The Point of Being Annoyed with Glenn Beck

In a post at the Optimistic Conservative, also featured on the HotAir main page, our friend and colleague J.E. Dyer asks, “What’s the point of being annoyed with Glenn Beck?” Obviously, J.E. is asking the question rhetorically, in order to respond to conservative criticisms of Beck that have been launched since his CPAC keynote speech: Her post actually tells us why we should be pleased with Beck, and I agree with most of what she says in it.

But I think her question deserves an answer.

It was, of course, William Bennett, writing over the weekend at NRO, who first spoke up loudly and incisively in reaction to Beck’s performance at CPAC. He focused on one of Beck’s customary themes:

To say the GOP and the Democrats are no different, to say the GOP needs to hit a recovery-program-type bottom and hang its head in remorse, is to delay our own country’s recovery from the problems the Democratic left is inflicting. The stakes are too important to go through that kind of exercise, which will ultimately go nowhere anyway…

Jonah Goldberg replied at NRO along somewhat the same lines as J.E., stressing that, if Beck may have overdone things, it was to motivate the troops and scare the wayward straight. Soon, however, Peter Wehner was joining his colleague Jennifer Rubin to second Bennett, and in addition was raising the ante: “If Glenn Beck were the future of conservatism,” he wrote, “it would become a discredited movement.”

Wehner went on to disclaim much concern about either part of that proposition, but, by the beginning of the week, both Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin were each worried enough to devote significant attention both on- and off-air to Beck and his arguments. Levin’s Facebook entry was particularly cutting, concluding with this stark assessment of Beck’s “third way” politics: “These are perilous times and this kind of approach will keep the statists in power for decades.” Some have suggested that Levin’s dislike for Beck is personal, or based on professional jealousy, and similar attacks have been made on his other critics, but these are serious and substantive arguments, and they go well beyond mere annoyance.

So the answer to the amplified question might be this: The point of expressing dismay with Glenn Beck is to get him to re-think his approach, or, failing that, to separate conservatism, at a crucial political moment, from his excesses.

You can be a fan of Glenn Beck’s – you might even be Glenn Beck himself – and acknowledge that his rhetoric is sometimes irresponsible. You can be thankful to Glenn Beck for his contributions to American conservatism – for helping to keep the political flame alive, even build it, during a bleakly dark time – and yet still wonder whether, going forward, his pet themes, favorite arguments, and customary stances aren’t counterproductive and divisive, where not embarrassing. In short, you can agree with everything J.E. wrote, yet still be concerned about the way that Glenn Beck habitually brings vindictive hatred and a self-destructive and dangerous extremism into conservative discourse.

As someone who has been at least halfway listening to Beck’s TV show almost every weekday, I well recognize that he and his fans are more used to getting this kind of thing from the likes of Arianna Huffington or Media Matters robots than from conservative bloggers. But please check the transcript of his CPAC speech (or cue the video to 5:20): Nearly the first words out of his mouth were “I have to tell you, I hate Woodrow Wilson with everything in me…” (emphasis added). Defenders of Beck’s will be quick to point out that the words were obviously offered in self-consciously exaggerated good humor, as you will see if you view the video, and note the smile on Beck’s face. Furthermore, he was jokingly responding to a specific statement from David Keene’s introduction, in which, while congratulating Beck for conducting a national political seminar, Keene referred to having written an article in college naming Wilson, along with Hitler and Lenin, as one of “the three most dangerous people of the 20th Century.”

Now, jesting about one’s hatred for a relatively remote historical figure, even a duly elected president, wouldn’t amount to much on its own – who cares how anyone feels about Millard Fillmore? – but any Beck viewer or listener knows that, hard as it may be for the uninitiated to believe, Beck is joking on the square here. Indeed, he has seemed obsessed with exposing a purported clear and very present danger of progressivism, which he identifies both with historical figures like Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Margaret Sanger, and with modern day progressives like the Republican 2008 presidential candidate or our current Secretary of State. (If you happened to watch Beck’s hour-long New York harborscape interview with Sarah Palin, then you might recall her reluctance to respond to his anti-progressive spiel, especially when applied to her former running mate. Beck later described her demeanor as remarkably “guarded” – as against criticism from her legion of detractors. My personal opinion is that, though she likes Beck and wishes to appeal to his fans, her political antennae, and perhaps her common sense and personal decency, were functioning efficiently.)

When Beck inveighs hatefully against Woodrow Wilson, he’s also inveighing against John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and many millions of other people, in both parties, and I would question the honesty of any regular Beck viewer who denied the evident fierceness of Beck’s feelings on this subject. If you think I’m exaggerating, then how do you explain away statements like the following, also from the CPAC keynote?

Progressivism is the cancer in America and it is eating our Constitution. And it was designed to eat the Constitution. To progress past the Constitution.

…and, again on cancer, while reacting to a statement of Theodore Roosevelt’s on income inequality:

[T]his is not our founders’ idea of America. And this is the cancer that’s eating at America.

(applause)

It is big government – it’s a socialist utopia. And we need to address it as if it is a cancer. It must be cut out of the system because they cannot co-exist. And you don’t cure cancer by – well, I’m just going to give you a little bit of cancer. You must eradicate it. It cannot co-exist. And we need big thinkers, and brave people with spines who can make the case – that can actually say to Americans: look it’s going to be hard – it’s going to be hard but it’s going to be okay. We’re going to make it.

This kind of language is not just exaggerated (and cliché): It’s pure demagogy, and it’s dehumanizing. Beck’s delivery and self-deprecation take the edge off… and I’ll now refrain from making the kind of historical reference that I tend to doubt Beck himself, in my place, would resist – much. I’ll just ask you to imagine the above with a few exclamation points, hand gestures, and a throbbing throng of the newly educated – live and in person, not across a warm TV screen.

Even before we look at progressivism and decide which features we can and should do without, and which not, at least anytime soon, short of Apocalypse or Harmonic Convergence; before we consider realistic prospects and priorities; before we look up Burke or Kirk or Goldwater or Reagan or whichever gospels in search of first principles; before we even know whether we’re attacking 100 years of policy or 100 years of thinking, or perhaps, in fact, an outlook exactly as old as human civilization and integral to it; before we ask ourselves whether the Founders, or Lincoln, or the Greatest Generation, or Reagan, weren’t in critical regards the progressive revolutionaries or evolutionaries of their day; before we ask whether Glenn Beck himself isn’t advocating a totalized utopian crusade against a social ill he calls progressivism; before we ask whether the absolute eradication and uncompromising, social-political surgical extirpation of a creed or ideology can ever be an American, a democratic and republican, project – we can say one thing with certainty about a perspective that defines the enemies among our fellow citizens and the terms of the struggle as Beck’s (often) does:

It’s not conservative.


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120 comments on “The Point of Being Annoyed with Glenn Beck

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  1. I agree that we shouldn’t speak about “cancers” (or viruses, bacteria, etc.) and removing or eliminating them. And if listeners and other conservatives Beck respects impress that upon him, he can learn to drop such demagogic rhetoric.

    But the question still remains: is there a coherent body of political thought and practice that we could call “progressivism,” is it opposed, self-consciously opposed to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution (are there idenitifable principles informing those documents?), and with subtle strategic instincts regarding how to slip progressivism past Americans likely to oppose it; has this body of political thought and practice already dramatically changed our constitutional republic into something at least partly at odds with those principles; and, is there a real danger that its adherents will finish the job, and are indeed trying to do so now?

    If you answer “yes” to those questions, then your disagreement with Beck reduces to two items: one, the rhetorical issue mentioned above; and two, his “Democrats and Republicans are the same” line which is only true from a very, very abstract, distanced perspective, and should certainly not be adopted until all other options for transforming the Republican Party (like making primary challenges a regular feature of Republican politics, as Palin has suggested) have been exhausted.

    And there is reason to optimistic about Beck–he seems to be constantly reading, learning and watching, and he may be capable of paying attention to the more valid and consistently advanced criticism.

    Finally, this should be used as an opportunity to open up political discussions beyond the grotesqueries of the Obama Administration and Democratic Congress, and this larger debate will open up all kinds of issues we have been avoiding but are now becoming unavoidable–especially those issues pressed by libertarians who, from the perspective of the (in my view rapidly evaporating) “mainstream,” are in many ways even more “extreme” (while being much closer in other respects to majority opinion) than the extremists of the Left.

  2. As a practical political matter it’s important for Republican candidates to avoid rhetoric like Glenn Beck’s and to take positions closer to the center, as Scott Brown did; because the votes of the center are a necessity. But that is not the same thing as taking up firing squad positions against an ally who adds fire to the debate along with the usual suspects on the left who are actually and demonstrably working to impose a vision that has nothing to do with the constitution.

    I haven’t watched very much of Beck but it seems to me that he’s a big factor in the current movement by the frog to actually jump out of the simmering pot or to insist that the fire under it be put out, rather than to merely implore the progressives to marginally turn down that fire.

  3. I think the criticism of Glenn Beck is misplaced and off base. He is fast becoming a magnificent national treasure. No one else out there in media or politics has engaged so many in real questions and real analysis of the pickle we are in. Isn’t it true that many look at McCain, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins and even Daddy Bush and W. Bush, and understandably see little real difference between them and Clinton and Carter and the 0bami? Isn’t it true that, since Reagan, Republicans have been far too willing to split the difference with Democrats? Havn’t Republicans endorsed far too many big government pograms and havn’t they also embraced far too much deficit spending long before 2008? Isn’t it true that these programs were unsustainable back then, long before 0bama came along?

    Isn’t cable TV a better venue than our top 4 or 5 conservative journals? Isn’t Beck far more successful in engaging previously apolitical people than any of these journals, and doesn’t he compliment the most effective and most consistent conservative writers out there such as Krauthammer, Steyn and Will?

    Why is it destructive to expose the hateful demagoguery of the Democrats when they routinely demonize conservatives as being mean spirited and selfish? I think they deserve it, because, all to often they do embrace the dictums of Saul Alinsky and they do believe that the ends justify the means. I think more people should elucidate the consequences of what Beck calls ‘progressivism.’ More Americans need to learn about The Soviet Union, Mao’s China and Cambodia. A high obama functionary really did praise the murderer of tens of millions, Mao Tse Tung, and I think we owe Beck for hammering away at her idiocy and exposing her far better than all the intellectuals at Commentary.

    People like Pelosi, Emanuel, Reid and Michelle 0 drip with hatred and contempt for the people who oppose their power grabs. Won’t polite conservatives remain irrelevant until they are willing to change, until they say they won’t take it anymore, until they fight back?

    Aren’t the intellectual attacks on Beck similar to the snobbish treatment of Sara Palin?

    Have Republicans really distinguished themselves as the party of our founders and the party of Lincoln during the past 20 years?

    You know the liberals have their Prairie Home Companion and we have our Glenn Beck Show. He might become our generation’s Will Rogers. Beck is brilliant and quirky, and he is absolutely correct when he says it will be hard to get back the the kind of virtuous society our founders wanted. It will be hard.

  4. CK, I am reading and trying to understand your concern. Is it that he was over the top and that his veering into 3rd party movements can result in the statists continuing their run or do you question his analysis of progressives and what their end game is? His analysis of progressives is pretty much spot on and Wilson is actually worthy of being hated, as Wilson hated his political enemies. Goldberg’s book was an eye opener to me, for while I knew some of the issues about him, I better understand now how truly dangerous he was. The question of the current progressive wing of the democratic party seems to be whether their desire for the institution of fascism in the US is benign or aggressive. I will foresake the revolutionary split that came from the US and French revolutions, as I am sure you are familiar with them already, but I am not for the state – I am for me.

    Rush’s warning to Beck about third party was spot on, but I doubt that their sentiments on progressives is too different.

