Views on the News

Views on the News*

  April 30, 2016


As distasteful as the 2016 political campaigns have been, some on the right and left have finally caught on to one important thing: Big Thinkers have treated most of their constituents with contempt.  This is true mostly of the left, but the right is not absolved completely of this failing.  There is a smug style in American liberalism.  It has been growing these past decades. It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence but by the failure of half the country to know what's good for them.  In 2016, the smug style has found expression in media and in policy, in the attitudes of liberals both visible and private, providing a foundational set of assumptions above which a great number of liberals comport their understanding of the world.  Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt.  That they have reached the disbelievers but failed to persuade them of the rightness of those policies is unthinkable to smugsters.  The Democrat coalition in the 21st century is bifurcated: It has the postgraduates, but it has the disenfranchised urban poor as well, a group better defined by race and immigration status than by class.  There are more Americans without high school diplomas than in possession of doctoral degrees.  It would be a mistake to categorize today’s p.c. culture as an academic phenomenon.  Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate.  Two decades ago, the only place where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size.  The "makers and takers" dichotomy alluded to by Romney in 2012 is not a particularly empathetic way of thinking about the large numbers of people for whom the American system of schools and jobs has not working.  The failing has largely been on the left.  To my mind, the biggest factor is their own insecurity about the wisdom of their deeply held beliefs.  Like the climate measures which are inconsistent with the models used to promote the expenditure of billions of dollars to combat “climate change”, the economic and social policies they espouse might not match the anticipated results. With so much of what they believed going topsy-turvy, they fail out of conceit to examine what part their own ideas played in the disasters and to look at other possibilities to deal with social and economic problems.  

(“Smug’s the Word” by Clarice Feldman dated April 24, 2016 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/04/smugs_the_word.html )

The latest George Washington University Battleground Poll continues to show a persistent conservative majority.  The poll shows that 55% of Americans identify themselves as either "Very Conservative" or "Somewhat Conservative," while 40% of Americans call themselves "Very Liberal" or "Somewhat Liberal."  Excluding those who don't know or won't respond, conservatives constitute 58% of Americans.  The size of the conservative majority has wiggled a bit over the last sixteen years, but the fact of a strong conservative majority, a majority enough to provide a landslide in any national election, has not changed at all.  This finding dovetails with Gallup polling data, which in every single state-by-state breakdown has shown that the overwhelming majority of states have more conservatives than liberals.  SurveyUSA in its February 2016 50-state poll reported that 40% of Americans consider themselves either "Very Conservative" or "Conservative," while only 21% of Americans consider themselves "Very Liberal" or "Liberal."  The George Washington University Battleground Poll, which was in association with a Democrat-leaning polling organization, Lake Research Partners, and the other, a Republican-leaning polling organization, The Tarrance Group, has a remarkably high degree of objectivity, accuracy, and transparency.  State polls, which are typically conducted by state media outlets, show the same surprising results.  There was no reason to doubt the data, and the fact that the same numbers show up year after year means there is no reason to believe that the result are a single polling aberration.  Today, every polling organization asks and publishes ideological self-identification as a major point.  Each of the hundreds of published state or national polls since 2008 confirms, rather than disproves, the consistency of these findings.  America has been and remains a profoundly conservative nation which is why Reagan, the "ultra-conservative," won two huge landslides, and should be food for thought going into the 2016 Presidential election.

(“That Persistent Conservative Majority” by Bruce Walker dated April 28, 2016 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/04/that_persistent_conservative_majority.html )

