Rod Dreher

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Ta-Nehisi’s Voting Sanders

TNC all in for Bernie Sanders. ' I’m thrilled to see an actual radical, left-wing, you know, uniquely left-wing option in the Democratic Party.' (Juli Hansen /
TNC all in for Bernie Sanders. ' I’m thrilled to see an actual radical, left-wing, you know, uniquely left-wing option in the Democratic Party.' (Juli Hansen /

Seriously, this might be big for Bernie Sanders in South Carolina:

AMY GOODMAN: Will you be voting for Senator Sanders?

TA-NEHISI COATES: I will be voting for Senator Sanders. I have tried to avoid this question, but, yes, I will be voting for Senator Sanders. I try to avoid that, because I want to write as a journalist—do you know what I mean?—and separate that from my role as, I don’t know, a private citizen. But I don’t think much is accomplished by ducking the question. Yes, I will vote for Senator Sanders. My son influenced me.

The most popular black public intellectual in the country has just come out for Bernie Sanders. That can’t be good for Hillary. If I were Bernie Sanders, I would be blanketing South Carolina with ads citing this endorsement.

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Party Establishments Vs. America

The GOP Establishment basks in the warm glow of the Trump victory (Aphellion/Shutterstock)
The GOP Establishment basks in the warm glow of the Trump victory (Aphellion/Shutterstock)

David Frum has a great short analysis of the New Hampshire results, calling them a victory for democracy over out-of-touch party establishments. A majority of Democratic voters, he says, showed themselves to be unwilling to accept the second coming of the shameless, money-grubbing Clinton machine. Those voters are not satisfied taking whatever warmed-over establishment slop the Democratic Party is serving them. More:

On the Republican side, the upset was, if possible, even more stunning. For 20 years and more, Republican presidential contests have operated as a policy cartel. Concerns that animate actual Republican voters—declining middle-class wages, immigration, retirement security—have been tacitly ruled out of bounds. Concerns that excite Republican donors—tax cuts, entitlement reforms—have been more-or-less unanimously accepted by all plausible candidates. Candidates competed on their life stories, on their networks of friends, and on their degree of religious commitment—but none who aspired to run a national campaign deviated much from the economic platform of the Wall Street Journal and the Club for Growth.

This year’s Republican contest, however, has proved a case study of Sigmund Freud’s “return of the repressed.” Republicans, it turns out, also worry about losing health care. They also want to preserve Social Security and Medicare in roughly their present form. They believe that immigration has costs, and that those costs are paid by people like them—even as its benefits flow to employers, investors, and foreigners. They know that their personal situation is deteriorating, and they interpret that to mean (as who wouldn’t?) that the country is declining, too. “Hope,” “growth,” “opportunity,” “choice”—those have long since dwindled to sinister euphemisms for “less,” “worse,” and “not for you.”

Read the whole thing.  Clinton said last night in her NH concession speech, “Wall Street can never be allowed to once again threaten Main Street, and I will fight to rein in Wall Street, and you know what, I know how to do it.” Oh? Politico reports on her Goldman Sachs speech:

When Hillary Clinton spoke to Goldman Sachs executives and technology titans at a summit in Arizona in October of 2013, she spoke glowingly of the work the bank was doing raising capital and helping create jobs, according to people who saw her remarks.

Clinton, who received $225,000 for her appearance, praised the diversity of Goldman’s workforce and the prominent roles played by women at the blue-chip investment bank and the tech firms present at the event. She spent no time criticizing Goldman or Wall Street more broadly for its role in the 2008 financial crisis.

So as long as your Wall Street firm can show good results on hiring and promoting women and minorities, you can do whatever you want on the market, and Hillary Clinton won’t complain. Well, that was more or less the point of Jesse Jackson’s Wall Street Project shakedown. But I digress.

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat is sitting in his basement under a 40-watt bulb, drinking rye neat out of a jelly jar, contemplating the Republican Götterdämmerung. Excerpt:

Or should we begin to root for Donald Trump — not as a candidate actually to champion, now or in the fall, but as an agent of divine retribution for a corrupt and stumbling party, a pillaging-and-torching Babylonian invasion of which it must be said: The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

I think that temptation still deserves to be resisted. But stay tuned.

