Rod Dreher

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Busts Of The Greats

Kevin Lindholm’s Dante, upon my bookshelf

You thought this was going to be a Dolly Parton post. Sucka!

Y’all might remember that my wife and kids gave me a 3D printed bust of Dante for Christmas, designed and printed by her colleague Kevin Lindholm at Sequitur Classical Academy. I really love it. I want to share with you some good news from my friends at Mud House, the art and publishing arm of Sequitur Classical Academy. Kevin, the art teacher at Sequitur, has designed a series of 3D printed busts of some great figures from Church history, literature, and education. It’s an eclectic mix; I wouldn’t have expected to see Mortimer Adler, but there he is (see below). Here are the other authors whose busts will be revealed later this spring. The Inklings are there, and so is Walker Percy! Here’s who is available now for purchase; this link takes you to the page.  Behold:

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The Age Of Antichrist

Luca Signorelli, detail from ‘Sermons And Deeds Of The Antichrist’ (1499-1504)

The late Rene Girard once pointed out that within Christian thought, the thing that makes the Antichrist the Antichrist is not that he hates Jesus Christ — that’s a given — but that he offers a brilliant fake version of the Christian gospel. You can see this point illustrated in the detail above from the Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli’s apocalyptic fresco in the Orvieto cathedral. The Antichrist looks like Jesus, but he secretly receives direction from the Devil. Christians have always believed that the Antichrist is a real historical figure who will present himself as a man of peace, but will lead the world into a diabolical deception that will immediately precede the Second Coming, and the End of History.

Because discourse about the Apocalypse is not frequent within the Roman Catholic Church today, it is extremely curious that not one but two Catholic cardinals have spoken about the Antichrist within the last year, both in reference to confusion within the Roman church — confusion coming from the Pope himself.

The first was Cardinal Willem Eijk, primate of the Netherlands, who said last May that the Pope’s lack of clarity regarding intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants was an indicator of a drift to apostasy. Cardinal Eijk’s comment was about the German Catholic bishops’ desire to offer communion to Protestants married to Catholics, and the Pope’s refusal to draw a firm line against it. He wrote:

What the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church say should have been the reaction of the Holy Father, who is, as the Successor of Saint Peter “the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful” (Lumen Gentium no. 23). The Holy Father should have given the delegation of the German episcopal conference clear directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church. He should have also responded on this basis to the Lutheran woman who asked him on November 15, 2015 if she could receive Communion with her Catholic spouse, saying that this is not acceptable instead of suggesting she could receive Communion on the basis of her being baptized, and in accordance with her conscience. By failing to create clarity, great confusion is created among the faithful and the unity of the Church is endangered. This is also the case with cardinals who publicly propose to bless homosexual relationships, something which is diametrically opposed to the doctrine of the Church, founded on Sacred Scripture, that marriage, according to the order of creation, exists only between a man and a woman.

Observing that the bishops and, above all, the Successor of Peter fail to maintain and transmit faithfully and in unity the deposit of faith contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, I cannot help but think of Article 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The Church’s ultimate trial

Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.”

The second came on Friday from none other than Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former head of the CDF, the Vatican’s doctrinal office (2012-17) — the position held by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI. Here is a link to the German cardinal’s “Manifesto Of Faith,” which is unambiguously written as a particular rebuke to Pope Francis’s muddying the doctrinal waters on basic Catholic teachings. Here is the key graf:

To keep silent about these and the other truths of the Faith and to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception against which the Catechism vigorously warns. It represents the last trial of the Church and leads man to a religious delusion, “the price of their apostasy” (CCC 675)  it is the fraud of Antichrist. “He will deceive those who are lost by all means of injustice, for they have closed themselves to the love of the truth by which they should be saved” (2 Thess: 2-10)

This is absolutely extraordinary. The cardinal who, until he was sent down by Francis, was the chief doctrinal watchdog for the Roman Catholic Church, is now warning that the confusing teaching coming from St. Peter’s successor is a sign of the End Times. There’s really no other way to read this.

These words, and the pope’s actions, occur within a global cultural context. Even if you don’t believe that the Antichrist is anything other than a symbol, you have to conceived that were he an actual figure, we would have now created the conditions within which the Antichrist could plausibly appear. Here is a long passage from a post I once wrote titled “Our Diabolic Age” — focusing on the etymology of the word “diabolic,” which stems from the Greek word meaning “to scatter”. Here’s the passage:

I will leave you with this passage from the Russian Orthodox philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev’s prophetic 1923 book The End of Our TimeIt is an analysis of the religious, philosophical, and cultural meaning of contemporary history, written in the aftermath of World War I and the Bolshevik revolution in his homeland. In the nearly 100 years since it was first published, some of the book’s predictions have failed to materialize, but what shocks about the thing is how much of it has come to pass, and indeed is coming to pass. In this passage, the “new middle age” of which the philosopher speaks is the current era. He believes that the old middle age ended with the Renaissance, but now the Renaissance era — the modern era — ended with the war and the revolution. We are in a new, transitional era, he says:

The approach to the new middle age, like the approach to the old one, is marked by a visible rotting of old societies and an invisible formation of new ones. Was the failing but tenacious modern order really “cosmic”? The nineteenth century was very proud of its law, its constitutions, the unity of its method and its scientific paraphernalia. But it is an interior unity that is conclusive, and this it did not realize: it was infected by individualism, by “atomism.” Throughout modern history society has been eaten away by a series of internal maladies, man turning against man and class against class: all societies have been characterized by the warfare of opposing interests, by competition, by the isolation and dereliction of each individual man. An ever growing anarchy may be justly pointed out in the spiritual and intellectual life of these societies, a radical lesion due to the loss of a true centre or of the vision of a one supreme end. Such loss conditioned the autonomy of all intellectual and social spheres as well as the secularization of society at large.

The modern spirit thought that freedom lay in individualism, in the right for each man and each cultural activity to decide for himself. We have gone so far as to call the process of modern history a process of emancipation. But emancipation from what and for what? From the old authoritarian theocracies, from the old idea of dependence? Those theocracies could no more subsist, and as for the old heteronomy, it was necessary that it should be got rid of; I do not claim for a minute that freedom of spirit was other than an indefeasible and eternal acquisition. But why and in view of what did there have to be an emancipation? Modern times have no answer to give. And in the name of whom, in the name of what? In the name of man, of Humanism, of the freedom and happiness of mankind? … The answer is not there. Man cannot be set free in the name of man’s freedom, for man cannot be the last end of man. We are faced with complete nothingness. If there is nothing towards which man can lift up his eyes he is deprived of substance. In that case human liberty is simply a formula without any content, and individualism is in essence a negative reform whose development can bring no help to anybody.

Individualism is founded on no eternal principle, it has nothing ontological about it; least of all can it strengthen personality and set off the image of man. … It is only when human personality is rooted in the universal, in the cosmos, that it finds an ontological ground to give it its chief substance. Personality exists only where God and the divine are recognized; otherwise individualism wrenches personality from its seed-plot, pulls it apart, and scatters it to the winds of chance. Individualism has exhausted all its possibilities and energy, it can rouse nobody to enthusiasm.

