American Gout

On wealth and the decline of institutions.

Dear Reader (Including any European heads of state gossiping about me like village women around the town well),

So, David French and the Morning Dispatch guys do this thing where they have a sort of mini table of contents at the beginning of each newsletter. The thinking is, people are busy. They’ve got jobs and secret masquerade balls to go to where aging overweight globalist dudes wear tuxedos as they hang out with winsome young slatterns. Oh wait, that’s Eyes Wide Shut.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right: Tables of contents. I’ve long toyed with doing one. But I worry it will mess with the feng shui of the drawing room of my mind.

But what the hay; let’s give it a whirl. 

Subjects covered today:

  1. What’s the difference between Clinton’s emails and Trump’s phone?

  2. The downside of pros and cons.

  3. American gout and Warhol’s America.

Clinton’s emails vs. Trump’s phone.

Join me now in the wayback machine to a simpler time. When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she did something very bad: She deliberately used an unsecured private server for her email. Per Dr. Wikipedia:

An FBI examination of Clinton's server found over 100 emails containing classified information, including 65 emails deemed "Secret" and 22 deemed "Top Secret". An additional 2,093 emails not marked classified were retroactively classified by the State Department.

Hold that thought. Fast-forward to today. The Washington Post reports that Trump routinely uses unsecured cellphones to conduct sensitive phone calls. “It’s absolutely a security issue,” a former aide told the Post. “It’s a bonanza for them.” More:

Former officials said Trump has provided his private cell number to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but it’s unclear whether he has had conversations with those leaders on his cellphone. Four people in communication with him in recent months said that he continues to use that device routinely.

Former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly and intelligence officials made a concerted attempt in 2017 to get Trump to use secure White House lines, even after the president had retreated to the residence in the evenings, officials said. But when Trump realized that this enabled Kelly to compile daily logs of his calls, and the identities of those he was speaking to, Trump became annoyed and reverted to using his cellphone, officials said. “He was totally paranoid that everyone knew who he was talking to,” a former senior administration official said. [emphasis added]

Now, there were three major lines of attack against Clinton for her email system. I know this because I made these points all the time, as did virtually every fellow conservative I can think of.  The first was that it was illegal. The second was that it put American lives or national security at risk because it made it easier for foreign intelligence services to steal classified information. The third was that she followed an immoral double standard, doing things that rank-and-file government and military officials could be prosecuted for. 

It seems to me that the first line of attack doesn’t apply to Trump. He can declassify whatever he wants simply because he’s the president with the final say-so. This is one of those instances where the Nixonian claim that when the president does it, it’s not illegal is actually true.

But I am at a loss as to why the other two criticisms of Clinton don’t apply to the president, too. The rules we set up to protect classified information aren’t there for fun. They have a purpose: to protect classified information and national security. Who knows what Trump has said to Giuliani—or lord knows who else—on his cell phone? Maybe it wasn’t vital national security information. Maybe it was. But the non-rhetorical answer to the question, “Who knows what Trump said?” in those phone calls is almost surely: Russia and China and maybe a lot of other countries. 

Even if the content of the conversations wasn’t vital national security information, it’s not unimaginable that Trump said things to his attorney—or lord knows who else—that would make useful fodder for blackmail. 

We demand—on penalty of prison or dismissal—that rank-and-file national security officials follow secure protocols for a reason, but the president doesn’t seem to think those reasons apply to him, even though they are more necessary for him than any other government official

And yet, I somehow doubt we will see .0001 percent of the outrage we saw from countless “national security conservatives” when it was Hillary Clinton flouting the rules. 

Pros and Cons of Impeachment.

Some people like to make decisions with long lists of pros and cons. I’ve always been torn by this decision-making technique. On the one hand, it’s a good way of identifying all of the factors at play. On the other hand, this technique tends to flatten the importance of the individual entries.

For instance, consider the age-old question: Should I eat my intern’s liver?

    Pros: 

  • Livers are very nutritious and low carb

  • This intern is pretty annoying. His nose makes that whistling sound a lot.

  • That sharp kid from Northwestern is still available and this would open a slot

  • I’ve never tried human liver

    Cons:

  • The intern-coordinator at HR would give me a hard time

  • The intern wouldn’t be able to bring me coffee anymore—and he’s pretty good at that.

  • Taking his liver would be messy and painful—for him—and could stain the office carpet.

  • Removing his liver would kill him and murder is against the law and wrong.  

You get the point: I could list 10,000 items in the pro column and they wouldn’t add up to equaling the grief I would get from the folks in HR (or that bit about murder being wrong). 

Another problem: You don’t know what the future holds. I didn’t put “I might get caught” in the con column or “I might get away with it” in the pro column, but those are huge considerations. 

I’ve been trying to come up with a pros and cons of impeachment list for a while now. But I keep running into these problems. 

On the one hand, I think what Trump did is impeachable (and the fact that Giuliani is still doing it—as Trump’s lawyer—is outrageous). On the other hand, I don’t think that everything that is impeachable must lead to impeachment. Back on the first hand, I think that it will be bad for the country in the short- and long-term to let Trump claim “exoneration” if he’s not impeached. But on the other hand, if he is impeached in the House but not convicted in the Senate, he will claim exoneration anyway. If re-elected, Trump will conclude from his “exoneration” that he can get away with even more bad acts—and he might be right. Leaving the question up to the voters makes a lot of sense, but the fact that his abuse of power was all about putting his thumb on the scales of the election makes that calculation more problematic. 

I try very hard these days not to score everything by “what’s good for the GOP?” for a bunch of reasons: Too many other conservative pundits do that already; what’s good for the GOP right now may not be good for the GOP—or conservatism or the country—in the long run, etc. 

Despite the fact that a lot of people assume that I always take the most anti-Trump position possible, I’ve been consistently non-committal on the question for all of the above reasons and a bunch of other ones. That’s why I found Jonathan Turley’s argument pretty compelling, for reasons I lay out in my column today. In short, I think the process needs to ripen. The White House’s refusal to cooperate at all with the impeachment process is indefensible on the merits, but it’s a political reality. I understand why Democrats feel like they shouldn’t have to go through all the steps, but as a matter of political reality, I think they should. 

American gout.

I kinda miss the old “First World Problems” hashtag humor. 

As readers of my most recent book—soon out in paperback!—know, I think we suffer from a pretty considerable gratitude problem in America. 

Before all the woke scolds—both left-wing and right-wing varieties—come at me like an angry spider monkey, yes, yes, we have real problems in this country. And some people really do suffer from challenges and calamities that our overall good fortunes do not erase or, in some cases, even mitigate. 

But get a grip, folks. 

My friend Kevin Williamson once pointed out that in The Count of Monte Cristo, the Count’s alter ego throws a lavish dinner party at which he serves—wait for it—two different kinds of fish. He calls it “a millionaire’s whim.”  

Sources vary on how many millionaires there are in the U.S., in part because there are different ways to define the term. But they seem to range from just under 12 million to 18.6 million. This, of course, obscures the fact that most of the things that once signified someone as a millionaire or simply “rich” have been sliding down the socio-economic ladder for generations. The first mobile phone, introduced by Motorola in 1983, cost $4,000, lasted a half-hour and was about the size of a large sneaker. I don’t know where the exact cutoff is. But you can be pretty poor and afford to order two kinds of fish over your phone for your next party. 

