To the plethora of mental illnesses in this mental illness-ridden age of ours, we can now add another.
We’ve all heard of PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. During this past year, something we can call TTSD has emerged.
TTSD is Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is also known as “Trump-phobia,” for such is the fear of those who suffer from it that the very mention of Donald Trump’s name immediately corrupts their rationality.
Trump’s break out presidential candidacy and the utter inability, in spite of every conceivable attempt (short of assassination), of any Establishment apologist to slow it down has led to an epidemic of TTSD among the political and chattering classes.
There are two particularly salient symptoms of TTSD. So as to not confuse them with symptoms of brain damage, it is important to note that they ordinarily only appear within a Trump-specific context.
The first is a pathological failure to perform simple arithmetic. For example, for the longest time the Trump-phobe would insist that because Trump managed to garner “only” 35%-40% of the vote, this proved that he had a problem. And Trump-phobes around the “conservative” media circuit would repeat this line even while the object of their panic was crushing—not just beating, but slaying—16 competitors (i.e. whomever they were supporting).
Trump has now crashed through this “ceiling” with over 60% of the vote—and in a three person race at that. Thus far, the Trump-phobe has not conceded the faultiness of his or her past calculations.
The second symptom is a chronic penchant for self-contradiction.
The Trump-phobe can be guaranteed to level any and every conceivable ad hominem attack against Trump—regardless of how profoundly one criticism contradicts the other.
At one and the same moment, the Trump-phobe can be counted upon to make comments like the following:
“We need to grow the party by appealing to ‘independents’ and ‘moderates.’”
And: “Too many ‘independents’ and ‘moderates’ are voting for Trump.”
“The Republican Party needs candidates who ‘can reach across the aisle.’”
And: “Trump has ‘reached across the aisle’ too often in supporting Democrat candidates over the years.”
“Trump is ‘really’ [secretly] a ‘liberal Democrat’ or ‘progressive.’”
And: “Trump is ‘really’ [secretly] a ‘fascist.’”
“Trump is a ‘sexist’ who wants to arrest and incarcerate women for having abortions.”
And: “Trump wants to continue supporting Planned Parenthood, abortion, and every other Big Government program [ostensibly] designed for purposes of ‘women’s health issues.’”
“Trump is ‘anti-immigrant.’”
And: “Trump hires [i.e. he creates jobs] for illegal immigrants.”
“Trump is ‘racist.’”
And: “Trump’s definitely a ‘liberal Democrat’ or ‘progressive,’ for he supports ‘affirmative action.’”
“Trump’s a ‘neo-Nazi’ sympathizer, for he [allegedly] failed to [immediately] repudiate David Duke when the latter paid him compliments.”
And: “Trump is a ‘liberal Democrat’ or ‘progressive’ for having contributed to the campaign coffers of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schummer.”
“Trump’s an ‘Islamophobic’ bigot.”
And: “Trump doesn’t care about fighting ‘Islamo-fascism.’”
And: “Trump’s ‘New York values’ make him a supporter of ‘gay marriage’ and unisex bathrooms.”
“Trump’s a madman with an erratic temper who will, essentially, get America involved in WWIII.”
And: “Trump’s an ‘isolationist.’”
“Trump’s a greedy, deceptive ‘capitalist.’”
And: “Trump’s a protectionist, someone who will make free trade between nations more costly.”
The Trump-phobe contradicts him or herself in many other ways as well.
In spite of having insisted for years and years that scores of Republican conservative voters who were less than enthused over their party’s “centrist” or “moderate” presidential candidates must nonetheless vote for those candidates lest a Democrat gain the White House, the Trump-phobe is now just as insistent that a Democrat president would be preferable to a Republican president—as long as this Republican’s name is Donald Trump.
A Trump-phobe of the GOP variety unequivocally rejects Trump on the grounds that he’s not a real conservative. Meanwhile, he or she continues to laud President Ronald Reagan as the penultimate conservative, and the quintessential conservative president. Yet the very “anti-conservative” positions that they attribute to Trump were not only shared by Reagan at different times throughout his career; unlike Trump, who has only ever been a civilian, Reagan had the power to implement those positions.
And implement them he did: As, first, governor of California and, later, a two-term president, Reagan legalized abortion; contended on behalf of “universal healthcare” in the Golden state; raised taxes repeatedly; grew the size and reach of the federal government; amnestied millions of illegal immigrants; appointed left-leaning, pro-abortion Supreme Court justices; and pushed for restrictions on the Second Amendment (“gun-control”).
It’s true that Trump has spoken in support of some of these things at various times throughout his life. But he has done none of them. Yet to hear the Trump-phobe, one would think that it is Trump, and not Reagan, who walked this “liberal” walk. Trump is simply insufficiently conservative for supporting some “liberal” positions while Reagan, who actually implemented these positions and others, is a conservative hero—or so the Trump-phobe would have us think.