More:

So has been brought about this latter time when men prefer not-being to Being, and as man is not able to serve and live for himself alone he makes false gods, if he does not know the true God. He has been unwilling to receive the liberty of God and perforce has fallen into a cruel bondage to deified deceits, to idols. He has been without freedom of spirit and it is not in the name of liberty that the man of the end of this age rises in revolt and denies Truth. He is in the power of an unknown master, of a superhuman and inhuman force that grips the society that does not want to know Truth, the holy truth of God. Only in Communism have we been able to learn something about the tyranny of this master. Nevertheless, it has already made what I have called a breach in the defences of modern history. We must choose. Liberty as a formula, as now understood, is discredited; it is imperative that we go on to its substance, to true liberty.

Berdyaev says that in the world now upon us — and remember, he was writing almost 100 years ago, from revolution-wracked Russia, but his words could be published as fresh today, with only slight modification — the affirmation of man’s image that was at the (intended) root of the Renaissance has given way to the denial of man’s image:

We live in a time of stripping, things can be seen as they are. Look at Humanism stripped naked and observe its nature, which appeared so innocent and good to another age. Where there is no God there is no man: that is what we have learned from experience. Or look at the true nature of Socialism, now that we can see what it really looks like. But a truth that stands out and can be seen no less clearly is that there cannot be religious neutrality or absence of religion: to the religion of the living God is opposed the religion of Satan, facing the faith of Christ there is the faith of Antichrist. The neutral humanist kingdom that wanted to establish itself in an order intermediate between Heaven and Hell is in a state of corruption, and the two gulfs, of height above and of depth beneath, are disclosed. There rears up against the God-Man, not the man of the neutral intermediate kingdom, but the man-god, the man who has put himself in the place of God. The opposed poles of Being and of not-being are manifest and clear.

For Christians, of course, a discourse that employs the terms “Satan” and “Antichrist” have specific meaning. But don’t for a second let Berdyaev’s terminology cause you nonbelievers, or liberal believers, to dismiss what he’s saying here. His point is that there is no stable middle ground; either we integrate and harmonize under the telos of service to God, or we dissolve in bondage to the telosof the Self. There is no middle ground.

Symbolus or diabolus. Gathering or scattering. Harmony or chaos. Construction or destruction. Life or death. You must choose, or the choice will be made for you, whether you want it to be or not. Every day brings evidence of the dramatic triumph of the diabolic — and this is something you can verify even if you do not believe in the Devil. Those who do not affirm the symbolic, and do so in community, will fall prey to the diabolic. This is a way of thinking of the Benedict Option: ideas to promote and to achieve the symbolic in the face of widespread diabolism.

Read the whole thing. 

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Massive Southern Baptist Abuse Scandal

Houston Chronicle screenshot

As if anybody needed convincing by now, it’s not just the Catholic Church. The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News blow the roof off of sex abuse within churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Excerpts:

In the decade since Vasquez’s appeal for help, more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reveals.

It’s not just a recent problem: In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.

They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.

About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.

Nearly 100 are still held in prisons stretching from Sacramento County, Calif., to Hillsborough County, Fla., state and federal records show. Scores of others cut deals and served no time. More than 100 are registered sex offenders. Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today.

Journalists in the two newsrooms spent more than six months reviewing thousands of pages of court, prison and police records and conducting hundreds of interviews. They built a database of former leaders in Southern Baptist churches who have been convicted of sex crimes.

The investigation reveals that:

• At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at churches during the past two decades. In some cases, church leaders apparently failed to alert law enforcement about complaints or to warn other congregations about allegations of misconduct.

• Several past presidents and prominent leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention are among those criticized by victims for concealing or mishandling abuse complaints within their own churches or seminaries.

• Some registered sex offenders returned to the pulpit. Others remain there, including a Houston preacher who sexually assaulted a teenager and now is the principal officer of a Houston nonprofit that works with student organizations, federal records show. Its name: Touching the Future Today Inc.

• Many of the victims were adolescents who were molested, sent explicit photos or texts, exposed to pornography, photographed nude, or repeatedly raped by youth pastors. Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms. A few were adults — women and men who sought pastoral guidance and instead say they were seduced or sexually assaulted.

The story explains that SBC leaders declined act against sex offenders in local churches because the denomination’s structure grants full autonomy to local congregations. But:

Other leaders have acknowledged that Baptist churches are troubled by predators but that they could not interfere in local church affairs. Even so, the SBC has ended its affiliation with at least four churches in the past 10 years for affirming or endorsing homosexual behavior. The SBC governing documents ban gay or female pastors, but they do not outlaw convicted sex offenders from working in churches.

Look at this instance:

In Illinois, Leslie Mason returned to the pulpit a few years after he was convicted in 2003 on two counts of criminal sexual assault. Mason had been a rising star in local Southern Baptist circles until the charges were publicized by Michael Leathers, who was then editor of the state’s Baptist newspaper.

Letters from angry readers poured in. Among those upset by Leathers’ decision to publish the story was Glenn Akins, the interim executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

“To have singled Les out in such a sensationalistic manner ignores many others who have done the same thing,” Akins wrote in a memo, a copy of which Leathers provided. “You could have asked nearly any staff member and gotten the names of several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

Akins, now the assistant executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, declined an interview request.

Leathers resigned after state Baptist convention leaders told him he might be fired and lose his severance pay, he said. Mason, meanwhile, admitted to investigators that he had relationships with four different girls, records show.

Mason received a seven-year prison sentence under a plea deal in which investigators dropped all but two of his charges. After his release, he returned to the pulpit of a different SBC church a few miles away.

“That just appalled me,” Leathers said. “They had to have known they put a convicted sex offender behind the pulpit. … If a church calls a woman to pastor their church, there are a lot of Southern Baptist organizations that, sadly, would disassociate with them immediately. Why wouldn’t they do the same for convicted sex offenders?”

The story quotes Southern Baptist leader Wade Burleson saying that in the past, when he brought up to denominational leadership the urgent need to do something to police their own ranks better, they always found reasons not to do it. Burleson says they cited rules of the church’s polity, and other things — but he sensed there was something else going on. The legendary Catholic victim’s advocate Father Tom Doyle says he has seen this before:

Doyle, the Catholic whistleblower, was similarly suspicious, if more blunt: “I understand the fear, because it’s going to make the leadership look bad,” he said. “Well, they are bad, and they should look bad. Because they have ignored this issue. They have demonized the victims.”

Read the whole thing.  There is so much more. It is all crushingly familiar to anyone who knows anything about the Catholic scandal. To borrow a line from Solzhenitsyn, the line between pastors and sex abusers does not run between denominations, but right down the middle of each and every one. There is no place to hide from sin, including the sins of covering up and suppressing evil for the sake of protecting those in power.