I’m reminded of this passage from Tom Wolfe in Hooking Up:

By the year 2000, the term "working class" had fallen into disuse in the United States, and "proletariat" was so obsolete it was known only to a few bitter old Marxist academics with wire hair sprouting out of their ears. The average electrician, air-conditioning mechanic, or burglar-alarm repairman lived a life that would have made the Sun King blink. He spent his vacations in Puerto Vallarta, Barbados, or St. Kitts. Before dinner he would be out on the terrace of some resort hotel with his third wife, wearing his Ricky Martin cane-cutter shirt open down to the sternum, the better to allow his gold chains to twinkle in his chest hairs. The two of them would have just ordered a round of Quibel sparkling water, from the state of West Virginia, because by 2000 the once-favored European sparkling waters Perrier and San Pellegrino seemed so tacky.

Wolfe overstated things a bit, but you get the point. 

If your child were afflicted with a life-threatening disease, how much would you pay for a cure? It’s a rhetorical question, but the correct answer, by the way, is “everything” or “anything.” Today, pretty much any child born into America is preemptively cured of all manner of diseases the moment they get a vaccination. Even those who do not get vaccinated are preemptively spared the possibility of getting smallpox because we effectively eradicated it. In other words, what a billionaire would have given his fortune for 100 years go (if he loved his kids) comes included with the basic package of being born American. 

As Don Boudreaux famously mused, it’s not obvious that you’d be better off if you chose to be a billionaire 100 years ago instead of being solidly middle-class today.

Prosperity is not necessarily ubiquitous in the United States and it’s certainly not uniform—nor should anyone want it to be. A society determined to enforce perfect economic equality has only one choice: to impose uniform poverty. A prosperous and free society—and you can’t have one without the other—will have some measure of economic inequality, because some people will choose vocations that will pay better than others. Innovation is the single greatest driver of productivity and prosperity. Innovation requires risk. Risk requires freedom and the possibility of reward for risk-taking. 

Anyway, so far my point should pretty familiar to most readers. We’ve been democratizing prosperity for a very long time. And while it may not feel democratic or even prosperous for complicated reasons, the truth is undeniable. 

Which brings me to the real point I wanted to make. Not only is prosperity being democratized, so are rich people’s problems. 

Warhol’s America.

Andy Warhol famously said that in the future everyone will get “fifteen minutes of fame.” We’re not there yet. But it’s amazing how much closer we get to that aphorism every day.

This occurred to me the other day while thinking about Twitter and social media. Fame and wealth aren’t the same thing and don’t necessarily go hand in hand. But they do overlap a lot. Rich people tend to be famous and famous people have an easier time getting rich. 

Social media makes it easier to become a “celebrity” than ever before. The most popular “YouTuber” is Felix Kjellberg, better known as  “PewDiePie,” with 102 million subscribers. The lowest ranked person on this list of the top 15 YouTubers, Jimmy Donaldson, aka “MrBeast,” has 26 million subscribers. I know next to nothing about any of them. The highest-rated cable news shows are lucky to get 3.5 million viewers on a given night.

But my point isn’t simply the usual jaw-jaw about the decline of gatekeepers. There are millions of people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like who have to worry about what they say in “public” the way only a relative handful of people did even a generation ago. 

For most of human history, or even American history, the problems of celebrity were almost definitionally rich people problems. 

Conservatives often like to point out that we’re so rich hunger is no longer really a problem but obesity is. For centuries, gout was called “the King’s disease” or a “rich man’s disease,” because it tended to affect the kinds of people who could afford to serve two kinds of fish at their dinner parties (though fish wasn’t really the problem). No shocker that rates of gout have been rising in the U.S. over the last 20 years.

If you listen to The Remnant podcast, particularly the Thanksgiving episode with Yuval Levin, you’ve heard me rant about the breakdown of institutions being a major driver of our social dysfunction these days. 

Institutions are tools created by large groups of people, either intentionally or through the spontaneous order created by generations of trial-and-error. Whether it’s a community bank or the U.S. military or the Boy Scouts, institutions solve problems. 

One of the reasons institutions are decaying, it seems to me, is that we’re getting so rich that we don’t need the institutions to solve a lot of problems—or we don’t think we need them. I once produced a documentary on the Cathedral of Notre Dame and did a lot of reading about the roles of cathedrals in medieval Europe. Obviously, they were a tool for worshipping God. But they were also a source of entertainment, commerce, formal communication from leaders, and informal communication from peers (church gossip is a thing, I’m reliably told). 

I am not a subscriber to “common good capitalism” or “post-liberal” whatever, in large part because the specifics offered are so underwhelming. It’s mostly atmospherics and posturing from what I can tell right now. But the atmospherics and posturing do tap into a real truth of how we live now. 

Why are malls dying? Because average middle-class Americans have a luxury largely unimaginable even a generation ago: They can order whatever they want to buy from the comfort of their own homes. Malls aren’t cathedrals, but for a while they served as more than mere sources of commerce. People gathered there, in the same way they gathered at the general store a little over a century or so ago. 

In fact, Alan Brinkley in his brilliant Voices of Protest makes the point that the anti-department store populism of the 1930s (a huge issue in Germany as well), stemmed from the fact that department stores were killing the general stores, which were deeply embedded in communities. Farmers especially relied on rolling credit from local merchants that they couldn’t get from the new mega-stores like Macy’s or Gimbels.

Prosperity melts away old institutions because it makes them obsolete. This is a very good thing with very real downsides. I no more want to get rid of the internet than I want to go back to using butter churns. But we need to think much harder about how to create institutions that serve the real needs of an increasingly rich society (which is why I wish a lot of these traditional Catholics would spend more of their energy strengthening the church than on coming up with ways to strengthen the government). 

I’m skeptical that government has much of a pro-active role in this project. But it doesn’t—or shouldn’t—have much of a role in a lot of things that are vital to human flourishing. And if it can help, I’m open to suggestions. I just need specifics. 

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: Last week’s all-Dingo G-File was pretty popular. But the biggest response was, “Where’s Pippa’s all –Spaniel G-File!?” or words to that effect. I guess I’ll have to do that someday, but it’ll have to wait for the right “news”peg. After all, last week I was in Georgia watching my Carolina dog regress like William Hurt in Altered States into a primal being. It seemed worth memorializing. Maybe one day we’ll take Pippa to a manor in the English countryside where she can be her truest self. Though she’s doing a pretty good job these days staying true to her spanielness.  Zoë meanwhile is still adjusting to her return to “civilization.” Anyway, not much to report and I’m short on time, but they’re doing great. Zoë is having a grandtime. Pippa has ball. She will always have ball. And they are taking the war to the crows the only way they can. 

ICYMI...

Last Friday’s G-File

Why Democrats like Joe Biden

This week’s first Remnant, with Sarah Isgur

Part one of my conversation with Nick Gillespie 

This week’s second Remnant, part two of my conversation with Nick Gillespie 

On Democrats’ impeachment mistakes

And now, the weird stuff. 

Funny museum 

Coincidences? 

Illegal record broken

Midwest guy in NYC

Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins

New Nazca line 

Midwest nice

Toilet sloths

Hmmm ....

