Author Archives: Ron Lipsman

Illusions: Desperate Students

Peace in the Holy Land and a Balanced Budget,

This essay appeared in a substantially abridged form in The American Thinker.
It will appear shortly in The Land of the Free in the form here.

Too frequently, in my role as a University Professor, I encounter the following situation. Three quarters of the way through a semester, a student in a class that I am teaching shows up at my office. The student has done almost no work in the class and is failing badly. Yet the prospect of a failing grade in the course is so repellent to the student (e.g., because it will cause the loss of scholarship money, or expulsion from a degree program, or even just because Dad will be furious) that he (or she) absolutely cannot accept it as a possible outcome. The student fantasizes that it cannot and will not occur. However, he recognizes that perhaps some special effort must be made to ensure that, however slim the chance (in his mind), it does not happen. So he assures me that he really knows the material, that he will study hard, that he will submit the assignments that he has failed to complete and that he will get an excellent grade on the final exam. As he tells me this, I know that there is absolutely no chance that any of it will come to pass. But as he says it, he believes it. It is really very sad. I know, with 99.9% certainty, that I will be entering a failing grade for him at the end of the semester. He knows with equal certainty that I will not. He deludes himself because reality is too painful to confront and so he continues on in his deluded state until reality smacks him in the face.

Something similar is going on in the minds of effete, leftist, foreign policy “experts.” They claim that they want to see peace in the Holy Land. They acknowledge that the land to which the phrase applies is the home of two distinct and belligerent people who have not been able to agree on a formula for sharing the land. They also believe that the warring factions both have legitimate claims to residence in the disputed territory. Furthermore, they are convinced that an agreement to share the land can be achieved – just as soon as both parties to the conflict (albeit, especially the Israelis) finally recognize the futility of trying to exclude the other from his patrimony. And finally, they are certain that the agreement can be brought into existence by the right combination of outside pressure and internal reconciliation, and the correct mix of these ingredients will be concocted in the relatively near future.

These experts are absolutely and unmistakably WRONG! There is no peaceful reconciliation around the corner. There is no correlation of forces, spirit of cooperation or clever formula that will yield a settlement. The Arab/Muslim world is unalterably opposed to the existence of a sovereign Jewish State – indeed of any non-Muslim entity – in the heart of the Umma. Nothing is going to change that. The best that can happen is that Israel will be able to fend off the onslaught – through hot wars punctuated by cold interregnums – for the next 50-100 years. There is no need to outline the worst that can happen. Nevertheless, “objective” (actually, left-leaning) diplomats, statesmen and media-types are convinced – despite all evidence to the contrary – that a peace formula, which will defuse the stalemate, is right around the corner, soon to be uncovered.

In fact, they all pay lip service to the formula that has already been discovered: two states for two peoples. The mantra is repeated endlessly and accepted unquestioningly when they address the problem. It is absurd. The Palestinians in particular and the Arab/Muslim world in general have no interest in implementing the formula. First, they have no great desire to create yet another (23rd) Arab state – one that is rent with internecine hostility (Fatah vs. Hamas) before it is even constituted. But even more important, the mantra is inconsistent with the overarching goal of the Muslim Middle East: to bring about the destruction of Israel – if not physically, then at least as a Jewish State. The latter goal is painfully evident to any with open eyes, but myopic leftist internationalists do not see it. They continue to formulate programs and policies to implement the mantra in the face of its manifest impossibility.

Here is a third instance of this kind of frustratingly contradictory situation – in which an individual or group believes in a forthcoming scenario that has no chance of occurring. This one, like the second above, amounts to self-deception on a massive scale. It is the United States’ budget – specifically, the deficit and debt. Too many, but especially naïve (and sometimes duplicitous) liberals believe, or profess to believe that the unconscionable deficits the USA has run for most of the last 80 years, and the ensuing unsustainable debt that has accumulated – together pose a grave, even an existential danger to the republic. These twin problems must be dealt with, and they will be dealt with when the country elects the right people to implement the right policies to achieve the goal of eliminating the deficit and paying down the debt.

