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.

Blog Spotlight: Salt of America

Here’s something a bit lighter for your Tuesday.  I was poking around on the Internet looking for—well, I don’t know what—and I stumbled upon this charming little blog, Salt of America.  It has an “early Internet” feel in terms of layout, with a few banner or sidebar ads, and an archaic system for logging your ZIP code so the site can get sponsors.

Other than the ads for Mobil 1 engine oil and Campbell’s Soup, the site includes all sorts of articles and documents pertaining to rural living in the American past.  The site features a series of local and regional histories that explore the development of various American cities and States.  I’m particularly interested in checking out a two-part series on America’s first State to ratify the Constitution, Delaware (Part I, Part II).

Read More »

Lazy Sunday XXX: Trump, Part I

It’s hard to believe we’ve reached thirty Lazy Sundays.  I’ve found these posts are an excellent way to link to multiple posts simultaneously; I’ve written so many now that I occasionally forget that I’ve written some of them, but Lazy Sunday is always there to curate and aggregate those forgotten posts.

Indeed, today’s post marks 280 days of consecutive posting.  That’s forty weeks of at least one post per day.  Noah would be getting off the Ark right about now.

So, to celebrate the thirtieth week of posts—and to honor our amazing, if embattled, President—today’s edition of Lazy Sunday is dedicated to the God-Emperor himself, Donald J. Trump.

  • Indian Man Worships Trump as a God” – This little piece was a bit of a throwaway novelty, but I still find it amusing:  an Indian gentleman devoted himself to GEOTUS so intensely, his parents moved out of the house.  I was hoping some Twitter-savvy user would get this piece to Trump or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and President Trump could use it as an opportunity to witness to this well-intentioned-but-misguided man.
  • Mueller Probe Complete, Trump Vindicated” – The subject of a recent TBT feature, I wrote this piece when the Mueller Report first broke and all indicators were that “Russian collusion” was, at best, way overblown.  Yes, yes—Mueller insisted that Trump wasn’t “exonerated,” but he and the Democrats had to admit sheepishly that the drum they’d been beating for nearly three years was busted (not that they actually did admit that).  Of course, now they’ve just changed from one scary Eastern European country to another with tales of “Ukrainian collusion” to bolster a bogus impeachment inquiry.  Sigh.
  • Symbolism and Trumpism” – An unfortunate side effect of Protestant efficiency and pragmatism is the lack of attention to symbols, which we tend to view with suspicion—“it might be an idol!”  But symbols matter immensely to uniting a people.  That’s the key insight this piece explores, care of an American Greatness essay about Trump’s ability to understand the need for and use of unifying symbols like the National Anthem, the American Flag, and so on.
  • Trump’s Economy and 2020” – President Trump can boast a hugely successful economy, almost directly as a result of his tax cuts and regulatory reforms.  After Trump’s election, I could almost physically sense a weight lifting off my shoulders, and those of millions of Americans—and I was doing okay even in President Obama’s moribund economy.  Even in 2016, with things gradually improving from the low-point of the Great Recession in 2009, the job market seemed tight.  By the time Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, phenomenal economic growth was well underway.  Here’s hoping that buoyant economy continues to roar through 2020.
  • “#MAGAWeek2019: President Trump’s Independence Day Speech“:  This post was a Subscribe Star exclusive, so you’ll have to pay a buck to read the full thing, but it’s about how great President Trump’s Independence Day speech was.  After all the hand-wringing from the Left and the noodle-wristed Right about Trump hosting a yuge military display on the Fourth of July (see also:  “Symbolism and Trumpism“), Trump delivered a speech that reminded us of why we can be proud to be a part of this incredible, unprecedented nation.  I didn’t hear the whole “airport at Yorktown” comment, but I’m also not attuned to picking up Trump’s every minor error and calling it treason the way Leftists are.

That’ll do it for this “big league” Lazy Sunday.  Enjoy your day off, and Keep America Great!

God Bless,

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

#MAGAWeek2019: President Trump’s Independence Day Speech

It’s #MAGAWeek2019 here at The Portly Politico.  Each day’s post will be a SubscribeStar exclusive.  For a subscription of $1/month, you gain exclusive to each day’s posts, as well as exclusive content every Saturday throughout the rest of the year.  Visit my SubscribeStar page for more details.