The Trump-phobe of the Democrat species is no less irrational than his or her GOP counterpart. This Trump-phobe continues to charge the Donald with being a conman, a carnival barker, a liar. However, if Trump is faking anything right now, presumably he is faking being everything that self-styled “progressives” despise: a conservative Republican.
Yet this, in turn, implies that Trump is really a “progressive” or “liberal Democrat” himself—exactly what the Democrat Trump-phobe supposedly should want!
Trump-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious illness. One should never try reasoning with a Trump-phobe, for the subject is likely to get only more hysterical.
That a senator from Vermont, a 74 year-old man who has spent his professional existence on the taxpayer’s dime and who is a self-avowed “socialist,” has managed to become an exceptionally popular Democrat presidential contestant is troubling enough.
That even many folks who are not his supporters regard Bernie Sanders as somehow more virtuous than his rivals is an especially tragic commentary on this generation.
Yet none of this should be of any surprise, for it has been quite some time since our culture began equating moral righteousness with Political Correctness.
How a person lives his life on a daily basis; how he treats his family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.—none of this is of any moral significance to the self-appointed guardians of the new morality.
All that matters, from this perspective, is that a person subscribes, or at least pays lip service, to PC orthodoxy.
And to judge him by this standard, Sanders may as well be its patron saint.
Saint Bernie knows, for example, that the Orthodoxy forbids an affirmation of all lives, for only “black lives matter.” He also is well aware that resistance to abortion is a function of “sexism,” resistance on the part of bakers to baking wedding cakes for gay couples is “homophobia,” and that those earning more than a couple hundred thousand dollars a year are evil.
Perhaps most importantly, Saint Sanders knows that moral virtue requires support for a robust, activist national government that will deploy its power monopoly to the end of confiscating the legitimately acquired resources of some in order to “redistribute” them to others.
For advocating on behalf of these positions, Sanders—and, by implication, anyone and everyone who agrees with him—has his place among the Virtuous.
Back in the late 1930’s, while German Christian theologian and anti-Nazi Dietrich Bonhoeffer sat in a prison cell, he composed his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship. It was within this text that Bonhoeffer described “cheap grace,” i.e. “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
Cheap grace is no grace at all.
Similarly, Political Correctness, the morality of Bernie Sanders, is “cheap morality” or “cheap virtue.”
In contrast, those of us who refuse to give up the genuine article in exchange for the “social respectability” that accompanies this counterfeit know all too well that the former is anything but inexpensive: Real morality is hard. It’s tough.
Some people, like Salvatore “Ivan” Graziano, know this better than others.
Ivan is a childhood friend of mine. We met in our neighborhood elementary school in Trenton, New Jersey back in the late ‘70’s and had remained good friends until we lost touch some two decades ago. Courtesy of social media, I was able to find out from this child of Sicilian immigrants (who himself didn’t arrive in America until he was four) that in addition to having opened his own restaurant, he was also a single father to a ten year-old girl—“Gia.”
Gia Graziano had just entered the world when doctors whisked her away, for not only was Gia not crying; she wasn’t breathing.
It was hours before anyone—including her parents—discovered that their little girl had been born with an extremely rare disease: Neonatal Myasthenia Gravis (NMG). In fact, the latter is so rare that neither the doctors who delivered her nor those world-class doctors at the Philadelphia hospital to which she was swiftly medivacked had ever seen a case of it.
Gia is fortunate to have survived, for her prospects did not look good. Today, ten years later, she has what her father describes as “the worst case of Muscular Dystrophy imaginable.” He summarizes her situation: “Gia is essentially an intelligent being trapped in a body that, tragically, simply doesn’t work.”
This little girl, incapable of lifting up her head, arms, and legs, is bound to a wheelchair. Nor can she eat without the assistance of a tube, and because of her inability to control her bowels, Gia must wear diapers.
Yet there are still other issues, like pulmonary disease, chronic respiratory illness, and cardiomyopathy, from which little Gia suffers. Four times daily, professional home care nurses administer to Gia respiratory treatments, including vigorous machine treatments that assist her in coughing, for she lacks the ability to clear her lungs on her own.
In spite of all of her problems (or is it because of them?), by all accounts, Gia is among the sweetest and most thoughtful of human beings. To note just one example, because of her vulnerability to such run-of-the-mill illnesses as the cold, the flu, etc. she not infrequently winds up in intensive care for lengthy periods of time. Yet when her father picks her up, she expresses deep sadness for the other children who can’t go home.
This is real compassion—not Bernie Sanders-style “compassion.”
Perhaps she has learned this generosity of spirit from her father, a guy who is as hard working as he is devoted to his daughter. Ivan, however, would insist that it is he who has learned from Gia. In any case, the Grazianos, unlike Bernie Sanders and every other PC ideologue, embody real virtue.
But now—now, in this Age of Obamacare!—Ivan has been denied by his insurance company the coverage for Gia’s medical expenses that it once supplied. A “Get Gia Going” gofundme page exists to assist the Grazianos in this time of need.
In contrast to the Bernies of the world, those of us who champion real morality know that compassion and generosity can’t be coerced by bullying politicians.
Let’s choose to help Gia and her dad.
Another insightful essay by guest blogger, Myron Pauli:
I’ve never limited myself to Republican and Democratic nominees since I cast my first Presidential vote writing in Barry Goldwater in 1972. No regrets on rejecting the decent but too-leftist George Mc Govern or reelecting “The President!” that imposed Wage and Price Controls, killed the Gold Standard, increased domestic spending, installed OSHA and the DEA, expanded the war in Indochina, etc.
Trump, Cruz, Sanders, and Clinton all have their bad points to me but the first 3 occasionally say things I agree with. Trump has the best understanding of national identity, Cruz had the most detailed domestic spending cuts, and Sanders may be best on foreign/military restraint (as for Hillary! – like the old Supreme Court definition of pornography, I find her “utterly without redeeming social value”). I am not “in the tank” for anyone … so I listened with interest to the person I supported in 2012, Gary Johnson, at the Libertarian Party Debate on the Fox Business Network (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQPWiCgAjDo). Keeping in mind that the Libertarian Party’s own website says “The Party of Principle: Minimum Government Maximum Freedom”.
So imagine my consternation when I heard Gary Johnson say about the welfare state: “I want to support those truly in need”. Now, I have met Libertarians who wanted to cold turkey everything immediately – stop Social Security checks to 85 year olds tomorrow! … – OK, maybe too drastic to people who paid into the system. Others would phase stuff out the Nanny State over 50 years. But I never heard an answer in favor of the Welfare State from a “Libertarian” until now. And I heard Governor Johnson talk about states running Medicare/Medicaid as if he were Governor Kasich advocating a “more efficient” Welfare State. Where’s the “Principle”?
Then came the old “force people to bake Lesbian-Nazi wedding cakes” issue. Certainly, one could distinguish between the Park Service, Amtrak, the utility company, or even an internationally held corporation like Starwood Hotels having less “freedom of association” than an individual – but Gary Johnson did not. He would apparently call up the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force, FBI, CIA, DEA, INS, and TSA to make sure you made that floral arrangement! OK – not the most cosmologically important issue but where is the “Minimum Government Maximum Freedom”?
When John Stossel quoted Milton Friedman that open borders were not compatible with a Welfare State, all that Johnson had were platitudes about Mexico’s best coming here to do jobs that “Americans won’t do”. Dear Gary – if we really had no Welfare State – e.g. “Live Free of Die”, is there not a wage whereby Americans would “do”? I was almost tempted to ask whether one has to actually cross the border to be a citizen since Libertarians are net-savvy, can’t we have Chinese, Pakistanis, Congolese, etc. just apply “on-line” to be a citizen and vote in our elections? If Trump goes overboard on “drug dealing rapists” or “terrorists”, Gary Johnson seems to think the rest of the world are all angels completely compatible with “American citizenship”. ZERO admission criteria other than “no criminal record” into a Welfare State Democracy.
Not only must the Bears admit Goldilocks but also house her, feed her, and bake her Nazi-Lesbo wedding cake! In fact, Gary Johnson said that the candidate he was closest to was Bernie Sanders and was pressing to get the disaffected Bernie voters when Hillary wins the Democratic nomination. That may be fine – but are these angry Bernie voters “libertarians” or just a bunch of social-leftists protesting crony capitalism? From Gary Johnson’s website, there is nearly nothing on programs to cut compared with Cruz and virtually zero for “socially conservative libertarians”. Johnson emphasizes more a “dope smoking abortion-lovers for Free Trade” than a more consistent Ron Paul type libertarianism.
All in all, I still have my personal dilemma – who to vote for on November 8th? I have a choice of rather flawed candidates and, if I do vote Libertarian, is that to be interpreted as a disgruntled Sanders-independent opposition to Madame Defarge? Do I go with the demagogic braggart Donald “Believe Me” Trump or Carpetbombing Cruz? Muddled Gary? Do I write-in Jim Webb or Ron Paul? Do I just oversleep and forget to vote?
George Hawley, a professor of political science at the University of Alabama, supplies an invaluable service to students of American politics with his recently published book, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism.