But it is patent nonsense. The history of the last century and especially of the last dozen years teaches that virtually all of the American people (not just liberals) have neither the will nor the desire to practice federal fiscal responsibility. Moreover, we pretend it is not so. We behave as if it is just a matter of time until we install the right political configuration of leaders that will get control of our fiscal delinquency. But in fact, we are racing inexorably toward the day of reckoning wherein a financial/political/cultural crisis of epic proportions will bring about a cataclysmic fiscal, and likely social, collapse.

How can people be so blind? So misled? So oblivious to the obvious? How did we reach the current status in the two latter situations – i.e., dealing with the US deficit and debt, and peace between Israel and the Arabs? In both cases, as with our delusional student, reality is just too painful to contemplate. If the US does not get control of its financial affairs, then eventually some major fiscal disaster awaits us. The debt is projected to grow to $20 trillion, then $30 trillion, then… As in a household or as in a business, unsustainable debt for a nation MUST lead to financial ruin. Will the result be widespread poverty? Political repression? Social chaos? The loss of freedom? Whatever occurs, it is certain to spell the doom of the American experiment and is therefore too horrible to contemplate. So we continue on in our reverie that we will manage our deficits and debt – soon, just as soon as we get the right players and right formulas in place.

The Middle East scenario is similar. If we accept that the Arab/Muslim world is inexorably opposed to the existence of Israel and determined to kill it, then it is rational to believe that sooner or later the correlation of forces will realign to the point that Israel will no longer be able to defend itself. What then: mass slaughter? Total expulsion oft he Jews? A Jihadist orgy of unimaginable proportions? Once again, too horrible to contemplate and therefore not acceptable as a legitimate vision. Instead theworld prances around in the self-delusion that the dispute can and will be settled as soon as the right players and policies are in place. It is an illusion.

Bargaining for Grades: College as a Middle Eastern Bazaar

Student Behavior as a Poor Reflection on Societal Trends

“I … worry about the moral health of our undergraduates.” Thus began an email message that I sent recently to several senior administrators and faculty colleagues on my campus. My email message contained replicas of a slew of messages that poured into my inbox from students in a sophomore-level math class that I taught in the just-concluded spring semester. The incoming messages commenced within hours of my posting the course grades and did not stop for ten days. Just to give the reader a flavor, here are snippets from a few of the offending missives:

I worked really hard in this class and still couldn’t get the grade I was hoping for. Is there any way where my grade can be C-. … Please is there any way. [sic] I studied hard for the final, but the last minute I had a death in the family, and my mom still told me to take the exam the day it was. I thought I was prepared enough to take it, but I had too much going through my head. Please can u do something since I am at a D+. 

I just noticed my final grade for your class, is there any possible way for me to change it? Please let me know.

I was wondering is there any possible way I could receive a C- (passing) for this semester. I know I failed the final but is there anything I can do to show you my knowledge exceeds the 48 [[out of 200]] I received. [sic] Retaking this course will set me a year back in graduating due to the strict scheduling blocks … for engineering. 

In my message, I asserted that “Some students seem to think that the awarding of grades takes place in an arena that is either tantamount to a middle eastern bazaar in which everything is open to negotiation, or a setting in which they are free to make demands purely because it serves their interest to do so.”. Thereby ensued an interesting dialogue – some of whose speculations and conclusions I would like to present here. But first a little context.

Three years ago I retired as Professor of Mathematics at a major state university. However, during my final 11 years, I served as Senior Associate Dean in the so-called College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and as such, I did no teaching during that time. Since my retirement, I have returned to teaching (part-time). Perhaps not surprisingly, I noted that quite a few changes in the instructional environment had occurred over the decade in which I was out of the classroom. Most had to do with the pervasive effects of technological innovation. Numerous aspects of the enterprise – including registration, student-teacher communication, presentation of syllabi and assignments, administration of exams and issuance of grades – had been altered due to the advent of advanced technological capabilities. But the change that most surprised me, and about which we are concerned here, is the unwillingness of too many of today’s students’ to unquestioningly accept the instructor as the ultimate arbiter of their grades. Here is another representative example from the email onslaught:

I thought I had done well, but my final grade in the class is less than I thought it would be. Also, if I did do well on the final, will you please consider raising my grade any bit? I am going to take summer classes to keep a certain GPA, but they are very expensive for out of state students so I want to take as little as possible.

