Open Thread

The Philadelphia Eagles have decided to make a massive, in-kind donation to Trump’s re-election effort: Trump has disinvited them to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl victory because some players are still carping about kneeling during the anthem. Trump has this ability to make his opponents do stupid, self-destructive things. It is why I consider his re-election in 2020 to be near-certain. Right now, he’s got them once again defending kneeling during the anthem – not even a couple weeks after they thought the NFL had put the issue to rest.

The EU and Italy are in dispute about economic and migration policy – with the Italian government bucking against EU-imposed economic strictures and also not happy at all with what the EU has utterly failed to do with Italy’s influx of migrants. Powerline has a nice run-down on what is at stake. The biggest problem with the EU is that the people didn’t create it. They were willing to go along with it while it, apparently, ensured prosperity and peace…but right now, especially in places like Italy, it is providing neither…and the people of Italy are getting fully awake to the reality that no people of Europe gets to set EU policy…it is all set by un-elected bureaucrats who hold the people of Europe in profound contempt.

Don Surber notes how Trump just plays the MSM like a fiddle – this time over whether the President can pardon himself. The reality: Trump is working to make the 2018 mid-terms at least in part a referendum on whether or not he should be impeached. He knows – as I’ve long known – that if it is a central issue, his Trumpsters will troop to the polls in numbers never seen in a mid-term election. Naturally, the MSM is falling for it.

Bill Clinton, being Bill Clinton, got himself all bollixed up over questions about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Kurt Schlichter has been pointing out – as I have, too – that Never Trump is a gateway drug to being a Progressive. Here’s your proof.

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Smart and Dumb

Lots of discussion of late about smart and dumb – mostly Progs and Never Trumpers saying they are smart while Trump and we Deplorables are dumb. Let’s examine that a bit.

Real genius is rare. So rare, in fact, that it hardly ever shows up. Plenty of people are given the title these days, but that is merely a reflection of our Participation Trophy society. For instance, various pop stars have been called geniuses…which is absurd when you compare them to Mozart, who really was a genius (he started composing at five years old, guys). Now, this isn’t to say that some people aren’t very talented – many are. Some of them even approach genius…but genius has this thing about it: it isn’t bound by what has come before. That is the mark of it – when you see someone striking off in a new direction that no one suspected was there before, there’s your genius.

You can’t force genius to be – it seems to be innate in some people. They just have a mental ability (probably a combination of genetics and environment) which simply moved their mind into a new groove which we non-geniuses can’t see (but the most perceptive of us can perceive..and thus allow genius to go its way, only occasionally tapping on the breaks so the genius, in exuberance, doesn’t drive us mere mortals off a cliff). This doesn’t stop people from trying – “gifted” courses in school are a symptom of this; a genius doesn’t need a gifted course. The genius is going to go someplace new long before you even know where he’s going. Quite often, a genius is going to be a flop in school, as it turns out…not for lack of understanding, but because they understand it too well almost intuitively and are bored with it and want to move on to whatever it is that is interesting them.

How many geniuses have we had? Well, in Western Civilization (which I am most familiar with) I count maybe seven or eight in the last 300 years. Mozart, already mentioned…but also MacArthur, Einstein, Lincoln, Bismarck, Napoleon, Churchill, Van Gogh…maybe a few others. And it is a debatable subject. One man’s genius might be another man’s merely talented person. You’ll note that I didn’t include Edison…because I view him as a product of his time who took a systematic view of how to get things done; but there wasn’t a lot of “flash of genius” in his work…just a lot of hard work and persistence (which is invaluable, by the way). The bottom line is that even if you add a few more to my list (and take a few away from it), you’re not talking a lot of people. Three political geniuses in 300 years: Bismarck, Churchill and Lincoln (all three charted a course no one could see; all three were despised not merely by their opponents, but by most of their allies, most of the time). And keep in mind that Bismarck, for all his genius, was the ruin of a civilization. We’re on our 45th President, and we’ve only had one genius (as an aside, I think the only other President who might be considered a genius is Teddy Roosevelt…nearly as much of a disaster as Bismarck, but clearly a man of gigantic intellect and talent).