Let us Christians sincerely thank God for journalism like what the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News have done here. The series continues on Monday.

UPDATE: Southern Baptist pastor Russell Moore offers a powerful response. Excerpts:

So how should Christians think about this latest revelation?

The first is to see with clear eyes what is before us. Some have ridiculed this concern as being some irrational sweep into a secular #MeToo moment, implying that the problem is “political correctness” over an issue that is no real problem within church life. Others have suggested that the church should not concern itself with questions of “justice,” and that preaching the gospel itself will resolve matters of injustice. Others have implied that the horrific scandals we have seen in the Roman Catholic church are due to the theology of Catholicism, the nature of a celibate priesthood and so forth. All of these are not only wrongheaded responses, but are deadly dangerous both to the lives of present and future survivors of these horrors and to the witness of the church itself.

More:

Moreover, church autonomy is no excuse for a lack of accountability. Yes, in a Baptist ecclesiology each congregation governs its own affairs, and is not accountable to anyone “higher up” in a church system. And yet, the decisions a church makes autonomously determine whether that church is in good fellowship with others. A church that excuses, say, sexual immorality or that opposes missions is deemed out of fellowship with other churches. The same must be true of churches that cover up rape or sexual abuse.

Read it all.

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Bolshevik Revolution Then, Cultural Revolution Now

That’s an old propaganda poster from Italy’s Christian Democratic party. It reads: “Mother! Save your children from Bolshevism! Vote Christian Democrat.”

Here’s a current version now making the rounds on Italian conservative social media. “Gender” is the Anglicism that Italians use to represent “gender ideology,” their term for the LGBT program advocated by the Left. Really interesting to see how revolutionary Marxism has become defined in contemporary Italy not with Marxist politics per se, but with left-wing attempts to abolish the traditional family and gender roles.

 

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Cardinal Mary

Cardinal Francis Spellman (British Movietone/Shutterstock)

Lucian K. Truscott IV writes about the time he, as a West Point cadet, went to visit Cardinal Francis Spellman, the Archbishop of New York, for a cadet magazine interview. Spellman granted the interview in part because Truscott’s grandfather was a famous general whom Spellman had known in World War II. It was a memorable encounter. Excerpts:

We were led into a sitting room with windows overlooking Madison Avenue. Spellman, a diminutive, fleshy square-faced man wearing wire-rimmed spectacles was seated in a corner of the room. His assistant the monsignor showed me to a chair next to him. I took my seat and got out my pen and notebook and started the interview, but before I could even ask my first question, Spellman put his hand on my thigh and started moving it toward my crotch. He was just about to reach my private parts when the monsignor, who was standing behind him, reached over his shoulder and grabbed his wrist and put his hand back in his lap. “Now, now, eminence,” the monsignor whispered to Spellman.

I had no idea what to do. I was afraid I would be punished or even accused of lying if I reported Spellman to the authorities at West Point. I mean, he was Cardinal Spellman! He was the military vicar of the United States! I was panicked that if I stood up and left, I wouldn’t get the interview I needed for my story. I had sold the story and the New York trip to the officer in charge of The Pointer on the basis of writing a profile of Spellman in advance of the Thayer Award ceremony. I was dumbstruck. I just sat there, frozen.

The groping continued. More:

There was an out-of-body aspect to the whole thing. It was like it was happening to someone else. There I was in this rather large room behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral with two of my West Point buddies and this six-foot tall 30ish monsignor looking on, and each time Spellman groped me, I thought, surely, this is the last time it will happen. I mean, there were three other people present! He’s going to come to his senses!

But he didn’t. He wasn’t a doddering old senile fool, either. He answered my questions lucidly and even embellished his answers with long, digressive stories. At one point, he recalled the first day of the Anzio invasion and went on about what a dashing figure my grandfather cut in his leather jacket and cavalry riding breeches and white neck scarf, the colorful uniform he was famous for wearing during the war. The monsignor didn’t say a word about the cardinal’s behavior when he escorted us out of the cardinal’s residence. No apology, no shrug of the shoulders, nothing.

Read the whole thing.

Truscott says he wishes he hadn’t stayed quiet about it all these years. He feels that his silence in some way aided and abetted the culture of sexual abuse and cover-up. The thing is, if he had said what he knew, who would have believed him? I mean, he was Cardinal Spellman! 

It is possible that Spellman was not as in control of his faculties as Truscott assumed. It is well known that people in the grips of dementia can become sexually aggressive, having lost their inhibitions. Still, his story is credible, and corroborates stories about Spellman that have been around for decades. I heard a number of them when I was living in New York and writing about the abuse scandal. I’ve told in this space before a tale that a New York friend shared with me back in 2002. It was from back in the Sixties. A gay male friend of hers took her to a private party at the home of “Bubbles” — the nom de gay of Cardinal Spellman. She was the only female there. She said that the famously right-wing cardinal archbishop of New York gave her a personal tour of his mansion — including showing her the floor-to-ceiling smoked-glass mirrors he had had installed in his bathroom suite.

Cardinal Spellman was confident that he would never be outed, and that if someone tried, no one would believe it. And they wouldn’t have, until today.

In two weeks, a gay French sociologist will publish In The Closet Of The Vatican, a book the purports to out the gay network honeycombing the senior leadership class of the Roman Catholic Church. His claim is that the Vatican is run by gay men who exhibit various pathologies of the closet. In this tweet thread, Father James Martin, the LGBT-advocating Jesuit, tweets that in his view, the book ought to compel the Catholic Church to be more open, honest and affirming of gays in the priesthood, but will instead probably cause a witch hunt and a desire to purge priestly ranks of gays.

I wouldn’t call it a “witch hunt,” but Father Martin might be right. It is hard to see that happening, though, in an environment in which homosexuality is far more accepted, even among lay Catholics. On the other hand, it is also difficult to see happening what Father Martin prefers to be the outcome. If Dr. Martel is able to credibly document his claims about homosexuals and the Vatican, the outrage among many orthodox Catholics over Rome’s hypocrisy will not permit the Vatican to embrace Father Martin’s #LoveWins strategy.

Father Martin tweets:

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It’s easy to see why Father Martin has this fear. He’s exactly right! The publication of this book on the day before the Vatican summit will be the framework within which everything at the summit is reported. And it should. The global abuse scandal cannot be reduced to a problem of gay priests, but neither can it be understood without squarely facing the role of gay priests and their networks within the Church. As a New York Times reporter put it on the paper’s podcast recently, a typical situation is that Bishop Smith has a secret gay lover, and Father Jones, a pederast, knows Bishop Smith’s secret. Bishop Smith knows that Father Jones knows his secret, so he has a vested interest in turning a blind eye to whatever Father Jones is getting up to in the rectory. This is the culture in which abuse happens.

The mainstream media have long resisted confronting this truth, because it confirms negative stereotypes of gays. If Martel’s book lives up to the hype, it will no longer be possible to avoid the elephant in the sacristy.