I was not planning on writing about President Trump’s incredible Independence Day speech as part of #MAGAWeek2019, mainly because I try to keep these posts historical.  The speech was so powerful, though, and so educational in a historical sense, it and President Trump have earned a spot (alongside the president’s favorite food) as part of my annual celebration of American greatness.

Read More »

Lazy Sunday XVI: #MAGAWeek2018

This week marks the beginning of #MAGAWeek2019, my celebration of the men, women, and ideas that MADE AMERICA GREAT!  Starting Monday, July 1 and running through Friday, July 5, this year’s #MAGAWeek2019 posts will be SubscribeStar exclusives.  If you want to read the full posts, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for as little as $1 a month.  You’ll also get access to exclusive content every Saturday.

To celebrate #MAGAWeek2019, this edition of Lazy Sunday features the four essays from #MAGAWeek2018.  They pull from my years of teaching and reading American history, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

1.) “George Washington” – The Father of Our Country!  Social justice bleeding hearts and historical revisionists have striven for years to cast Washington and the other Founders as greedy slave owners who wrote a wicked, capitalistic Constitution to preserve their own power.  What a cartoonishly stupid view of American history!  George Washington was an able leader, and demonstrated a trait that the modern Left would do well to learn:  mercy.

2.) “John Quincy Adams” – John Quincy Adams was a terrible president, and suffered from the aloof elitism of our modern coastal elites (he was even staged against the Trump of his time, the populist hero Andrew Jackson).  That said, he was the best Secretary of State this nation ever had (so don’t be too hasty in drawing comparisons between him and Secretary Hillary Clinton).  JQA crafted America’s expansion across the continent with adept skill.  Read all about it in my lengthy biography.

3.) “Thomas Jefferson & The Declaration of Independence” – Jefferson is, other Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and a handful of other Founders, our most important Founding Father.  He wrote the Declaration of Independence, with its lofty ideals of God-given rights and liberty.  He was a Renaissance Man, talented in many areas, and while he harbored a naive support for the French Revolution (and revolutions generally), his philosophic mind bequeathed to the world a document that is a thunderclap for liberty here and abroad.

4.) “Limited Government” – This post largely focused on the Madisonian system of the Constitution.  I fear that we no longer truly live under the constitutional order that Madison and the fifty-four other Framers created, as our insidious Deep State and bureaucratic elite resist the results of elections and despise the very citizens they are charged to serve.  Let us hope the spirit of 1787 will move Americans again to insist upon the restoration of limited government.

Enjoy this look back at our nation’s history, and stay tuned for more #MAGAWeek entries this week!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

McClay & Sheaffer on American History

It’s been a history-packed week for yours portly.  Tuesday morning my History of Conservative Thought students and I continued our examination of Edmund Burke, the great Member of Parliament and godfather of Anglosphere conservatism.  Burke foresaw the radical nature of the French Revolution well before the guillotining began.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to substitute a colleague’s summer course, Terror and Terrorism, a popular course he’s run for several summers now.  Students in that course read excerpts from John Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract (PDF, the same one the students read, in part), a political philosophy perhaps the polar opposite of Burkean traditionalism.

Rousseau’s theory of the “general will” is, I would argue, responsible for the radicalism of the French Revolution—which wrought the Bolshevik (Russian) Revolution, the Maoist revolutions of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, and on and on.  There’s a reason one of my Conservative Thought students claims that “the French Revolution was the first Communist revolution,” by which he means it contained within it the collectivist ideals of Rousseau’s general will.

But I digress.  In the spirit of all that historical musing, I thought I’d recommend two pieces I’ve read recently about the historian’s craft, and the dangers of applying a progressive lens to our understand of the past.

The most recent piece is a post from Practically Historical, entitled “Expunging Our Past.”  Gordon Sheaffer‘s pithy historical posts are enlightening and engaging, and fits with an argument he makes in this post:

“History should be popular.  Our past must be understood by the citizenry- historical studies targeted only at academics cannot be how we measure the discipline.  There is a way to make history insightful and enjoyable.”

