Ahmari and French Debate
The Downton Abbey Movie

The Issues Are Not the Issues Anymore

I've been trying to remember where I heard, attributed to some leftist, the saying that "The issue is not the issue." The only thing turned up by a quick search is a remark attributed by David Horowitz to some SDS organizer of the '60s: "The issue is never the issue. The issue is the revolution." 

Even if that's apocryphal, it certainly describes the method of many political activists, especially those who see themselves as being engaged in a campaign for some sort of broad and fundamental change. You pick particular situations that can be exploited for your purposes, but they're mainly important as means toward a far more important end.

I think--I'm afraid--that the quotation has a wider application now. It pretty much sums up our whole political situation. Right and left disagree as much as they ever have about specific policy questions. But those are somewhat in the background except insofar as they can be used to advance the essential cause: for progressives, to gain decisive control of the federal government so that "the New America" can begin (I've been seeing that term a lot recently); for conservatives, to prevent that. 

Old-fashioned liberals believed in the constitution, but they are a fading breed, being replaced by leftists for whom the constitution is at best a set of more or less arbitrary rules that can be set aside when progress requires it. At worst it's just one more oppressive structure put in place by white men to keep everyone else down. In any case, it should be construed as requiring (or permitting, as the case may be) whatever advances the progressive cause. That tendency on the left has been evident for as long as I can remember, but it's far stronger now. 

It becomes more and more clear that a lot of very influential progressives simply don't care in any positive way about the actual history, culture, people, and constitution of this country. They can only value it insofar as it seems to promise a bright shining socialist John-Lennon-Imaginary future. Anything that would get in the way of that vision must be discarded or destroyed. They're best understood as millenarian religious fanatics. I don't by any means say that everyone on the political left thinks this way, but, as I said, they are many and influential beyond their numbers.

So when the question "What do conservatives want to conserve?" is asked, my answer now is pretty simple: the constitution. Everything else in American political life depends on that. If we lose it, we lose the republic. And I think that would be a bad thing--even for those who don't at the moment understand that it would be. 

Kevin Williamson, writing in National Review a couple of weeks ago in response to a New York Times call for "packing" the Supreme Court as a way of defeating the obstacle of originalist judges, makes the point brilliantly:

Bouie complains: “In the past, courts have walled entire areas of American life off from federal action. They’ve put limits on American democracy.” Indeed, they have — that is what they are there for. The Constitution and, specifically, the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments exist explicitly to “put limits on American democracy.” Majorities do not get to overturn freedom of speech or freedom of religion. They do not get to impose slavery or imprison people without trial. There are lots of things majorities do not get to do. This is not some modern conservative invention to frustrate progressives — it is the design of the American constitutional order.

(Strange that you never hear progressives complaining about how Roe vs. Wade “walled off” abortion from majoritarian lawmaking.)

Bouie’s majoritarian ideology is nowhere to be found in the Constitution; in fact, the very structure of American government is designed to frustrate that kind of crass majoritarianism. Hence the Senate (as originally organized) and the presidential veto, both designed as checks on the excessive democratic passions to which the House might be subject; hence the written Constitution and the Bill of Rights, i.e. America’s Great Big List of Important Stuff You Idiots Don’t Get a Vote On, and a Supreme Court constitutionally empowered to police those limits. You can call that an ideology, too, and even conservative ideology, which it is: Properly understood, the principles and philosophy of the Founding are what it is conservatives try to conserve.   

Exactly. The movement for getting rid of the Electoral College deserves similar scorn for similar reasons. Speaking of which, there is no surer way to get me to vote for Trump than to attempt to subvert the Electoral College. (You can read Williamson's whole piece here.)

We're in a strange situation now (to say the least). I don't think Trump really understands or cares about the constitution much more than most of these progressives do. People call him a fascist, but that's silly and lazy: if the word means anything useful (which is questionable), a fascist is a person with a rigid ideology. That's one of the last things Trump can be accused of being. The note in his manner and behavior that makes people think of fascism is that of the caudillo: the amoral strong man of the sort who tends to gain control of nations that have no strong constitutional framework, no strong deeply-rooted sense of "government of laws, not men."