The afore-mentioned dialogue raised two questions: What accounts for this change in student behavior and – presuming it is unwelcome – what can be done about it? Few answers were offered for the second question, but many were suggested for the first. These included: a reflection of how children are raised; emulation of parental behavior; spillover from how people see deals are cut when making major purchases; pressure to always “go for it” and to “maximize options”; being overly task-focused at the expense of seeing the big picture.

While thinking about this behavior and in light of some of the other remarks from colleagues, I compiled a list of eight possible causes of said behavior. I have been contemplating all of them as I focus on methods, which I might employ in the future to encourage students to modify their behavior. But more on that below. First, the causes:

1.      Helicopter Parents. One consequence of parents who advocate incessantly for their children are students who recognize no bounds to self-advocacy.

2.      Family Breakdown. The decay in the structure of the American family is well-documented. A concomitant withering of moral instruction is an obvious consequence.

3.      In Loco Parentis. The university long ago shed its role as a moral instructor of the nation’s youth who are between their parents’ home and their own.

4.      College Cost. The cost of an education is so severely high that every bad grade, which is an impediment to obtaining a degree, is seen as a major obstacle to securing the ticket to increased success and wealth, which, statistics prove, a college degree represents. Thus any failing grade is not only a reflection of poor effort, but also a serious blow to one’s chance at material success.

5.      Teaching to the Test. Official policies that result in instruction and examination based solely on a tool that will purportedly measure the acquired knowledge lead to the following, according to one faculty colleague: “a generation viewing life as a ‘sequence of necessary tasks.’  They are generally willing to do the tasks, but they are a little indifferent as to whether the tasks have meaning. In the case of grades … the students … do not understand what it means to have their work ‘objectively judged’.”

6.      Entitled. We are less a society devoted to personal responsibility than to individual entitlement. Young people are imbued with the idea that they are entitled to a higher education. A failing grade interferes with that entitlement.

7.      Liberty. We are also a society no longer focused in individual liberty, but instead on universal equality. Well if we are all equal and are all to stay equal, then we all ought to receive equally fine grades.

8.      Cultural Heritage. Finally, at the risk of sounding chauvinistic, with the change from a relatively uniform Western European heritage into a multicultural society, it may be that the British stiff upper lip is unheard of in vast segments of current American society.

So what might be done about these causes and the unpleasant student behavior that results from them? What can the university do? What can I do? With the possible exception of #3 and #4, these are truly societal or cultural shifts, which the university reflects more than instigates. Regarding #4, there is no question that the cost of a higher education in the US has skyrocketed in recent decades. The university might do something about that, e.g. by: cutting back on bloated administrative staffs; ceasing to build outrageously expensive buildings to house sports or recreational facilities; or by being more selective in supporting the overly extensive academic fields of study that reflect the excessive reach of today’s mega universities.

As for #3, there is again no question that universities have retreated from their historical role – alongside parents and family, church and civic associations, and of course elementary through high school teachers – as molders of the morals of the youth who pass through the portals. Personally, I don’t view this as a healthy trend, but I doubt that it will change anytime soon.

So I am essentially amalgamating #3 in with the remaining six causes, against which I doubt that the university, much less I, will have any influence in the near future. So what shall I do with next year’s students? Well, in the future, on my course web page (which students must consult at the beginning of and throughout the semester), I will explain – as I always have – how the final course grade is determined by a tally that is computed via an explicit formula which comprises scores on in-class exams and quizzes, homework(both written and computer-generated) and the final exam. But I will now also explain in detail that the only way that the grade so formulaically determined can be changed is if either the numerical tally is borderline – meaning specifically within 10% of the cutoff between two grades – or if the final exam score is at least two grades off from the tally. In either event, the deciding factor in determining whether to alter the grade – either up or down – will be completely determined by the quality of the final exam paper that the student writes.

