Two incidents this week by stupid and pernicious college kids- the racist chant by the SAE fraternity at the University of Oklahoma, and the banning of the American flag from the campus center at UC Irvine by UCI student government- attest to our deficiency in colorblind American nationalism, Teddy Roosevelt-style, in the present millennial generation.
Those racist jerks at the University of Oklahoma are stupid, ignorant, and uncaring. They live in another era in American race relations, and they are on the wrong side of history. This isn’t an issue of political correctness, which so many other racial issues inevitably devolve into. This is an issue of basic human respect, and by gleefully singing the worst slur in American history, this group of privileged white males has highlighted their own idiocy and hatefulness. They deserve all the shame they’re getting from the media; may anyone who would so objectify another group of human beings as SAE did tremble in their spot.
Those activist jerks at the University of California, Irvine, are stupid, ignorant, and have their priorities seriously misguided. They think of themselves as cosmopolitans and moderns; they are nothing other than decadent upper-class slugs. They don’t know what it means to be an American (or for those in that group who are not Americans, what it means to love your country) and their secular humanism is a poor replacement for the loving bonds of patriotism. Their hatred and intolerance for the American flag is a spite in the face to all who have lived, suffered, and died for it.
Both groups, consciously or unconsciously, practice hatred- the SAE frat boys, hatred of an entire race, the UCI student government, hatred of an entire nation. Both groups advocate divisiveness and terrible conceptions of identity- the SAE guys, a racial one, and the UCI guys, a postnational one. Neither attests to the fundamentally national identity views many Millennials now hold.
While the SAE guys’ hatred is more direct, more vile, and more dehumanizing than that of the UCI student government, the UCI student government’s hatred is ultimately the far more powerful one in our society today. And both are equally disgusting. And worse, neither accurately represents the views of our Millennial generation.
Millennials are the most racially tolerant American generation ever, regardless of what an ignorant Politico activist seems to think. Millennials are more dedicated to service and more proud of their country than most other recent generations, despite the popular prejudice against them by older generations. The overt racism of the SAE guys, and the Anti-Americanism of the UCI student government, are not at all indicative of what most of my diverse generation believes. Millennials, by and large, are racially and socially tolerant, well-educated, open-minded, patriotic, and committed to the American ideals of equality of opportunity, individualism, and entrepreneurial liberty. The revanchist racists on the right and the postmodern multiculturalists on the left couldn’t be further away from the dynamic centrist views of most of the Twittering majority of my peers.
It is time a new voice rises up to represent the true social and identity views of this rising generation. Indeed, there are still fractures and wounds and divisions which need healing- race remains a controversial issue, and class divides are now more pertinent than they have been since the late 19th Century. But the broader Millennial American identity remains strong, though its voice has not yet found itself.
But once it finds itself- and it is on its way, for the plurality of Millennials share a common media culture and common economic interests, and the entire generation has yet to reach political maturity- the Millennial voice will be a force to be reckoned with. It is imperative, however, that voices rise to represent the broad views of the majority of this generation. Until then, the outliers like the racists and the activists will continue to dominate the headlines. The politically moderate among us have a lot of work to do.
But first, we have to reject the extremists. They do not represent us at all.
The Manifesto of the Progressive Republicans
In late 1963, a group of young progressive Republicans- the Ripon Society, as they called themselves- put their heads together and drafted a statement of principles and purpose.
The nation was still recoiling in trauma at the assassination of the charismatic President John F. Kennedy. Communists lurched about abroad, while the institutions of the United States grew decadent and corrupt. And to make matters worse, a conservative populist insurgency threatened to take over the Republican Party.
The document the Ripon Society hashed out amidst this turmoil, “A Call to Excellence in Leadership,” outlined the need for a revival of progressive Republicanism and exhorted enterprising individuals to lead it. The document flowed with political philosophy, policy solutions, and leadership lessons; it was a veritable rallying point for the heirs of Theodore Roosevelt, and one of them, Senator Thomas Kuchel of California, had it recorded in the Senate’s log.
The words still ring true for progressive Republicans in 2015. The general mold of American politics has not changed in the half-century since the Call was published; decadence on the Left and insurgency on the Right threaten the institutions and vitality of the nation, and it is the task of those passionate moderates in the center to rise against these threats. The progressive Republicans of the 1960s fought the good fight; and now, the fight is ours. Soon circumstances will call for another Call to Excellence in Leadership- who will write it? Who will respond?
The following has been taken from the Senate’s record of proceedings, on the day January 8, 1964.
March 2, 2015
University of Southern California
Mr. President, I have read with great interest a statement published on Monday, January 6 by a group of young Republicans in Cambridge, Mass., known as the Ripon Society. The society, of course, takes its name from the town in which, almost 110 years ago, on February 28, 1854, the Republican party as such was founded. The membership of this group is composed of business and professional men, faculty and students, and active Republican leaders in the Greater Boston area.