Release the kraken 

Old chess

Photo credit: Donald Trump pretends to make a phone call during a press conference in the Rose Garden. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Story of Zoë

A "news"letter from the road.

Dear Reader (including those of you who get this “news”letter through long protein strings),

I’m kind of on vacation, but as a co-founder of a startup, a self-employed writer, the father of a daughter some 4,000 miles away, and a man with frighteningly few hobbies, vacation is hazy concept for me. 

I often tell people, “Don’t mind me, I just want to watch you sleep.” They rarely take it well. But that’s not important right now. I also tell people that one of the great things about being a writer is I can do it from anywhere. I then add, one of the worst things about being a writer is I can do it from anywhere. In other words, my work is always with me. 

Bill Buckley was a real master of on-the-road writing. I don’t mean in the Kerouac sense, but in the literal one. I’ve heard quite a few stories about how he could meet someone for drinks at the hotel bar while tapping out a column on his portable typewriter. I can’t have a conversation with someone while writing, unless of course “Th4 urst 97220 falange basset hound cytorrak” counts as writing. I need to concentrate a bit. But I have written more columns than I can count from the passenger seat of a car barreling across Montana, the parking lot or lobby of a hotel, or in a camping chair in the backyard of one of my Alaskan relatives. 

Since I’m in Sea Island, Georgia, smoking a cigar in a comfortable chair, this should be pretty easy. But I’d still like to take a vacation day of sorts. So instead of not writing a “news”letter at all, I’m going to take a break from writing about politics and write about one of my favorite topics: Dogs, specifically my own. If you’re not interested, that’s fine. 

A good place to start: a canine update. 

Longtime readers know the basics of Zoë’s story. Indeed, the canine update began because of her. But in case you’re new here, let me recap a bit.

In the beginning there were wolves. Then, for reasons that would take us too much time to discuss here, there were dogs. And dogs were good. They hunted with us. They stood guard. Our enemies were their enemies. Our friends, their friends. In the Great Game of Survival that began when one bit of goo thought it could eat better if it killed some other goo nearby, dogs decided to team up with humans. Dogs took their payment in our leftovers, warmth—bodily and artificial—scritches, pats, and companionship. And, amazingly, their union has never asked for a raise, despite the considerable inflation rate over the last few hundred thousand years. (This is not to say that individual dogs do not, when the opportunity arises, demand compensation above the contract rate. In this, dogs follow the wisdom of everyone’s Jewish aunt—“it never hurts to ask.”)

Fast-forwarding for brevity’s sake, when the first humans crossed the Bering straits 9,000 to 30,000 years ago, they brought some dogs with them. They were good dogs. Some of those humans made their way to the southern United States, probably for the convenient parking and excellent vinegar- and/or mustard-based barbecue sauces. The dogs came with them, no doubt intrigued by all the barbecue talk. These dogs worked with native Americans, just as they had in Asia.

When Europeans came thousands of years later, they brought even more dogs. These dogs largely replaced most of the pre-contact dogs (PCD, though for all intents and purposes the C could stand for Columbus) for many reasons, no doubt including diseases they brought with them. But, the theory goes, some of the original dogs retreated, like Francis Marion, to the swamps and woods of South Carolina and Georgia. These became again, according to theory, lore and science, the Carolina Dog, AKA the American Dingo or the Dixie Dingo.

Now, some of this may in fact fall under the “print the legend” category, because a recent major DNA study found that very few supposed PCD dogs have much PCD DNA in them. Though one Carolina Dog in the study had 30 percent PCD DNA. Carolina Dogs may simply be former landrace Indian dogs—dogs that aren’t bred for a set standard—that hung around in the bush long after the Indians weren’t around anymore (one might even call them a Remnant). They surely interbred with strays outside of their homeowners association, hence the pawcity of PCD DNA and the fact that they come in all sorts of colors, though most are a golden yellow. 

Yellow Dogs?

This is the source of a lot of speculation, because stray dogs all around the world are often this color, as are many coyotes, dingoes, etc. In the South stray dogs of the Carolina Dog type were often called “Yeller,” “Yaller” or yellow dogs, hence the term “Yellow Dog Democrat”—meaning someone who’d sooner vote for a “yellow dog” than a Republican. (Not to go back on my word about staying out of politics, but these days I kind of feel that the only candidate I would happily vote for is yellow dog, but that’s not entirely right, since I’d vote for a dog of any color. I don’t see color in the voting booth. A dog presidency would be extremely libertarian and might be America First in the best sense. If I had room here, I’d meditate on the original meaning of cynicism, which is to be dog-like). 

Old Yeller, played by a lab-mastiff mix in the movie, might have been a Carolina Dog or related to one—though black mouth curs are another possibility.  

Regardless, what is clear from any theory of the Carolina Dog is that they missed out on a lot of the canine eugenics that created most of the breeds we know today.  

Cosmo, RIP

Fast-forward one last time. In 2013, Cosmo the Wonder Dog passed away. Cosmo was perhaps the greatest dog who ever lived. I understand that people will dispute this—as they should. If you’ve had a great dog, you should believe that he or she was best dog that ever lived. There is no way to settle this debate. It’s like saying “I love my child more than you love yours.” You feel it to be true because to feel otherwise would be a betrayal of your soul. 

Regardless, reasonable people agree that he was a very good boy. And we had a wonderful life with him. He chased caribou in the Canadian Rockies, protected my wife and baby daughter from a drug-addled drifter in Lexington, Massachusetts, peed in Christopher Hitchens’ apartment (he was a puppy, and Hitchens’ apartment was … confusing), and interviewed Kim Jong-il and Pervez Musharraf (with a little help from me). He looked both ways before crossing a street and never needed more than a few days to learn any trick we tried to teach him. When friends got puppies, Cosmo helped train them to be better dogs.

A year later, my wife and I wanted to get a new dog. The Fair Jessica really wanted a German shepherd because we were so spoiled by Cosmo’s intelligence,obedience, and pure doggy goodness. A German shepherd seemed the most likely breed to follow in Cosmo’s paw steps. 

God had another plan.

There were some complications. I should note that because Cosmo was a rescue (from D.C.’s New York Avenue shelter), we believed we should get another. If we hadn’t adopted Coz, he probably would have been killed. It seemed the height of ingratitude,indecency, and just bad karma not to get another rescue. But we also wanted a puppy for our young daughter. So we searched and searched and found a “German shepherd mix” named “Shiver” that was found in the winter on the side of the road in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with her brother “Sickle.”

We took delivery of said puppy in a parking lot in northern Virginia (lots of the strays are caravanned up from the South where strays are a much bigger problem). She was adorable. 

She was also incredibly stoic and low energy. It turned out she had Parvo, a horrible disease that is omnipresent in the United States. (I’ll spare you a detailed exegesis on the worst symptoms, suffice it to say the diagnosis should come with a gift certificate for new carpeting.) But most dogs get the antibodies for Parvo from their mothers. Alas, Zoë didn’t have enough time to nurse with her mom to get them. She nearly died. 

