What is Happening at Taylor University?

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Taylor University is an evangelical Christian college in Upland, Indiana.  It is a great school.

According to this piece at Christianity Today, the school appears to have a faction of conservative faculty and staff who believe that it is moving in a “liberal” direction.

These disgruntled employees started an anonymous newspaper titled Excalibur.  The creators of Excalibur–a philosophy professor, a biblical studies professor, the men’s soccer coach, and the university’s marketing director, eventually came clean.

Christen Gall of Christianity Today has it covered.  A taste:

True to its namesake, the controversial newsletter sliced through campus conversation, drawing students and staff to take sides in classroom discussions, op-eds, and official communications since its February 21 release.

Weeks after Taylor president Paul Lowell Haines condemned the anonymous publishers for “sow[ing] discord and distrust, hurting members of our community,” four members of the faculty and staff came forward online as its creators: Jim Spiegel, professor of philosophy and religion; Richard Smith, professor of biblical studies; Gary Ross, men’s soccer coach; and Ben Wehling, marketing director.

They apologized for the uproar, but even their website was pulled due to the controversy.

“The newsletter aimed to fill a growing conservative void” on the Upland, Indiana, campus, Spiegel explained in an email to CT.

Organizers came up with the idea in the fall, naming their project after King Arthur’s sword—a reference to the biblical imagery of the sword as a symbol of truth and justice. They thought if their publication were anonymous, they could focus on ideas rather than personalities.

In their debut newsletter, Excalibur promoted the conservative and orthodox Christian values its writers believed were being replaced by more politically and theologically liberal views among Taylor’s student body, campus speakers, and faculty publications.

Read the rest here.

Conservative Military Historian Max Boot Calls Fox News “one of the most damaging developments in modern American history”

Fox News commentator Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, believes that the United States should make a preemptive strike on North Korea.  He believes that Christians are the only “real refugees” from the Middle East.  He once claimed that “2000 years of Christian Civilization” was “destroyed on Obama’s watch.”  As historian and cultural critic Max Boot writes in The Washington Post“Peters is about as far removed from a liberal ‘snowflake’ as you can imagine…he is to the right of right.”

Recently Peters resigned his post at Fox.  In his resignation letter, Peters said:

  • “I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers.
  • “I am ashamed” [of my association with Fox]
  • “Fox has degenerated…to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.”
  • “Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit”
  • “As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin’s agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign.”
  • “As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true–that’s how the Russians do things.”

Ouch!

Here is a taste of Boot’s piece:

What makes Fox’s ravings so scary is that they are not just influencing the public — they are also influencing the president. Matthew Gertz of Media Matters for America found a feedback loop between Trump and the TV personalities he watches so faithfully. Many of the president’s deranged tweets — e.g., his claim that his “nuclear button” is “much bigger & more powerful” than Kim Jong Un’s or that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin should be imprisoned — are lifted straight from Fox. On Monday, the First Fanboy was in ecstasy because his favorite evening host was on his favorite morning show. He tweeted: “.@seanhannity on @foxandfriends now! Great! 8:18 A.M.” Instead of watching Fox, Trump would be better advised to read his briefing papers — such as the one advising him not to congratulate Putin on his rigged election win.

Years ago, before the rise of Trump, I used to think that Fox performed a harmless service by publicizing conservative ideas. It has since become clear that its worldview has little to do with conservatism and everything to do with populism and white nationalism. Fox News’s  creation in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was one of the most damaging developments in modern American history. The wonder is that there aren’t more commentators like Peters with the integrity to resign in protest over Fox’s propaganda.

Read the entire piece here.

If You Want to Know Where the GOP is at Right Now, Watch This Video

From the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference:

The woman on the right of the screen is National Review columnist Mona Charen.

Charen was glad she got booed.