Their statement, “A Call to Excellence in Leadership- An Open Letter to the New Generation of Republicans” is one which merits the careful and earnest consideration of all Republicans, young and old alike. It merits serious study by all Americans who want a strong two-party system, and a vigorous and revitalized Republican party, which can develop and articulate public policies, foreign and domestic, which are needed to improve and further the aims of our Republic. These young men have called not for the simple solution, which is traditionally the solution of the sophist who sees the world in absolutes, and in black or white, depending on his perspective. They have noted, instead, that a variety of means are available to resolve some of the great searing issues which confront our country and that there are no simple nostrums in a complex world edging its way toward progress in a complex century. In brief, they call for the application of intelligence to politics and of moderation to our problems. They call for thinking; they call for action; and they call upon the young people of America to see the Republican party as a vehicle which will advance the cause of all citizens regardless of their race or economic status.
In a time in both our party’s and our Nation’s history when there is, as never before, a need for constructive thought combined with dedicated action, the open letter of the Ripon Society deserves the careful consideration of us all. I commend its members for having made it.
I ask consent that the statement entitled “A Call to Excellence in Leadership- An Open Letter to the New Generation of Republicans” be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the statement was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
A CALL TO EXCELLENCE IN LEADERSHIP- AN OPEN LETTER TO THE NEW GENERATION OF REPUBLICANS FROM THE MEMBERS OF THE RIPON SOCIETY, CAMBRIDGE, MASS.
For a moment, a great Republic stood still. Everywhere men reacted first in disbelief and horror, then in anger and shame, and then in more measured thought and silence. The President is dead. A nation is in mourning.
History provides us with few such occasions to pause and reflect upon the state of our society and the course of its politics. While we yet sorrow, so must we seize this moment before our thoughts slip away to be lost in the noise of “life as usual.”
It is in this context that we have chosen to speak. We speak as a group of young Republicans to that generation which must bear the responsibility for guiding our party and our country over the coming decades. We speak for a point of view in the Republican Party that has too long been silent.
The Republican Party in 1964 faces not only an election but a decision. Shall it become an effective instrument to lead this nation in the remainder of the Twentieth Century? Shall it emerge from the current flux of American politics as the new majority party? Or shall it leave the government of the nation to a party born in the 1930s and without a leader capable of transforming the disparate elements to meet the challenge of a radically new environment? We are convinced that the choices that the Republican Party makes will have an incalculable effect on the destiny of our nation.
We should like to approach this decision from three aspects- the strategy for achieving a new Republican consensus, the nature of a Republican philosophy appropriate to our times, and the qualities of excellence required in our leadership.
TOWARD A NEW REPUBLICAN CONSENSUS
Election results in 1960 and 1962 indicate that there is no clear political consensus in the country. We are perhaps at one of those points in our political history when a new majority is about to emerge.
American politics has been by and large one-party politics. A single party has been dominant for considerable periods in our past history- the party of Thomas Jefferson, the party of Abraham Lincoln, and most recently the party of Franklin Roosevelt. Each of these parties emerged during a period of revolution in political ideas and was based upon a new majority consensus.
The Roosevelt coalition of the 1930s is still the majority party in this country. It continues to hold both houses of Congress and the majority of state governorships. Yet its loyalties are fading, its base is eroding, and its dynamism has been exhausted. FDR forged his great coalition of the urban minorities, trade unions, “liberal” intellectuals, farmers, and the Democratic south on a program to meet the economic distress of the depression years. Accordingly, the Democratic Party of today looks back to 1932 and 1936 and has never quite been able to escape the dialog of domestic politics from that period. In a real sense the Democratic coalition of the 1930s, dedicated to the preservation of its economic and social gains since the great depression has become the “stand pat” conservative party of today.
John F. Kennedy was attempting to rebuild the Roosevelt coalition- to infuse it with the idealism of a new generation that found the political issues of the depression years increasingly irrelevant. He was seeking to lift the Democratic party to a broader international concern. If, as appeared likely, he had faced the exponent of a virulent Republican conservatism in 1964, he might well have built a majority that would have assured the renewed dominance of the Democratic Party.
But fate deprived him of that opportunity- and fate also delivered control of his party to a leader far closer to the era of Roosevelt than to his own. Lyndon Johnson, it can safely be predicted, will try to put Roosevelt’s coalition back together once again. But if he succeeds, will he be able to educate and transform his party and Nation to the tasks of the future? Trained as an apprentice of the New Deal; representing the Southern wing of his party with its decidedly regional orientation; inclined by temperament to national rather than international concerns; will he not be a “prisoner of the past?” While the Nation may admire his knowledge and ability to manipulate political power, Lyndon Johnson is not likely to fire the hearts and minds of Americans. His, at best, would be an administration of “continuity.”
