A Prayer for Trump’s Wall

Lord, I don’t believe in you. But know that this prayer is the true cry of my heart. Hear me:

Lord I have no great affection for white people, and no antipathy either. The same goes for people of all colors and shades. The best I can say about people of any race is that some of them are easy on the eyes, and that is nice. (Also, please do something about sickle-cell anemia.)

But the uppity mouthbreathers with lame degrees in the humanities and social sciences keep telling me that white men, and white people generally, have had too much say here for too long a time. I have always believed people should get what they ask for, good and hard. Lord, give it to them. Give them the change they ask for!

Let the United States of America take in millions of new immigrants. Start today! Let every one of these immigrants be brown or black, or really any color but white. Let half of them be gay, or all of them. Who cares? Let at least half of them have gender expressions that are at apparent odds with their biological sex. Let at least half of them be disabled. Let them all be atheists. Let them be all be poor and desperate, perhaps fleeing from oppression in their home countries.

But let them all be hard-core anarcho-capitalists. Or Objectivists. Or, best of all, Agorists. Let them all be well read in economics, Misesians tempered with an Objectivist’s sense for objective economic value. Let them be well read in Aristotelian philosophy, too. And since this is my prayer, let them all (even the deaf ones, if you can arrange it) be fervent lovers of Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Charles Ives, and, most of all, Gustav Mahler. The general taste in music needs improving.

Lord in short order let them infiltrate and bring under their control all our key institutions. Let the universities be staffed with these brown and black immigrants. Let all the anchors on NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and the cable networks be replaced with them. Let them take all the key offices of government, pass a constitutional amendment, and then take the presidency. Let them end the Federal Reserve and restore the gold standard. Let them enforce the Ninth and Tenth Amendments with a passion so pure and hot that its beauty and terror makes all the faculty and students of Yale’s law school commit mass suicide by self-immolation. Harvard too, Lord.

Let them Make America Great Again. Great, and brown. Let them have lots and lots of babies. Let them intermarry with white America, ’till the country caramelizes coast to coast, and no one can figure out what race anyone else is anymore.

When the time is right, Lord, let them dissolve the government and bring at last a peaceful, permanent, civilized anarchy to this continent.

I know this is a lot to ask, Lord. If it is too much, then please just let Trump’s wall be built. Real high.

This I pray.


Mein Kampf Is Feminist Scholarship

One of the strangest experiences I had upon quitting teaching was that I started worrying, quite a lot, about what my former students would encounter in college. I think the reason I hadn’t worried much about this before was that, as long as I remained in the classroom, even if former students of mine were having all the useful wrinkles in their brains massaged flat by their professors, I could still compensate for what was being done to them, in a way, by stirring new wrinkles into the minds I still had at hand. But once I quit, there could be no more of that, no more compensations, and so the worrying set in.

The truth is that American colleges and universities typically propagandize rather than educate. (There are some exceptions, but they make no difference when higher education is assessed as a whole.) While anyone can still get a good education in any number of narrow fields, as far as general education is concerned, colleges and universities are anti-educational institutions. Not only do they do more harm than good, they do harm exclusively. It is almost impossible to communicate just how bad they are, and just how ruinous the effect is that they have on the thinking of their hapless young victims.

But thanks to a trio of heroes, one of them an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University (of all places!) communicating just how bad they are has just become marginally easier. These heroes have been hard at work exposing the corruption at the heart of the contemporary university, a corruption they call “grievance studies.”

Have you heard of “white privilege”? If you have, you have grievance studies to thank for it. Even though the language of grievance studies is often mocked or entirely overlooked in mainstream American culture, its extensive cultural reach exceeds most people’s grasps. For the spirit of grievance studies is the spirit that animates the contemporary university. The attitudes and beliefs typical to it are those that universities impart, with varying degrees of success, to the young and impressionable. Learning to brainlessly parrot these attitudes and beliefs is what earns one — in far too many, far too influential social circles — the contemporary honorific, “educated,” as in “she’s an educated person; she recognizes her white privilege.”

I could go on at length about grievance studies, and perhaps someday I will. But for now, just note that a respected journal in the field has agreed to re-publish a chapter of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, having mistaken the content of that chapter for cutting-edge feminist scholarship. Yes. Re-read the sentence before last a few times, slowly.

How To Understand Resistance to Gun Control

Proponents of new gun-control legislation often seem genuinely baffled by their opponents’ position. They cannot understand how the other side can be so consistently uncompromising, especially as shooting after shooting claims scores of innocent lives. It would greatly illuminate contemporary political debate if the Left’s bafflement here could be resolved. But this is difficult. While the pro-gun crowd’s motivations are not mysterious, they are obscure. To clear away this obscurity, much that goes unspoken on the American Right must be said plainly. This way, at least, the debate over gun control might become less confused.

The basic reason why pro-gun Americans tend to resist even mild gun-control legislation is that, for them, guns are a symbolic issue. In their guts, they know that if gun-control legislation moves even a little in the direction that anti-gun activists want, then America will cease to be the kind of country it is. But pro-gunners often love America as it is, and therefore resist any fundamental change in its character. This is why they resist even sensible-seeming restrictions to freedom of gun ownership.

On its own, it is not too helpful to say that pro-gun activists resist change because of a gut feeling about the direction the country might go in. “So what?” a gun-control activist might wonder. “Why should I care about what these people’s ‘guts’ are telling them? We shouldn’t be basing important national policies on ‘gut’ feelings anyway!” And it’s understandable to react this way, although it doesn’t help the two sides to communicate. For that, the gun-controllers need to understand where this gut feeling comes from, and whether or not the feeling has any basis in fact.

If the pro-gun coalition’s feelings do have a basis in fact, then the anti-gun coalition is not merely arguing for a minor change in the specific public policies around gun ownership. Rather, because they see the world in a fundamentally different and incompatible way, their efforts to change gun policy are only one small part of a much broader, general effort to transform American society.

Is this true? To begin to see what the pro-gun coalition sees here, consider the way the Democratic, anti-gun coalition admires the more restrictive gun policies of other countries. Again and again, they hold up Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, or Western European countries as models for better gun policies. Using these countries as models for American policy reveals much about how the Democratic coalition views the world, and what they want to change about America.

Consider Japan. On the surface, it is very different from the United States. It has a culture and a history nothing like our own, and its people share very different attitudes, beliefs, and values. And yet, gun-control advocates are perfectly comfortable using it as a model for American policies. Why?

Because Japan is a democratic country, and, therefore, in the Democratic coalition’s typical view, it is “like us.” To someone in the Democratic coalition, if a country is democratic, its other particulars are often not worth concerning oneself over. In contrast, the pro-gun coalition sees every country in the world as fundamentally unlike the United States. This coalition believes in “American exceptionalism,” the idea that the United States is unique in the world, and that the root of this uniqueness lies within particularly American standards of personal and economic freedom, individual rights, and, often, a unique relationship with God. These opposing classification systems use completely different standards, and so it is very hard for anyone who intuitively classifies the world the first way to understand the concerns of anyone who classifies it the second way, and vice versa.

These divergent ways of classifying the world explain both why anti-gunners are happy to hold up Great Britain as a model, and why the pro-gun coalition shrugs this model off with contempt. Although, unlike Japan, Great Britain has a culture and a history intimately connected to our own, to the Republican, pro-gun coalition, it is nonetheless alien. Great Britain does not recognize individual rights. It has no formal constitution. Its people are “subjects” of the realm, not “citizens.” In Britain, it is the Crown, not the people, that is sovereign. From the characteristically American and republican point of view, Great Britain is a fundamentally different kind of country, and therefore not a natural or useful model for the United States.

Democratic-coalition members will not find Britain’s stance on rights interesting or important. To them, it is a technicality: trivial, non-essential, and certainly no basis for rejecting “policies that work” that happen to come out of such a country. After all, they might argue, Great Britain may not formally recognize individual rights, but people in Great Britain seem to enjoy many or most of the same freedoms Americans enjoy. Why focus on legal technicalities when lives are at stake?

It’s a fair question. To see why the Republican coalition continues to focus on these apparent technicalities, it is necessary to step away from concrete examples for a moment and contrast the competing classification systems directly. The least complicated way to do this is to contrast two “good” kinds of government: American-style, individual-rights-based government must be contrasted against a democratic government that does not recognize individual rights. This contrast must highlight the principles that distinguish these kinds of governments, as opposed to merely contrasting particulars.

In a democratic system without individual rights, there are no limits on what the government may do in order to achieve whatever purpose it has set for itself. A democracy of this kind may pass any law. It can reward or punish any kind of behavior, for any reason. The government’s power is, in formal terms, absolute. Another way of saying this is: the government is sovereign.

