Second Presidential Debate Review

Last night was the second and final presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Biden.  Overall, it was far more measured in tone and richer in substance than the first debate, and it accomplished what President Trump needed to do:  reassure squishy independents and critical undecided voters that he’s not just a loose cannon, but can actually govern, and govern well.

I also found the moderator to be surprisingly fair.  The questions obviously were slanted in favor of the Democrats, as these questions always are (again, who cares about climate change anymore?), but she gave President Trump the opportunity to respond to criticisms, and also had some tough questions for Biden.

President Trump did what he should have done in the first debate:  he gave Biden the rope with which to hang himself.  It was Biden who brought up China and Ukraine, which opened the door for Trump to attack Hunter Biden’s lucrative salaries from foreign companies and governments—the result of Biden’s influence peddling.

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What is Civilization?

This morning while getting ready for work I listened to a fascinating discussion between Milo Yiannopoulos and “groypers” Steven Franssen and Vincent James.  I don’t know much about Franssen and James, other than that they are fairly prominent figures on the Dissident Right, but the discussion (which is available at Censored.TV to subscribers—I highly recommend forking over the $10 a month for a subscription) covered a broad range of topics, from 9/11 to the future of America and traditionalism.

Out of that far-ranging discussion came a brief debate between Milo and his guests near the end of the exchange.  The gist of it boiled down to the question “what is civilization?”  Milo’s contention—an interesting one—is that by abandoning our cities, we are, essentially, abandoning our greatest cultural products:  our art, our architecture, our institutions.  These cultural artifacts took the blood, sweat, toil, and ingenuity of the American people to build, so we’re capitulating to the Leftist mobs when we flee our cities instead of fighting for them.

In true Milo fashion, it’s a compellingly contrarian argument:  why surrender what we fought so hard to build?  I am a big advocate of normal, decent folks abandoning the cities in search of a better life in the country (to the point I think we should consider subsidizing families in rural areas), but makes a strong case.  If we want to preserve our heritage, we shouldn’t hand it over to looters.

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Lazy Sunday LXXXI: Forgotten Posts, Volume V

It’s been a pretty busy Lazy Sunday for yours portly.  I helped my younger brother and his young family move last Saturday, and the ongoing relocation process continued with some small household items this afternoon.  The whole weekend has been pretty jam-packed with work of one kind or another, so I’m fairly beat—with another week of school ahead.

Regardless, that’s why this week’s Lazy Sunday is later than usual.  I’m still diving into posts from September 2019, which seemed to be a pretty rich vein for quality posts.  Here are some more of those posts:

  • Sanford Announces Presidential Bid” – I used to love Mark Sanford.  He was a pretty solid governor for SC, and stood boldly against expensive Medicaid expansion.  He was a colorful character, and a fairly consistent fiscal conservative.  But he fell in with the Never Trumpers.  He’s not wrong that the national debt is untenable, but… it’s grown beyond any amount we ever thought possible, and economic life rolls on.  We’re likely writing a promissory note that will be impossible to pay in the future, but the issue of the debt is so abstract and academic—and so removed from people’s daily realities—that it seems like a non-issue.  Sanford’s presidential bid failed swiftly due to extreme disinterest.
  • Tommy Robinson is Free!” – British patriot Tommy Robinson has endured two difficult, unjust prison sentences, one of which nearly killed him.  Because he’s spoken out so strongly against Muslims, he had to be held in solitary confinement to protect him from Muslim prison gangs (seems his warnings have some truth to them, if so many Muslims are in British prisons they can form gangs).  Many conservatives assumed his imprisonments were means by which the British authorities could indirectly assassinate Robinson, silencing an important nationalist voice.  Fortunately, he survived—another victory for our side.
  • America’s Roman Roots” – This post looked at an op-ed from a Dr. Brandop-ed from a Dr. Brand about the influence of the Roman Republic on America’s Founding Fathers.  The Roman Republic, like our American one, emerged after a group of patriotic elites overthrew the ruling monarchy, and established the most successful, enduring Republic of the ancient world.  Sometimes I think now America is more like the Roman Empire than the Roman Republic, but that would make sense, too—similar roots might yield similar results.  Let’s how the spirit of republicanism can be revived.

