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What scholars are reading

December 9, 2019

Scholars who studied with Eric Voegelin or with his students have posted recommendations for your Christmas reading. I was fortunate to have him as my teacher at the University of Notre Dame and later for a semester when he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Dallas.  His appointment at UD was the result of an attempt to nudge UD’as Politics program out of the grip of students of Leo Strauss. That effort failed and today UD is dominated by Straussians.  In order to understand that conflict, review some of the books we Voegelinians are reading.

China’s Grim Future

December 8, 2019

On Monday, China said it would sanction U.S.-based nonprofits including the National Endowment for Democracy and Human Rights Watch in retaliation for pro-Hong Kong legislation. The legislation in question became law on November 27, 2019 and calls our attention to reality: the government of the People’s Republic of China is totalitarian and contrary to all that the West values in the administration of the powers of the State.

I predicted that in ten years these protests will reappear on the mainland and bring down the Communist government of the PRC. We know from Chinese history, however, that the alternative to Imperial power in China is not democratic government or the “Republic” envisioned by Sun Yat-sen.

Warlords, probably senior officers in the People’s Liberation Army, will divide the nation into several territories. They in turn will vie with one another for hegemony and engage in civil war.

That’s a dangerous environment in which some in the West will be tempted to intervene.

‘Twas the night before Christmas’

December 6, 2019

Clement Clarke Moore’s classic verse celebrates the Christmas season:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,


The Democrats Need a Fighter

December 6, 2019

What did Donald Trump have that allowed him to win the nomination of the Republican Party in 2016 and lead to defeat of his Democrat opponent?

One aspect of this candidate was his adversarial disposition.

That was evident at the annual charity dinner conducted in 2016 by the Archdiocese of New York.  That dinner celebrates the memory of New York Governor and very Catholic politician, Al Smith. In 1928 Governor Smith ran for President against Herbert Hoover and lost. That election was preceded by two Republican victories: Harding in 1920 and Coolidge in 1924 and memorializing Al Smith is a way to celebrate gains made in the civility of American politics visible in the social and political acceptance of Catholic Americans, repeal of “Prohibition” and the role of Catholic education in ameliorating elementary and secondary education in New York by the Archdiocese.

This is not the event where you may attack your opponent, but that is what Trump did.

After the election, the President-Elect called representatives of major media to his offices in Trump Tower, and attacked them. Then Trump opposed immigration of Muslims and illegal Mexican immigrants and called for building a wall along the border of Mexico with the United States.

That this new President was bringing real change to American politics was made clear in President Trump’s Inaugural Address. He portrayed his election as transformative and that he was bringing “a new vision” to American government.

“I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down.America will start winning again, winning like never before.”

What? No successful American politician proposes so many new and controversial policies and that explains why so many Americans were and are attracted to Donald Trump. That raises the question whether any Democrat campaigning for the nomination for President in 2020 is a “fighter.”



After Trump

December 5, 2019

Rediscovery by leaders of the Democrat Party of our history of Constitutional government and defense of freedom in foreign policy may give hope for a better future.

Since 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt assumed office, however, the United States has had very few Presidents with knowledge of foreign policy or possessed a national security strategy. The best were Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

President Truman  faced the consequences of FDR’s ignorance of the nature of Communist ideology that led to founding of a communist regime in North Korea and the “loss” of China to Mao Tse-tung Communist Party. The “Marshall Plan” saved Western Europe from collapse after World War II and the founding of NATO drew the line between “the West” and the Soviet Union.

President Eisenhower was respected as a successful military leader and warned against military adventures such as those undertaken by Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

In 2019 we are led by President Donald Trump who lacks a foreign and national security policy. That has led the Democrat Party to rediscover our history of Constitutional government and the outline of divisions between the United States and post-Soviet Russia. A glimmer of recognition has appeared of the need for a foreign policy of national defense and respect for Constitutional limits placed on the Executive Branch by the Constitution of the United States.

That insight isn’t visible in the policies of the leading candidates for the Democrat nomination of President in 2020, so a better word than “glimmer” may be “chimera.”

Since the Great Depression the Democrat Party has been known for its appreciation of the power of the national government to “do good” as long as the power of the American “state” is in the hands of Democrats.

This year that power is in the hands of a nominal Republican, so the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have rediscovered the principle of Congressional Supremacy.  And leaders of the Impeachment of President Trump are quoting words of wisdom of George Washington, George Mason and James Madison. Even Alexander Hamilton has been cited. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has identified Russian oligarch Vladimir Putin as a bad guy.

All that is to the good, but as we know from persons addicted to alcohol, it takes more than thinking about addiction to recover from it. Our Democrat Party is a party of the Left and carries in its hips all the falsehoods and misperceptions of utopian idealists. That suggests that “after Trump” we’ll see “business as usual,” not real reforms nor reorientation of American foreign policy.





Seeds of American Empire

December 2, 2019

Off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, on Monday, June 22, 1807, the British warship HMS Leopard attacked the American frigate USS Chesapeake and “impressed” four seaman, three were American citizens. President Thomas Jefferson knew he couldn’t win a war with Britain, so he embargoed trade. Five years later another President went to war and only Andrew Jackson’s defense of New Orleans turned the war in America’s favor. That sowed the seeds of an American Empire, 212 years ago.

America: Land of the Hopeless

December 1, 2019

The Impeachment of President Donald Trump will leave a swath of taint on this President’s reputation, as long as there is an historical nation. Trump gives every indication that he is aware of that, but seems incapable of developing an effective defense.

Whether Trump’s Impeachment will lead to his defeat in 2020 is an unknown depending on whom his Democrat opponent is. If it’s Bernie or Warren, even an Impeached President may win. If the Democrats chose Biden, Trump will lose.

But, what will happen to what’s left of the GOP and the reputation of the “conservative” principles that are its backbone?  Those principles and we who hold them will be sullied and rebuilding a Party already compromised by the “Internationalism” of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, G. H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, will take as long as it took to grow a conservative community of Americans  from 1954 to 1980 when we conservatives were led by Russell Kirk, Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

That “conservative community” is already in disrepair due to a weakened consciousness of fundamental principle. We Americans are a practical people and our most distinctive character is our abiding common sense. We know what’s right when we hear it. Unfortunately, none has stepped forward much as Ronald Reagan did with expressions of his deeply held belief.

Since leaders of that caliber do not exist at present, it may take fifty to seventy-five years to find and develop that leadership. During that time, what’s left of individual freedom and freedom of enterprise in the United States will come very close to being extinguished.