This is not to say that this kind of government operates on whim, or that it does, in fact, tend to reward and punish behaviors without any outside considerations or limits. In practice, governments are limited by tradition, and by the expectations of the people they govern. It is only to say that in such a government, in a culture overseen by such a government, any measure that makes it through the democratic process is, by default, considered legitimate, proper, and good.

So government power in such a democracy is subject only to soft limits, by which I mean that the limits themselves are informal and can (and do) change over time. If the people in a democratic country find some kind of law repulsive to their sense of justice, that law probably will not be enacted. But the popular sense of justice can change over time, and so laws that might have seemed inconceivable in a great-grandfathers’ time become uncontroversial for his great-granddaughters. Sometimes it happens that different factions in a democracy like this will disagree about which laws are too burdensome. For example, Great Britain recently voted to leave the European Union, partially because people involved in business were finding the very comprehensive EU regulations to be too much. But many Britons, especially younger ones, disagreed, and thought that the benefits of EU membership far outweighed the hardships that these regulations imposed. But the Britons who voted for Brexit were not asserting a right to be free of particular regulations, or rejecting regulation on principle. They almost certainly believed that their government had the right to join any union it wanted to join, or to subject its people to whatever economic regulations seemed best. For Britons, exiting the EU was not a question of restoring lost rights (because Britons have no rights, not in the American sense); it was merely a question of whether the government was exercising its unlimited right to govern in an effective and worthwhile way.

Because there are no formal or hard limits to what democratic governments permit themselves to do, and because their citizens would probably become uncomfortable with this unlimited power if certain assurances were not made, these governments always advertise that they use their power for benevolent, humanitarian purposes. These purposes do change over time, or else they would become too much like hard limits, and no government of this kind would tolerate such limits.

The advertised purposes for which an unlimited and democratic government deploys its power are continuously negotiated and renegotiated. Every such government operates within an informal consensus — a flexible, ever-changing agreement both within the government and with the people — about what purposes its unlimited power can legitimately serve.

Since these agreements are informal, there is no way to list them accurately, but it is possible to briefly describe a few of the ideas that tend to come up in this area again and again. First, unlimited democracies, like all governments, believe that government power should be used to keep the peace. Policies that punish criminals and regulate dangerous activities (like driving, flying airplanes, or transporting deadly chemicals) are universal. Second, unlimited democracies tend to aim at some kind of vision of the future, a “common good,” and pass laws seeking to encourage society to develop in the areas that are favored, while curtailing any trends that are not favored. For example, common aims that unlimited democracies have for the future include increasing the general level of happiness, increasing the general level of health, increasing the general prosperity, helping more people to reach their own potential, keeping the poorest people from falling below a certain minimum level of security and opportunity, correcting for injustices of the past, maximizing fairness, or protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment.

Unlimited democracies never settle for only one of these organizing goals. Through the continuous renegotiation of priorities, some administrations will focus on increasing economic prosperity, others might focus on increasing fairness, still others focusing on other benevolent and humanitarian ends.

The contrast between this unlimited-democratic form of government and the individual-rights form is very sharp, even when the differences that result in people’s lives are much harder to see. In an individual-rights based country, government is not only limited in what it is permitted to do, it is only permitted to do something if the people have given it explicit permission. This is exactly the opposite of an unlimited democracy, where the government has total freedom, and the people are exactly as free as it lets them be.

The central idea that animates a country based on individual rights is that individuals should be free to pursue the values that sustain and enhance their lives, without interference. Individual rights are therefore incompatible with the kinds of guiding purposes or “common goods” that unlimited democracies use to justify their unlimited power. For example, an unlimited democracy might enforce a regulation requiring all passenger vehicles to meet certain crash-safety standards. But each individual who buys a vehicle values certain features more than others. Some buyers value safety very highly, while others value sportiness, or style, or fuel economy, and so on. If all vehicles are required to meet a certain safety standard, then cheap, dangerous, but fun-to-drive vehicles are no longer made. And when they become impossible to buy, then the “private good,” of the buyers who wanted them is sacrificed to the “common good” of fewer deadly crashes.

This is only one example. In any society that uses government power to force everyone to submit to a “common good,” individuals’ private goods are endlessly frustrated and destroyed. In their daily lives, individuals adjust to this. They come to accept dreams that will never be realized. They mourn and move on as countless opportunities slip from their grasp. This process becomes automatic, so few individuals even recognize that it is happening. In unlimited democracies, those who cheerfully endure the diminishment of their private goods, or those who volunteer to sacrifice their private values to the values of the state, are upheld as “good citizens.” Do you give up the lake house you’ve saved for for twenty years, so that you can afford to pay higher property taxes for public schools? You are a good citizen. Do you cheerfully spend an extra two hours each day to use public transportation, because gasoline taxes and other government policies have made commuting by car too expensive? Do you not complain about missing those two hours with your family? You are a very good citizen. Do you sell your guns to a government-sponsored buyback program, even though you live far out in the country, where help from the police is always twenty minutes away? When a violent home invasion takes the lives of your wife and son, do you swallow your bitterness over that needless loss, because giving up your home-defense firearms had served the “common good”? Now you are a citizen-hero, because you are a broken man.

In a society based on individual-rights, each individual is free to decide which values are worth pursuing. Each individual is free to take whatever actions she deems necessary in order to gain new values or maintain old ones. Each individual is free to choose any personal standard by which to measure and choose among values. If a mother wants to own an AR-15 because, according to her standards, the lives of her loved ones merit this kind of protection, she is free to do so. If she does not want to own an AR-15, because, by her standards, some abstract ideal of public safety is more important, she is free not to own one. In fact, with one exception, her freedom is total: She is not free to force anyone else to pursue, to use, or to transfer values according to her own standards. Or, put more simply: she is not free to force anyone else to do anything.

This degree of freedom makes a society-wide pursuit of any “common good” impossible. Precisely because individuals’ standards of value differ, and because their applications of these standards also vary, any society-wide pursuit of any “common good” requires individuals to sacrifice their own standards and their own values. The “common good” relies on force; it relies on the power of a government to force these sacrifices on a massive scale. Because individuals will not make sufficient sacrifices voluntarily, the general pursuit of any “common good” is only made possible by the constant threat of violence. In any society that does not allow threats, there can be no “common good.” And any society that allows total individual freedom can only do so by disallowing all threats. Individual rights and the common good are fundamentally incompatible.

There is no area where this incompatibility is clearer than around weapons of war. The most jealously guarded power of governments is the power to make war. This is because, no matter what standard of the “common good” a country claims to follow (and even if a country claims to follow individual rights instead), other countries have their own standards. But any given resource in the world can only be used, at any given moment, to serve one master, according to one standard of value. This leads to conflict. War can be seen as violent, large-scale conflict over which standards of the good will guide the use of which resources. When one country wants resources controlled by another country, if it thinks it can get them more cheaply by killing than by trading, it attacks. This is always perfectly justified by the standards of the attackers. When American colonists displaced and murdered Native Americans, there is no doubt that this was justified by the colonists’ standard of the “common good.” The same would have been true, from the opposite perspective, whenever Native Americans murdered colonists.

War is the means by which the supremacy of one standard of the good is asserted over another. Any entity with the power to go to war can potentially impose — or defend — its standard of good, by force. Any entity that has this power is a sovereign. In countries like the United States, where government power is shared between different entities, the offices that hold the war power reveal which government entity is truly in charge. California and Texas and Massachusetts each have laws regulating every aspect of their citizens’ lives, but only the Federal government can declare war. So one is tempted to conclude that the Federal government is sovereign.

Except this is not — quite — true.

In the United States, any citizen can declare war at any time. His unilateral power to declare war is implicit in the Second Amendment, and a presumption of that text is that if any citizen were to exercise this power, it might be against his own government. The Second Amendment guaranteed three things: First, that the people did not need permission to keep and bear military-grade arms. (Rather, the government needed the People’s permission to keep and bear them.) Second, that because of this, the People would be empowered to declare war — on their own government, on invaders, or on or their fellow citizens — if they came to believe that war was necessary. Third, that both of these rights would be formally recognized in the Constitution, making it much harder for future government officials to discredit or to deny them.

The reality of the meaning of the Second Amendment, once it is understood, makes it more natural to think of America in a new way. It is not, exactly, a union of States. It is a union of individuals, each of them a sovereign unto himself or herself. Unlike Europeans, who submit to a “common good” that is chosen and revised through the endless renegotiations of the unlimited democratic process, Americans, when they are distinctly American, recognize no common good. There exists only each individual’s own private good, which he is free to discover and then pursue, without limitation or interference, unless he initiates force against others in the process. Individuals in America retain the right and the prerogative to do just what nations do: go to war to enforce (or defend) their own standard of good.