If the Democratic party, bound to the clichés and fears of past history, is incapable of providing the forward-looking leadership this country needs, the Republican party must. There are at least two courses open to the party- the strategy of the right and the strategy of the center. We feel strongly that the center strategy is the only responsible choice the party can take.
The strategy of the right is a strategy for consolidating a minority position. It is perhaps best described as an effort to build a coalition of all who are opposed to something. As an “anti-“ movement, it has been singularly devoid of positive programs for political action. The size and enthusiasm of the conservative movement should not be discounted, however. It represents a major discontent with the current state of our politics, and, properly channeled, it could serve as a powerful constructive force. But the fact remains that the strategy of the right, based as it is on a platform of negativism, can provide neither the Republican Party with an effective majority nor the American people with responsible leadership.
The strategy of the right should be rejected for another basic reason. It is potentially divisive. Just as Disraeli warned the British Conservative Party a century ago of the dangers of the “two Englands,” so would we speak out against a party realignment of the small states of the West and South against the urban centers of America- or any similar realignment that would pit American against American on the basis of distrust or suspicion. We must purge our politics of that rancor, violence, and extremism that would divide us. In the spirit of Lincoln, we must emphasize those goals and ideals which we hold in common as a people:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds;… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.
We believe that the future of our party lies not in extremism, but in moderation. We believe that moderate course of progressive Republicanism can be justified both in terms of strategy and philosophy. The moderate course offers the Republican Party the best chance to build a durable majority position in American politics. This is the direction the party must take if it is to win the confidence of the “new Americans” who are not at home in the politics of another generation: the new middle classes of the suburbs of the North and West- who have left the Democratic cities but have not yet found a home in the Republican party; the young college graduates and professional men and women of our great university centers- more concerned with “opportunity” than “security;” the moderates of the new South- who represent the hope for peaceful racial adjustment and who are insulted by a racist appeal more fitting another generation. These and others like them hold the key to the future of our politics.
Since 1960 John F. Kennedy had moved with shrewd political understanding to preempt the political center. Republican moderates for the most part remained silent. By 1964 the Republican party, perhaps with a Presidential nominee from the conservative right, would have had great difficulty in reclaiming the center. Now the very transfer of power means that the center is once again contestable. We believe that the Republican Party should accept the challenge to fight for the middle ground of American politics. The future lies here. The party that will not acknowledge this political fact of life and courageously enter the contest for power does not merit and cannot possibly win the majority support of the American people.
Must the Republican party then adopt the Kennedy-New Frontier programs to compete for the center? No. Such a course would be wrong and would smack so obviously of “political opportunism” as to insure its defeat. The Republican appeal should be rooted in a moderate Republican philosophy and should call forth the best leadership and vision the party can produce from its rich history and current strengths. As Republicans, we must prove to the American people that our party, unbeholden to the hostages of a faded past, is a more flexible instrument for the governing of this great nation and for the realization of the noble American aspirations of human dignity and peace with honor. What then are the dimensions of a moderate yet dynamic Republican approach that can galvanize the elements of a new Republican consensus?
TOWARD A MATURE REPUBLICAN PHILOSOPHY
A Republican philosophy capable of capturing the imagination of the American people must have at least three attributes. It must be oriented toward the solution of the major problems of our era- it must be “pragmatic” in emphasis. It must also be “moderate” in its methods- concerned more with the complexities of the means toward a solution than with a simplistic view of the ends. And finally, it must marry these attributes of pragmatism and moderation with a passion to get on with the tasks at hand.
Our philosophy must be oriented toward the solution of problems. The image of “negativism” that has too frequently been attached to our party must be dispelled. The new generation in American politics is looking for a party that is able to grasp the realities of the world, that exhibits a sensitivity to the problems that are its concern. This means that the first task of the Republican Party is to recognize and to begin devising approaches to the problems of the last half of the 20th century. We note only the most salient of domestic problems: The legitimate aspirations of the Negro in the northern cities, as well as in the South; the human adjustments to the process of automation in industry and in business; the phenomenon of the megalopolis with the attendant problems in housing, transportation, and community services; the emphasis of quality in our educational system, our health services, and our cultural services in general.
The Democratic party will have solutions or purported solutions to all these domestic problems. But does it have the imagination demanded by the new world we face? Or will its answers be merely retreads of the New Deal, more of the same, more indiscriminate massive Federal spending, more Government participation in the economic and social life of the individual?
The greatest mistake would be for the Republican party to turn its back on these problems. Without this beginning we cannot utilize the strengths of our free enterprise system, of the individual initiative that has characterized our citizenry, of the infinite variety of our private institutions, the potential strengths of our several levels of government. If we fail here, just as if we fail to contest the center, the battle will go to the Democrats by default.