  5. ” Wilson is actually worthy of being hated, as Wilson hated his political enemies”

    I,too,am a huge critic of WW,”THe Illusion of Victory”,by Thomas Fleming is a scathing analysis of the events that led us into WW1. Therfore,it is interesting to read such venom about the Father of Exceptionalism. So what I hate about Wilson is the deaths of 175000 of our citizens,to feed the ideology of WW(see Flemings masterpiece &argue with him). Plus,Wilson’s Fiscal incompetence was a major contributor to Great Depression 1. This opens up so many connections to our plight today.

  6. @ Sully:
    I say that by throwing in with Beck, your “movement” adds a little spice to its tastelessness.
    I await the reaction when Beck gets around to outing the RINO Lincoln and denouncing Lincoln’s unconstitutional plunge onto the pit of Big Government.

  7. Thanks for the thoughtful replies. I have amended the post in one I think significant respect, adding a provision to my thesis statement on “the point” on the possibility that Beck might respond positively to criticism.

    @ Sully;@ Zoltan Newberry:
    I can agree with your views, but they bypass the arguments that the big names and I have made. It’s not a question of destroying Beck, but of preventing critical aspects of his approach and his rhetoric from destroying us. We’re not obligated to take him seriously, but you can’t have your Beck and eat him, too: If he’s going to be influential, a worthy keynote speaker at movement events, a commodity to be distributed to the knowledge-hungry masses, then he and to some extent we have to take responsibility for his rhetoric.

    @ JEM:
    My concerns are the same as Bennett’s, Wehner’s, Rubin’s, Levin’s, and Limbaugh’s, and, yes, I also question his critique of progressivism. No one yet has answered the question I posed the other day: Exactly how far are we supposed to go dismantling the progressive legacy, which pervades society and government, both as a matter of policy and as a matter of practical politics? Is everything the progressives believed in wrong? Even if it is, don’t they have the right to be wrong, and isn’t it completely in order within the Constitution and the American system for them to seek to advance and implement their bad ideas? And if large majorities of our fellow citizens agree with the progressives, even to the point of either amending or circumventing the Constitution, aren’t we obligated, and wouldn’t we be wise, to seek common ground with them?

    Regarding your remarks and Rex’s on Wilson, I am against bringing the language of hatred and social hygiene into political discussion – period. It makes civil disagreement and discussion, including democratic compromise, difficult if not impossible, and, once implanted, can lead anywhere… and it may not be up to the speaker to provide the exclamation points, gestures, and throngs, but rather time and social conditions. It’s also the ultimate “Big Government” idea, in my view: That we can create a perfect government free of “social diease” down to the last cell.

    Isn’t it one of Beck’s main points that by a similar process what he calls progressivism turns into the great 20th Century Corpse Grinder?

    So, no, I don’t think it’s sensible or sane to pour invective on Woodrow Wilson. He’s dead and gone, and we can disagree about his legacy and his policies. I’m not a fan, but we don’t need scapegoats. We don’t need to legitimize hatred in stages, beginning with hatred of an historical figure, then tying him to contemporary figures in similar positions and without differentiation, using him as a proxy in an obvious equation, and speaking about him and everyone like him as “cancers” that cannot be tolerated.

    Americans are free to be communists and progressives, to believe that the Constitution is a defective or obsolete document, or even to hate Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama. And we have the right to feel the opposite way, if we do, but in the end we’re stuck in the same country and have to work something out together. In the meantime, it’s true that our government and national life are pervaded by progressivism, and it’s in my view delusive to suggest that it was all done in secret, by conspiracy, as a great historical swindle.

    Rex brings up WWI, and it’s a good example in this context. Without trying to re-litigate the entirety of American and world history, it’s worth recalling that. by the time Wilson reversed his peace pledge and brought us into the war, it was a very popular position – as indeed the war was for most of its duration in most of the countries fighting it, that being a main reason why the politicians were unable to extricate their forces from the bloodbath.

    Rex then blames Wilson for the GD, or, as he prefers, GD1. That to me seems a stretch, and leaves out a range of actors all of whom had the advantage over Wilson of being alive and active throughout the generally highly prosperous decade that directly followed his presidency, and that preceded GD1, and that also saw the U.S. continuing its rise to global economic and eventually political and military pre-eminence. Unless you imagine, as I never do, that utopia was there for the taking all along, Wilson’s legacy looks mixed to me.

    But the popular political discussion will never get into those weeds. Beck can point to his stack of books – truly a pathetically pseudo-intellectual gesture – but his rap reduces to Wilson=evil, Obama=Wilson, therefore Obama=evil – a cancer, that can’t be tolerated, etc. If that’s the way conservatism is heading, we should pray it’s a dead end, and soon. Otherwise, bad luck and new personalities may provide those exclamation points and throngs I referred to, to the complete overthrow of everything Beck, I think, wants to stand for.

  8. adam

    As noted, I’ve amended the post to hold open the idea that Beck himself might “learn to drop such demagogic rhetoric.”

    You then ask us to consider some questions about the nature of progressivism, and I can’t give an unqualified “yes” to them before proceeding to merely contingent aspects of the treatment of Beck as a political commodity. As in my reply to JEM, I still see progressivism as having a mixed legacy, and I don’t see it as merely a slow-motion version of Nazism or Communism foisted on our body politic in the dead of historical night. I also doubt whether there is truly a “coherent body of political thought and practice” that we could define as progressivism and successfully exclude from our national life. I accept that there will always be aspects of our political life that, from one point of view or another, will seem contradictory to any strict view of the Constitution. I suppose I accept the sinful heresy that, like any other text – sacred, legal, contractual, political, or literary – it is subject interpretation, re-interpretation, and is in that sense a “living” document. I believe that the Constitution itself and the Founders as great realists accepted and embedded this understanding within the Constitution and exemplified it in their conduct.

    In the rest of your reply, you enunciate positions with which I agree, including the idea that Beck has opened issues up to discussion that deserve to be discussed, and has helped move the national conversation into new territory, and that Beck himself might be salvageable, and at least deserves to be treated as such – just like all of those virtual Nazi-Commies in the US government.

  9. fuster wrote:

    I await the reaction when Beck gets around to outing the RINO Lincoln and denouncing Lincoln’s unconstitutional plunge onto the pit of Big Governmen

    I wrote this thinking that it was obviously satirical. I remain a fool.

    http://www.amconmag.com/blog/2010/02/22/fear-and-loathing-at-cpac/

    Despite the one instance of real public discord, the Campaign for Liberty events went off without a hitch, including “Friend of Foe? Abraham Lincoln on Liberty”

    with Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo of the Mises Institute and “ You’ve Been Lied To: Why Real Conservatives are Against the War on Terror” with TAC’s own literary editor Kelly Jane Torrance moderating and Philip Giraldi participating on the panel.

  10. @ fuster:
    Adam spoke the other day about the “lingering sympathy for the Confederacy” (I hope he’ll forgive me if I’ve mangled the quotation) still visible among some conservatives and libertarians. You will, indeed, run into “Lincoln was evil” commentary on the fringes at places like HA. To be confronted directly, in my view, but the funhouse mirror reverse can be found all over leftwing and mainstream sites and events as well. Arguably, the modern conservative movement has policed itself rather better than liberalism has. I think the difference may be that fewer mainstream conservatives actually like and admire the rightwing lunatic fringe as compared to liberals in relationg to their revolutionary prophets and saints.

  11. @ CK MacLeod:
    Our politics reflect our own personal experience, and, having lived in Berkeley and San Francisco from 1966 to 1979, and, for many years now, in The People’s Republic of Hyde Park, Chicago, which has spawned the likes of Ayers, Dhorn and Mister Peanut, I wonder how well you understand the brothers and sisters who are the bedrock of the progressive movement who really love Che, Mao, and Alinsky, people who long for a heaven on earth here and who feel entitled to get what they want by any means necessary.

    Beck seems to really bother you and the great minds at Commentary as well as the semi virtuous Bill Bennet. Glenn Beck devotes a great deal of his shows to warning us all about the totalitarian tendencies of the left.

    Isn’t it good that he is calling on America to pay attention to the left’s endless propaganda campaign? Can you try to understand how determined they are to destroy what so many of us want to retain? Don’t we agree that there is a crying need to work for a new rebirth of freedom and prosperity?

    He’s pulling the left’s covers and it ain’t pretty. For instance, he notes Congresswoman Shakowsky’s husband who wrote a now popular with the 0baba Administration guideline for the left wingers while he was in jail for bank fraud. This guideline is similar to Alinsky’s former “Rules for Radicals”. It calls for programs which ‘overload the system’, and the goal is to hasten the failure of capitalism.

    Our belief in freedom and opportunity and virtue has an emotional component as well as the very best of rational truth. Beck is helping tens of thousands of Americans understand just why they are mad as hell and why they won’t take it anymore.

  12. Scientific Socialist wrote:

    I wonder how well you understand the brothers and sisters who are the bedrock of the progressive movement who really love Che, Mao, and Alinsky, who long for a heaven on earth here and who feel entitled to get what they want by any means necessary.

    Knew ’em pretty well, I think. Admission possibly against interest in this discussion: Was one of them (like, I hasten to add, good conservative comrades like David Horowitz as well as Norman Podhoretz). Beck doesn’t restrict himself to attacks on supposed Che-Alinsky-worshippers. He spends a substantial portion of his time trying to turn the likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham into the functional equivalents of Che and Alinsky, or worse, into Che Alinsky demon sheep.

    The progressive movement consists of many millions of people, and goes back generations. Many of them are kind and thoughtful people who will argue from today to next month non-stop about why they’re just as good Americans as you or me, why their beliefs and history are integral to the US of A and in a good way, and many of them can be persuaded to think logically and act creatively and cooperatively

    I have yet to disagree with your or JED’s assessments of Beck’s contributions to the national discussion. I’ve conceded them and have even expanded on them. You have yet to address my specific criticisms of Beck’s political positioning and excessive rhetoric, except to suggest, I guess, that we decline to take them seriously. That’s, as I said, trying to have your Beck and eat him, too. If we must agree not to take him too seriously, then, considering his audience and the uses we at the same time wish to make of it, it’s all the more important to be aware of our own ideological hygiene and make sure that his non-serious, dangerous-if-serious views don’t infect us.

  13. CK MacLeod wrote:

    @ fuster:
    That’s just silly, in poll after poll for many years, self-identified American conservatives have outnumbered liberals by around 2 to 1.

    How they self-identify ain’t in accord with what they support. Mostly, they’re conserving the New Deal policies.
    Those Gallup polls that have 31% Cons and 17% Libs also have more people than not saying that labor unions should have more influence, and government doesn’t regulate business too much.
    (Gallup 2004)

  14. Beck is not the only conservative to worry out loud about the likes of Lindsey Graham and John Mc Cain. Laura Ingraham, soft and sweet and pretty as she is, has also been very hard on the RINO’s.

    Isn’t McCain Feingold a monstrosity which real conservatives on the
    Supreme Court just struck down? Didn’t Mc Cain refuse to draw attention to Mister Peanut’s radical associations? Wasn’t that a big mistake? Didn’t that mistake help confuse voters about who this clown really was? Mc Cain is so full of himself that he wouldn’t listen to experts who declared Washington National Airport was unsafe (probably because he and other Senators loved their free parking close to the gates there).

    And Lindsey Graham became a Senator because of how hard he went after Clinton as a Congressman, musing out loud “what kind of man would have an affair with a young woman, and then proceed to try to destroy her character when he was found out?”

    I think people are legitimately upset with Graham’s new “independence,’ which means he was comfortable voting for the porkulous bill monstrosity.

    I understand how some might wonder about the effect Beck’s schtick has on our virtuous liberal friends. Yes, he maddens them.
    Maybe they don’t deserve it. But, maybe they do. Maybe they need to better understand where all their good intentions are leading us.