That’s it! No “buts”; no “ifs”; no “special considerations.” Sounds simple and definitive. But alas, as the afore-mentioned colleague pointed out: “Including the narrative may or may not help with the immediate issue; the problem is that the students emailing you believe that the statements in the syllabus are general and do not apply to their ‘unique circumstances’.

The major changes in US society that unleashed the forces, which result in the self-centered and irresponsible student behavior that I have identified, may prove more durable than my feeble attempt to quantify it away. If so, the development does not represent a step forward for the university or for society.


This essay also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative

Wow! The Left Celebrated Memorial Day Too

Examining the remarkable change in attitude of the American public toward military personnel over the last few decades

Those of us old enough to remember the Vietnam War recall very vividly the contempt and calumny that was heaped upon our military personnel both during and after the conflict. America lived through a shameful period in which those who wore the uniform were treated horribly by the American public, for whom those slandered soldiers had fought and sometimes died. While it was true that the behavior of a small segment of America’s military – e.g., those that perpetrated the My Lai massacre – warranted public opprobrium, the vast majority of American soldiers (almost all of whom were conscripts) deported themselves honorably, and often courageously, in Vietnam. Nevertheless, when public opinion turned against the war, it too frequently manifested itself in scorn and derision directed against our men (and women) in uniform. This persisted even after the conflict ended. Although the worst treatment meted out to soldiers and veterans was probably limited to the hands of extreme left-wing activists, politicians and media-types, much of the country seemed to acquiesce in an attitude summarized in these points:

• The American military is a corrupt, morally repugnant and dangerous entity that brings shame and dishonor to the country.

• It is a contemptible institution unworthy of the public’s respect.

• Its leaders are venal, self-serving, violence-prone and unrepresentative of American values.

• Its soldiers are at best innocent and unwitting pawns in their leaders’ brutal designs and at worst savage, drug-crazed warriors engaged in illegal warfare.

It was disgusting; especially given how widespread it was and how long it went unchallenged. The attitude was also completely misguided and contrary to the historical pattern of respect and admiration that heretofore had been accorded our nation’s military forces. It symbolized a period of collective madness exhibited by the people of the nation.Thankfully, this attitude softened considerably with the conversion of the military from conscription to volunteer, and then further with the advent of the Reagan administration. Certainly, in the 80s and 90s, the reputation of active military personnel improved perceptibly in the public’s eye. But Vietnam vets were still viewed with suspicion. And in truth, an overall healthy respect for the military was still far from the norm.

America’s remaining coolness to the military in this period is best highlighted by the famous incident in the White House wherein a relatively low level staffer informed a senior military officer that “I don’t greet military people.” An interesting corollary of this attitude was the spillover to police/fire/rescue personnel – or “first responders” as we now call them. The public’s respect for and admiration of first responders, albeit not as low as for military personnel still fell far below its traditional level.

But things changed dramatically after 9/11. A decade later, the public’s respect for, appreciation of and gratitude toward military personnel and first responders is arguably higher than it’s ever been in our nation’s history. I’ll outline the manifestations of this monumental change momentarily, but first let us consider: how did this miraculous transformation come about? Here are three possible reasons:

  1. The monumental heroism displayed by uniformed personnel in NY and DC on that day, and in the next few months in Afghanistan, was so stupendously eye-opening that it caused tens of millions of Americans to reassess their attitude toward military personnel and first responders.
  2. America finally tired of its abnormal distrust of the military and returned to its historical gratitude for the job uniformed people do under life-threatening conditions.
  3. The moderate Left ultimately recognized the damage that they were doing to the cause of freedom in the US and around the world, and so modified its opinion. Having done so, this broke a logjam and the rest of the country was pleased to accept the change of heart and follow suit.

