Sunday, November 13, 2016

A meditation on the Trump triumph

A conservative intellectual finds Trump has many things in common with American thinkers of the past

Trump is the first candidate since Reagan to take the fight directly to the opposition. For the most part, he does not instigate fights, he finishes them. Only after he is attacked does he go all in and defend himself and (it is important to add, the country) while simultaneously leading a counterattack on his opponent. His penchant to counterpunch aggressively has unhinged his opponents, the Clintons in particular, who literally paid people to harm fellow citizens at his rallies. Only someone like Trump could defend the United States against such thuggery. It was his penchant to defend himself, and this country, that ultimately led to his victory.

Jaffa is right about one important thing in this regard. Great statesmen are those who appeal to a timeless ideal and enduring principle.

As Jaffa noted in Crisis of the House Divided, Lincoln’s argument pertained to the rights we all possess by nature. It is this person who gives “rise to legitimate government.” Against the backdrop of one candidate’s attempt to circumvent consent, one thing the anti Trump people have failed to consider is that Trump is actually persuasive and reviving the twin pillars of safety and happiness. That he has attempted to persuade is a necessary condition to legitimate rule. Jaffa is explicit about this: “the first task of statesmanship is not legislation but the molding of that opinion from which all legislation flows.” He goes on to remind us that the “Constitution and Union were means to an end,” that secures “the equality of all men.”

Trump is a particular figure for a particular time no less than Lincoln was for his. Just glance at any number of his speeches, and you will find that his stated intention is to restore America. We also find that the economy’s dangerous trend of increasing debt has the effect of placing our country into a form of slavery—a slavery that is compounded by forcing people to pay for unusable healthcare insurance. His support of school choice and deliberate non-patronizing appeal to black voters is a direct assault on the academic Jim Crow that presently afflicts this nation.  His remarkable goal is the restoration of our ancient faith by defending without apology our Constitution and those natural rights stated therein. As Ken Masugi noted, his campaign’s focus on the fraudulent and rigged nature of the electoral system was not a complaint, but a defense, of the natural right of the consent of the governed. His opponent sought to overthrow that consent. Trump made the case for the consent of the governed. The voters responded by giving their consent to him.

Trump is thus a restorationist and a Declarationist. This is most obvious in his Lincolnian inspired promise to return the government to one “of the people, and by the people.”

Lincoln believed in building up the Union and re-adopting its idea. The current “conservative” elite believe in burning down the house to save it. But, nothing could be gained from destruction of the Republic by handing it over to what is clearly a criminal crime family. It is imprudent at best to suggest that the country could have been saved by handing it over to a party that does not seek our enlightened consent. Yet, our consent is but one aspect of the American Idea. The other is having the ability to secure the blessings of liberty in order to pursue our own happiness. Trump argued that liberty and happiness is strengthened by the means of gainful employment.

NAFTA is a free trade document of more than 1,700 pages. Almost 700 of those pages are the treaty itself. TPP is another marvel of “free trade” weighing in at more than 2,000 pages. Neither are truly free trade agreements. They are riddled with crony capitalism and side deals that defy the very meaning of freedom. While the agreements are supported by many of the Never Trumpkins, the fact is it has not benefitted the majority of the people of this Union in a meaningful way. Cheap goods may be good for the consumer, but not when the consumer is out of a job. As Decius noted, free trade is not a principle, but, following Jaffa, it should only be a means to realizing our humanity founded in our natural equality.

America’s Founders were not strict free traders. Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on the Subject of Manufactures” remarks that domestic markets are preferable over foreign markets. He does not mean this in terms of rejecting foreign trade, but as a matter of national wealth, and even as a defensive mechanism so as not to rely on foreign nations for subsistence. The foreign obstacles to domestic business, are impediments so great, Hamilton believed, that they cannot conduct business equally. Foreign trade must exist on “terms consistent with our interest.”

The longest serving treasury secretary after Hamilton, Albert Gallatin, though in theory a proponent of free trade, stated in his “Free Trade Memorial” of 1832 that equal intercourse with Europe was not desirable because it would not encourage “domestic manufactures.” He supported a duty on imports of 25 percent so they fall “equally upon all.”

As it pertains to Trump, he is the first candidate in the 20th century to be in such concord with the Founders not only in his economic policy, but in the reason for such a policy: the defense of the American Republic against trade that harms the nation. In a modern context, free trade means literally the end of America because it is coupled with a borderless politics.

“The preservation of the hope of an equality yet to be achieved, was the ‘value’ which was the absolutely necessary condition of the democratic political process,” Jaffa wrote. “That men may be called upon to fight for such a conviction cannot be called a failure of democracy. It would be a failure only if they refused to fight for it.”

