OROn November 3, a majority of the American electorate voted to oust the president from the White House. However, Donald Trump still refuses to accept the verdict. Populism’s claim of devotion to “the will of the people” is a mess. Conservatives They have shown their willingness to throw off democracy for the sake of clinging to power or appeasing a deranged male child.
Ominously, Gen Michael Flynn it has demanded martial law and the suspension of the constitution. Elsewhere, a Michigan Republican called for a vote override in Wayne County, thereby depriving Detroit. At the same time, the president and his allies remain committed to polishing the legacy of long-dead Confederate generals, even if it means killing a pay raise for American troops.
As Thomas Ricks reminds us in First principles, the paradox of equality fused with racism dates back to the founding. The most famous pronouncement in the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal,” was written by a slave owner, Thomas Jefferson.
A Pulitzer-winning author and military historian, Ricks also notes that one of our two parties has felt perpetually compelled to offer a “home to white supremacists, to this day.” First the Democrats, now the Republicans.
Case in point: the fight for DC statehood. In June, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton argued that the majority-minority of the District of Columbia (population 684,000) did not deserve to be a state because it lacked Wyoming’s “comprehensive working class” (population: 577,000).
Elsewhere, Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state, recently tweeted that it was “essential” “to keep Ethiopia on the path of democracy.” America has seen this movie before, when the Cold War turned hot and the rice paddies of Southeast Asia turned into killing fields.
While freedom was supposedly on the march abroad, the home front was markedly different. The black churches were bombed. Martin Luther King was imprisoned, stabbed, and murdered. John Lewis was beaten in Selma. Others were sent to an early grave.
Jon Meacham is a Tennessee native, a biographer of George HW Bush and now a speechwriter for Joe Biden. In Your truth is marchingIn his new book on the young Lewis, Meacham says that “the hypocrisy of an America fighting for freedom abroad while tolerating white supremacy at home” characterized the Vietnam era.
And yet, as Edmund Fawcett, a self-described “left liberal” and former writer for The Economist, points out in his new book: Conservatism, “Although liberal democracy is the daughter of the left, its growth and health have depended on the support of the right.” Half a century ago, Senate Republicans defeated a Democratic-led filibuster from the South and enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Those days are past.
He also posits that “when, as now, the right is divided, the rich sleep less easily than the government is in good hands.” In other words, wealthy America is not simply about tax cuts. It can even arrive with conscience, a reality that worries both the president and the awakened left. The exclusive one from Philadelphia outskirts It made a difference for Biden in Pennsylvania, and possibly the United States.
Fawcett is well aware of the rise of the extreme right, Trumpism in the United States, Marine Le Pen in France, UKIP in Great Britain and the AfD in Germany. “The arrival of a new century,” he writes, “reversed the assumptions and shook the conservative center.” These tremors continue. Brexit linked to a pandemic is expensive and deadly.
Amid America’s winter of political discontent, Ricks, Meacham, and Fawcett are worth reading. Each carries a message that deserves our attention as we strive to get out, or at least better understand, the swamp.
The way of Cincinnatus
Spurred by the seismic impact of the 2016 elections, First principles focuses on America’s first four presidents, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, their education and perspectives. In Ricks’ view, ancient Greece and Rome influenced these men more than contemporary religion.
“Christianity simply did not spread as much in colonial America as it would be a century later,” writes Ricks, “or indeed it does now.” The Declaration of Independence summons the Creator and the God of Nature, but Jesus does not appear. The constitution refers to religion but is silent about a deity.
Between Greece and Rome, Ricks argues that the latter dominated the early presidents, with the exception of Jefferson. In the run-up to and after the Revolutionary War, Rome came to exemplify republicanism, civic virtue, and stoicism, as well as a warning about decline and tyranny. It was no surprise that Washington led the new nation. Most notable was the fact that he did not take power and instead voluntarily resigned. Cincinnatus, the citizen-soldier, was the model, Caesar the anathema.