Our struggle with Zoë is how the Canine Update started. Once readers found out we had a sick puppy, they kept asking for updates. Thousands of dollars in intensive care later, Zoë was healthy, but people still wanted the updates. Later, when we added Pippa—the English Springer spaniel of Twitter fame—to our family, demand for updates only intensified, in part because Zoë did not welcome Pippa with open arms (legs? Paws?). And in part because, well,  folks like dogs—because dogs are good. 

But I’m skipping ahead too far. Once Zoë was healthy, the once-lethargic dog’s true dingo nature emerged. She was a fearsome hunter, killing rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, voles, mice, groundhogs and lord knows what else. I used to joke that the kennel she came up in should have had the same warning label used on the Tasmanian Devil’s crate. When it became clear that we didn’t like all the killing, she adopted a grotesque technique to avoid us yanking prey from her mouth. If the critter was small enough, she’d swallow it—fur, head, tail and all—in one unsightly gulp.

She seemed untrainable. Once her nostrils filled with the scent of prey, she was a near wild dog. She was loving and loyal, particularly in the house, but Andrew Jackson in his younger years in the woods. 

She was also strange. Carolina dogs have specialized habits that come from being semi-wild. The females dig snout holes. They tend to bury their poop, often using their snouts and paws to cover it up. They have weird vocalizations. She did all of this as a youngster, but after a while she mostly stopped (though she still makes some awesome arooo sounds). In the woods around D.C. she still kicks leaves over her Paul Krugman columns, but the only time she really buries stuff dingo-style these days is when she wants to bury a squirrel or Pippa’s tennis ball. 

She’s also a very good dog now. She listens. She loves Pippa like a sister. And while she’ll still chase critters, it’s an entirely manageable, normal dog type thing. 

Which brings me to this week. We’ve been in Georgia very close to her natural habitat. And it’s bringing the Carolina Dog out of her. I’m reminded of the time Godzilla is transported back in time to meet Marvel’s “Devil Dinosaur.” There’s a great sequence when Godzilla smells the blood and sulfur in the dank air and thinks something like, “This is home.”

If you think that’s weird, it can’t hold a candle to the time Godzilla was shrunk down to doll size and had to fight a New York City sewer rat.

We’ve been taking her to an abandoned strip of beach a few times a day and she runs around like a dingo on a mission, digging snout holes and searching for critters in the sand. (Pippa meanwhile, is still the same Pippa. Like me, she can do her work anywhere). Yesterday, I even caught her using her paws and snout to bury a Krugman column. (I still picked it up.) The Fair Jessica reports that this afternoon she dug a hole so deep that only her tush and tail could be seen. She pulled up a crab. For a moment, at least, she became a city dog again. “What the Hell is this?” she said.

Maybe it’s an epigenetic thing. The mix of landscape and smells have switched on genes that have been off for a while. But since I don’t know squat about epigenetics, maybe it’s not. Maybe, it’s just bringing back the joys of youth, like when I go to a comic book store and suddenly feel the need to be super nerdy. But it is a joy to watch. The only problem is that it takes a lot more shouting than normal to get her to come back to us. 

But she does, because she’s a good girl now. I just wish Cosmo could have taught her a thing or two. 

Human Update.

My column today is on the uses and abuses of the term “the Deep State.”

I’ll be back with the usual weird links next week.

Correction: In Wednesday’s G-File a typo referred to “hunting humans for support.” It’s been fixed over at TheDispatch.com to “for sport.” Thanks to the folks who pointed out the mistake, but in my own defense, I’ve supervised enough interns to know the correct phrase. 

Speaking of The Dispatch, please go to TheDispatch.com and sign up for all of our wares. It’s all still free and we’d be grateful if you did.

Pass the Gravy. Hold the Identity Politics.

What we lose when we insert ideology into institutions where it does not belong.

Dear Reader (Including Conan, who is the goodest boy or girl depending on who you believe),

Imagine you’ve just sat down to Thanksgiving dinner and your cousin Mildred says, “Before we begin, I’d like to start a conversation.” She then takes out an index card and reads from it:

SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as “an intersectional analysis defined by the human rights framework applicable to everyone, and based on concepts of intersectionality and the practice of self-help. It is also a base-building strategy for our movement that requires multi-issue, cross-sector collaborations. It also offers a different perspective on human rights violations that challenge us in controlling our bodies and determine the destiny of our families and communities.” What is your understanding of Reproductive Justice?

 I can think of any number of reasonable responses. 

“Who’s SisterSong?”

“How many Bloody Marys did you have?”

“Mildred, the gravy is already starting to congeal.”

I have an active imagination—just ask my Couch—but I am at a loss to come up with a plausible scenario in which any remotely normal person would slap the table and say, “Yes! It’s about time we introduced concepts of intersectional analysis into Thanksgiving!” 

To be fair, Mildred—bless her heart and her many, many, cats—might have the situational awareness to bring this up before dinner was served. In which case, the most common response would probably be, “C’mon! The game is on! Get out of the way of the TV!”

That’s the world I want to live in. 

But not the good people at the National Network of Abortion Funds, who want everyone to talk about abortion this Thanksgiving. 

To that end, they provide a useful and printable compendium of “conversation starters” printed on “holiday cards” and—I defecate you negatory—the above passage is suggestion numero uno

I like the idea that they thought this was the icebreaker most likely to help people ease into a conversation about abortion with people they acknowledge probably have absolutely no desire to discuss abortion.

 I don’t want to talk about abortion either, by the way. I did that on Friday and hit my quota for a while. 

 But I do want to talk about talking about stuff like abortion over Thanksgiving. 

Thanks But No Thanksgiving

I might not make fun of people who take the other side of the issue the same way. But I would be equally opposed to an effort by pro-life groups eager to turn Thanksgiving into a seminar about the unborn. Partial birth abortion is a horror in my book, but I can do without analogies to it during the carving of turkey.

I caught this tweet the other day

I think this is almost exactly wrong. 

Think of it this way, on progressive terms, the people who are most in need of help from our political system are minorities, immigrants, et al. I haven’t conducted a methodologically rigorous survey, but I suspect that most African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, etc., would be even less likely to want to talk at length about SisterSong’s views of reproductive justice than your typical white family of privilege with a smattering of bachelor’s or graduate degrees around the table. A poor or lower-middle class white family has more need of help from our political system—again on progressive terms—than prosperous families (of any race). But, my hunch is they aren’t particularly inclined to turn Thanksgiving into a political meet-up either.

Allow me to pick on George Clooney for no other reason than it is convenient to do so. He’s rich, he’s attractive, he’s wildly famous and accomplished. He was born attractive and prosperous to be sure, but his success nonetheless was made possible by the very political system he’s often quite critical of. He has lots of skin in the game and, going by crude Marxist analysis, as I am wont to do, he should be interested in defending the system that helped him get where he is. And yet, he goes the other way. 

Don’t get me wrong. That’s fine. We live in a democracy and people can disagree about how to make this a better country or world and, sometimes, Clooney is on the right side of the argument. 

My only point is that politics is often most attractive and all-consuming precisely to the people who are immune to its consequences in their personal lives. Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg are pretty damned privileged. They could be off on private islands, hunting humans for sport or paying people generously to be human Stratego pieces. But for reasons that run the gamut from personal vanity to deep principle, they are very involved in politics. 

