Danger, the Day After Tomorrow

Anti-abortion activists march near the Supreme Court building during the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 18. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Michael Gerson gets to the lurking problem for the Pro-Life movement and its embracing of and embrace by this President, what he terms “the Trumpification” of the movement. The danger happens when it wins, in the day after tomorrow.

But if the overturn or revision of Roe comes, it will almost certainly return greater flexibility to states regarding the regulation of abortion. This will kindle dozens of debates across the country and become a contest of persuasion and organization.

It is then that the Trumpification of the pro-life movement will exact a price. There is a serious cost when a movement that regards itself as pro-woman associates with misogyny. There is a serious cost when a movement that claims to be expanding the circle of social inclusion associates itself with nativism and racism. There is a serious cost when a movement that needs to be seen as charitable and reasonable associates itself with the politics of abuse and cruelty.

This turns out to be a particularly pure test of transactional, single-issue politics. Would you trade a major political gain for a large chunk of your moral reputation?

Gerson leaves untouched the present danger, that in this all-too partisan age, political antagonism reduces, evaporates the moral question. Principle is reduced to a kind of tactics, the means to win some political ground.

The only counter is to recognize that moral positions require moral lives, as well, seeing the other not as mere antagonist, but as one traveling the same road.

Michael Gerson, “The Trumpification of the pro-life movement exacts a price.” The Washinton Post. Jan. 21, 2019



Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 7.04.50 PMThe one truth about the Russian indictments is that the President has nowhere to go. Before, the  claims of “Fake News” could be used as a way of keeping a backdoor open, a certain (im)plausible denial. David Remnick quotes Jake Sullivan to spell this out

“This is a direct rebuke of the President’s ‘witch hunt’ narrative, that it was all invented from the start,” Jake Sullivan, one of Clinton’s closest policy and campaign advisers, told me. “These are meticulous criminal indictments showing that there was a campaign of interference to support Trump and to hurt Hillary. This also establishes a predicate crime, a criminal conspiracy—and that means that, if there were U.S. persons, or U.S. persons connected to Trump, involved, then they will be criminally exposed. What Mueller has done is to establish a criminal conspiracy.”

The only question now is who else is within the ramparts of the besieged White House? And will the king by some connivance, escape?

Mueller’s Indictment Ends Trump’s Myth of the Russia “Hoax”

Dark Star

David Frum  rages at the President’s inattention to the national threat from Russia, as he he notes, “It’s worth thinking about what a patriotic president would have done.”
The President’s behavior is indeed striking for its very peculiarity. It is like some astronomical anomaly: we see the gravitational bent, but do not know what object it is that causes this bend. What dark matter is this?

A word from the plantation.

To be fair, you can’t fault Trump apologist and Fox commentator Laura Ingraham for taking at offense at LeBron James’ words, that the current president  “doesn’t give a f*** for the people.” Still, Ingraham does stick her foot in:

“Must they run their mouths like that? Unfortunately, a lot of kids — and some adults — take these ignorant comments seriously,” Ingraham said Thursday night on her show. “And it’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a hundred million dollars a year to bounce a ball.”

“Oh, and LeBron and Kevin: You’re great players, but no one voted for you … So keep the political commentary to yourself or, as someone once said, shut up and dribble.”

It seems that in the democracy of the market and the hierarchy that is sports, star athletes do get a platform. Dollars are a kind of vote, and anyone who lived through high school knows that the jocks got status.

Eugene Scott provides more commentary at The Washington Post


On Shitholes

Rock_Bluff_School_outhouse_1In the remarks of the President, in the now notorious comments by Dreher about Sec 8 housing (here and here), the idea of “shithole” comes across as a place to avoid. But were we to take the measure from  public health initiatives, we might give it another frame. Across the developing world one of the most important, most practical programs is that of toilets, sanitation, and so clean water —  — that’s a direct solution to shit, and a metaphor for what we also can do. The so called  “shithole” is not a place to avoid, but one to redeem.  How then do we overcome a culture of poverty? Certainly not by running away to the suburbs, or physically or metaphorically washing our hands. Instead, the problem invites us to use imagination, to apply skills, to get in an work, not just in the neighborhood, but in the corporate suite, and at City Hall.

It’s still the problem of the color line.

Rod Dreher spent a day sputtering about Sarah Jones’ exploration of Dreher’s stance on race. Her essay in The New Republic pushes on the tacit racial nature of Dreher’s words.