Still, it’s Jefferson, Greece, and the epicurean notion of happiness that marks our 4th of July celebrations. The United States Declaration of Independence depended on a country dedicated to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, rather than John Locke’s formulation of government that existed explicitly to protect property. Importantly, for Jefferson happiness was more than just the right to party. Rather, it spoke of a general tranquility and the possibility of a common purpose.
His subtle change in wording was seismic: the landless could no longer be so easily marginalized or subordinated. A single sentence would help incubate the seeds of Jacksonian democracy. “America works best when it gives people the freedom to harness their own energies and exploit their talents,” Ricks concludes.
‘The way of Jesus’
Under the caption John Lewis and the power of hope, Meacham covers the first 28 years of the civil rights leader’s life, from his birth in 1940 to the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy in 1968. It is practically a hagiography that portrays Lewis as a saint and a hero, but imperfect.
As a child, Lewis preached to chickens on the family farm. Later he attended American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee. He was ordained a minister, but instead of sitting in a pulpit, he took up the cross and threw his body and soul into the civil rights movement.
In Meacham’s account, Lewis “rejected the tragedy of life and history” and “embraced the possibilities of realizing a joyous ideal.” The late congressman “seemed to walk with Jesus himself,” making the cause of the poor, the oppressed and the oppressed his own.
Meacham’s religious tenor is organic. He is a believing christian which discounts a totally secular public square. Instead, he observes that “a path to a nation where equality before the law and before God is more universal is the path of King and Lewis. Which is also the way of Jesus “.
Unlike Ricks, Meacham sees the constitution as a clearly calvinistic document. It is “theological and assumes our sinfulness and that we will do the wrong thing much more often than the right thing.” And he adds: “We have done everything possible since then to prove they were right.”
Fittingly, Meacham gives Lewis the last word in the book’s “epilogue,” in which the congressman plays with the text of the Gospel of John, proclaiming that America’s “moral compass comes from God, is from God, and is see through God. “
More disturbingly, Lewis writes: “And God so loved the world that he gave us countless men and women who lost their homes and jobs for the right to vote” and the “children of liberty than their lives in a bombing in Birmingham and three young men who were murdered in Mississippi ”.
In other words, the Passion of Christ can be relived and reinvented; suffering can bring redemption in this world. Those who bled and died were more than historical figures.
The Weimar road?
If anyone needs more reminder of the American right wing’s apparent malaise with universal suffrage, Fawcett offers a hard-hitting examination of extreme libertarianism and populism. It recalls the work of Jason Brennan, a Georgetown business school professor who complains about “ignorant majorities” and their ability to “thwart” economic growth.
Not mentioned is Peter Thiel de Palantir and his infamous 2009 version: that women and minorities have screwed things up. Since then, Thiel has partnered with the Trump administration and has a large number of government contracts.
Back then, he wrote: “Since 1920, the huge increase in welfare recipients and the extension of the right to vote to women, two districts that are notoriously difficult for libertarians, have turned the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ in an oxymoron. “
Fawcett also draws our attention to the tension between populism and participatory democracy. Their characterizations are confirmed by the last gasps of the Trump presidency. It states that “populists are uncomfortable with multiparty competition” and “are indifferent or hostile to countervailing powers within the state or society.”
Here, Fawcett is right. Trump’s campaign cries to “lock her up,” label the press “the enemy of the people,” and criticize the “deep state” are done the same way.
The final paragraphs of Conservatism They pose these questions about the center-right: “Are they on the side of the extreme right and leaving liberal democracy at the mercy of runaway markets and national populism? Or are they looking for allies with whom to rebuild a shaken center? “
If the response of the Republican leadership in Congress to Trump is a case study, the answer is grim. The other day, Mitch McConnell was crying in the Senate over the pending departure of a colleague, but had nothing to say about the president’s destructive behavior. Weimar is not abstract. In the end, railings don’t always withstand stress.
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