Well, that’s it for this delayed Lazy Sunday!  I may continue the deep dive with more “Forgotten Posts,” or I’ll go back to some thematic posts.  We’ll see—next Sunday!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Remembering 1519

We’ve been back at school for one week now, and so far things seem to be going well, albeit very busy.  We’re slowly settling into a groove with our various safety protocols, and most of the schedule changes are solidified.  That should make for much smoother sailing going forward.

I’m mostly teaching music courses this year, but I still have a couple of sections of Honors US History.  That means it’s another year of telling the “grand narrative of American history.”  My main goal as a history teacher is to make sure students receive a balanced, analytical telling of our great nation’s history.  That means that while I point out the atrocities of, say, the Spanish conquistadors, I also discuss the wickedness of the Aztecs, who engaged in daily human sacrifices.  That the Spanish built a cathedral atop the old Aztec altar to their false gods is a fitting bit of divine judgment.

Of course, as an American I’m more interested in English colonization and settlement in British North America—what would become the United States—than I am in the vast empire of New Spain.  We should be getting into Roanoke, Jamestown, and Plymouth Rock today or tomorrow, and I’m quite excited about that.  For me, that’s when the story really starts cooking.  Naturally, the clash of Spanish conquistadors and Aztec and Inca warriors is cool, but those first saplings of a free country stir my heart.

All that said, this week’s TBT looks back at those cool conquistadors.  Here is 3 September 2019’s “Remembering 1519“:

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Passing of Bernard Bailyn

Last week, legendary historian of colonial America Bernard Bailyn passed away at the age of 97, making his own voyage into the next life.  Blogger buddy Gordon Sheaffer at Practically Historical wrote a brief but effective tribute to Bailyn earlier this week.

As Sheaffer wrote Monday:

No other scholar impacted the study of the American Revolution more than Bailyn. His masterwork, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, continues to challenge readers 50 years after it was published. Bailyn was able to express the unique qualities of American civilization without politicizing the history with talk of exceptionalism.

I have not read—to my great shame and discredit—The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, but I have read Bailyn’s The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction, a much shorter work that serves as an introduction to a larger study on the settlement of British North America.  The book is so good, and gives such a flavor for the various peoples that settled in the original thirteen colonies, I once assigned it as summer reading for my very first AP US History class back in 2011.  It’s an accessible book, but it was a bit much for rising high school sophomores.

That said, I’ve been searching for my copy this morning in my classroom, without any luck.  Hopefully it will turn up soon.  My dad and I were talking about Bailyn’s death, as there was a small bit about it in the newspaper, and he expressed interest in reading it.  I also wouldn’t mind rereading it, as I haven’t done so in nearly a decade.

Even so, bits of it stick out to me.  Near the end of the book, Bailyn briefly explores the odd religious sects, mostly German, that came to the colonies.  I distinctly recall him writing about a self-proclaimed prophet or sage living in a cave in Pennsylvania.  There were multiple sects and utopian movements and cults and denominations popping up in British North America during the First Great Awakening, which reached its peak sometime in the 1740s and greatly influenced the American Revolution.

In an age of toppling statues and lurid efforts to erase our national history and faith (to be replaced with… what?), Bailyn’s works take on increased importance.  Let us hope he isn’t summarily cancelled like everything else that is good, decent, and doesn’t inherently hate America.

Trump’s One-Two Punch

Trump won in 2016 running on a strong “America First” platform.  A major component of America First-ism is prioritizing the interests and the well-being of American citizens first—before the interests and well-being of foreign-born workers and immigrants, legal or otherwise.  The appeal and the concept aren’t difficult to understand:  a government should, chiefly, operate in the interest of its citizens before anyone else.  We can discuss the best immigration policies as a nation, but those policies should always place American citizens at the forefront.

It’s such a simple and pure political philosophy, it’s a wonder it comes under such fire.  But such is the world of globalists—who want cheap labor and sacrificial offerings to Efficiency—and progressives—who think anyone who is white and cares about having a job is a racist.  Take out the mercenaries (the former group) and the insane (the latter group) and you have reasonable people, those folks that might quibble around the edges of America First doctrine, but can’t disagree with its fundamental premises.