Princeton University conservative Robert George praised Charen:

 

CPAC: “Victimhood” and “Paranoia”

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The Republican Party is now the party of victimhood, paranoia, and fear.  Sadly, much of its support comes from evangelical Christians–people who are commanded to “fear not.”  There is no hope.  There is no humility.  There is a lot of nostalgia, but very little history.

Over at The Nation, John Knepfl writes about CPAC‘s “red hot rage.”  Here is a taste:

Trump repeatedly warned the crowd that if Democrats were elected they would repeal the Second Amendment, and at one point asked the attendees to cheer if they preferred the Second Amendment or tax cuts. It was a bizarre moment, one of many, but suffice to say the Second Amendment received very loud support. That defensive posture in the midst of a seeming sea change in the gun-control debate was not a coincidence, and a clear sign that the CPAC doesn’t see itself as responsible for the prevalence of mass shootings.

What makes the rancor especially absurd is that not only is the Republican Party in charge of the Executive Branch and both chambers of Congress, but, by all honest accounts, the Trump administration is succeeding in implementing a hyperconservative agenda. CPAC favorites Ted Cruz and Shapiro acknowledged that they had no substantive disagreements with Trump. Nevertheless, the entire event was defined primarily by victimhood and paranoia. The enemies are everywhere: Democrats, socialists, college professors, regulators, black athletes, reporters, “fake news,” the FBI. “They try like hell, they can’t stand what we’ve done,” Trump said ominously.

Read the entire piece here.

Am I a “Conservative Historian?”

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Yesterday I got an e-mail from a writer requesting a phone interview.  The writer was working on a piece on “conservative historians” in the academy.  Several sources had told this writer to contact me.   Here is how I responded to the request:  “Thanks for the e-mail.  Sounds like a great piece, but I don’t consider myself a ‘conservative historian’ and I am not interested in going on record as one.  Good luck with it–I will try to do a post at my blog when the piece appears.”

I have never understood myself as a “conservative historian,” but it is apparent that others out there–perhaps readers of this blog–believe that I am a “conservative historian.”  (Others, of course, think I am a flaming liberal).

Frankly, I am not even sure what “conservative historian” means.  Does this mean that I am a historian who does not take many risks in my scholarship?  Does this mean that I write about subjects that might be deemed “conservative?”  Does this mean that my personal politics are conservative and somehow these apparent political convictions impact my work as a historian?  Does this mean that I don’t think historians should be activists?  I have no idea.

Thoughts?

Alan Wolfe on Patrick Deneen

LiberalismPatrick Deneen‘s book Why Liberalism Failed has been getting a lot of attention.  Check out public intellectual Alan Wolfe’s review at Commonweal: “Loving the Amish.”

A taste:

Patrick Deneen is a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame who is an adherent to a form of conservatism at war with modernity in all its forms. Just to be clear what this means, Deneen’s conservatism has little in common with versions adopted by today’s Republican Party, including, or so I surmise, the Trumpian one. To Deneen, much of today’s conservatism—not only Paul Ryan’s crush on Ayn Rand, but also the “American greatness” yearnings of William Kristol and David Brooks—is one or another form of liberalism. Unfortunately Deneen never tells us what genuine conservatism means, although there are hints ranging from twelfth-century conceptions of natural right to the agrarian writings of the contemporary neo-Rousseauian Wendell Berry. It would have helped this reader if Deneen had talked more explicitly about the conservatism against which liberalism was a reaction. 

In spite of this conceptual neglect, I found myself surprised by the number of points on which Deneen and I agree. He claims, against both libertarians and welfare-state defenders, that the “classical liberalism” of free markets lies along the same path as the “modern” liberalism of active government involvement. That accords with my own position that Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes belong in the same political camp. We both consider John Stuart Mill a liberal par excellence. Deneen argues, again I believe quite correctly, that the liberal arts in most colleges and universities have run their course and that few contemporary students ever receive full exposure to the glories of the humanities. Liberalism, in his view, prioritizes culture over nature; I agree.  Liberalism’s goal is to free human beings from artificial constraints that prevent them from realizing their full potential; I also agree with that. 