From the French Revolution to the Russian and American radicals of the 1960s, political obsession has always been a popular pastime of the bourgeoisie, for good and bad. The kinds of people who would leap at the chance to debate different interpretations of intersectionality and reproductive justice aren’t members of the economic, gender, or racial  lumpenproletariat, they’re people who’ve chosen to make politics their issue of ultimate concern.  

I don’t begrudge them for it. 

I do begrudge them their insistence that I must be just like them. 

Politics as Identity

On the latest episode of The Remnant podcast, I talked to Yuval Levin about the problem of politics seeping into every aspect of our lives. I strained to make the point I wanted to make the way I wanted to make it, so let me try here. 

A healthy society is a diverse society. I am not using diversity in the way many progressives do, though I am happy to do so to some extent (more on that in a minute). Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you and I can agree that dogs are awesome and that owning dogs is the best thing you can do. That belief may be right or wrong—for us. But it is obviously wrong for other people. And that’s fine. 

What would be wrong is to create a culture or political system that enforces our point of view on people who disagree with it. It would be bad for people unsuited for dog ownership to be shamed or forced into owning dogs. It would also be bad for dogs. Likewise, it would be bad—for humans and dogs alike—if the anti-dog people tried to force everyone into cat ownership. 

Normally, when I talk about this, I talk about a diversity of institutions. What I mean by that is a diversity of places that people can draw meaning from. The Marines is a glorious institution and some people literally give their lives to it. I don’t just mean they die in its service, but they dedicate huge swaths of their waking hours to it over a career. That’s a good thing. But someone else might find everything about that life to be a source of oppression and misery. These people should not be Marines. But just because the Marine Corps isn’t right for some people doesn’t mean it should be available to others. The same principle applies to churches, clubs, sports, hobbies, careers, etc. 

As Yuval noted, you run into trouble when every institution is expected to bend to one worldview, one way of thinking about the world. You may have a great definition of social justice, though I’ve never heard one. But I can be sure that even if I agreed with your definition, I would still think it’s wrong for some institutions, by which I mean it’s wrong for some people. 

One needn’t be an extremist on this point. I’m not in favor—as a matter of philosophy or law—letting a thousand Nazi flowers bloom. I might argue that Nazi bowling leagues are legal, but I’d have no problem with other bowling organizations refusing to countenance them. And I’d certainly have no objection to the Pentagon banning soldiers from having Nazi meetings in the barracks. 

In other words serious people can debate where to draw lines, but it is remarkably unserious to believe there should be no lines at all. 

My problem with the Progressive approach to politics—increasingly mirrored on parts of the right—is the belief that there should be no lines. In total war, everyone is supposed to be part of the war effort at all times. Every institution isn’t supposed to be separate and apart, but a cell of the larger body politic. Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be about giving thanks to God or country or the universe (but mostly God) for the things you should be thankful about, is now an opportunity for political organizing and shaping minds toward commitment to the war effort—whether that effort is climate change or reproductive justice or even MAGA. 

This reduces a precious institution to the—probably apocryphal—Willie Sutton quote about why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.”

If gatherings of humans are just an opportunity for campaigning, then those gatherings of humans lose that special meaning that brought people together in the first place.  A woman tweeted the other day—and has since deleted—that her Thanksgiving rule is that everyone must first explain what they did to help Democrats win before they can come to her home. This is putting politics above not just faith but family and love. If everybody followed this rule, Thanksgiving would lose all that makes it special and society would be worse for it. 

Most reasonable people understand that when Marines muster in the yard they do so because it is necessary in some way for their mission. If you busted out your “conversation cards” to discuss reproductive justice and intersectionality every time Marines gathered, you’d likely be escorted to the brig. But even the first time, someone would tell you, “This is not why we are here.” IImagine if a President Marianne Williamson or President Bernie Sanders said this sort of thing was no longer inappropriate but required. The Marines would no longer be an institution designed to create Marines, but just another opportunity to inject politics where it doesn’t belong. And very quickly people would stop joining the Marines. 

Colonizing every school of thought and every institution to a single idea of the Highest Good—however defined—flattens society and destroys the kind of diversity we need. 

This points to the problem of talking about institutions as safe harbors. They’re really portals, portals to paths that give individuals their own sense of meaning and belonging. That’s what the pursuit of happiness means. For some people that’s college. For others that’s the military. For some its parenthood or sports or plumbing school. And for most of us, it’s a whole bunch of portals because we don’t all have to be just one thing. When we say that everything has to be political we say we have to be political about everything. Politics itself becomes a form of identity politics.

Saying every portal should lead not just to politics, but one narrow vision of it, is like saying not only that everyone should go to plumbing school, but everyone should love plumbing and condemn others who don’t. 

And that’s gross. 

Various & Sundry

There’s no various & sundry today because, well, just because.

But if you can please go to TheDispatch.com and sign up for our wares if you haven’t. I’d be thankful if you did.

Womxn For Warren

Plus, abortion supporters should think twice before demanding socialized medicine.

Elizabeth Warren had a rally last night. I’ll wait for you to finish your angry letters to the broadcast networks for not carrying it live. 

Okay, so. Politico reports:

Before the senator’s speech, several women spoke and appeared onstage, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Angela Peoples of the political group Black Womxn For, which recently endorsed the Massachusetts senator. “She knows we live in nuance and intersectionality,” Pressley said of Warren.

Just to be clear, that’s not a typo. The group really is called Black Womxn For. Though a more honest name would be Black Womxn For Sentence Fragments. I feel like there’s a great Abbot and Costello bit lurking just beyond my fingertips: 

“Black Women For what?” 

“Exactly.”

“What?”

“Black Womxn For”

Or something. 

Also, does anybody know how to pronounce Womxn? Woah-mixñ?

Black Womxn For is For Warren and Warren is for Black Womxn. Read their endorsement. There is much muchness there. It begins:

The last presidential election laid bare what many Black women, gender non-conforming, and non-binary, and queer folk know deeply; that this nation embraces white supremacy and its evils, even at the expense of itself.

 As Grizzly Adams said to his Indian friend, “Bear with me.”

I don’t know if there’s any polling data on this. But I am fairly confident that most black women don’t have much use for the term womxn. I would very much like to see a Jay Leno style “Jaywalking” series of interviews of random black women in South Carolina asking them what they think of the term. 

There is polling data, however, of American Hispanics on the far more popular term Latinx. Earlier this month, a firm surveyed Hispanics and found that: 

When it came to “Latinx,” there was near unanimity. Despite its usage by academics and cultural influencers, 98% of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity. Only 2% of our respondents said the label accurately describes them, making it the least popular ethnic label among Latinos.

The most devastating finding—from the woke perspective—is that these findings basically held constant regardless of age. Three percent of Hispanics under the age of 35 preferred Latinx. This means that Donald Trump will get vastly more votes from Latinx people than the share of Latinx people who think Latinx is a thing. Awkward. 

This points to a huge problem for Warren and the various elites invested in her. They’re in a bubble. If you’re surrounded by Latinx and Womxn people who unironically use terms like Latinx or Womxn, you might get convinced that this is the way normal Hispanic and black people talk and think. I’m not saying that blacks and Hispanics are politically conservative. We know that, as a conventional or statistical matter, most aren’t. But their liberalism is the traditional liberalism of the Democratic Party circa 1985 or 2005: More generous entitlements, more public works programs, perhaps more set-asides for minorities in government contracts. In other words they’re FDR, Truman, Mondale, or Obama Democrats. Some may even be Jesse Jackson Democrats. They’re not Noam Chomsky Democrats.  

