TBT: The Invasion and Alienation of the South

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With the election still in the balance—it may be decided by the time you read this post—and two formerly conservative Southern States up for grabs, I thought it would be timely to revisit this piece, “The Invasion and Alienation of the South,” which looks at Leslie Alexander’s post “Stranger in a Strange Land.”  In that piece, Alexander writes about the hollow, joyless cosmopolitanism of living in Dallas—a stark contrast to the tight-knit cordiality and tradition of her native Louisiana.

While watching the election returns, it occurred to me that Georgia and North Carolina should not be risky toss-ups, and Virginia never should have been lost to hordes of Swamp People.  It’s an irony of history that Washington, D.C., was placed next to Virginia so the ornery planters, suspicious of federal power, could keep a closer eye on the national government.  Now, that bloated national government dominates politics in Virginia through its largess.

Meanwhile, transplants from up North have infested previously conservative States.  Charlotte, North Carolina has become a wretched hive of globalist scum and villainy.  During my online dating days, I would routinely get matched with babes from Charlotte; invariably, they were always from Ohio, or New York, or California—never actually true North Carolinians.

It’s one thing when local blacks vote Democratic.  Fine—we’re at least part of the same(-ish) Southern culture, and we’ll help each other out.  But then gentry white liberals start coming down here, ruining our politics and our cities.

Now, we live in a world in which Joe Biden might win Georgia, and North Carolina—NORTH CAROLINA—has become a nail-biter every four years.

Such is the price of our addiction to economic growth and convenience.  What we’ve gained in luxuries we have lost in heart.  We have paid for them with our souls.

Here is November 2019’s “The Invasion and Alienation of the South“:

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Lazy Sunday LXXXV: Big Ideas

So many of the West’s problems are fundamentally spiritual in nature.  Our politics are no longer the pedestrian, earthy wranglings over how to maintain the roads (clearly not) or what the marginal tax rate should be.  Even the most mundane of political discussions become theological battles about the nature of Truth itself.  It’s ironic given the Left’s wholesale embrace of postmodernism’s rejection of Truth.

As such, it seemed like an opportune time to dedicate a Lazy Sunday to posts about big ideas.  It’s easy to get bogged down in the details—the Devil is in them, after all—but it’s also important to grasp at the makeup of the entire forest, not just its diversity of trees.

With that, here are some of my own stabs at understanding the dark forest in which we moderns find ourselves:

  • What is Conservatism?” & “TBT: What is Conservatism?” – This post kicked off the first run of my History of Conservative Thought Class, in which begin exploring the ideas of Russell Kirk.  So much of what Americans consider to be “conservative” today is really an abstract ideology, whereas Kirk’s conservatism varied from one society to the next.  It did, however, contain some similar elements across cultures.  Kirk is mostly forgotten in conservative circles today, which is unfortunate; it would behoove us to know more of his thought and work.  
  • Resist the Black Pill” – It’s easy to get discouraged with the state of the world at present, especially here in the United States. Even with the efforts of President Trump and his MAGA cadre, there are long-term concerns for the future of our country.  The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is one sign of hope, though whether or not the Court will return to true constitutionalism is still an open question.  What we can know is that nihilistic despair is a sin, and our hope comes from the Lord.
  • What is Civilization?” – This post dealt with a lively discussion between Milo and a couple of groypers, Steve Franssen and Vincent James, about the future of civilization.  It’s an intriguing debate about whether or not abandoning the cities to progressive destroyers represents an abandonment of civilization itself (my answer would be no).

That’s it for this brief Lazy Sunday.  Here’s hoping these posts give you something to chew over as you head into your week.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Supreme Court and Power

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg eight days ago has opened up another power struggle in D.C.  Democrats have spent decades perverting the function of the courts from that of constitutional referee into that of constitution interpreter, a role that places the Supreme Court above Congress and the presidency.

The result is rule by nine unelected officials who serve for life.  Congress has gleefully passed the difficulty of legislative activity and the push and pull of debate onto the Supreme Court, trusting it to clarify anything Congress may have forgotten to write into law.  Presidents have passively executed Supreme Court verdicts, and even signed legislation they believed to be unconstitutional, on the premise that the Supreme Court would make the ultimate decision.

Thus, the Court has emerged as the dominant force in American politics—and morality.  Not only does the Court tell us what the Constitution really says—even if the Constitution doesn’t say it at all—it also tells us the moral judgments of the Constitution (thanks to Z Man for that insight).  Thus, every cat lady and box wine auntie in America bemoans the death of RBG, their symbolic stand-in, who endorsed free and easy abortions and gay rights.