But by now, I hope and expect that readers have realized how strange this individualist America sounds to our contemporary ears. Do we really live in a country that allows individual citizens to declare war? Do we really live in a country that follows the complementary principles of individual rights and enumerated powers, one that believes the government is only permitted to pass and enforce laws within a narrowly defined scope? Or is the United States’ government more like a typical European or Asian unlimited democracy? Do we consider it normal for our government to try to shape our society into something fairer for all, or more prosperous, or more responsive to the structural inequalities that disproportionately affect minorities?

Although the Union of the States was explicitly founded on radical principles of infinitely broad individual rights coupled with strictly limited government power, these principles have never, at any time in history, been shared by a clear and vocal majority of Americans. In the beginning, at the time of the founding, individualist views were popular, but the elites who codified them in law were by no means expressing a broad national consensus. The truth is far, far more complicated than that. America has always been a nation of divided loyalties and contending principles. There were, for example, roughly as many loyalists to the Crown at the time of the Revolution as there were revolutionaries. More profoundly, Christian ethics have always been at odds with political individualism, and America has always been an individualist country with a predominantly Christian population. When America is looked at this way, it is easy to see why many Americans are happy to model our future on Europe’s present: many Americans never stopped being European at heart, because many Americans never stopped believing in the common good.

But whenever one wants to understand the essence of a thing, one must first look to what makes it unique, what makes it different, what sets it apart from every similar thing. If we discover what sets America apart from other countries, we will have discovered its essence. And this is not difficult to do: the essence of America is individualism, because no other country in history has ever been founded on individual rights. No other country in history has ever even recognized that they exist.

Contemporary debates over gun control occur in this context: Roughly half of the American people prefer the European way of life, centered on the “common good,” over the distinctly American way of life, rooted in individual rights. And this is nothing new. European thinking has been predominant in America, and increasingly so, almost from the beginning. As a result, American history has been characterized by centuries of drift away from the radically individualist principles of the Declaration of Independence. Collectivism has won contest after contest. It has won so many contests in so many areas that now, when the founding principles of the United States are described, they seem alien to many Americans. American culture has been transformed, nearly out of existence.

This transformation, however, has been uneven. In a few key areas, despite having become collectivist nearly everywhere else, Americans have held on to elements of their original, individualist identity. One of these areas is gun rights. And this is why the pro-gun coalition resists “common sense” gun legislation so stiffly: the smallest change here will erase lines that have tenuously held the original, individualist America together. Gun policy will decide whether the long American drift toward collectivism will be corrected as a mistake, or embraced as “progress.” Where the Second Amendment goes, America goes.

In this context, it is possible to recognize that the political coalitions divided over guns really represent much deeper factions, divided over a much deeper issue. The pro-gun coalition loves America for exactly what makes it uniquely American. The anti-gun coalition is done with America, and wants to return to its European roots. That’s it.

These are not consciously held beliefs. You will not confirm the reality of this division by taking a poll. You will not too often find anti-gun Americans who freely admit they prefer European unlimited democracy in every way to American limited government. But everyone can understand the power of symbols, and everyone, I think, having read this far, can now understand what the AR-15, high-capacity magazines, and other weapons of war symbolize to the millions of Americans who refuse to give them up.

They symbolize an entire way of life, one that rejects the “common good” in favor of a personal pursuit of happiness. Guns symbolize, perhaps more than anything else an American can put his hands on, the idea that he is in charge of his own life. He gets to decide when to defend that life with deadly force. He gets to decide when to go to war, for what reasons, and against whom.

If those in the Democratic coalition want to be heard by their opponents on this issue, they need to address this openly and honestly. Tell the truth. Say what you mean. Explain why the “common good” is a better organizing principle for society than individual rights. The confusion around this issue will be lifted. Your opponents will really listen to you then.

Reason and Rights: the Last of the Wine

My thinking about the world changed in June of 2016, as I considered the media analyses of Pulse nightclub shootings, and the popular response to it. Predictably, drearily, the red phylum of boobus Americanus emphasized the Islamism of the shooter, while the blue phylum emphasized his choice of weapons. It was terrible, terrible that more hadn’t been done to root out the threat of radical Islamic terrorism! It was terrible, terrible that the shooter had had such ready access to deadly firearms! Nearly everyone agreed that more government action, of one kind or another, was urgently needed. Oh my.

Of course, a small contingent of libertarians resisted. No, they said, Americans do not need to submit more completely to the national security state. No, they said, Americans do not need to give up their guns. They were ignored, as always.

In the end, the Pulse shooting provoked no new depredations against Fourth- or Second-Amendment rights. The status quo prevailed. But this was no victory for libertarians; mere cultural inertia had carried the day. And because authoritarians were not effectively shamed for their attempted exploitation of the victims, they will surely seek to exploit them again. Authoritarians on the right and on the left alike have filed them away, each victim a bullet added to their talking points, each victim a rationale for expanding government power.

None of this was new. If the Pulse shooting was sprinkled with left-authoritarians’ crocodile tears, Sandy Hook was drenched in them. And neither of these can compare to 9/11, which was exploited by right authoritarians far more effectively than any crisis since. The aftermath of the Pulse shooting changed my thinking not because it brought about anything new, but because it delivered so much more of the same. I had seen too much of the same for too long: A crisis. A reaction. A solution. If Pulse didn’t bring some new authoritarian solution to fruition, it was only because the reaction hadn’t been fearful enough.

It is an insanity, if any force can be raised up to stop it, to permit this drama to continue any longer: a crisis, a reaction, a solution. A crisis: 9/11. A reaction: widespread fear. A solution: the USA PATRIOT Act. Without question, some new crisis, its reaction, and its “solution” will finally dissolve the lees and dregs of the West, and the last of the wine with it.

Is there a force that could be raised up to stop this? I’m quite sure there is. After the Pulse shooting, I stopped thinking I could wait for it. My math had been wrong.

Anyone who has the sense to see where all of this is headed: you should stop thinking you can wait for it, too. Your math is wrong.

Open Letter to the Blue Team

Blue Team:

As you may have noticed, it is possible, sometimes, to tell how someone votes by the arrangement of their yard. I say, “sometimes,” because most yards are neutral. There’s a lawn, probably, and some landscaping. There might be a fence, or a garden gnome. If there are children in the house, there might be toys scattered around. None of these tell us much about a homeowner’s politics.

But there are a few yards that do tell. The crisply mown lawn, edged to perfection, with a swept driveway cutting through it in stark contrast. The metal shed at the back, or a workshop, or a number of trim outbuildings, with clean walls of beige or gray, and bare, except perhaps for a thermometer. The faint chemical smell of fertilizer. A sense of readiness and order. This is a red-team yard. Count on it.

On the other hand: a compost pile, hidden behind a wild profusion of greenery. Sunflowers. A vegetable garden. A tangle of green so thick and profuse it seems more wild than an untouched field or forest. Flashes of color, stained glass and brass or copper. A path to the house through the green, made of natural stone. A neglected driveway, an afterthought. This is a blue-team yard, no question.

Have you ever wondered what causes these strange consonances?  Why should Obama voters prefer one style of yard, and Bush voters another? Certainly there’s no direct link between being pro-lawn-fertilizer and being pro-life. Certainly there’s no direct link between funky yard art and being pro-choice. What’s going on?

I’ll leave that for you to puzzle over, if you like. Whatever the cause, it’s plain that red teamers and blue teamers have more in common, intramurally, than mere politics. These commonalities can be found and contrasted in other areas, too.

For example: Blues, you’re earthier than the reds. You have an affinity for life as it is, growing on the earth. You don’t try to scold life into behaving “as it should.” You try to follow its grain, explore its nooks, taste everything it offers. It makes you better cooks.

It also makes you better company, often times. Reds are rigid thinkers, easily made uneasy. Consequently, their small talk is as bland as their canned dinner rolls. Tell a red teamer about that theme park you’ve always wanted to build — the one with roller coasters that toss you through waterfalls to land in pools teeming with android mermaids, where you must catch holograms of talking fish in nets made of laser light, then hold them to your ear to get the password to the water slide, the one that goes down to a hidden grotto bar, where strong drinks are served in goblets like conch shells and everyone drinks merrily until the coaster cars come around again — and they’ll just say, “Whoo-kay.” They’ll miss the invitation to talk about fantastic sights as yet unseen. A pity.