If our times demand new vision and new solutions on the domestic scene, how much greater is the need on the international front. The greatest challenges this Nation will face in 1965, 1970, and 1975 will most likely be decisions in its foreign policy. Merely to continue our foreign policy will not be enough. The American president must now serve as the first statesman of the world. America must assume the responsibilities commensurate with its power.
We must have the creative imagination and political sophistication to shape our policies to meet constantly changing distributions of power. At the same time, we must have the perspective to give our foreign policy a direction that will meet the test of decades. We must get on with the paramount task of forging a new relationship with Europe. This will involve a new and more realistic approach to the question of nuclear sharing. The problems of the alliance- political, military, economic- will demand the finest qualities of statesmanship, of political engineering, of shrewd bargaining and compromise of which we are capable as a people. In our relationships with the Communist nations we must be sensitive to the diffusion of power within the bloc and the opportunities and dangers this affords. We must recognize and develop those areas of common interest such as arms control measures to reduce the chances of war by miscalculation or accident. At the same time we must check Communist aggression in whatever form it takes. We must develop a strategy for economic, technical, and military assistance that both merits the support of the American people and fulfills our commitments and responsibilities as leader of the free world.
Vision is a recognition of problems; it is a function of leadership. The Republican Party has produced a proud lineage of pragmatic statesmen since Lincoln. It is our hope that once again it will provide the leadership to meet the occasion.
While our philosophy and program must be pragmatic so must it be moderate. Simply to define the problems is not to solve them. The moderate recognizes that there are a variety of means available to him, but that there are no simple unambiguous ends. He recognizes hundreds of desirable social goals where the extremist may see only a few. The moderate realizes that ends not only compete with one another, but that they are inextricably related to the means adopted for their pursuit. Thus he will most likely set a proximate goal. While working for limited realizable objectives he will be especially concerned with the means, the environment in which the goals are achieved. The moderate chooses the center- the middle road- not because it is halfway between left and right. He is more than a non-extremist. He takes this course since it offers him the greatest possibility for constructive achievement.
In contrast, the extremist rejects the complexity of the moderate’s world. His is a state of mind that insists on dividing reality into two antithetical halves. The gray is resolved into black and white. Men are either good or evil. Policies are either Communist or anti-Communist. It is understandable that the incredible complexity and mounting frustrations of our world will cause men to seek one right answer- the simple solution. The moderate cries out that such solutions do not exist, but his would appear to be a thankless task. Who will reward him for telling them their dreams can never be? It is not surprising that the doctrinaire has always reserved his greatest scorn for the pragmatist and not for his opposite number. The moderate poses the greatest danger to the extremist because he holds the truth that there is no “truth.”
Moderation is not a full-blown philosophy proclaiming the answers to all our problems. It is, rather, a point of view, a plea for political sophistication, for a certain skepticism to total solutions. The moderate has the audacity to be adaptable, to seek the limited solution most appropriate to the needs of his nation, its institutions, and its people. The Republican moderate approaches these solutions from a more conservative perspective, the Democratic moderate from a more liberal one. The fact that we may meet on common ground is not “me-tooism.” It is time to put away the tired old notion that to be “real Republicans” we must be as different as possible from our opponents. There is no more sense in that view than in the idea that we must be for isolationism, prohibition, or free love because our opponents are not. It is time we examined the merits of a solution in itself rather than set our policy simply in terms of the position the Democratic Party may have taken. We would do well to hear Paul’s injunction to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just… if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Today we feel that the Republican Party must once again affirm its great tradition of pragmatism blended with political responsibility. But can the moderate produce the image of conviction and dedication that has been so much a part of the attraction of extremists throughout history? Is the “flaming moderate” just a joke, or is he a viable political actor? Can we be emotional about a politics so pluralistic, so relative, so limited in its range of available maneuver? Perhaps we share the too abundant enthusiasm of youth but we feel that we not only can- we must. We must show our world that our emotion can be aroused by a purpose more noble and a challenge more universal than the cries of an irresponsible extremism. Tempered with an honest uncertainty we must be ever willing to enter upon yet another great crusade. We must learn to be as excited about open-mindedness as we once were about final answers, as dedicated to partial solutions as we have been to panaceas. We must engage life as we find it, boldly and courageously, with the conviction that if we and reason endure we shall surely succeed- and with the knowledge that the greatest sin is not to have fought at all.
TOWARD EXCELLENCE IN REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP
The assassination of John F. Kennedy has put the Republican Party in the position of fighting the election of 1968 in 1964. It has required that the Party define not only a new strategy and a positive program but that it choose the men who are to lead it in these great tasks. The party must now find these men, men who can forge a new national party; men who can renew the great Progressive Republican tradition; men who possess the qualities of excellence that we should be the first to see as “The Kennedy Legacy.”