If Warren thinks she’s going to win over black women in South Carolina by talking about intersectionality, she’s in for a rude surprise. 

Abortion and the State

Let’s stay on Warren. In her ode to abortion rights during Wednesday night’s debate, Warren said:   

And I know it can be a hard decision for people. But here's the thing. When it comes down to that decision, a woman should be able to call on her mother, she should be able to call on her partner, she should be able to call on her priest or her rabbi. But the one entity that should not be in the middle of that decision is the government.

First of all, for a person comfortable with intersectionality, she shockingly didn’t mention the new catechism that men can get pregnant, too:  

Maybe the fact that she didn’t say the decision is between a (pregnant) man and his doctor is a small indicator that she understands that the activists she surrounds herself with aren’t the electoral boon she pretends they are. Or maybe she just made a mistake. Either way, you do have to wonder why Black Womxn For didn’t denounce her disturbingly gendered language. 

My own views on abortion are complicated. I do not come to the issue through religious conviction, but through political philosophy. I want a very limited government. But there are some questions that do have to be left to the state. Going back to the very first states at the dawn of the agricultural revolution, the first obligation of the state is to protect citizens from violence, from without and from within. This obligation creates a second obligation: determining who counts as a citizen or, more simply, a human being. After all, non-citizens have a right in our system not to be murdered, too. Slavery became a federal issue precisely because it was untenable to have different definitions of who counts as a human being in different parts of the country. 

For this reason, I want as maximal a definition of humanity as reason and morality can possibly allow. The premise behind abortion extremism is that fetuses do not become fully realized human beings until they emerge from the birth canal. I think that’s grotesque. 

I am fully willing to acknowledge that my horror at this proposition is far greater with regard to late-term abortions for the simple reason that the obviousness of the moral and scientific error is so much more indisputable. Regardless of my personal views, I think reasonable people can disagree about the moral or legal status of a just-fertilized egg. I don’t think it’s remotely reasonable to suggest that a baby seconds away from delivery isn’t a person deserving of the protections of the state. And any suggestion that an actually delivered baby isn’t a person is morally and scientifically disqualifying abomination. 

A viable baby isn’t Schrodinger’s cat or a tree falling in the forest no one can hear. It’s a flesh-and-blood human regardless of the attitude of the mother. If I were to kill a pregnant endangered elephant moments before it gave birth, I very much doubt abortion maximalists would criticize me for killing just one elephant. 

Warren’s position on abortion hinges on the idea that it’s not a baby until the mother decides it is. There’s an ironic illogical consistency here insofar as she also holds the view that the mother is a mother (instead of a father) only if she decides she’s a woman. 

But let’s retreat from metaphysics and get back to political theory and practice. She says “the one entity that should not be in the middle of that decision [to abort a child] is the government.”

This sounds like a libertarian position—at least for that branch of libertarianism that sees the fetus as outside the rights regime most libertarians champion. But here’s the thing: She’s not a libertarian. No, it’s true. You can look it up. 

She says she doesn’t want the government to get in the middle of a woman’s decision-making process. But she also says the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff should all work for the government. As Montesquieu might say, “Huh?”

Socialism Makes Everything the Government’s Business

If I were an unalloyed champion of abortion rights, the last thing in the world I would want is socialized medicine. Every day, all around the world, socialized health care systems deny people medical procedures based on cost-benefit calculations. If the state can deny someone a hip replacement or a gastric bypass, by what principle can it not also deny an abortion? Particularly if the pro-abortion arguments are to be taken at face value: It’s just another medical procedure!

You want to take a giant leap forward to Michael Pence’s alleged dream of a Handmaid’s Tale? Make all the OBGYNs government employees. 

I honestly don’t understand how so many progressives don’t understand that once you give the government the power to do X, you also give it the power to do not-X. Do I think the evil Pale Penis People of White Supremacy or Theocracy are just waiting around the corner to turn women into breeders? No. But if you think that, why in the world do you want to make it easier for them to use government power to achieve their ends?

Taxpayers have a right to determine where their tax dollars are spent. This is true as a matter of both political theory and practical politics. When the government pays for all the doctors and all of their equipment, as Warren, Sanders and countless others would have it, you are putting the government smack dab in the middle of that decision.  

Moreover, if you think our politics are ugly now, just wait until every single American’s tax dollars are spent on medical procedures they are morally opposed to—not just abortions, but gender reassignment surgeries for children or lord knows what else. Even if you are an abortion agnostic or simply a typical American who is okay with first-trimester abortions and horrified by third-trimester ones, socializing medicine turns countless “none of your business” issues into everyone’s business. I think gender reassignment surgeries for healthy children are horrific. But in our current system, there’s little I can do about it. If you’re going to start taking my tax dollars for it, that changes. 

Imagine that it were scientifically possible to invent a pill to eradicate homosexuality in the womb. Under socialized medicine, every politician has more of a say about whether such pills would be mandatory or outlawed. We’d still have such debates in a free-market health care system or under the mess of a system we have now. But the more government has direct control over our health care, the easier it becomes for politicians to make that decision for us.  

Again, I don’t understand why any of this is so hard to understand. The more power you give government to control, direct, or circumscribe peoples’ lives, the more you make politics zero-sum. The smaller and more limited government is, the more room there is to pursue happiness as you define it. It’s not a perfect system, as all the post-liberal statists of the left and right keep telling us. But it’s better than all the alternatives. 

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: The doggers are good these days, though I worry a bit that Pippa is starting to show her age a bit. She comes up limpy more often after excessive workouts. It’s a problem only in that her heart remains full of doggy exuberance, and once she gets revved up she ignores pain almost entirely. I’m trying to ration her ball playing, but it’s a challenge. And I am at a loss as to how to stop her from being baited by the neighborhood crows.  In other developments, I’ve had the bed all to myself lately because of my wife’s recent knee surgery. She needs to sleep with her leg elevated and so she’s more comfortable on a couch downstairs. This means on any given night, I sleep with two dogs and one cat (Ralph will sleep only with the Fair Jessica). This isn’t exactly a new experience for me, but it means that if I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I invariably return to a puddle of spaniel eager to absorb my body heat. And the thing is, a sleeping Pippa is incredibly difficult thing to move. She has a mutant power to go completely boneless and increase her body mass tenfold, so it’s like moving a ball of furry dough across a carpet. As for Zoë, the moment the first hint of morning light appears, she comes over to me and starts licking my face. “It’s go time, human.” 

Anyway, they’re lovingfall. They approached “Platonic realm of ideals”-level frolicking yesterday. And Pippa still loves the water even when it’s 40 degrees out. She’s less enamored with outright theft. Zoë meanwhile got to play with her best friend again, which always makes me happy. 

The first Remnant podcast this week was a deep dive into political theory with Daniel Burns of the University of Dallas.

The second was with Andy Smarick of the R Street Institute, which, I learned, is not on R Street. So disillusioning! 

