"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Importance Of Principle–Why Conservative Populism Is Here To Stay And Why The Progressive Agenda Will Not Stand

The first 100 days of the Trump Administration have not gone as smoothly as his supporters had hoped.  However, the ups and downs should have been expected given the new President’s inexperience and impatience with Washington politics, unfamiliarity with the intrigues of the State Department and the diplomatic establishment, and the unpredictable behavior of both friends and adversaries.

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Perhaps most importantly, Donald Trump was an outsider like no other.  Not only did he have no political experience, but came from the most competitive private worlds of real estate and Hollywood.  He made his way and earned his billions through braggadocio, chutzpah, and balls. Compromise was for losers, B-film actors, hungry writers, and timid investors. 

Winning was everything, and Trump had learned every trick, every feint, and every tactical and strategic move in the book.  He was  savvy, canny, and intimidating and had little patience for losers, incompetents, and shilly-shalliers.  He came to Washington unbowed by the Office of President, Congress, or the Supreme Court.

He was used to business autocracy and the unquestioned power of the CEO and the influence of money – a world where performance is measured by the number, size, and value of buildings; advertising revenues, investor interest, and Nielsen ratings.

It was for this experience and this character that Donald Trump was elected.  It was no surprise that his supporters cared little for policy papers, research, or the facts that proved the rightness of his positions.  They paid no attention to what he said but what he meant, and his meaning was clear. 

Americans had had enough of Washington insiders and media shills; academic arrogance, and ‘progressive’ entitlement.  They were tired of Black Lives Matter; the intrusion of the State into matters of morality, religion, and education; the derogation of the military and the police; the presumptuousness of LGBT activists and their liberal claques; and a pusillanimous foreign policy. 

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Donald Trump would address these issues and lead a populist revolution to return the country to its fundamental, historical, and traditional principles.

Principle was thought by the liberal Left to be impossible for the Right to grasp. In Hillary Clinton’s words, Trump supporters were ‘ignorant’ and ‘deplorable’, incapable of holding a reasonable thought.  Religious fundamentalists were an irrational, dangerous group which threatened basic civil rights and which used the Bible to cover their homophobia, racism, and sexism.

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Yet principle is what underlies the Trump populist movement; and every one of Trump’s campaign issues has a principled foundation.

Abortion is not the secular civil rights issue defined by the Left.  It is a profoundly moral, religious, and philosophical one.  Since there can be no scientific proof of the ‘moment of life’, then the belief that it begins at conception cannot be dismissed; nor can the claims of infanticide by Pro-Life advocates.

Perhaps most importantly, the philosophical argument of ‘potentiality’ is compelling.  Even if one does not accept that life begins at conception, the embryo and the fetus are potential beings.  To deny that potentiality is to deny life. 

Pope Paul II and Pope Francis have both referred to the universality of the sanctity of life.  Once one dismisses the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion, such indifference extends to respect for others and the environment in which we live.

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The Bible is rich with allusions to the sanctity of all life.  At the very heart of Christianity is the maternity of Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament genealogy of Kings is a celebration of paternity, the importance of children to fulfill prophecy and to ensure the legacy of the Jews.  The verses of the Book of Psalms are perhaps the most poetic about the the origins of life:
Psalm 139:13-16
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 127:3-4
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.
The Book of Jeremiah is the most specific:
"Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
The point is that there is ample justification for a Pro-Life position, and that the convictions of those who support it cannot be dismissed in favor of more secular concerns.

The same is true for LGBT issues.  While most conservatives accept the premise that many gay men and women were born that way and therefore accept the principle of equal rights, they reject what they see as the aggressive promotion of a gay lifestyle. It is less important for conservatives that there are Biblical injunctions against homosexuality and more important that a procreative marriage has both divine and secular implications.

The importance of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ continual and persistent references to his Father, and the centrality of the family to Christianity itself is parallel to the cultural testaments of both Western and Eastern literature.  Men and women are profoundly different, authors from Sophocles and Shakespeare to O’Neill and Albee understand, and it is the dynamics of sexuality, maternity, paternity, and family which are the engines of society.

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Marriage, as Albee displays in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, can be a brutal, disassembling affair; but it is the crucible of maturity.  Only within its confines can we grow up to function in an adult world.  The play is particularly significant because of  George and Martha’s imaginary son.  He is an important character in the play, symbolizing the dysfunction but absolute importance of the relationship between husband and wife.

In his American Dream, the importance of marriage, family, and children (albeit twisted, melodramatic, and vicious) is clear.

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Two other pillars of the progressive ideology are race and ethnicity.  America, progressives say, is now more than ever a pluralistic, multicultural society and the inclusion of all variations of it should be a priority.

While conservatives do not deny that America is even more culturally diverse than the early days of immigration, they object to the the Left’s particular notion of inclusiveness.  Rather than focus on assimilation and integration, they insist on cultural identity, separatism, and uniqueness.  As a result, racial and ethnic groups feel entitled to their own particular, distinct, and equally valid demands and rights without feeling the responsibility to compromise, conform, and belong to the majority.

Once again, their opposition to progressives’ insistence on ‘race-gender-ethnicity’ has nothing to do with the legitimacy of these groups  but the principle of assimilation, the foundation of American society since its inception.

Similarly, despite all the hysteria about immigration, conservative concern is not about the immigrants themselves, but about the integrity of the nation.  A nation without borders ceases to be a nation, they insist; and they are concerned about the principle of national integrity.

Opposition to the progressive climate change agenda is less about the issues per se than the arrogant presumptuous of environmentalists who in their absolutist 'settled science' argument refuse debate and discussion of cost-benefit.

What is that? progressives ask. Doesn’t reality trump principle? Yet this circular logic – America is a multicultural society because it is one already – does not convince conservative doubters.  America is a country of Judeo-Christian values, a Protestant work ethic, English-speaking, and united in universal beliefs about family, the role of religion, patriotism, and social cohesion.

Multicultural hysteria has also had a negative impact on education.  ‘Inclusivity’, self-esteem, and ‘multiple intelligences’ have edged out factual learning, academic performance and preparation for the real world of the marketplace.  University standards have eroded as free speech has been clotured, free expression of ideas limited, and campus activism run rampant.

Waves of undocumented immigrants will drive down wages, raise public expenditures and most importantly weaken the fabric of social cohesion which has always been our E Pluribus Unum strength.  Already this cohesion has been weakened by race-gender-ethnicity separatism; and it will come apart with border indiscipline.

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Again, it is principle which unites conservative populists who are not concerned about ‘The Wall’ per se nor any of the Trump Administration’s other program initiatives; but about the idea of national integrity, cohesion, and unity.

The collapse of unity has an international dimension as well.  A nation which is based on cultural, ethnic, and racial separatism and identity cannot possibly come together quickly in times of real crisis as it has in pre-Vietnam War past.  The demands of populist conservatives for a muscular foreign policy represents the first step of consolidation of American political commitment, a preemptive strike against disunity.

One wishes the best for Donald Trump and his Administration.  He may or may not succeed as President, and his missteps, however understandable, may set back the populist agenda.  The sentiments behind the agenda, however, will remain strong and defiant.  Once the genie has been let out of the bottle, there is no putting him back in.  Radical progressivism has had its day largely because its principles are far outside the mainstream; and because progressives’ sense of righteousness and entitlement not only rankles but angers much if not most of America within the coasts.


There is no going back.

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