The Presidential campaign so far seems filled with nationalistic appeals, which is dangerous for America.  In some places around the world, the difference between nationalism and patriotism may be blurred, but in our country, nationalism is the very antithesis of patriotism.  Nationalism is inherently centralizing, and it is the first step toward totalitarianism.  The most significant change in German government after the Nazis took power was the destruction of the power of the states of Germany.  Bad nations invariably begin with the consolidation of all practical power in nationalism rather than limited central power.  The greatest single achievement of America was that the sovereign states were persuaded to allow in the Constitution very limited powers to a national government, while states retained the vast preponderance of government power.  The Tenth Amendment put an exclamation point on that fact and the Eleventh Amendment was intended to make clear that federal courts had no power to decide cases involving states.  The greatest single calamity in America today is that these states have become little more than appendages of federal power in many areas.  National power have been grabbed from citizens and from states.  This power is always grabbed for "emergencies," and the problems the national government pretends to solve are never solved.  The consequences of that for our nation are profound, and more than anything else, this is the source of our problems in America.  The contrast with national solutions to problems rather than federal (i.e., state government) solutions to problems is the difference between monopoly and markets.  When states exercise power over education or labor relations or abortion or civil liberties, then the wise exercise of that power will attract to well-governed states people, commerce, brains, and talent.  This marketplace of governments works in practice and it also allows the sort of diversity which leftists pretend to pine for so deeply.  The greater the nationalization of government, the fewer areas in which states can be truly independent, and the less those independent policies matter.  As long as federalism kept the national government relatively insignificant, the dramatic isolation of our center of national government power from the rest of America did not matter.  Today, a map of "red" and "blue" states shows quite clearly how proximity to national government is directly connected to lust for national government hegemony.  When schemes to solve the myriad problems we face through national means, rather that state-by-state ones, are proposed, Flyover Country knows what that means: their interests, their values, and their rights will be subordinated to people who live thousands of miles away by those who scarcely know (or care) about what life is like in these "colonies."   First, federal politicians since FDR have bought votes by promising goodies paid for through an unlimited national credit card (something states cannot do) and Federal Reserve fiat money.  Promising national solutions to problems always sounds better than saying states should try many different solutions to perceived national problems.  Second, those who tell America about national government live in the surreal fantasy world of Washington and New York.   These folks quite naturally think in terms of nationalism and not federalism.  This includes not just the pundits who are invested in nationalism, but also the politicians who live in Washington and not where their voters live.  Convincing voters that federalism and not nationalism is the answer to our problems is hard, but it must be done.

(“Nationalism versus Federalism” by Bruce Walker dated April 22, 2016 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/04/nationalism_versus_federalism.html )

The economic, political and security strategy that the United States has pursued for more than seven decades, under Democrat and Republican administrations alike, is today widely questioned by large segments of the American public and is under attack by leading political candidates in both parties.  Many Americans no longer seem to value the liberal international order that the United States created after World War II and sustained throughout the Cold War and beyond, or perhaps they take it for granted and have lost sight of the essential role the U.S. plays in supporting the international environment from which they benefit greatly.  The unprecedented prosperity made possible by free and open markets and thriving international trade; the spread of democracy; and the avoidance of major conflict among great powers: All these remarkable accomplishments have depended on sustained U.S. engagement around the world.  Politicians in both parties dangle before the public the vision of an America freed from the burdens of leadership.  What these politicians don’t say, perhaps because they don’t understand it themselves, is that the price of ending our engagement would far outweigh its costs. The international order created by the United States today faces challenges greater than at any time since the height of the Cold War.  Rising authoritarian powers in Asia and Europe threaten to undermine the security structures that have kept the peace since World War II.  Russia invaded Ukraine and has seized some of its territory.  In East Asia, an increasingly aggressive China seeks to control the sea lanes through which a large share of global commerce flows.  In the Middle East, Iran pursues hegemony by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas and the bloody tyranny in Syria.  The Islamic State controls more territory than any terrorist group in history, brutally imposing its extreme vision of Islam and striking at targets throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.  None of these threats will simply go away.  Nor will the U.S. be spared if the international order collapses, as it did twice in the 20th century.  In the 21st century, oceans provide no security, nor do walls along borders, nor would cutting off the United States from the international economy by trashing trade agreements and erecting barriers to commerce.  Instead of following the irresponsible counsel of demagogues, we need to restore a bipartisan foreign policy consensus around renewing U.S. global leadership.  Despite predictions of a “post-American world,” U.S. capacities remain considerable.  The U.S. economy remains the most dynamic in the world.  The widely touted “rise of the rest,” the idea that the U.S. was being overtaken by the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, has proved to be a myth.  The dollar remains the world’s reserve currency, and people across the globe seek U.S. investment and entrepreneurial skills to help their flagging economies.  U.S. institutions of higher learning remain the world’s best and attract students from every corner of the globe.  The political values that the United States stands for remain potent forces for change.  Even at a time of resurgent autocracy, popular demands for greater freedom can be heard in Russia, China, Iran and elsewhere, and those peoples look to the United States for support, both moral and material.  Our strategic position remains strong.  The task ahead is to play on these strengths and provide the kind of leadership that many around the world seek and that the American public can support.  One prime task today is to strengthen the international economy, from which the American people derive so many benefits.  This means passing trade agreements that strengthen ties between the U.S. and the vast economies of East Asia and Europe.  The revolution in energy, which has made the U.S. one of the world’s leading suppliers, offers another powerful advantage.  With the right mix of policies, the U.S. could help allies in Europe and Asia diversify their sources of supply and thus reduce their vulnerability to Russian manipulation.  Nations such as Russia and Iran that rely heavily on hydrocarbon exports would be weakened, as would the OPEC oil cartel.  The overall result would be a relative increase in our power and ability to sustain the order.  The world has come to recognize that education, creativity and innovation are key to prosperity, and most see the United States as a leader in these areas.  Other nations want access to the American market, American finance and American innovation.   Students studying at our world-class universities, entrepreneurs innovating in our high-tech incubators and immigrants searching for new opportunities for their families strengthen the U.S. and show the world the opportunities offered by democracy.  All these efforts are interrelated, and a key task for responsible political leaders will be to show how the pieces fit together: how trade enhances security, how military power undergirds prosperity and how providing access to American education strengthens the forces dedicated to a more open and freer world.  Many millions around the world have benefited from an international order that has raised standards of living, opened political systems and preserved the general peace. No nation and no people have benefited more than Americans, and no nation has a greater role to play in preserving this system for future generations.