Amen!  One of my great frustrations while in graduate school was the ponderous relativism inherent in the jargon-laden, hyper-focused monographs we were forced to read.  I certainly acknowledge the usefulness and necessity of thoroughly researching a small corner of our historical experience, but what happened to the grand, sweeping histories of the eloquent generalist?

When I was a younger man, I relished reading accessible (but, nevertheless challenging) works of history, especially broad overviews of a time period or nation.  It’s fascinating to learn about the minutiae, to be sure, but a good historian should be able to give the broad strokes and the colorful details.

But the real point of Sheaffer’s piece is that the progressive revisionists are attempting to reduce American history to a Marxist (and Manichean) story of class struggle.  That trend dates back to Progressive Era historian Charles Beard, who famously argued that the Constitution was merely an economic arrangement that benefited the wealthy Framers, protecting their wealth and privilege at the expense of the common man.

Archfiend (and political scientist, not historian) Howard Zinn continued that theme in the popular-but-inaccurate A People’s History of the United States, which has sadly been adopted in many school districts across the country as an American history textbook.  Zinn presented American history as a procession of plutocrats exploiting the working people and racial minorities for personal aggrandizement, rather than the rich tapestry of hard-working yeoman and laborers who really built the country under the protective auspices of the Constitution.

Just as Burke was the antidote to Rousseau, so historian Wilfred McClay serves as a corrective to the partisan excesses of Zinn.  He’s written a new textbook, Land of Hope, which strives to be a “well-written and appealing history of the United States that, while being informed by the best scholarship, does not lose sight of the big picture about our nation’s admirable and exceptional history.”

McClay argues that without a proper foundation in our own nation’s history, we are unable to govern ourselves.  Quite true:  I would argue that a large part of our current national discontent and brutal culture war is that we have two very different visions of America.  The one is an America that is strong, liberty-loving, fair-minded, and great; the other is of an America that is exploitative, prejudiced, greedy, and callous.

That’s why I’ve long argued that simply requiring students to take an American history course to graduate from high school and/or college isn’t enough to move the needle.  It does no good if the course is a collection of progressivist pabulum or a crash-course in victim studies.  There’s no guarantee your high school history teacher—likely certified from a progressive education program—will actually teach American history fairly or accurately, much less your community college adjunct.

There are a ton of choice tidbits in this interview McClay gave to Encounter Books, the publisher of Land of Hope, but here’s a good excerpt on Zinn:

Encounter: Howard Zinn said that his goal in writing A People’s History of the United States was to create a “quiet revolution” in our understanding of American history. Did he succeed in that endeavor?

McClay: Yes and no. He succeeded in unsettling many aspects of the consensus in which American historical writing was embedded. He did this to an astonishing degree, particularly since he was not himself a historian. But he did not succeed in providing a substitute account of American history that goes beyond simplistic melodrama. Most honest historians will acknowledge that, even if they are sympathetic to Zinn’s leftist politics.

Encounter: Why was Zinn’s account so popular?

McClay: It is engagingly written, and gives a simple-minded, moralistic, account of the past as the struggle between the white hats and the black hats, the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. For some people, including many Americans who have felt disillusioned by our national flaws, this has been irresistible.

He also rails against the AP US History exam, which used to the “gold standard,” as he puts it, but which has suffered due to constant “tinkering with the exam, and interjection of themselves into what teachers actually teach in AP courses.”  I teach APUSH, and what McClay writes is absolutely true.  It’s bad enough teaching to a test every year—you don’t have the opportunity to luxuriate in the warm waters of historical detail—and it’s worse when the College Board tries to alter the exam every five minutes.

To close, one more powerful quotation from McClay:

Students should learn that history is not merely an inert account of self-explanatory details, but is a task of reflection that calls to our deepest sense of our humanity. And learning our history, the history of our own country, is part and parcel of learning who we are, and learning about the society of which we are already a part.

Again, I say, amen!