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The Triumph of Trans Lysenkoism

Trans activists destroy scientific career over ideology (Paperboat/Shutterstock)
Trans activists destroy scientific career over ideology (Paperboat/Shutterstock)

The Narrative says that only right-wing nuts are against Science™. Well, consider the frankly horrifying case of Dr. Kenneth Zucker, as reported by Jesse Singal in New York magazine. Excerpts:

On paper, Dr. Kenneth Zucker isn’t the sort of person who gets suddenly and unceremoniously fired. For decades, the 65-year-old psychologist had led the Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic (GIC), in Toronto, one of the most well-known clinics in the world for children and adolescents with gender dysphoria — that is, the feeling that the body they were born with doesn’t fit their true gender identity. Zucker had built up quite a CV during his time leading the clinic: In addition to being one of the most frequently cited names in the research literature on gender dysphoria and gender-identity development, and the editor of the prestigious journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, he took a leading role helping devise diagnostic and treatment guidelines for gender dysphoric and transgender individuals. He headed the group which developed the DSM-5’s criteria for its “gender dysphoria” entry, for example, and also helped write the most recent “standards of care” guidelines for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health  —  one of the bibles for clinicians who treat transgender and gender-dysphoric patients.

An impressive career, yes, but it’s doubtful any of this gave him much comfort on December 15. That was when he was called in from vacation for an 8:30 a.m. meeting with his employer, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one of the largest mental health and addiction research hospitals in Canada. Given the long-brewing investigation of his clinic by the hospital, it’s unlikely Zucker was feeling optimistic about what awaited him in downtown Toronto.

Zucker’s crime? He is against the idea that children who experience gender dysphoria should be rushed into transitioning via hormone therapy and surgery, preferring instead a more cautious approach, given that unstable gender identity in childhood and adolescence sometimes resolves itself in time. This position is anathema to trans activists. Note well: Dr. Zucker is in favor of gender transitioning; he simply says that the scientific knowledge we have at this point advises a more cautious approach.

For this, he got fired, and his clinic shut down. More:

Zucker, his colleagues, and their many allies in the world of academic sex research see things differently. To them, the real scandal here is how CAMH responded to a sustained campaign of political pressure: by allowing a vital scientific question — vital not only to gender-dysphoric and transgender young people, but to anyone who is a parent or will one day become one — to be decided by activists on the basis of flimsy, anonymous allegations. They think the activists’ claims about the clinic are unfounded, and argue that the controversy has more to do with adult agendas than with genuine concern for gender-dysphoric children and youth. As Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist with a research focus on gender-identity issues, explained in an email, this fight resembles many other culture-war battles: “[C]hildren serve as proxies for the competing value systems of adults.” Indeed, some parents of GIC patients feel that as a result of the clinic’s closing, their children have been cut off from a place that was — despite rumors to the contrary — a safe, nurturing environment for young people to explore their emerging gender identities.

… And if you look closely at what really happened — if you read the review (which CAMH has now pulled off of its website), speak with the activists who effectively wrote large swaths of it, examine the scientific evidence, and talk to former GIC clinicians and the parents of patients they worked with, it’s hard not to come to an uncomfortable, politically incorrect conclusion: Zucker’s defenders are right. This was a show trial.

One more thing: Zucker apparently thought his job was to do responsible science, not master ideological politics:

The consensus among those who know Zucker is that while he’s a gifted clinician and researcher, he isn’t great at playing politics. He is, well, an old-school white male research scientist: “He responds to every question with a methodical three-part answer,” noted Hanna Rosin in a 2008 article in The Atlantic, “often ending by climbing a chair to pull down a research paper he’s written.” Over the summer of 2015, more than one friend and colleague tried to explain to Zucker that he needed to defend himself more assertively (though he was in part stymied from doing so by a restrictive CAMH media policy). But while Zucker may lack certain self-preservation instincts, or may have wrongly believed his perch atop the sex-research hierarchy afforded him protection from activist pressure, a close reading of the External Review suggests none of this really mattered at that point. The review is a markedly unprofessional document that takes many of the worst claims about the GIC at face value — without bothering to check them.