In pursuing his argument, Deneen should have one advantage: unrestrained by any hint of academic caution, he writes in the style of an eighteenth-century pamphleteer, making dramatic claims and hoping that his eloquent prose will carry the case. Even with respect to this rhetorical approach, we are not that different. I also try to write in a style suitable not just to academics and I have been known to be a bit polemical. Reading Deneen, I found myself thoroughly engaged and I wish more books like this would come from the editorial offices of university presses.

The only major difference between us, alas a rather significant one, is that for Deneen liberalism is one of the great horrors of world history; its failure is so complete that it will soon (if it has not already) lose all its adherents while creating one disaster after another. I believe that liberalism, in spite of the rightwing nativism currently fashionable in one liberal democracy after another, still has a great deal to achieve before it runs its course, and that there is no existing alternative political philosophy that can rival its staying power.

Read the rest here.

Have Conservative Intellectuals Gone Lowbrow?

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Ohio University historian Kevin Mattson thinks so.  He argues that conservative intellectuals are now in the business of attacking “educated elites.”  He calls this behavior “a grave danger to our democratic discourse.”

Here is a taste of his piece at Democracy:

Today, conservative intellectuals or thought leaders (or whatever you want to call writers and journalists and bloggers of this variety) no longer think. They no longer argue or pursue the playfulness of ideas as the intellectual vocation allows (for a fine argument about what makes an intellectual, see Richard Hofstadter’s book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life). Back in the 1940s, the literary (and liberal) critic Lionel Trilling described conservative thinking as little more than “irritable mental gestures.” He would likely consider the very concept of the “conservative intellectual” today a full-fledged oxymoron. Thinking is out; prejudiced assertions sans proof are in. Of course, as Trump’s presidency shows, this sort of thing can win you political campaigns. Attacking educated “elites” is red meat for conservative politicians.

But for intellectuals to go down that same road is a grave danger to our general public culture, and dare we say—as would the Kimball of old—“civilization.” Our public dialogue is threatened by the likes of Twitter thinking—more short spasms than developed reasoning. Conservative intellectuals have always struggled with their own tendency to instinctively distrust their own kind— i.e. other intellectuals, what the historian Christopher Lasch once labeled the “anti-intellectualism of the intellectuals.” Yet right now, they seem they seem to have moved beyond self-hate and toward willful self-sabotage. Their ideas have lost all intellectual rigor and warrant no respect. In killing off their own thinking, they kill off the possibility of democratic discourse, where thinkers with different principles can debate but engage in a productive conversation about our contemporary political situation. By turning the exchange of ideas into warfare and angry brawls, conservative “thought leaders” are killing off the very principle of democratic debate.

Read the entire piece here.

Conservative Magazines in the Age of Trump

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Check out T.A. Frank‘s piece at The Washington Post on conservative magazines.  He discusses what role magazines like CommentaryNational Review, the American ConservativeFirst ThingsNational AffairsThe National InterestAmerican Affairs, and Modern Age play in the age of Trump.

Here is a taste:

As much as their contributors may differ in opinion or even dislike one another, what unites these magazines — and distinguishes them from right-wing outlets like Breitbart — is an almost quaint belief in debate as an instrument of enlightenment rather than as a mere tool of political warfare. “There’s an argument on part of the right that the left is utterly remorseless and we need to be like that,” says Lowry. “That’s the way you lose your soul and you have no standards.”

As the Weekly Standard’s Labash sees it, disinterest — at a time when media outlets on the right “constantly applaud Trump like trained chimps, congratulating themselves that they’re part of some new revolutionary vanguard” — is the new subversion. “You want to be a revolutionary on the right?” asks Labash. “Tell the truth. Call honest balls and strikes. That’s become pretty revolutionary behavior in these hopelessly tribal times.”

