Carter’s Turn

You may recall that a couple of years ago President Barack Obama reached out to claim a piece of the Reagan legacy.  TIME even declared that 44 had a “bromance” with the Gipper.  How sweet.

Just a couple of weeks ago, President Obama was buoyed by Bill Clinton’s fiery, crowd-winning speech at the DNC.  But now with several U.S. embassies besieged or breached in recent days, it’s the memory of Jimmy Carter’s presidency that’s sticking to our present commander-in-chief.

President Obama’s recent Egypt-is-neither-ally-nor-enemy gaffe is especially remarkable given that Egypt’s allegiance to the U.S. has been a cornerstone of Middle East peace since the Carter administration.

Yes, Carter’s tenure was pretty awful.  But we should not forget that he deregulated some American industries in his time.  If you’ve enjoyed an affordable airline flight or a tasty microbrewery beer lately, you can be thankful for the few pro-market decisions he made.

In Obama’s three and a half years, we’ve seen a stiff reluctance to help American enterprise.  And in the foreign policy realm, he really hasn’t made the world like America any better.  His Nobel Peace Prize is still waiting for its justification.

Instead of leaving our economy or our national security to chance, let’s opt for a surer hand in November.  Let’s elect Mitt Romney.

The Gipper on Obama’s Cold War mind warp

How about that Democratic National Convention?  While the Left heaped praise on Bill Clinton’s speech, media generally opined that President Obama’s was muted and relatively unimpressive.  No promise of a sweeping agenda, but a plea to hang on because things are moving in the right direction.  Never mind that, per the historical record, the recovery should be moving much more briskly.

One of the most memorable moments of the President’s speech came when he attacked Mitt Romney for being “stuck in a Cold War mind warp.”  As he tells it, Governor Romney wants to return to a time of “blustering and blundering.”  This is a rather unfortunate way for President Obama to describe the most significant–and a greatly triumphant–chapter in American history.

Think of the man who had the biggest role in leading America to victory in that nearly five decade showdown between freedom and tyranny: Ronald Reagan.  His greatest speech (transcript and YouTube) was called “A Time for Choosing.”  In it, he reminded Americans of their country’s exceptional worth and the tremendous stakes of a prolonged conflict with the Soviet Union.  In retrospect, Americans today can rightly claim a fulfillment of what Reagan called “our rendezvous with destiny.”

But for the media and Democrats, “blustering and blundering” suffice for a label.  The tendency on the Left has always been to trivialize national security concerns.  At the heart of the liberal worldview, communists, jihadis, and so on are ultimately well-meaning, misunderstood types.  But Reagan had it right.  There have been and will continue to be dire times when serious foes will work to end our way of life.  Appropriately, these moments are “a time for choosing.”

This past Spring, Mr. Obama made a choice of sorts when he announced his flexibility for Mr. Putin after the election.  Granted, Russia is not the committed ideological foe it once was, but it has hardly been a global Boy Scout either.

There is another way in which Obama erred by his “mind warp” comment.  The Cold War was not just an arms race, but the ultimate game of statist one-upmanship.  Recall Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.”  The world’s superpowers were out to win prestige in every arena, including who could build the biggest, shiniest welfare state.  In large part, the heavy expenditures and extensive central planning required for this contest buried the Soviet bloc.  Even social democracies like the once mighty Great Britain had to change their tack.

In America, the 1970s shocks of the OPEC crisis and stagflation disabused many of the welfare state utopia.  President Reagan proclaimed the following decade: “In this crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”  And in the 1990s President Clinton conceded, “the era of big government is over.”  And in the time since, conservative governments from Scandinavia to Canada have improved their economic fortunes by shifting policy to the right.

Of course there are those who still haven’t gotten the memo.  It would seem that President Obama, who has yet to demonstrate meaningful concern for the debt, is one such person.  When it comes to engorging the superstructure of the welfare state, Mr. Obama has shown himself to be the one stuck in a Cold War mindset.

Fearing the rhesus revolution

It’s an exciting time.  The Republican National Convention is about to start.  This is Romney’s chance to shine.  But the press has been stuck on the narrative that unwelcome events keep the GOP off message.  This is where media malfeasance has steered us, to meta-news, news about news.  Who is responsible for determining what the media covers?  Whoops, we’re not supposed to ask that kind of question.