Trump has been better than most of his predecessors on immigration, though his waffling and equivocating—likely the product of Jared Kushner’s influence—have soured his some of his earliest supporters.  His turn on Jeff Sessions and the former Attorney General’s ultimate defeat in the Alabama Republican primary this summer seemed to many Trumpists to be a betrayal of immigration patriotism.  Sessions was, indeed, the leading voice in the United States government, pre-Trump, in denouncing open borders and unlimited immigration.  With Sessions leaving the national scene, immigration patriots and restrictionists have reason to worry.

That said, it bears remembering that Trump won the presidency campaigning on building a wall, prioritizing Americans over foreign workers, and keeping American industries at home.  No one in meaningful national politics (other than Jeff Sessions and Pat Buchanan) was beating that drum prior to Trump.  Trump tapped into a deep well of resentment over the Obama administration’s decade of putting middle-class Americans last, and several decades of neglect and open scorn from national politicians.

I also don’t expect Trump to reverse the postwar consensus overnight, or to get the whole loaf all at once.  I think Trump’s basic instincts are to put Americans first, while weighing the complexities of various interest groups and economic factors.

But Trump is at his best when he cuts the Gordian Knot and drives to the heart of the issues.  If Americans are losing jobs to foreign visa holders, well, make those visas less valuable.  He’s done that with an executive order barring H1B visa holders from working in federal government jobs, and barring the government from using contractors who use H1B visa holders.

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TBT: Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction

Yesterday was the last session of the Summer 2020 History of Conservative Thought course.  This summer marks the second run of the course, and it was a fantastic class.  I had three young men enrolled, all quite eager to dive into the material.

I try to avoid lengthy lectures in HoCT, giving the basic background information and scaffolding necessary to put the readings into context.  I want the works to speak for themselves, and for the students to the do the heavy lifting of sussing out meaning and the author’s ideas.  Each week students wrote a short essay or answered a few different guided questions, then we would come in and discuss the material.

With this summer’s group, that model worked very well, as two of the young men in particular loved to plunge into discussions and ask questions.  One of the students was concurrently taking a colleague’s popular Terror and Terrorism course, which leads off each summer with the French Revolution.  That always dovetails nicely with our discussion of Edmund Burke, as we read several excerpts from his Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Burke comes on the heels of our discussion of Russell Kirk’s conservative principles, and helps frame the early portion of the course in the Burkean tradition.

In July, we left the nineteenth century and began looking at the modern conservative movement, with a heavy emphasis on William F. Buckley, Jr., and the notion of fusionism.  Buckley’s National Review catches a good bit of flack on the Right these days, including from this blog, but it truly shaped conservatism in the second half of the twentieth century.  Before National Review, conservatism was a disorganized, disunited hodgepodge of various ideologies, movements, and issues—it was, as Lionel Trilling put it, a “reactionary impulse,” a grumpy attitude about the way things were, but without a cohesive understanding of how to combat the dominance of New Deal liberalism.

For all its noodle-wristed hand-wringing and desperate virtue-signalling today, National Review created the modern conservative movement by giving conservatives their voice, their publication.  It also gave conservatism a politically viable platform of issues that could win in national politics.  That focus on nationalism certainly cuts against the Kirkean/Burkean mold of organic, ordered liberty, but it was the reality of post-war American political life.

We ended with another mid-century conservative, but one fitting far more into the spiritual and moral mold of Burke and Kirk, and far less in the neoliberal and materialist mold of Buckley-style fusionism:  Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, which I consider one of the greatest books ever written.  Indeed, I’m a bit of a Weaver fanboy, as he’s been featured twice on my Summer Reading Lists, first in 2016 for Ideas Have Consequences, and again in 2020 for his collection of Southern Essays.

For the course, we just read the “Introduction” to the book, which I try to read every August before school resumes.  It reminds me why I teach, and what is at stake.  Reading Ideas Have Consequences—first published in 1948—today reads like prophecy fulfilled.  Weaver’s core focus on William of Occam as the source of modernity and its related ills might seem a bit far-fetched, but that’s merely the germ from which the analysis of modernity’s fallen view of the world grows.

