservative” as it is humanist.

    Much of American conservatism is heavily infused with liberal, EN, contractual thought….the assumptions of Locke, basically. But liberty and freedom as first virtue is a false anthropology. We should be free insofar as we are free to seek the good! Goodness and virtue are of the highest value.

  • I think the “progressive” label is misleading. I began moving from left to right when I started noticing how crestfallen and sour certain writers at “The Nation” were about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of Soviet style socialism. What in the world was “progressive” I wondered, about clinging to a system which had produced so much death and misery?

    Of course, liberals are not Communists. But the liberal prescription for solving human ills has not changed. Larger government and more government control and confusing charity with spending other people’s money. Perhaps that wouldn’t matter if these social programs actually worked. But I lived in Washington DC for 13 years, a laboratory for every social program dreamt of and the crime rate never seemed to improve, the public schools got ever worse and the pot-holes got ever larger. More and bigger government was keeping a lot of people in Arlington and Alexandria and Georgetown employed – but was it really helping the folks in Anacostia?

    When people today talk of Obama’s “New New Deal” I remember that the first New Deal prolonged and deepened the Depression, which only came to an end with WWII. The “New New Deal” is not new, not fresh, and I really fear that it will turn a recesssion into a depression. Good news if you’re a left-wing policy wonk looking for employment in DC, bad news for the rest of us.

    Your post is a good reminder that we must have the wisdom to discern positive change from destructive change. One thing I truly admire liberals for is their support of MLK and the civil rights movement of the early ’60’s. The tragedy is that MLK was assassinated and more radical groups moved to the fore.

  • The fatal flaw in “progressivism” as a political ideology is that it ultimately reduces to the force of will. Might makes right; the raw exercise of power determines the Good. All is about dominant power structures. There is no appeal to a transcendent order, and there is no sense of telos. Change pointing toward what???

    Jonathanjones02 is right that liberty and freedom as first virtue is a false anthropology that often plagues conservatism; I would add that progressivism is also victim of a false anthropology, that of the preeminence of power. The only correct anthropology is that of the Cross.

  • I have often described myself as an American Conservative, because most of my political philosophy is grounded in the American Revolution: a wariness of governmental power, anti-utopianism, a firm conviction that men are not angels and that govenment is necessary because of that sad fact, that the best government tends to be that government which governs least, a fear of subordinating American sovereignty to any outside power, that the union of the states is necessary to preserve American freedom,etc. I do not agree with the Founding Fathers on everything, but on most things I am in accord with them.

  • Donna,

    great post!

    One thing I truly admire liberals for is their support of MLK and the civil rights movement of the early ’60’s. The tragedy is that MLK was assassinated and more radical groups moved to the fore.

    Conservatives of the 60’s are often villified for obstructing the civil rights movement, but that is not exactly their position:

    Bill Buckley, wrote at the time:
    we applaud the efforts to define their rights by the lawful and non-violent use of social and economic sanctions which they choose freely to exert, and to which those against whom they are exerted are free to respond, or not, depending on what is in balance. That way is legitimate, organic progress.

    Rightly or wrongly, he was applying a conservative view which believed in racial equality, but not one forced on the state or private citizens by the federal government, or by reverse discrimination policies. He may have been in error, but he was not the monster that many have painted civil rights era conservatives. Bear in mind that the civil rights era was preceded by an era when progressives were trying to remove the problem of racial inequality by exterminating “unequal” races…

    An interesting point that I have read of, is that progressives will often grab on to whatever movement is ascendant and ride it’s coat-tails to power. Thus you see a lot of far left infiltration into and integration with civil rights, gay activism, environmentalism, and even Catholic organizations.

  • “Bear in mind that the civil rights era was preceded by an era when progressives were trying to remove the problem of racial inequality by exterminating “unequal” races…”

    To me, nothing says “American progressive” more than Margaret Sanger and eugenics. Or Oliver W. Holmes writing in Buck v. Bell that “three generations of imbeciles are enough” (in favor of forced sterilization). American progressivism seems to follow the prevailing tide of opinion, hence the idea that power is everything.

  • Thus you see a lot of far left infiltration into and integration with civil rights, gay activism, environmentalism, and even Catholic organizations.

    Now that is interesting. On my way home from work, I was trying to think of a movement meant to remedy a genuine social ill that did not swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Far left infiltration certainly is one explanation. Another, perhaps, is just the human tendency to go to extremes, which is magnified in the mass (and another reason to fear an overextended government.) And there’s the rub – how do you seek to right wrongs without setting the law of unintended consequences into effect? I believe it was right, for instance, to decriminalize homosexual actions back in the ’60’s. But nobody then forsaw that gay marriage would be an issue 4 decades down the road. Heck, I don’t believe anybody saw it coming back in the ’80’s.

  • A historical note: France actually had two empires, the second under Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoleon I, from 1852-1870. A great post nonetheless, however.

  • The Radicals on the Right were wrong during the civil rights era, clearly wrong over the last 8 years by voting for dimwit W; and will, not surprisingly, be wrong on gay marriage and the environment. You are therefore deemed unfortunately hopeless. Please stand aside and let us adults take it from here.