The New York Times Magazine commemorates the advent of the Republican convention with a dour examination of the host city, Tampa, Florida.  Writer John Mooallem brings us the saga of a renegade rhesus macaque.  As he tells it, this indomitable monkey has become a sort of resistance symbol and a focal point for anti-government sentiment.

From start to finish, he peppers the piece with liberal complaints.  Opening up, he finds fault with the American flag flying over a local restaurant.  It’s “preposterously large.”  He reveals that, en route to covering the story, he tortured himself by listening to conservative talk radio.  From what I can tell, he’s done this for no other reason than to complain about it in writing afterward.

With respect to the monkey controversy itself, Mooallem makes his sympathies very clear.  He’s supportive of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, who the locals see as “the Gestapo.”  The writer’s sentiment crystallizes in this assessment of the state officers:

But they took a somewhat traditional view: the American people had a right to be protected by their government from wild monkeys. It was disorienting to watch the people of Tampa Bay champion the monkey’s rights instead.

That an idea like freedom might trump the public order deeply troubles him.  To counter such libertarian exuberance,  he quotes one man’s stern warning: “Sometimes, freedom isn’t necessarily a good idea.”  In true liberal fashion, the writer is most at home expressing his convictions as an equivocal miasma.

Nonetheless, he seems to advance a genuine concern about public order and safety.  Mooallem unmistakably condemns Tampans’ refusal to cooperate with the animal control agency.  But I suspect he doesn’t feel the same way about the Holder Justice Department’s bitter reluctance to enforce federal deportation laws.  Per his metric, why shouldn’t the prospect of fellow humans living an uncertain, shadow existence elicit the same kind of concern?

At any rate, pieces like Mooallem’s are the Sunday afternoon grist that Northeastern cultural elites relax by.  Harper’s, Atlantic, The New Yorker, anything that will allow them to look with detached pity and concern upon their benighted countrymen in the far flung regions.

I recall a long-running TV ad from some years ago.  In an effort to get the viewer to subscribe to the weekend edition of the New York Times, a woman would exclaim, “For me, that’s what Sundays were made for!”  Back then, I suspected this woman’s compatriots would profess that Sunday was “made” with a nobler purpose in mind.

With aching essays like the Tampa monkey expose, the folks at the Times demonstrate they are just as aloof of Middle America today as they’ve ever been.

Desperation drives divisive “War on Women” narrative

The Todd Akin controversy has buoyed Democrats’ “War on Women” narrative to a prominence not seen since last winter.  But even prior to Representative Akin’s “legitimate rape” utterance, the party and its allies have been stoking an unfounded fear that Republicans are out to take women’s reproductive rights away.

Consider this 30 second TV spot from a couple weeks ago.  Go ahead and click, it’s a must-see.  The theme is class war, but there’s an out-of-the-blue jab about birth control at the end.  If the NRA is guilty of drumming up a fear of “gun grabbers,” has one-upped them with the invention of the “pill grabber.”  The childish tone and groundless substance of the ad–it cites a recent, highly speculative Tax Policy Center study–insult the intelligence of all but the most ardent leftists.

Another ad from early August, approved by President Obama, features a montage of women who “think” Romney is “out of touch” and “extreme.”  One chides, “this is not the 1950’s.”  All the while a wind instrument registers gentle yet overwrought notes of concern.  A woman concludes the ad by saying “I think Romney would definitely drag us back.”  With these words, what else can the viewer envision but a grunting troglodyte, club in hand, taking women forcibly to his patriarchal cave?

And now with the Akin kerfuffle, Sandra Fluke has egged on Obama supporters with the idea that Romney and Ryan are in “lockstep” with the Missouri Representative.  But this allegation cannot stand after a refutation of a recent Obama “Truth Team” claim.

Yet a real undercurrent of popular fear exists.  We glimpse it in Virginia Heffernan’s recent piece on Akin’s comments.  She offers this take on John Edward’s divisive “two Americas” rhetoric:

The twist is that in this election year one America is female and the other male. In the female one, rape—nonconsensual sex as designated by the party that didn’t give consent—is everywhere, wrecking lives and making sexual harmony impossible. In the male America, “rape” is a subject of jokes and pontification. It’s a trope to be employed wantonly with the boys and judiciously when you’re trying to seduce women.