What will the institutional Church do about it? God only knows. Pope Francis avoided even acknowledging Archbishop Vigano’s allegations about gay corruption in the Curia, pretending that he (the Pope) was too holy to be drawn in by the devil’s taunting. At some point — and that point is coming in a couple of weeks — Francis’s silence will be completely untenable. That dirty old cardinal Uncle Ted McCarrick is the living, breathing symbol of the hidden nexus of cash, power, and homosexuality in the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church.

UPDATE: The Italian, French, and Spanish title for this book is Sodoma, which is to say, Sodom. Here we are in the year 2019, and a major book from an established publisher says in its title that the real name of Vatican City is “Sodom” — and not a soul could plausibly say this is anti-Catholic bigotry, not after what we’ve all learned.

UPDATE.2: A Catholic reader sends in this passage from The Fifth Gospel A Confederacy of Dunces  to show that Ignatius Reilly’s scheme to achieve world peace through a conspiracy to homosexualize the military casts a certain light on Cardinal Spellman’s performative toughness as a Cold War anti-communist fighter. From John Kennedy Toole’s comic novel:

“The power-crazed leaders of the world would certainly be surprised to find that their military leaders and troops were only masquerading sodomites who were only too eager to meet the masquerading sodomite armies of other nations in order to have dances and balls and learn some foreign dance steps.”

As I was wearing the soles of my desert boots down to a mere sliver of crepe rubber on the old flagstone banquettes of the French Quarter in my fevered attempt to wrest a living from an unthinking and uncaring society, I was hailed by a cherished old acquaintance (deviate). After a few minutes of conversation in which I established most easily my moral superiority over this degenerate, I found myself pondering once more the crises of our times. My mentality, uncontrollable and wanton as always, whispered to me a scheme so magnificent and daring that I shrank from the very thought of what I was hearing. “Stop!” I cried imploringly to my god-like mind. “This is madness.” But still I listened to the counsel of my brain. It was offering me the opportunity to Save the World Through Degeneracy. There on the worn stones of the Quarter I enlisted the aid of this wilted flower of a human in gathering his associates in foppery together behind a banner of brotherhood.

Our first step will be to elect one of their number to some very high office — the presidency, if Fortuna spins us kindly. Then they will infiltrate the military. As soldiers, they will all be so continually busy in fraternizing with one another, tailoring their uniforms to fit like sausage skins, inventing new and varied battle dress, giving cocktail parties, etc., that they will never have time for battle. The one whom we finally make Chief of Staff will want only to attend to his fashionable wardrobe, a wardrobe which, alternately, will permit him to be either Chief of Staff or debutante, as the desire strikes him. In seeing the success of their unified fellows here, perverts around the world will also band together to capture the military in their respective countries. In those reactionary countries in which the deviates seem to be having some trouble in gaining control, we will send aid to them as rebels to help them in toppling their governments. When we have at last overthrown all existing governments, the world will enjoy not war but global orgies conducted with the utmost protocol and the most truly international spirit, for these people do transcend simple national differences. Their minds are on one goal; they are truly united; they think as one.

None of the pederasts in power, of course, will be practical enough to know about such devices as bombs; these nuclear weapons would lie rotting in their vaults somewhere. From time to time the Chief of Staff, the President, and so on, dressed in sequins and feathers, will entertain the leaders, i.e., the perverts, of all the other countries at balls and parties. Quarrels of any sort could easily be straightened out in the men’s room of the redecorated United Nations. Ballets and Broadway musicals and entertainments of that sort will flourish everywhere and will probably make the common folk happier than did the grim, hostile, fascistic pronouncements of their former leaders.

Ignatius may have failed to convert the military, but he seems to have had more success with the officer class of the Church Militant.

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The Curse Of Intersectionality

Intersectionality: farting cows obstructing progressive blue skies are enemies of the people (BerndBrueggemann/Shutterstock)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal has been pretty widely mocked as an example of pie-in-the-sky progressivist policy thinking. Leaving aside the wildly unworkable stuff relating directly to energy and the environment, notice small print stuff, like the item on page 5 of the GND FAQ calling for ending and repairing “historic oppression of frontline and vulnerable communities.” Got that? If you don’t want to be forced to rent a room to transgendered tenants, then you must want the planet to burn. 

Robby Soave of Reason points out that the Green New Deal requires subsidizing lazy bums. Look at the last line of this section of the GND FAQ:

 

Soave writes:

Why would the left include a provision about subsidizing the lifestyle of lazy people in its climate change manifesto? Because that’s what intersectionality requires.

As I explain my forthcoming book, PANIC ATTACK: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (pre-order it here), intersectionality is a philosophical framework that has come to completely dominate progressive activist thinking in the 30 years since the sociologist Kimberle Crenshaw first coined it. An intersectional progressive recognizes that racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and transphobia, and age-ism, and classism, and so on, are separate-but-related phenomena. To ignore just one of these sources of oppression is to fail intersectionality; the seriously social-justice minded must treat all of these issues as equally important and confront them en masse.

Intersectionality — that’s exactly it. Liberal Jonathan Chait criticizes the plan as wildly unrealistic, and points out that even as an expression of blue-sky liberalism, it leaves out some basic things that are necessary to meaningfully reducing carbon emissions: building more nuclear power plants, increasing population density, cap-and-trade policies. Chait:

How to explain this curious lack of ambition? Simple: All these things divide progressive activists. Some of the most committed environmentalists got involved in the movement in the 1970s, before climate change was a major issue but when the left identified nuclear power with the Cold War and Three Mile Island. This mind-set shaped the thinking of enough environmentalists that their allies in the movement feel compelled to respect them despite overwhelming evidence that nuclear power, which does not emit greenhouse gasses, needs to fill some of the void left by phasing out fossil fuels. Likewise, many leftists regard relaxed restrictions on development and carbon caps, as unacceptably market-based. So those policies are out.

The operating principle behind the Green New Deal is a no-enemies-to-the-left spirit of fostering unity among every faction of the progressive movement. Thus, at the same time, the plan avoids taking stances that are absolutely vital to reduce carbon emissions, it embraces policies that have nothing to do with climate change whatsoever.

More Chait:

Sean McElwee, a socialist organizer with a penchant for colorfully threatening to destroy his enemies, designed the Green New Deal as a framework to encompass every maximal demand of the left. “The Green New Deal is what it means to be progressive. Clean air, clean water, decarbonizing, green jobs, a just transition, and environmental justice are what it means to a progressive,” he tells Vox. “By definition that means politicians who don’t support those goals aren’t progressive. We need to hold that line. Get on the GND train or choo-choo, motherf**ker, we’re going to go right past you.”

On page two of the GND FAQ, they talk about eliminating “farting cows”(a environmental methane source) and airplanes as the longterm goal. I’m not making this up. No planes, no cows.

Guess which of the Democratic presidential contenders (or those expected to announce soon) have signed on to the Green New Deal choo-choo? 