  15. Gallup ’04 is out of date on Labor Unions: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/pew-finds-plummeting-confidence-labor-unions

    I agree with you, however, that what many people, including some of the voices here, mean by “conservative” includes “conserving” what was in its own day “progressive” or, if you will, crypto-progressive. That’s part of my larger point, and it’s also one of the main things that makes American conservatism difficult for some to grasp, including many conservatives as well as many liberals, who tend to associate conservatism with diverse non-American “rightwing” traditions or with past rightwing stances. American conservatism conserves a moving target – conservatively. In that respect it’s Burkean, but while Burke’s conservatives were conserving parliamentary monarchism, Americans are conserving a revolutionary tradition and, by now, a way of things and sets of social and economic expectations informed by generations of our progressivism – it’s almost our own royalism.

  16. CK – I certainly take no issue with your concern on Beck’s tone – it was overly broad and over the top. While there are RINOs and even DIABLOs in the GOP there are others in the GOP fighting for policies and positions that are probably right up Beck’s alley. Rush had a very interesting comparison today linking say Pelosi and Canter and DeMint and Reid and suggesting that they are the same is ridiculous; of course done in his own special way of course. That really is all I heard of his show, but it makes a good point.

    As to your larger issue on progressivism and hating Wilson I think it is going to take a little more time for me to digest. I understand your distaste of hating Wilson while it gives me very little concern whatsoever, he was for the most part a miserable human being who belittled and demeaned people for whom he felt their opinion was of no value – please get out of the way and allow your intellectual betters run the show. Perhaps this is just my area of being overly sensitive to the condescending behavior of certain elites who think they truly do know better. They all tend to act the same way, as the similarities in Wilson and Obama’s personalities show.

    I see this as a distinct threat to the American way of life, and a direct desire to subvert the meaning of the constitution and representative government as opposed to swearing to protect it in their oaths. This isn’t just a policy disagreement, this is transformation from government by the people and for the people (which Lincoln did respect despite very rational complaints about big government bias – for his day – from modern day conservatives) to government as caretaker of the nation, nanny of us all. This is to be done without the utilization of the ammendment process but through ever greater grabs for power. I say this without failing to understand that some manner of elite will naturally arise in a society and that there is nothing wrong about it. The Founders themselves understood this, and wished to protect this from the passion of the public at large, which was somewhat behind the Senate’s original design.

    To your strawman arguments about child labor and the like, that I feel is very narrow. Much of the progressive legislation of the past does great damage today – farm price supports, wage and price controls at various times, TVA, social security, food stamps, welfare pre-Cinton reform, CRA, I could keep typing but you get the point. The only thing really sparing us a further descent into nanny statism is that we ran out of money.

    The government’s role should be to set ground rules and allow the market to work. Veering off that path is always dangerous and should only be contemplated with great reserve. Alas, the health care debacle puts that idea to rest. It is all about grabbing the power and remaking society through government’s heavy hand with the idea that they will get around to fixing it later – just trust me for now. That is why they exempt themselves from almost all their laws anyway.

    No, calling out progressivism for what it is – and some GOP for enabling it – is not something I can chide Beck for. But he must keep himself from generalizing, which is what I think he got caught doing. It harms the message because in the first place it isn’t true.

  17. JEM wrote:

    Much of the progressive legislation of the past does great damage today – farm price supports, wage and price controls at various times, TVA, social security, food stamps, welfare pre-Cinton reform, CRA, I could keep typing but you get the point. The only thing really sparing us a further descent into nanny statism is that we ran out of money.

    Well, then we’re largely in agreement – except that I don’t think we can call “child labor etc.” a straw man. That “Etc.” includes a lot of stuff that I suspect a majority of Americans strongly support, that a large number would defend quite fiercely – and includes other things that the vast majority would be mystified about anyone seeking to overturn. Beck’s rhetoric – and sometimes J.E.’s, as I noted at her blog today – appears to make no exception even for straw.

  18. CK MacLeod wrote:

    JEM wrote:
    @ CK MacLeod:
    I am going to study the last half of your last comment for awhile before jumping in, but it strikes me as missing something significant.
    Please do tell!

    A question for you that would perhaps help me. How do you define progressivism?

  19. JEM wrote:

    A question for you that would perhaps help me. How do you define progressivism?

    Good question! I’ll go with this:

    http://www.answers.com/topic/progressivism-1

    Then, in response to Beck and Goldberg, and the statements of such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and the continued existence of magazines like The Progressive magazine, extend it to include the broad labor-oriented left, eventually including everyone who believes in government as an agent of social reform and change, which in turn forces us to broaden the view of progressivism beyond the history of the term itself and to consider the fundamental outlook. So the other day I described it as The Enlightenment for the Industrial Era, but I’m willing to consider its root in the very basic idea of “progress,” which goes back to the very beginning of the beginning., and may be another name for civilization.

    Hope that helps. ;)

  20. @ CK MacLeod:
    You’re quite right about the figures being dated. And in just about everything you’ve said on this thread.
    I hope that you’ll forgive me for pushing the point about definitions, but I spent far too much time having that point drilled into my little green head.
    Without definition of terms, you end up with unnecessary confusion.
    That’s how you get people thinking that a book titled “Liberal Fascism” actually is serious in making the case.

  21. The reason that Glenn Beck will affect conservatism more than the people listed as his opponents is because his opponents are “professional” Republicans, and see where that has gotten us. Does anyone here really think that Beck’s rhetoric is going to doom the Republican Party? If the party is doomed, it’s because they acted too much like Democrats, not because Beck said stuff that NR or Bennett or anyone else didn’t like..

    Suppose the Republicans win back the House and the Senate. Will Boehner return as Speaker and McConnell as Senate Majority Leader? Oooo, ah, inspiring. Aren’t these the guys that totally and completely screwed the pooch from 2000 to 2004? Are we simply starting over with politics la 2000, with meltdown in 4 years and exile in 8 years? Again? Is that what the Republican Party represents?

    The following is not to advance Sarah Palin’s career:

    Aren’t these the same Republicans who trashed the only person that kept the turnout for Republicans respectable in 2008? And these people would rather spend another 40 years in the wilderness than have this hillbilly run for president? They want RINO Romney? If Palin is the only alternative to more of the same, then the Republicans deserve to die. If it takes 4 more years to bury the corpse, then so be it.

    And who gives a flying handshake about Beck’s rhetoric. It the very largest sense, he is correct: Saying we don’t suck as bad as the other guys is not enough.

  22. fuster wrote:

    @ CK MacLeod:
    You’re quite right about the figures being dated. And in just about everything you’ve said on this thread.
    I hope that you’ll forgive me for pushing the point about definitions, but I spent far too much time having that point drilled into my little green head.
    Without definition of terms, you end up with unnecessary confusion.
    That’s how you get people thinking that a book titled “Liberal Fascism” actually is serious in making the case.

    Only people who haven’t read the book make that argument for the most part. There is legitimate reasons to take issue with its premises, and some have made them in a scholarly manner, but yours isn’t one of them.

  23. Okay, fine. McConnell was never Senate Majority Leader. Oooo, ah, inspiring. He was not, and is not, a conservative leader to save the Republican Party.

  24. CK – I think we may be passing each other by then, because I do not see the term in that way. I feel you see it more as progress in general, and I see it as the attack on individual liberty. You see it as being since time immortal and I see it as a by-product of the failed French revolution. The enacting of laws which defined how we agree to play the game of business is not so much progressivism to me, but rather the core belief that a central grouping of intelligent (allegedly) people have the ability to make decisions and improve society at large in a manner superior to the activity of individuals making numerous decisions on a daily basis in their own self interest. The Founders believed in the people following their own self interest, the progressives in following Rousseau and his insistance in the individual being subserviant to the state.

    I believe this to be the definition of Beck. I know where Rousseau’s philosophy went, and it is responsible for more death on this planet than I can ever imagine. It was Bismark, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. Utopia on earth is not for us to force upon those for whom utopia has a different meaning. The progressives ignore this. Their political defeat is necessary for the betterment of the world. Then each of us can build our own little utopia, to the best of our own ability.

  25. Is someone here trying to infer that we should all respect the term, progressive, and that Glenn Beck is a very bad man for heaping scorn on this wonderful term, now used by the Hillary Clinton’s of the world to self describe their vain brand of politics, now that the term liberal is thought of as a dirty word? Will they then switch back to liberal when enough voters have figured out what progressive now means?

    Gimme a break! Way back in the 19th century, liberals were against slavery and serfdom. They were for human rights. Leftists grabbed this term for themselves well into the 20th Century, since, according to them, they were the humanists,and anyone opposed to theirnanny state, high tax, anti growth agenda can never think of himself as a humanist. Now they want to be known as progressives, now that voters have wised up to the corruption and waste associated with liberalism. Now they want us to call them progressives because they are for progress, and we who thwart them, are not.

    And we are expected to scold Glenn Beck because he insists on exposing these clowns for the conceited totalitarians they are?

    Hello?

  26. CK MacLeod wrote:

    (I’m gonna get killed when I post this to HA, I suspect – just waiting to see if someone else comes up with a way to protect me from myself.)

    A lack of substance combined with a healthy dose of hilariously unnecessary SAT words will do that.

    PS. If you can’t identify a progressive or what they’re all about and you think the Constitution is a living document without a fairly obvious intent left by the founders, how precisely, are you a conservative?

    At any rate, enjoy the strange new respect.

  27. @ Scientific Socialist:
    Read the definition of “progressive” at the link above, and tell me how much of it you agree with Beck cannot “co-exist” with freedom and must be eradicated like a cancer.

    Your recitation suggests that Beck isn’t really attacking all of progressivism, merely attacking a current swindle, but that would leave him with about 59 minutes of dead air every day.

    That progressivism may exist on some continuum on the way to totalitarianism isn’t a good excuse, in my view, for pretending that there’s no distance between the two terms. That’s the way of paranoia and madness, and most likely toward what you most fear, perhaps under a different name.

  28. @ TheUnrepentantGeek:
    Thanks for coming here rather than leaving your disagreement buried in an HA thread, though I won’t pretend that I appreciate your insulting tone or your willful misreading of what I wrote. If you’re capable of conducting a civil discussion, I’d be happy to defend what I wrote about the “living” Constitution. My perspective – what I wrote, not what you project – doesn’t contradict original intent, and I don’t have any idea what your point about the definition of progressive is supposed to be.

  29. CK MacLeod wrote:
    @ fuster:
    Stop being so nice. People will talk.
    Plus Liberal Fascism is a very good book. You’d enjoy it. And Goldberg didn’t make up the term: He took it from a self-avowed liberal fascist.

    Actually it first appeared in “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” by Wilhelm Reich,written in the early 1930s. Reich distinguished RED and Black Fascism. RED Fascism was most interested in enslaving the Social,intellectual,economic aspects of Society backed by Brutal Force. Black Fascism just cut through the BS,and went straight to the Brutal Force part,but in the end,same ole-same ole.
    Reich wrote the book just after his resignation from the Austrian Communist party. He was an agressive anti-communist the entire remainder of his life,in fact,his anti-communism was as aggressive as any in the Twentieth Century,he would be classified with Solzyhnitsyn and Whittaker Chambers,but unlike them,he was fervently pro-USA,a NEOCON prototype.

  30. O Highlander, pretty stand-up job.
    /golf clap
    I have to agree on the living Constitution.
    If the Founders and Framers had intended to carve it on unchangeable stone tablets, they certainly could have.
    They gifted us with various toolsets (judicial interpretation, constitutional amendments) to evolve the Constitution….if they had wanted it to be totally non-adaptive, they certainly could have done that.
    I think The System is WAI (Working As Intended).
    We live in a democratic meritocracy, a Republic.
    Every man (and woman now) has a vote. The turmoil that currently roils the electoral waters is simply the changing of the guard…..from a white male protestant majority, to a multi-colored, multi-ethnic, younger and more feminized majority coalition.
    The meek, the minorities, the oppressed and discriminated-against are going to inherit the polls. And “conservatives” while increasingly condensed to a “low information” white christian base, will be forced to evolve a big tent.
    It is evolution in action.
    Sweet!
    <3

  31. CK MacLeod wrote:
    Rex Caruthers wrote:
    How does Bismark fit into this group?
    Probly social security.

    OMG,The Dastardly Villain,and all the others did was merely slaughter millions.

