Saturday, January 19, 2019

Wisdom Of The Week

Raising the republican banner immediately focuses attention on the most urgent issue now before us: the declining health and uncertain future of our constitutional republic. The fundamental challenge faced in Madison's day and then in Lincoln's — preserving a political union of free people in the face of powerful forces of disunion and unfreedom — confronts us once again. Trump's depredations have brought matters to a head, but the root of the problem lies in the destructive nature of contemporary political competition.

Our constitutional system, with its separation of powers and intricate checks and balances, relies on elaborate norms of trust and compromise for effective governance to be possible. Over the past several decades, however, the growing alignment of partisan loyalties with the nation's main racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural divisions has led to increasingly bitter and zero-sum political polarization. The nation is now divided into two hostile camps, and each sees the other as a grave and growing threat to its well-being and way of life. As a result, the norms that lubricate our mechanisms of government have degraded badly, and the mounting frictions threaten the system with worsening dysfunction and even cataclysmic breakdown.

To save and reinvigorate the world's longest-running experiment in republican self-government, we must break decisively with the perverse dynamics that have led us to this pass. We must start by re-orienting our politics so that partisan identity once again cuts across demographic and cultural identities instead of politicizing them. In addition, we need to recover the elemental civic virtue that makes government by persuasion possible — namely, treating our political opponents as rivals, not enemies.

A republican movement on the right can answer these pressing needs. In contrast to our current politics, which runs on the fanning of hatreds across various dividing lines, republicanism begins with love and unity: the patriotic love of country, a love that unites all of us regardless of party. However much we may differ from one another, however many distinctions we draw among ourselves in a modern, sprawling, pluralistic society, there is one thing that binds all Americans together as moral and civic equals: the res publica, or commonwealth, under whose laws we all live and within whose institutions we can all participate to make those laws better. In the republican worldview, all Americans are "real Americans," because we all pledge allegiance to "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." As Lincoln said in his first inaugural address, "We are not enemies, but friends," because we are all members of one, all-embracing body politic. We're all in this together.

This civic conception of patriotism stands in stark contrast to the blood-and-soil conception increasingly evident on the conservative right. Conservatives today all too frequently distinguish between "real Americans" — white, native-born, Christian, and disproportionately rural — and the rest of the country, vowing to "take their country back" from fellow citizens they regard as the equivalent of foreign occupiers.

Such attitudes and rhetoric are utterly poisonous. They are also deeply un-conservative, given that a creedal rather than ethnic understanding of American national identity is among our oldest and most cherished political traditions. This raises some questions: Why the need for a republican turn on the right? Isn't it possible to resist populist ethno-nationalism in the name of genuine conservatism?


If the laws of political gravity have not been abolished altogether, though, the Republican Party's day of reckoning will come. Indeed, there could be repeated days of reckoning over extended election cycles. In which case, there will be an opportunity for different voices to be heard and new directions to be explored. Will that opportunity translate into real renewal on the right, or just a temporary respite in a downward spiral? The answer turns on whether the appropriate alternative vision is there to seize the moment — one whose ideas are sound and matched to the times, with a larger framing that connects emotionally and intellectually with party regulars and ordinary voters.

The impetus for such changes will not come from today's Republican establishment, or from the right-wing media complex. A new intellectual movement — one that firmly opposes itself to both ethno-nationalism and plutocracy and offers an appealing vision in their place — is the most promising vehicle for generating and articulating new ideas.

For all those whose home could only be on the right and yet are now politically homeless, it's time to move past bemoaning what you have lost. It's time to build a new home.

Republicanism for Republicans

Quote of the Day

Friday, January 18, 2019

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Quote of the Day

The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.

- Aristotle

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Quote of the Day

Never in history did a government know so much about what's going on in the world—yet few empires have botched things up as clumsily as the contemporary United States. It's like a poker player who knows what cards his opponents hold, yet somehow still manages to lose round after round.

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Monday, January 14, 2019

Quote of the Day

The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more.

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Quote of the Day

If you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how. A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.

- Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Wisdom Of The Week

Other politicians have also embraced the phrase, including UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn. I worry about a world in which many people believe lies, but I worry far more about one in which many people instinctively refuse to believe the truth.

Here is the final reason to calm down about fake news: it feeds into the tempting but smug assumption that the world is full of idiots. People are sometimes taken in by lies, and some spectacular falsehoods have gained more traction on social media than one might hope.

But if we persuade ourselves that Mr Trump was elected by people who wanted to be on the same side as the Pope, we’re not giving voters enough credit. It is true that most people are disengaged from serious news, and vote with their guts rather than their heads, or being guided by friends rather than a close reading of policy analysis. That does not make them fools.

There is much to concern me in the current political information environment. I worry (partly selfishly) that it is harder than ever to sustain a business that provides serious journalism. I worry that politicians around the world are doing their best to politicise what should be apolitical, to smear independent analysis and demean expertise.

I worry that there is far too little transparency over political advertising in the digital age: we don’t know who is paying for what message to be shown to whom.

The free press — and healthy democratic discourse — faces some existential problems. Fake news ain’t one.

- Tim Harford, Why there is no need to panic about fake news

Quote of the Day

Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!

- Martin Luther