Read the whole thing. It is long and very well-reported. You need to do this. These activists stop at nothing — and manifestly, they have allies in high places. Note well that their sleazy protests against Zucker would have come to nothing if not for the intellectual and moral cowardice of his superiors. These are the same people who are compelling the US Government to sue school districts that won’t allow biological males into high school female locker rooms. This is how they work: screaming that anyone who doesn’t bend to their demands is causing trans suicides, is creating unsafe spaces, and so forth. When applied to science, it is LGBT Lysenkoism, the Soviet-era agricultural disaster caused by trying to make science fit into Stalinist political correctness.

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This Radical Moment

Official Washington contemplates the presidential race so far (Lauren Elisabeth /
Official Washington contemplates the presidential race so far (Lauren Elisabeth /

Having slept on it, I don’t have much more to say about the blowout victories of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders than you’ve read in a thousand other places. Hillary is bound to get the Democratic nomination, but so far, we have seen a massive vote of no confidence in the Democratic establishment by its voters. That more than a small minority of Democratic voters are choosing an elderly socialist over Hillary Clinton tells you how out-of-touch the Democratic establishment is with its voters.

Same is true for the GOP and its voters. A Trump-Cruz race is a nightmare for Republican bigs. If the Establishment could have settled on a candidate, it would still be competitive, but it has not, it apparently cannot, and so while Bush, Rubio, and Kasich fight for the scraps, Trump and Cruz will both roll through South Carolina, where they are both far ahead of the pack in polls — and where Trump is far ahead of Cruz. That a trash-talking New York billionaire who violates Republican Party orthodoxies is by far and away the leading choice of the grassroots, at least to this point, is a staggering blow to the GOP establishment. Read Byron York’s post-NH report:

In late January, the New Hampshire Republican Party held a gathering that attracted GOP officials, volunteers, activists, and various other members of the party elite from across the state. At the time, Donald Trump led the Republican presidential race in New Hampshire by nearly 20 points, and had been on top of the polls since July.

What was extraordinary about the gathering was that I talked to a lot of people there, politically active Republicans, and most of them told me they personally didn’t know anyone who supported Trump. Asked about the Trump lead, one very well-connected New Hampshire Republican told me, “I don’t see it. I don’t feel it. I don’t hear it, and I spend part of every day with Republican voters.”

Readers of the story came to one of two conclusions. Either New Hampshire Republican leaders were so out of touch that they couldn’t tell something huge was happening right under their noses, or there really weren’t very many Trump voters, and the Trump phenomenon was a mirage that would fade before election day.

Now, with Trump’s smashing victory in the New Hampshire primary, we know the answer. There really were a lot of Trump voters out there, and party officials could not, or did not want, to see them.

York goes on to say that “Trump won everybody” in New Hampshire, indicating that his base there was broad. And because of that, says Ramesh Ponnuru, there is no clear anti-Trump strategy for Republicans. Though Matt Sitman’s suggestion suggests that Trump is in actuality a Reagan Slayer:

We really are into uncharted waters in American politics. Who on earth would have thought that the two candidates who represent the vitality in American politics in 2016 would be old guys from Brooklyn (Sanders) and Queens (Trump)? This is true too:

And this really gets to the radicalism of the present moment:

I’m going to be traveling today, and won’t be able to approve comments quickly. Please be patient.

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A Surprising Fact About Medieval Cathedrals

Peterborough Cathedral (Gordon Bell/Shutterstock)
Peterborough Cathedral (Gordon Bell/Shutterstock)

The other day several of us were bothered by the fact that the medieval Peterborough Cathedral in England now rents out its nave for social functions, most recently an insurance company dinner. It seemed vulgar and sacrilegious to us. Well, I just came across this passage from Universe of Stone by Philip Ball, a history of the 12th century Chartres cathedral. Here he’s speaking of medieval cathedrals in general:

[T]he cathedral was the focus of the spirituality that permeated the social fabric of the age. Yet it was precisely because religions was so central to all aspects of medieval life that townspeople did not necessarily adopt a disposition of hushed awe when they passed inside its walls. The choir and sanctuary, in the eastern end of the building, was a holy place, hidden from the laity by the rood screen. But elsewhere in the church, the ordinary people made themselves at home. When a service was not in progress, they would meet their friends here, bring in their dogs and their hawks, arrange trysts, eat snacks. The poor might even bed down for the night in the gloomy recesses. Stalls clung like limpets to the walls of the building. At Strasbourg, the mayor held office in his pew in the cathedral, meeting burghers there to conduct business.

Wine merchants, probably employed by the chapter itself, even sold their wares from the nave of Chartres — by selling inside the church, they were exempted from the taxes imposes by the count of Blois and Chartres. …

It is entirely characteristic of medieval theology that such prosaic concerns should coexist with the idea that the church is a representation of heaven. That may, in fact, stand as a metaphor for the very paradox that these buildings present to modern times. They are surely the most profound expressions of the Christian faith, and with it the ontological framework, of the Middle Ages. And yet they remain resolutely material: stone and glass, wood and iron, shaped by the hands of unlettered men, who sometimes enjoyed a great deal of latitude for injecting their own preoccupations and ideas into the fabric. They are prodigious collaborations between the tangible and the spiritual, the mundane and the transcendental, the public and the personal. They embody a kind of union that art has long forgotten how to make.

Maybe I and others owe poor Peterborough an apology. Except for this sad fact: wine merchants and all manner of men could conduct profane (as in: not sacred) business inside the cathedrals because religion was at the center of medieval life. In the 21st century, insurance salesmen can sup in the nave of the Peterborough cathedral because religion is so far from the center of contemporary life.

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The Press In Hillary’s Purse

Hillary Clinton and her press advisor Philippe Reines (US State Department/Flickr)
Hillary Clinton and her press advisor Philippe Reines (US State Department/Flickr)

This is pretty amazing stuff from Gawker: a glimpse into how Hillary Clinton gets the press she wants. A FOIA request turned up some e-mail exchanges from 2009 between Philippe Reines, Hillary’s press secretary, and then-Atlantic editor Marc Ambinder. Ambinder had asked Reines for an advance copy of a speech the then-Secretary of State was about to give at the Council on Foreign Relations. Reines responded:

From: [Philippe Reines]
Sent: Wednesday, July 15 2009 10:06 AM
To: Ambinder, Marc
Subject: Re: Do you have a copy of HRC’s speech to share?

3 [conditions] actually

1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”

2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from Holbrooke to Mitchell to Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something

3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!

As Gawker shows, Ambinder did exactly as he was told. More Gawker:

The same [FOIA] request previously revealed that Politico’s chief White House correspondent, Mike Allen, promised to deliver positive coverage of Chelsea Clinton, and, in a separate exchange, permitted Reines to ghost-write an item about the State Department for Politico’s Playbook newsletter. Ambinder’s emails with Reines demonstrate the same kind of transactional reporting, albeit to a much more legible degree: In them, you can see Reines “blackmailing” Ambinder into describing a Clinton speech as “muscular” in exchange for early access to the transcript. In other words, Ambinder outsourced his editorial judgment about the speech to a member of Clinton’s own staff.

Read the whole thing. Ambinder is by no means alone. Sounds like P. Reines is very good at his job. Can’t imagine why people have so little trust in the Washington media…


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We Live In Interesting Times

Ross Douthat, in a post titled “A Party on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” considers Marco Rubio’s debate collapse, and the prospect of a second-place Kasich finish in New Hampshire:

At which point we would be in truly chaotic territory, in which the Republican Party’s ideological center, such as it is, would have great difficulty holding. A Rubio-Cruz-Trump race, as I’ve pointed out before, would already be the most ideologically consequential primary battle the G.O.P. has featured in decades if not generations. But at least it would be a relatively orderly battle, in which most of the party leadership would end up behind the Florida senator, rather than turning the knives on one another. If Rubio can’t consolidate things, though — if he falls into a tie with Jeb, let’s say, while Kasich is alone in second place — then we’re in a situation where Jeb might stick around till Florida and Kasich till Ohio, both on March 15th, an eternity away. Meanwhile Trump would have an actual win under his belt and Cruz would have running room in the SEC primary, meaning that the delegate leaders a month from would be all-but-guaranteed to be a candidate running on increasingly Bernie Sanders-ish rhetoric and a candidate feared by G.O.P. elites (on reasonable grounds) as the Barry Goldwater of 2016.

The thing is, the Democratic Party is also having a nervous breakdown, though it’s less entertaining to watch than the Republicans’. Tim Stanley, in the Telegraph:

Presuming that the polls are right and Sanders wins good, she is in serious trouble. Again, the press can’t accept the idea of a Sanders nomination – so let’s acknowledge the caveat that she’ll still be the nominee eventually. Nevertheless, her underwhelming performance is a sad indictment of what a poor candidate she is. Consider her advantages: money, endorsements, running against an aging socialist who wasn’t even a Democrat until recently, a career full accomplishment and major brand recognition. The problem with Hillary is that the voters know her too well: a majority of voters don’t trust her. Her narrow win in Iowa showed the depths of resentment towards her coronation, while defeat in New Hampshire – the state that rescued her in 2008 from immediate annihilation by Barack Obama – would make matters so much worse.

It’s worth dwelling on Stanley’s points here. A woman who has been at the top of American political life, and indeed at the pinnacle of Democratic Party politics, for over 20 years, is being walloped by an elderly socialist from Vermont. She has been reduced to stale, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” pants-suit identity politicking. having elderly Democrat Madeleine Albright, who is four years older than Bernie Sanders, chastising women who refused to vote for Hillary out of identity politics as headed for “a special place in Hell.” And Pleistocene-era feminist Gloria Steinem, 81, who was born the year Bonnie & Clyde were shot to death, said that the only reason young women support Sanders is because cute boys like him.

That does not even rise to the level of pathetic.

Hillary will, of course, be the Democratic nominee, but she will be reduced to depending on the GOP to melt down and produce Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as their nominee. A Hillary-era Democratic Party will not be one filled with vigor and vision. It will have the feel of the stale end of something. Bernie probably won’t make it to the nomination, but I suspect he will prove to be Gene McCarthy to Hillary’s Hubert Humphrey. The old Vermont leftie is probably going to lose to Hillary, but his people represent the party’s future. If I were a Democrat, I would anticipate the next four years of a Hillary Clinton administration as like unto going to work the day after Mardi Gras with a terrible hangover, and just having to gut it out.

Of course the GOP’s problems are massive too. There is no way to read this primary season so far as anything other than a resounding rejection of the Republican Establishment. Trump has all the energy. It may be a dark energy, but it is vital. One way or another, what Trump stands for is going to be a powerful force within the GOP after this election. Unlike Perotism, which fizzled, Trump is tapping into something more elemental. Tucker Carlson’s much-discussed piece about Trump (“Donald Trump is shocking, vulgar — and right: And, my fellow Republicans, he’s all your fault”) is still true.

God knows what kind of clown-car government Trump would oversee. It’s hard to see how a Cruz presidency is going to succeed, given how combative and unlikable he is, and how much he is loathed by his own party. And any Establishment Republican will start from a position of knowing that most of the people in his party at the grassroots have little confidence in him.

The next decade of American politics is going to be an interesting time, in the “ancient Chinese curse” sense.

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Revenge of the Kennedy School

I received an e-mail from a friend who is a Harvard graduate and an orthodox Catholic. He takes exception to R.R. Reno’s column on meritocracy, which I cited favorably today. I can’t reproduce his letter verbatim here, because he wants to protect his privacy. But I have edited it to his satisfaction, and present this version with his approval:

I wanted to write about your post “Meritocracy & the Middle Class,” which sparked a number of reactions.  I believe Rusty Reno’s article is, to be extremely charitable, vague.  And I tend to agree with you far more than many of your other readers, so I would like to think this is not coming from an automatic negative bias.