I suppose that the true reason is some combination of the above. Whatever the reason, today, Americans routinely witness enthusiastic and emotional public displays of affection, respect, even love toward military personnel. Whether it be a spontaneous burst of applause for uniformed personnel in public venues; laudatory media stories focusing on the heroism and selflessness of our troops; testimonials to the bravery and indispensability of our armed forces; or just neighborhood alliances with first responders; examples of adulation of military personnel occur frequently all over the land. During the last decade, this change in attitude has survived the bloody civil war in Iraq following our successful invasion but botched occupation; the gut-wrenching disputes over the role of women and gays in the military; and the Obama administration’s devaluing the importance of military preparedness and its draconian cuts to military budgets. Despite these, America’s affection for and gratitude toward the American military remains strong – even on the Left. It is a wonder to observe – as one easily could do on Memorial Day just passed – liberal politicians, media types and activists gushing with praise for our military personnel, and acknowledging the debt that we owe them. I suspect that for some – e.g., Mr. Obama – it’s just a matter of reading the political tea leaves and bending with the current trends. Should America’s support of its military personnel wane again, the hard Left will be off that horse real fast. But I also suspect that among the moderate Left, the affection is genuine. Those folks seem finally to have come to their senses – namely even if they support big government, fear free markets and prefer multiculturalism to traditional American values, they still love America, treasure its freedoms and want the US to be the harbinger of same around the world. They realize, perhaps belatedly, that a strong military is a necessary and vital component of the effort. It gives a conservative hope. Maybe, if we can help the moderate Left to shove Obama – and the hard lefties that surround him – aside, America can resume its normal role as a beacon of liberty and prosperity to the world.
This article also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:

Who Will Compose a Manifesto for American Revival?

The progressive assault on American society is nearing total victory. The assault was in fact a revolution as it sought to overthrow the governing structures of the United States by undermining and abrogating the fundamental principles that gave birth to those structures. The assault, which began at the turn of the twentieth century, met with almost immediate success. In particular, the ratification of the 16th and 17th amendments to the Constitution and the establishment of the Federal Reserve bear testimony to that success. Although many pundits argue that it was not until the advent of Barack Obama that the progressive victory was assured, one can make a very strong case that the cataclysmic upheavals in American society that occurred in the 1960s guaranteed the ultimate success of the progressive revolution. There have been a few partially successful conservative counterattacks: Coolidge in the 1920s, Reagan in the 1980s, Gingrich in the 1990s and the Tea Party a few years ago. But all of these have a “Battle of the Bulge” character – delaying the inevitable, not preventing it.

I have argued on numerous occasions that the fundamental strategy of the progressive assault is encapsulated in the aphorism usually attributed to the early twentieth century Italian philosopher, Antonio Gramsci: capture the culture, the politics will follow. And that is exactly what the progressives did. Through an unremitting assault on the basic cultural institutions of American society, the progressive movement captured virtually all of the society’s opinion-forming organs. Today the media, universities, legal profession, seminaries, federal bureaucracy, journalism schools, educational system, etc. are overwhelmingly dominated by leftists, collectivists and statists. Not surprisingly, the politics have followed – to the extent that a radical statist with absolutely no experience in any qualifying aspect of American life (e.g., business, military, executive) has been elected – and re-elected – president of the US. Surely, when surveying the scene in 1895, the young progressive must have viewed the revolutionary task ahead of him as gargantuan – perhaps even impossible. But he and his cohort set to work and scarcely more than a century later, his progeny sits atop the mountain. With perseverance, single-minded dedication and adherence to the game plan, they overcame the enormous obstacles in their path and converted American society into the multicultural, government-dependent, environmentally-obsessed, racially divisive, militarily-weakened, redistributionist, self-denigrating, secular, morally decadent, class conscious society that we comprise today.