Those who abandoned our ancient faith failed because they did not fight for the heart and soul of our nation and the idea that gave it its birth.

Trump did.



The Great Liberal Freakout

The Great Liberal Freakout is under way, as we’ve noted below. Here’s my haul:

The head of the Joint Center for Political Studies, which the Washington Post describes as a “respected liberal think tank,” reacted to Trump’s landslide thus: “When you consider that in the climate we’re in—rising violence, the Ku Klux Klan—it is exceedingly frightening.”

Castro, still with us, said right before the election: “We sometimes have the feeling that we are living in the time preceding the election of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany.”

Claremont College professor John Roth wrote: “I could not help remembering how economic turmoil had conspired with Nazi nationalism and militarism—all intensified by Germany’s defeat in World War I—to send the world reeling into catastrophe… It is not entirely mistaken to contemplate our post-election state with fear and trembling.”

Esquire writer Harry Stein says that the voters who supported Trump were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.”

Sociologist Alan Wolfe is up in the New Left Review: “The worst nightmares of the American left appear to have come true.” And he doubles down in The Nation: “[T]he United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era.”

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, keeper of the “Doomsday Clock” that purported to judge the risk of nuclear annihilation, has moved the hands on the clock from seven to four minutes before midnight.

Oh wait, did I say this was the reaction to Trump??  Sorry—these are what the left was saying the day after Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. Some things never change.



Republicans Maintain Strong Control of State Capitols. Here’s What That Means

Republicans largely retained their grip over state legislative chambers and governorships in Tuesday’s elections.

The Republican takeover of the presidency may have been the biggest election news, but political experts expect states to continue to take the lead on policymaking in the years ahead.

“Despite total Republican control in Washington now, states are where the action is—and will be—for public policy that actually impacts people,” said Dan Diorio, a policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As of noon Wednesday, with a few results still not confirmed, Republicans have control of 66 of the nation’s 98 statehouse chambers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This does not include Nebraska, which has a nonpartisan legislature.

Before Tuesday’s election, Republicans held 68 of the nation’s statehouse chambers.

Republicans now control both legislative chambers in 32 states, compared to 13 for Democrats.

The GOP also increased its majority of governorships from 31 to 33.

In the most high-profile of the 12 states voting for their chief executive, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper declared victory over incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in North Carolina.

But Republican governors won in Missouri and Vermont in races that had been considered toss-ups.

And Republicans increased the number of states in which they hold what is known as a “political trifecta”—with one party in control of both legislative chambers and the governorship.

Republicans increased the number of states they fully control from 22 to 24. Democrats have total control of six states.

Combined, the results in the states did not dramatically alter the GOP wave of success that followed Republicans’ redrawing legislative districts in 2010.

Republicans were mostly playing defense in the 2016 elections, since most of the state legislature seats being defended by Democrats were safely blue.

“Democrats were poised to make gains due to the natural return of the pendulum to the other side,” said Tim Storey, the director of state services at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “But they did not make huge gains and Republicans got a couple of [new] chambers. So Republicans remain in a dominant position.”

During President Barack Obama’s presidency, Republican politicians have not been shy about enacting their agenda in states.

More than 900 state legislative seats have switched hands from Democrats to Republicans since Obama took office.

“Republicans have taken full advantage of their position in the states, including implementing tax cuts in a number of places, imposing stricter limits on abortion and voting rights, and combating controversial issues like gun control,” Storey said.

Republicans see more areas for policy gains after Tuesday’s elections.

Jonathan Williams, the vice president of the Center for State Fiscal Reform at The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), was especially enthusiastic about one noteworthy chamber that flipped from Democratic to GOP control—the Kentucky House.

The Kentucky House had been the last state chamber in the South with a Democratic majority.

Republicans gained control of the chamber for the first time since 1922 and only the third time in the history of the state.

Williams said that he expects the newly Republican-controlled Kentucky House to help ease the passage of right-to-work legislation, which is backed by Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, and the GOP-controlled state Senate.

Twenty six states have right-to-work laws, meaning workers have the right to not join a union.

“Right-to-work now becomes a slam dunk in Kentucky during the first 100 days,” Williams said.

Williams also counts Iowa as a state ripe for policy action. The hotly contested Iowa Senate flipped for Republicans, giving GOP total control of the state. Iowa’s Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, and its Republican-controlled House, have been stymied by the formerly Democratic-run Senate in enacting tax cuts.

“With the Republican takeover of the Iowa Senate, I can see Iowa as an area of opportunity for conservatives when it comes to tax cuts,” Williams said.



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