Herein Heffernan amalgamates the gross offense of comedian Daniel Tosh with that of politician Todd Akin.  She condemns American men to the prevalent stereotype of the perennial adolescent.  Anything they say on the matter of rape must be a joke or mere “pontification.”  For the sake of civil discourse, we must refuse the implication that race, sex, or any other status can on its own disqualify one’s views from consideration.

For those who would transcend sensationalism in an attempt to understand what Akin said, The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto has shed some light.  Here at least is an effort by a brave man to do more than call Akin’s remarks “antediluvian” or reflexively blame “junk science.”  Taranto does better to label the doomed Senatorial candidate “Middle Ages Man.”

Make no mistake.  Akin went beyond his ken of understanding and properly merited a massive rebuke from his own party.  Given the swift and wide disowning this week, is there really some greater malevolent shadow at work among men, Republicans, or whoever else Democrats have being pointing fingers at?

The AP has been excessively charitable in interpreting Democrats’  fear-based, divide-and-conquer strategy as “pointillist” in nature.  But when the party and those who imbibe their views regularly invoke images of cavemen, boorish adolescents, and pill grabbers, it’s not out of line to conclude that, far from “Hope and Change,” it is desperation that drives today’s Democratic party.

From Palestine to Anaheim: culture matters

When Mitt Romney dropped by Israel a couple of week ago, he made an observation that the American media all-too-eagerly interpreted as a gaffe.  Drawing from a scholar’s work, the former governor contended that Israel’s relative economic success was a matter of “culture.”

In public conversation, this term has sadly become a stop word for latent prejudice.  And like a good student of the Western Academy, Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat demonstrated his fluency in the language of victimhood by calling Romney “racist.”

Back in America, progressives have been busy applying racial spin to a local governance conflict.  In Anaheim, California, activists–with help from the Southern California ACLU–are trying to budge the city council from it’s longstanding at-large representation system to a geographic, district-based one.  They reason that minorities, such as Latinos, have been been effectively disenfranchised by the current regime.  A spate of controversial police actions, including the recent killing of an unarmed man, have helped to propel the campaign.

Two years ago, a small New York village made headlines for a similar move.  After its existing system of staggered elections was ruled illegal, a federal judge bequeathed cumulative voting to Port Chester.  The village council went from being all white to having its first Hispanic, all thanks to elections that allow each voter six votes per office.  Yes, six votes!

The idea behind Port Chester’s civic miracle is degrading to the voter and the candidate.  An individual who identifies with an underrepresented group is supposed to gain representation by voting for the same person six times.  Meanwhile, the majority-status voters would presumably split their vote among several contenders.  Like affirmative action, cumulative voting robs the winning candidate of the confidence that he won on his own merit.  Rather, he can be sure the system was crafted specifically to boost him into office.

The proposal for Anaheim is scarcely better.  Activists have the implicit goal of changing the racial/ethnic makeup of the council.  It may be well intentioned, but it is unprincipled and works against the meritocratic ideal.  And like affirmative action, it is by definition racist.

Sometimes plans that play with racial demographics backfire.  This past primary election season, Redlands Democrat Pete Aguilar was expected to come into a newly crafted U.S. House seat, but was squeezed out by two Republicans thanks California’s new top-two runoff system.

Who is to say if Anaheim switched to district representation, that a Latino would accede to the city council?  Maybe the downtrodden denizens would opt for a Ted Cruz-like Hispanic conservative.  Given the root of the problem, gangs and crime, it would not be surprising if a law-and-order type won.  Not exactly the result progressive activists were aiming for.

Rather than spend sums on lawsuits and campaigns that are ultimately uncertain, progressives should just come out and move a well-connected, rising star Latino Democrat into the city before the next election.  It’s not like they are serious about the underlying issue: culture.