With so many Americans today engaged in partisan war, any publication with a commitment to honesty in argument becomes a potential peacemaker. It also becomes an indispensable forum for working out which ideas merit a fight in the first place. This is what, in their best moments, the conservative magazines are now doing. None will realistically exercise much immediate influence on this White House. But perhaps what matters more is whether they’ll manage to influence the political discussion writ large. Ultimately, that won’t be up to Donald Trump but to those, of any political stripe, who have preserved enough modesty and curiosity to allow their views to be unsettled. Serious conservative magazines will matter a lot, if we want them to.

Read the entire piece here.

Is Political Correctness a Two-Way Street?

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Aaron Hanlon, an English professor at Colby College, thinks that it is.

Here is a taste of his Chronicle of Higher Education piece, “Political Correctness Has Run Amok–on the Right“:

Take a recent incident at Liberty University. An evangelical pastor who was critical of President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s support for the Trump administration was removed from campus and threatened with arrest if he returned. When Falwell was asked about the situation, he replied, “If we allowed him to come on campus and protest uninvited, then the next group that comes in might be a violent group, and we’ve seen recently what that can lead to,” alluding to violent white-supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va.

That justification is barely distinguishable from how a cautious university administrator might explain removal of a controversial right-wing speaker. But because high-profile opportunists like Richard Spencer, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Ann Coulter are right-wing figures hunting for disinvitations from the left, we form our impressions about what constitutes political correctness based on complaints from the right.

I have personal experience with the double standard we apply to political correctness. In magazine pieces and TV appearances, I’ve made arguments against giving people like Spencer, Yiannopoulos, and Coulter a campus platform. I’ve said something similar to what Falwell argued — specifically, that safety is an important precondition for teaching and learning.When a conservative Christian like Falwell makes that argument, the media give him a pass. But when a left-of-center professor like me says it, I receive death threats, and my college gets countless messages demanding that I be fired.

The implications of this double standard are twofold. One, it fuels confirmation bias by framing the left as the sole enemy of free speech when the facts say otherwise. Two, it makes those who have actual power to enforce speech complaints — and thus to actually chill speech — more likely to do so against left-leaning speech that runs afoul of right-wing political correctness.

Read the entire piece here.

“Someone Sat on the Remote”: Teaching Conservatism in an Age of Trump

Republican U.S. presidential candidates Carson and Trump talk during a break at the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

Is Trump a conservative?  How should we teach conservatism in the age of Trump?  Inside Higher Ed was at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association this past weekend and reported on a session titled “Teaching Conservatism in the Age of Trump.”

Here is a taste:

WASHINGTON — Seth Cotlar, a professor of history at Willamette University in Oregon, isn’t a historian of conservatism (or a conservative). But around 2010, as the Tea Party raged, he felt increasingly alarmed by some students’ tendency to dismiss conservatives as ignorant racist who, in his paraphrasing, “just aren’t as smart as me yet.”

So he began teaching a course on the history of conservatism, to engage one small corner of the overwhelmingly liberal Willamette universe in informed political debate. Cotlar’s duty wasn’t to change minds, he said, just to open them to what conservatism actually is: “a politically robust, complicated phenomenon.”

Now, Cotlar said here Thursday at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, President Trump has complicated all that.

Donald Trump’s election “totally has thrown into disarray my understanding of American history,” Cotlar said during a well-attended panel on teaching conservatism in the age of Trump. “The last 200-plus years of American history have been like a series of West Wing episodes and then [last] November, someone sat on the remote and now we’re watching a marathon of Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Describing Trump as caffeine-crazed and hyperactive, rather than the “slow, steady hand” typically associated with conservatism, Cotlar said the president’s rhetoric and policy positions not only defy conservative principles and political norms but also pose urgent pedagogical questions.

“How do we think about and engage with conservative Trump voters?” Cotlar asked. “What does it mean to empathize with people who advocate white nationalism?”