I’m going to record at least one more before Thanksgiving but I’ll try for two. Either way, the archives are full of great listening for those long drives to the in-laws or to a country without extradition. 

ICYMI…

Debby’s Friday links

On Fox News Sunday

The Louisiana lesson 

This week's first podcast, with Daniel Burns 

This week's first G-File 

On the radio with Brian Kilmeade

This week's second Remnant, with Andy Smarick

On "unfettered capitalism" 

The latest GLoP 

And now, the weird stuff. 

You hate to see it

On the nose

Doppelganger encounters

Bad neighborhood 

Japan...

Dads during summer

Funny wildlife

Midwestern conversation 

Another day in Paradise...

Sugar in space

Searching for Nessie

The Quiet Zone

If ducks can merge, so can you

The essence of Dog

Yes, There Was a Quid Pro Quo

Note: This is the G-File, Jonah Goldberg’s newsletter. If you saw this without subscribing and want it in your inbox, sign up here.

Dear Reader (If that's your real name),

As Thomas Paine once said: “What’s the point of having a famously self-indulgent email ‘news’letter if you can’t air your grievances?”

So herewith are some replies to some of the jackassery I’ve been subjected to over the last week or so. 

Since impeachment is thick in the air, like the particulates of Eric Swalwell’s famous five-bean chili when he shows up on set, I should start there. 

On Sunday, I was on Fox News Sunday (It would have been weird if I appeared on Tuesday). I said that pretty much all reasonable people who’ve paid attention understand that President Trump pressured the Ukrainians to announce an investigation into Biden. (That’s a paraphrase, you can find the clip here.) 

This made a lot of people angry

Now, if you’ve paid attention, you don’t need me to rehash all of the reasons why I believe this. But I’ll give you a few reasons, just so I’m not accused of stealing a base. Feel free to skip ahead. 

First, there’s the “perfect” phone call. Here’s David French’s useful summary from a couple weeks ago:

First, Trump complains about a lack of reciprocity in America’s relationship with Ukraine.

Second, Zelensky mentions that Ukraine is “almost ready” to purchase Javelin missiles.

Third, the very next words out of Trump’s mouth are “I would like you to do us a favor

though,” and he proceeds to ask for ask for Ukrainian assistance in investigating bizarre

a conspiracy theory related to the 2016 election.

Fourth, Zelensky responds by saying, “[I]t is very important, and we are open for any

future cooperation.”

Fifth, Trump asks Zelensky to work with Rudy Giuliani, says, “The other thing” (implying

this is still part of his favor) and asks Ukraine to “look into” matters involving Joe and

Hunter Biden.

Sixth, Zelensky responds favorably, saying that his new prosecutor “will look into the

situation. 

As David notes, Trump wasn’t asking Zelensky to cooperate with a lawful independent investigation by the Justice Department—no such investigation existed, as Attorney General William Barr was quick to clarify. He was asking Zelensky to work with his off-book personal emissary, Rudy Giuliani.  

There’s the mysterious halting of the military aid, despite the fact the “corruption” certification had already been issued. 

Then there was the time when Trump said, straight into a camera, that he wanted Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.

Then there’s the New York Timesstory from last May in which Rudy Giuliani said he was lobbying the Ukrainians to go after the Bidens.

Plus, the CNN interview in which Giuliani admitted he did it. 

Plus, there’s the fact that when you talk to elected Republicans away from the cameras, they almost to a person agree that Trump wanted a quid pro quo.  

I could go on longer than Joe Biden giving “brief” remarks. But you get the point. 

Today’s testimony from Sondland puts a lot of this to rest. There was a quid pro quo. 

Sondland’s Ignorance

A quick digression: I personally find the claim of Gordon Sondland (and of Kurt Volker) that he had no idea “Burisma” was connected to the Bidens to be absurd. Sondland testified that he (and his fellow Amigos) were vexed by Rudy Giuliani’s intrusion into Ukrainian affairs. He claimed that he hadn’t realized the connection until perhaps September, when the “transcript” of the phone call was released. 

Imagine for the sake of argument that your boss hires an outside consultant on his own dime to work out a side deal with the clients you work with. He’s floating all sorts of b.s. rumors and generally mucking up all of your plans. Then, the New York Times runs two front page stories accusing this guy of doing super shady stuff related to your portfolio. I get that not everybody reads the Times. But do you find it remotely plausible that nobody at the office would say, “Holy crap, did you see the story in the Times?” You don’t think someone would have forwarded it to you? Sondland says he talks with leaders and policymakers in and around Ukraine constantly. None of them saw the Times’ stories? And just to be clear, this how the May 10 front-page story begins:

WASHINGTON — Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, is encouraging Ukraine to wade further into sensitive political issues in the United States, seeking to push the incoming government in Kiev to press ahead with investigations that he hopes will benefit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Giuliani said he plans to travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wants to meet with the nation’s president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump.

One is the origin of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

Mr. Giuliani’s plans create the remarkable scene of a lawyer for the president of the United States pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations that Mr. Trump’s allies hope could help him in his re-election campaign. And it comes after Mr. Trump spent more than half of his term facing questions about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with a foreign power.

The Biden stuff isn’t even below the fold!

Grievance One

Anyway, one of my abiding grievances with punditry these days is that too many people expect commentators on their own side to simply act like partisan hacks for whatever the party line of the day is. The funny thing about this is that the same people who have this expectation are among the first to—correctly!—point out when commentators on the other side do the exact same thing. Conservatives are great at pointing out the partisan groupthink on CNN and MSNBC but many are utterly blind to it on Fox—and vice versa for liberals. 

I know a lot of folks think that because I am a Trump critic—and because Trump critic simply means “Never Trumper” or “Resistance” to this crowd—that anything I say must be intended to inflict maximum damage on Trump. But the argument I made on Fox News Sunday, and in numerous columns and G-Files, isn’t that he must be removed. I think it is obvious that he did it, that it was improper, and that reasonable people can conclude it’s impeachable. I’ve never written that he must be impeached. I keep saying both impeachment and removal are prudential questions. My argument—which tracks very closely to that of Andy McCarthy and others—is an analytical one. 

Trump is putting vulnerable senators and congressmen in a terrible situation by saying the call was perfect. It wasn’t, and virtually no senator and all but a handful of congressmen believe it was. My point is that it would be better for Trump and the GOP if Trump followed the examples of Ronald Reagan during Iran-Contra, Bill Clinton during his impeachment mess, or even Richard Nixon during the Checkers scandal and just admit he made a mistake, apologize, and then argue that impeachment is overkill, particularly in advance of the coming election. That doesn’t make me a “Never Trumper.” But Always Trumpers have an almost Stalinist hatred for “deviationism” these days. 

Boo Hoo, the Racists Don’t Like Me

I gave a speech at the University of Wisconsin last week. As expected, some young racist poltroons showed up to DESTROY me with their supposedly devastating questions. These kids have been pausing their Call of Duty games and flooding various events around the country to heckle and pester a diverse group of conservatives and Trumpists alike (Don Jr. was literally heckled from a stage at UCLA, in part because he was too scared to face questions from the audience). The week before, they showed up at an event I did with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (you can hear the audio of that here). They go by the name “groypers” after a new and improved alt-right frog cartoon, and they’re followers of pasty kid named Nick Fuentes. 