Reblog: Practically Historical on the Electoral College

A quick (and late) post today, as the Internet is still out at home (although this time it’s not entirely due to Frontier’s incompetence).  SheafferHistorianAZ of Practically Historical posted another classic piece yesterday defending the Electoral College.  Rather than rely solely on abstract arguments, he went to the primary sources:  in this case, the words of James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury.

Here is an excerpt from SheafferHistorianAZ himself, taken from before and after quotations from Madison (writing in Federal No. 39) and Hamilton (Federalist No. 68; emphasis is Sheaffer’s):

Plurality is part of the Federal electoral process, but integrated to meet the needs of federalism.  States matter in our compound republic.  Madison wanted them involved in the process of choosing the executive.

Think of the electoral vote this way…  In the 1960 World Series, the New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates 55-27  and out-hit the hapless Pirates 91-60.  Using the rationale of plurality as demanded by the national popular vote crowd, the Yankees were clearly world champs that year.  But runs are integrated into games, and in 1960, the Pirates won 4 games, the Yankees 3.  Runs and hits are part of a process, but the process integrates all parts of the sport into choosing a winner[.]

That sports metaphor is one that I think will resonate with many voters, and it’s one that is intuitive.  It’s probably the best I’ve heard.  It’s a tough pitch to say, “the States have rights in our system, and without the Electoral College, LA and NYC would decide every election.”

Anti-Collegiates (the best term I can come up with on the fly for the anti-Electoral College crowd) always argue that States like Wyoming would get more attention from presidential candidates, which is numerically ludicrous—what’s 600,000 Wyomans against millions of New Yorkers?—and disingenuous.  No one arguing against the Electoral College cares about the people in Wyoming; they just want progressive elites and their urban mobs to always carry presidential elections for progressive Democrats.

But the sports metaphors takes something abstract but important—States’ rights and accounting for regional differences—and puts in terms that are more concrete but trivial.  Everyone knows it doesn’t matter if you win every game by an extra point—what matters is that you win every game (college football fans may disagree slightly, but a W is a W).

One final note before wrapping up:  I’ve recently heard proposals to reform the Electoral College to conform with congressional districts, so that it’s more reflective of the popular will, while still retaining the essential “flavor” of the Electoral College.  It’s intriguing, but I also think it’s a trap:  it’s a compromise position for a side that has no leverage.  Engaging in that debate tacitly concedes that there’s something wrong with the Electoral College, when there really isn’t.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken.  Yes, we occasionally get distorted outcomes.  But those “distortions” act as an important break on mob rule and the tyranny it inevitably breeds.

Americans Support America First Agenda

A quick Saturday night post:  a Harvard/Harris Poll (PDF), according to Breitbart, suggests there is substantial support for an “America First” agenda.  Such an agenda places the government’s priority as protecting American citizens first and foremost, and includes enforcing immigration laws, pushing for fairer trade via tariffs, and ending open-ended foreign wars.

I’ve written about the rise in economic nationalism before, including a detailed case study from BreitbartTucker Carlson’s 3 January 2019 monologue is probably the best defense of an “American First” agenda I’ve ever heard.

Economic nationalism dovetails with immigration in that enforcing immigration laws—and deporting illegal immigrants—would drive up wages for workers domestically.  I would also argue that a moratorium on most legal immigration for at least a decade would probably be prudent, to facilitate assimilation.

And, as painful as they would be, mass deportations of any illegal alien, regardless of criminal record, would do much to remove the un-assimilated, and to dissuade further incidences of border hopping.

It seems a good portion of Americans agree with at least some of these assessments.  Here is a quotation from the Breitbart piece on the poll:

Across racial lines, the vast majority of white Americans, 79 percent, and black Americans, 75 percent, said they would support a candidate who said they wanted an immigration system that benefited American citizens, rather than foreign nationals.

Similarly, more than 6-in-10 voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate in an election that spoke of the national “emergency with the savage MS-13 gang” that has been largely due to the country’s mass illegal and legal immigration system that has been supported by Republicans, Democrats, the open borders lobby, Wall Street executives, and corporate interests.

It’s encouraging to see solid support for an America First agenda, even if that doesn’t always translate to love for President Trump himself.  It does suggest, however, that if he sticks to his original campaign promises—as he has largely done—he is poised to do well in 2020.