  • “Please stand aside and let us adults take it from here.”

    Don’t you just love it when you make a point, and someone comes along a few hours later to prove it?

  • Please do not mistake your reality with reality. For yours is a special one that requires the full removal of reasoning and common sense. Nothing to fear, however; as cooler heads are now in charge and everything will be okay. It may take a little time for the grown-ups to undo the last 8 years of mid-bogglingly bad policies, but we will ultimately put it all back together again and make it all better. Sleep well, kiddo.

  • Keep digging the hole deeper, Obama-can! It gets better with everything you write.

  • I have to get it out of my system now, for once we move to full socialism I will not need to debate with you radicals as you will all be silenced, your churches shut down, and free-abortion clinics (paid for by your hard earned dollars) will spring up on every corner.

    Oops, did I just let the master plan cat out of the bag?

  • “The Radicals on the Right were wrong during the civil rights era…”

    This is historically false. Republicans were opposed to slavery, not Democrats. Republicans fought for civil rights, not Democrats. As an African American, my civil rights are partially indebted to the Republican men and women who fought for them — not to Democrats.

  • Lyndon Baines Johnson and JFK were republicans, I guess? You may try to rewrite the events of the day but you run into problems when rewriting history. It was the South, the predominantly republicans south, that fought literally to the death to try and continue slavery. I don’t think there were a lot of democrats named Bubba trying to prevent integration in the 60’s. To hang your hat on the republicans as the current representative of minorities is to miss almost every event of the last 150 years. Next you will argue that the republicans are the true protectors of the separation of church and state and are against torture. You have the right idea, just seemed to have the parties mixed up.

  • “and free-abortion clinics (paid for by your hard earned dollars)”

    What was that you were saying about reality? Mexico City, anyone?

  • Obama-can,

    I think you’re getting your history mixed up. It was the Democratically controlled south that seceded from the Union. And it was the Republicans in both chambers of congress that pushed through LBJ’s Great Society legislation.

    This is getting amusing I must say.

  • Eric Brown,
    This is historically false. Republicans were opposed to slavery, not Democrats. Republicans fought for civil rights, not Democrats. As an African American, my civil rights are partially indebted to the Republican men and women who fought for them — not to Democrats.

    This is pretty accurate regarding political parties, but I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to label all democrats as “progressives”, certainly not the the southern democrats who opposed the civil rights movement to the bitter end. Somewhere along the way the elitist northern democrats who really were progressives, realized they could abandon their genocidal approach and ride this wave to power and joined on. It may be fair to criticize democrats and republicans for a lack of action on civil rights in the 60’s, however it is certainly not terribly imbalanced on either side.

    In fairness, I think there were many principled democrats right up until the late 70’s and even into the 80’s who opposed the evils that their party was embracing, they’re all now deceased, or Republicans. Interestingly most of the old warhorses of the democrat party were once pro-life: Kennedy of course, Al Gore, Joe Biden to name a few.

    Obama-can,
    Lyndon Baines Johnson and JFK were republicans, I guess? You may try to rewrite the events of the day but you run into problems when rewriting history. It was the South, the predominantly republicans south, that fought literally to the death to try and continue slavery. I don’t think there were a lot of democrats named Bubba trying to prevent integration in the 60’s. To hang your hat on the republicans as the current representative of minorities is to miss almost every event of the last 150 years. Next you will argue that the republicans are the true protectors of the separation of church and state and are against torture. You have the right idea, just seemed to have the parties mixed up

    The greatest hero of civil rights was Abraham Lincoln, a Republican. His nemesis Jefferson Davis was a Democrat.

    The South was heavily democrat until the early 70’s as the “party of death” abandoned it’s moral values entirely and embraced the holocaust of abortion as it’s major plank. So, yes, I imagine that there were quite a lot of democrats named Bubba. You might note, as I saw mentioned somewhere recently that it was a Republican Governor who executed the Brown vs Board of Education ruling… not a deathocrat.

    Here’s a little history lesson:
    Former KKK Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd served as a Democratic congressman and senator from 1952 until today.

    Where are the progressives? Aside from the quite insane Obama-can, it would be nice to hear a defense of progressivism… or have they retreated to their haven, where posts they can’t refute are suppressed.

  • I almost suspect that Obama-can is pulling our legs. Surely nobody can be so deluded as to believe the South that fought the Civil War was Republican.

    But when I contemplate our public school system, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they’re teaching that Lincoln, the first Republican president, was actually a Democrat.

    I recently met a young person who was under the impression that Nixon “got us into” the Vietnam War. Because only Republicans get us into wars, dotcha know? He was taken aback when I told him about a certain Mr. Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. No prizes for guessing who that young person voted for in Nov.

  • Looking at a couple of the interesting comments here (which would be basically all the comments except the odd interruptions of Obama-can) I should clarify that I’m essentially using “progressive” as an opposite term to “conservative”, not in the sense of the progressive movement as an entity which has existed in more-or-less unbroken form since the mid-nineteenth century.