Thus in 2013, a young conservative, when contemplating a counterrevolution that would return America to its founding principles, faces a daunting landscape as inhospitable as his progressive forbearer confronted 118 years earlier. He will need the same perseverance, tenacity and dedication if he is to repeat the success. And he needs to follow the same game plan – that is, he needs to recapture the culture. In other venues, I have proposed some strategies to do so, but here I would like to suggest the need for a tool. All revolutions require a guidebook – a manifesto that outlines the fundamental rationale of the revolutionaries and points the way toward the game plan that will drive the revolution. Historical examples are manifold. Perhaps the most famous is the US Declaration of Independence. Others include: the Declaration of the Rights of Man (issued during the French Revolution), the Cartagena Manifesto of Simon Bolivar, the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. Two more recent examples are the Port Huron Statement and the Contract with America. The latter, which inspired Gingrich and to some extent the Tea Party, has had rather limited success. On the other hand, the former (usually attributed to Tom Hayden) has played a significant role in motivating and guiding progressive efforts over the last half century. One could argue that the manifesto for the conservative counterrevolution has already been written by Mark Levin. His 2009 book Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto is a serious candidate to fill the bill. But I fear that its longevity and influence may be limited. Time will tell. However, it is likely that something shorter and more focused, but equally eloquently and passionately argued, might be necessary. I don’t propose to write that document here. Rather I will describe what I see as the five fundamental components that the document must encompass and address if it is to galvanize and motivate the public and also to serve as the inspiration for the decades-long effort that it must guide. Those five are:

  1. Freedom. The primary thrust of a conservative manifesto must be freedom. The basic tenets of the Declaration of Independence must be re-emphasized. The most fundamental ideal of the American Revolution is that all human beings are born free, that each individual is inherently equal to any other before the law, that we all enjoy certain inalienable rights endowed by God, or Nature’s God – specifically, the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights, and that governments are instituted almost exclusively to protect those rights. The present system, in which the Federal Government acts as the initiator and enforcer of “new rights” in a manner that is far beyond the scope of the powers enumerated to it in our Constitution, is contrary to the spirit of freedom and constitutes a grave danger to our individual liberty.
  2. Economic Opportunity. Building on and consistent with political freedom is our right to economic freedom. The people have the right to choose their mode and place of work, to enter into monetary or labor contracts freely, to enjoy the fruits of their labor and to buy and sell property as they see fit — all, of course, within the rule of law. The government’s sole role in the economic foundation of our lives is to enforce the rule of law – dispassionately, objectively and without prejudice. In addition, our economic system will embrace free market capitalism – because it is the only system consistent with economic and political freedom, and because it yields far greater overall prosperity than does socialism, Keynesianism or any other economic system.
  3. American Exceptionalism. We must re-endorse the following ideas: the American experiment in political and economic freedom makes us unique among the nations of the Earth; America should remain a shining example to the world of freedom and hope; America has been and continues to be a force for good in the world; we welcome immigrants to our shores who share our ideals; and we will maintain the strength and will to move the world towards a more humane, free and prosperous future.
  4. Morality. We must re-endorse the notion of our Founders that our system of government and rules for organizing society (i.e., as a democratic, Constitutional Republic) can work only if the people – who enjoy widespread liberty – are moral, decent and virtuous. We live in a time when one man’s morality is another man’s chains. But hopefully, we all can agree that a moral America is one grounded in: faith, charity, humility and strong families and communities.
  5. Rule of Law. We must re-emphasize that ours is a society in which the law, not men, reign supreme. In addition to – indeed as a companion to freedom, we seek justice. The laws are made by the people and our leaders execute them according to the consent of all who are governed by them. Thus we reject political corruption, crony capitalism, the cult of a leader or leaders, and discrimination – reverse or otherwise.

Who will write the manifesto? The conservative cause needs someone with Levin’s depth of understanding, Krauthammer’s perspicacity, Buckley’s eloquence, Limbaugh’s passion, Churchill’s guts, Reagan’s optimism and the wisdom of a Solomon. Will that person please report to the front desk asap!
This essay also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:

Combatting Conservative Demoralization

American conservatives are in a funk; can we get out of it?