The real heart of Ideas Have Consequences is the abandonment of the transcendental—of God—in favor for navel-gazing particularism, a constant focus on lower, material concerns.  Unbound from any obligation to or belief in a transcendental moral order, men are left adrift in a world full of isolation, alienation, confusion, and meaninglessness.

I’ll let the rest speak for itself.  Here is 29 July 2019’s “Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction“:

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The Tuck for President

The 2020 election is looming, and while Trump is struggling at the moment, I am praying that he can pull out another victory and another four-year term.  The stakes are high:  a Trump victory, at minimum, allows us to forestall a progressive Armageddon for another four years; it also undermines both the Never Trumpers (who can no longer write off Trump’s 2016 victory as a “fluke”) and the ultra-progressives.  I don’t think the modern Democrat Party has much of a moderate wing left, but that small, dying minority might be able to convince the Party that going full-on progressive is a bad move.

A Trump defeat, however, would be catastrophic.  Z Man wrote Tuesday that a “Democratic sweep” would essentially mean the end of elections in America—at least, the end of meaningful national ones:

More important, there is no electoral option either. The Democrat party is actively cheering on this lunacy. Joe Biden is running an extortion campaign, where a vote for him means an end to the violence and Covid lock downs. How realistic is that when his party is cheering for the mayhem, promising to take it to a new level after they win the final election. It is not hyperbole to say that a Democrat sweep in November means the end of elections. What would be the point?

Trump’s defeat would also embolden the Jonah Goldberg/David French neocons of Conservatism, Inc., who are essentially abstract ideologues offering token resistance to the Left.  There’s a reason the joke “The Conservative Case for [Progressive Goal Here]” exists, because National Review tends to put up tortured, weak resistance to the progressive fad of the moment, before finally caving and accepting the latest lunacy as a “bedrock conservative principle.”  What conservative site goes around pitching “magic mushrooms” as conservative—and has done so repeatedly?  The conservative publication of record possesses the quality and depth of a college newspaper.

Regardless, Trump’s defeat would mean not just Biden’s marionette presidency, in which ultra-progressive handlers pull the strings; it would also mean a return to boring, ineffectual, tired, defeated neoconservatism.  National conservatism, social conservatism, traditionalism, populism—these movements and others, which have enjoyed a renewal since 2015, would wither on the vine—or see themselves pruned from “respectable” Beltway “conservatism.”  That would only hasten the victory of progressivism in the absence of any real opposition.

But there is hope.  2020 looms large, but 2024 is is not that far away.  On the Right, there is a good bit of speculation about who will fill Trump’s shoes.  VDare offers one compelling optionTucker Carlson.

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TBT^4: Happy Birthday, America!

It’s a bit late to commemorate Independence Day (and I did it already on Saturday), but it’s #MAGAWeek2020 (read installments here, here, and here), and it seemed fitting to dedicate this edition of TBT to America’s Birthday.

I’m reblogging a reblog of a reblog from the old site.  Last year’s post was “TBT^2,” or “TBT Squared.”   Well, to be mathematically consistent, I had to square that square, which I think makes it “TBT^4,” or “TBT to the power of four.”  I sure hope I’m right.  Regardless, next year will be “TBT^16,” and so on.

I like the layer of commentary, like my piddling blog posts are Talmudic commentaries on other rabbinical commentaries (or, since I’m Christian, Biblical commentaries on other Biblical commentaries of the Bible).  It’s interesting seeing how what’s changed over the years in this throwback posts.

For example, last Independence Day I had my first SubscribeStar subscriber.  That was fun!  I was also in New Jersey—one of the nicer trips I’ve taken.  This year, it was a Southern Fourth, with lots of barbecue and hash.

On a more somber note, America has seen better days—but also far worse.  I have to remind myself of that latter point, as it’s easy to get black-pilled and give into despair.  It’s a commentary on the softness of my own life that today’s ructions—piddling when compared to conflicts of the past—seem insurmountable.

But even if America is on the rocks in some areas, God is still in control.  We’re still the greatest country in the world, despite what the BLM and AntiFa ingrates think.  To be quite frank, if they hate America so much, they’re welcome to move.