    Part of what I’m wrestling with here is that I on the one hand have a strong sympathy with the basic reflexive “let’s not do anything too fast — you can’t change human nature” kind of conservatism, yet at a historical level the classical liberalism of the 18th century which is what so many modern American conservatives want to “conserve” was itself a “liberal” movement against the anciene regime kind of instincts that conservatives of the 18th century had.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    so you’re referring to “progress” vs. “non-progress” more than the progressivist movement. At that point, I think you’re 100% right, there are times for both, and it is very hard to know when each inclination should be followed. The first 2 principles of double effect are relatively easy to determine, the last one is the problem… will this change have a good effect which outweighs the bad effect. Even hindsight doesn’t always provide the needed clarity.

  • And expanding on the above: I’m hesitant to call “conservatism” an approach in which one preserves that which is good and rejects that which is destructive because that basically turns “conservatism” into a shorthand for “good sense as I see it”.

    I would hope that most self declared conservatives would take that approach, but I’m trying to come to some sort of an idea of what the conservative and progressive tendencies are, and I don’t think that turning “conservative” and “progressive” into synonymns for “reasonable” and “unreasonable” will prove to be useful in describing what is a conservative and what is a progressive tendency.

    Certainly, we want both self declared conservatives and progressives to be reasonable, but doing this means understanding what our overall political tendencies are and from that coming to an understanding of when we need to go against them: When the progressive needs to realize that he may not be able to organize a new system better than the status quo; and when the conservative needs to admit that overturning the traditions of the past in a given area would actually be a good thing.

  • “It was the South, the predominantly republicans south, that fought literally to the death to try and continue slavery. I don’t think there were a lot of democrats named Bubba trying to prevent integration in the 60’s.”

    Actually virtually all the Bubbas trying to stop integration in the 60’s were Democrats. George Wallace, Bull Connor, Lester Maddox, Orville Faubus, all Democrats. The Democrats in the South fought vociferously against desegregation. In regard to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 63% of Democrats in the House voted in favor of it, while 80% of Republicans did. In the Senate, 69% of Democrats voted in favor of it, while 82% of Republicans voted in favor. The Democrat Party controlled the South following Reconstruction for two reasons: The Republican Party led the successful fight in the Civil War to preserve the Union and end slavery, and because the Republican party nationally was the party in support of Civil Rights for blacks.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    neither do I think it’s reasonable to consider “conservatism” a monolithic rejection of all change, which is the mischaracterisation used by the left. Progressivism and conservatism have real meanings beyond the root of their name, just as the americanist heresy did. Calling all support of a change “progressive” and all opposition to change “conservative” makes those words really devoid of value in my opinion.

    I do recognize that their may be an subjective aspect, an impulse to change or not change, and that’s perhaps what tends to put us in one camp or the other. I just don’t think it’s something we can generalize on. I know some conservatives, on the far right who have a radical impulse for change (the Ron Paulites are typical of this), it’s perhaps only the moderates on either side who really have a smaller impulse for change.

    I would still like to hear a response to my proposal that “progressivism” allows for the movement of the definition of what is “right” to suit the common good. Take for example the progressivist view that torture is intrinsically evil. This is a change in what is right (at least according to the Church) which for hundreds of years considered that in the circumstances of the times torture was not intrinsically evil, and even carried it out to some extent. Now, one can be conservative and say that in the present context, torture is always evil, but that’s not the same as intrinsically evil. In the same way, it appears many progressivists support women’s ordination despite the fact that Church has absolutely declared it to be impossible, they are seeking to move the goal-posts.

  • Matt,

    Would you say that it is a mischaracterisation of the right to say that “progressivism” is a monolithic movement to change things for the sake of change, rather than to seek to reform — versus revolutionize — and adapt institutions to be better oriented toward true justice?

    In regard to torture, I think you’re profoundly mistaken. I’m a theology major at a vibrantly orthodox Catholic school and I have never learned anything, nor read anything as a convert, that has asserted anything other than torture is an objectively wrong intrinsic moral evil. My boss, Fr. Joseph Pilsner, who is a moral theologian with a Ph.D. from Oxford University confirmed this fact before I even began looking into it just now. I think it is safe to side with him on this matter.

    Torture IS in a fact an intrinsic evil that is objectively wrong in and of itself. Torture hardly has any place in Christian morality given that God Himself was tortured before his ghastly death on a Cross. It seems to me hardly reasonable to argue that as Christians — imitators of Christ — we would view torture as a justified course of action given that the ends do not justify the means and the basic fact that every person is made in the image and likeness of God with an inherent dignity that cannot be violated. It is hardly conceivable to see any moment or circumstance whereas such physical and moral violence that was inflicted on the Lord can and should be inflicted on another human being.

    “A prime example [of intrinsically evil actions] is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia… Direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States , No. 22, 23, November 2007)

    Pope Benedict XVI talked about this in September 2007, when he addressed an international congress of Catholic prison ministers. “Means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners” must be eschewed by public authorities, he said. Immediately he added the following statement, which incorporates a quote taken from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: “The prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances’” (No. 404).

