Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Populist Revolt Against Failure. By William A. Galston.

A political cartoon showing Andrew Jackson standing firm against his enemies in the election of 1824. Getty Images.

The Populist Revolt Against Failure. By William A. Galston. Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2016.

The Week Democracy Died. By Yascha Mounk. Slate, August 14, 2016.

Illiberal Democracy or Undemocratic Liberalism. By Yascha Mounk. Project Syndicate, June 9, 2016.


What erodes faith in the ruling class are bungled wars, uneven growth and insecurity.

The populist revolt against governing elites sweeping advanced democracies is the latest chapter in the oldest political story. Every society, regardless of its form of government, has a ruling class. The crucial question is whether elites rule in their own interest or for the common good.

In the decades after World War II, the ruling classes in Western Europe and the U.S. managed their economies and social policies in ways that improved the well-being of the overwhelming majority of their citizens. In return, citizens accorded elites a measure of deference. Trust in government was high.

These ruling classes weren’t filled by the traditional aristocracy, and only partly by the wealthy. As time passed, educated professionals assumed the leading role. Many came from relatively humble backgrounds, but they attended the best schools and formed enduring networks with fellow students.

Some were economists, others specialists in public policy and administration, still others scientists whose contributions to the war effort translated into peacetime prestige. Many were lawyers able to train their honed analytical powers on governance. They were, in a term coined in the late 1950s, the “meritocracy.”

In some human endeavors, meritocratic claims are largely unproblematic. In sports, we celebrate the excellence of those who win. In the sciences, peer review identifies accomplishment; most people in each specialty can name the handful of individuals likely to win the Nobel Prize.

Politics, especially in democracies, is more complicated. Democratic equality stands in tension with hierarchical claims of every type, including merit. In a letter to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson characterized elections as the best way of elevating the “natural aristoi” into positions of authority. He had in mind people like himself, liberally educated and trained in the subtle art of governance.

This view didn’t survive the 1820s, when Andrew Jackson led a popular revolt against it. Alleging that a “corrupt bargain” among elites had cheated him out of the presidency in 1824, he swept to a victory in 1828 that he portrayed as a triumph for the common man—farmers, craftsmen, sturdy pioneers—against the moneyed interests. Ever since, the trope of the virtuous people against the self-dealing elites has endured in American politics.

Yet this is more than an American story. In democracies, meritocracy will always be on the defensive. Its legitimacy will always depend on its performance—its ability to provide physical security and broadly shared prosperity, as well as to conduct foreign policy and armed conflict successfully. When it fails to deliver, all bets are off.

This is what has happened throughout the West. Failed wars, domestic insecurity and uneven growth have undermined the authority of governing elites. Although the pro-Brexit vote in the U.K. came as a shock, it was the latest in a series of surprises tending in the same direction.

Among these surprises was the outcome of last year’s Polish election, which replaced a government led by the center-right Civic Platform Party with the populist-nationalist Law and Justice Party. During the past decade, Poland’s economy had grown twice as fast as any other member of the European Union. But as Henry Foy points out in the American Interest, the gains were concentrated in Poland’s largest cities, while other areas lagged. The postcommunist market economy, he observes, “eroded traditional ways of life without adequate recompense.”

Unequal growth triggers cultural resentment. “We only want to cure our country of a few illnesses,” the new Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, told a German newspaper in January. Most Poles, he said, are moved by “tradition, historical awareness, love of country, faith in God, and a normal family life between a woman and a man.” But the previous government acted “as if the world, in a Marxist fashion, were destined to evolve only in one direction—towards a new mix of cultures and races, a world of bicyclists and vegetarians, who only use renewable energy and who battle all signs of religion.”

The new meritocrats, then, are exposed to cultural as well as economic resentment. Education prepares them to surge ahead in the knowledge economy, leaving industrial and rural areas behind. But it also inclines them to question traditional values and welcome cultural diversity. Educated classes are less moved by particularist appeals to ethnic and national identity and more by internationalism and universal norms. Many identify more with elites abroad than with their own less-educated, less-prosperous countrymen.

Similar divisions are evident throughout the West. Depending on the balance of forces, political outcomes vary from one country to the next. But the terms of the struggle are much the same. And so are the dangers, not least to democracy.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Meaning of an Olympic Snub. By Bret Stephens.

Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby declines to shake hands with Israel’s Or Sasson Friday. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Meaning of an Olympic Snub. By Bret Stephens. Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2016.

Bret Stephens and the politics of Jewish ethnocentrism. By Yakov Hirsch. Mondoweiss, August 17, 2016.

Refusing to shake hands is childish, but turning a blind eye to racial discrimination is criminal. By Nasim Ahmed. Middle East Monitor, August 18, 2016.

A new milestone: BDS at the Olympics. By Nadia Elia. Mondoweiss, August 21, 2016.


The Arab world has a problem of the mind, and its name is anti-Semitism.

An Israeli heavyweight judoka named Or Sasson defeated an Egyptian opponent named Islam El Shehaby Friday in a first-round match at the Rio Olympics. The Egyptian refused to shake his opponent’s extended hand, earning boos from the crowd. Mr. Sasson went on to win a bronze medal.

If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It did itself in chiefly through its long-abiding and all-consuming hatred of Israel, and of Jews.

That’s not a point you will find in a long article about the Arab crackup by Scott Anderson in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, where hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia—a given of the landscape. Nor is it much mentioned in the wide literature about the legacy of colonialism in the Middle East, or the oil curse, governance gap, democracy deficit, youth bulge, sectarian divide, legitimacy crisis and every other explanation for Arab decline.

Yet the fact remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world got rid of its Jews, some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, ruinously expensive wars, misdirected ideological obsessions, and an intellectual life perverted by conspiracy theory and the perpetual search for scapegoats. The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind, and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism.

As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. In a 2005 essay in Commentary, historian Paul Johnson noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed.

Spain expelled its Jews with the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The effect, Mr. Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.” In czarist Russia, anti-Semitic laws led to mass Jewish emigration as well as an “immense increase in administrative corruption produced by the system of restrictions.” Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb if Hitler hadn’t sent Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller into exile in the U.S.

These patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause was not the creation of the state of Israel. There were bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Lebanon in 1945. Nor is it accurate to blame Jerusalem for fueling anti-Semitism by refusing to trade land for peace. Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel barely abated after Menachem Begin relinquished the Sinai to Anwar Sadat. Among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process.

In his essay, Mr. Johnson called anti-Semitism a “highly infectious” disease capable of becoming “endemic in certain localities and societies,” and “by no means confined to weak, feeble or commonplace intellects.” Anti-Semitism may be irrational, but its potency, he noted, lies in transforming a personal and instinctive irrationalism into a political and systematic one. For the Jew-hater, every crime has the same culprit and every problem has the same solution.

Anti-Semitism makes the world seem easy. In doing so, it condemns the anti-Semite to a permanent darkness.

Today there is no great university in the Arab world, no serious indigenous scientific base, a stunted literary culture. In 2015 the U.S. Patent Office reported 3,804 patents from Israel, as compared with 364 from Saudi Arabia, 56 from the United Arab Emirates, and 30 from Egypt. The mistreatment and expulsion of Jews has served as a template for the persecution and displacement of other religious minorities: Christians, Yazidis, the Baha’ i.

Hatred of Israel and Jews has also deprived the Arab world of both the resources and the example of its neighbor. Israel quietly supplies water to Jordan, helping to ease the burden of Syrian refugees, and quietly provides surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to Egypt to fight ISIS in the Sinai. But this is largely unknown among Arabs, for whom the only permissible image of Israel is an Israeli soldier in riot gear, abusing a Palestinian.

Successful nations make a point of trying to learn from their neighbors. The Arab world has been taught over generations only to hate theirs.

This may be starting to change. In the past five years the Arab world has been forced to face up to its own failings in ways it cannot easily blame on Israel. The change can be seen in the budding rapprochement between Jerusalem and Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which might yet yield tactical and strategic advantages on both sides, particularly against common enemies such as ISIS and Iran.

That’s not enough. So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue. For Israel, this is a pity. For the Arabs, it’s a calamity. The hater always suffers more than the object of his hatred.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sheriff David Clarke: A Young Black Man Without a Father Usually “Grows Up to Be an Unmanageable Misfit.”