And yet he has pretty well delivered on his promise to appoint constitutionalist judges, who are the final bulwark of a republic deserving the name. The man progressives call authoritarian is actually, where it counts most, shoring up the foundations against authoritarianism--even if he doesn't know exactly what he's doing. 


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"there is no surer way to get me to vote for Trump than to attempt to subvert the Electoral College."

Same here. That, and attacks on the First Amendment.

A while back the Babylon Bee had a headline that said something like "Democrats Seek to Close Loopholes in Constitution that Allow Republicans to Win."

That's hyperbole for humor's sake, of course, but there's an element of truth to it, unfortunately.

A lot of truth. The Bee is frequently brilliant. They had a lot of fun with Snopes fact-checking some of their satire.

"attacks on the First Amendment"--right, that and a lot of other things keep me from voting from almost any Democrat. But living in a very Republican state gives me the luxury of voting 3rd party as a statement without assisting the Dems. The proposed end run around the electoral college takes that away, though. If it's a national popular vote, I have to pick one side or the other, and unfortunately it's not a very difficult choice.


"...and unfortunately it's not a very difficult choice."

That's what I think too.

I get it. :-)

I remain a registered Republican only so I can vote in the (closed) primaries, and the candidates I vote for never win. (Kasich was my choice in 2016. I don't remember if he even survived until the Pa. primary.)

I've sat the last two presidential elections out, and even our last Senate election was pretty bad as far as the choices went.

My state has open primaries, a pretty bad practice, but it's kept me from ever having to formally register with a party. Though in some elections I do have to state at the polls which party I'm voting in.

Interesting piece that talks about reforming the Electoral College:

The Electoral College system governing us today, as delineated in the 12th Amendment, is primarily the result of congressional deliberations in 1803, which revised the original system adopted at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. ...

At first, the system devised in 1803 produced results generally consistent with the 12th Amendment’s original intent. But over time, the amendment began to lose its majoritarian moorings.

The primary reason was a major transformation in the methods that states use for appointing their Electoral College members. Before the 12th Amendment, most often a state’s legislature voted directly for Electoral College electors, which was consistent with the principle of majority rule. When states let citizens vote for the electors, they took steps to make sure that the chosen electors still represented the majority of the state’s voters, as well. ...

All of this began to change with the rise of the plurality winner-take-all system, in which all of a state’s electors are awarded to the candidate who receives the highest number of votes in the state—even if that candidate receives only a plurality of the popular vote. ...

Today, 48 states rely on the plurality winner-take-all system to select their presidential electors. It has long been the norm. But it is also a system the Jeffersonians would find entirely objectionable insofar as it empowers a party and a candidate that lack a majority of votes. ...

Why have we have seen un-Jeffersonian results with accelerating—and alarming—frequency, whereas previous periods were largely immune? The answer is that third-party candidates have become more common. When there are only two candidates, the plurality winner is necessarily also a majority winner, but not so when there are three or more candidates on the ballot. ...

It is the states that have the power to restore the Electoral College to its original intent—and to ensure that it better represents the will of the American people. To do so, they must commit themselves to this majority-rule principle: No candidate receives all of a state’s electoral votes unless the candidate gets a majority of the state’s popular votes.

Well, I don't have the patience to absorb the details of that. Could be reasonable proposals, but I'm a little suspicious because there are hints that the author sees a straight national majority as the correct end. Seems to think there's something wrong if it goes the other way.

Anyway, what I'm opposed to is not any or all reform of the system, but the attempt to establish a direct national popular vote. I'm a little surprised that people are clamoring for that because the most recent instance didn't go their way. They seem certain that the future is on their side and a national popular vote would always go their way. Short-sighted to put it mildly.

This is what I'm talking about--this is what would make me vote for Trump:


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