It is still too early to take the full measure of our late President. As Republicans we have disagreed and still disagree with the programs of the New Frontier. As members of the responsible opposition we have been critical of his Administration’s performance. But as Americans and as members of a generation still younger than his, there was something in John F. Kennedy that we admired. It would be petty to ignore this, dishonest to deny that we look for nor lesser qualities in the future leadership of our own party.
John F. Kennedy brought to the Presidency a perspective of the years ahead. His vision of America and its role in the world was not simply the product of youth, of that “new generation of Americans” to whom the torch had been passed. It was derived from those qualities of mind and spirit that comprise his legacy to us: his sense of imagination and inquisitiveness, his subtle and keen intelligence, his awareness of the ultimate judgment of history, his courage to affirm life, his love for the art of politics, his respect for excellence. Robert Frost has spoken of his era as an “age of poetry and power.” Kennedy brought to the Presidency a style and a zest that challenged the idealism and won the enthusiasm of our generation.
Republicans protested with candor that there was too much style and not enough substance to his policies. Now, fate has denied us a full answer. The merits of the man and his leadership will be debated long beyond the coming campaign, but there are lessons in his life and death that we cannot completely escape. We have witnessed a change in the mood of American politics. After Kennedy there can be no turning back to the old conceptions of America. There can be no turning away from the expectations of greatness that he succeeded in imparting to our vision.
To all thinking Republicans the meaning of November 22 should be clear. The Republican party now has a challenge to seek in its future leadership those qualities of vision, intellectual force, humaneness, and courage that Americans saw and admired in John F. Kennedy, not in a specious effort to fall heir to his mantle, but because our times demand no lesser greatness. Our party should make the call to excellence in leadership virtually the center of its campaign platform for 1964. The Republican Party should call America’s finest young leaders into the political arena. It should advance its talented younger leadership now to positions of responsibility within the national Republican Party and the Congress. Great government requires great men in government. In a complex age, when truth is relative and total solutions elusive we can do no more than pledge the very best qualities of mind and soul to the endless battle for human dignity. And we dare do no less at every level of social activity, from the Presidency to the town selectman. As Republicans, we feel confident that Americans everywhere will join such an appeal.
We issue this call to excellence in leadership with the full realization that there is much essential work yet to be done before the November elections; the selection of the candidates, the build of a record in the 88th congress, the shaping of the party platform, the planning of strategy for the campaign. We have not nor do we pretend to spell out a specific course of action. We fear, however, that these efforts will fail unless the party is motivated and directed by the broader and deeper concerns we have voiced. Without this vision and sense of purpose, the Republican Party will most certainly fail in the broadest sense of providing America the responsible leadership it needs.
The moderates of the Republican Party have too long been silent. None of us can shirk the responsibility for our past lethargy. All of us must now respond to the need for forceful leadership. The moderate progressive elements of the Republican Party must strive to change the tone and the content of American political debate. The continued silence of those who should now seek to lead disserves our party and nation alike. The question has often been asked, “Where does one find ‘fiery moderates’?” Recent events show only too clearly how much we need such men. If we cannot find them, let us become them.
Today I had the pleasure of riding to Reagan National Airport from Georgetown in a taxi, driven by a bearded old man of Pakistani origin who identified as American and nothing else. My kind of story, naturally.
We talked about various things on the ride; I made sure to ask his thoughts on Uber.
Uber, as we all know, has revolutionized taxi service and is driving old cab industries out of business in the coastal blue cities. The taxi drivers’ unions are fighting back. It would be natural for my taxi driver to hold a grudge against Uber, which offers much lower rates than taxis and thus is more convenient for, and steals away the business of, many previous taxi customers.
But that wasn’t why my driver held his grudge. Instead, he first explained that he had absolutely no grudge against other services that took away taxi business, like buses and shared-ride vans. These, he explained, follow the same rules and regulations as taxis- their drivers are required to have special licenses and go through background checks and training, they face stringent insurance requirements, and current policy requires that their members are unionized.
But Uber faces no such requirements. The only requirements for being an Uber driver are that one be 23 years old or older, and that one possess a drivers license. Aside from these, there are no real regulations, and presumably the company is shielded from bureaucratic probing by its corporate lawyers and its influence in local governments that would otherwise regulate it.
Thus Uber, which provides the same sort of service as the taxis, vans, and buses, is not operating on the same playing field as they are. It has a preferential regulatory environment, which means it can afford to offer lower rates to customers, which means it can out-compete them with an unfair advantage. This is not a free market system. Uber has an unfair advantage over the legacy models of taxis, buses, and vans.
I’m all for creative destruction, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I think companies that can exploit gaps in the current business environment and get rich off of them are the modern captains of industry and the progenitors of the future.