Now President Trump has the opportunity to shift the balance of the Supreme Court for a generation.  But will it be enough to reverse judicial supremacy and restore constitutional order?

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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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The RNC: Normality and Sanity

As an ostensible politics blogger I’ve been quite derelict in my duty to watch the Republican National Convention, at least with the kind of rapt attention I should.  I completely skipped out on the terrible Democratic National Convention, which was, by all appearances, a disaster in both form and substance.

That said, what I have seen is encouraging.  The theme of the RNC seems to be that a vote for Republicans is a vote for sanity, and that the Republicans are the party of normal people.  The implication, of course, is that the Democrats support insanity and the abnormal, which is objectively true.

The media has reported that the RNC is throwing out red meat for its base, but considering that Trump naturalized five immigrants and Tim Scott was calling for criminal justice and law enforcement reforms suggest otherwise.  If anything, the convention this year is a sales pitch to independents, who are no-doubt weary of seeing cities burn and cops reviled.

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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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Populism Wins

A major lesson of the 2016 election was that the neoliberal consensus of the prior thirty years was not the panacea its advocates claimed.  Trump’s candidacy was premised on the notion that the national government should work for the interests of the nation’s people, not on behalf of globalist concerns and aloof cosmopolitan elites.  Government could be reformed to strengthen the nation, rather than operating as the piggy bank for and protector of internationalists.

It’s interesting to reflect how entrenched the assumptions of neoliberalism were prior to 2015-2016.  When Trump began his historic campaign, virtually no one on the Right was talking about tariffs, other than Pat Buchanan (and a long essay on the necessity of a trade war with China that Oren Cass wrote for National Review in 2014).  The outsourcing of jobs overseas was assumed to be a short-term sacrifice that would result in more efficiency (ergo, lower prices on consumer goods) and more skilled jobs here.  We were a “nation of immigrants,” so we’d better throw the doors wide open.

With Trump’s election, a long-dormant populist wing reemerged, consisting both of conservative Republicans and disgruntled Democrats.  Tariffs became an important foreign and domestic policy tool.  A trade war with China soon began, and the United States renegotiated the NAFTA agreement with Mexico and Canada.  Manufacturing jobs began returning to the United States, and immigration laws began to be enforced (so long as those Hawaiian judges didn’t get in the way).  The economy, rather than contracting as the free trade hardliners warned, grew exponentially, and even now is recovering at a remarkable clip after The Age of The Virus temporarily sidelined it.

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TBT: Southern Conservatism: John Randolph of Roanoke

A lodestar of modern conservatism is that the federal government is too powerful and overreaching, and that power should be devolved back to the States and local governments.  That such devolution rarely occurs, even under Republican presidents, is just further evidence of how entrenched the bureaucratic class is within the Beltway swamp.  It’s easy to see the extension of federal power since the New Deal programs of the 1930s and the government’s control of the economy during the Second World War, followed by Johnson’s Great Society and various big government schemes to solve our problems.

But these concerns about the growth of federal power are not new, and there were already grumblings about them in the earliest years of the Republic.  In yesterday’s History of Conservative Thought session, we analyzed John Randolph of Roanoke‘s “King Numbers” speech, in which the aging but feisty Virginia decried the overreach of federal power—in 1830!

The occasion for Randolph’s speech was the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-1830, in which the State sought to revise its constitution with a number of—as Randolph called them—“innovations,” including age requirements to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates (25) and the State Senate (30).  Another proposed change was the elimination of property qualifications to vote.

Randolph vehemently opposed these reforms on the grounds that the Virginia Constitution in its then-current form was the greatest charter of government ever conceived, and that it had been wholly sufficient in serving as the sole block on the expansion of federal power.  Randolph also argued that the US Constitution, rather than dealing with the external issues of national defense and regulating foreign affairs and commerce, had instead turned its focus inwards, seeking to regulate the States.

It’s fascinating to read now, nearly two hundred years later, Randolph’s antebellum arguments against the aggrandizement of federal power, at a point when the federal government under the Constitution was barely forty-years old.  One of Randolph’s most interesting points was that, regardless of what the Constitution said it was designed to do, the reality was much different.

One of the students asked what Randolph would think if he saw things today, and I said, “He’d probably have a stroke.”  Far from being the last stand against and check on federal authority, Virginia now is the compliant handmaiden to federal expansion, as Northern Virginia is the home of the Swamp People that operate the federal bureaucracy.

It’s unfortunate that we’ve forgotten Randolph today.  Even in his own time, he was considered somewhat of an eccentric.  But eccentrics make life interesting, and this one certainly issued some strong warnings, even at that early date, about the danger of excessive federal power and the erosion of States’ rights.

With that, here is 24 June 2019’s “Southern Conservatism: John Randolph of Roanoke“:

As my History of Conservative Thought course rolls on, I’m learning more about the forgotten byways and overgrown, stately ruins of the various branches of conservatism.  Students this week are reading a couple of documents from John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, the two founders of the Federalist Party, and key to the passage of the Constitution.  Hamilton, the author of the bulk of the pro-ratification Federalist Papers, also created the financial system upon which the United States functions today.

Hamilton and Adams have both enjoyed renewed interest in recent years, Hamilton due to the smash Broadway musical about his life, and Adams from a critically-acclaimed HBO series (one that, sadly, takes some unnecessary artistic license with the past).  In the case of Hamilton, American history students are often enthusiastic to get to him in my AP US History course, and Hamilton mega-fans often know more about the first Secretary of Treasury than I do.

But we’re reading a speech from another important figure from American history, albeit one largely forgotten:  John Randolph of Roanoke.

Randolph of Roanoke, sometimes considered the “American Burke,” was part of the Virginia planter aristocracy and a staunch republican, in the sense that he opposed centralization of power while supporting a strict interpretation of the Constitution and a limited government at every level.  He was one of the so-called “Old Republicans,” a group within the dominant Democratic-Republican Party of the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian era that adhered strictly to the Constitution, and which believed the States possessed a check on the federal government’s power.

He was also a traditionalist, and his powerful “King Numbers” speech at the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1829-1830 represents a hearty endorsement of conservative principles, prudently applied.

Randolph of Roanoke makes several important points in the speech, but two stick out to me immediately:  his detestation for the tyranny of majority (the “King Numbers” referenced throughout the speech), and his love of Old Virginia.  On the latter point, he was quite eloquent:  not only did he argue that Virginia was a bulwark against an overreaching federal government (remember, he’s making this point in 1830), he also notes that its constitution was entirely sufficient to the task.

He argues early in the speech that there is no need to change Virginia’s constitution, because no one had brought any provable objections against it!  It’s the essence of a conservative argument.  Further, Randolph of Roanoke decried the mania for what he called “innovation,” a kind of reform-for-reform’s-sake, at the expense of the tried-and-true.

As to the tyranny of the majority, Randolph of Roanoke points in “King Numbers” to the absurdity of giving some men or factions greater power simply because they can win by one or two votes.  He uses examples—unfamiliar to many modern readers—of the Tariff of 1816 (one of my tariffs the Southern planters and yeoman farmers alike found odious and burdensome) and the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the latter passing by a mere two votes.

We praise “democracy” now, but the Founders of our nation feared unbridled democracy as a form of mob rule, which would inevitably yield tyranny at the hands of a charismatic demagogue.  Randolph of Roanoke makes the rather compelling point that even in representative government, mere majoritarianism can be quite destructive, as the side with the majority actually benefits if it can seize that majority by a narrow margin:  that’s just more of their opponents who lose!

Randolph of Roanoke, like many men of his time and station, was an unapologetic defender of slavery, which likely accounts for part of his fall from our curricula (although he emancipated all of his slaves upon his death).  His anti-nationalism (in the sense that he was opposed to a powerful federal government) is also at odds with the prevailing trend in American history textbooks to applaud whenever the national government aggrandized itself at the expense of the States.

Regardless, we would do well to read him again.  He was, even for his time, a bit of an oddball, but his quick wit and vast depth of knowledge, as well as his love his State (he believed Virginia was the great inheritor of Greco-Roman and British Common Law) were inspiring to his fellow Virginians.  They could be inspiring for us, too, and all lovers of liberty.

The Magna Carta Turns 805

Good old Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day observes that King John signed the venerable Magna Carta 805 years ago today.  The beleaguered king signed the great charter essentially at sword point, as his barons had him cornered at Runnymede on 15 June 1215.

The Magna Carta’s history is a fascinating one.  King John challenged the document’s legitimacy almost immediately, but his son reaffirmed it.  Essentially, the Magna Carta was not a sweeping guarantee of the rights of all Englishmen; rather, it was a guarantee of the rights of a narrow band of English nobility (the aforementioned barons), and that the king was subject to his own laws.  No taxes could be levied on the nobility without their consent.

It took another four hundred-odd years, during the events leading up to and following the English Civil War, for the Magna Carta to be applied more broadly.  The Stuart monarchs sought to aggrandize the monarchy, turning it into a form of absolute monarchy in the mode of the French kings.  Parliament—jealous of its prerogatives—dug up the Magna Carta and used it in its legal case against absolute monarchy.

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