Plenty of smart, reasonable voices tell us culture matters.  Charles Murray has put decades of research into his latest tome, calling on America’s privileged to spark anew in their working-class neighbors the values that drive success.  And Richard Landes backs up Governor Romney’s recent observations on Israel.  But these folks just don’t get play in the liberal world.  Mainstream journalists thrives off of the sensational, but talk of culture upsets their own sensibilities.

As human beings, we are not merely members of our own little tribes, but individuals who reason.  We all are agents that react to incentive, and culture is the framework that shapes our agency.  It’s upsetting to some, but well-meaning government aid programs can breed dependency.  Obscuring your face with a hoodie as a fashion statement can inculcate mistrust.  A Hollywood actress who elects to become a single mom can sanction for some poor, distant child a difficult upbringing.

The values we choose make a difference.  Culture matters.

Liberal outrage boosts carbon emissions

At the end of my workday today, I proceeded to Alta Arden Chick-Fil-A.  As with other locations throughout the country, there was a considerable line at the drive thru.  Many have posted their pictures and made reports.  Instead of a picture, I’m offering here a sketch I took toward the beginning of my hour long wait.

What was the atmosphere like?  Quite congenial from what I could tell.  All sorts of people and cute little kids running around under their parents’ watchful eye.  If there were any bigots there, you wouldn’t know.  Hate levels were negligible, reading at a low 0.029 pico-Sharptons.

For all their outrage, liberals have only managed to launch a thousand drive thru queues.  With all the exhaust spewing from the attendant trucks and SUVs, Leftist indignation correlates to a rise in carbon emissions.  Coincidentally, National Review’s lead essay today deals in part with progressives’ disdain for cars.

Once I got my order, I sped back home.  I had the spicy chicken sandwich with the waffle fries, and they didn’t disappoint.  The first time I had Chick-Fil-A was when I was staying with family in the South–as in southern California.  Contrary to how the media reports it, the Chick-Fil-A empire reaches far past the Mason-Dixon line.  It’s firmly established in my blue state, as San Francisco mayor Ed Lee certainly knows.  Forty miles is close enough for him.  Fortunately for my taste buds, I am beyond that radius.  The City by the Bay still makes for a nice day trip though.

Surely some nonpartisans are scratching their heads today at the latest culture war battle.  What’s the big deal with this Chick-Fil-A appreciation day?  Some say it’s about affirming Biblical truth, and some say it’s about freedom of speech.  These are both right and good, but the question of tolerance is the most pivotal one.

To remain a free, fair, and open society, we need to recover the original meaning of tolerance.  That means respecting the person who disagrees with your views.  This does not happen when traditional marriage defenders are dismissed out of hand as bigots and haters.  As with many things that touch on God, judgment, personal choice, and equality, too much of the conversation is controlled by the gut and not by a clear and open mind.

Today’s massive Chick-Fil-A turnout is not a mere spectacle, but a stand firmly taken.  A stand not in the name of blind faith or bitter clinging, but in the hope of a more charitable discourse.  Just maybe, we’re turning a cultural corner.

Water bottles and other campaign debris

Ever since 2008, conspicuous fainting episodes have occurred with bizarre regularity at President Obama’s campaign rallies.  Some wider attention came earlier this week when Obama, who offers a consistent, canned response to these potentially serious collapses, inadvertently called for a “paralegal” instead of a paramedic. Michael Medved, who has documented this phenomenon since the beginning, has a good point regarding the displays: how does the Commander-in-Chief know it’s just a swoon and nothing more serious?

The fainting routine, with Mr. Obama’s predictable admonition to eat food, drink water, and remain calm,  is quite possibly meant to bolster his image as a confident, competent leader. He can have own mini Bush-with-a-bullhorn moment, giving gentle nanny state prescriptions that earn laughter from the adoring crowd. But one Medved caller this week had an alternate take: with the president habitually 20-60 minutes late to appointments, and belting out stump speeches nearing an hour, it would be no surprise if the fainting fans were genuine and not crowd plants.

Why do mainstream journalists, the “dinosaur media” if you will, turn a blind eye to Obama and his fellow Democrat’s campaign gimmicks?  Who knows what other minutia have gone undocumented while the media combs over Romney’s vacation photos, his financial arrangements, and his 1999-2002 status at Bain?