There are other points blue teamers can justly pride themselves on, I think. But at least one common point of pride among you is one you haven’t earned. Although false modesty prevents you from saying so plainly, you believe yourselves to have evolved beyond bigotry. Or at least, you believe yourselves more evolved on this point than the rednecks, Republicans, and Walmart shoppers you disdain. But you are bigots. You are the worst, most complete, most perfectly closed-off, vacuum sealed, and hopeless bigots I have ever, in my life, encountered.

The fulcrum of your bigotry is pride in your education. Those who oppose you are often, so you say, mentally ill (racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, etc.), they might be malevolent too (although you hesitate to say so, unless they’re winning), but they are almost always, as you understand it, ignorant. Everyone who disagrees with you is ignorant. You know this, because, if they weren’t ignorant, they would agree with you. You learned this in college. Your opponents must either have not gone to college, or they went, but somehow missed getting educated.

In the wake of the Trump phenomenon, several of your own have taken you to task for this obdurate smugness. Here’s an excerpt from a typical example, and a good one, from Emmett Rensin writing at Vox.com:

Elites, real elites, might recognize one another by their superior knowledge. The smug recognize one another by their mutual knowing.

Knowing, for example, that the Founding Fathers were all secular deists. Knowing that you’re actually, like, 30 times more likely to shoot yourself than an intruder. Knowing that those fools out in Kansas are voting against their own self-interest and that the trouble is Kansas doesn’t know any better. Knowing all the jokes that signal this knowledge.

… It is the smug style’s first premise: a politics defined by a command of the Correct Facts and signaled by an allegiance to the Correct Culture. A politics that is just the politics of smart people in command of Good Facts. A politics that insists it has no ideology at all, only facts. No moral convictions, only charts, the kind that keep them from “imposing their morals” like the bad guys do.

But the friendly critics like Rensin merely want you to modulate your rhetoric. They don’t deny that you’ve got science on your side. No, they just want you to try addressing the red team with arguments rather than insults, because they think this approach will be more likely to advance your political goals. They frame your smugness as a tactical misstep, not as what it is: a character flaw.

The problem isn’t that you are wise in matters of policy, but foolish in matters of strategy. The problem is that you are fools, full stop. And you are not benign fools, either. You are the worst and most dangerous kinds of fools; you are fools who think yourselves wise. You are sophomores who never graduate, who never stand to defend a thesis. You are Eternal Sophomores, mere beginners, who are aware that they have learned something, and mistake that tiny something for the whole of wisdom.

You vaunt your education, but I have seen the kind of work you do. I’ve seen how uncritically you accept your instructors’ framing of issues. I’ve seen how little time you spend in libraries, seeking out contrary views, how dependent you are on sources that are handed to you. I’ve seen how sloppily you put your papers together, how you raid your sources, just as Nietzsche says the “worst readers” do:

The worst readers are those who behave like plundering troops: they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole.

In short, I’ve seen how little you value ideas, even your own. You don’t take them seriously. You never have taken them seriously. You might never take them seriously. For you, an idea is good if it helps you fit in with the crowd you’ve chosen. An idea is good if supporting it earns you nods or Facebook Likes from the right people. You would disagree. You would say you think an idea is good if it is true, or perhaps if it is useful. But you have no way of measuring ideas against these standards, and you’re not interested in learning how to do it. When you say you care about the truth, you lie.

I’ve watched you long enough to know that this isn’t a passing phase. It’s not the shock of Trump’s victory that’s got you dabbling in sophistry. This is your true, authentic, ultimately self-expressive stance toward ideas: they don’t matter. What matters is being liked by the right people, holding the right opinions, and knowing, as Rensin says, the “Good Facts.” It’s all a game for you.

And this is what makes you bigots. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines a bigot as:

A person who is obstinately and unreasonably wedded to a particular religious creed, opinion, practice or ritual. The word is sometimes used in an enlarged sense, for a person who is illiberally attached to any opinion, or system of belief; as a bigot to the Mohammedan religion; a bigot to a form of government.

An unwillingness to honestly consider arguments or evidence is the essence of bigotry, not racial prejudice, or any of the boogeymen of the contemporary left. Bigotry is unreason; it is an indifference to reality. Bigotry isn’t fundamentally about our attitudes toward other groups. If it were true that, for example, gay marriage were a threat to our civilization, then to be against it would not be bigoted. To refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple would not be bigoted. But it is bigoted, right now, today, when blue teamers refuse to duly consider the arguments the red team marshals for this flawed thesis.

Blue teamers, it has become fashionable of late to distance oneself socially from those who hold differing political opinions. I’m sure you’ve noticed. Perhaps you’ve done this yourself. But when you do this, it’s not your instinct for self-preservation at work, or a cautious prudence, or some kindergarten ethos that bids you to say nothing at all, since you can’t say anything nice. It’s your bigotry. Your unreason. Your Eternal damned Sophomorism. You know this as well as I do. So do better.

Make an argument for once. Hear an argument for once. Take it all the way to the end. I really don’t think you can do it. I think you’re too far gone. But because some of you — when I choose to overlook your loathsome bigotry — are some of my favorite people, I’m rooting for you.

There’s Too Much Confusion

What you think this is: a dark satire that speaks to our disgust with commissars and oligarchs.

What this actually is: a confession of bloodlust, felt everywhere, but neither understood nor (openly) admitted to.

See, the thing is, people, keep it up like you have been — the rage and the fervent belief, unsupported by serious arguments — and in retrospect this kind of thing is going to look quaintly optimistic. Bloodlust isn’t nearly so sensible as the sensible hope.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Revealing Propaganda Through Juxtaposition

Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, [Patrick] Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly, four State Department officials confirmed…. All are career Foreign Service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

This is from a Washington Post article with the headline, “The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned.”

Now compare this article, from before Trump’s election:

A group of top State Department officials that some called “The Shadow Government” met weekly to discuss Freedom of Information requests related to Mrs Clinton. They wanted her emails to be released all at once, instead of on a rolling basis, as would normally be the case, according to the FBI summary. But the group did not get its way.

From the lede of the same article:

A State Department official offered a “quid pro quo” deal if the FBI would change the classification of a Hillary Clinton email, FBI documents indicate.
Patrick Kennedy, an undersecretary of state, had asked the email be downgraded to a lower category. [Emphasis mine.]

Hmm. That name seems familiar.

Next, consider this analysis, which begins:

IN JANUARY 1961, Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address after serving two terms as U.S. president; the five-star general chose to warn Americans of this specific threat to democracy: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” That warning was issued prior to the decade long escalation of the Vietnam War, three more decades of Cold War mania, and the post-9/11 era, all of which radically expanded that unelected faction’s power even further.


This is the faction that is now engaged in open warfare against the duly elected and already widely disliked president-elect, Donald Trump. They are using classic Cold War dirty tactics and the defining ingredients of what has until recently been denounced as “Fake News.”


Their most valuable instrument is the U.S. media, much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials….

Finally, consider CNN’s slightly different take on Patrick Kennedy’s departure from State:

Two senior administration officials said Thursday that the Trump administration told four top State Department management officials that their services were no longer needed as part of an effort to “clean house” at Foggy Bottom.

Was Kennedy fired, or did he resign? Why does the answer matter?

Get it?

Hillary Versus America: Knowledge Is Power

Even though he never said it, Francis Bacon is famous for the dictum, “Knowledge is power.” Like many stories we receive as history, this one is fiction. But despite the misattribution of the saying, it expresses an important truth. Let us approach that truth carefully.

The Two Coalitions

In living memory, there have been only two significant political parties in the United States. They are fundamentally different, but not in the way that most people suppose. The difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is not that one favors “small government” and the other “big government”; it is not that one favors “law and order” and the other “social justice”; it is not that one is “working class” and the other “business class.” No, the difference is that the Democratic party is a coalition built around a shared political philosophy, and the Republican party is a coalition, built around no philosophy whatsoever.

In lieu of a shared philosophy, what serves to unite Republicans — incompletely, intermittently, and incoherently — is opposition to the Democratic agenda. If you scrutinize the Republican coalition, it becomes obvious that the constituencies of which it is comprised have little in common. Evangelicals oppose libertarians on nearly every social policy. Neoconservatives oppose evangelicals on the aims of foreign policy, if not the means toward those aims, while libertarians oppose neoconservatives on every policy — social, fiscal, foreign, and domestic. East-coast “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only, such as Michael Bloomberg) are reviled by both libertarians and evangelicals, but maintain a prickly alliance with neoconservatives.

