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

Friday, February 12, 2021

Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover–How Josephus Rosen Left Progressivism On The Curb And Never Looked Back

From his penthouse office of the American Traditionalist Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, DC, Josephus Rosen, former progressive, liberal activist, and socialist reformer, had to think of the old Bob Dylan song, Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover:

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don't need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

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The road to the top – editor of the country’s most scholarly journal on political conservatism, heir to William F Buckley and Ronald Reagan, and eloquent spokesman for a Constitutional agenda in government and society – had not been easy, and certainly not as easy as hopping on the bus, for he had been branded a turncoat, an apostate, and heretic, and had to put up with hatred and villainy from his progressive family and suspicion and mistrust by the conservative company he hoped to join. For many years he was considered neither fish nor fowl, and only after decades of proving his originalist worth, was he accepted into conservative society and ultimately appointed to the most influential position in the conservative movement.

Born into a prominent liberal Jewish family, his grandfather had been a colleague of Samuel Gompers and his father a militant supporter of John L Lewis.   His mother, Leah Epstein, had formed the New York Women’s Socialist Alliance, fought the increasing power and influence of big corporations after the war, and defied McCarthy and McCarthyism, risking the lives and reputation of her family.  The Rosen-Epsteins were scions of the Upper West Side, middle class first generation Jewish heroes, doctrinally pure, politically certain, and morally irreproachable.

Image result for Images Samuel Gompers. Size: 147 x 204. Source: en.wikiquote.org

Young Josephus – named after the Roman Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus who first fought against Roman rule, was kept as a slave by the Emperor, then set free and encouraged to chronicle the Jewish wars – had no choice but to become a liberal.  Anti-capitalist, socialism was discussed over barley soup, brisket, and kreplach;  in Hebrew school home refresher study, and homework. What the young boy was learning at P.S. 24 was nothing but revisionist history, said Josephus’ father, who would have taken him out, sent him to yeshiva, or home-schooled him if money and time had permitted. “These Americans”, said Abe Rosen always making a distinction between us (Jewish, progressive) and them (all other Americans, bourgeois bureaucrats, and elitist figureheads), “are corrosive historical renegades.  They denied the Holocaust, refused Jewish refugee asylum, and are the world’s worst anti-Semites. 

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“Only the Soviet Union has challenged capitalist hegemony, and thanks to the brilliance of three Jews – Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Lev Davidovich Bronstein, Trotsky, revolutionized society to favor the working man and the common people.  Socialism has taken root in Europe, Asia, and Africa; and only the retrograde Americans have resisted.”

This Josephus heard over shirred eggs and lox, over pastrami sandwiches, on walks in Riverside Park, after temple with the old Jews who hung out at the delicatessen at 1800 Broadway and shared anecdotes about the Revolution, the Black Lists of the 50s, and surviving the Nazis; and in the elevator, in the basement, and on the roof of his building.

Information overload was what that level of inculcation would be called today, and Joe, as he was now called, wasn’t surprised that it produced just the opposite effect to what had been intended.  He came of age in the Sixties, and even though Jews for the most part wanted nothing to do with flower power, communes, and free love; and preferred, like their parents and grandparents, to study the Talmud, excel at Stuyvesant, and to go to medical and law school, Josephus rebelled.  He fell in with the wrong crowd, an intellectual anarchist Village crew who followed Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Camus. 

 Socialism was no more than a bourgeois invention, a fantasy of collectivization, communalism, and self-abnegation.  Only the Übermenschen , the willful, independent, individuals who dared to challenge propriety, taste, and settlement were valid.  In fact Nietzsche had said that the only validation of the individual in a meaningless world was the expression of pure will; and these roués of Bleecker Street were his acolytes.  They wanted nothing to do with either counterculture fantasy or progressive idealism.

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Josephus was smart enough to get into Harvard, and the admissions committee, liberal to the core and drawn from the same faculty which had gone on record as pro-Soviet, European socialist, and anti-capitalist, had heard of the Rosen-Epsteins, and were delighted to admit their son.  Harvard would hone his progressive instincts and give him the historical foundation which would help him in his evangelizing role.

As much as Harvard in the Sixties was indeed liberal up and down from board room, to faculty lounge, to student commons, it had its knots of political rebels.  The small but influential conservative union, had been more influenced by Buckley than Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and had their own firebrands.  At the same time that Mark Rudd was occupying Columbia, Peter Marshall anticipated Ronald Reagan with calls for small government, low taxes, individual enterprise, and a strong international posture.  He and his small conservative clique had few joiners, but those who did were as passionately convinced of the rightness of their cause as radical liberals.

As usually happens in cases like these, a girl is involved, and Brittany Evans, a blonde, blue-eyed beauty from Iowa whose academic and personal credentials were so impeccable that Radcliffe, home of black-outfitted, serious, intellectual feminists, had to admit her.  Perfect college boards, talented musician, poet, winner of State science competitions (molecular biology), and four-time Iowa chess champion.  Her sex appeal alone would have been enough – the few men on the Radcliffe  Admissions Committee had been staggered by her her allure – and admitted she was. 

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Because of her brilliance, her absolute intellectual discipline and logical rigor, she was a natural conservative.  Conservative belief had always been, at least in principle, objective.  Human nature, conservatives have long argued, is aggressive, territorial, defensive, and self-protective.  Even a cursory look at history has shown ample evidence of this nature in its continual wars, expansionist empires, and defiant self-interest.  Competition was the only way to moderate these tendencies.  Conversation, negotiation, compassionate consideration has never worked.  Peace results from geopolitical standoff.  Social and economic inequality are givens in human society and only by expanding opportunity for individual expression can gaps be closed.

Their love affair was a Lawrentian dream – the perfect sexual harmony of a brilliant, complementary intellectual pair.  In the privacy of their own bedroom they howled at the outrageous sanctimony of their peers; at their treacle, self-absorption, presumptuousness, and silly Utopianism.  How could such supposedly smart people, the Harvard-Radcliffe crème de la crème, be so misguided? 

Whatever vestiges of Josephus’ liberal past were cleansed and washed away.  He never looked back.  Both he and Brittany Evans had a lot of ground to cover, and best do it alone.  True to form they were never romantic about their sexual and emotional good fortune.  It was simply a product of their genes, their character, their complexity. 

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He graduated from Harvard summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, went on to Harvard Law school and then – unlike his Law Review colleagues who chose public service, clerkships, and work for influential jurists – he joined the legal department of one of America’s biggest, richest, and powerful corporations.  He became a master at legal defense, defending the corporation against predatory competitors, the lawsuits of ambitious minority employees, and all comers.  He, true Nietzschean, had no moral stake in the game.  As an accomplished, professional lawyer, his job was to defend his client, regardless of the claims of the litigator.

He was wooed by many similarly impressive corporations, and took more and more responsible and remunerative jobs with them.  Only after he had amassed millions in personal wealth, and had reached the pinnacle of corporate law did he consider another career, and took the job as Editor of the American Traditionalist Foundation Journal.

He presided over the Journal at a time when radical progressivism was at its height; and although he was never a Trump supporter (he was far too intellectual, reasoned, and principled to fully endorse him), he was delighted at Trump’s outrageous, outsized persona, and his merciless calling out of progressive cant and sanctimony.  The liberal Left was finally defrocked, undressed, pilloried, and hung out to dry.  Anyone who still subscribed to their canon needed a refresher course in the logic of Boole, Cantor, Frege, and Bolzano.

His own logic was unimpeachable, and he was in demand as a lecturer on both Coasts.  There was no progressive – no likes of Noam Chomsky, Brandeis, or Alinsky – who could best him in debate.  Consistently and predictably even the brightest foundered when pressed and turned to moral arguments of ‘rightness’.  Josephus was at the top of his form until he finally retired to a warm place.

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