    The Bishops hit the point again. “The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism” (No. 88). The terminology — fundamentally — refers to something that in and of itself, by its very nature is not compatitble with human dignity. Therefore, there is no justification of it. It is an intrinsic moral evil just as abortion is. In Veritatis Splendor Pope John Paul II included ‘physical and mental torture’ in his long list of social evils that are not only ‘shameful’ (‘probra’), as they are declared to be by the Second Vatican Council, but also “intrinsically evil.”

    The following is from Gaudiem et Spes:

    “Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.”

    Torture is listed in the Catechism as a violation of the Fifth Commandment. “Torture…is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Torture is not SOMETIMES contrary to human dignity. Torture is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity, period. The government or any party may have a good intention, but the problem is that since some action is not in accord with the natural moral law; therefore, the deliberate employment of and support of torture, no matter how one tries to disguise it or make it seem not like torture, is an intrinsic moral evil, which translates in Catholic moral theology as a mortal sin.

    I’m sure this may seem like “liberal-fuzziness,” but I am taken by the Lord’s commandment to love thy enemies. I can agree that sometimes loving one’s enemies can involve an unfortunate resort to self-defense, remotely in the form of violence. But torture since it is intrinsically evil does not fit the criteria. St. Paul beautifully says in his letter to the Romans , “No ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    In the spirit of Pope John Paul II to promote the intrinsic evil of torture and the scandal of capital punishment undermines credibility as well as spiritually and morally diminishes us and any attempt to truly build a Culture of Life.

  • Eric,
    Would you say that it is a mischaracterisation of the right to say that “progressivism” is a monolithic movement to change things for the sake of change,

    yes I would.

    rather than to seek to reform — versus revolutionize —

    both are true, I don’t think it’s properly called progressive if it’s just a matter of reform.

    and adapt institutions to be better oriented toward true justice?

    This is an intention that is neither progressive nor conservative.

    In regard to torture, I think you’re profoundly mistaken. I’m a theology major at a vibrantly orthodox Catholic school and I have never learned anything, nor read anything as a convert, that has asserted anything other than torture is an objectively wrong intrinsic moral evil. My boss, Fr. Joseph Pilsner, who is a moral theologian with a Ph.D. from Oxford University confirmed this fact before I even began looking into it just now. I think it is safe to side with him on this matter. Torture IS in a fact an intrinsic evil that is objectively wrong in and of itself.

    I know Fr. Pilsner is orthodox, and he is certainly entitled to that opinion, as are you. There are many eminent theologians past and present who disagree and the Church has not definitively said otherwise.

    Fr. Harrison is a good and orthodox priest also, and he disagrees with you. As does the namesake of your Catholic school (ST, IIa IIae 65, 1). As does the great theologian St. Alphonsas Ligouri.

    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt119.html

    Ligouri:
    Under what conditions can a judge proceed to have an accused person tortured (#202)? Answer: the judge may only “descend to torture” as a last resort, i.e., when full proof cannot be obtained by non-violent means; next, there must already be “semi-complete proof” (semiplenam probationem) of the accused’s guilt arising from other evidence; and finally, certain classes of persons are to be exempt from torture, either because of their frailty or their great value to society: “men of great dignity”, knights of equestrian orders, royal officials, soldiers, doctors [probably in the general sense of learned men] and their children, pre-pubescent children, senile old folks, pregnant women, and those who are still weak after childbirth.

    Are you saying these saints and doctors of the Church are in error in their moral theology? Or is it perhaps more likely that the context and circumstances of today render torture no longer an acceptable practice as Cdl. Palazzini suggests (1954):

    Other reasons [i.e., other than human rights per se] are very weighty, especially today when sophisticated investigative methods aided by scientific expertise render much less useful any recourse to methods [i.e., torture] which, to say the least, are so imperfect. Public opinion, which carries a certain weight among the various means of deciding on specific social goals, is today clearly against the use of torture.

    Torture hardly has any place in Christian morality given that God Himself was tortured before his ghastly death on a Cross.

    Really, spare me. Christ was executed by the state, does that make capital punishment intrinsically evil? no.

    It seems to me hardly reasonable to argue that as Christians — imitators of Christ — we would view torture as a justified course of action given that the ends do not justify the means and the basic fact that every person is made in the image and likeness of God with an inherent dignity that cannot be violated. It is hardly conceivable to see any moment or circumstance whereas such physical and moral violence that was inflicted on the Lord can and should be inflicted on another human being.

    I agree, I don’t believe that the type of torture and execution Christ endured could ever be justified, but there is a large difference between that and what the Church accepted as justified for most of 2000 years.

    “A prime example [of intrinsically evil actions] is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia… Direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States , No. 22, 23, November 2007)

    Can never be justified, is not the same as intrinsically evil, and this document is not definitive in any event.

    Pope Benedict XVI talked about this in September 2007, when he addressed an international congress of Catholic prison ministers. “Means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners” must be eschewed by public authorities, he said. Immediately he added the following statement, which incorporates a quote taken from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: “The prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances’” (No. 404).

    Can never be contravened, is not the same as intrinsiclly evil, and this document is not definitive in any event.

    etc. etc. etc.

    Torture is listed in the Catechism as a violation of the Fifth Commandment. “Torture…is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Torture is not SOMETIMES contrary to human dignity. Torture is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity, period. The government or any party may have a good intention, but the problem is that since some action is not in accord with the natural moral law; therefore, the deliberate employment of and support of torture, no matter how one tries to disguise it or make it seem not like torture, is an intrinsic moral evil, which translates in Catholic moral theology as a mortal sin.

    You are proof-texting the CCC. The full quote is:

    Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity

    So, the CCC does not say that torture used in the classical ticking time bomb scenario is contrary to the respect for the person and for human dignity, nor does it say that it is intrinsically evil.

    I’m sure this may seem like “liberal-fuzziness,” but I am taken by the Lord’s commandment to love thy enemies. I can agree that sometimes loving one’s enemies can involve an unfortunate resort to self-defense, remotely in the form of violence. But torture since it is intrinsically evil does not fit the criteria. St. Paul beautifully says in his letter to the Romans , “No ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    You really need to read some more pre-Vatican II Church history, there’s 1960 years there, dig in. The Church does not instruct us to pacifism.

    In the spirit of Pope John Paul II to promote the intrinsic evil of torture and the scandal of capital punishment undermines credibility as well as spiritually and morally diminishes us and any attempt to truly build a Culture of Life.

    You need to not be so emotional in your arguments and stop talking past my actual statement, I’m sure Fr. Pilsner would not approve of such. I did NOT in any way shape or form, promote torture or capital punishment… you know this to be true. My point, which I was very precise about is that torture was permitted by the Church under certain circumstances, and now there is a move afoot to declare it intrinsically evil, thus changing the rightness of an action. Argue with the popes and St. Thomas if you like, but my statement is factual.

    I’m curious, how do you define torture? Is all means of inflicting pain mental or physical to be considered torture?

    Matt

  • Progressivism and conservatism have real meanings beyond the root of their name, just as the americanist heresy did. Calling all support of a change “progressive” and all opposition to change “conservative” makes those words really devoid of value in my opinion.

    I agree that the terms have real meanings beyond just “change” and “no-change” — to the extent that I think the “change” and “no-change” political philosophies are rooted in different understandings of human nature and the perfectability/maleability of society. However I think it’s important to try to understand the conservative and progressive approaches to society and politics outside of the specific topics in conflict now. Liberating the Russian serfs and American slaves was very much a progressive project, as was the push for civil rights and for women to vote. And yet eugenics, same sex marriage, abortion and a host of other wrongs (past and present) also spring from a progressive instinct. (And similarly, conservatives have at times clung to things that don’t deserve to be clung to — the conservative Southern Democrats of the 1950s and 60s spring to mind, as do the turn-of-the-century conservatives who strongly opposed votes for women.)

    I know some conservatives, on the far right who have a radical impulse for change (the Ron Paulites are typical of this), it’s perhaps only the moderates on either side who really have a smaller impulse for change.

    I agree that some on the far right seek very radical change in society, though I would tend to say that this makes them not truly conservative in their approaches. Reactionary, perhaps, but not conservative in a sense Burke would recognize.

    I would still like to hear a response to my proposal that “progressivism” allows for the movement of the definition of what is “right” to suit the common good.

    It happens, but I don’t think it’s conscious. Those who are strongly progressive believe that it’s possible to significantly remake society — moving it much closer to some sort of ideal. What that ideal is perceived to be, however, changes constantly, though often unconsciously. For instance, at some point feminists went from wanting women to be given voting and other key civil rights while retaining their traditional place within social and familiar structures to wanting women to be “equal” as in “the same as” men, and thus all sorts of demands centering around birth control and abortion became “feminist”. I don’t really think that was the result of a conscious, “We got the vote, now lets demand freedom from reproduction,” thought process, however, so much as that people in the movement gradually came to change their worldview in regards to what “justice” was.

    Take for example the progressivist view that torture is intrinsically evil. This is a change in what is right (at least according to the Church) which for hundreds of years considered that in the circumstances of the times torture was not intrinsically evil, and even carried it out to some extent.

    I don’t want to turn this into a torture debate thread, however I think this is a poor example. Asserting that torture is an “instrinsic evil” is not necessarily a strictly progressive view, and it’s an argument that gets into all sorts of definitional problems. Further, I think it’s a mistake to simply assume that because a practice was tolerated in the Church (and regulated and discussed by theologians) means that it was officially defended on grounds of moral theology.

    That St. Alphonsas Ligouri, to pull your example, described limited circumstances in which he thought torture might be used (clearly operating under the assumption that torture was a pretty standard method of judicial practice) does not mean that he was right — just as the fact that Paul gave advice to a slave owner on how to treat his slave kindly as a Christian does not mean that slavery is a good idea.

  • I would still like to hear a response to my proposal that “progressivism” allows for the movement of the definition of what is “right” to suit the common good.