Of course it’s the substance and not the minutia that matters.  Yet, it was with some pain that I learned of new–if trivial –criticisms from two Hollywood geek icons.  Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, recently knocked Mitt Romney as “not human.”  His critique hinged on how awkwardly the governor responded to a sip of lemonade.  Really?  Hamill’s observation rivals Matt Damon’s fearful, perhaps bigoted babble from 2008 that managed to mention Sarah Palin, dinosaurs, and nuclear codes in the same breath.

Giving good company to Hamill is Wil Wheaton, who played the star ship’s resident whiz kid on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He took the occasion of a recent George Bush interview to lament the loss of life and treasure the 43rd president instigated with a “war of choice.”  It’s regrettable the actor doesn’t understand that jihadis have free will or that all wars are embarked upon as a deliberate exercise.

The men who once played space teens on film and television can now–fittingly enough–join Cher, who apparently left Earth so she could avoid breathing the same air as Mitt Romney.  Celebrities’ reflexive gags make nice conservative water cooler talk, but they also indicate just how impervious some sections of the country are to reality.

Let’s return from our Hollywood excursus to Washington, where we get a different taste of the same liberal worldview.  The media, after four days of burying its head in the sand, has reluctantly picked up on President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” gaffe.  And while ABC moved quickly to paint it as out of context, The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto insists the gaffe was a genuine betrayal of a deeply liberal inner attitude.

If you read the wider quote from Obama, Taranto has solid reasoning: “that” refers to the singular and proximate “business.”  Obama would have said “those” if he were referring to the earlier bridges and roads.  Yet, I would entertain the possibility of a simple slip up, since “you didn’t build that” has more of a rhetorical impact than “you didn’t build those.”  It also reminds us of MC Hammer’s sweet refrain, “U can’t touch this.”

Is all this attention unfruitful nitpicking?  Not inasmuch as it draws focus to the real and gaping philosophical chasm that separates Democrats from Republicans.  Undeniably, economic policy is ultimately driven by a sense of who “owns” growth and success.

What does lack substance is the liberal canard that the rich need to “pay back” for all they’ve been given.  Not that Republicans deny a need for some government in the first place!  High income earners already pay much more than the rest of us under our already progressive tax regime.  And all the while, we can’t deny the abounding opportunity that many of those earners’ businesses provide.

There is no need for top income earners to pay “us” back or forward, for that matter.  But we could use comprehensive tax reform, a closing of loopholes and lowering of rates that Romney and a Republican Congress will deliver if elected.  If only our electorate can navigate the field of campaign season debris first.

Democracy of the dead

What is democracy of the dead?  No, it has nothing to do with zombies voting Democrat.  Although recently a dead dog did receive a voter registration form.  What I’m referring to comes from that emir of aphorisms, G.K. Chesterton.  Consider this idea from Orthodoxy (also available as a free PDF):

Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

That those many souls who came before us might not have been complete fools is a refreshing perspective in our age of progress for progress’ sake.

Chesterton–himself now among the dead–enriches our idea of tradition with literary wit.  Meanwhile, Thomas Sowell  provides us a more rigorous understanding, by way of broad philosophical survey in A Conflict of Visions.  Looking to English arch-conservative Edmund Burke, Sowell posits “the constrained vision” : a philosophy that directs human society to seek “cultural distillations of knowledge” within the confines of a “tested body of experience.” The idea is not a mere impulse to conserve tradition, but an acknowledgement that wisdom flows down naturally and systemically through culture, from one generation to the next. Between Chesterton’s democracy of the dead and Sowell’s constrained vision, we glimpse what may be the most appropriate definition of conservatism.

Not everyone is so fond of tradition. There are those invested in seeing each generation break free from the tyrannical chains of its ancestors. Consider this inscription at the Jefferson Memorial:

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Progressives should be quite fond of Thomas Jefferson’s thinking here. He speaks of humanity’s “progress” and how it will “advance” from a “barbarous” state.  Just as he took scissors to his least favorite parts of the Bible, there are those today all too eager to make their own redactions to the traditional moral fabric.  Take New Atheist Sam Harris.