Anyway, at the Madison event, one kid asked some long and loaded—and really stupid—question which he read from his iPhone. That’s an M.O. of these pasty trolls. They hone their queries in some chat room somewhere until they think there’s no escaping the forensic brilliance on display. After answering the question—admittedly with ample scorn; I don’t think it was unduly harsh, merely duly harsh—the kid whined something about how could I call their group or movement (or giant Onanism-oval) “racist” when it’s been embraced by none other than Michelle Malkin, a woman of color. 

The whiny tone when he brought up Malkin was remarkable. Like a little kid shouting “No fair! We have a token minority! You’re not allowed to call us racist now!” 

You gotta love it when racist would-be manly men hide behind the moral authority of female minorities. 

I replied with something like, “Oh my God, not Michelle Malkin!” and proceeded to detail why I couldn’t give enough defecations to fill a thimble about what she says about these people. Someone gave the video to Malkin and she whined about it on Twitter:

To which I replied: 

And she shot back:

If anything, the only false or defamatory statement here is her paranoid nonsense about how I’m part of something called Open Borders Inc., whatever that is. As for false statements, I suppose you could say I skirted the line by saying I always respected her. But I’ll let it stand. We used to be friendly. 

Since then, Malkin has been justly defenestrated by YAF because she openly defends a bunch of racists and anti-Semites, including Fuentes, who defends Jim Crow and denies the Holocaust. She says they’ve all been “unjustly prosecuted.” I assume she means persecuted, unless she thinks the guy who murdered a protestor at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally should have been let off with a warning. 

Suffice it to say, nothing I said about her was false or defamatory. 

The Invincible Stupidity of the Alt-Right

I honestly thought we were done with this alt-right crap. 

There was a time when the alt-right seemed like a real threat to conservatism. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was eager to take the support of anyone who would offer it. This, plus a lot of his rhetoric, gave the impression that Trump actually subscribed to the full alt-right agenda.

A quick refresher: Besides what we know publicly about Trump’s reluctance to disavow David Duke, reliable sources have  told me that it took serious effort from his advisors to denounce him. Again, I don’t think it was because Trump’s a secret Klansman or anything; he just hates criticizing people, including dictators, who flatter him. Also, I think he believed that Republicans were more racist than they are or that racists are an important part of the GOP coalition. There was also the fact that Russian bot accounts, in keeping with a Soviet tradition that goes back to the 1960s, were flooding Twitter with racist and anti-Semitic garbage that amplified the perception that there was some sleeper army of bigots ready to swarm the polls on Trump’s behalf. These were the days when that Milo guy was a right-wing celebrity defending the alt-right and Steve Bannon was proudly proclaiming that Breitbart—then overpopulated with actual racists—would be the new “platform for the alt-right.” The Klavern over at VDARE thought their moment was nigh and were no doubt handing out their Helter-Skelter party hats. 

Since then, the Russian bot spigot has been turned off, and Donald Trump posed the same problem for committed racists that he poses for everyone else who actually believes in something other than Donald Trump. Consistent conservatives inclined to support the president have been bedeviled by Trump’s glandular unpredictability and narcissistic self-absorption, but so have intellectually consistent nativists, nationalists, isolationists, and racists. Say what you will about the tenets of Ann Coulterism, at least it’s an ethos. The author of In Trump We Trust cares more about her priorities than fueling the Trump cult of personality. Sure, Stephen Miller is safely ensconced in the White House—I suspect because of the physical danger of removing his head from so deep in Trump’s ass—but we don’t live in the Trumpen Reich that Richard Spencer fantasized about either. 

I don’t want to glide past the fact that the alt-right is fundamentally evil. That would be like attacking Jack the Ripper for the raggedness of his knife work. But if you don’t think Holocaust deniers and defenders of state-sanctioned racism are evil, there’s nothing I can do to persuade you otherwise. 

But I assume that at least some people attracted to this bilious garbage can be salvaged because they’re simply working from imperfect information. Young people are often attracted to transgressive taboo-defying speech because they mistake the controversy it arouses for the glow of some Secret Truth. This is the story of countless radicals of the left and right throughout the ages. So it’s worth pointing out just how stupid all of it is. 

First, by his own admission, Fuentes is a Milo, just without the flamboyant wardrobe. He told The Hill that he’s not really a Holocaust denier; he just pretends to be for the attention: 

He said that some of his remarks are meant as outrage trolling to draw attention to his show or as over-the-top digs at political rivals aimed at getting under their skin.

“That’s kind of the whole thing,” he said. “We have figured out the game. The algorithm. We’ve hacked the conversation where if you say sensational things like we do, you get attention. I don’t want it to be like that. I wish I could ascend with ideas.”

The poor little bigot would love to talk about ideas, but he just has to play a game to get saps, losers, and sincere bigots to watch his show. Now, I’m sure many of the groypers think he’s lying to The Hill and he really does believe this crap. Either way, by his own words, anyone who takes Fuentes as anything more than a performance artist is a sucker. 

As for the substance, the idea that America was once a unified community for “white” people is ahistorical hogwash. It took generations for Italians, Irish, and other immigrant communities to be counted as “white.” Even in the South, there was a caste system. Blacks were obviously at the bottom, but poor whites were not exactly seen as equals by the aristocratic class of slaveowners.  The idea that “true conservatism”—one of the groypers go-to-phrases—is defined by white solidarity is particularly absurd when you factor in the history of Western civilization. None of the conflicts, debates, or arguments of Western Civilization centered around racial questions until the late 19th century. Indeed, the idea of race doesn’t even enter the story until the Enlightenment, and it was hardly central to anything.

Meanwhile, if you take the serious arguments this crowd salts its race panic talk with seriously, their strategy is idiotic. They claim to be very concerned that non-white people (other than Michelle Malkin) are somehow—genetically, culturally, congenitally—predetermined to vote Democrat. Genetics has nothing to do with it, of course. But the mere fact that Malkin (or Dinesh D’Souza) isn’t “voting her race” points to the flaw here. Hispanics and blacks can vote any way they want, but they must be persuaded to do so. Telling them they’re all dirty mud people with a hardwired drive to vote Democrat is literally the best way possible to get them to vote Democrat. 

Worried that Hispanics vote too liberal? Persuade them to vote differently. Is that hard? Sure. But it’s impossible if you tell them you think they’re un-American or inferior to white people. I have no principled objection to a time-out or drastic reduction in immigration numbers (there goes my check from Open Borders Inc). But the demographic trends in America still require the GOP to stop acting like it’s the party of White People. Indeed, the more successful the groyper types—and quite a few mainstream conservatives—are in making this the defining rationale for the GOP, the more it will turn off minorities, and a lot of white people. I put it to you that the number of white people who want to be part of an explicitly white nationalist party is far smaller than the number of white people who would leave the GOP as a result. 

One Final Grievance

Last and least is prominent goon-dufus Cory Lewandowski. 

I think that covers it.

Various & Sundry

I’m scheduled to be on Special Report tonight, though who knows whether it will be preempted by the hearings.

The latest Remnant is out, and it is admittedly not for everybody. It’s a pretty intensely nerdy foray into political theory with political scientist Dan Burns. I enjoyed it a lot but I understand if it’s not your thing. 

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