    It happens, but I don’t think it’s conscious.

    I’m not so sure, while I think that many progressives are not actively aware of this, a glance at the ethics departments of most universities will find that there is an ongoing effort to redifine the “rightness” of an action to suit the progressive view of the common good.

    Take for example the progressivist view that torture is intrinsically evil. This is a change in what is right (at least according to the Church) which for hundreds of years considered that in the circumstances of the times torture was not intrinsically evil, and even carried it out to some extent.

    I don’t want to turn this into a torture debate thread, however I think this is a poor example. Asserting that torture is an “instrinsic evil” is not necessarily a strictly progressive view, and it’s an argument that gets into all sorts of definitional problems. Further, I think it’s a mistake to simply assume that because a practice was tolerated in the Church (and regulated and discussed by theologians) means that it was officially defended on grounds of moral theology.

    That St. Alphonsas Ligouri, to pull your example, described limited circumstances in which he thought torture might be used (clearly operating under the assumption that torture was a pretty standard method of judicial practice) does not mean that he was right — just as the fact that Paul gave advice to a slave owner on how to treat his slave kindly as a Christian does not mean that slavery is a good idea.

    It’s only a poor example because you’re not recognizing my point in using it. An act which is intrinsically evil could never have been justified under any context ever. It is evil by definition. The Church for nearly 2000 years did not define torture (or slavery) as intrinsically evil, but prescribed particular circumstances and limits to it’s use. Suggesting now that the Church was in error on a matter of faith and morals is certainly progressive. I’m not talking here about whether slavery or torture are “good ideas” but whether their very nature as viewed by the Church has changed, as opposed the context of their use, just as the circumstances of the times are suggested as making capital punisment all but unnecessary.

    My point here, and I am open to correction is that progressivism accepts as reasonable the changing of an act from evil, to not evil or vise versa, in order to make it permissible to effect a good result, or to eliminate a bad effect (as in the case of torture).

    Matt

  • Darwin,

    Sorry that this can’t be a rousing apologia for progressivism, but I thought I’d just throw in a few probably incoherent, and certainly fairly obvious, thoughts on finding a definition, from the point of view of someone who considers herself a political progressive.

    One is that “conservatism” and “progressivism” are highly context-sensitive. I say that I’m politically progressive, but I consider the pro-life movement progressive (and note that it’s adopted many of the smartest techniques of classic progressive civil rights action), as part and parcel of the defense of the dignity and civil rights of women, children, and the disabled (broadly construed here as those who are physically and mentally dependent and incapable of coming to their own defense–which must include the unborn). Further I see no necessary correlation between theological or liturgical “progressivism” and political progressivism, and in those areas am probably a (theological) “neo-cath” and a (liturgical) reactionary, chapel veil and all. In some areas, such as education, “progressivism” has come to mean a status quo in the theory American educational reform that is beginning to be attacked by many on the political left–E. D. Hirsch was the leader in this regard–as resulting in manifest social injustice, and so needing to be opposed vigorously by progressivists. And in some contexts, such as female suffrage (where the progressives decisively won the day) or eugenics of the last-century variety (where the conservatives won), there really is no “progressive” or “conservative” anymore as the field of battle has vanished.

    Another thought is that much of this discussion seems uniquely American. Europeans of my acquaintance laughed at the election-season discussion of whether Obama might count as a socialist or not; in many parts of the world, quite “conservative” people hold views far, far to the left of any serious American presidential candidate, and many “progressive” or “liberal” people hold views too far right for the American mainstream (I’ve heard comments about immigration from leftie Englishmen that would make your hair curl, Democrat or Republican). Try selling Chesterton’s British distributism to the American public, see which box it gets you put in.

    I’m not going to try to address the various points and challenges above, first because I’m clearly outnumbered and don’t even have the time to keep up my own blog, let alone defend the liberal cause here; and second because (as you know) even though I have fairly strong political views, discussing politics is one of my least favorite activities. Nothing against those who enjoy it, of course.

  • I say that I’m politically progressive, but I consider the pro-life movement progressive (and note that it’s adopted many of the smartest techniques of classic progressive civil rights action),

    This, I think, is a good point. It’s no coincidence that pro-life advocates frequently cite the campaigns against slavery and segregation for precedent. And it’s interesting how many of the “it would never work to restrict abortion” arguments one hear’s from pro-choice people are essentially of the “the side effects of trying to change society would be too dangerous” variety.

    Try selling Chesterton’s British distributism to the American public, see which box it gets you put in.

    Heh. Well, and that’s where you run into ideals versus context. Frankly I like a fair amount of what Chesterton has to say from my perspective as a conservative, but it strikes me that proposing to actually get there from here in any direct fashion would be highly un-conservative.

  • a glance at the ethics departments of most universities will find that there is an ongoing effort to redifine the “rightness” of an action to suit the progressive view of the common good.

    I guess I’d see the directionality differently. I’d say that both secular progressives and the secular inhabitants of ethics departments are both drinking the spirit of the age from the same well, to some extent, and so similar tendencies are not so much an attempt to revise “rightness” to match some existing progressive view, but rather everyone going with the flow.

    My point here, and I am open to correction is that progressivism accepts as reasonable the changing of an act from evil, to not evil or vise versa, in order to make it permissible to effect a good result, or to eliminate a bad effect (as in the case of torture).

    I don’t think that’s at all a necessary assumption of progressivism. It seems to me that progressivism has much more to do with the assumption that it’s possible to take direct action to reform society to make it closer to an ideal. It seems society and to an extent perhaps even human nature as mutable — but that doesn’t necessarily imply the ability to redefine what is good.

    Though I think that the “we’re making progress” mindset is probably more generally open to the idea that “we know better what is good now” than the conservative mindset is.

    On torture:

    It’s a long messy question, and I really don’t want to get into it here as I’m not convinced it’s relevant.

  • Eric Brown has got it exactly right. And in the correct manner, citing relevant passages from papal teachings and encyclicals [as the Catrechism does]. We cannot overcome such an evil as terrorism, for example, by bec oing ourselves terrorists.

    Is not such an act as that of torture more than equivalent to the bit if incense which our martyrs refused to burn for the idols of antiquity.

  • Gabriel Locuta Est, Causa Finita Est right?

    Wrong.

    Eric has not responded to Brian Harrison’s arguments, nor St. Ligouri’s, nor St. Thomas (pray for us), nor has anyone else.

    The argument has nothing to do with efficacy, or becoming terrorists ourselves, or that last bit of rambling you posted, so if you want to join the argument for real, by all means do so.

    I’m beginning to think that the mark of progressivism is the inability to respond substantially, instead just tossing out red herrings.

  • Matt,
    If you wish to continue a serious discussion, you should make a great effort to eschew efforts to be denigratory. [You must also be careul of using Latin if you are not good at it. Hint: I am not a woman].

    One of the marks of all the Church’s teachings is a painstaking examination in greatly tiresome detail. Yoiu cheerfully quote a bit from St. Alphonse Liguori and treat as Holy Writ. But St. Alphonse was never a pope, nor was St. Thomas Aquinas.

    Whether a papal doument is infallible or not, Newman writes that we must accept it obediently, perhaps until another pope does a further explication.

    In the papal documents, I believe that the popes are looking at the soul of the torturer.

  • Gabriel,

    If you wish to continue a serious discussion, you should make a great effort to eschew efforts to be denigratory. [You must also be careul of using Latin if you are not good at it. Hint: I am not a woman].

    my apologies, I was simply trying to draw you into a discussion rather than a pronouncement of Eric’s infallibility.


    One of the marks of all the Church’s teachings is a painstaking examination in greatly tiresome detail. Yoiu cheerfully quote a bit from St. Alphonse Liguori and treat as Holy Writ. But St. Alphonse was never a pope, nor was St. Thomas Aquinas.

    Yes, however, Thomas is a doctor of the Church, his teachings are the basis for the Council of Trent which is still in force. Nor do I treat their quotes as “Holy Writ” only arguments in favor of my premise, nowhere do I suggest they are definitive. Not all teachings of the Church are pronounced by Pope’s, in fact, that is not the norm. Nevertheless, if you’d care to refer to the link to Fr. Harrison’s essay he cites:

    Pope Innocent IV, Bull Ad Exstirpanda (May 15, 1252). This fateful document introduced confession-extorting torture into tribunals of the Inquisition. It had already been reinstated in secular processes over the previous hundred years, during which Roman Law was being vigorously revived. Innocent’s Bull prescribes that captured heretics, being “murderers of souls as well as robbers of God’s sacraments and of the Christian faith, . . . are to be coerced – as are thieves and bandits – into confessing their errors and accusing others, although one must stop short of danger to life or limb“.33

    Whether a papal doument is infallible or not, Newman writes that we must accept it obediently, perhaps until another pope does a further explication.

    In the papal documents, I believe that the popes are looking at the soul of the torturer

    Fair enough… but that’s not what the argument is about.

    I’ll ask it again…. Is all means of inflicting pain mental or physical to be considered torture? If torture is to be considered intrinsically evil, then we must know what it is.

  • I’m going to reply to you. I begin typing something, pressed back, loss the ordering, etc…so I’m waiting to re-collect.

    One thing to think about and is apart of my point — saints and Doctors of the Church do provide wisdom, but they do not share the charism of necessarily being a part of the college of bishops and/or being apart of the universal Magisterium.

    St. Thomas Aquinas explicitly argued against the Immaculate Conception and this was later declared by Pope Pius XII ex cathedra as a long-standing, irreversible dogma that is revealed in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Aquinas as brilliant as a thinker as he was, is not infallible nor is any other such thinker. St. Thomas is the patron of my university and I am certainly a fan of Thomism; it is just remains that it is not a fact.

    Moreover, I’m going to address the ordinary versus the extraordinary magisterium. When Pope John Paul II declared that women cannot be priests, he did not do it ex cathedra, but this does not mean that his statement is not necessarily definitive.