As always, Seth Cotlar is asking the right questions.

Episode 29: Libertarianism and Democracy

 

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Many voices in American politics have been sounding the alarm about the influence of the Koch brothers as a threat to voting rights, the direction of American conservatism, and the very sanctity of American democracy. But like all things, the Koch brothers have a history. In this episode, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss the rise and influence of American libertarianism within the conservative movement. They are joined by Nancy MacLean who discusses her book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, which was just nominated for the National Book Award.

The Author’s Corner with Adam Smith

41xrlTvJ9rL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Adam Smith is professor of history at the University College of London. This interview is based on his new book, The Stormy Present: Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics, 1846–1865 (The University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

JF: What led you to write The Stormy Present?

AS: Politics in the free states in the mid-nineteenth century was characterised both by an underlying presumption that slavery was wrong and by an underlying, and self-conscious “conservative” sensibility. Consequently, war and emancipation came about when they appeared, for sufficient numbers of Northerners, to be the conservative options.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of The Stormy Present?

AS: Politics in the free states in the mid-nineteenth century was characterized both by an underlying presumption that slavery was wrong and by an underlying, and self-conscious “conservative” sensibility. Consequently, war and emancipation came about when they appeared, for sufficient numbers of Northerners, to be the conservative options.

JF: Why do we need to read The Stormy Present?

AS: Because it might remind us that political change happens as much through accident as design, with people coming to support potentially radical transformation for reasons far removed from what we might imagine. It will remind us, also, that for its vaunted modernity and fascination with progress, the United States has always been in many respects a profoundly conservative society, preoccupied with a decisive founding moment and anxious about threats to the prevailing order. And finally because the book offers a new interpretation of the coming of the Civil War in which the mass of white northerners—the men and women who were not abolitionists or radicals or even necessarily Republicans, but whose reactions and judgements mattered so much—are placed centre-stage.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

AS: When I was an undergraduate I was lucky to be taught by Eric Foner, who provided such a compelling account of the Civil War era that I was totally gripped. I don’t know if that was when I decided to become a historian of the United States, but it’s certainly when I began to imagine it as a possibility.

JF: What is your next project?

AS: A study of compromise as a practice and an idea in American politics. 

JF: Thanks, Adam!

*The Washington Post* Piece on Rod Dreher

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Washington Post writer Karen Heller went down to Baton Rouge to visit conservative blogger and cultural critic Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option and other books.

Here is a taste of her piece: “Rod Dreher is the combative, oversharing blogger who speaks for today’s beleaguered Christians“:

Rod Dreher’s life is an open book. Several, actually. “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming,” about his late sister. “How Dante Can Save Your Life,” about his love of the Italian poet. His latest, “The Benedict Option,” is a call to beleaguered Christians to divorce themselves from the increasingly secular American mainstream.

But really, every work by this conservative Christian writer is a literary act of confession, a quest for purpose and a purge of disillusionment. An influential and prolific blogger for the American Conservative — he averages 1.3 million monthly page views on his blog — Dreher is credited with helping introduce J.D. Vance of “Hillbilly Elegy” to a larger audience. He founded the “crunchy con” ideology — another book, back in 2006 — wedding cultural and moral conservatism with an organic, co-op-and-Birkenstock lifestyle.

He is, however, no supporter of President Trump.

“I’m a social and cultural conservative, and I think Trump is a disaster,” says Dreher, 50. Asked why, he spits back, “Because of his incompetence, his recklessness and his malice. Plus, he is destroying conservatism as a credible public philosophy. The conservative movement needed serious reform, but this is annihilation.”

Read the rest here.  1.3 million page views a month?  Wow!  If all goes well The Way of Improvement Leads Home will have 2 million page views this year!  Here’s hoping that Rod reads this and give us a shout-out at his blog.  🙂

Gerson: Trump Broke Conservatism

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Here is a taste of the latest from Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson:

A common defense of President Trump points to the positive things he has done from a Republican perspective — his appointment of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and other conservative judges, his pursuit of the Islamic State, his honoring of institutional religious freedom. This argument is not frivolous. What frustrates is the steadfast refusal among most Republicans and conservatives to recognize the costs on the other side of the scale.