Most of us are not geniuses, of course. And even geniuses can be quite stupid at times. A story I once read said that Newton got himself a pet cat and cut a hole through his door so the cat could go in and out at will. In the fullness of time, this cat had three kittens. The great genius pondered this event and after profound reflection, cut three, smaller holes in the door. Most of us are average, or at least our intellect clusters around the human average (which is why its called the average). Some few are very stupid, and some equally few are very smart. We can’t rely on either supreme stupidity or supreme intelligence: it is too rare to take into account in our day to day actions. Most of the time, we just have to go forward as best we can and assume that everyone else is pretty much just like us – smart, but not that smart and thus capable of astonishing error.

The problem we have with our Progressives and Never Trumpers is that they really do believe that they are all extra smart. In the quiet of their hearts, they probably (most of them) account themselves geniuses. They assume their superior intellect and thus expect us to obey – after all, if we were smart like they are, we’d be just like them. It is nonsense – most of them are no smarter than any of us. It is almost certain that none of them are geniuses, just as it is almost certain that none of us are. That there might be a genius on their side (just as there might be one on ours) is a chance so small as to not be worth considering. And, main thing, if there is a genius, then that person (whatever side he or she might be on) is likely despised by everyone else…that is another problem geniuses have; being so intelligent and able to see things that others can’t, most people mistrust them and think they are doing something wrong (as in morally wrong). And if there is a genius on either side, that person is going to take (drag, really) there side in a direction they never wanted to go and award them astonishing victory they kicked furiously against.

Last thing on this: another thing about genius is you can’t always tell its there until after it has completed it’s task. So many people are carping and complaining, and public doubts are so stirred up, that the sheer brilliance of the course isn’t recognized until the destination is reached and everyone starts going, “wow; this is cool!” after the fact.

Only Conservatism Can Sustain Democracy

Kevin Williamson is becoming something of a favorite of mine lately – because he’s so consistently wrong, that it’s rather fun to read him and then go over the ways that he is wrong. It also helps that he’s a splendid writer. Anyways, he’s got a new article in Commentary about Democracy – Liberal or Militant. It is well worth a read. I was going through it and kind of checking off the wrong as I went along, but this passage was the first which seemed worthy of a direct response:

…a more immediately pressing question is whether liberalism can contain democracy—it is mass democracy itself, not jackbooted stormtroopers, that poses the most dangerous threat to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, property rights, and other fundamentals of citizenship. It is the democratic mob, not an autocratic elite, that demands conformity in life and thought and speech, and brooks no dissent…

The short answer to that is, of course, that liberalism cannot contain democracy. Liberalism is incompatible with democracy. It would take a whole book to write down everything wrong with liberalism, but among liberalism’s many failures is that it is anti-tradition. And tradition is crucial to the success of democracy. A quick bit by Chesterton on this:

But there is one thing that I have never from my youth up been able to understand. I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record. The man who quotes some German historian against the tradition of the Catholic Church, for instance, is strictly appealing to aristocracy. He is appealing to the superiority of one expert against the awful authority of a mob. It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history. The legend is generally made by the majority of people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad. Those who urge against tradition that men in the past were ignorant may go and urge it at the Carlton Club, along with the statement that voters in the slums are ignorant. It will not do for us. If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.

You see, it wasn’t the Constitution that preserved our liberties until just recently – it was tradition. Sure, sure: the words were written down and there was even reference made to the words in various laws and court cases. But the fundamental fact of life is that all the written words in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans if people don’t live by them…and they’ll only live by them via tradition. Why was it unthinkable for FDR to seek a third term in 1940? Because Washington had served two terms and then voluntarily stepped down, even though he could easily have obtained another term (indeed, he could have had the office for life, if he wanted). It became tradition – and even some very successful and popular Presidents felt bound by it and refused to run for a third term. Who broke the tradition? An autocratic elitist by the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It should be noted that Roosevelt’s vote total dropped by 400,000 from 1936 when he ran for re-election in 1940 – and this when the country, as a whole, was doing much better than it had been in 1936; while the GOP vote total increased by about five and a half million. Seems that some of the regular folks out there just didn’t like this break with tradition.

But, at least there wasn’t a law prohibiting it. So, there was that. But once you start setting aside tradition, then no tradition is safe. Just a few years later, the President of the United States committed us to war in Korea without a Congressional declaration of war. This action would have been unimaginable even ten years previously. It kinda went downhill from there – to Vietnam; to using the FBI to spy on Americans; to vile, little CIA actions around the world; to refusing to enforce laws against subversion and espionage because the party in power would take a big hit from it; to the use of friendly judges to enact into law things which no Congress would ever approve; to the bureaucracy entering into extra-legal agreements with pressure groups to de-facto make law outside of Congressional or judicial action; to, now, parts of the federal bureaucracy attempting to annul the results of a Presidential election because they don’t like the man who won.

None of this was done by popular demand. The crude and rude mob of American democracy wanted none of this. Because the crude and rude American democracy still clings to its traditions. Most of these people can’t put it into words and couldn’t quote Locke if their lives depended on it, but they know that the law is supposed to apply to everyone; that Congress is supposed to make the laws; that judges are to merely interpret the law; that the bureaucracy is supposed to do as it is told, not as it might want to do. The American democracy watched for decades as autocratic elitists twisted our system to their own liking and increasingly refused to even give lip service to the desires of the people. In the end, they voted Trump – someone as rude and crude as they are. And there is Trump – trying mightily to actually make the system work as it is supposed to work. You know: getting Congress to actually pass laws to do things; curbing the courts via the appointment of judges who know their proper place; insisting that the bureaucracy obey orders. And who is pushing back against this? Not the mob of American democracy…but the very autocratic elitists which Williamson thinks a lesser threat than the mob.

Williamson does note some of the outrages going on out there – specifically some of the anti-freedom actions along the lines of people trying to suppress dissenting voices and so forth. But it isn’t the people demanding this. A few thousand carefully organized demonstrators shouting for, say, Exxon to be destroyed in the name of fighting climate change isn’t the American democracy on display. It is what it is: a carefully orchestrated pressure group designed to give the appearance of popular support. It is created, organized and led by autocratic elitists. If you ask the Average Joe out there, you wouldn’t find one in a hundred who wants to punish Exxon…even among those who believe that climate change is real. No, the shouting mobs of zealots represent no one but a few elitists who want various climate change actions taken because such actions will increase their personal power and wealth.

The cure for what ails us isn’t to curb the mob – it is to allow the mob to rule. I know, we’re all supposed to be opposed to that, but I think our kneejerk disdain for the mob is built into us by a century of propaganda by elitists. You, my friends, are the mob – and either you will rule, or the elite will. Pick which one. As for me, I’ll trust myself to the good sense of the sometimes foolish, often ignorant American people…because, in the end, their core desire is that everyone be left alone to live their lives as they see fit. In a fit of anger they may howl for my blood, but once they calm down a bit they’ll leave me be. Meanwhile, the elite is relentless in its pursuing hatreds. For 60 years, for instance, my Christian views have been hounded until we are now very much a post-Christian nation, and yet these elites continue to demand the complete destruction of my Christianity. The very existence of it inflames them…and they’ll never, ever quit.

Liberals of old had some fine things to say – some good ideas, that is. But they were only good ideas when they were the fulfillment of American tradition. It was liberal to extend the franchise to all men and women…but it was only good because it helped to reinforce the Conservative, traditional idea that we will rule ourselves. And here’s something to ponder – some of the very same liberals who were pushing to enfranchise women in the early 20th century were also working diligently to cut the voting public out of decision-making via a strengthened federal government which would manage the country in spite of what the people might want. Think of all the things going on in this country you don’t like – pretty much if you can name the abuse of power, it was an abuse which was imposed on us, via a judge or a bureaucrat, who took no notice of what the people might want…even if the people had clearly stated their desires at the voting booth. It is no real surprise that elements of the bureaucracy are trying to annul an election…it is just a culmination of what has been going on for a century. That is, it is merely the logical end to a government which decided, not too long ago, that it can take your private property and hand it over to another private entity because that entity promised the government more money. A bureaucracy which can get away with things like that is not likely to think that anything is out of bounds for it.

What we need to save freedom in this nation isn’t more laws or more effective expositions of Constitutional theory – what is needed is merely that the government obey the law, and submit to the will of the people in the creation of laws. Sure, the people might come up with some bone-headed ideas from time to time; like Prohibition…but it should also be noted that the people fixed that particular mistake rather rapidly. Meanwhile, gigantic mistakes like the EPA are now pushing 50 years on with no end in sight…and even relatively smaller mistakes like federal funding for Planned Parenthood can’t be spiked no matter how many pro-life Republicans people send to Congress. The mistakes of the people may be fabulous, but they are usually short-lived…while the mistakes of the Elite seem to go on forever.