But, as Teddy Roosevelt said in his day, it is absolutely imperative that the playing field be a fair one, and that every individual and corporation has the chance to prove themselves in the market of public opinion and public choice in fair competition with their rivals. And Uber’s presumable unfair practices point out a bigger problem in American business and policy culture.
Corporations in every industry, most notably finance and banking, but spreading out to construction, manufacturing, energy, tech, services, the various apps, and everything else, will refuse to play by the rules if they can, if it means they can make a profit off of it and get away unscathed. It happens every day, and is on the rise. The most time-tested way to combat this, aside from character in the hearts of CEOs, is sound government regulation and vigorous government intervention in every case of unfair practice.
But, aside from the fact that governments at every level are inundated with money and favors from these very corporations that seek to bypass the rules, government itself is in disarray. Aside from being completely insolvent and relatively inefficient in its bureaucratic model, the regulatory system at all levels is too complex for the common good, and is oftentimes outdated. There is no reason a taxi driver should spend two years getting a license, but in some cities, that is the model. There are innumerable examples of draconian regulations impeding development and growth, and even more of corporations seeking every possible way out or just ignoring regulations entirely. Some corporations and industries, particularly unionized ones, are more wedded to these old regulations. But they make life hard for startup companies, the true innovators, and serve no useful purpose in the modern world.
Mark my words, I WANT to see companies like Uber succeed. They can make a real difference in making life better and more convenient for hundreds of millions of Americans. Their networked model can integrate the powers of information technology with sound physical infrastructure, and thus open the ground for a more powerful economy than any our nation has ever known.
But I want their innovation to be coupled with a sound respect for the rules of the system, and correspondingly, the rules of the system need to both be simplified and more stringently enforced. Therefore, two imperatives face us as a nation if we are to have a truly innovative and fair economy.
First off, we must simplify our regulatory code en masse to make way for the Ubers and Airbnb’s of the world to compete fairly. We must break the power of unions and corporations wedded to the old model, and we must establish a system where innovative companies can succeed.
Second, we must stringently enforce that said regulatory code, remove the influence of corruption in politics, and ensure that no level or agency of government is in any way beholden to any man or corporation.
We are living in a social and political failure of massive proportions. My taxi driver was right- we need a fairer system. But we also need a better system. And the preservation of a truly free market, possible only with a vigorous and active government beholden to no interests, is the most truly conservative and truly progressive end we can strive for. May the great reformers of the 21st Century take these words to heart.
Never thought I’d agree with almost every word of a Jonathan Chait article. Ever. Here are some of the most resonant quips:
“Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate…
If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.” The extensive terminology plays a crucial role, locking in shared ideological assumptions that make meaningful disagreement impossible…
Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree.”
As a moderate-conservative, middle class, straight white Christian male, and a boisterously vocal one at that, I run into trouble with these campus activists at USC all the time. It’s a cult of victimhood, a demonization of the ‘oppressors’ that shuts down reasonable debate in favor of the rights and feelings- emphasis on the feelings- of the ‘oppressed.’ It takes very important social issues and works its evil curse upon them, speaking of them in Manicheaen one-sided narratives against some invisible oppressor. It looks around and sees injustice everywhere, except within.
I don’t really have anything intelligent to add to Chait’s analysis at the moment. Let’s leave it here.
Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton engaged in a rap battle at one of President Washington’s Cabinet Meetings.
Anyone who knows me- literally anyone who knows me- knows that I consider myself a proud Hamilton junkie, an acolyte of the fabled third way in American politics that encompassed such great statesmen as Hamilton himself, Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. No American intellectual tradition has been nobler.
So it was with great joy that I learned, many months ago, that the famed Lin-Manuel Miranda was adapting Ron Chernow’s magisterial biography of Hamilton into a musical- and not just that, but a hip-hop musical. I’ve been familiar with the chilling pre-released first song in the said musical for several years, and I am still awaiting in deadly anticipation Hamilton’s tour on the West Coast. My sources say I’ll probably have to wait a year or so, which only sharpens my desire.
Anyway, like any good fanboy I’ve been making a point of reading every laudatory article that came out since the show’s release in New York in late January, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. Two key facts stand out above all, though.
First, the show features a multiracial cast. Whereas the historical evidence seems to suggest that the primary characters of Hamilton’s life were of Northern European descent, Miranda casts Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans into the roles of several of the Founding Fathers and their wives. One is reminded of Norm Lewis in the 2006 Les Mis, the famous ‘Black Javert.’
Second, the soundtrack of ‘Hamilton’ is a mishmash of classic broadway, Latin rhythms, 90s pop, and rap. This diverse score pretty closely mirrors the ethnic and cultural makeup of New York City.