Sheriff David Clarke Interviewed by Sean Hannity on Fox News. Video. Make America Great Again!, August 15, 2016. YouTube. Transcript excerpt at Media Matters.

Transcript excerpt:

DAVID CLARKE: The black community has been exploited ever since Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. OK, they marginalized the black man, removed him, told him he was expendable, said Uncle Sam is going to be the dad, Uncle Sam is going to raise the kids. Uncle Sam is a horrible father and we’re seeing the results of that. We know that young men in the black community growing up without a father to shape their behavior, more times than not, not always, more times than not grows up to be an unmanageable misfit that the police have to deal with in aggressive fashion like we saw Saturday night. So the alderman, the quote that we were listening to, he talks about oppression. You know what the only remnant of oppression for black people is left in America? The Democrat Party.

About Those Loser “Trumpkins.” By William McGurn.

Donald Trump supporters as an August 5 campaign rally in Green Bay, WI. Associated Press.

About Those Loser “Trumpkins.” By William McGurn. Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2016.


What is it that the much-vilified Trump voters are trying to tell us?

In the land of NeverTrump, it turns out one American is more reviled than Donald Trump. This would be the Donald Trump voter.

Lincoln famously described government as of, by, and for the people. Even so, the people are now getting a hard lesson about what happens when they reject the advice of their betters and go with a nominee of their own choosing. What happens is an outpouring of condescension and contempt.

This contempt is most naked on the left. No surprise here, for two reasons. First, since at least Woodrow Wilson progressives have always preferred rule by a technocratic elite over democracy. Second, today’s Democratic Party routinely portrays its Republican Party rivals as an assortment of nasty ists (racists, sexists, nativists, etc.) making war on minorities, women, foreigners and innocent goatherds who somehow end up in Guantanamo.

Thus Mr. Trump confirms to many on the left what they have always told themselves about the GOP. A New York Times writer put it this way: “Donald Trump’s supporters know exactly what he stands for: hatred of immigrants, racial superiority, a sneering disregard of the basic civility that binds a society.”

Still, the contempt for the great Republican unwashed does not emanate exclusively from liberals or Democrats. Thanks to Mr. Trump’s run for office, it is now ascendant in conservative and Republican quarters as well.

Start with the fondness for the word “Trumpkin,” meant at once to describe and demean his supporters. Or consider an article from National Review, which describes a “vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles” and whose members find that “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin.” Scarcely a day goes by without a fresh tweet or article taking the same tone, an echo of the old Washington Post slur against evangelicals as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.”

We get it: Trump voters are stupid whites who are embittered because they are losing out in the global economy.

But a new Gallup paper suggests this may be a caricature that misses the fuller picture. The analysis is by Gallup senior economist Jonathan Rothwell, who looked not only at Trump voters but where they lived:

“The results show mixed evidence that economic distress has motivated Trump support,” writes Mr. Rothwell. “His supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relative high household incomes, and living in areas more exposed to trade or immigration does not increase Trump support.”

In fact, in areas where people were more affected by immigration and competition from Chinese imports, support for Mr. Trump declined. By contrast, his support was stronger in areas low in intergenerational mobility. Could it be that what motivates Trump voters is not a purely selfish concern for how they themselves are faring but how well their children and their communities will do?

There are those, this columnist included, who would argue that the under 2% average growth rate of the past decade has done more to constrict income and opportunity for ordinary Americans than bugaboos such as the North American Free Trade Agreement or currency manipulation by China. In the same vein, there’s a strong case to be made that Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” is the path to the Trump voter’s goal of “Making America Great Again.”

The people are not always right—even schoolboys know about the tyranny of the majority—but a self-governing society ought to welcome the engagement of its citizens. In this light, a more fruitful approach might start by taking note of the surprise popularity in these year’s primaries of an outsider businessman in the GOP and a socialist over in the Democratic Party.

The result? A conversation that opened not with a taunt but a question: “What are the American people trying to tell us?” Unfortunately, it’s hard to get there when ordinary people with concerns about the future for themselves and their families are hectored and lectured about how loathsome they are.

It all calls to mind a witticism from Bertolt Brecht from 1953, after East German workers who revolted over measures requiring more work for less pay were met with Soviet tanks. In a poem that was not published until years later, Brecht, a playwright who had publicly supported the crackdown, wryly defined the problem as a regime losing confidence in its people rather than the other way around.

“Would it not be easier in that case,” he quipped, “for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”

On TV, through Twitter and in person Mr. Trump has long made clear that his epithet of choice for those who disagree with him is “loser.” How ironic that the same people most loudly complaining about what a vulgarian Donald Trump is are now using the same insult to dismiss the ordinary Republican voters who happen to disagree with them.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Obama’s Iraq Policy Did Not Create ISIS. By Andrew C. McCarthy.

Obama’s Iraq Policy Did Not Create ISIS. By Andrew C. McCarthy. National Review Online, August 13, 2016.


Our challenge in the Middle East is that sharia supremacism fills all vacuums.

The early Cold War wisdom that “we must stop politics at the water’s edge” has never been entirely true. In endeavors as human as politics, no such altruistic aspiration ever will be. But Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s adage does reflect a principle critical to effective national security: The United States is imperiled when partisan politics distorts our understanding of the world and the threats it presents.

We’ve been imperiled for a long time now. The most salient reason for that has been the bipartisan, politically correct refusal to acknowledge and confront the Islamic roots of the threat to the West. It has prevented us from grasping not only why jihadists attack us but also that jihadists are merely the militant front line of the broader civilizational challenge posed by sharia supremacism.

Inevitably, when there is a profound threat and an overarching strategic failure to apprehend it, disasters abound; and rather than becoming occasions for reassessment of the flawed bipartisan strategy, those disasters become grist for partisan attacks. From 2004 through 2008, the specious claim was that President Bush’s ouster of Saddam Hussein created terrorism in Iraq. Now it is that President Obama is the “founder of ISIS,” as Donald Trump put it this week.

The point here is not to bash Trump. He is hardly the first to posit some variation of the storyline that Obama’s premature withdrawal of American forces from Iraq led to the “vacuum” in which, we are to believe, the Islamic State spontaneously generated. Indeed, this narrative is repeated on Fox News every ten minutes or so.

The point is to try to understand what we are actually dealing with, how we got to this place, and what the security implications are. There is no denying that American missteps have exacerbated a dangerous threat environment in the Middle East to some degree. It is spurious, though, to suggest that any of these errors, or all of them collectively, caused the catastrophe that has unfolded.

The problem for the United States in this region is Islam — specifically, the revolutionary sharia-supremacist version to which the major players adhere. There is no vacuum. There never has been a vacuum. What we have is a bubbling cauldron of aggressive political Islam with its always attendant jihadist legions.

The question is always: How to contain the innate aggression? The fantasy answers are: (a) let’s convert them to Western democracy, and (b) let’s support the secular democrats. In reality, the region does not want Western democracy — it wants sharia (Islamic law), even if there is disagreement about how much sharia and how quickly it should be imposed. And while there are some secular democrats, there are far, far too few of them to compete with either the sharia-supremacist factions or the dictatorial regimes — they can only fight the latter by aligning with the former. At best, the secularists provide hope for an eventual evolution away from totalitarian sharia culture; for now, however, it is absurd for Beltway Republicans to contend that ISIS emerged because Obama failed to back these “moderates” in Iraq and Syria.

The fact that top Republicans use the term “moderate” rather than “secular democrat” should tell us all we need to know. They realize there are not enough secularists to fight either Bashar Assad or ISIS, much less both of them. For all their justifiable ridiculing of Obama’s lexicon, Republicans invoke “moderates” for the same reason Obama uses terms like “workplace violence” — to obscure unpleasant truths about radical Islam. In this instance, the truth is that the “moderates” they claim Obama should have backed include the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-Western Islamist factions, including al-Qaeda. Of course, if they told you that, there wouldn’t be much bite in their critique of Obama’s infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood . . . and you might even start remembering that, during the Bush years, the GOP couldn’t do enough “outreach” to “moderate Islamists.”

The Middle East is aflame because of sharia supremacism and the jihadism that ideology always produces. That was the problem long before there was an ISIS. The Baathist regimes in Iraq and Syria, like other Middle Eastern dictatorships, kept sharia supremacism in check by alternatively persecuting Islamist insurgents, turning them against each other, or using them to harass Israel and the West. In Iran, to the contrary, the shah was overthrown by a revolutionary Shiite jihadist movement that he failed to keep in check.

Bush, with what started out as bipartisan support, ousted the Iraqi regime without any discernible plan for dealing with Iran, Syria, and the wider war — delusionally calculating that Iran might actually be helpful because of its supposedly keen interest in Iraqi stability. Iran, of course, went about the business of fueling the terrorist insurgency against American troops. Saddam’s fall unleashed the competing Islamist forces that continue to tear Iraq apart. The thought that we could democratize the culture was fantasy; far from taming sharia supremacism, the government we birthed in Baghdad was converted by the Iran-backed Shiite parties into a mechanism for abusing Sunnis. Naturally, the Sunnis turned to their own sharia supremacists for their defense.

It is fair enough to argue that Obama should not have pulled U.S. forces out of Iraq just as the security situation was badly deteriorating in 2011. But a big part of the reason that Democrats thrashed Republicans in the 2006 midterms, and that Obama was elected in 2008, was mounting American opposition to maintaining our troops there. Critics, moreover, conveniently omit to mention that (a) the agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw our troops on a timeline unrelated to conditions on the ground was made by Bush, not Obama, and that (b) Bush reluctantly made that agreement precisely because Iraqis were demanding that Americans get out of their country.

The war became unpopular in the United States because it seemed unconnected to U.S. security interests: so much sacrifice on behalf of ingrates, while Iran exploited the mayhem to muscle in. There was no public appetite for a long-range U.S. military presence. What would be the point, when Bush had given the increasingly hostile Iraqi government the power to veto U.S. military operations to which it objected, and had agreed that our forces would not use Iraqi territory as a base of operations against Iran, Syria, or any other country? (See 2008 Status of Forces Agreement, articles 4 and 27.) This was not post-war Europe or Japan, where the enemy had been vanquished. Most Americans did not see the point of further risking American lives in order to stop anti-American Shiites and anti-American Sunnis from having at each other, as they’ve been doing to great lethal effect for 14 centuries.

ISIS (now, the Islamic State) got its start as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the primary culprit (along with Iran) in the Iraqi civil war. ISIS thus long predates Obama’s presidency. Furthermore, the oft-repeated GOP talking-point that al-Qaeda in Iraq was defeated by the Bush troop surge is a gross exaggeration. Our jihadist enemies could not be defeated in Iraq, because Iraq was never their sole base of operations. Since we’ve never had a strategy to defeat them globally, we were never going to do more than temporarily tamp them down in Iraq. They were always going to wait us out. They were always going to reemerge, in Iraq and elsewhere.

One of the places in which they regrouped was Syria. That made perfect sense, because Syria — the client of al-Qaeda’s long-time supporter, Iran — was always a waystation for jihadists seeking to fight American and Western forces in Iraq. Meanwhile, there was an internal Syrian uprising against the Assad regime. To be sure, the revolt had some secular components; but it was thoroughly coopted by the Muslim Brotherhood (as analyst Hassan Hassan comprehensively outlined in Foreign Policy in early 2013).

Notwithstanding the Republicans’ ISIS myopia, it was not the only jihadist presence in Syria — not even close. Al-Qaeda still had a franchise there (al-Nusrah), along with several other tentacles. Importantly, in its rivalry with breakaway ISIS, al-Qaeda has adopted the Muslim Brotherhood approach of ground-up revolution — the antithesis of the Islamic State’s top-down strategy of forcibly expanding its declared caliphate and implementing sharia full-scale.

As Tom Joscelyn perceptively explained in 2015 congressional testimony, al-Qaeda is attempting to spark jihadist uprisings in Muslim-majority countries while appealing to local populations with fundamentalist education initiatives. Like the Brotherhood, al-Qaeda leaders now preach a gradualist implementation of sharia, which is more appealing to most Middle Eastern Muslims than ISIS’s inflexibility and emphasis on sharia’s barbaric hudud penalties (mutilation, stoning, scourging, etc.). Understand: Al-Qaeda is just as anti-American as it has ever been. In Syria, however, its shrewd approach has enabled the network to insinuate itself deeply into the forces that oppose both Assad and ISIS. So has the Brotherhood.

These forces are the “moderates” that Republicans, apparently including Trump, claim Obama failed to support, creating the purported “vacuum” out of which ISIS emerged. The charge is doubly specious because Obama actually did provide these “moderates” with plenty of support. The GOP rap on Obama is that he failed to jump with both feet into the Syria civil war and take the side of “moderates.” But jumping in with both feet, at the urging of Beltway Republicans, is exactly what Obama did on behalf of the “moderates” in Libya. How’d that work out?

Our challenge in the Middle East is that sharia supremacism fills all vacuums. It was this ideology that created ISIS long before President Obama came along. And if ISIS were to disappear tomorrow, sharia supremacism would still be our challenge. It is critical to be an effective political opposition to the Obama Left. But being effective means not letting the political part warp our judgment, especially where national security is concerned.

Dr. Keith Ablow: Obama’s Anti-Police Rhetoric Is to Blame for Violent Protests in Milwaukee.

FNI summary of the interview:

Violent riots erupted in Milwaukee Saturday night after an armed man fleeing police after a traffic stop was shot and killed.

At least four businesses were burned, a police car was set on fire and one officer was hurt after as many as 100 people gathered to protest the shooting.

On Fox and Friends Weekend this morning, Dr. Keith Ablow said that President Obama and his administration have created an anti-law enforcement environment, which leads to violent protests like what occurred in Milwaukee.

“Word has gone out from the corner office that there’s terrible injustice afoot in America,” Ablow said. “We’re seeing – literally – a projection of the president’s ambivalence about America and his real rage at America.”

“I’d love to see the president come out and say, ‘Look, bottom line is, if you run away from a police officer, armed, and you won't stop, bad things can happen.’ Where is the surprise in that? How does that lead to rioting? That’s craziness. It has to be a message from the corner office.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

First Crush Trump. But Then What? By Jennifer Rubin.

First crush Trump. But then what? By Jennifer Rubin. Washington Post, August 8, 2016.


Prominent #NeverTrump advocate and GOP consultant Rick Wilson (reportedly assisting in the independent Republican bid of former CIA veteran Evan McMullin) persuasively argues that it is in the party’s and country’s interest for Donald Trump to lose — by a lot. He explains:

[I]f there’s a loss by a slim margin in the popular vote or electoral college, millions of already embittered Americans, worked into a frenzy by a shameless leader who will surely refuse to accept the returns, will start the next four years convinced that the United States of America is little more than a banana republic — and the presidency of Hillary Clinton is irretrievably illegitimate.

That will be awful for the country.

The second reason Trump needs to fall hard in November is that the Party of Lincoln needs a complete, top-to-bottom reset — one that completely purges the Trumpkins who believe racial animus is a governing philosophy and that their ignorant and angry primal screams can ever build a Republican majority.

In other words, Trump, Trumpism and the unhealthy network of right-wing apologists (the American Conservative Union, talk radio, Fox Non-News primetime hosts, the senior staff of the Republican National Committee) all need to go down to crushing defeat so that the center-right can begin anew. (“No more hate and reckless group blame. No more fact-free fearmongering,” Wilson urges. “No more feeding the obese ego of a man who’s transparently unfit for the job.”)

If there is to be a viable alternative to liberal statism, a center right party must prioritize character, tolerance, intellectual honesty and decency — not a check list of policy positions from the 1980s — as the minimum requirements for elected office and party leadership. Most large organizations have a “mission” statement and the post-Trump center-right party surely needs one that emphasizes those attributes. A national center-right party should not be tethered to a check list of granular positions on dozens of issues, but instead to general propositions (e.g. American leadership in the world is essential; all Americans are deserving of the right to pursue earned success) and to a type of political honor code that insists upon civility, respect for fellow Americans and cultivation of an informed electorate. If this sounds ethereal and old-fashioned it is only because the GOP and Republican leaders have demonstrated incivility, lack of respect for their fellow Americans and perpetration of political myths and flat-out untruths. The party at the highest levels must eschew the politics of resentment, anger and hate.

Defining how the center-right party must behave needs to precede the decision as to whether the GOP can be that vehicle or whether a new party is preferable. Frankly if the Trumpist elements cannot be purged and will not tolerate an extensive reworking of the party, it will be time for men and women of good conscience to leave the wreckage of the GOP. The resulting political entity, whether the revised GOP or something altogether new, will need to be a 21st-century party that does not cultivate kooks, conspiratorialists and bigots.

A party that treats Sean Hannity as a journalist, the National Enquirer and talk radio as authoritative, and the email harangues and score cards of Beltway hucksters as more authentic than the views and needs of actual voters cannot survive. It does not deserve to survive. The election exposed a raft of right-wing media types undeserving of the center-right’s attention or indulgence. Voters can tune off or click past the schlock news, but the party itself should cease treating propagandists as legitimate journalists. Conservatives should decline to go on their shows, refuse to invite them to moderate panels or officiate at party functions; or speak respectfully of outfits that have flacked for Trump, contrary to the interests of conservatives and the country.

Trump belonged in a fringe right-wing, nativist party akin to the far-right European parties. If there is a segment of Americans who prefer that sort of thing, so be it. But that party cannot be the GOP or its successor. So, yes, after the election it will be time to clean house and clean out the intellectual cobwebs. Honor politicians who resisted Trump and look for future leaders among their ranks.

The election already has discredited the evangelical charlatans who claim political virtue and moral authority. Meanwhile, Libertarians (on limited government, trade, immigration and individual rights) in many respects have preserved the essence of the modern conservative movement (or 19th-century small “l” liberalism). It is time to reconnect with the latter (despite some significant differences of opinion) and to end toadying to the former.

Finally, it is time to eschew anti-immigrant fervor, opposition to gay marriage (which is as much a part of the legal landscape as is desegregation) and anti-government nihilism. These are not consistent with 21st-century America nor the attributes of a successful national party. The country will never return to its pre-New Deal size, nor will the American people tolerate evisceration of the safety net. Federal regulations of some sort will exist. The question is what kinds of government, regulations, tax and budget measures are implemented — ones that enlarge the federal government and centralize power or which, where possible, employ market forces and cultivate strong communities.

All of this requires, per Wilson, Trump’s sound thrashing. Then reform, revitalization and refurbishment of the GOP — if not abandonment — can proceed.

Sean Hannity’s Veneration of Ignorance. By Bret Stephens.

Sean Hannity’s Veneration of Ignorance. By Bret Stephens. Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2016.


The right’s political huckster gives Al Sharpton a run for his money.

It was probably inevitable that Donald Trump and his media munchkins would alight on the stab-in-the-back theory to explain his probable defeat in November. The surprise is that they are doing so with the election still three months out.

“If in 96 days Trump loses this election, I am pointing the finger directly at people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and John McCain and John Kasich and Ted Cruz,” Fox News host Sean Hannity told his radio audience last week. “I have watched these Republicans be more harsh toward Donald Trump than they’ve ever been in standing up to Barack Obama and his radical agenda.”

“Establishment Republican types,” he insisted, had in effect “created Donald Trump.”

Mr. Hannity has never made a secret of his feelings for Mr. Trump, which is the love that dares to speak its name. But his comments were also a revelation, and not just that it has dawned on him that the Republican nominee is likely to lose and lose big. Like members of a cult who discover too late that their self-proclaimed messiah is mortal after all, rationalizations are required.

Mr. Trump has lately been road-testing one such rationalization, saying the election will be “rigged.” Voter fraud is a reality in American elections, but it is typical of the candidate to confuse anecdote with data and turn allegation into conspiracy. Mr. Trump also says the media is “rigged” against him, which is amusing coming from the beneficiary of the equivalent of $3 billion in free advertising.

Mr. Hannity’s excuses are even more disgraceful, combining oily self-absolution with venomous obloquy for the very conservatives who have spent the year warning that a Trump candidacy is an epic GOP disaster that all-but guarantees Hillary Clinton’s election. The habit of shifting blame and refusing to take responsibility is supposed to be the curse of the underclass and its political hucksters, but Mr. Hannity is giving Al Sharpton a run for his money.

Mr. Hannity’s other goal is to preserve the fiction—first cultivated by Ted Cruz and later adopted by the Trumpians—that a wan GOP “establishment” and its “Acela corridor” voters sat on their hands while Mr. Obama traduced the Constitution and sold us out to the enemy. “They did nothing, nothing!” the anchor fumed Thursday on his show. “All these phony votes to repeal and replace ObamaCare, show votes so they go back and keep their power and get re-elected.”

Maybe Mr. Hannity thinks that Messrs. Ryan and McConnell should have jumped the White House fence and stuck a pitchfork in the president. Or that they should have amended the Constitution to repeal Article One, Section Seven—the one that gives the president his veto. Otherwise, it’s hard to understand the constant lament about a do-nothing Congress except by wondering whether Mr. Hannity is stupid or dishonest.

On Thursday evening I opted to give him the benefit of the doubt by writing on Twitter that he was Fox’s “dumbest anchor.” He immediately proved my point by re-tweeting me to his 1.5 million Twitter followers—an audience I could never have reached on my own. Later, on the radio, he called me a “dumba— with his head up his a—,” demonstrating he can’t even swear competently.

But Mr. Hannity’s tantrum obscures the uglier side of what he is trying to do, which is to paint targets on the GOP’s genuine Reaganites—pro-trade, pro-immigration, pro-NATO, pro-entitlement reform—and replace them with the Party of Trump—anti-all of the above—no matter what happens to the candidate come November.

Who might help lead this Unglorious Revolution of the crass, clueless and shoulder-chipped? Those who can make themselves rich by shouting and hearing echoes of themselves even as the GOP loses one presidential election after another.

This is the reason I’ve consistently argued that the only hope for a conservative restoration is a blowout Hillary Clinton victory, held in check by a Republican majority in Congress. If Mr. Trump loses the election narrowly, the stab-in-the-back thesis will have a patina of credibility that he might have won had it not been for the opposition of people like me. But a McGovern-style defeat makes that argument impossible to sustain except among the most cretinous. We can count on Mr. Hannity for that.

Last week, I appeared on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show opposite a Trump supporter named Emily Miller. At the end of the show, I said Americans deserve a president who can speak grammatical English. Ms. Miller retorted that it was “snobby” of me to say so.

There was a time when the conservative movement was led by the likes of Bill Buckley and Irving Kristol and Bob Bartley, men of ideas who invested the Republican Party with intellectual seriousness. Today’s GOP is on the road to self-immolation, thanks in part to the veneration of ignorance typified by Ms. Miller and Mr. Hannity. As conservatives go through their pre- and post-mortems, they should think about the damage that such veneration can do.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air: Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s Battle with Terminal Lung Cancer.

Late neurosurgeon documented his battle with terminal cancer. Lucy Kalanithi interviewed by Megyn Kelly. Video. The Kelly File. Fox News, August 5, 2016. YouTube.

When Breath Becomes Air. By Paul Kalanithi. New York: Random House, 2016.

Paul Kalanithi website.

Paul Kalanithi Twitter.

Lucy Kalanithi Twitter.

Lucy Kalanithi with Megyn Kelly

How Long Have I Got Left? By Paul Kalanithi. New York Times, January 24, 2014.

My Last Day as a Surgeon. By Paul Kalanithi. Excerpt from When Breath Becomes Air. The New Yorker, January 11, 2016.

Why I gave up on atheism. By Paul Kalanithi. Excerpt from When Breath Becomes Air., May 27, 2016.

Paul and Lucy Kalanithi

Lucy Kalanithi: “Paul’s view was that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.” Interviewed by Lisa O’Kelly. The Guardian, February 14, 2016.

My Marriage Didn’t End When I Became a Widow. By Lucy Kalanithi. New York Times, January 6, 2016.

Lucy Kalanithi: When Breath Becomes Air. Interviewed by Neel Shah. Video. WGBHForum, May 18, 2016. YouTube.

Dr. Lucy Kalanithi: When Breath Becomes Air. Interviewed by Mark Zitter. Video. Commonwealth Club, June 17, 2016. YouTube.

Aspen Words Presents: Lucy Kalanithi in conversation with Ann Patchett. Video. The Aspen Institute, June 27, 2016. YouTube.