Let us endeavor to have the people make our own mistakes, rather than having mistakes imposed on them. Let we, the people rule – and we’ll likely rule most often much better than the elites have. After all, no genuinely fascist or communist or Nazi government really rose to full power via the people…Mussolini’s fascists seized power; communists in various nations directly seized power or infiltrated their way into total power; the Nazis got into office via a shabby political deal among the elites (in the last really free election of pre-Nazi Germany, Hitler’s goons only secured 33% of the vote). I’ll trust my fellow Americans, knowing that in the end, they’ll give me a fair deal.

Williamson and the Us or Them Lesson

So, former NR writer Kevin Williamson got canned by The Atlantic today. Why? Because he had views which the left found offensive. I’ll wait a moment while you pick yourself up off the floor: gotta be the most shocking thing you’ve ever heard.

As readers here know, I’ve had my issues with Williamson: I view him as someone who has a cruel, elitist attitude towards anyone who hasn’t risen into his social circle. He ascribes their failure to do so to a moral failing on their part…they are too busy taking opiods and pushing out kids and don’t have the gumption to rent a U-Haul and get themselves to Manhattan, where high paying writing gigs await.

Just before Williamson got the axe, he wrote a piece at The Atlantic. It still hasn’t been scrubbed from the website, so you can read it if you wish. I went off on a bit of a Twitter rant about it. It was just so wrong about everything. The most egregious bit of wrong was in Williamson’s utter lack of understanding of why the regular folks are in revolt.

You see, the thing about democracy is that it is only partially related to voting. Self-rule is not just people casting votes – people cast votes in all sorts of governments, some of them quite oppressive. No, it isn’t voting. What is democracy – self-rule, that is – is when the people decide what they are going to debate and vote on. It wouldn’t matter if 99% of us turned out for an election if we’re only allowed to vote on issues pre-selected for us by a Ruling Class. On the other hand, we’d have democracy if only 10% of the electorate had the franchise but the issues voted on are those which rise from the people.

Of course, we have a Republic rather than a Democracy because we figure that some issues really aren’t up for a vote – or, at least, aren’t up for an easy vote. Such things as our right to free exercise; to self defense, etc. But in the democratic aspect of our republican government, what must happen is that the things we vote on are our things. We very much want to debate and vote on abortion; gender issues; gun regulation; immigration; corporations; trade…the elite – people like Williamson – figure we shouldn’t. We might get it wrong, you see? We might not see the wisdom of open borders or free trade with Chinese tyrants. And therein is really why you got Trump. Flawed as he is, he was still clever enough to find out what we, the people, wanted to talk about and then he started talking about them. It was really no more than that…Hillary and the rest of the GOP field was talking about what they believed we should care about; Trump talked about what we actually cared about. Presto: President Trump.

That is the real bone of contention: who really rules this nation? We, the people, rather think that we should rule it. The Elite thinks that it should. Who will get to? We’re going to find out over the next two to four years.

As for Williamson and his like, I’ve no real sympathy. He wanted to curry favor with the masters of our Elite (almost all are liberals, of course) so that he could get the good gigs…and, of course, be able to look down on those poor slobs who don’t know anything. Well, he got what he wanted – for about a week. So blinded in his arrogance, he simply didn’t see that the left doesn’t tolerate dissent. Not any real dissent. To be a Conservative in the Elite, you’ve got to be so entirely milquetoast that your Conservatism is more of an attitude than a thing…and an attitude which will instantly change on command. I’ve been saying that the Never Trump right would “evolve”, and they have. True, I thought they would “evolve” on abortion first, but it turns out that the press of liberal issues has been on gun control, and so their first step in evolution was to suddenly find flaws with hick morons owning weapons. They’ve also evolved to the point where any thought of border security – even if it was only lip service in the past – is gone. But, don’t worry, they’ll get around to abortion in the by and by. Williamson has been, so far, strong enough to retain some actual Conservative views…and, so, out he went. We’ll see now if he really thinks it over and realizes he’s got two choices: us, or them. Because that it how it is: we’re in an us or them situation. Either they win and impose their views, or we win and impose ours. Pick which one you want – there won’t be a compromise between them.