So first off- yes, I can hear it now. I can hear the multiculturalists and the ethnic nationalists hooting and hollering, lauding the production for being more “representative” of the American racial ground as a whole, a sort of penance for the great sin of white supremacy that has burdened the nation for centuries. The presence of hip-hop as the musical’s soul is a rebellion against white patriarchy. I can hear them snickering to themselves at seeing George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, slaveowners all, being portrayed by African-Americans in what I assume some of the multiculturalists must see as the ultimate irony, bordering on vengeance. I hear them calling this production a great mark of progress in race relations, when what they mean is it is a mark of empowerment- read, the transferral of power- to aggrieved minority groups, that they might have power as groups.
Well, I really appreciated- and I mean really appreciated- the multiracial cast too, but for very different reasons, I think, than the multiculturalists. First off, a look at some of the set photos recently made available online-
George Washington, portrayed by Christopher Jackson
Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton, Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler, and Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton
When I looked over the cast photos, I didn’t see African-Americans or Hispanic-Americans portraying White Americans. I saw Americans portraying Americans. I see “Hamilton” as a step forward in race relations, too, but not a race relations of various groups competing amongst each other and scrapping for dignity- instead, it is the race relations of a nation of individuals of innumerable backgrounds, sharing a common heritage and a common destiny in the persons of their national heroes, and one which every one of them is capable of honoring regardless of the color of their skin. It represents a nation not of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans and White Americans living together in racial harmony, but of Americans living together in national unity, where race might matter to individuals privately but has neither bearing nor influence in the public realm. That’s what this nation needs to be and that’s what Miranda was pushing for in the casting. It would have been no different had the main characters been portrayed primarily by Asian-Americans. They would have been Americans all the same, not representing their ethnic groups but representing the country as a whole. As a friend of mine put it, “Americans are black; Americans are white.” E Pluribus Unum.
And nearly as important, the varying cultural influences behind the music don’t represent a host of cultures living together in multicultural harmony, but the mixing and melding of various cultures into an entirely new culture, something unique to our shores and genuinely American. This mixing and melding, a melting pot not of one-way assimilation but two-way assimilation, has been the driving force behind the development of our national culture for centuries, and has only been stymied by white supremacy in previous eras and multiculturalism today. A tearing-down of the walls which multiculturalism erects, and an allowing of the cultural blender to work its magic, as was done in “Hamilton,” is the true cultural fate of our nation.
One might object that this multiracial portrayal was not ‘accurate,’ and indeed it was not, nor was it intended to be. It was intended to tell a story and to help a divided people of diverse backgrounds feel as though they were united in that single story. The historically all-white portrayal of the Jesus story in European culture is a manifestation of this trend (and it’s interesting to note that one of the few modern linguistically and racially accurate portrayals of the Jesus story, The Passion of the Christ, came around only after the majority of Christendom was no longer white.) There have been plenty of culturally-accurate tellings of the Founding story; this one sought to be not accurate, but powerful and uniting, and I would say it succeeded admirably.
Again, I’m really happy about the racial and cultural message “Hamilton” seems to have given, though I’m not as happy with the explanation of it I attempted to give above. It pales in comparison to the sublime beauty of the American America.
In short, here’s what I think about race teleologically and here’s what I think “Hamilton” said about race.
-It doesn’t matter where you come from, what the color of your skin is, or what ‘community’ the media tells you you’re in- if you’re an American, that’s the most important thing.
-American culture is a beautiful thing, with influences from diverse groups across the world influencing it. While it should be noted that our political culture is fundamentally Western European, just about everything else has been subject to cultural mixing and mashing, creating the beautifully pure hybrid we know today.
-Multiculturalism and closed-minded white dominance are equally pernicious to the development of a truly unified American society, where Americans of all races are truly respected by their fellow citizens as Americans and nothing else. They merely attack it from different ways, multiculturalism by fighting for the existence of multiple cultures and white dominance by precluding others from entering the broader culture.
Now, an interesting thought experiment would be to think what Alexander Hamilton himself would have thought about all this. But that is a case for another day.
Republicans just went a step too far in advocating family rights over public responsibility. Such big names as Chris Christie and Rand Paul came out recently supporting parents’ rights to not have their child vaccinated, according to The Hill. And the sad thing is, the argument for familial autonomy over the health of children makes sense, so much sense- it’s just being misused in a potentially dangerous setting.
That’s like parents insisting that they be able to choose how their kids are educated (a perfectly reasonable proposition, especially given the diversity of education options available today) and then insisting on homeschooling them a curriculum of marshmallow-eating, cinderblock-breaking, and dinosaur role-playing (a far less reasonable proposition.) Parents should have authority and command over the lives of their children, as it’s just the natural order of things and, moreover, the foundation of a strong society and of solid citizens. But that authority and command must be reasonable, lest it lead to the excesses that some paranoid parents and politicians take it to today in the Vaccination “debate.” From a purely utilitarian and preventative perspective, vaccines are necessary for the broader health of society. For the sake of public health, the wild-eyed paranoia of a minority of people who do not understand modern science should not be protected as a right.