In a 2011 debate on the foundations of morality, Harris dismisses the God of the Bible as a mere “Iron Age god of war.” His epochal delineation recalls the popular formulation that certain Abrahamic belief systems may have been tolerable enough for goat herders or a pastoral society, but are utterly unsuitable for our modern age.  A bit later in the same debate, Harris insists that anyone today could come up with a moral code superior to the Mosaic law if given five minutes’ thought.  So much for his estimation of past wisdom.

Whether inspired by the Enlightenment or the New Atheists, there’s no question modernist arguments hold serious sway over the contemporary mind.  But postmodern sensibility won’t tolerate the sweeping assumptions.  For all the aspersions the modernist might cast on the dead of generations past, the postmodernist would be right to call him “judgmental.”

The critique is rooted in history.  From gas chamber genocide to the threat of thermonuclear annihilation, the distinctives of the twentieth century disabuse us of the naivete that mankind is steadily rising above some past state of barbarity. To characterize people long-gone as “barbarous” or less thoughtful than those living today is to ignore a twin loss of epistemic and moral confidence the world has yet to recover from.

Where does that leave us?  We were never without hope.  Harris’ debate opponent, philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig insists on the way: backward, not forward.  Modernity is overly confident in its presuppositions.  Postmodernity is quite useful at deconstructing worldviews, but not so helpful with building up a shared body of knowledge.  If we want to access the lasting truths about human existence, how to live, and how society was meant to be, we need to recover a premodern worldview.

Just think.  We’re all here kicking and alive today.  All those dead and buried folks of past generations must have gotten something right.

The AP, Obama, the ‘S’-word and E.J. Dionne

I never get tired of calling out the mainstream media.  Its reporters give us steeply slanted stories and we’re supposed to believe they are fair and objective.  A recent AP piece–not marked by Yahoo! as commentary or analysis–defends President Obama against the “socialist” label while simultaneously slapping down conservatives.

The article’s language allows the writer to circuitously vent his disdain for Obama critics.  In his prose, they “pounce,” “slur,” and “denigrate.”  Other words color the tone for us: contention, epithet, shock value, nonsense, insult.

He weaves quotes from academic experts.  One proclaims he is “weary” of the socialist label.  Another points to a “hysterical outbreak of abuse” and “animosity” coming from a “certain segment of Americans.”  In other words, racist bigots are saying bad things about the President.

Besides saturating his article with inflammatory language, the writer gets smarmy by informing the reader that it was a socialist who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.  He faults Obama critics for missing a strict definition of socialism, but goes on to quote and mention people who do not fit the bill he uses.

As written, this purported news story is just a string of unsubstantiated quotes and couched words meant to take conservatives down a notch.  But this patronizing corrective is not the first.  I remember NPR running a piece like this just prior to election day 2008.  For years now mainstream journalists have been meticulously removing criticism from the President as if they were remora eels attached to the belly of a giant, lumbering whale.  Hopefully a one-term whale.

These nominally non-ideological reporters work in tandem with analysts and commentators who are open about their Left/liberal leanings.  E.J. Dionne is among the more effective of this clean-up crew.  Whether in his weekly sparring with David Brooks or on the talk radio circuit promoting his new book, Dionne often comes across as sharp, earnest, and even magnanimous.  For many in the political middle that could be swayed, his style threatens to give credence to his thesis that conservatives have moved radically rightward, abandoning what he calls a traditional balance between private and public, individual and community.  Never mind that he conflates government with community or that families, churches, and civic associations don’t neatly fit into his talking points.  For some swing voters, tone and presentation will matter more than substance.

Anyone who wants to stave off the misfortune of another four years of Barack Obama and his liberal, Leftist, progressive, and Democratic friends should consider carefully how they’re talking about him.  “Socialist” may be a cogent term that energizes the base, but it will turn off at least a few independents who are paying attention.

What I’m suggesting is not the abandonment of principle but getting fancy with footwork.  In conversations that count, identify the common ground and frame the choice in those terms: personal responsibility, the dangers of centralization, or whatever it may be.  Make it clear that even if Obama and Democrats don’t satisfy some strict definition of “socialist,” it is a distinction without a difference.

We don’t need to renounce our partisanship like mainstream journalists do; it’s better to confess rather than suppress your bias.  But beyond the statistics, labels, and gotchas that get thrown about, we must connect the dots, clearly articulating why it is we believe what we believe.