Bernie Sanders

Kamala Harris

Kirsten Gillibrand

Cory Booker

Elizabeth Warren

Amy Klobuchar

Julian Castro

Tulsi Gabbard

Some of you readers say I’m a crackpot for conflating the Social Justice Warrior cultural agenda with economic socialism. The Green New Deal proposal demonstrates why in practical political terms, you cannot separate them. The doctrine of intersectionality will not let them.

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I agree that we need more pro-environment government laws and policies. I agree that the government needs to do something about strengthening the social safety net, income inequality, and strengthening the stability of the working class. I am somewhat to the left of the GOP on these issues. But if you think the Democratic Party as it exists today, post-Hillary and post-Obama, is going to let its standard-bearer vacillate the least bit from every maximal demand of the Left, you’re dreaming. It’s not right-wingers like me who are trying to smear socialism by attaching every crackpot thing the cultural left embraces to an economic program; it’s left-wing activists. One Millennial reader of this blog who works in DC Democratic circles told me last year that the militant activists really are driving this bus.

One caveat: I would have said the same thing about the GOP prior to Trump. The party’s factions litmus-tested everybody to death. Along came Trump and blew that system sky-high. Trump was a black swan, though. I suppose a black swan could fly into the Democratic picture too — after Trump, to be realistic is to allow for the impossible — but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Assuming that a GND endorser gets the Democratic nomination, it’s going to be awesome to see Trump lay into him or her for opposing farting cows, airplanes, and “oppression,” and backing subsidies for layabouts for the sake of saving the planet.

Some of y’all hate my talking about the political meaning of the Fog City Pack, freaky San Francisco gay dudes who pretend like they’re dogs , but I’m telling you, intersectionality means that weirdos like that will be humping the party’s leg insatiably and unshakably. #FogCityDemocrats.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat’s new column starts like this:

The first major policy intervention from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the noted social-media personality and future dictator-for-life of the Americas (I believe she’s also a congresswoman of some sort), is a quite-extraordinary document: a blueprint for fighting climate change that manages to confirm every conservative critique of liberal environmental activism, every Republican suspicion of what global-warming alarm is really all about.

The core conservative suspicion is that when liberals talk about the dire threat of global warming, they’re actually seizing opportunistically on the issue to justify, well, #fullsocialism — the seizure of the economy’s commanding heights in order to implement the most left-wing possible agenda.

A conventional liberal, up until now, would dismiss that belief as simply paranoid, the product of Fox News feedback loops and the science-denying fever swamps. But the Green New Deal that Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey are sponsoring — and that four leading Democratic contenders for the presidency have already endorsed — responds by saying: Yes, that’s absolutely correct.

Read the whole thing. 

The Douthat column reminded me of something I should have brought up earlier. Do y’all know why the Yellow Vests protests started in France? They were a spontaneous movement by non-urban French people who hated the proposed gasoline tax that the Macron government wanted to impose as part of its green agenda. The people quite rightly understood that this tax would fall heaviest on rural and suburban people — not the urban centers, where wealth and power are concentrated. The politics of fighting global warming are very, very difficult. The fact that they’re difficult do not make the scientific facts about planetary temperatures and rising oceans go away. But nobody has figured out how, in a democracy, to compel masses of people to accept a costlier life and a lower standard of living for the sake of something that they experience as an abstraction. I feel that whenever I talk to a progressive about this stuff, they believe that if we can just vote the Republicans out of office, the political problems of fighting global warming will be easy to solve.

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Christophobia Is Real

Anti-Christian Soviet propaganda (Ushanka Show/YouTube)

I had a galvanizing telephone conversation today with an American academic who grew up in the USSR. They (I’ll use a neutral plural pronoun to protect this person’s identity) completely agree with the premise of the book I’m planning — a book about the rise of totalitarianism via identity politics progressivism — and urged me to pay particular attention to the way global corporations are carrying these ideas forward. This, they said, is what is truly innovative about this cultural moment.

They also told me that based on their experience, I should expect fierce emotional resistance to what I write from liberals and progressives. American leftists of all kinds do not want to hear it. They said they have lived through angry progressives in academia telling them to shut up when they talked about things they had actually lived through — things that contradicted what these progressives wanted to believe about socialism.

I tell you this because it is essentially the same story I have heard many times from people like them. In this book I’m planning, I will let these people tell their stories, for those who have ears to hear. We won’t be able to say we weren’t warned.

A reader drew my attention to this blog post by “Clarissa,” a Soviet emigre whose blog title is based on the Law of Merited Impossibility. It’s about religion and totalitarianism. Excerpt:

My father was a closeted Christian in the USSR. There was no way for him to get his hands on a Bible or talk to a priest but he was desperate to learn about the teachings of Christ. So he’d pore over the textbooks in his university courses on Scientific Atheism (yes, that’s the real, official name) that everybody had to take and he would underline every quote from the Bible that the textbooks included to demonstrate the supposed stupidity of Christianity. He didn’t read the Soviet critique of the Bible that filled the space between the quotes. But the quotes were the only way for him to access the text of the Bible. He had no community of believers around him and he didn’t seek one out for the sake of his children. There was a girl from an openly religious family in my school, and nobody who saw the way she was terrorized by the school authorities would want that for their kids.

I will never forget the day when my father finally got his hands on an actual Bible. It was 1985, and perestroika was just beginning. We were visiting friends in Moscow, and they gave my father a Bible to read. He stayed up all night reading it and when I asked him to give it to me, he did. I was nine, and when I started to read the Gospel of John I felt compelled to read it aloud.

“It feels like the kind of book that has to be read aloud. It has the kind of greatness that demands it,” I explained to my Dad. I saw that he was deeply shaken by what I said but I was too young to realize how important it must have been to him to see his child realize the greatness of the teaching of Christ.

My father got baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church at the age of 57 in Canada.

You really should read the whole thing to see how this experience affected her when she prepared for a job interview in academia here.

Christophobia is real. Writing in the Catholic Herald, Matthew Schmitz quoted none other than Pope Francis saying that “polite persecution” in the West is a thing. Excerpts:

One of the most curious aspects of polite persecution is the refusal of many Christians to acknowledge its reality. If any Christian in the West says that the Church there faces persecution, one of his co-religionists is sure to accuse him of overstating the case. Herein lies the great insidiousness of polite persecution. Rather than being conducted by sword-and-sandals tyrants employing brutal means, it is very often enforced by Christians themselves, in order to flatter and serve their secular betters. Time and again they rush to denounce other Christians as “hateful”, “insensitive” and “bigoted” – in a word, impolite.

Anti-Catholicism now exists to a great degree as Catholic self-loathing. Like the Italians and Irish who have made their way into country clubs and now resent talk of gangsters such as Tony Soprano or Whitey Bulger, polite Catholics dislike the reminder that, despite all, they still profess an unfashionable faith. For these upwardly mobile souls, professing Christian sexual teaching is just shy of running an extortion racket or putting out a hit. They not only seek to dissociate themselves from such Catholics, they do what they can to silence and suppress them.