What Republicans Really Want

If you listen in on conservative talk radio and read Republican-aligned publications, it emerges very quickly that the Republican base not only is unhappy with its party leadership, but it isn’t happy with the party, period. This has been true at least since the mid-1990s, when the so-called Republican Revolution fell flat. Partly because each constituency of the Republican coalition opposes and undermines every other constituency, Republicans have been losing and losing and losing and losing — not elections, but every contest for shaping American government at its fundamentals — for as long as anyone remembers. Party leaders and cheerleaders try to paper over this fact, but the pro-party propaganda has never been entirely persuasive to coalition’s base. (The Republican base leans toward the culturally and fiscally conservative elements of the coalition, while the party leadership leans toward neoconservative and RINO views — views, by the way, which are indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton’s.)

Democrats, in general, do not understand this. They see the Republican alliance as an intractable, irrational, regressive foe, that, due to its members’ intellectual and moral failings, has perennially — and too often successfully — resisted “progress.” A typical Democrat cannot imagine what the Republican base wants, and so cannot imagine how deeply frustrated these people are from so many years of not getting it. On the contrary, Democrats look back at the presidency of George W. Bush, bemoan the lost opportunities for “progress” that America had to endure under it, and imagine that the Republicans are getting what they want all too often.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What follows is a sampling of what the Republican base wants. Not only has it gotten none of these things, but it is clear that the historical trend is such that they will never get these things. This sampling is going to be contradictory, because the Republican coalition is a tangle of contradictions, but it is nonetheless representative of views held by millions of Americans, even if few Americans hold all of these views simultaneously.

The Republican base wants:

  • A total ban on abortion
  • Prison terms for women who get abortions
  • A restoration of explicitly Christian mores to the center of civic life
  • A massive reduction in Federal taxes. (Imagine an income tax capped at perhaps 12% for the highest earners, and 5–7% for middle-class Americans.)
  • The repeal of Social Security
  • The repeal of Obamacare
  • The total dismantling of all Federal welfare programs
  • The total dismantling of
    • The Department of Education
    • The Department of Energy
    • The Department of Labor
    • The Department of Health and Human Services
    • The Department of Commerce
    • The Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • The IRS
    • The EPA
    • And many other agencies
  • An end to all funding for foreign aid, the arts, and scientific research
  • To wage all-out war against radical Islam, by any necessary means, including large-scale nuclear assault, until it is utterly crushed, and the spirit of the movement is broken. Toward this end, reducing entire countries to radioactive, rubble-strewn wastelands would be considered perfectly acceptable, even if it meant hundreds of millions of civilian casualties.
  • To kick all illegal aliens out of the country, no matter how disruptive this would be
  • To immediately institute “colorblindness” as Federal policy, meaning, for example, that no institution receiving Federal funds would be permitted to consider race in any way (e.g., in hiring, admissions, or the awarding of contracts). Further, no institution receiving Federal funds would be permitted to gather or retain any race-related statistics at all.
  • To make every neighborhood in America safe to live and work in, no matter how much police violence is needed to accomplish this, and even at the cost of violating civil rights
  • To implement economic policies that made it dramatically easier for individuals to accumulate wealth and property, especially in rural areas and in areas experiencing long-term economic decline, even at the cost of environmental quality

In sum, domestically, the Republican base wants a massive reduction in the size and scope of government, a reduction so stark that the character of American social and economic life would be transformed beyond recognition. Think of American social and economic structures reverted to their norm circa 1911, and you are not far from picturing their ideal. In foreign policy, the Republican base wants total warfare against any intractable enemy of the United States, and withdrawal from the international stage in all other spheres. Culturally, the base wants to see mainline Protestant values regain centrality in civic life.

To a typical Democrat, many of the items on this Republican wishlist are, strictly, unthinkable. It is impossible for a typical Democrat to imagine a sane, lucid, informed person who really wanted any of these things — let alone several of them.

First, let me assure you: millions of Republicans really do want at least a few of the things on this list. Second, although many will not believe this, they have reasons that are at least as well thought out as Democrats’ reasons for not wanting these things.

Now, if you lean toward the Democratic side, it doesn’t matter whether you believe me that Republicans are at least as thoughtful as Democrats. What matters is that you recognize that these people exist, and exist in large numbers, and that they are not getting what they want. Not only are they not getting what they want, they have no realistic prospect of getting it. No matter how “regressive” you fear a Trump presidency might be, you are deluding yourself if you think it would significantly advance their agendas. If Trump voters were to get their candidate in office, and then get Obamacare repealed and replaced, they would be ecstatic. If they also saw the Department of Education abolished, that would go down in history as the Republican coalition’s greatest victory to date. And really, these two victories, the second one absurdly unlikely, would hardly amount any “progress” at all, from their perspective. Overall, in the long view, they would still be history’s losers.

This is necessary context for understanding contemporary politics: millions of Americans can see and understand the way the country is headed — but they hate it. They don’t want more social programs; they want to dismantle the existing ones. They don’t want more social justice; they want more traditional justice. They don’t want clean, green energy; they want cheap energy, dirty or not. They don’t want globalism; they want America First.

The left’s response to the intransigence of their opposition has been to cover its eyes and ears and pretend this isn’t happening. They refuse to see that every so-called “progressive” victory is perceived, by the Republican base, as oppression. They refuse to see that Republicans are not at peace with this accumulation of oppressions. Republicans, contrary to Democratic wishful thinking, are not just adjusting to the times a bit more slowly than their more enlightened neighbors. There are limits to how much anyone’s worldview can be “adjusted.” For decades, for generations, the Republican base has been building up resentment after resentment. The pressure and heat have been building, and all the institutions and norms that have been put in place to contain it are beginning to fail. Trump’s insurgent candidacy is proof of this.

(Now time is short before election day, and so in what follows, concerning the media and education, I will just state the truth without going through the rituals meant to persuade you of it. You already know that this is all true anyway.)

Why Republicans Never Get What They Want

In the present-day United States, the Democratic vision of the common good is ascendant, close to achieving the final and total victory it has long sought. It has achieved this dominance because Democrats and their allies control the key institutions that act as gateways to government power. Because, as we shall soon have further cause to understand, knowledge is power, the most important institutions for mediating access to power are the institutions that develop and publish knowledge and information on a large scale: mass media and mass education.

With the exception of talk radio, the Democratic coalition controls mass media. All major television and cable networks, except Fox News, have supported Hillary Clinton against Trump. Fox News has been ambivalent at best. The vast majority of newspapers support Clinton. The vast majority of news magazines support Clinton. The vast majority of celebrities support Clinton. The media as a whole supports Clinton.

Now, I’m not arguing that the media is wrong to do this. I’m just pointing out the obvious: that they do it. Most people who lean toward the Democratic coalition’s vision of the common good probably believe that this pro-Clinton / anti-Trump bias is justified, that, in other words, it’s not really a bias at all, just the unavoidable consequence of Trump’s personal repugnance and ignorance. Let’s leave this question aside for the moment.

Consider instead that this pro-Clinton bias has nothing to do with the relative merits of Clinton and Trump. Go back up and look at the Republican base’s wishlist again. Now try to imagine any candidate who went against the grain of our times and supported several of the items on that list. Imagine this fantasy candidate getting even-handed treatment from the major media. Doesn’t work, does it? This has never happened and will never happen. That’s because the major media are not united against Trump per se, they are united against anyone who projects an intention to resist the Democratic vision of the common good, or to advance a Republican-friendly alternative. The major media, which still largely controls the flow of information, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic coalition.

Again, the important thing to understand here is not whether this state of affairs is good, just, right, or “progressive,”; the important thing to understand here is that everyone already knows this. There is a perverse tendency among members of the Democratic coalition to deny or downplay the media’s bias. But this tactic only makes sense if downplaying this bias stands some chance of lulling significant numbers of the opposition into complacency. I’m here to tell you: it doesn’t. None of them are fooled.

From the Republican coalition’s perspective, the left’s dominance of the major media is repugnant. But far more worrisome, for those Republican-types who pay attention to these things, is the Democratic coalition’s dominance of higher education. That’s because higher education hates America, and everyone knows it.

When a college freshman starts attending classes, his general-education curriculum, in almost every school in the country that still has one, will have one over-arching theme: The United States of America Is Evil, and your Duty, once Higher Education has made you ready for it, is to Right the Wrongs of this country by dedicating yourself to Progress.

Many students tune this propaganda out, because, as is well-known, young people don’t go to college to learn. The agenda the left pushes in the university system goes right past many students. Nonetheless, the better students tend to pay attention. And every student who does pay attention is going to get this message.