For conservative Americans, this is the winter of our discontent. Scores of articles, books and videos attest to a serious demoralization in the ranks of conservatives in the United States. The causes are easily identified. Arguably, the two main reasons are: the re-election of Barack Obama and the seemingly irreversible implementation of Obamacare following on Chief Justice John Roberts’ surprise defection. However, both of these events herald much more fundamental developments in the political/cultural/social fabric of the nation, which are the true reasons for the depressed state of American conservatives. Therefore, let us list some of the most transparent signs of radical change in American society which, having been recognized and acknowledged by conservatives, engender feelings of despair and lack of hope for the future of the Republic.

  • The explosive and seemingly inexorable growth of the Federal Government, accompanied by unsustainable deficits and debt, is robbing the American people of their liberty, independence and prosperity.
  • The throttling of the country’s economic engine by progressive policies and programs, which have converted economic growth into economic stagnation, signals the end of the American economic miracle and a steady decline into Euro levels of unemployment, lack of opportunity and generational decay.
  • The hollowing out of the military has resulted in an America less able to defend its and its allies’ interests and increasingly
  • Aggressive projection of power by its adversaries (China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic radicals, North Korea).
  • While substantial immigration has traditionally replenished the nation’s energy and enterprise, the country is increasingly flooded with people whose origins – unlike in the past – lie in countries that know little of Western Civilization, British Rule of Law, Dutch free enterprise and the freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights. In the resulting environment, it is difficult to sustain adherence to the founding principles of our nation.    
  • In particular, the rapidly growing minority communities in the US align themselves overwhelmingly with statist, collectivist and redistributionist policies that are alien to traditional American values. These communities vote overwhelmingly left rather than right – a trend that appears likely to strengthen as the size of these communities grows.       
  • Finally, the takers now outnumber the makers, with greater imbalances on the horizon. Nearly half of Americans pay no income tax and (a somewhat different) half receive some sort of welfare payment from the federal government. Entrepreneurs are reviled while the “needy” are deemed the soul of the nation.

As a consequence, the US today is a poorer, weaker and less self-confident nation than it has been at any point during the lifetime of any living American. Conservatives observe these signs and attribute the underlying cause to the progressive movement that first gained traction in the US more than a century ago (during the administration of Teddy Roosevelt) and which, in fits and spurts over the 20th century, has nearly completely captured the culture of our nation. Conservatives see the results described in the bullets above as direct consequences and believe that – unless reversed – these developments spell doom for our nation. Of course progressives see it differently. Namely, they consider their century-long success as the salvation of our nation. And alas – the ultimate cause of conservative demoralization – there seem to be more holding the latter opinion than the former, with the disparity growing.

It is enough to bring about the despair that is so manifest in conservative circles. So what is a depressed conservative to do? Give up? Move somewhere else? Or continue to do battle in the hope that the tide can be turned and the nation restored to its traditional moorings? I believe the proper response can be arrived at by answering the following questions:

Is the trajectory that the country has been on for decades truly irreversible? If not, how can it be reversed? If so, then is there any reasonable course of action other than abject surrender?

If one believes that the progressive dominance is not permanent, then one must shake off the demoralization and resume the struggle to restore America. I have written elsewhere about strategies to follow. In short, conservatives should recognize that the progressive “victory” in America unfolded according to the Gramsci game plan: capture the culture, the politics will follow. Conservatives must recapture the culture. It is vital to contest the political battlefield, but the more important places to  concentrate forces are the media, universities, publishing houses, law schools, seminaries, libraries, foundations and of course the public schools – that is, all the opinion-molding organs of society. When the playing field is leveled out in those arenas (or even better tilted back to the right), then the goal of restoring American culture and politics becomes achievable.

If, on the other hand, one believes that the cause is hopelessly lost and the nation inevitably doomed, then one must ponder the unthinkable. Conservatives must begin to formulate plans to carve out a new nation from the wreckage. I have no idea how that can be accomplished peacefully; but let us keep in mind the words of the Declaration of Independence:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the
governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these
ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute
new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its
powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety
and Happiness.

This essay also appeared in Th Intellectual Conservative at: