Jason and Robin interview Dr. David Wang about Notre-Dame Cathedral and its recent fire. Dr. Wang is a widely published expert on architecture who recently retired as head of the architectural department at Washington State University. In this discussion, Dr. Wang explains the origins of Notre-Dame and what its Gothic style tells us about the people who built it and about us as human beings. The spiritual ideas behind the cathedral stand in sharp contrast with the design of modern buildings and cities, which are based on what Dr. Wang calls “the sacramentality of the machine.” Understanding the sacramentality of buildings points to an important limitation in the process of rebuilding Notre-Dame, Dr. Wang suggested. This is because our culture has lost more than the spire and roof of this historic cathedral: we have lost continuity with the sacramental worldview that this cathedral embodies.
In looking again at my earlier post, “The Non-Conservative Mind of Donald Trump”, it occurred to me that the article lacked some of the important historical perspectives necessary for appreciating how someone as liberal as President Trump can pass as a conservative. If I can be forgiven in advance for painting with a very broad brush, I would like to survey the evolution of conservatism from Burke to Trump, as a supplement to the comments I made previously in my articles “The Republican Retreat to Identity Politics” and “Trump and the Eclipse of Conservatism” and “The Non-Conservative Mind of Donald Trump.”
The origin of conservative politics goes back to Edmund Burke’s response to the French Revolution. Nothing describes the French Revolution better than the adage “When Paris sneezes, the rest of Europe catches a cold.” As the revolutionary spirit gradually spread through all of Europe during the nineteenth-century, the result was that monarchy after monarchy collapsed. Ancient systems, structures and norms were not reformed but wiped away, usually replaced by tyrannies far more destructive than the ones that had preceded them. Finally, WWI put an end to the remaining vestiges of the old order.
The day after I published my earlier post on how the President can respond to the shutdown by calling Nancy Pelosi’s bluff, he took my advice. The Democrats’ response lends credence to my theory that a prolongation of the shutdown is politically advantageous to the Democrats as long as the public generally blames the President.
I am not a fan of Trump, as a cursory browse of my “Donald Trump archives” will show. But in this battle, I support the President. In an article that recently appeared in The Hill, Ford O’Connell clarified exactly what President Trump is and is not asking Congress to do. Specifically, O’Connell pointed out, the President is not asking for a continuous border wall across all 2,000 miles of America’s border with Mexico. Rather, he is asking for money to improve and expand the highly effective fences that already exist along more than 650 miles of the border. Prominent Democrats (Schumer, Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, to name a few) all voted to support these fences.
Why did so many Democrats support the existing 650 miles of fencing and barriers in the most dangerous parts of the border (for example, in Yuma Arizona)? This question isn’t hard to answer when we reflect that these barriers resulted in a 90 percent drop in illegal traffic in that area. Before the Yuma wall was erected, the area was averaging around 800 illegals a day. Contrary to right-wing caricatures, Democrats do actually favor border security. The current opposition to Trump’s plan to expand and improve existing barrier structures is purely political, having been fueled by the President’s incendiary rhetoric and angst about his alleged racist motivations.
From O’Connell’s article:
“Of course what Pelosi and Schumer won’t tell you is that the U.S. currently has more than 650 miles of physical barriers and fencing on its southern border. They also won’t tell you that several prominent Democrats including Schumer, Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden voted for it as senators in the name of better border security….
If the Democrats were to come to the table right now and talk comprehensive immigration reform and DACA, so long as it contains additional physical barriers along the southern border, the White House has signaled a willingness to move forward on that front, provided that it enhances border security.
The White House is ready to deal. And even though federal government workers will eventually receive back pay, the White House doesn’t want to see them suffer. The questions for congressional Democrats are simple: Do they really hate President Trump more than they love border security? Do they care more about illegal immigrants than American citizens? Only time will tell.
Of course nothing is impenetrable or foolproof, but the fencing in Yuma, Arizona, is a great example of what works. Since its construction in 2005, it has yielded better than a 90 percent drop in illegal traffic. Similar numbers have been registered at other physical barriers in San Diego, El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona, since their construction.
Even former Obama Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan, who was removed by Trump, concedes that physical barriers work and that more need to be constructed to make the southern border stronger.
Contrary to the media hype, President Trump is not advocating that one continuous wall should be built on the nearly two-thousand mile U.S. southern border, but that the current barriers be extended by a few hundred more miles. He is also asking for more immigration judges, law enforcement officers, detention beds and additional border technology, among other items — common sense stuff when it comes to stronger border security.”
UPDATE: Two days after posting this, the President took my advice, effectively calling the Democrat’s bluff. Can anyone still take Nancy Pelosi’s sophistry and word-games seriously?
There appears to be no end in sight on the stalemate about how to resolve the government shutdown.
The issue is not that Pelosi can’t budge because of genuine concern about the impact a $5 billion border wall will make on the economy. Everyone knows that the economic cost of the shutdown is about to exceed the amount the President is demanding for his wall. So what is really going on?
Once we properly answer this question, the solution from the President’s perspective becomes breathtakingly simple.
What is really going on is that House Democrats want Trump to appear bad, and do not want themselves to appear weak after digging themselves into an intractable position. Consider that if the shutdown were to lead to starvation and social disaster (something that may be approaching sooner than you think), Pelosi may still be unwilling to compromise as long as Trump is getting the blame. Polls indicate that most Americans are indeed blaming Trump for the shutdown, which means that from Pelosi’s perspective the worse the situation becomes, the better it actually is, since more Americans will dislike Trump and vote Democrat in the next election.
Admittedly, this is a very cynical way of looking at things, and it flies in the face of what Pelosi has been telling the public. Officially, her line remains that she is the one who wants to transcend petty politics, that she is the adult in the room contending against a president who is, as she put it, “holding the American people hostage.” To fortify the impression that she is willing to compromise, democrats are passing spending bills they know the President will not sign. The narrative they are projecting is that the House majority are trying to end the shutdown in the face of a stubborn and immovable President.
So what’s the solution? Simply this: Trump should call Pelosi’s bluff. He should offer her a compromise on his terms but which still leaves him on top in the symbolic and psychological power struggle. For example, instead of asking for $5 billion to start the wall, maybe he could ask for $2 billion to start it, or $30 billion for general border security without the wall, or maybe a package that includes only $1 million for the wall and $9 million for ramping up general border security. That sort of thing.
Here’s why I think this is an obvious solution. If Pelosi responded by granting the President’s modified terms, that would be a huge symbolic victory for Trump. The wall could start being built; Trump’s base would love it and could point to it as one more example of shrewd statesmanship under the guise of bombast. We all know that Pelosi will want to avoid the impression of granting Trump even the most nominal victory on the wall, and so she would probably refuse even $1 million to get it started and reopen the government. But such a refusal would simply call her bluff and demonstrate to the public that Pelosi is just as stubborn and intractable as Trump. Moreover, her refusal might help to shift the blame for the shutdown over to House Democrats. “Gosh,” people will begin ask, “if even Trump is willing to compromise, why can’t Pelosi?”
To the extent that Pelosi has framed the border wall controversy in moral rather than prudential terms (for example, pronouncing that because the border wall is “immoral” the Democrats will never agree to fund it), she has effectively painted herself into a corner. Thus, if Trump requested something that was merely a nominal and symbolic victory for himself (say, requesting a million just to start the wall), then it would put Pelosi in a dilemma: she couldn’t meet Trump in the middle without being accused of back-tracking on her earlier statements, and yet to not agree to something that small would also powerfully demonstrate just what type of dispute this really is for her.
What type of dispute is this for Pelosi? From our earliest fights on the playground to the most complicated disputes within marriage, we all know that specific issues become important when they are emblematic of deeper power-struggles and principles that operate in the background, perhaps without being clearly acknowledged. This is just such a dispute: it is not about what Pelosi actually thinks is best for America (remember that the shutdown is about to exceed the amount the President has requested) but about winning her power-struggle with Trump, or continuing it as long as most Americans continue to blame him for the shutdown.
If this reading of things is correct, then it’s time Trump called Pelosi’s bluff by creating a lose-lose situation for her: if she refuses to grant Trump even a reduced proposal on border security, she is highlighted as the one unwilling to compromise; but if she does grant a modified proposal, Trump emerges as the symbolic winner of the power struggle. Then government can re-open and hundreds of thousands of workers can return to their jobs.
Help me publicize this simple solution to the shutdown by liking and sharing my post about this on my Facebook author page.
Last Friday, David Hendrickson offered some extremely sensible observations about how the Syria withdrawal could (but alas, won’t) be skillfully managed to prevent unnecessary chaos and bloodshed. Hendrickson shows that a solution is entirely within reach yet requires two things that we are not likely to see from the current administration: (1) a certain level of policy sophistication and prudential thinking (2) a willingness to work with Russia. Read Hendrickson’s article about this published at the American Conservative. What is sad is that a lasting solution to the Syria problem is entirely within reach but is being eclipsed by other subversive political agendas.
If you want to learn some more about the political background between America and Russia that creates the context for some of the tensions Hendrickson is talking about, then I recommend the article ‘NATO Partisans Started a New Cold War With Russia‘, also published at The American Conservative.
Before I say anything, I want to be clear that (1) this post is neither for nor against gun control, (2) I support the right of American citizens to bear arms and have written in defense of the Second Amendment (see links at the end of this article).
With that proviso out of the way, I have a few comments about what the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, said about gun control during a recent interview.
A few weeks ago I got into a friendly argument with friends at church about whether President Trump is a liberal or conservative. I said that Trump was a liberal while my friends said that he was a conservative.
Today, as I went to vote in the midterms, I thought back to our conversation at church. I found myself wondering if perhaps Trump is actually “conservative” but in a new sense. Perhaps we are seeing a metamorphosis of what it means to be conservative, as the classic conservativism of thinkers like Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke recedes into anachronism.
Robert Merry at The American Conservative has put his finger on the psychology behind Europe’s self-abrogation. His article, ‘How Europe Built Its Own Funeral Pyre, Then Leapt In‘, looks at the psychological and ideological context behind Europe’s current tidal wave of immigration, as well as the potential consequences of allowing so many immigrants who are openly hostile to European culture and historic values. Spend a few minutes today at The American Conservative reading Merry’s article.
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, there is a curious moment when the reader becomes aware that the animals who led the revolt against their human overlords have become the new oppressors.
Animal Farm is a uniquely human story. Even a cursory glance over the last half millennia reveals that empowerment has a strange way of enticing former liberators not merely to abandon their own principles, but to begin embodying the principles of their opponents.
We saw this happen when the “Committee of Public Safety” abandoned the principles of the French Revolution, ushering in a terror far worse than anything under the Ancien Régime. We saw it again when the Soviet State abandoned the pseudo-liberating rhetoric Marxism and turned all of Russia into a giant prison. We saw it again when the “agrarian socialism” of the Khmer Rouge found embodiment in the genocide of Pol Pot.