I did this myself, as a new Catholic convert — but against Evangelicals. Back when I first converted, in my twenties, I was living in Washington, and had enough social awareness about the secular circles I traveled in to know that Evangelicals were thought of as being really outré. Mind you, I was a religious and social conservative, but I was so insecure that I made a point of emphasizing in conversation that I was a Catholic Christian — the strong implication being that I wasn’t one of those simplistic Evangelicals.

I cringe to think about my arrogance back then. This was not something that any Catholic taught me. This was all about my own prejudices, and fear of not fitting in. I don’t know why I thought that secular liberals would respect me any more for opposing abortion and sexual liberalism as a Catholic than they would have had I espoused those beliefs as an Evangelical. It was all about the intellectual snobbery of an ambitious young DC conservative. That same intellectual arrogance I nurtured within myself helped set me up for losing my Catholic faith years later. But I digress. The point is, I know exactly what Schmitz is talking about, because I did a similar thing myself 25 years ago, without understanding what I was doing.

A reader passes on this New York Times story in which orthodox Christian teaching is presented as a pathology that harms others.

Excerpts:

Some churches “weaponize scripture and religion to do very deep damage on the psyche,” he said. Gay, lesbian and trans people are told that God condemns them, unwed mothers that they are living in sin, and many natural human desires are deemed evil.

Scientific research into the consequences of such religious condemnation remains at an early stage. But the potential for harm is clear. Many suffer for decades from post-traumatic stress disorder-type symptoms, including anxiety, self doubt and feelings of social inadequacy.

More:

Another group that works with victims is the Child-Friendly Faith Project, founded by Janet Heimlich, a journalist who has written about religious child maltreatment. The project has worked with those who say they were traumatized by religious groups, including former attendees of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, a Christian boarding school for at-risk children located outside Amarillo, Tex.

Brett Higbee, a retired land surveyor who attended the ranch during the late 1970s, said that he was routinely beaten for religious infractions like failing to memorize Bible verses. These experiences made him religion-phobic for years, he said, his pain triggered by entering a church or even hearing Christmas music on the radio.

The gap between religious teachings on compassion and the ways that faith sometimes gets misused inspired Dr. Harold G. Koenig, a psychiatrist, and his colleagues at Duke University to develop “religious cognitive therapy” in 2014. The therapy uses “positive scriptures that focus on forgiveness, God’s love and divine mercy to challenge the dysfunctional thoughts that maintain trauma,” says Dr. Koenig.

Now, it is undeniably true that some of the more fundamentalist forms of Christianity — Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox — can do serious psychological and emotional damage to people. What this story conflates is a strict and merciless application of Christian teachings on sexuality with the teachings themselves. It’s wrong for Christians (or Jews, Muslims, and any other religious believer) to be so defensive about attacks on our faith that we deny that people within the religion can use its teachings to psychologically abuse others. But we should be very wary of attempts to pathologize all orthodox religious belief. The story the Soviet emigre academic Clarissa tells about how her father’s Soviet experience came to mind as she prepared for a job interview in US academia is instructive in this regard.

We Christians should also be aware that we don’t allow our own prejudices and insecurities about our own social capital draw us into failing to defend fellow believers from the scorn of others, even though we may not share all the convictions of those believers.

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Softcore Stalinism & Kompromat

In 2015, Yale students had a collective conniption to protest the threat of offensive Halloween costumes (WTNH screenshot)

We are officially the stupidest civilization in all of human history:

Adidas has pulled a sneaker it was selling in honor of Black History Month after the all-white running shoe was slammed on Twitter.

The shoe, part of the company’s Ultraboost line, was included in a broader collection of clothing and sneakers inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, but critics said the sneaker’s color, and even the material apparently used to create it, made for a tone-deaf tribute.

First of all, can we all snort derisively at a global corporation for making a Black History Month sneaker? Did George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass live and die so Adidas could sell more shoes?

Second, what in the hell is that? People are so offended by whiteness that they hate white shoes now?

While we are pondering the threat to humanity posed by a white Black History Month sneaker, let us ponder the final part of my too-long Woke Menace post:

Here’s Yale Daily News column by Isis Davis-Marks, a black woman and, more importantly, a Yale undergraduate, which makes her one of the most privileged persons walking the planet. She is already part of the ruling class. In the piece, she talks about the necessity to be a spy and an informant for Wokeness. Excerpts:

Everyone knows a white boy with shiny brown hair and a saccharine smile that conceals his great ambitions. He could be in Grand Strategy or the Yale Political Union. Maybe he’s the editor-in-chief of the News. He takes his classes. He networks. And, when it comes time for graduation, he wins all the awards.

One day, I’ll turn on the television — or, who knows, maybe televisions will be obsolete by this point — and I’ll see him sitting down for his Senate confirmation hearing. Yes, he’ll be a bit older, with tiny wrinkles sprouting at the corners of his eyes and a couple of gray hairs jutting out of the top of his widow’s peak. But that smile, that characteristic saccharine smile, will remain the same.

When I’m watching the white boy — who is now a white man by this point — on CNN, I’ll remember a racist remark that he said, an unintentional utterance that he made when he had one drink too many at a frat party during sophomore year. I’ll recall a message that he accidentally left open on a computer when he forgot to log out of iMessage, where he likened a woman’s body to a particularly large animal. I’ll kick myself for forgetting to screenshot the evidence.

And, when I’m watching him smile that smile, I’ll think that I could have stopped it.

More:

To be honest, I’m not sure what the solution is. This expands beyond vocalizing problems about sexual assault: The core of this problem has to do with our values. The problem isn’t just the Yale administration; it’s Yale students. We allow things to skate by. We forget. We say, “No, he couldn’t have done that,” or, “But he’s so nice.” No questions are asked when our friends accept job offers from companies that manufacture weapons or contribute to gentrification in cities. We merely smile at them and wave as we walk across our residential college courtyards and do nothing. Thirty years later, we kick ourselves when it’s too late.

But I can’t do that anymore — I can’t let things slip by. I’m watching you, white boy. And this time, I’m taking the screenshot.

Here’s Ryszard Legutko, on something liberal democracy shares with socialism:

It happens that both systems never suffered from a shortage of people willing — often without being asked — to survey the political purity in communities, institutions, groups, and all types of social behavior.

The atmosphere the systems produce is particularly conducive to engendering a certain type of mentality: that of a moralist, a commissar, and an informer rolled into one. In one sense, this person may think that he performs something particularly valuable to humanity; in another, the situation helps him to develop a sense of power otherwise unavailable to him; and in a third, he often cannot resist the temptation to indulge in a low desire to harm others with impunity. For this reason tracking opposition and defending orthodoxy turned out to be so attractive that more and more people fail to resist it.

If you are white and male, you would be well advised to stay far away from Isis Davis-Marx, I mean, Davis-Marks. She’s watching you, white boy. Whiteness and maleness are evil.

The fact that in the Yale Daily News, she is able to publish a column with these actual words, whereas a white guy who wrote a column about, say, disproportionate black male crime rates, and ended by saying that, “I’m watching you, black boy,” would be thrown out of school and the campus shut down in a paroxysm of social-justice agony — well, that tells you a lot about the nature of the Woke Menace. It’s anti-human moralists, commissars, and informants all the way down.

Let’s ponder a world in which a multinational corporation can be persuaded to pull a sneaker from stores because some Twitter idiots decided that white shoes are offensive to black people, while a student at one of the world’s leading universities can publish straight-up racist invective against white men, and nobody blinks.

Spare me the, “Oh, come on, it’s a college newspaper.” We all know perfectly well that if a columnist for the Yale Daily News had as much as published a column as much as questioning, say, whether or not people were overreacting to the blackface thing, the entire campus would have convulsed. We know this is true. When Erica Christakis suggested a few years back that the university had better things to do than to manage the Halloween costumes of its students, everybody there went berserk. Christakis left the university under pressure.

People: this is the ruling class. This is how they think. Isis Davis-Marks came to Yale from the Bronx High School of Science, one of the most selective and elite high schools in the United States. She is going to graduate with a Yale degree, and be able to ride that racist wokeness as far as it can take her in the ruling class’s institutions. The ideology of this class views people like these white Applachians who live in West Virginia’s poorest county, and who voted for Donald Trump, as Deplorable bearers of White Privilege. They are today’s kulaks, the “class enemies” of the order that progressives are trying to bring into existence.

As the (black) linguist John McWhorter wrote four years ago, antiracism is a religion among progressives of all races. Davis-Marks’s racist remarks are not perceived as such by the culture at Yale and more than a claim that people who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior are going to hell would be controversial at an Alabama Bible college. But here’s the thing: a graduate of an Alabama Bible college has a microscopic chance of entering into one of the institutions of the American ruling class. Not so a graduate of Yale.

This matters. This really matters. In his 1951 classic The Captive Mind, the exiled Polish dissident Czeslaw Milosz addressed this point:

It was only toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the realization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy. Their bread, their work, their private lives began to depend on this or that decision in disputes on principles to which, until then, they had never paid any attention.

You keep on telling yourself that what Ivy League intellectuals and those who teach and administer universities have to say about intersectionality, gender fluidity, white fragility, and the rest of it is nonsense that only eggheads care about.

And then you’ll wake up one day and find that a senior judge has upheld a state education policy forcing your children to be taught that there is no such thing as males and females, and that anybody who says so is a bigot. You’ll find out that you will not be considered for a position because of your race, and that objecting to this injustice is seen as a pathology. You will find yourself or your husband accused of sexual assault, and judged by the media and the court of public opinion as a rapist without a shred of concrete evidence. You will see your kids photographed in Washington DC minding their own business, then turned into international objects of hatred, declared “punchable” by national progressive media figures, condemned even by their own bishops, and your home addresses blasted all over the Internet by activists urging people to assault you as enemies of the people.

This is really happening. Isis Davis-Marks is an undergraduate at one of the most prestigious and influential colleges in the world, but still, only an undergraduate. If that’s how you see it, you are completely missing the point. Ask yourself what would happen if  white male undergraduates at Yale organized any kind of protest, however peaceful, against Davis-Marks’s racist column. More to the point, ask yourself what kind of culture produces, even valorizes, people who say openly that they view all people around them who are of a particular race, or sex, as enemies, and that they are going to be watching them for ideological deviation, and recording it, so in the future, they can ruin those people’s lives?

A reader named Clarissa, an American academic, who grew up under Communism writes about the meaning of Isis Davis-Marks. Excerpt:

The vigilance that this student proposes to exercise isn’t based on the waning power of the neutered state. The surveillance apparatus she wants to use is corporate. And the ultimate goal is to ensure that corporate interests are never opposed.

The wall-to-wall propaganda that characterizes this new totalitarianism isn’t state-sponsored either. It’s disseminated solely through corporate channels. Traditional politicians are squeezed out by TV and social media stars who represent this new form of power. The complete dependence of their popularity on Twitter and Instagram means they will do absolutely anything to avoid being deplatformed. It’s no longer about courting rich donors to donate to your campaign. Now it’s all about being a funny enough clown that attracts hits and likes to enrich the owners of these platforms.

Every day, the power of these giant corporations to unearth a tweet or a like on a tweet that can sink absolutely anybody grows. There is no need for a state to keep a dossier of kompromat (compromising material) on each citizen. This process has been completely corporatized. And the worst part is that people who are wielding this sort of coercive power honestly see themselves as powerless victims who have to defend themselves from coercion.

Read the whole thing. 

Clarissa makes a point that I’ve tried to emphasize here before, most recently in the Amelie Wen Zhao controversy (she’s the YA author who withdrew her unpublished book and apologized to the public after withering Twitter shaming): people are wrong to think that totalitarian repression comes only from the State. It is coming from corporations, from institutions, and from self-appointed commissars who weaponize their softcore Stalinism with social media. When you see a multinational corporation doing what Adidas did, it’s right to laugh at it, but you had better take seriously the force that motivated its decision.

People like Clarissa, who grew up under Socialism, know what’s happening. They’ve lived this before. One of them, a college professor, recently told me about the “terror” (their word) they have about voicing any objection to identity-politics wokeness within their institution, because they know it can and will be used against them, and they don’t know who, if anybody, will defend them.

You think it can’t happen here? It can — and it already is. The column Davis-Marks wrote is headlined: “Evil Is Banal.” Yeah, you think?

UPDATE: A reader points to this column from Leda Fisher, an undergraduate writing in the student newspaper at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn. Excerpt:

I am so g****mned tired of listening to white boys. I cannot describe to you how frustrating it is to be forced to listen to a white boy explain his take on the Black experience in the Obama-era. Hey Brian, I’m an actual Black woman alive right now with a brain. In what world would your understanding of my life carry more weight than my understanding? Unfortunately, it is this world, where white men debate the pain of other people for fun and then take away their rights. The second thing most white boys seem not to understand is that they do not exist separate from the rest of the world. You do not speak alone, you speak with the weight of every other white man who has spoken over a woman, erased the contributions of queer people from history, or denigrated “broken English” as unintelligent.You speak with the weight of policies and laws meant to forever define intelligence by how it measures up to the bros of America.

So, should white boys still be allowed to share their “opinions”? Should we be forced to listen? In honor of Black History Month, I’m gonna go with a hell no.

As ever, what’s important about this is not that an undergraduate has an obnoxious opinion. It’s that within a university, an opinion that’s openly racist, and in fact calls for the silencing of others on the basis of race and sex, is considered mainstream discourse.