Scientists campaign against Republican, conservative brains

Back in April, I was dismayed to learn that my alma mater was hosting a speaker promoting a new book titled The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.  (Read Jonah Goldberg’s take on the book here)  It’s become a refrain of mine that no one should be shocked at liberal bias in media or academe. But that a campus would sanction an event branded with such a patent insult is a new low for discourse.  Doubtless, the glorified ad hominem that Republicans are wired to deny reality would go unnoticed by the campus’s “Civility Project,” which rather than treat civility seriously, reinforces notions of victimhood and grievance.

Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard has managed to capture the zeitgeist of liberal academics who try to analyze conservatives. The New Phrenology, as he calls it, has roots as far back as the “F Scale” psychological test of the 1940s. It was meant to gauge one’s conservative tendencies. The “F” stands for Fascism.

Looking at more recent studies of the same vein, Ferguson finds some recurring faults. In a couple of cases the sample groups consisted entirely of college students. Hormonally-driven and still maturing, these folks are hardly suitable representatives for the population at large.  Furthermore, the subjects were also disproportionately Asian-American and female. One study assessed subjects’ conservatism by asking whether they felt “powerful” that day. The methodology leaves much to be desired.

Remember when Farleigh-Dickinson University’s Public Mind Institute reported that watching FOX News makes you dumber? They recently touted the study’s results were “confirmed” with a follow-up. But by asking the same questions as the first time, they repeated the same mistakes. A self-reporting NPR or evening news consumer is going to get a solid block of news, but a watcher of a 24-hour cable news network quite possibly could miss out on substantive programming. And the questionnaire’s focus on Syria favors a misguided, cosmopolitan set that believes the UN might actually be effective. It’s not FOX News but The Public Mind Institute that has made the world dumber with its junk studies.

Meanwhile, one Marcus Arvan has attempted to pin conservatives on the pages of a journal called Neuroethics. The determinism implied in the journal’s title is striking; as if morality were some lightning to be captured in a materialistic bottle. Arvan alleges conservatives share in a “Dark Triad” of personality traits, among them a Machiavellian bent. It’s nothing to worry about. That’s just what people label realists when they don’t like what they have to say.

But on the contrary, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann finds evangelicals to inhabit a fantasy land.  She sees her native tribe of secular liberals as results-focused, but evangelicals as strangely obsessed with self-improvement and how people could be. Last time I checked, it was liberals who were pie-in-the-sky, swaying to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  Serious Christians remain firmly rooted in reality, thanks to a cognizance of sin. Among other things, this is the idea that no one, not even ourselves, is perfect or perfectible on this Earth. The Incarnation excluded. Far from enabling delusion, real knowledge of sin and fallenness equips Christians with an ideal, double-edged skepticism. Like the kind that informed America’s great system of governance.

If anyone, it’s secular liberals who ought to be concerned for their own views of reality. Progressives can’t question the very thing they’re progressing toward. There’s no room for genuine critique if there’s a real war on with capitalism, patriarchy, scientific illiteracy, or some other ill of preference. And, as with war, secular liberals demand that problems be dealt with centrally and in totality. This embarrassing prescriptivism should have died with eugenics and all the other awkward progressive-era vestiges long ago.

Still, we are burdened with the unquestioned assumptions of the liberal-scientific consensus. We’re not allowed to question computer models of climate change. But the layman recognizes the hubris in forecasting a city’s weather one month in advance let alone global conditions one hundred years hence. On policy, the consensus demands economy-crushing carbon taxes, lest famines and war break out. But these conditions prevail already.

It’s maddening that the liberal-scientific consensus recuses itself from the possibility of error. Meanwhile, it treats people and the environment as fragile and unable to adapt–in fact, in need of a strong, capable hand–a scientific and liberal hand.  On this view, everything is material, knowable, and solvable. Their knowledge is so certain that even their critics’ reasons for criticism can be deconstructed with empirical precision.

No one likes to deal with this kind of impenetrable certitude. All the more that liberal scientists and academics should abandon their shameful quest to dismiss conservatives with the cudgel of science. Then we can get around to solving real problems.

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