  32. Bismark was the architect of the all encompassing social state. Early academic progressive political thought was centered in Germany. His work led the way for the crazies that followed, not Marx really in my opinion. But his hands really weren’t that bloody in and of themselves outside of his creating the fissures that helped guarentee WWI. That was for other reasons not directly linked to progressivism. Bismark used progressivism as a method to bring together the fractious german states into what we know (mostly) as modern Germany. I probably should have also started that list of names with the guillotine as it was so intertwined with the wackos of the french revolution. Funny how some of them eventually found their way to her blade not too long thereafter.

  33. @ JEM:
    You’re right. A couple of dozen pages into the thing was as far as I got.
    Goldberg was hopelessly lost by then, having failed to define fascism well, and IIRC saying that the US was under a fascist regime during some part or maybe all of the first WW.
    I guess I’m not generous enough to think that he was a serious man writing a serious book instead of just a guy jerking around.
    Maybe if I waited for the good parts….

  34. I would define progressive as a purposely confusing term which leftists currently use to mask their totalitarian politics. Progressives tend to congratulate themselves for their abiding virtue and compassion while they heap scorn on any and all who might oppose their efforts to truck us all to their animal farm utopia whether we want to go there or not. Progressive is what Friedrich Von Hayek meant when he spoke of “a fatal conceit.” Progressives tend to view their beliefs as so important that they feel entitled to employ any means necessary to achieve their goals.

    Some progressives really mean well. They are what Stalin called “useful idiots” because they unwittingly open the door to the murderers who have no probllems whatsoever with organized violence and mass killings in the name of justice and equality.

    Often progressives grew up with fathers they hated like Mao did.

  35. @ Scientific Socialist:
    That’s pretty interesting. Tell me which branch of progressives adhere to the notion that any and all means are legitimate when employed by themselves.

    Goldwater progressives?
    Stalinist progressives?
    Fascist progressives?
    Breitbartains?

  36. CKM — a lot going on today and I will be back later. Had to turn in a piece for NZC first. Suffice it to say for now that I’ve seen your comments and haven’t decided to do a global delete on all things CKM. More later.

    (b)

  37. From nearly the beginning of the country there have been large minorities who have rejected the Declaration of Independence’s self-evident (i.e., “dogmatic”) insistence on human equality–that was the point of my reference to slavery and the Confederacy yesterday, and that is why I agree with CK that we can never imagine eliminating such minorities. But that doesn’t mean that those of us who do believe in the founding dogma should not point out everything that contradicts the founding creed, and remember where such tendencies come from. There are very tempting reasons to abandon that very difficult creed–resentment against real and imagined, present and erstwhile oppressors, fear of external enemies or internal instability, the failure or one or another institution, greed and lust for power, etc. Reagan was right–it would only take one generation for freedom to be lost (and I don’t think he said this, but only another one or two for it to be forgotten.) So we need to approach these threats with a sense of their existential urgency.

    Ultimately, it seems to me that CK wants to preserve a lot of the Progressive legacy, and Beck wipes out differences between socialized health care and anti-corruption, clean water and child labor laws. I too would like to preserve a lot of those things, but, first, I no longer think the government can be trusted to do so; two, we can achieve a lot of the same things through private means; and, three, philosophical differences are very important–if Americans can’t explain why we have a Constitution and why public officials should make a good faith effort to act in accord with it, then we won’t have one.

    Beyond all this, politically, it might be very helpful to put Progressives on the defensive–they moved from liberal to Progressive because of the opprobrium attached to the previous term, and if we can keep “outing” them and keep them moving from name to name, explanation to explanation, we can keep them exposed and limit the damage they do. So, we need the label, and Beck has performed a service by putting it so widely into play.

  38. @ fuster:

    In all seriousness, he suggests we were living under a government with fascist tendencies, but not a fascist government per se. He points out with pretty good background the fascist political arguments of the day and their implementation in societies and how those societies that were directly fascist and those with fascist tendencies were talking together. If you don’t read it, pretty difficult to really know what the author was getting at, and I don’t claim it always reads easily. I consider it pretty deep political philosophy which isn’t my favorite thing to read in general. But no one has been able to really suggest his analysis is devoid of merit, though some reach different conclusions than he does. It is making its way into many college level poli sci classes if we are to believe the author himself and some taught by teachers who do not agree with him but feel it is a valuable material in their discussions.

    I know you like to play, and thats fine, but I think dismissing the book as you have probably defeats your purposes.

  39. CK MacLeod wrote:

    @ TheUnrepentantGeek:
    Thanks for coming here rather than leaving your disagreement buried in an HA thread, though I won’t pretend that I appreciate your insulting tone or your willful misreading of what I wrote. If you’re capable of conducting a civil discussion, I’d be happy to defend what I wrote about the “living” Constitution. My perspective – what I wrote, not what you project – doesn’t contradict original intent, and I don’t have any idea what your point about the definition of progressive is supposed to be.

    See, you’re going right after my tone instead of insinuating that I’m some sort of dangerous larval eliminationist because you don’t like my tone. We’re making some progress. As to the supposed insult, you can choose to be insulted if you wish – people often take that pose when confronted with doing something silly.

    As for your view of the constitution … you think I misread you. I don’t.

    I suppose I accept the sinful heresy that, like any other text – sacred, legal, contractual, political, or literary – it is subject interpretation, re-interpretation, and is in that sense a “living” document.

    What, exactly, am I supposed to think you mean here? If you can “reinterpret” a work in any meaningful way – given the weight of scholarly evidence we’ve got about exactly what the founders thought – how in the world can you claim to support authorial intent? This ain’t exactly rocket science.

    Re: progressives – it’s painfully obvious to most of us lovable morons over on HA and beyond exactly what a progressive is and where their ideology lives. Since you seem to have thoroughly nuanced your way out of acknowledging what’s meant in common use of the term, I have to wonder how you could capably oppose such people even assuming you do. The “some of them are nice” defense is all good and well except that nobody cares because it’s entirely irrelevant to a judgment of the ideology.

    All you’ve managed to do is claim that Beck is somehow dangerous because you don’t care for his tone. Kinda silly to do such a thing when people come back at you with a hearty “WTF?” Compounding it with this “living document” and “what are progressives, really?” tripe doesn’t help matters.

    Before composing the next multi-syllabic bit of rhetorical origami, you might take some time out from your busy tree admiration schedule to rediscover this “forest” thing the kids are busy talking about. As it is, you’ve got me wondering when the “10 Ways I Parted Ways With the Right” post is coming.

  40. @ JEM:
    JEM, thanks for the considerate reply. Let me say that I did read political philosophy seriously for some time and I have been told that the book gets interesting later, but that doesn’t change my initial point that Goldberg stacks the deck by using a defective definition of fascism.

    For all I know, it was merely a marketing gimmick to popularize something more serious.

  41. @ strangelet:

    Oh I so enjoy your entreaties to us all to ignore what is happening right in front of our faces and join you in wonderland. Conservatives, of any stripe, color or shape are the toast of the land, and growing.

    You know, if Mitch Daniels became the next president (2012 when Carter, Jr exits) I wonder of the left would be able to stand it?

  42. @ fuster:

    I think the cover was the publisher’s idea – yes damn marketers!!

    Whatever you might think of his conclusions, I think you would find it a serious book, considerately offered for serious thinking, not a gratuitous swipe just for fun.

  43. strangelet wrote:

    O Highlander, pretty stand-up job.
    /golf clap
    I have to agree on the living Constitution.
    If the Founders and Framers had intended to carve it on unchangeable stone tablets, they certainly could have.
    They gifted us with various toolsets (judicial interpretation, constitutional amendments) to evolve the Constitution….if they had wanted it to be totally non-adaptive, they certainly could have done that.
    I think The System is WAI (Working As Intended).
    We live in a democratic meritocracy, a Republic.
    Every man (and woman now) has a vote. The turmoil that currently roils the electoral waters is simply the changing of the guard…..from a white male protestant majority, to a multi-colored, multi-ethnic, younger and more feminized majority coalition.
    The meek, the minorities, the oppressed and discriminated-against are going to inherit the polls. And “conservatives” while increasingly condensed to a “low information” white christian base, will be forced to evolve a big tent.
    It is evolution in action.
    Sweet!
    <3

    See, I could argue with CK all day long, but this probably does more to advance my point than anything I’d say.

    Birds. Feather. Of. etc., some assembly required.

  44. How about one aspect of Progressive fascism at a time,I’d love to start with the Anti-trust legislation,followed by the American Disabilities act.
    Also,I find ERISA fascinating.

  45. TheUnrepentantGeek wrote:

    What, exactly, am I supposed to think you mean here?

    How am I supposed to answer that question when you keep on bouncing between caveman conservative and smartass.

    If you can “reinterpret” a work in any meaningful way – given the weight of scholarly evidence we’ve got about exactly what the founders thought

    And given the weight of scholarly and historical evidence that the Founders and the immediately succeeding generations disagreed to the point of breaking off with each other, threatening to abandon the project, preparing and then finally engaging in civil war, there has been and always will be – it’s the nature of human beings, the human condition, and most fundamentally of all, language – room for disagreement over interepretation, including disagreement about how “meaningful” that disagreement is, and whether a given adjustment for changes in circumstance and unanticipated questions is a novel re-interpretation or an obviously justified translation.

    – how in the world can you claim to support authorial intent? This ain’t exactly rocket science.

    It’s actually a lot more complex the rocket science. It’s like trying to calculate rocket trajectories with actual rockets instead of numbers, since every word is defined by another word, and every text by another text. We’re left to adopt pragmatic approximations of intent, which in some instances are obviously much less subject to disagreement than others, and trust that, over time, overall, the determination of the people to do what’s right will overwhelm the determination of factions and individuals to serve themselves.

    In addition to the mechanisms for interpretation and improvement that strangelet rightly points out are part of the Constitution, there are numerous matters of some great note – action of separation of powers, war powers, etc. – that were left vague, and the text itself also includes artifacts of compromise and other imperfections.

    So, yes, the Constitution is alive, alive, and was designed to be that way, but, no, that doesn’t mean that we’re in the United States of Wonderland and it says whatever we want it to say.

    I don’t accept you as a spokeperson for HA, or even for Beck supporters, but you and those arguing like you don’t seem to have any consistent idea of what you’re talking about when you talk about progressives – like Beck and like Alice, you seem to believe that the term can mean whatever you want it to mean depending on whatever purpose you choose for it at any given time. I guess you believe in a kind of living progressivism.

  46. @ CK MacLeod:

    OK, obviously it’s complex, for the reasons you give, but the fact of arguments and disagreements doesn’t preclude the possibility of one position being right, and our being able to discern that position–indeed, why would we be arguing otherwise? Why not start with easy cases, like Dred Scott? Can you say that was decided wrongly, against the meaning and principles of the Constitution? Roe v Wade? Plessy v Ferguson? (This last one is actually tougher than many people think, but even then, if we can say it’s tougher, despite the obviousness of the moral issue at stake, that would mean we can recognize the Constitution as something independent of our own moral and political preferences, and that we can make reasonable and sometimes successful attempts at figuring out what that something is).