Let’s begin with the first problematic passage:

Another important reason is the meritocratic reinvention of elite America, which now includes and socializes non-whites into its once all-white ranks. Talented, ambitious young people tend to move up and out, encouraged by an inclusive elite that is eager to draw into itself those whom, two generations ago, would have been kept out of the establishment. This has decapitated most communities, depriving a great deal of Americans of their natural leaders.

Some thoughts/questions in no particular order:

1)      This has the air of plausibility at the rhetorical level, but I would love to see evidence in support of this.  Has he not seen any issue of any business or economic periodicals in recent years, all of which with some frequency lament the lack of minorities in the ranks of business, politics, academia, etc.?  From my own experience at an elite institution, I assure you that minorities are not exactly swelling the ranks of elite America.  For Reno to suggest as much is absurd to the point of hilarity.  I hate to sound mean, but it really is ridiculous.

2)      Communities are not lacking in young leaders with ability.  There are just so few opportunities, period, unless you are in the East/West coast (and then you can barely pay your bills if you’re just starting).  There are a lot of reasons one could cite for this, but I do not have time to get into that debate here.  Part of it is that there are several Boomers in leadership positions who cannot or will not retire.

To a subsequent passage, which you quote in your post:

What white middle class voters are waking up to is that their natural leaders are being co-opted by the meritocratic system as well [as minorities’ leaders]. Hillary Clinton may have lived in Arkansas for decades, but she’s a creature of elite education and Goldman Sachs. People talk about the Clinton Machine. But it’s not at all like the machines of ward bosses and patronage jobs as sidewalk inspectors. The Clinton Machine is an interlocking network of very rich donors, high-placed journalists, and political elites. It operates at Davos, not in gritty ethnic urban neighborhoods.

Some thoughts and questions arise immediately:

1)      This is a maddeningly overgeneralized characterization.  “Elite education and Goldman Sachs” seems to be just a vague, metonymic substitute for all things bad.  This is bad writing not only because it is vague but because the institutions falling under this umbrella are not as uniform as he (and perhaps his audience) suspect.  After all, no less than Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Harvard Law prof, is a perennial thorn in the side of big finance.

2)      He may disavow it if asked explicitly, but Reno is implicitly linking all people with an “elite education” to an “interlocking network of very rich donors, high-placed journalists, and political elites” operating “at Davos, not in gritty ethnic urban neighborhoods.”  However, many Ivy League graduates (all of my evidence is anecdotal here—I don’t have time to get hard numbers) did not seek the world of high business and/or policymaking  and instead went to work in gritty neighborhoods.

3)      This brings me to the more important issue: Reno offers no concrete alternatives.  I have a problem with the Ivy League (plus Stanford/MIT/Cal Tech etc.) apparatus/industrial complex because it can perpetuate the very inequities it purports to oppose, but there will always be elite institutions.  They need not be brick-and-mortar now, but there will always be mechanisms to differentiate high-quality performers from others.  The key is to make these institutions available to all and to define “high-quality” in a way that is actually accurate.  And whatever happened to the conservative praise of elite institutions as a bulwark against ever-fickle public opinion?

Another passage:

Globalization has altered the reward structures and incentives for the top ten percent of Americans, with a trickle-down effect that also influences the next ten percent. Finance is a thoroughly globalized industry. The same goes for hi-tech. The red-hot economy in the Bay Area has become independent of the rest of California. Tech executives push hard for the expansion of the H-1B visa program to bring in more foreign software engineers. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the entertainment industry makes more money through international than domestic sales. Even a middle American company like Caterpillar is thoroughly globalized.

This passage is particularly problematic.  I’ll mention a few points here:

1)      I see no problem in Silicon Valley’s tech scene’s being “independent of the rest of California” (what does that even mean anyway?!), and I find it ironic that a social conservative would find any sort of independence from liberal California anything less than a Godsend.

2)      Tech executives push for H-1B visas, yes, but a) they also push for greater tech education in American schools because American workers cannot do the work (I have experienced this firsthand), and b) they don’t have enough visas to fill talent gaps.  Perhaps this is my inner globalized technocrat talking, but the American economy would be all the better if more of its own companies could produce at full capacity.

3)      The entertainment industry makes more money through international sales.  Um, need he be reminded that America has 5% of the world’s population?  Forget the merits or demerits of globalization: any industry with a product like film should have greater international than domestic sales.  And this is a good thing for the American economy: I suspect most any economist of any political persuasion (even the most mercantilist) will say that increasing exports is good for the American economy.

4)      The same points in 3) could apply to Caterpillar.

So maybe Reno is using all of this evidence to show that the economy is thoroughly globalized (despite the fact that there is a legitimate debate as to what this actually means and entails).  Fine, but even using globalization as an argument for why whites are so restless is itself problematic and reductive to the point of absurdity.  Elites have held all sorts of crazy opinions different from the rest of the populace—why is this time so different for whites?  That he says it is is more assertion than argument.

All of which leads us to the following segue:

This gap isn’t just economic; it’s cultural as well. Our establishment is moving toward a post-national vision of the common good, while middle America seems eager for gestures and rhetoric that promises renewed national solidarity.

To a great extent, multiculturalism and other forms of “global consciousness” serve as companions to economic globalization. They promise to teach us how to navigate cultural differences in ways that defuse conflict, promote cooperation, and thus ease the way toward a global marketplace overseen by well-trained, benevolent technocrats from the Kennedy School of Government.

This approach need not be overtly ideological. It’s enough for us to downplay our local loyalties and to adopt a spirit of detachment from our histories. This can be done with plain vanilla relativism. The point is to strip away potentially divisive commitments, allowing us to focus on universal interests we share in common—the universal human desire to get richer, be healthier, and to satisfy individual preferences. This has led to a leadership class that is technocratic in its outlook but has trouble speaking about patriotic loyalties that unify us all.

This was really bad.  Let’s explore at least some of it:

1)      “Post-national vision of the common good”:  I would be very interested in seeing his evidence of this claim.  The myth of the decline of the state has been around for decades—does anyone who has watched the American government (to say nothing of governments in Europe and Asia–let’s name behaviors in China, Japan, Germany, France, and Britain just to warm up) really believe that nationalism is going away anytime soon, whether among the elite or anywhere else?  Having lower tariffs and more commercial international exchange does not mean the state is going anywhere in practice or in elite opinion.  In my experience, the people who do discuss this sort of thing tend to be people with exposure to philosophy/political theory who have read too much Hegel/Kojeve (if they like post-national talk) or Leo Strauss (if they don’t).  I would not claim that this post-national vision does not exist among “the elite,” but I am far from convinced it is dominant.  If he has evidence to the contrary, I welcome the correction.

2)      No matter how foolishly liberal elite institutions can be, I really see little problem in navigating cultural differences to defuse the problem and promote cooperation.  Would that we had leaders who could actually do that!  All this talk of smoothing differences may sound like so much liberal claptrap to conservatives, and some of that is legitimate; however, knowing how to navigate those differences is actually really hard.  Given that many of our problems require multinational cooperation (terrorism, climate change, etc.), you can be sure I’ll happily give a full-throated defense of institutions’ trying to do this, even if some of its practitioners descend into liberal naivete.  For him to be tongue-in-cheek with it may be funny to some, but he goes too far.

Perhaps I’m simply too biased because I went to an elite institution, but I particularly dislike it  when a fellow Catholic tries to pigeonhole me and my fellow graduates.  It is particularly infuriating because I can probably guess from just how he words (and even how he spells—cf. “hi-tech” ) certain issues how little concrete experience he has with the issues he claims to be describing.  He writes like someone who has studied humanities talking about politics and economics.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but you lose credibility very quickly if you don’t have your facts in order.

I hope you will forgive what may appear immodest, but I have worked in the start-up world.  I have worked in the government world.  I have multiple friends who have done and are doing the same.  I became interested in public service because of the suffering of the poor in my home state, and that is why I came home after finishing my Masters.  I have classmates from all parts of the U.S. and around the world who returned home for similar reasons.  We’re not all a bunch of caviar-chomping Davos dilettantes.  Some of us have operated in gritty, ethnic urban neighborhoods.  One can have an elite education and still do that.

My apologies for the length—if I had had more time, I would have written fewer words and made better arguments (in short, I would say that it boils down to 1) Elite opinion, on globalization or something else, is not a convincing reason whites feel abandoned, and 2) his description of these forces at work is absurdly inaccurate anyway).

I learn so much from my readers. Mulling over this. Thoughts?

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Zombie Universities

A reader calling himself PomoProf writes about the interview with Jon Haidt, in which Haidt talks about how the left-wing culture within universities is destroying them:

What Haidt is complaining about appears to be the emerging of a victor in the battle between the two campus subcultures identified by John Searle in his “The mission of the university: Intellectual discovery or social transformation?“. And it’s seems (to the better, I say) to be the so-called “postmodern” faction. To quote Jerry L. Martin’s “The university as an agent of social transformation: The postmodern argument considered” (Journal: Academic Questions · Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 55-72, 1993):

Therefore, the aim of higher education should be not the pursuit of truth, which is both an illusion and an instrument of oppression, but social transformation—changing ideas, symbols, and institutions from tools of racist, sexist, capitalist, imperialist hegemony to instruments of empowerment for women, minorities, the poor, and the Third World. (p. 61)

We are seeing Progress in action as one age (the “modern”) gives way to a newer one (the “postmodern”). Of course, some people are unhappy at being left behind by progress, like so many others in history; and like all those other groups, they will become ever more marginal, and ultimately disappear.

To further quote, this time from Dalhousie University Associate Professor Catrina G. Brown’s “Anti-Oppression Through a Postmodern Lens: Dismantling the Master’s Conceptual Tools in Discursive Social Work Practice“:

Within postmodernist anti-oppressive approaches to the social world, assumptions about neutrality and objectivity have been exposed as a fiction, masking the partial and located nature of all knowledge (Haraway, 1988). Falsely universalized and objectivist claims about social reality which have often upheld limited and privileged world views have been contested by the growing visibility and challenge of competing standpoints. In challenging the hegemonic knowledge base which has upheld the power and privilege of some at the expense of others, this approach deeply challenges the notion of universal truth and objective knowledge.

Thus it is revealed that defenders of the “pursuit of truth” like Haidt are thus, knowingly or unknowingly, defeners of hegemonic oppression, and so rightly opposed by the present Academy.

So, “truth” becomes “whatever serves the revolution.” To the extent that that is true, if they can’t be saved, these universities need to be destroyed, if only by desertion by students and others who actually want a real education, not indoctrination. Postmodernists of the sort mentioned here are like an infection that takes over a body and turns it into a zombie, a monstrous facsimile of a human being.

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Fun’s Over With Trump

Marc Nozell/Flickr, Gage Skidmore/Flickr

I watched several times the entire NSFW 1:53 clip of Trump calling Ted Cruz a p**sy for having constitutional qualms about waterboarding. It doesn’t get any better when repeated. The thing that most people are talking about is his use of the vulgarity, which is pretty lowlife stuff coming from a man who wants to sit in the Oval Office. But by far the more disturbing thing was that he was calling Cruz this as a way of asserting his own willingness to torture people, and the Constitution be damned.

And here’s the thing: a mob in the audience started shouting, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Cheering for torture, and this ridiculous man calling a U.S. Senator a p**sy for not being man enough to say to hell with the Constitution, we’re going to torture.

I’ve enjoyed the Trump show. I’ve enjoyed the way he’s shaken up the Republican Party, frazzled Conservatism, Inc., and put the state of the beleaguered white working class into the political conversation. I liked him when he was a threat to established interests. But now that he’s coming off as a threat to democracy, this isn’t funny anymore.

This guy is a hooligan. A man who talks like a mafioso while bragging about his lack of compunction for Constitutional niceties is not someone a democracy can afford to have head the executive branch of the US Government.  I believe that when it gets right down to it, most Americans will be unwilling to take a risk on a president with that kind of character. There’s something of the back alley to him. If America needs to shred the Constitution and embrace torture with gusto to “be great again,” then she will already be ruined.


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