Chief among them is Trump’s assault on truth, which takes a now-familiar form. First, assert and maintain a favorable lie. Second, attack and discredit sources of opposition. Third, declare victory based on power or applause. So, Trump claimed that Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson’s account of his conversation with a Gold Star widow was “totally fabricated.” (Not true.) Wilson, after all, is “wacky.” (Not relevant.) And Trump won the interchange because Wilson is “killing the Democrat Party.” (We’ll see.)

Read the entire piece here.

From the Cubs to the Heritage Foundation?

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Hey Cubs fans–your co-owner is a candidate to head one of the leading conservative think tanks in America.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

The top job at the influential conservative outpost has been open since May, when Jim DeMint, the Republican firebrand and former South Carolina senator, was pushed out, though Fuelner has been serving as the interim president. The search process is still in flux, and it is not clear if the top candidates under consideration have officially been contacted by the Heritage board – or would even accept the position.

For Ricketts – a longtime Republican activists whose father Joe is the founder of TD Ameritrade and brother is Pete Ricketts, the current Nebraska governor – the posting would offer both him and his family an even greater foothold in helping shape the direction of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

Trump selected Ricketts to serve as deputy commerce secretary, but in April he withdrew his nomination from consideration, citing an inability to untangle his financial holdings to the satisfaction of the Office of Government Ethics.

Ricketts’ father helped finance Future45, a super PAC that spent lavishly for Trump in the final weeks of the campaign, giving the group at least $1 million through the end of September, FEC filings show. Joe Ricketts and his wife, Marlene, also contributed nearly $344,000 to support Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party. The Ricketts’ financial support for Trump was a dramatic reversal from the primaries, when Joe and Marlene Ricketts gave more than $5.5 million to Our Principles PAC, a super PAC that ran a slew of hard-hitting ads against Trump.

Read the entire piece here.

The Author’s Corner with Gordon Wood

41-mB7iaBXL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgGordon Wood is Professor Emeritus of History at Brown University. This interview is based on his new book, Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (Penguin Press, 2017).

JF: What led you to write Friends Divided?

GW: I had just edited three volumes of writings of John Adams for the Library of America and planned to write a book on Adams. My editor at Penguin-Random House, Scott Moyers, asked, why not write on both Adams and Jefferson?  The suggestion was intriguing and that’s how the book began.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Friends Divided?

GW: The two patriots, Adams and Jefferson, could not be more different. They represent the strains of conservatism and liberalism in American life, and yet they became friends, divided friends who reconciled late in life.

JF: Why do we need to read Friends Divided?

GW: I think reading the book will give a reader a heightened idea of the difference between conservatism and liberalism in our culture. It will also show why we Americans ultimately have come to honor Jefferson and not Adams.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian? 

GW: I originally intended to join the foreign service, but three bizarre years of  experience in the USAF convinced me that I would not enjoy working for the government; so instead I applied to graduate school to study history, which I had always been interested in.

JF: What is your next project?

GW: I am not sure what my next project might be. I first have to go on a book tour to promote this book.

JF: Thanks, Gordon!

Garrison Keillor: “How is being struck by a hurricane so different from being hit by cancer?”

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In his weekly column, Garrison Keillor wonders what happens when conservatives who don’t like big government need the help of big government.  It’s an entertaining critique of Texas conservatives.

Here is a taste:

I’m all in favor of pouring money into Texas but I am a bleeding-heart liberal who favors single-payer health care. How is being struck by a hurricane so different from being hit by cancer? I’m only asking.