    I will wait and address the matter at once. Just a heads up.

  • By “pressing back” I meant the browser button which in effect deleted everything I wrote…

  • I meant to say it “remains a fact that each of his conclusions are necessarily the explicit universal norm that is to be accepted by the whole church unless each of them — judged individually — is in accord with the eternal truths of God.”

    I hope that’s clear — and I’m not saying Thomas was a heretic.

    I really should login to edit my messages, but oh well.

  • Eric,

    I appreciate that Aquinas was not a bishop, but his status as a doctor of the church and his influence on the moral theology of the Church since his time lend significant weight to his teachings, especially in that area. His question about the Immaculate Conception was around the need to reconcile it with the dogma that Christ was the Redeemer of all, if Mary was conceived immaculately, she was not (he thought) in need of redemption. This dogma was at the time a very open question, and Thomas struggled with it, it is not at all apparent that he had concluded against it.

    We all accept that not every pronouncement from the pope is “ex cathedra” but yet it could be definitive… if it is definitive it has to be, well, definitive. The equivocation in GS and the CCC, and the very low degree of authority in a papal speech given to the Red Cross suggest that he did not intend to make an “ex cathedra” statement, together with the lack of a universal norm of the ordinary magisterium, and the historical context of a pope authorizing the use of torture suggest it is not “intrinsically evil”, at least not yet. I would accept with docility a declaration which the Church instructs as definitive.

    I’m curious though, if capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, how is it possible that a much less severe form of physical harm is?

    I still would like to know if every act which inflicts pain, physical or moral is to be considered torture? And if the Holy Father intended to teach definitively that torture is intrinsically evil, is it possible that he envisioned that he referred to at least a certain level of severity, beyond say, imprisonment, caning, flogging, paddling, spanking, or washing of the mouth with soap….

    That’s a little bit of a segue, my point remains that the move to declare torture intrinsically evil involves a change in the inherent rightness of an act as at least generally accepted, rather than an acknowledgment of that it is not suitable or necessary in our time, or a conclusion that it does more harm than good. This impulse, is one of progressivism in my estimation, and is very dangerous. I don’t think I’m out of line in suggesting that John Paul II had a progressivist instinct in some areas, as did many of the authors of Vatican II.

  • Matt,

    I’ll address all those in the coming days, hopefully. I’m a student, other things come first. Racism is a less severe evil, technically speaking, than murder; however, it is too intrinsically evil because there is no justification for racism in any circumstances. The nature of the action makes it unjustifiable not necessarily the severity of it.

  • Eric,

    I understand, I look forward to continuing the discussion. I would definitely agree with you on racism, although slavery is another matter (except when it is based on racism as in the American model).

    We have to be clear that not being intrinsically evil doesn’t mean that it is acceptable in general, but that it may be been under certain circumstances even if those circumstances are not even possible. It is possible that when the pope speaks of things which can not allowed he is referring to the context of our present day where the rule of law largely holds over chaos.

  • Not to make the order taller, but it strikes me that the phrase “intrinsically evil” itself is one that is used often but seldom defined, and that this is part of the problem.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    I quite agree:

    This should suffice?

    1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

    It seems to me that if pointing a gun at the head of man who may not be morally culpable for any of his actions and pulling the trigger is NOT intrinsically evil, I don’t see how torture in an of itself could be, unless you define torture to a level which makes it exclude any possible treatment that would possibly be morally acceptable (ie. maiming and mutilation). In that case, I think it’s fair to suggest that it would not be a changing of the morality of an action to define it as intrinsically evil, and not a progressivist notion.

  • Dear Matt,
    Thank you for baccking down a bit. Now we can get to the core of the discussion – the morality of torture. It is indeed a complex matter. And it is, I think, parallel to the question of the death penalty.
    Both are to be examined in the light of the effect on the torturer or the executioner. Pain and death are part of our world, of our existence. And so much so that Our Lord subjected Himself to both. By which He conquered both.
    For us, death is but the prelude to the next world. So much so that we are forbidden to kill ourselves. We must wait until God calls us.
    I am uncetain whether torture has been specifically forbidden by the Church. I fear that its worst effect is on the torurer, [Greatly mixed in with this is sadism].

  • Gabriel,

    agreed.

    am uncetain whether torture has been specifically forbidden by the Church. I fear that its worst effect is on the torurer,

    I am certain that one could quite reasonably conclude that it has been forbidden, i’m not sure I would be comfortable arguing against that. That’s does not of course necessarily make it “intrinsically” evil. It’s possible that at some point, the Church could ban capital punishment if the circumstances of the times, and, as you point out our understanding of the moral effect on the executioner and society is ever found to demonstrate circumstances where it doesn’t cause more harm than good no longer exist. I would argue against such an effort, but would give intellectual assent if it were decided.

  • the vatican has to be careful about wnat mr. obama is doing. too much government is not good. he o.k. the use of our money to be used for family planning and the hand out of codoms in the u.s. and around the world. the church could promote more morality and spirituality. God always provides. everything will fall in place. have faith in God. Catherine