    Ultimately, such discussions turn into what we would have to call “anthropological” ones regarding the meaning of human equality and thereore the human. But if we accept Lincoln’s notion that, for political purposes, human equality means that regardless of all our differences, no individual is sufficiently superior to another in any sense to justify the former’s rule over the latter without the latter’s consent, then we can argue coherently over which interpretations preserve this original meaning and purpose of the Constitution and which don’t. And we can narrow down the disagreements and set up rules and procedures for settling them. Of course this has always gone on, but if the basic dogma of human equality slips out of those discussions, it’s the conservative’s job to point out that those discussions will consequentially lose their mooring and become increasingly arbitrary–they will, increasingly overtly, start to depend upon extraneous considerations, like the latest social theory, popular trends, international law, etc.

    Do we still share that basic dogma, though? And if we don’t, can it be restored? Have a lot of the disagreements come out of a basic human resistance to accepting even the most liberating dogmas?

  47. CK MacLeod wrote:

    Well golly, CK. I’ll try and provide you with a more convenient stereotype with which to brand me the next time. Smartass, sadly, is a label I may have to own. I get that way when people talk down to me or write silly things in ways designed to leave the reader with an impression of intelligence without bothering to impart much in the way of actual insight. Tis a pet peeve of mine.

    I don’t claim to be the spokesman for HA or Beck fans (I’m not either one, believe it or not). So … yeah. But, if you’ll glance at the thread, I’m not the only one who thinks you’re out of your gourd.

    It’s not hard to tell a progressive when you see one – really. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Most conservatives can tell with some readiness. Whinge about the label all you like, but it really doesn’t matter.

    The Constitution, on the other hand, says what it says. People have been known to bend it to mean what they want it to but let’s not pretend they’re doing anything but that. Writings by Jefferson and the like are quite readily available. I just don’t agree that it’s that unbelievably difficult and fraught with paradox.

  48. TheUnrepentantGeek wrote:

    I’ll try and provide you with a more convenient stereotype with which to brand me the next time.

    Got nothing to do with stereotypes. Has everything to do with anti-intellectual poses that shift without transition to snidely superior ones.

    As for people having fits on the HA thread, I’ll live. There are a lot of intelligent people at HA – I seem to recall that, oddly enough, you have occasionally been among them – but they tend to pull back if a thread is turning into food fight, and that’s what I was hoping to avoid or at least keep to a minimum when addressing BECK! It doesn’t affect my thinking to know that x commenters responded by saying they loved Glenn Beck and hate people who accuse him of encouraging hatred.

    Unfortunately, the idea that the ready availability of “writings by Jefferson and the like” answers all questions is you back in the caveman mode. Anything further on this particular subject I’ll reserve, as I think over adam’s comments and walk the dogs.

  49. There was no argument for Plessy, frog, in some ways it is worse than Dred Scott, because it came after the 600,000 dead that cleared the debt. The Court surrendered to the insurgency of the Klan’s monopoly
    of violence

  50. @ narciso:
    narc, did you not read adam calling it a tough case? It’s been forever since I’ve read it, but if adam thinks that there’s a case for declaring it well-decided, I’m interested in having him lay it out.

  51. Taking a brief look at it, I’m not sure what I’m remembering here–the argument of the majority distinguished between social and political equality–so, there can’t be a law forbidding people of a particular group from voting, but any private individual or group can exclude and include whomever they wish. That would include businesses, and I suppose (perhaps) local accomodations (parks, etc.), as well–it was on these grounds that lot of conservatives opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Once the government starts telling businesses who they have to serve, they will keep finding more and more things to to tell them to do. And there’s a point there.

    Plessy v Ferguson, though, involved the infamous “separate but equal” clause, and it involved a state law governing how railroads are to treat their customers–which, unless I’m missing something, is objectionable on the same grounds upon which conservatives objected to the Civil Rights Act. So, I’m going to back down on my claim here, because it seems to me that even if you accept the legal fiction of “equal” even though “separate,” the case was wrongly decided.

    Which, anyway, makes my previous point about the possibility of arriving at a correct interpretation!

  52. @ Rex Caruthers:

    The principles of Judeo-Christianity don’t trump the Constitution (I can’t tell, are you being ironic here?), but they don’t have to because what I have been calling the dogma of human equality is a secularization of those principles and they are therefore embedded in it–my contention is that a free society is impossible if we don’t all (or at least most) believe that all of our fellows were created in the image of God; we have to believe that practically, in the way we treat others, at least.

  53. The principles of Judeo-Christianity don’t trump the Constitution

    Of course they did,in the case of slavery,and of civil rights,Slavery was certainly legal under the constitution,and Lincoln had to wage an unconstitutional war to deal with the mess,Secession was certainly Constitutional,Civil Rights superseding states rights was certainly unconstitutional,

    The principles of Judeo-Christianity are the basis of what you call Progressivism especially what is known as the Golden Rule

  54. Incidentally, as to the origin of the phrase “liberal fascist,” there’s some confusion about where exactly Goldberg got it, but it’s usually attributed to HG Wells 1932 – discussion here. I’m not disputing that Reich may have used it first or separately. The author of the just-linked post has the impression that Goldberg got it from Wells via his own work, though Goldberg himself has spoken of a “rich history” behind the phrase.

    I think it’s relevant to the discussion of progressivism in part because Goldberg, throughout the book and ever since, has been at pains to distinguish between “liberal fascists” and “fascist fascists,” and to assert that he never meant to suggest that they were the same thing, or for that matter that contemporary liberals deserved to be thought of as fascists. His objective throughout the book, to me, seems more to be to defend against the assumption held on the left that fascism is a phenomenon chiefly or essentially of the right. He never gets to the point of suggesting that historical fascist movements were chiefly or essentially phenomena of the left. Beck is much less cautious, and I think Golderg could be faulted for allowing himself to be made use of by Beck at times, if Goldberg really meant what he said about avoiding false equivalences.

  55. @ Rex Caruthers:

    I don’t agree with any of this. Slavery in the states that had it at the time of the founding was constitutional, and Lincoln never said otherwise. Secession was another matter and, in truth, for obvious reasons, the Constitution provides no mechanisms for that, nor does it explicitly forbid it. But Lincoln argued, among many other things, that according to the principles of revolution laid down in the Declaration of Independence, the South had no case–what, after all, was the tyranny they were rebelling against? All that happened was the election of a President determined to block the extension of slavery. And the outcome (correct in my view as well) of the war that civil rights trumped state rights finds plenty of support in the Constitution as well, especially once the 13th and 14th amendments passed (if Judeo-Christian values trumped the Constitution, why were the amendments necessary?). Finally, I don’t believe you will find any Progressivist, in the sense we are speaking about (as a historical movement and mode of thought, it’s identifiable propagators being Woodrew Wilson, John Dewey, etc.) define it as the “Golden Rule” or have recourse to Biblical principles. Science knows no Golden Rule.

  56. @ CK MacLeod:

    I haven’t read Goldberg’s book, but I’ve seen a lot of the material recycled through his columns and posts on NRO’s The Corner, and this is what has always bothered me about it–as is often the case with Goldberg, he gets a bit tangled up in his own desire to be clever, and he wants to be a partisan journalist and historian at the same time. But, of course, when he’s just bringing forth historical connections and building his indictment of the Progressives, it’s all very valuable–in the end, though, it’s probably not a coherent argument any more than Beck’s also very valuable meanderings are.

  57. adam wrote:

    the fact of arguments and disagreements doesn’t preclude the possibility of one position being right, and our being able to discern that position–indeed, why would we be arguing otherwise?

    But nothing ensures that the right position can always be detected and satisfactorily and irrevocably expressed. Whether the Founders prior to Marbury vs Madison actually anticipated the full scope of judicial review the court ended up adopting, much less the process that we’ve accustomed ourselves to in the 200+ years since, is to say the least debatable. Nowadays, we take it as a given that the Court will reach imperfect, politically distorted decisions, and that this session’s 5-4 vote could be overturned next session or a few sessions from now.

    As for the specific cases, I think there are others here who can discuss them much more cogently than I can, so I’ll skip ahead to your further point.

    After you describe the process of narrowing down disagreements and addressing them through rules and procedures, you say the following:

    if the basic dogma of human equality slips out of those discussions, it’s the conservative’s job to point out that those discussions will consequentially lose their mooring and become increasingly arbitrary–they will, increasingly overtly, start to depend upon extraneous considerations, like the latest social theory, popular trends, international law, etc.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m not sure how the dogma impacts upon many controversial, unsettled, or arguably wrongly settled areas of Constitutional law – for instance, war powers, as mentioned above.

    As for those cases where questions of human equality or the definition of humanity seem clearly to be in play, the human equality argument seems to break down precisely over different definitions of the human and over the role of the state in defining, protecting, and limiting human rights. Are you familiar with Roberto Unger’s writings perhaps? It’s been several millenia since I read him, and I believe he may have been a lot more popular on the left than on the right, so I hesitate to bring him up out of reluctance to wear yet another heretic’s brand, but he wrote very interestingly on the conflict of worldviews underlying legal disputes – not just the differences over, say, the definitions of human being and human life in Roe v Wade, but the differences in multiple dimensions between assignments of priority and meaning of all of the diverse terms brought into play.

    (Translating very roughly here.) As a result, conventional legal or political language sometimes appears to suggest more overlap or potential agreement between opposing sides than there actually is. Both sides may use the same vocabularies, but they understand the words they’re using differently.

    So…

    Do we still share that basic dogma, though? And if we don’t, can it be restored? Have a lot of the disagreements come out of a basic human resistance to accepting even the most liberating dogmas?

    …Even if we did, we might not. Even if it could be, it might not really be, or might not (as we may have seen) last very long. It might be more like an exotic particle produced by the legal super-collider, vanishing from existence as soon as the proceedings are over, though not without grave lasting real world effects.

    On the last point, though, yes, absolutely. The Grand Inquisitor.

  58. adam wrote:
    @ Rex Caruthers:
    I don’t agree with any of this

    And all the Wars since WW2 are unconstitutional,no declaration

  59. Your article on Glenn Beck is the perspicacious, honest and enlightening that I have seen in MONTHS!!

    God Bless you – and THANK YOU for getting to “the heart of the matter”!

  60. You’re quite a linguistic skeptic, aren’t you CK (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)? I remember Ungar, probably not as well as you–a kind of leftist, radical pluralist, postmodern pragmatist. And it’s possible to make an argument for the incommensurability of “language games.” Of course, one obvious question arises: why have a constitution, then? Why do we need to maintain what would be, in essence, a fiction that each of us uses to advance views and interests held for quite other reasons? But if that view of things were true (whatever “true” would mean in that case–although it would at least be true that we need the fiction), it seems to me that things would be a lot more centripetal than they actually are.

    But meaning isn’t just unproblematically “there” and shared, either–we share meanings, ultimately, because we dread the alternative, which is violence and social chaos. And those individuals and groups who most feel that dread insist the most dogmatically on close attention to founding documents, traditional interpretations, central events, etc.–such attention is economical, because it narrows the meanings we have to share to a few, and more often than not they are the few that really “work,” and hold a bunch of other things together as well. That’s why there is repetition and ritual in civil life.

    Even more, some ways of sharing meaning are demonstrably better at deferring violence and creating a freer playing field for social interaction–believing in an invisible, omnipotent God who can’t be bribed by dead animals but judges us based on our behavior and treatment of our fellows is far more effective than believing in ancestral totems. We can make similar judgments in politics. Roe v Wade doesn’t really depend upon different views of humanity (your view on abortion does, of course)–it depends upon whether you think there is a right to privacy in the Constitution. But, if there is a right to privacy, and you can do what you like with your body, why isn’t the FDA unconstitutional? Here, we clearly have a Supreme Court decision made in the interests of a particular social movement, in disregard of any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution. And so the Court gave up its distance from current politics, weakening its legitimacy and its role within the Constitutional order–and hence that order itself, which requires that complex allocation of powers so that conflicts can be dealt with in different levels, and within different time frames. On the President’s war-making powers I would grant a lot more ambiguity, because war is itself such an existentially “limit condition”–but that judgment is itself an anthropological one.