The Democratic coalition’s total dominance of higher education is not discussed in polite company — which means members of the Republican coalition discuss it amongst themselves all the time. Like toddlers think themselves with blankets over their heads, Democrats seem to think the academic world’s antipathy for Republican values is invisible, as long as it’s not in the open. This is not true. They are fooling no one. Millions of parents across the country send their children off to college, knowing that their values will be denigrated by every adjunct instructor of Intercultural Communication 101, Sociology 101, Psychology 101, History 101, and so on, ad nauseam.

The reason the Democratic coalition’s Final Solution is nigh is that it was superbly incisive strategy on their part to capture the knowledge-management institutions of mass media and higher education. There can be no serious argument over whether they have captured these institutions, which is why I have only glossed over the evidence here. Everyone knows these institutions belong to the left. Everyone has known it for a long time. But there are implications of this capture that are not as clear to everyone.

First, the left’s capture of higher education, combined with our cultural tilt toward credentialism, means that the only people qualified to hold upper-level positions in the civil service bureaucracy are those who have spent thousands of hours earning those credentials — in institutions of higher education that already belong to the left. As a result, especially considering the Ivy League is the unofficial headquarters of the Democratic coalition, the upper reaches of power in American government are much easier to access for those who have deep roots within the Democratic coalition’s establishment. It was no accident that the 2004 presidential election was between two of Yale’s C-students, both of them members of its most elite fraternity.

Second, the left’s capture of mass media means that every issue, every controversy, and every candidate will be presented in a way that favors the Democratic coalition’s agenda. Even though it is well known in the Republican coalition that the media are compromised, the rhetorical power of “framing” issues remains formidable in the extreme. Even if every Republican ignored the media’s framing, the centrists and undecideds that finally decide every issue can still fall for it, and they do. By holding the high ground of these key institutions, the left has managed to advance its agenda, with a few minor setbacks, virtually without opposition, for more than a century.

One further aspect of the left’s domination of key institutions must be understood before moving on. That is: the Republican party is part of the Democratic coalition. The Republican base, the mass that forms the heart of the Republican coalition, when it is paying attention, has nothing but contempt for the Republican party leadership. It has been paying attention more and more often lately.

The leadership of the Republican party went to Andover and Yale, just like the leadership of the Democratic party. Thus, top Republicans and Democrats share the same general worldview, the same manners, the same values. There are differences, but, from the perspective of the Republican base at least, these are slight. For example, on foreign policy, both the Republican leadership and the Democratic leadership are interventionist and globalist. The difference is that the Republican party tends to favor a global community with the United States of America as its undisputed leader. The Democratic party favors a global community ruled by transnational corporations, non-governmental organizations, and bodies like the United Nations. It’s a difference of emphasis, not essence. And the Republican base knows it.

If you doubt this, consider the Tea Party. This was an attempt by the Republican base to get around their party leadership and begin to bring the issues they cared about directly to the general public’s attention. Although the Tea Party did not have a central leadership and therefore had no official agenda, the typical views of its members, you will find, looked much more like the Republican coalition wishlist above than, for example, the Republican party platform under the RINO John McCain.

But even more than the rise of the Tea Party, the candidacy of Donald Trump has been a reaction to a basic truth in American politics: for at least a century, the left has controlled all the key institutions that mediate access to government power.

All of this points to a basic, obvious truth of contemporary American politics: the Republican coalition is going to lose. Republicans are clumsy with power; they can’t seem to hold it for long, or ever use it to achieve any vision that fundamentally opposes the Democrats’. Republicans have been fatally outmaneuvered, flanked, and divided. The key institutions, the high ground, belong to the Democrats. Therefore, the Republican base is not going to get what it wants. The Democrats may offer a few expedient compromises along the way, but the state is well and truly caught up in the engine of “progress.” The total transformation of American social and civic life to align with the Democratic vision of the common good is a foregone conclusion.

Why the Left Should Be Afraid of Winning

And this basic truth, in turn, points to another. It’s this second truth that has become my singular political concern in the last several years. And this truth is one that the left has studiously ignored, because if they admit it, they will have to let go of their beloved vision of the common good. The truth is this: the right is not going to accept the left’s victory. The left has treated politics like a game, like a matter of points and position, like a matter of scoring goals and blocking returns. It isn’t a game. There are neither rules nor referees. At its base, the Republican coalition is furious, outraged, boiling. They will not quit the field gracefully. We are not heading into the fourth quarter. We are heading into an explosion. We are heading into civil war.

Everyone who is paying attention to politics knows this, by the way. It’s just something we don’t speak of. But if we want to survive, this silence has to stop. Each side has reasons for staying quiet, but it’s the left’s reasons that matter most. The left remains quiet about the civil war we all know is coming … because they think they are going to win it.

On a few occasions, I’ve broached this topic, or heard it broached, among more thoughtful leftists. As they considered the possible outbreak of hostilities, I could tell they were picturing a pathetic, Malheur-style insurgency — overweight, middle-aged men playing army. I could tell because they always said something like this: “Well, if that happens, those militia-types’ shotguns and hunting rifles aren’t going to do much against the army’s drones, and attack helicopters, and tanks. It’ll be a massacre, and that will be that.”

That will, most certainly not, be that. Leftists see government as a benevolent force because they recognize, rightly, that it is their force. In the quotidian routine, government is the weapon that lets leftists work their will on their helpless victims (“deplorables”), and it is also the tool that helps them build their vision of paradise on earth (a community-college campus, dominated by green space, linked by maglev trains, stretching unbroken from coast-to-coast). Thus, they love government, both as a sadist loves her whip, and as a mason loves her trowel. But it’s a human tendency to overlook some aspects of the people and things we love. And leftists have overlooked a pivotal fact about government: its armed forces are not loyal to “progressive” ideals. Quite the contrary.

The armed forces, collectively, lean toward conservative or libertarian values. When civil war breaks out, the armed forces will split into factions, some supporting urban elites, but more supporting the deplorable flyover country. There will be no swift victory for either side. But in the end, because they will have greater numbers and a mass of armed civilian support, the right-wing factions will come out on top. Civil war will leave a broken and bleeding country in the hands of Trump voters, Sarah Palin fans, and evangelical Christians. The Democratic coalition will drop its whips and trowels, or be ground into mush.

If Hillary is elected president, this — a civil war followed by a right-wing dictatorship — is the most probable long-term result. But to understand why, it is necessary to delve below the superficies of the Republican and Democratic coalitions, to identify the fundamental nature of the forces that have created these coalitions. And, more important than understanding why this will be the outcome, is coming to recognize the one and only way out.

Why There Will Be No Compromise

And there are five fundamental forces that have created these coalitions: First and foremost, these coalitions exist because Washington, D.C. is the greatest power on earth. If you have something big you want done, and you can’t convince enough people to contribute their efforts voluntarily, D.C. is the key to making them do it.

Second, these coalitions exist because they each appeal to the masses through altruism. Since its rise in the waning days of the Roman Empire, Christianity has provided the dominant ethos in the Western world. There are no serious contenders. Even the vast majority of Western atheists adhere to fundamentally Christian ethical precepts. The single word that best captures this ethos is “altruism.” The characteristic moral advice offered by this ethos is: if you can make others happy by giving up whatever makes you happy, then do it: put others’ needs and interests before your own. Both the Republican and the Democratic coalitions frame their appeals to the masses in altruistic language, and the masses respond because the only ethos popular with the masses is altruism.

Third, these coalitions exist because, long ago, adherents to the Christian-altruist ethos split into two factions. It is difficult to place the moment of the split, but the watershed event seems to have been the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life in 1859. After Newton’s 1687 Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, this was the most important work of science ever produced.

Darwin argued that species came into being through a process of natural selection, or the interaction of naturally varying phenotypes with their environment. Some phenotypes would be more apt to survive in their environment, and would thus live to reproduce. Eventually, natural variations would pass through this environmental filtering effect for long enough that the variants would be distinguishable as new species.

It didn’t take long for the implications of this theory to suggest themselves. Consider the times in the mid-19th Century. Newton had already shown that there might indeed be nothing beyond the reach of human reason. After all, if the motion of the celestial spheres could be explained with a simple inverse-square, then what couldn’t be captured by math and measurement? The United States of America had already made the first attempt at organizing an entire society on reasoned principles, rather than on dynasties of inheritance, accidents of geography, or myths. The clear implications of Darwin’s work, which Darwin himself made clearer in later publications, were these:

  1. Man is part of, not above, the natural order.
  2. Living things, including man, change and develop.
  3. The interaction of living things with their environment is the force that drives change and development.
  4. The development of living things in interaction with their environment can be measured.