 

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Our Socialist Democratic Party

Sen. Kamala Harris, Democratic presidential candidate and woman of the far-left people (Kim Wilson/Shutterstock)

While certain left-of-center commenters on this blog say that I’m being an alarmist in talking about socialism among Democratic presidential candidates, it doesn’t look that way from inside the party’s strategists. In National Journal today, this from Josh Kraushaar:

Anyone tracking the positions of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates would think there weren’t any moderates left in the party. California Sen. Kamala Harris reiterated that her co-sponsorship of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All legislation would mean the abolition of private insurance at a nationally-televised town hall last month. Five leading candidates endorsed a Green New Deal that imposes a top-down revolution of American society to mitigate the impact of climate change.

But when you look at the polls breaking down the actual Democratic electorate, you’ll find limited support for such socialist-minded schemes. Broaden out to the overall electorate, and it’s easy to see how Democrats could be giving President Trump a lifeline to a second term despite his widespread unpopularity.

“We are on an out-of-control roller coaster going 100 miles-per-hour, and we have no functioning brake,” said one liberal Democratic strategist who is alarmed by the rising tide of socialism within the party. “No one is leading and that void could not be more clear.”

What’s so remarkable about this rapid leftward shift is that it’s working against the party’s best interests—both for the individual candidates and their chances of defeating Trump next year. So many candidates are trying to fill the most-progressive lane of the party that they’re splitting that share of the vote evenly. At the same time, there’s plenty of evidence that many rank-and-file Democrats are looking for a pragmatist who can actually win the presidency.

Whee! I cannot wait to get started on this book about the danger socialism poses to the US. The proposal is going out to publishers in a few days.

Some of you fault me for tying economic socialism to cultural progressivism. I agree that in theory, one can have a stronger welfare state without adopting the moral and cultural values of the Social Justice Warriors. But that’s not how the real world works. It is true that people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez focus more on economics than on culture, but they do that because they already assume far-left cultural positions. Neither Sanders nor Ocasio-Cortez has to run in polities where abortion, LGBT rights, racial politics, etc., are contested. There is already a high degree of cultural heterogeneity homogeneity around these issues within their constituencies.

Ask yourself: would any Democratic presidential primary contender in 2020 stand a ghost of a chance if he or she took a moderate stance on issues pertaining to race, gender (= abortion), or sexuality (= transgender rights)? Be honest. You can’t just wish these things away.

It’s true that the Republicans have a similar problem. Both parties are beholden to extreme partisans in their bases. But President Trump has his base onside. The conventional wisdom in 2016 was that the Republicans had nominated someone so extreme that he couldn’t possibly win. Yet he did. You watch: the Democrats are going to nominate someone so extreme on economics and culture that they’re going to ensure Trump’s re-election.

It is possible, of course, that the Dems could pull a Trump, and nominate some out-of-left-field candidate who manages to pull off a victory anyway, because enough people in the middle are so sick of Trump that they prefer to take a chance on the devil they don’t know. But I don’t see that as likely. In any case, the New York Times might believe that Trump is manufacturing a fake villain in “socialism,” but it’s pretty clear that he’s not.

UPDATE: Reader “EarlyBird” comments:

I agree that the economic left-progressive-“socialists” taking over the Dem Party right now are also on the extreme left of social issues.

But besides the Supreme Court – which I understand is no small thing – how will the Darwinian-libertarian Republicans slow the leftward drift? Yes, the USSC will help protect the erosion of religious rights. That’s very important. But what else?

Are national Republicans somehow going to be able to break the spell of the left’s toxic identity politics? Do they even care? No.

And state Republicans will continue to do well in states where Republicans do well, i.e., deep red ones, so that’s a wash either way.

Simply put, professional conservative politicians are not going to save our culture, but will continue to erode Americans’ faith in a fair capitalism, undermine the middle class and thereby add to the havoc that does to our culture.

They are done even pretending to care about “fiscal restraint,” and have decided to shrink government by bankrupting it by giving away more tax cuts to billionaires.

Guy’s got a point about the cluelessness of standard-grade Republicans. It’s not 1980. The big corporations that they love so much are woke as hell.

UPDATE.2: Robby Soave at Reason explains this better than I have. The reason why you cannot separate economic socialism from cultural leftism is intersectionality. Excerpts:

As I explain my forthcoming book, PANIC ATTACK: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (pre-order it here), intersectionality is a philosophical framework that has come to completely dominate progressive activist thinking in the 30 years since the sociologist Kimberle Crenshaw first coined it. An intersectional progressive recognizes that racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and transphobia, and age-ism, and classism, and so on, are separate-but-related phenomena. To ignore just one of these sources of oppression is to fail intersectionality; the seriously social-justice minded must treat all of these issues as equally important and confront them en masse.

 

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This Tabloid Gets Wood

Today’s New York Post cover

In tabloid jargon, the cover of the paper is called the “wood.” Let it be said that in reporting on the conflict between Jeff Bezos and National Enquirer owner David Pecker over Bezos’s d*ck pics, the New York Post has achieved the Black Forest of woods.

Oh, this makes me so happy, I just can’t tell you! The most legendary of New York Post headline writers was the late Vinnie Musetto, whose greatest contribution was the immortal “Headless Body In Topless Bar”. When I went to work for the post in 1998, I was introduced to Vinnie, who was by then a serene old man whose gray ponytail extended out from the back of a trucker hat.

One of the old-timers said, “You should have seen him before he got medicated. He would go into these rages, and oh my god.” But there he was, the legend himself, mildly pecking away at his keyboard, his volcanic genius bound by antipsychotic meds.

I was at the Post for just over three years, and they were among the most rewarding of my professional life. I’m not kidding, not remotely. I loved that paper. The day I came in for my job interview was the day that the Monica Lewinsky story broke. I recall standing in the newsroom when Marc Kalech, the rotund, mustachioed managing editor, blew through holding some document high, and saying with great good cheer, “If there’s a way to trivialize this story, we’ll find it!”

That was the Post. Every newspaper I’ve ever worked at went about their jobs solemnly, carrying the Public’s Trust™ as if it were a funeral urn. Not the New York Post. They were in it to have fun. Along the way, we did serious work too. For example, in my role there, I reported some groundbreaking stuff about Rev. Jesse Jackson’s financial and political corruption, and I also broke news about a priest sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of New York. The Post managed to be a serious newspaper without taking itself too seriously — an extremely rare quality. It was as if the entire thing was written and edited from the corner of a bar.

My personal favorite wood published while I was there came when a court divorce filing revealed that Carol Channing accused her husband, Charles Lowe, of neglecting her in the bedroom for decades. The wood was like the one you see above, with the sub-headline on top of the headline. This was what the text said, over a photo of Channing shrugging comically:

No sex for 30 years

HELL NO, DOLLY

I like to think that after today’s BEZOS EXPOSES PECKER wood, somewhere in Hack Heaven, Vinnie Musetto got his wings. If the New York Post is still publishing at the Second Coming, God bless ’em, they’ll find a way to trivialize that too.

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