The blog post was classic Dreher, … (he) did not specifically refer to people of color, but he didn’t need to; he just invoked their ghostly outlines and let the reader fill them in. His defense of Trump’s remarks are damning, not only for him personally, but for a certain kind of conservative intellectual who believes he is better than the vulgar ethno-nationalists at Breitbart. It is the logical end of a train of thought that often trails off and goes unspoken, just as those minorities in Dreher’s post are not directly identified but targeted under broad euphemisms like “the poor.” It is a conspicuous silence that has been there all along.

Is Dreher an enabler of the racist alt-right? or the victim of one more over zealous  SJW (our Social Justice Warriors). Or could it be, as he argues, that her stance is basically one of privilege?

I don’t know Sarah Jones and her crowd, but I have a strong suspicion that a lot of them are lashing out so strongly at me over the “shitholes” stuff, and wildly distorting my words, because in their heart of hearts, they know that they would never live in impoverished neighborhoods marked by violence and chaos. Where in the DC area does Sarah Jones live? If she doesn’t live in a poor, violent neighborhood, why not? She could save money if she did. Where does Jonathan Merritt live in Brooklyn? Where does Jemar Tisby live in Jackson, Miss.? And so on.

This is deflection (Jones her self does not live in Washington, but in Roanoke, at some distance). Some part of Dreher’s discussion in fact lies with the question of race and what is at best, an indifference to race. DuBois observation for the 20th C is still pertinent, as policies and tweets of the administration have shown. I would suggest that this larger context, this cultural shift underway provides a frame for understanding conservative commentary. So what appears to a conservative as benign or even obvious, may be read in quite different ways elsewhere. To this we can also add the geographical frame. Think about it: Louisiana has a history, an approach to race; so does Appalachia; and for that matter in my case, so does growing up in a university town in the Midwest.

Now the case in point: it is difficult to read the paragraph from the perspective of Michigan without thinking of race; it’s the stuff of our region’s history. When Jones says “fill in…” — ah, we do this a lot, especially over by Detroit. Likewise, the question Jones asks of the Benedict Option — did it really only mention race a handful of times? That seems like a valid, if awkward critique, not in making Dreher a racist, but in pointing to a blind spot, itself the creature of a particular and local setting.

But before we mount that high horse, we should note, we all suffer from the same disease, simultaneously better than and yet worse than our words. It happens.


Sarah Jones: SJW Propagandist
Rod Dreher’s Race Problem

Character before Policy

The continuing question of Evangelicals and their “moral mulligan” to the President remains in discussion.
Harry Lew notes
It’s one of the ploys in the Democrat playbook used against practically every Republican candidate running for national office. As for the mistreatment of women, Bill Clinton has a longer record of abuse with Hillary defending him by attacking his victims. I’m not excusing Trump or the Clintons. I’m only tired of what I see as my leftist friends’ sanctimonious one-sided judgment against their fellow believers who support Trump’s policies. The truth is a politician’s policies can be better than her or his character, and vice versa. The more substantial debate should be on policy.
Maybe a politician’s police can be better than his character. Maybe. Nonetheless I think this problem of character is more substantive. Policy takes shape in a political space shaped by character. It’s not that we need moral persons so much as we need the social norms, the practices shaped by character. the character of the participants — their personal morality, their trustworthiness as to their word, their fidelity to common standards and patriotism — these all help shape a set of norms, the tacit quality that lets policies be enacted. For the evangelical in particular, the elements of character also include items such as graciousness, a willingness to listen and such (all fruit of the Spirit). It’s not that we make political decisions based on character, but that we as a society have long known that attention to character yields better results for the whole.

The difficulty with the current President is not this or that “moral mulligan” but rather the entire stuff of character itself, and with that, the violation of the norms of our nation. As many observe, the character is that of a soft authoritarian, the sort that would make the instruments of government into the personal fiefdoms of the executive. Some nations operate that way, historically we haven’t. Why? again because of the particular religious and moral character. This in part is why we want to be cautious about the challenges as our society negotiates the sexual and gender politics, or why Evangelicals are proper to be concerned about certain elements of religious liberty as these undercut the existing norms.

But throughout, character counts. This is the stuff that builds the soft power, the norms that enable policies to be enacted (and be accepted). To step over character for the sake of policy is inevitably a short-term gain as inevitably policy changes. And then, when there is a ruler “who knew not Joseph” the appeal to character rings hollow, if it is heard at all.