Science had already shown that what can be measured might be controlled. So if the human environment could be measured, which it could, then it meant human nature might be controlled. It might be improved. Human nature itself might be made more humane. And this would be “progress.” And this is why Democrats, especially the more ambitious ones, call themselves, “progressives.”

But if science and technology could open a path to “progress,” changing the human environment, and ultimately human nature itself, for the “better,” what defined “better?” Since the Christian-altruist ethos ruled unchallenged in the West in Darwin’s time (as it rules today, and has ruled since the inception of Western civilization), as the “progressive” political philosophy emerged, it drew its ideas of “betterment,” “improvement,” and “progress” directly from Christian theology. For Christians, the purpose of life is to reach God in heaven. Before they split into two factions, all Christians agreed that heaven and earth were distinct realms. But Darwinian science inspired a new ambition in some Christians. Rather than wait for another world to bring peace, joy, and direct fellowship with God, why not bring heaven to earth? Why not build heaven on earth? Why not transform earth into paradise?

The Christian-altruists, which, until Darwin, had shared a broad agreement, split into two factions over precisely these questions. One faction maintained the traditional faith that man was fallen, and not only constitutionally incapable of creating his own paradise, but bound by humility to accept God’s grace on His own terms and timeline. For them, heaven was, and remained, another realm. Speaking very broadly, with expansive room for exceptions, these people became Republicans.

The other faction, which of course became the Democrats, believed there was no reason to wait for heaven. They would use science and technology to bring it into being. They took Francis Bacon and turned him on his head. He had argued, understanding the ethos of altruism as he did, that free scientific inquiry must be allowed in order to make life better for the poor and downtrodden. The progressives inverted the Baconian gambit. Instead of leveraging altruism to free science from Christian authority, they would press all scientific inquiry into the service of a secularized Christianity. They would do this “for the common good.”

The fourth fundamental reason the Democratic and Republican coalitions came to exist is that the opposing factions of Christian-altruists saw incompatible visions of the “common good.” Even though they continued to share the same altruist ethos, one faction believed that it was morally incumbent upon them to bring all human resources to bear on improving humanity on earth, the other believed it was hubris to try this. In the Republican vision of the common good, it was better to cultivate — on earth — the social conditions that would bring individuals and families closer to God — in heaven. They felt that existing social norms were well suited to this end. Thus, they were “conservatives,” wanting to conserve the established patterns of social life. From these broad visions of the common good, it is easy to understand why the Republican coalition clashes with the Democratic coalition over the public-school sex-education curriculum. The former prioritize the young’s spiritual connection to God, and thus rigid obedience to the testaments’ strictures. The latter prioritize pleasant, hygienic, and orderly life on earth. Sex is pleasant. Condoms are hygienic. Planned parenthood is orderly.

The fifth and final reason that these coalitions exist in their contemporary form is that visions of the common good, which must be prodded into being with government’s guns and bayonets, do not direct themselves. They cannot direct themselves. This is what Hillary Clinton is, and what Donald Trump proposes to become: a director of prodding for the “common good.” A symbiosis naturally arises between any vision of the common good that compels mass allegiance and the officials, priests, or mandarins who usher this vision into reality. Put another way, any vision of the common good that garners mass support naturally develops a political class (or a priestly caste) that manages the practical work of keeping that vision on track.

In sum, the Republican and Democratic coalitions exist in their present form because the Founders’ vision for limited government could not withstand the power lust of two warring factions of Christianity, each wanting to wrest the power of government from the other, in order to realize two opposing visions of the common good: The Republican vision of earth as a waiting-room for heaven, versus the Democratic vision of earth, and the people on it, as raw material from which heaven should be built.

Obviously, two visions of the common good, each one claiming to be the One True Vision, each one claiming to be the True Altruism, cannot “compromise.” One has to make the other extinct. After all, the priests, pastors, scientists, or “experts,” on each side make it their business to assure their followers, as often as necessary, that their Good Works for the Holy Cause must never flag. The Enemy must never gain ground. The Others’ vision of the common good, the priests, pastors, scientists, and experts always say, is a heresy.

And now you have — nearly — all the means to understand why, if we value our lives and liberties, Donald Trump must be the next president of the United States.

Sunset in the West?

More than 2000 years ago, Aristotle introduced two of the three or four most radical ideas in human history: that logic is the one method that builds knowledge, and that the senses are the one foundation to build it on.

Then Newton and Locke inspired a confidence in human reason, in the Aristotelian inheritance, that had never been seen before. The United States of America, a nation founded on reason, was the result.

The American ideal of social order founded on individual rights, a social order that exists only to secure those rights was an Aristotelian order.

When Aristotle placed the root of all knowledge in the senses, he placed the root of political sovereignty in the individual. Only individuals have eyes, hands, ears, senses of any kind. If knowledge is rooted in the senses, and if senses are attributes of individuals, then each individual is his own highest authority. Each individual is the foundation of a new understanding, a unique understanding, a private understanding that was built on the most public space of all: the world we all see and hear and touch in every act of everyday life.

Plato, in contrast, stood within the long tradition of thinkers, of priests, of witch doctors, of shamans, of all the men who saw visions in the temples and sacred, secret spaces. Plato said that the roots of knowledge weren’t in the world of sight and sound and touch, but in a “higher” realm.

And Plato didn’t discover the “truths” of this higher realm by observation, by using his eyes. He discovered these “truths” in conversation. By coming to a “consensus” as he sat at a banquet table, chatting with the idle rich of Athens, the “best men.” The truth of the higher realm did not just emerge from these conversations, it was created in these conversations.

And this leads us to the fundamental political insight of the West, the heart of Western civilization, that Hillary Clinton means to cut out and eat: whoever controls knowledge will have the power, because knowledge is power.

If knowledge comes from the senses, which everyone has equally, then everyone has power.

If knowledge comes from officers, priests, scientists, political operators, agency men, commissions, committee members, or “representatives,” coming to “consensus” in their secret councils, then they will have the power. All of it.

In the medieval world, those holding power/knowledge wore robes or held scepters. Now they wear lab coats or pantsuits. The story is the same: these people know better than you do. These people have special insight. These people have access to a “higher” truth, a truth no mere peasant can claim to lay hold of. And this truth tells the priests and politicians that it is their noble duty to look after us all, in the name of the “common good.”

It’s an iron law of history, although we are only now seeing its first full unfolding: If individuals are let to make their own knowledge, they will be free. If they must submit to the “higher truths” of some priestly caste’s “consensus,” they will be slaves. Hillary Clinton doesn’t aim to usher in some “progressive” future, she means to bring the Aristotelian experiment to an end, to bring civic life in the United States back in line with the rest of humanity, back in line with all of human history. She means those beneath her cast to be slaves. She means herself and her ilk to be masters. She means to do this in the name of the “common good.” She means to do this on the authority that they “know better.”

Ray Bradbury, the great American author, foresaw, decades ahead, much of what is befalling our culture now. He recorded some of what he saw in his novel Fahrenheit 451.

451 is misunderstood by the teenagers who suffer through it in school to be a book about censorship. That’s because the main character is a fireman who, instead of putting out fires, sets them. And he sets them to burn books.

What 451 is really about is two contrary drives in human beings: first, to try to know the truth at all costs; second, to be comfortable at all costs. The America of Fahrenheit 451 has chosen comfort. And since ideas can make us uncomfortable, and since books are packed with ideas …

At one point, the main character (Guy Montag) finds a mentor, a former professor, a man of experience who, Montag hopes, can explain what has gone so dreadfully wrong with the world. Montag has noticed that no one seems to be happy in their world that’s tailor-made for comfort. He has begun to wonder whether the pandemic of unhappiness has something to do with all the books he’s been burning, that maybe people need books.

Montag’s reluctant mentor says it’s not the absence of books that’s making everyone so miserable, he says the real cause of the universal misery is that there are three human needs that aren’t getting met. First, says the mentor, people need access to high-quality, textured information. (In the world of Fahrenheit 451, what they get instead is something more like endless MTV mixed with soap operas and tabloid shows. Or, come to think of it, something a lot like CNN and Fox News.) Second, says the mentor, people need leisure time to really think through all this textured information. (Instead, free time is packed full with “activities” in the world of Fahrenheit 451. Speaking of which, how much textured information is Facebook providing about this election? How much leisure time do people have, and of that, how much are they dedicating to thinking through all of the available information?) But it’s the last thing Guy’s mentor says that’s always stuck with me: He says that, in order to be happy, people need to be able to take action on what they’ve concluded from all their textured learning and leisurely thinking.

This vital power, the power to act on what we know is the power that any politics based on a “common good” robs from us. It is absolutely necessary to every vision of the common good that knowledge and power, including the power to act on knowledge, are concentrated in the hands of a priestly caste, an elite, a DNC, an oligarchy.