Houstonians chose to settle on a swampy flood plain barely 50 feet above sea level. The risks of doing so are fairly clear. If you chose to live in a tree and the branch your hammock was attached to fell down, you wouldn’t ask for a government subsidy to hang your hammock in a different tree.

Ronald Reagan said that government isn’t the answer, it is the problem, and conservatives have found that line very resonant over the years. In Sen. Cruz’s run for president last year, he called for abolition of the IRS. He did not mention this last week. It would be hard to raise an extra $150 billion without the progressive income tax unless you could persuade Mexico to foot the bill…

I was brought up by fundamentalists who believed it was dead wrong to get tangled up in politics. They never voted. Our preachers had no time for that. They knew that we were pilgrims and wayfarers in this world, and we shouldn’t expect favors from the powerful. We were redeemed by unfathomable grace and preserved by God’s mercy and our citizenship was in heaven. We looked to the Lord to supply our needs.

This has changed and godly Republicans now believe in the power of the government to change the world in their favor, of the Department of Education to channel public money freely to religious schools, of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and prohibit Joshua from marrying Jehoshaphat.

Conservatives blanch at spending additional billions to subsidize health care for the needy, but a truckload of cash for Texas? No problem…

Read the entire piece here.

Conservative Columnist: “Pull the Plug” on Trump

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Matt K. Lewis, a conservative commentator for The Daily Beast and CNN, has just published a column titled “Dear Trump Voters: You’r a Bunch of Idiots.”  The subtitle reads: “Face it.  It’s a train wreck top to bottom.  For America, and for conservatism.  The sooner we pull the plug on this charlatan, the better.”

Here is a taste:

Hope has been abandoned. Trump has had six months to learn the job, improve, and advance a conservative agenda. He’s 0-for-3. What is more, if even his new chief of staff Gen. John Kelly cannot fix this mess—and it is now incredibly clear that even he cannot perform miracles!—it won’t be fixed. At some point, it’s time to pull the plug. That time is now.

What exactly do I mean by “pull the plug”? These three things:

1. As former McConnell chief of staff Josh Homes suggests, Republicans should “reassert an identity without Donald Trump.” What this means to me is that Republican politicians should pursue their own agenda, independent of concern about Trump’s plans or legacy. In other words, act as if he doesn’t exist—as if he’s irrelevant.

2. All good-thinking conservatives should now commit to supporting a viable and serious primary challenge to Donald Trump in the GOP primary. This should not be a perfunctory exercise, but rather, a full-throated attempt to replace him as the nominee. Further, where you stand on this should be considered a defining moment. Personally, I would nominate Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska as the kind of person conservatives should back.

3. It’s time to quit making excuses for Trump apologists and enablers. Although I always try to be civil to everyone, those who defend the indefensible do not deserve our respect. Further, aside from chief of staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster—people we should be begging to stay on duty—anyone who continues to serve Donald Trump’s political agenda (and here, I would also grant a waiver for serious professionals working for, say, Health and Human Services) have cast their lot. Do not attempt to later rebrand yourself as a thoughtful conservative or an enlightened liberal down the road.

Read the entire column here.

Is Traditionalism Experiencing a Revival at College and Universities?

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Jeff Cimmino has a really interesting piece at The National Review on the rise of traditionalism (as opposed to free-market, classical liberalism) among conservatives on college campuses.

Here is a taste:

Young Americans are usually thought of as decidedly liberal. This is an oversimplified picture. A sizeable minority of Millennials identify as conservative. Despite some evidence that Millennial conservatives lean left on social issues, it would be wrong to write all of them off as libertarians. Some young conservatives, in fact, hold anti-libertarian attitudes, and their numbers may be increasing. Plainly speaking, these young conservatives hold socially and culturally conservative views. On the other hand, they are wary of individualism and free markets. They are not necessarily anti-capitalist, but fear that laissez-faire economic systems can be excessively cutthroat, prizing individual material gain above the wellbeing of the community.