Additionally, for the sake of public health, the wild-eyed paranoia of another minority of people who do not understand modern science should not be protected as a right, either.
I’m not talking about climate deniers here- more on them in later posts. No, I’m talking about the kind of person who calls GMO’s “Frankenfood” and who harbors suspicions that the megacorporation Monsanto has secret plans to poison our food and kill us all. I’m talking about green anti-GMO activists.
The issue hasn’t been very big recently, but it’s only a matter of time before it rears its ugly head again. And when it does, thousands of good-natured, well-meaning people will share Facebook statuses about how concerned they are that eating genetically-modified organisms might be dangerous to the health of their great-grandchildren. Thousands of people will be concerned that a technological breakthrough that has the chance to improve the lives of millions around the globe will in fact poison them and their unborn families yet to come. Thousands will take a principled stance against Man’s unwise reckoning with nature, and thousands will be very sure of themselves in doing so. Sound familiar? The AntiVacs do it too.
Both GMOs and vaccinations have been with us for a long, long time; in fact, GMOs have been with us for far longer. We’ve been genetically modifying organisms since we first started crossing grains together into bigger grains. In the 21st Century, we’re just doing it a lot more quickly and directly, by splicing genes into organisms that never had them before. Kinda scary to think about but, when you consider it, basically the same thing. These GMOs could feed thousands, millions more people, on far less land than current non-GMO crops are produced on. They could eliminate the need for dangerous fertilizers. They could be raised for a fraction of the cost. There is, indeed, a good environmental argument against them- that they might become potentially destructive invasive species- but that is a problem that local environments tend to adapt themselves to after long enough. After all, after the Spaniards lost a herd of horses somewhere in New Mexico territory in the vague 16th Century, horses became an invasive species fully integrated within the North American ecosystem, and what would the American West be today without its herds of wild horses? Don’t answer that.
But I digress- the point is, technological change is scary, particularly in its social and political manifestations, but if managed properly it can be a true blessing to the happiness of Mankind. I think there was a really cute commercial about that, actually.
Those arcadian anti-vaccers and anti-GMO types have no idea of the world they’re trying to make posterity miss out on.
Americans of a populist persuasion like to pull out the name ‘Koch Brothers’ whenever the discussion of campaign finance reform (aka ‘money in politics’) starts to require hard empirical evidence. And it’s true- Charles and David Koch are documented to have spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars on political causes over the last couple of campaign cycles.
However, ye progressive-minded zealots out there, it must be born in mind that conservatives aren’t the only ones playing dirty in the campaign finance game (and for that matter, the Koch Brothers fund libertarian causes, not conservative ones.) Progressive liberals George Soros and the oodles of cash flowing out of his pocket, and according to a recent article published by the Independent Voters Network, Team Soros is every bit as fiscally vicious as Team Koch:
Political Action Committee (PAC) Spending (2000 to 2014)
Koch Industries: $16.03 million
Soros Fund Management: $0
Lobbying Expenditures (2000 to 2014)
Koch Industries: $97.95 million
Soros Fund Management: $260,000
Open Society Policy Center (Soros-Funded): $42.55 million
Individual Donations to Federal Candidates, Parties, and PACs (1989 to 2014)
Koch Brothers: $2.58 million
George Soros: $1.74 million
Individual Donations to 527 Organizations (1989 to 2010)
Koch Brothers: $1.5 million
George Soros: $32.5 million
Koch: 118.06 million
Soros: 77.05 million
All figures are courtesy of OpenSecrets.org.
OK, so Soros caps off at $77 million on his own while the Koch Brothers combined go all the way to $118 million. But after so many tens of millions, does it really matter anymore? And moreover, if these three men happen to be the most generous of the ultra-rich donors, how many more ultra-rich donors does it to take to donate even more hundreds of millions to various political causes?
The verdict is clear. There’s a lot of money in politics these days, and it comes from both the right and the left, funneling into the campaign coffers of politicians of various stripes and to the budgets of thought-organizations as diverse as the Center for American Progress and the Cato Institute.
Joel Kotkin’s narrative of the rival oligarchies has never seemed more right. We have yet to see if a populist, anti-elitist movement of statesmen will rise up and seriously challenge the power of Mammon over Caesar; and however it rises it will have to come from either from the center or from both the right and the left, but neither the left or right on their own, lest the movement be (rightly) accused of hypocrisy. If history is any guide, we’ll last a while under the rule of the rich. But such plutocratic power invariably leads to decadence and decay, and therefore it is in the broader interest of the American nation that the interests of wealth be checked sooner rather than later.