What does the Republican coalition want? It wants to force everyone in America to contribute to its vision of the common good. What does that mean? It means, in practical terms, and among many other things, that the Republican base wants to take away every woman’s self-determination, to tell her, if she’s pregnant, what she can and can’t do with her body, and with any potential human life that has taken root inside of it.

What if the woman’s best reasoning tells her that the six-week-old fetus growing inside her isn’t yet a human life? What if her conscience tells her, therefore, that the abortion she wants, for her own, well considered reasons, can harm no one?

Too bad, says the Republican coalition. The truth we perceive is greater than the truth you perceive. After all, our pastors and priests came to a consensus, by scrutinizing the lines of texts we say are sacred, even if their sacredness is invisible to you. Certainly, you cannot see, with your own eyes, how we know that this fetus has a fully human life. But our insight is into a higher realm. We know God’s will. If you can’t see it, so much the worse for you; we will force you to save that life, the life we know is human, and you say is not human yet.

What does the Democratic coalition want? It wants to force everyone in America to contribute to its vision of the common good. What does that mean? It means, in practical terms, and among many other things, that the Democratic coalition wants to see gay people able get a nice wedding cake from any bakery in the country, even if that bakery is owned by evangelical Christians.

What if the bakers’ best reasoning tells them that marriage can only be between a man and a woman? What if their consciences tell them that baking that cake is tantamount to telling God: “Your word doesn’t matter. What matters is that I make gay people comfortable in our shop.” — ?

Too bad, says the Democratic coalition. The truth we perceive is greater than the truth you perceive. After all, our sociologists and LGBTQ theorists came to a consensus, by scrutinizing the law through the lends of critical theory, even if critical theory is gobbledygook to you. Certainly, you cannot see, with your eyes, how we know that this cake must be baked, for justice. But our insight is into a higher realm. We know the vector of history. We are the keepers of Progress. If you can’t see it, so much the worse for you; we will force you to bake that cake, the cake we know is just, and that you say is treason to your covenant with God.

In the original conception of law in the United States, a conception based on Aristotelian reason and Lockean individual rights, the government had no power — it was granted no power — to enforce either of these visions of the common good. It was granted no power to enforce any vision of the common good. It was granted power only to ensure that each individual — using her own senses, her own mind, her own reason, her own values, her own judgment, her own hands, her own work, and whatever she made real with that work — could pursue her own good, her own happiness, in peace.

Seduced by the lure of power, drunk on visions from “higher” dimensions, visions that tell them the violence they do is just, both coalitions have betrayed this chance at peace. Neither coalition will ever persuade the other to see things its way. There will never be a pan-American consensus. There will never be a universal vision of the common good. And because the “reasons” that justify each vision come from “higher” realms that are invisible to the uninitiated, reason will be impotent to bring these coalitions closer together.

And when men and women cannot deal with one another with reason, they will deal with one another by force.

And we ain’t seen nothing yet.

If Hillary is elected president, it might happen like this: One way or another, in her first term or her second, she will get new gun-control measures passed — into what passes, now, for “law.” The Democratic coalition will congratulate itself, smugly, for whatever twist, under color of law, finally broke the Second Amendment’s meaning on the rack of sophistical language. And then there will be a shooting.

The news will report it as domestic terrorism. There will be much hand-wringing, and talk of further measures to re-educate the angry white males, to reason with them, to get them to see why they need to just lay down their arms, just comply, just go along. After all, it will all be for the “common good.” Everyone on television will agree that this is the only sensible thing to do, and surely gun owners will soon see the truth of this, just like they did in Australia.

And then there will be another shooting. And another. And another. And in little fits and starts, in expected places, and in places no one would ever expect, there will be more shootings.

A retired army officer will go on Fox News. He will be expected to say calming things. Things to “unite us, not divide us.” He will say something else. A hundred thousand gun owners will take up arms and march, soon after, on Washington. It will not go well, for anyone.

Now, of course, it might not start like this at all. It’s unpredictable.

But the end of war is not as hard, I think, to predict.

The Democratic coalition’s roots are in the college-educated classes. Their vision of the common good only really reaches people who’ve had years and years of expensive socialization. It’s a vision only plausible to those enthralled with the self-satisfaction one gets from mastering lightweight undergraduate coursework in the social sciences. In other words, it’s a vision of the common good that only appeals to a small (but disproportionately influential) segment of the population.

Old-fashioned regressive Christianity, though? That’s a vision of the common good that has reach. And because it has reach, because it speaks to millions and millions of people, and speaks to their hearts, once the right-wing coalition gets its hands on power, it will keep it.

Vote Trump: The One and Only Way Out

There is one chance, as I see it, to avoid this.

If Donald Trump is elected instead of Hillary Clinton, America, and those of us living here, get a stay of execution.

Here’s why:

The Trump candidacy is a freak phenomenon. The Democratic coalition’s lock on power is nearly absolute. Trump is the only candidate since Reagan to challenge it at all, and the only candidate in American history to present a somewhat credible threat. If he loses, there will be no second Trump. The Democratic party will, for all practical purposes, run unopposed for the foreseeable future.

This has several implications. Two need mentioning here. First, Trump will have no support from the entrenched civil service bureaucracy, no support from the Republican party, and fierce opposition from every Democrat in the country. Should he win, he will never be able to implement any of the hyperbolic horrors the Democrats have promised.

Second, his election will calm the Republican base. Right now, that base is seething. It is making ready for war. If Trump wins, it will mean the Republican base has gotten a speaking part on the national stage for the very — first — time. Contrary to the dark fantasies of Democrats, this will not open up a path to a right-wing populist dictatorship. Quite the opposite. It will delay this dictatorship.

It will delay this dictatorship because, having their candidate in power for the first time ever, the Republican base will not know what to do with itself. The Republicans allied with Trump will need to showboat and prance on that stage until they get it out of their system. They will spend a full year patting themselves on the back, I’m sure. They will win some token policy victories, maybe the repeal of Obamacare, but they will not roll back the welfare state. They will not make much headway toward realizing their vision of the common good.

And by the time Trump’s one or two terms in office have expired (and no, he won’t declare himself president for life; the country is not ready to accept that kind of power grab yet), he will have made a lot of noise and maybe a bit of a difference, but the sky will not have fallen, there will have been no second Kristallnacht, and America will have remained pretty much the same country it is today.

On the other hand, we’ve already seen what happens if Hillary becomes president. It might not happen during her terms in office, but happen it will.

While the Republican coalition savors Trump’s victory, everyone with sense to exploit it will have an unprecedented opportunity: a break in left’s long march through the institutions. During this pause, we can work, not through politics, but through other means, to restore reason and rights to the center of American civic life. It’s a long shot, but I think it can be done.

So if you align with the Democratic coalition, my final message to you is this: Vote Trump, or you will snatch a gruesome and bloody defeat from the jaws of victory.

If you align with the Republican coalition, it is this: power corrupts. A government powerful enough to, finally, give you everything you want, even if all you want is to save the lives of the unborn, is powerful enough to take everything you have. And it will. So Vote Trump on November 8th, but get your mind right right after. You cannot use force to achieve any good end. If you try, you will bring horrors to the world, the like of which we’ve never seen.

Aristotle, Locke, and Jefferson gave us, gave humanity, one chance at getting it right. We have to learn to live together without holding guns to each others’ heads. We have to renounce the power of government to realize any fantasy of a common good, no matter how it calls to us. We have to give each other the right to discover what’s best for ourselves, the right to know what’s best for ourselves, and the right to act on this knowledge. If we do not, it can only end one way. We’ve come far too close to that end already now. And so, finally, to all of you, of both coalitions:

You fucking idiots. You’re half-likely to burn the world, to waste the gift of peace, a gift you’ve never done anything yet to earn, a gift that heroes gave to you. But at least it couldn’t happen to a more deserving lot.

Hillary Versus America: Part IX — An Interlude in Video

If one can view the following three videos synoptically, no more is necessary to understand why Hillary Clinton must not be president:

First, she is the avatar of oligarchic status quo:

(Note: this video confuses democracy and small-“r” republicanism, and the solutions it suggests are sophomoric and doomed to failure. But focus on the illustration of the problem, and let these failings pass.)

Second, oligarchy is the natural tendency of all rulership. A second Clinton presidency will, without question, accelerate this “progress” in America:

Third, men long dead saw right through her, which should have you asking: why can’t you manage it?

If these don’t help you see why she must be kept from power, I probably can’t help you either. In which case: Enjoy your berth in the gulags, comrade!