This strain of conservative thought is closely related to the traditionalism of Russell Kirk, the 20th-century conservative political theorist who authored The Conservative Mind. Kirk identified ten foundational conservative principles. The first principle states that conservatives believe in an “enduring moral order.” Moral truths do not change with the times, and neither does human nature. “Conservatives are champions,” he continues, “of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.” Conservatives value private property because it is “closely linked” to freedom, but argue that “getting and spending are not the chief aims of human existence.” Decisions directly affecting members of a community should be made “locally and voluntarily.” Regarding governance, conservatives recognize that human passions must be restrained: Order and liberty must be balanced. Moreover, a conservative “favors reasoned and temperate progress,” but does not worship Progress as some type of magical force. Young, anti-libertarian conservatives represent a new generation of traditionalists. And they are increasingly prominent on some college campuses.

Read the entire piece here.

If there is an upswing in traditionalism among conservative students on the campus where I teach, I am unaware of it.  That is not to say that such a resurgence is not happening, but I really doubt that most students are aware of these conservative thinkers and their contribution to Western culture.  I think I can confidently say that these works are very rarely ever assigned in classes.  I think that is a shame.

Princeton’s Robert George Reflects on the State of United States Society

507cf-georgeRobert George, the conservative Catholic Princeton professor of jurisprudence and political philosophy, assesses the state of the country in an interview with Matthew Bunson of National Catholic Register.  He discusses civility, secular progressives, Donald Trump, republicanism, Ronald Reagan, and Catholicism.

Here is a taste:

What is most needed in American political life at this moment in history?

Courage — the courage to stand up to bullies and refuse to be intimidated.

You did not support the candidacy of Donald Trump for president. What is your assessment of his administration so far?

To say that I did not support the candidacy of Mr. Trump is the understatement of the year. I fiercely opposed it — though I also opposed Mrs. Clinton.

Like it or not, though, Donald Trump was elected president, and our duty as citizens, it seems to me, is to support him when we can and oppose him when we must. My personal policy has been, and will continue to be, to commend President Trump when he does things that are right and criticize him when he does things that are wrong.

I had urged the same stance towards President Obama, whose election and re-election I also fiercely opposed. I commended President Trump for his nomination of Neil Gorsuch, an outstanding jurist and a true constitutionalist, to fill the seat on the Supreme Court that fell vacant with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. I have also commended him for some other judicial and executive branch appointments.

I have criticized as unnecessary his policy on pausing immigration from certain countries, and I have criticized as weak to the point of meaningless his executive order on religious freedom. Indeed, I characterized it as a betrayal of his promise to reverse Obama era anti-religious-liberty policies.

Donald Trump is not, and usually doesn’t pretend to be, a man of strict or high principles. He regards himself as a pragmatist, and I think that’s a fair self-assessment. Of course, he is famously transactional. He puts everything on the table and makes deals.

As a pragmatist, he doesn’t have a governing philosophy — he’s neither a conservative nor a liberal. On one day he’ll give a speech to some evangelical pastors that makes him sound like a religious conservative, but the next day he’ll lavishly praise Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is waging an all-out war on those who stand up for traditional moral values in Canada.

Would you comment on Trump’s speech to the Poles?

It was a good speech, and my fellow critics of the president ought not to hesitate to acknowledge that fact.

People on the left freaked out about the speech, but let’s face it: They freaked out because it was Donald Trump who gave it. Had Bill Clinton given the same speech, they would have praised it as visionary and statesman-like.

One thing you have to say for President Trump is that he has been fortunate in his enemies. Although he gives them plenty to legitimately criticize him about, they always go overboard and thus discredit themselves with the very people who elected Mr. Trump and may well re-elect him.

His critics on the left almost seem to go out of their way to make the president look like a hero — and even a victim — to millions of ordinary people who are tired of what one notably honest liberal writer, Conor Lynch of Salon.com, described as “the smug style in American liberalism.”

Read the entire interview here.