All too rarely do we encounter a work that is as theoretically as it is practically significant. Though published by an academic press, Hawley’s work has much to say to popular audiences—particularly to those who self-identify as “conservative” or as being “on the right.”
And at this juncture, as the meteoric rise of Donald Trump to the status of GOP presidential frontrunner has been met by Republican Party apologists in the media and political classes with insistence upon “conservative” purity, it’s a timely analysis indeed that reveals the intellectual diversity on the right.
I will say more about this crucial book in the future. For now, though, I’d like to make some brief remarks.
What passes for “conservatism” or “the right” in the mainstream of American media—i.e. in both Democrat and Republican-friendly outlets—is actually neoconservatism. The latter, in turn, is synonymous with what many are currently, and contemptuously, referring to as the GOP “Establishment.”
But as I’ve argued in my own book, The American Offensive: Dispatches from the Front, not only is there little to nothing genuinely conservative about neoconservatism; it is more a species of leftist or “progressive” thought than it is an expression of anything that’s traditionally been associated with the right.
Hawley, for his part, is more concerned with identifying both the dissident voices on the right and, at least as importantly, the relentlessness and effectiveness with which those voices have been “purged” or otherwise excluded from what is known as “the conservative movement.”
He deserves immense credit for achieving both goals in spades.
However, the many virtues of this book aside, Hawley’s discussion of “paleolibertarianism”—an oft-neglected variant of the classical liberal perspective from the genuine right—could’ve been vastly enriched had only he said a thing or two about a specific paleolibertarian writer whose omission from his exposition struck this author as glaring.
That writer is Ilana Mercer.
There are three reasons why it is imperative that Mercer be included in any discussion of paleolibertarianism.
First, and most obviously, she is a paleolibertarian—and a tireless one at that. For decades, this defender of the paleolibertarian vision has published a couple of books and thousands of articles and blog posts in which she’s shattered not only leftist pieties but neocon and “libertarian-lite”(left-wing libertarian) sureties as well. Much blood, sweat, and tears, to say nothing of opportunities for professional advancement, has Mercer foregone in her campaign against the idols of our Politically Correct age.
Second, not only is Mercer a veteran paleolibertarian writer. She is unquestionably the most visible, the most widely read, of such contemporary writers. At one point, she was nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate, and for nearly the last 20 years, World Net Daily (WND), a site that boasts roughly 1 million visitors a month, has featured Mercer’s weekly column, “Return to Reason”—its “longest standing, exclusive, paleo-libertarian weekly column.”
In addition to WND, Mercer’s work has been showcased in a plethora of outlets, both internationally and stateside, and she’s currently a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.
No paleolibertarian—to repeat, a rightist proponent of a tradition-grounded classical liberal ideal—has nearly as much exposure when it comes to scholarly and popular audiences alike as does Mercer.
Third, Ilana Mercer is a woman. Moreover, she is a Jewish woman, the daughter of a Rabbi who was raised in both South Africa and Israel. This is no insignificant detail: Mercer is a standing repudiation of the stereotype, all too easily reinforced by her exclusion from any study of “right-wing critics of American conservatism,” that such critics are exclusively elderly white men.
Moreover, this willingness on her part to break with the pack—paleolibertarianism, like all political persuasions to the right of Fox News and “conservative” talk radio, tend not to appeal to those who are interested in “social respectability,” much less does it appeal to your average Jewish female intellectual—distinguishes Mercer for both her courage and devotion to truth.
John Derbyshire is a former writer for National Review Online. Hawley correctly identifies him as one of the many right-leaning critics of American “conservatism” who have been unceremoniously rendered into non-entities by its self-appointed guardians. Yet even Derbyshire, who, having written with admiration for Mercer’s work, should’ve known better, neglected to mention her in one of his articles on paleolibertarianism.
Upon lauding the latter as a “once-promising intellectual movement that stayed true to libertarian principles while opposing open borders, libertinism, egalitarianism, and political correctness,” he rejoices that there’s at least one paleolibertarian left.
Yet the person to whom he refers is Hans Hermann Hoppe, a German born political philosopher and economist who is now a retired (but still active) academic living in Turkey.
Hoppe is most certainly a paleolibertarian. And he’s an arresting thinker in his own right.
But Mercer has proven to be a far more influential voice as a right-wing critic of American “conservatism” than either Hoppe or most of the right-wing critics named in Hawley’s book, for unlike many of them, she has invested her resources in promoting paleolibertarianism to a large popular audience.
And unlike most of Hawley’s right-wing critics, she has succeeded not just in acquiring a hearing among very large numbers of readers, but in maintaining that audience over a span of decades.
Before the second edition of his fine book goes to press, I’d urge George Hawley to consider including Ilana Mercer in his section on paleolibertarianism, for both it and his readers would be well served by this addition.