  61. @ adam:

    It is dangerous to place meaning on a work you haven’t yourself read. Your analysis provided has the additional problem of being wrong. Goldberg does not argue that modern day liberals are fascists but that fascism is from the left, that fascism is in the political body of thought of the left, not the right – as the term is often used. His book is not an extension of his columns, but rather a serious work, extensively researched and footnoted. You may disagree with his conclusions, but you would do well to read it before saying so.

  62. @ adam:

    The civil war was not fought over the issue of civil rights. It bore no significant motivation in his decision to forcibly re-unite the states. His resolve was to maintain the union. He had stated that if he could save the union without freeing the slaves he would have done so, and that he freed them in order to save the union, mostly to render it impossible for Britain or France to intercede in the conflict on behalf of the South. It placed the morality of slavery front and center and guarenteed the South would have to go it alone.

    You suggest Lincoln used the principles of the Declaration to argue against secession, yet you remain quiet about slavery’s continuing conflict with the basic premise of the same document.

    I have often thought that the real mistake was the firing on Ft. Sumtner (sp?). It gave Lincoln the opportunity to move right past the constitutional aspects of dissolution of the union and allowed him to maintain that federal territory had been attacked by a state. What if they hadn’t fired first?

  63. CK MacLeod wrote:

    Incidentally, as to the origin of the phrase “liberal fascist,” there’s some confusion about where exactly Goldberg got it, but it’s usually attributed to HG Wells 1932 – discussion here. I’m not disputing that Reich may have used it first or separately. The author of the just-linked post has the impression that Goldberg got it from Wells via his own work, though Goldberg himself has spoken of a “rich history” behind the phrase.
    I think it’s relevant to the discussion of progressivism in part because Goldberg, throughout the book and ever since, has been at pains to distinguish between “liberal fascists” and “fascist fascists,” and to assert that he never meant to suggest that they were the same thing, or for that matter that contemporary liberals deserved to be thought of as fascists. His objective throughout the book, to me, seems more to be to defend against the assumption held on the left that fascism is a phenomenon chiefly or essentially of the right. He never gets to the point of suggesting that historical fascist movements were chiefly or essentially phenomena of the left. Beck is much less cautious, and I think Golderg could be faulted for allowing himself to be made use of by Beck at times, if Goldberg really meant what he said about avoiding false equivalences.

    He does most certainly state, often, that fascism was of the left. It is one of his main premises.

  64. @ JEM:
    I took Goldberg’s argument a little differently. You seem to see fascism as organic to leftism. I’m not sure that Goldberg, or for me, fascism itself is ideologically coherent beyond “power for its own sake and by whatever means or justifications” – social darwinism of the act, not the theory, though once in power it naturally gravitated back to the theory, in its most brutally vulgar forms. There’s nothing inherently “left,” and certainly nothing particularly “progressive,” about much of Italian and German fascist ideology. The term itself is of course a reference to the ancient Roman symbol of political power.

  65. adam wrote:
    @ Rex Caruthers:
    Well, I also don’t agree that

    The Declaration of War,In terms of verbiage,it’s unambiguous,but it’s not a popular component,so we pretty much ignore what we feel is inconvenient to our sensibilities.

  66. adam wrote:
    @ Rex Caruthers:
    Well, I also don’t agree that

    The Declaration of War,In terms of verbiage,it’s unambiguous,but it’s not a popular component,so we pretty much ignore what we feel is inconvenient to our sensibilities.

  67. @ JEM:
    Not how I read him. Don’t have a copy of the book at hand. I recall him pointing out overlap, sometimes extensive, between fascist and progressive practice, interchanges and interaction between fascists and leftists, the early history of key fascists like Mussolini within socialist organizations, etc., but that’s not the same thing as saying that fascism is of the left – especially since there was as much history of cross-pollination between the fascists and forces associated with the right. There are further complications because of the differences between fascist parties, and within given fascist movements at different points in their development.

  68. adam wrote:
    @ Rex Caruthers:
    Well, I also don’t agree that

    The Declaration of War language is unambiguous,but we find it inconvenient.

  69. @ JEM:
    I said the primacy of civil rights over state rights was the result of the Civil War, not its cause.

    Everyone knew that the Declaration of Independence was in conflict with slavery and, in essence, silent about it as well–the founders hoped the conflict would disappear as slavery itself disappeared (was brought to its inevitable extinction, or words to that effect). When that didn’t happen, the South used the contradiction to discredit the principles, claiming that the founders obviously didn’t really mean “all men.” Lincoln himself dealt with all these questions.

    It’s hard to see how the South could have avoided some provocation, and pretty soon at that. You can’t establish an independent country without breaking the laws of the country you just unilaterally separated from.

  70. @ CK MacLeod:

    No he pretty much says it is of the same family as communism and socialism, of the left, of Rousseau. It is a pretty basic premise, not that it was kind of like it. I will dig out some quotes but I too don’t have it in front of me.

    I just ran into it.

    the subtitle from the title page – “The Secret History of the American Left”

    Page seven – “The major flaw in all of this is that fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left.”

    Seems pretty clear to me.

  71. He argued – correctly I believe – that progressivism and fascism were very generously interchanged with one another by their proponents of the day to the point it would be difficult to exactly determine their points of difference. He does not maintain that the US had it continued on that path would have become an outwardly tyrannical fascist state but a rather benign one, and perhaps it already to some degree is today.

    In essence, fascism is the modern day liberal’s father or grandfather.

  72. @ JEM:
    Does indeed read as pretty definitive. I’ll have to accept your rendering, though I’m going to take a look at the book again one of these days and search for evidence of hedging. In the couple of years since I read it, I may have mentally massaged its major themes, in conjunction with the disavowals of “liberals = fascists,” into a view I find more credible. I should add, however, that my own understanding of fascists is heavily influenced by my greater familiarity a) with the Nazis, and b) with the war. To the extent that fascism is identified with the Italian branch and its inception, I think it’s a lot less important. To the extent it’s more generalized, I think Goldberg’s argument, as you provide it, becomes harder to maintain.

  73. @ adam:

    I should have been more precise. I still however disagree. The result of the civil war was the final argument in the supremecy of the federal government over the states.

    To your later point about the provocation it is well considered. I just don’t know. What if South Carolina had sued in the Supreme Court that sucession by a state could not be stopped by the federal government. What if the entire South had done so, without firing a shot. Suppose as the case was heard, and it would be heard quickly no doubt, the South approached Britain for recognition if successful and established trading relationships in the meantime while refusing to turn over federal levies. While the North was more industrialized, the South was home to more raw material. What if.

  74. @ CK MacLeod:

    I would suggest that might be an interesting idea for you to do.

    He relates that the Nazis, who were socialists, were fascists and of the left. They are cousins – fascism, nazism, socialism, communism. We look at the Nazis and quite appropriately look to their racial politics and go, yuck. And then they acted upon it, double yuck. Nothing can be like that horror we feel. Well actually, it can. Nazi Germany had many trappings of the fascist and modern day leftist state. Take another look. I would be intersted in your assessment after the second shot at it.

  75. @ JEM:
    As I recall the history, the momentum toward war and the expectation of war was strong, in part because it wasn’t the first time that the nation had previously almost come to open armed conflict over the underlying issues, and also because Buchanan had left such a mess behind. Also, although you’re right that Lincoln stated that union was more fundamental and in the event more urgent than abolition, everyone knew that the danger to the union stemmed from the disagreement over slavery. The idea of suing for the right of secession isn’t one I’ve seen examined anywhere. Don’t know if there’s a good reason for that.

  76. What’s interesting to me is how Beck’s critics have focused on some of the elements of his CPAC speech that I would have thought were the least objectionable. I watched the speech through again this evening to verify my original impression, and came away with it again. I would have thought some of the histrionics would have come in for more “repudiation of the ick factor,” or perhaps the shorthand soundbite about Versailles (treaty thereof, that is) leading directly to Hitler. Or even the personalization of our political problems as being like an addict’s need for self-awareness, reality check, recognition of having hit bottom. There are ways that that analogy doesn’t work, and some of them matter.

    This is a serious question: how is it dehumanizing invective to refer to progressivist political ideology as a cancer on the American polity? It would be one thing to say the metaphor is inapt. I don’t think it is, but one could argue the case dispassionately. Another criticism that wouldn’t necessarily be a reach would be that it’s hyperbolic. Again, I don’t think it is. I am convinced that progressivism is antithetical to limited, constitutional government. I think Beck is correct that progressivism and limited, constitutional government can’t coexist. One of them has to recede, be defeated, dissolve over time. They can’t occupy the same space. (I have a longer answer explicating the central thesis of progressivism at TOC.)

    But dehumanizing? Demagogic? Just don’t see it. Beck’s proposition is that the American idea is limited, constitutional government, which is the essential condition for enduring political liberty. Progressivism won’t accept being bounded by limitations on government’s scope or charter. The more of it we admit in our midst, the more compromised is the constitutional bulwark guarding our liberties.

    I really don’t see what’s out-of-bounds about putting this in metaphorical terms as the operation of a “cancer.” Is it the metaphor, or the basic proposition, that you find so offensive, shipmate?

  77. @ Rex Caruthers:
    Nope. What if there’s a series of cross border raids carried out by bandit/terrorists from Mexico, and the Mexican government can’t stop it–do we have to declare war (against whom?) of can the President just order the army to go in and take care of it?

  78. @ JEM:
    After the war it was all one issue, I think–the most dangerous divisive state right had proven to be the right to suppress the rights of its own people.

    Certainly if the South had been more strategic and subtle about their secession–if they had waited for an actual provocation or encroachment upon their rights by Lincoln, rather than initating secession before he was even inaugurated, things might have played out differently. But they were too desperate to be rational–they knew wiithout expansion into the new territories, their system was finished.

  79. @ JEM:
    I think the language of the Preamble is crucial here–“We the People,” rather than “We the States”–the argument (it’s been a while but think Lincoln addressed this as well) would be that only a new convocation of “the people of the United States” (i.e., not some part of it) could dissolve the Union. But, of course, a successful revolution could never, in any meaningful sense, be “illegal.” Such a move is ultimately extra-constitutional. The question then becomes whether the government resisting the revolution has the arguments against, on the terms of its own constitution, to muster the support to prevent it. A revolution is obviously more likely to succeed, especially in a country like ours, when there has, in fact, been a “long train of abuses,” etc.–but leading up to the Civil War, the abuses were almost completely by the South.

  80. adam wrote:

    @ JEM:
    I think the language of the Preamble is crucial here–”We the People,” rather than “We the States”–the argument (it’s been a while but think Lincoln addressed this as well) would be that only a new convocation of “the people of the United States” (i.e., not some part of it) could dissolve the Union. But, of course, a successful revolution could never, in any meaningful sense, be “illegal.” Such a move is ultimately extra-constitutional. The question then becomes whether the government resisting the revolution has the arguments against, on the terms of its own constitution, to muster the support to prevent it. A revolution is obviously more likely to succeed, especially in a country like ours, when there has, in fact, been a “long train of abuses,” etc.–but leading up to the Civil War, the abuses were almost completely by the South.

    I would disagree with your characterization that all the abuses were from the South, as the politics of the day were drawn by many parties from all over the country; I am afraid we get too stigmatized by the stain of slavery in the South and feel it overrides everything else.

    I do agree however on your characterization of a successful revolution being illegal. I am reminded of the play 1776 where Franklin I believe upbraids Dickenson on revolutions only being illegal in the third person or something like that!

  81. @ JEM:
    I think the stigmatization of the stain of slavery is completely appropriate and does override everything else–the defense of slavery required the use of violence and fraud in the new territories and the encroachment upon a whole series of rights (including the right to criticize slavery) through the entire country.