(“The U.S. can’t afford to end its global leadership role” by Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan dated April 22, 2016 published by The Washington Post at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-us-cant-afford-to-end-its-global-leadership-role/2016/04/22/da297be0-062a-11e6-b283-e79d81c63c1b_story.html )

The collapse of the West is accelerating. The secular, leftist, multiculturalist elites have subverted Europe so successfully that the clash of civilizations is ending not with a bang, but with a whimper.  The continent’s leaders have imported a violent, virulently anti-Western horde in the form of mass male Muslim migration; a rape culture and terrorist mayhem are becoming the new normal; and the best self-defense the Europeans can muster is ragtag bands of vigilantes.  Here in America the cultural decay is less dramatic but gathering speed as the radical left’s half-century war on American exceptionalism takes its toll.  As the West commits slow-motion suicide, and fundamentalist Islam advances, the questions arise:

·    What can we do to recover our cultural self-confidence?

·    How can we restore the vigor and greatness of Western civilization?

·    How do we revive the unique values of our culture and push back against the barbarians at (and within) the gate?

Diane Weber Bederman offers her ideas in her new book: Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values.  Our belief systems are under attack.”  These belief systems derive from our “foundational story,” the Bible.  The Hebrew Bible, filled with these teachings, the Gospels, and the New Testament make up the backbone of the Judeo-Christian ethic as practiced today in the Western world.  Ethical monotheism, the 3500-year-old value system that began with Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert, spread outward from that humble beginning to transform the earth.  The world’s greatest transformation has been the knowledge that we humans are individually accountable for our actions.  Because it also teaches that we are also our brother’s keeper, the Bible has paradoxically led to a compassionate culture that rose above the narrow tribal loyalties of the past.  It is based on the recognition “that we are imperfect creatures, and it provides the path to forgiveness, redemption, and hopefulness, through ritual, symbol, tradition, and prayer.”  The belief in a single god is a rejection of moral and cultural relativism.  Winston Churchill once wrote that the Bible has given us a “system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together.”  We are losing our connection to those ethical rules, and unfortunately, now “the ideologies of secularism, agnosticism, atheism, and political correctness have been elevated to the status of Champions of Objective Truth that will somehow protect us from intolerance, war, and all the other human evils that these interest groups wrongly blame on every religion.”  In addition to losing our connection to the Biblical roots of our ethics, we are “losing our sense of the sacred” as well, “the sacredness of family, friends, and community.”  As with regaining our moral footing, restoring that sense of the sacred lies in reconnecting intellectually and spiritually with the Bible.  Bederman writes: “Maintaining Western culture requires that we continue to teach the ethics and values of the Bible. We must teach this ethic as a firewall, a bulwark against cultures and religions that are stuck in the past, that fear change and free will, or that promote extreme submission.”  The future of Western civilization lies in its monotheistic origins, and that we can flourish again both personally and culturally by recommitting to the wisdom and values of the Bible.  We need a shared morality that protects and promotes freedom, free will, individuality, and care for the community.

(“Back to the Ethic” by Mark Tapson dated April 25, 2016 published by Front Page Magazine at http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/262599/back-ethic-mark-tapson )


There is so much published each week that unless you search for it, you will miss important breaking news.  I try to package the best of this information into my “Views on the News” each Saturday morning.  Updates have been made this week to the following sections:

·    Welfare at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/welfare.php

·    National Defense at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/fp/defense.php


David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY