SubscribeStar Saturday: East Coast, West Coast

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.

An enduring question—perhaps the enduring question—of our present age is whether or not a peaceful political solution is possible to resolve our current issues.  Any casual observer of national politics cannot help but notice that there is a deep division in the United States, one grounded in (at least) two fundamentally opposed philosophies.

To the dissident—that catch-all term to encompass of any number of alternative philosophies or worldviews to the prevailing “progressive-conservative” dynamic—both modern progressivism and modern conservatism are two sides of the same coin.  Indeed, Buckleyite neoconservatism accepts, essentially, the basic tenants of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, ideas that serve as the foundation for modern progressivism, though the two interpret that foundation in wildly different ways.

Thus, there is a paradox:  modern conservatives largely share a worldview that is incompatible with that of modern progressives’; yet, there roots originate in the same soil of the interventionist state.  The difference, perhaps, is the fertilizer:  the Leftist progressive overwaters with “equality” (now, increasingly, “equity”); the conservative presents a more balanced mixture of equality, liberty, justice, etc.

(Indeed, these shared roots likely date back even further, to the liberalism of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries; again, both the Left and the Right evoke the tenants of such liberalism [“all men are created equal”] while disagreeing vehemently on how those tenants should be expressed in public policy [equality for the Left means egalitarianism and equality of outcomes; equality for the right means “equality before the God and the law”].)

That might make the possibility of some reconciliation seem possible—with shared roots comes some shared values, some shared history.

That’s the most optimistic view.  It’s one I do not share, but nor do I adopt the view that all is lost.  I believe that a blend of hyper-federalism, radical decentralization, and institutional control by dissidents could tip the balance in a positive direction.

The problem, of course, is that none of those goals is easy to achieve; some of them are currently inconceivable.  The federal government is unlikely to devolve more powers to the States (and many States probably secretly don’t want more); radical decentralization means losing out on corrupting but succulent federal largesse; and the institutions are firmly controlled by the Left—and not likely to rewrite the rules to let us challenge their supremacy.

So we come to a fundamental divide among dissidents:  what Curtis Yarvin calls the divide between West Coast dissidents (that includes Yarvin) and East Coast traditionalists (like me and, I suspect, photog at Orion’s Cold Fire) in his essay “The real Great Reset.”  The East Coast traditionalists believe that local control and working within the system can swing things in our favor and reverse course in the Culture Wars, what he calls voice; the West Coast dissidents believe that voice is useless at present, and instead reset—a total regime change of reset and replace is the answer.

“To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

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.

If the South Woulda Won

Amid all the upheaval of the past few weeks, conservatives are wondering, “What next?” and “Where did we go wrong?”  There are multiple answers to both questions.  To the latter, there are the familiar suspects:  the 1960s, the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century, the influence of the Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxism, etc.

One possible answer—one that’s been pushed aside in our historically incompetent and racially hypersensitive era—is the victory of the Union in the American Civil War.  I wrote extensively about “The Cultural Consequences of the American Civil War” a few weeks ago; in that essay, I wrote that

…[T]he biggest legacy of the American Civil War was that it marked the victory of a certain Yankee political philosophy and political economy over the rest of the country. The North and the South took fundamentally different views of the world….

…[T]he larger point was that the South existed in a far more traditional version of the world than the Yankee.

The Yankee, instead, came from a Puritanical/Calvinist perspective. Weaver argued that the Southerner recognized and named evil, but rather than try to stamp it out—thereby breeding a multitude of smaller, more insidious evils—he sought to fence it off, to mark it. The Northern Puritan sought to eradicate evil–thus the radical abolitionist impulse (in the context of the Civil War), on down to the modern-day “Puritanism” of the SJWs, for whom nothing is ever good enough.

Immediately after the Civil War, the South, being out of national politics in the Reconstruction Era, could not stop the political-economic alliance of the North and West, which put into place high protective tariffs and expanded federal authority….

And so on.  Essentially, the victory of the Union, which brought many material blessings, and the moral good of abolishing slavery, also brought with it the totalizing influence of Yankee imperialism and the erosion of legitimate States’ rights at the expense of expanding federal power.

Read More »

The Cultural Consequences of the American Civil War

On Wednesday, 13 May 2020, blogger Audre Myers posted a piece at Nebraska Energy Observer entitled “What Do You Think?”  The piece prompted readers to answer the question “Would we be the America we are if the Civil War had never been fought?”

Below is my response, which you can also view here.  The TL;DR summary of my answer is that, while it was good that the Union was preserved and that slavery was abolished, it came with some heavy fees—the expansion of federal power (and the loss of liberty inverse to federal expansion), the erosion of States’ rights, and—most importantly—the triumph of Yankee progressivism over Southern traditionalism.

The temptation is always to reduce the American Civil War to being ONLY about slavery.  Slavery was, obviously, a huge part of the Southern economy and culture, and motivated a great deal of Southern politics at the national level.  But slavery was not the be-all, end-all of the “Lost Cause.”  There were legitimate constitutional questions at play.  Indeed, an open question—one the American Civil War closed by force of arms—was that, having opted into the Constitution, could States later opt out?  John Randolph of Roanoke, among others, seemed to believe this question was legitimate, and such an exit was allowed—even acknowledged.

Of course, the slavery narrative serves modern progressive ends.  It allows for throwing the baby—States’ rights—out with the bathwater.  Suddenly, States’ rights becomes “code,” in the progressive mind, for justifying slavery or segregation.  Yes, States’ rights was invoked to support wicked things.  Nevertheless, it is fully constitutional—just ask the Tenth Amendment.

Nullification and secession were dangerous doctrines, but the loss of them also meant that the federal government could expand with far fewer limits on its power.  The States lost the nuclear option, so to speak, of bucking unconstitutional acts (although, to be fair, States can challenge such acts more peacefully through lawsuits against the federal government—even if those cases are heard in federal courts).  Seeing as we’re living in times when a peaceful separation between fundamentally opposed ideologies may be the most attractive option for the future of our nation, it’s worth reviewing the history of these ideas.

Well, that’s enough preamble.  After two days of self-indulgent, girly navel-gazing, it’s time for some substance:

Read More »

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 »

TBT: The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding

My high school American history classes are getting into the American Civil War—or the War of Northern Aggression, or the War for Southern Independence, or whatever you’d like to call it—this week, so we’ve been talking about beginnings a good bit.  The Civil War had deep roots that go back not just to the 1840s or 1850s, and not even to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Indeed, the fundamental division dates back to the English Civil War in the 1648, when the Puritan Roundheads under Oliver Cromwell ousted and beheaded Charles I, and established the English Republic (which—the English having little taste for radicalism or dictatorships, fortunately collapses in 1660 with the restoration of the Stuart monarchs).  Loyalists to the king and the monarchical order were the aristocratic Cavaliers.  Those same Puritans of East Anglia settled heavily in Massachusetts following the Pilgrims’ famous landing at Plymouth Rock, and the Cavaliers—in body and spirit—dominated the tidewater plantations of the South.

Read More »

Southern Conservatism: John Randolph of Roanoke

MAGA Week 2019 is one week away!  Get ready to celebrate America all week long!  This year, all MAGA Week posts will be exlusive to my SubscribeStar page, so subscribe today!  $1 a month gets you full access to all posts, including new content every Saturday.

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.

Read More »

101 Postmatians – 101st Consecutive Daily Post!

Perhaps it’s a bit odd to celebrate grinding diligence, but I’m proud of myself.  Yesterday’s post on model bills (a bit of a snoozer of a topic, I’ll admit) marked the 100th consecutive daily post on this blog.

I realized in late December 2018/early January 2019 that WordPress tracks streaks once you hit three consecutive days of posting, so I decided to see how long I could keep the momentum going.  Initially, I was just going to try to get through January.  It’s a slow month in the academic year, a rare moment when I have a sliver of extra time to devote to extracurricular hobbies, like music.

Of course, the more I wrote, the easier it became to churn out posts on any number of topics.  Pretty soon, I’d gotten to fifty posts.  Despite Internet outages (within weeks of each other, both times because a Frontier technician incorrectly disconnected my line), I was able to get some posts up (even if they weren’t of the best quality).

So, to celebrate, I thought I’d take today “off” with a classic retrospective (which I already do once or twice a week with “TBT Thursdays” and “Lazy Sundays“)—a written “clip show,” if you will, of The Streak ’19’s Top Five Posts (so far).

The following are the five posts with the most views as of the time of this writing, presented in descending order (most views to fewest):

1.) “Hump Day Hoax” – it seems these local stories do well (my piece on the fight at the Lamar Egg Scramble has turned up in quite a few searches; I’m still trying to find more details about it).  This piece was about the Mayor of Lamar’s claim that her car was vandalized in a racially-motivated attack, and she expressed relief that the vandal didn’t try to kill her and her husband.  When the Darlington County Sheriff’s deputy came out to investigate, he discovered the mysterious yellow substance was pollen!  That didn’t prevent it from making national news, getting a mention in Newsweek.

At first, I thought our mayor was just trying to get some cheap PR and sympathy for herself, but after discussing it with some other folks, the consensus seems to be that she suffered from stupidity, filtered through a conspiratorial, black victim mentality.  Rather than see the sticky substance for what it was—the ubiquitous pollen that covers our fair Dixie—the mayor’s first thought was a racist attack.

That’s a sad way to live.  As I wrote in this piece, the mayor is a sweet lady, and I think she really wants to do her best to help our little town.  That said, this kind of ignorant hysteria doesn’t help anyone or anything, much less race relations.

2.) “Secession Saturday” – boy, this post generated some views.  The focus of this post was a piece from American Greatness, “The Left Won’t Allow a Peaceful Separation,” by Christopher Roach.  It explores whether or not some kind of peaceful parting of ways between America’s two cultures—traditionalists and progressives—is desirable, and revisits questions the American Civil War resolved—at least for a time—with force of arms (“do States have the right to secede?,” for example).

A panicked former student texted me in anguish, worrying about a Civil War II, after seeing this post on Facebook.  I tried to allay her fears.  But the real point of my commentary was on the idea that the Left is fundamentally totalitarian, and will broach no disagreements.  That’s a key insight Roach and others make, and it’s why I reference back to his piece so frequently.

Of course, it also helped that I linked to this guy in the comments of a more successful blog.

3.-4.) “Nehemiah and National Renewal” & “Nehemiah Follow-Up” – these two posts came amid a week in which I found myself immersed in the Book of Nehemiah (one of my favorites in the Old Testament, as he builds a wall to renew his nation).  The initial post sparked some great feedback from Ms. Bette Cox, a fellow blogger (who, incidentally, preceded me in my soon-to-be-vacated position as the Florence County [SC] GOP Secretary).  She astutely pointed out that my first post missed a key point:  in Nehemiah 1, the prophet falls to his knees and asks for God’s Will.

5.) “Tucker Carlson’s Diagnosis” – one of the posts from the early days of The Streak ’19, it was also a rare video post from me.  I’ll occasionally embed YouTube videos in my posts, but I tend to avoid writing posts that say, “hey, watch this lengthy video.”

Nothing bugs me more than when I’m out somewhere, having a conversation, and someone thrusts a phone in my face with a YouTube video.  I’ve actually told my friends that if they do this, I will refuse to watch it.  It’s not that I don’t want to share the joke with you; it’s that you’re making me watch a video on a cellphone!  C’mon.  I can barely hear the dialogue (or song, or whatever) on your tinny, bass-less phone speaker.  Furthermore, can’t we have a conversation without resorting to SNL clips?

But I digress.  I made an exception for Tucker Carlson’s powerful monologue about our frigid, uncaring elites.  I’ve definitely jumped on the Carlson populist-nationalist train, and I think he makes a compelling case for preserving—or, at least not actively destroying—small towns and the families they nurture.

So, there you have it—a lengthier-than-planned reheating of my posts during The Streak ’19.

Thanks for all of your love and support.  Here’s to another 100 posts!

–TPP