    I hate to mess up the moment of agreement, but what I actually said is that any revolution is illegal from the standpoint of the previous state; but that if the revolution is successful that illegality is beside the point. Whether it is the revolution or counter-revolution that is illegal ultimately depends upon the people.

  82. @ TheUnrepentantGeek: I happen to believe in the wisdom of crowds and the genius of the Framers. The American people elect the best candidate for that timeslice of history. Jefferson would have voted for Obama. Andy Jackson was a sumbitch but he kept the Union whole. Jefferson wanted to address slavery in the Constitution, but the survival of the Union trumphed slavery (like healthcare is trumphing AGW, right now, lawl).
    GW won in 2000 by 5 EC votes, and lost the popular vote.
    He would have been a fine choice to shepherd the American electorate into the demographic twilight of non-hispanic caucs…..sadly, 911 intervened. GW just didnt have the substrate to deal.
    Our grandchildren will paying for the Grand Misadventure of the Manifest Destiny of “Judeo-christian” Democracy in MENA for a long, long time, both in dollars and in the world’s esteem.
    Big White Christian Bwana is commencing his global decline in influence. Just as America’s future is multi-colored, so is the worlds’.

  83. That is deeply ridiculous, Jefferson believed in the common people, Obama thinks them ‘bitter clingers’. Yes, he was opposed to the Alien & Sedition Act, which was what the left pretends the Patriot Act to be. He was slandered by the media, Callender & co, in a way hat probably hasn’t been equaled since I don’t know, Aug. 2008.

    Obama as far as it goes, is a Hamiltonian, he believes in the unlimited exercise of state power. Jackson, did set the stage by moving his crony Taney from Treasury to the Court, where he failed spectacularly to grasp the main point.

  84. adam wrote: @ Rex Caruthers:
    Nope. What if there’s a series of cross border raids carried out by bandit/terrorists from Mexico, and the Mexican government can’t stop it–do we have to declare war (against whom?) of can the President just order the army to go in and take care of it

    That works fine,even Granada works,but not Vietnam,Korea,Desert Storm,or WOT. Anyway, it’s all opinion,when it comes to governing,we usually do what we want first,and second hire an army of lawyers to justify it.

  85. @ Rex Caruthers:
    If it’s all opinion, what are you holding onto, then, in your insistence on the “tattered document”?

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’m sympathetic to the argument that Congressional authorization for these military adventures is required on Constitutional grounds–indeed, it was sought and granted for the ones you mention. So, is anything short of a Declaration of War (in the case of the WOT, against whom?) unconstitutional?

  86. @ strangelet:

    I happen to believe in the wisdom of crowds and the genius of the Framers.

    Sure you do–because crowds are and the founders were just as obsessed with color as you are, right?

  87. @ adam:

    Well, to further break up our moment of agreement you said – “But, of course, a successful revolution could never, in any meaningful sense, be “illegal.” That is about it. Perhaps you meant how you clarified it, but your words failed you. Franklin’s comment in the play I always took to mean the action to break from mother country is never illegal to those attempting to do so and always from the mother country’s perspective, which too, is not exactly the thought you were originally conveying but I saw it coming from the same perspective, which is what triggered the thought.

    With regards to our larger point of disagreement, you do allow your distaste – entirely proper of course – of slavery to cloud yor judgement of historical fact. Yes, the South economically felt they needed slavery and that they needed to expand its practice in some part to the new territories in a growing nation. Yes, abolitionists, were very much opposed to its expansion. However, slavery was codified in the Constitution and SCOTUS rightly determined that slaves were in fact property subject to provisions which governed same. I don’t suggest there was no way to change this through legal fiat, but it would require the normal process of legislative proceedings, which the South knew would eventually overwhelm them if new states were admitted all as non-slave. The South’s positions on slavery while repugnant to us today were in fact well grounded in the law of the time.

    As to each sides behavior in that fight over slavery, both sides were subject to extremists who felt they had the moral authority to take the law into their own hands – and they did with regularity.

    I know we are not debating whether or not slavery was wise or ethical or morally appropriate. And in reality, unless the South was willing to concede a drawdown of the practice, a fight was coming. But, however, if the North had been willing to concede its expansion, there would have been no fight either. While that would not have been my preferred position, that position would have stopped much bloodshed. It is possible with increased mechanization slavery would have died out on its own as uneconomical. But the North’s demand to stop slavery now – was as much a part of the start of the Civil War – as the South’s desire to continue the practice.

  88. @ narciso:

    I hardly see Obama as Hamiltonian. While you rightly describe his bias for strong features of a strong centralized government, he also was strongly opposed to the expansion of state power into everyday business of the people, particularly the elite. He essentially wanted the central government to facilitate an environment conducive to the pursut of commerce/business interests. He believed in a powerful defense posture to protect those interests abroad. While some of the framers came from a philosophical perspective on liberty, Hamilton came to it from an economic one.

    OSlash is closest to Woodrow Wilson, but in reality more like modern western European leaders. We have not seen the like of him before from a philosophical perspective.

  89. No, they were not willing, and Jim Crow, “Southern fried apartheid, pursued a generation later. proves the point. As does the accession
    of Woodrow Wilson to the Presidency, in the following one. Ironically
    this was an outcome that Dubois, made possible by protesting so vehemently about what he thought were TR and Taft’s too methodical
    responses to the crisis that sparked the formation of the NAACP

  90. . So, is anything short of a Declaration of War (in the case of the WOT, against whom?) unconstitutional?

    What does the Constitution say,does it mention anything short?

  91. It’s too bad that Lincoln was so adamant. He should have let the South secede,(Slavery was on its way out anyway),so today we’d have a choice where to hang our hats,The United States of Progressivism,or The United States of Fox News,instead of the Ugly unified United States of NeoConservative Progressivism.

  92. CK MacLeod wrote:

    TheUnrepentantGeek wrote:
    What, exactly, am I supposed to think you mean here?
    How am I supposed to answer that question when you keep on bouncing between caveman conservative and smartass.
    If you can “reinterpret” a work in any meaningful way – given the weight of scholarly evidence we’ve got about exactly what the founders thought
    And given the weight of scholarly and historical evidence that the Founders and the immediately succeeding generations disagreed to the point of breaking off with each other, threatening to abandon the project, preparing and then finally engaging in civil war, there has been and always will be – it’s the nature of human beings, the human condition, and most fundamentally of all, language – room for disagreement over interepretation, including disagreement about how “meaningful” that disagreement is, and whether a given adjustment for changes in circumstance and unanticipated questions is a novel re-interpretation or an obviously justified translation.

    – how in the world can you claim to support authorial intent? This ain’t exactly rocket science.
    It’s actually a lot more complex the rocket science. It’s like trying to calculate rocket trajectories with actual rockets instead of numbers, since every word is defined by another word, and every text by another text. We’re left to adopt pragmatic approximations of intent, which in some instances are obviously much less subject to disagreement than others, and trust that, over time, overall, the determination of the people to do what’s right will overwhelm the determination of factions and individuals to serve themselves.
    In addition to the mechanisms for interpretation and improvement that strangelet rightly points out are part of the Constitution, there are numerous matters of some great note – action of separation of powers, war powers, etc. – that were left vague, and the text itself also includes artifacts of compromise and other imperfections.
    So, yes, the Constitution is alive, alive, and was designed to be that way, but, no, that doesn’t mean that we’re in the United States of Wonderland and it says whatever we want it to say.
    I don’t accept you as a spokeperson for HA, or even for Beck supporters, but you and those arguing like you don’t seem to have any consistent idea of what you’re talking about when you talk about progressives – like Beck and like Alice, you seem to believe that the term can mean whatever you want it to mean depending on whatever purpose you choose for it at any given time. I guess you believe in a kind of living progressivism.

    Reading the Constitution and understanding what the Founders meant is more complex than rocket science. Well then.

    And “progressives” aren’t an entirely obvious group of people. Super.

    Have fun with that living definition of conservatism you’ve got going there, CK.

    PS. Your central “point” of being annoyed with Beck? It’s still boils down to “he’s dangerous because I don’t like his tone.” Which is still silly. But pretty standard fare from the Brooks/Frum/Noonan set, so good on ya.

  93. strangelet wrote:

    @ TheUnrepentantGeek: I happen to believe in the wisdom of crowds and the genius of the Framers. The American people elect the best candidate for that timeslice of history. Jefferson would have voted for Obama. Andy Jackson was a sumbitch but he kept the Union whole. Jefferson wanted to address slavery in the Constitution, but the survival of the Union trumphed slavery (like healthcare is trumphing AGW, right now, lawl).
    GW won in 2000 by 5 EC votes, and lost the popular vote.
    He would have been a fine choice to shepherd the American electorate into the demographic twilight of non-hispanic caucs…..sadly, 911 intervened. GW just didnt have the substrate to deal.
    Our grandchildren will paying for the Grand Misadventure of the Manifest Destiny of “Judeo-christian” Democracy in MENA for a long, long time, both in dollars and in the world’s esteem.
    Big White Christian Bwana is commencing his global decline in influence. Just as America’s future is multi-colored, so is the worlds’.

    Your one saving grace is that you’ve got decent taste in anime. Otherwise I have no use for you. It’s like debating with the unholy union of Al Sharpton and a lolcat.

  94. TheUnrepentantGeek wrote:

    Reading the Constitution and understanding what the Founders meant is more complex than rocket science. Well then.

    Well then, indeed.

    Determining the precise meaning and requirements of a treaty, compact, promise, or law under changing circumstances has in the past often proved not just difficult but impossible, despite – and crucially because of – the combined efforts of millions of people.

    Politics on this level is much more complex than rocket science, because it concerns masses of human beings, each of whom is more complex than a rocket, and because it concerns language, which is infinitely extensible and malleable. Language is much more complex than mathematics – mathematics being a species of language. That’s a main reason why there are no thinking and talking computers. They can solve equations, and handle the calculations more quickly and precisely than we can, but they can’t (really) solve sentences.

    Today’s warhead weighs effectively the same as yesterday’s and last year’s. Today’s word can mean something slightly different today than yesterday, or when I use it as compared to when you use it, depending on where we use it. Across hundred of years, a globe-spanning political economy representing of 300+ million, life expectancy ca. 75, vs a tiny post-colonial enterprise of 2.5 million people, life expectancy ca. 40 – it’s not surprising if sometimes interpretation is indeed a consumingly complex enterprise, far beyond anything an engineer would dream of attempting.

  95. News Flash: Beck knows something YOU DO NOT! (I happen to know the same thing.) So, go right ahead. Speak the way you are if you will. It has nothing to do with Conservatism. It has to do with Patriotism and its flip-side. When you finally realize what he’s been talking about (and you will!) I certainly hope you don’t kick yourself for the stupidity of your statements. But if you do, then fine. Always temper your reactions when you are treading in areas unknown. Because you are!

  96. I want to make this point. I believe it’s an important one to make.

    Liberals are basically socialists/Marxists/radicals/leftists/communists. In fact, they used to call themselves those things. But then those terms became unpopular, and so they started to call themselves “liberals” instead.

    These “liberals” were not at all like the classical liberals, who were basically libertarian. But they decided to rebrand themselves as liberals. And that worked well for a while.

    Well, after a while, the American public began to notice that “liberals” kinda sucked. So it became a pejorative term. It was no longer helpful for liberals to call themselves liberal. So they rebranded themselves again, this time as “progressives.”

    What Beck is doing here – by comparing, and even equating, “progressives” with radical left-wing Marxist statists – is important (and effective) work.

    First of all, “progressive” is a new brand, at least for the current electorate. Conservatives need to tarnish it, just as Rush Limbaugh (and many others) were successful in tarnishing the “liberal” brand. Remember: IT’S THE SAME EXACT PRODUCT. Only the name has changed. But the masses do not understand that. They need to learn it. And Beck is doing the teaching.

    Second, the current crop of “progressives” IS basically a Marxist/socialist/statist group. Van Jones is a communist. Anita Dunn is a Maoist. Obama wants to “spread the wealth around.” His secretly-recorded speech to donors in San Francisco provided clear evidence that he believes in the Marxist concept of “false consciousness.” These “progressives” are far-left types who seek to “fundamentally transform” our country. As such, they are dangerous. And I’m glad that someone (Beck) is educating (and warning) people about it.

  97. A QUESTION OR TWO FOR GLENN BECK
    It would be hard to deny that Glenn Beck has become a force to be reckoned with in the arena of contemporary political commentary. Like anyone else in the field, his effectiveness can be judged, at least in part, by the reactions of his detractors and admirers alike. One would hope that he would be the first to agree that no one should be judged solely by either the condemnation of their enemies or the praise of their allies.

    At the recent CPAC meeting he was introduced with the comment that his show was like, and I paraphrase here, listening to an advanced class in American history. It is true that he presents his audience with an almost overwhelming volume of material, frequently referencing Jefferson, Madison and Washington. We mustn’t forget however that he is a man with a perspective and an agenda. As such, like any other commentator he is more than capable and willing to leave out of his story those things that don’t quite fit into his perspective and agenda or would make the reality less clear and simple as he would portray it.

    My case in point being, that while he so frequently references Jefferson, Madison and Washington, the name of Alexander Hamilton has rarely crosses his lips, and when it does so, it is most often with some derision. So my issues with Mr. Beck would be to ask him is this omission willful or accidental? Has he bought too deeply into the characterizations of Hamilton coming from his enemies? On one of his recent television shows he had behind him a large stack of books he claimed as part of his historical reference. Among them was Ron Chernow’s recent biography of Hamilton. Has he actually read it? Has he read Steven Knott’s “Alexander Hamilton & The Persistence of Myth”? How about John Gordon’s “Hamilton’s Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt”? All of these are good references that put Hamilton and his policies in contexts and perspectives beyond that of either his contemporary detractors or their modern day equivalents.

    Modern historians all too frequently forget that in the period of our history after the ratification of our Constitution and for decades thereafter, if not unto the present day, the conflict between the Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian schools of thought on both finance and foreign policy was perhaps the most formative one in the creation of what the American Republic has grown to become. Within the context of the historical record it is no more possible to divorce Hamilton from Washington than it is to divorce Jefferson from Madison. Nor any of them, one from the other.

    Neither can one divorce Hamilton from American industrial development and wealth, and the growth of the middle class it created, any more than one can one divorce Jefferson’s and Madison’s agrarianism and regionalism from the tragedy of the Civil War. Although it is true that Hamilton considered the Constitution a “flawed document,” no one worked harder for its ratification, often in concert with Madison. The “Federalist Papers” stand as ample testimony to that fact. Jefferson support for it was lukewarm at best. He did not consider it “democratic” enough and accepted it largely as a deferment to his friend Madison and a fait accompli.

    Hamilton stands apart from his contemporaries simply by his background. While Messer’s Jefferson, Madison, Washington and Adams all came from the backgrounds of the privileged and landed gentry, politically and emotionally wedded to their individual States, Hamilton was America’s preeminent nationalist and the arch type of the American self-made man. Born to unwed parents, raised in poverty and orphaned at a young age, he was driven to greatness by just these shortcomings. Having come here as a young man he bore no allegiance to any one State, not even New York where he spent most of his life. As such he was considered an outsider by most of his founding brethren. The notable exception to this being Washington himself, whom Hamilton had served as his chief aid-de-camp and private secretary during most the Revolutionary War. It is often forgotten that it was Colonel Hamilton that led the final attack at Yorktown that captured the British redoubt breaking the back of their defenses and convincing Cornwallis to surrender (whereas both Jefferson and Madison lacked any military experience). In 1789 it was Hamilton whom Washington called upon to serve as our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Washington so trusted Hamilton that much of Washington’s correspondence during the war was drafted by Hamilton’s hand and was signed by the General with little or no revision. This relationship continued even after Hamilton left the Treasury Department. The largest part of Washington’s famous farewell address being of Hamilton’s composure.

    Through his rigorous study of the classic histories of Rome and Greece, no one understood better than Hamilton and by extension Washington, the fragility of the new Republic and the threats posed to it by the financial chaos of out of control inflation and a mountain of debt. Sound familiar? The term “Not worth a Continental” was a part of the American lexicon well into the nineteenth century, and for good reason. After the Revolution, American debt paper was held in such low regard that it traded at 10% to 20% of face value on European markets. If the situation was not corrected, and quickly, the new nation would not be able to conduct any further borrowing; monies desperately needed for both infrastructure and programs mandated by the new Constitution. Such failure would have left the nation in the position of the “weak sister” and subject to the predations of Spain which coveted those territories south of the Ohio, east of the Mississippi, and west of the Appalachians, and England which had yet to withdraw its troops from the Northwest Territories as had been required by the Treaty of Paris.

    Hamilton’s primary purpose in his programs for the assumption of the State’s war debts and the creation of the Bank of the United States was to bind the States together financially, to give them a set of common interests and the strength of unity that would be needed in a world hostile to the very concept of its existence. He succeeded beyond even his own imaginations. By the end of Washington’s second term, American debt paper was trading at a premium above face value and was considered far more stable and reliable than that issued by most of Europe, most of which were personal debts of the crowned heads of Europe rather than sovereign debts of the nations themselves.

    It seems then a bizarre irony that Jefferson, Madison and Adams were most fond of heaping calumny upon Hamilton, even after his untimely death, that of being elitist and aristocratic, despite that being precisely the backgrounds from which they came. It could be said that they were the authors of the method of resorting to the personal attack when unable to refute the logic or efficacy of your opponent’s position that seems so prevalent today.

    Further irony came in that Jefferson, Madison and Monroe all came to conduct their administrations far more in line with Hamiltonian nationalism than either Jefferson’s agrarian isolationism or Jacobin egalitarianism. Without Hamilton’s Bank of the United States Jefferson would not have had access to the funds he needed to purchase Louisiana. An act, about which he and others in his own party had doubts, especially concerning how in conflicted with their “strict constructionist” interpretation of the Constitution. Madison’s allowing of the charter for the Bank to expire, for political rather than financial reasons, had disastrous consequences for the raising of the funds needed to conduct military operations during the War of 1812. The “Monroe Doctrine” became a cornerstone of American foreign policy for over one hundred years. It could be argued that they all found that lofty rhetorical platitudes were of little use when faced with the realities of having to govern in a hostile world. Again, sound familiar?

    So blinded was Jefferson by his mistrust and hatred of Hamilton and his personal conviction that Hamilton had used the office the Secretary of the Treasury for personal gain that one of his first acts on assuming the Presidency was to direct his own Treasury Secretary, Albert Gallatin (himself an immigrant and the son of Swiss nobility) to audit the Treasury’s books in search of Hamilton’s fraud. He found none, and reported back to Jefferson that the accounting systems were so scrupulously structured as to almost preclude fraud being possible. Rather than admit to anyone or even himself that he might have been wrong he became further convinced that Hamilton was even more conniving and clever in instituting his fraud than even he had imagined!

    Such was Jefferson’s gratitude to Hamilton for his having persuaded Federalists in the House of Representatives to switch their votes from Burr to Jefferson and break the deadlock of the election of 1800, the one single event, more than any other, that set the course to his death at Burr’s hand.

    Lest one fall too deeply for the notion that Jefferson was the great champion of or admirer of the masses I would refer you to Jefferson’s own “Writings, Notes on the State of Virginia” wherein he proposed an educational system that would single out the best students for advancement while the “residue” were “dismissed,” “by this means twenty of the best geniusses [sic] will be racked from the rubbish annually.” {New York: Library of America, 1984, page 272.} Sounds all too much like many comments coming from the left today, Daily Kos, Democratic Underground, Keith Olbermann. Bill Mahr etc., that those who oppose progressive’s agenda are to ignorant or stupid to know what is in their own best interest.

    By way of contrast I would give you President Washington’s letter to Hamilton upon his decision to resign as Secretary of the Treasury: “After so long an experience of your public services, I am naturally led, at this moment of your departure from office –which it has always been my wish to prevent- to review them.
    “In every relation which you have borne to me, I have found that my confidence in your talents, exertions, and integrity, has been well placed. I the more freely tender this testimony of my approbation, because I speak from opportunities of information which cannot deceive me, and which serve satisfactory proof to your title to public regard.” {“The Founders on the Founders” University of Virginia Press, 2008 page 198.}

    Neither was Hamilton shy in his opinions of Jefferson and Madison. Writing to Edward Carrington in 1792, with whom he had served at the Battle of Yorktown and in the Continental Congress: “Mr. Madison cooperating with Mr. Jefferson…have a womanish attachment to France and a womanish resentment of Great Britain.” {Ibid. page 382.}

    In the end perhaps Jefferson, Madison and Monroe’s greatest fear of Hamilton was that he was certainly no “democrat.” In hind sight perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

    None of this is stated in order to detract from Jefferson’s or Madison’s great accomplishments that have served our nation well over some 235 years nor to obscure Hamilton’s personal shortcomings and failures, he had more than his share, but rather to try to put them all into a combined context, each into their interconnected place. They were all the greatest of men in the most trying of times, and as all men they were possessed of strengths and weaknesses.

    It has been the historical persistence of their great conflict over time, the ebb and flow, the ascendency of one and the decline of the other that has shaped our nation’s history as much or more than any other. They are as inseparable today as they were in the 18th century.

    The advent of progressivism and socialism today is but a continuation, albeit in a highly perverted form, of Jefferson’s Jacobin inspired egalitarianism. Where Jefferson envisioned a nation of agrarian masses shackled to ignorance and the plow, today’s progressives strive for a nation where the masses are equally shackled to ignorance and the welfare state. It was Hamilton who envisioned a diverse economy of farms and industry that would forever break our dependence on Europe and foster the kind of human inventiveness that could and did drive us further forward. I’d think that that is the kind of progress we can all endorse.

    So Mr. Beck if I may “Question with boldness,” Why have you left this most important man and his accomplishments out of your narrative? To leave Hamilton out of our history, how our nation came to be, and what it has become, is not simply a disservice to Hamilton, but a disservice to the American people who must have all the facts in order to make the decisions that will shape the future. Would you not think, before “Not worth a Federal Reserve Note” becomes a part of the new American lexicon, is not perhaps an open and honest re-examination of Hamilton and how his lessons might apply to today in order?

    While marble and granite memorials to Jefferson and Washington stand prominently in our Capital, Hamilton’s is but a single statue in front of the Treasury Department. Or is it? Look around you. We live in a nation that is much more a reflection of Hamilton’s vision than that of Jefferson. How long it stays that way is up to us. But making decisions without all the facts may well be akin to building foundations on shifting sands. I’d beg you sir, and all of us to carefully reconsider.

  98. Thanks, Davis – I’d actually been thinking of bringing up Hamilton in a related context – in particular the tendency to portray the Founders as all of one mind about what they were doing, what they had done, and what it all meant in practice – but your knowledge of his life and acts far exceeds mine. I’ll but Chernow and perhaps the other authors you mention on my ever-growing reading list.

  99. @ CK MacLeod: If I were to recommend one of the three to anyone with limited time for exploritory reading, it would be Knott’s “Alexander Hamilton & The Persistance of Myth.” Although lacking the fine detail of Chernow’s work it is a pretty good disertation on how Hamilton’s impacted our early history and how his influence has waxed and waned over the ensuing 200 years. Chernow’s work at over 800 pages would be for those wanting to make an extensive study of the man and his times.

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