With that, here are past Independence Day posts:

“TBT^2: Happy Birthday, America!” (2019)

It’s Independence Day in the United States!  God Bless America!

I hope everyone has been enjoying #MAGAWeek2019.  Remember, you can read those full entries only on SubscribeStar with a $1/mo. or higher subscription.  Your subscription also includes exclusive access to new content every Saturday, as well as other goodies from time to time.

I’m happy to announce, too, that I have my first subscriber.  You, too, can support my work for just $1 a month (or more).  That’s the price of a large pizza if you paid for it over the course of an entire year—you can’t beat that!

In case you’ve missed them, so far #MAGAWeek2019 has commemorated our second President, John Adams; our first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton; and our national cuisine, fast food.  You can also check out all of #MAGAWeek2018’s entries.

This Fourth of July I’m in New Jersey, and spent a great day yesterday at Coney Island in New York City.  Despite not liking rollercoasters, I rode the historic The Cyclone, which was first constructed in 1927.  I also visited the New York Aquarium, and tried a cheese dog at the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand, the one that will host America’s favorite hot dog-eating contest today.  It was all quite touristy, but very fun.

To commemorate the Fourth of July, I’m reheating last year’s TBT feature, itself a reblogging of a classic Fourth of July post from 2016.

Enjoy your independence, and God Bless America!

–TPP

“TBT: Happy Birthday, America!”  (2018)

Two years ago, I dedicated my Fourth of July post to analyzing Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  In the spirit of MAGA Week 2018—and to preserve the TPP TBT tradition—I’m re-posting that classic post today.

A major theme of the blog posts from that summer was the idea of America as a nation, an idea I still find endlessly compelling.  The election of President Trump in November 2016 has reinvigorated public debates about the nature of American nationalism, as well as revived, at least partially, a spirit of unabashed patriotism.

As a child, I took it for granted that America was a special place.  When I learned American history as a child, I learned the heroic tales of our Founders.  While revisionist historians certainly have been correct in pointing out the faults of some of these men, I believe it is entirely appropriate to teach children—who are incapable of understanding such nuance—a positive, patriotic view of American history.  We shouldn’t lie to them, but there’s nothing wrong with educating them that, despite its flaws, America is pretty great.

“Happy Birthday, America!” (2016)

Today the United States of America celebrates 240 years of liberty.  240 years ago, Americans boldly banded together to create the greatest nation ever brought forth on this earth.

They did so at the height of their mother country’s dominance.  Great Britain emerged from the French and Indian War in 1763 as the preeminent global power.  Americans had fought in the war, which was international in scope but fought primarily in British North America.  After Britain’s stunning, come-from-behind victory, Americans never felt prouder to be English.

Thirteen short years later, Americans made the unprecedented move to declare their independence.  Then, only twenty years after the Treaty of Paris of 1763 that ended the French and Indian War, another Treaty of Paris (1783) officially ended the American Revolution, extending formal diplomatic recognition to the young United States.  The rapidity of this world-historic shift reflects the deep respect for liberty and the rule of law that beat in the breasts of Americans throughout the original thirteen colonies.

America is founded on ideas, spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and given institutional form and legal protection by the Constitution.  Values–not specific ethnicity–would come to form a new, distinctly American nationalism, one that has created enduring freedom.

***

Rather than rehash these ideas, however, I’d instead like to treat you to the greatest political speech ever given in the English language.  It’s all the more remarkable because it continues to inspire even when read silently.  I’m writing, of course, about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Here is the transcript (Source:  http://www.gettysburg.com/bog/address.htm):
“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.“Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth. “

 ***
The Gettysburg Address is elegant in its simplicity.  At less than 300 words, it was a remarkably short speech for the time (political and commemorative speeches often ran to two or three hours).  Yet its power is undiminished all these years later.  President Lincoln was only wrong about one thing:  the claim that the “world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here” has proven untrue.
I will likely write a deeper analysis of the Address in November to commemorate its delivery; in the meantime, I ask you to read and reread the speech, and to reflect on its timeless truths.
God Bless America!
–TPP
To read different versions of the Gettysburg Address–there are several versions extant–check out this excellent page from Abraham Lincoln Online:  http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm.