Category Archives: Government & Politics

An Egghead’s Advice to Conservative Political Activists

The following is a transcript of a talk given at the Maryland Center-Right Coalition on January 8, 2015.

Many of the people in this room are long-time political activists. I admire your dedication to the task. The countless hours that you spend: in planning sessions, cultivating candidates, monitoring elections, raising funds, refuting opposition arguments, promoting policies and programs, and pursuing tedious grunt work is truly admirable. The conservative cause is deeply in your debt.

However, I fear that it may be that in the unending hours, which you devote to your activities, the underlying reasons why you labor so mightily is sometimes lost sight of. Or more seriously, you are so focused on the details of your latest task that you have forgotten – even if only temporarily – the fundamental rationale for your efforts. Consequently, you do not explain it to yourself, or to the people you are working so feverishly to convert to the cause.

I, on the other hand, am an egghead. I don’t run around to meetings, rallies and press conferences. Instead, I just sit around and think. Then I write and talk about my thoughts. The point is that while the foot soldiers of the movement are absolutely essential to the success of the cause, ultimately they cannot succeed without the conceptual thinkers who provide the rationale and motivation for their actions.

History is replete with corroborating evidence for this assertion. The American Revolution does not occur without the contributions of the eggheads named: Montesquieu, Locke, Donne, Smith and Paine. I’m sure you could add a few more names to the list. The modern computer revolution does not happen if Babbage, Turing and von Neumann had not recorded their ideas. The civil rights revolution in America is stillborn if words and thoughts do not emanate from Gandhi, Lewis and of course King. By the way, Martin Luther King is a good example of an instance in which an a priori thinker also played a major role as an activist.

Alas, the concept works for evil as well as good. The leftist revolution that has swept America in the last century was modeled after the ideas of Debs, Gramsci, Dewey and La Follette. And of course the twin totalitarian evils that plagued the twentieth century, Nazism and Communism, were inspired by Marx, Engels, Nietzsche and Darwin (in certain respects) and that guy who wrote Mein Kampf. Tragically, the twenty-first century is witnessing its own totalitarian plague, that is, radical Islam or Islamism or Islamofascism. We may be having a hard time naming it, and, amazingly enough, some of us are even having difficulty acknowledging that it exists. But its malevolent activities are evident to anyone with half an eye open and half a brain unclenched – and it too has its theoretical instigators, for example al-Banna and Qutb of Egypt and Khomeini of Iran.

It is my contention that the conservative counter-revolution in America, which we are fitfully experiencing, follows the same model. The idea people who kicked it off in mid twentieth century were Russell Kirk, Leo Strauss and William Buckley. These politically seminal thinkers actually had economic/social counterparts: Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

Now here is a self-evident fact. Clearly, in every case that I have cited, the work of the seminal thinkers preceded the concrete implementation of the ideas they addressed. But it is also absolutely clear that in every case, it was decades before success was achieved. It takes time for the brilliant and influential ideas of the originators to disseminate, and of course time for the development of an army of activists to bring about the implementation of the ideas.

Now here is a perhaps less self-evident fact. Even decades after the original ideas are born and while people are implementing them, there is always a second generation group of thinkers, putting out amplifications and refinements of the thoughts of the seminal folks. For example, as the American Revolution proceeded, it continued to receive inspiration from the words of Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. In the last decade, the computer/techno revolution continues to benefit and be influenced by the ideas of Jobs, Zuckerberg and Dorsey.  And I would contend that the Civil Rights movement in America continues to be shaped by the ideas of people like Charles Murray, Richard Herrnstein and James Q. Wilson  – although I suspect that our friends on the left would dispute my choice of second generation influential thinkers.

I do not believe that there are any meaningful continuing modern influences for either of the Nazi or Communist movements, reflecting the fact that those movements are dead. Glory be! But Islamofascism is certainly not dead and I warrant that there are folks out there continuing to put out ideas, which inspire the lunatics who are chopping off heads in the Levant, kidnapping and raping young girls in Africa and even murdering innocent people in the name of Jihad in France, Bulgaria, Australia and also in the US. I am not sure who they are and what they are writing, but I have no doubt that they exist.

If I am correct about a movement’s ongoing need for intellectual succor and stimulation, then the conservative, counter-cultural revolution, which was launched a half century ago, but which by any objective measure has achieved only limited success; that movement, our movement is in need of continuing intellectual and conceptual input. Fortunately, it has been forthcoming. In that regard, I would cite: Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Greenfield, Rush Limbaugh – and once again, I will stop, perhaps prematurely, and let you fil in more names.

Now I do not presume to place myself in the same company as the distinguished gentlemen whose names I just dropped. But, borrowing from them and from other enlightened conservatives, I would like to put before you four ideas or recommendations that I think any current conservative thinker would urge upon a modern conservative political activist. Hopefully, as you work to restore America to its moorings as a constitutional republic, these ideas can provide some energy and guidance for your activities.

Culture trumps politics. This idea was grasped by turn of the century progressives – especially Antonio Gramsci. They understood that in order to radically alter the politics of the United States, they had to first undermine bourgeois culture and replace it with a more libertine version. They understood that the flow of influence runs downhill from culture to politics. And so they set about changing America’s culture. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Today, the left controls virtually all of the opinion-molding organs of American society: the media and the arts, public schools, foundations, seminaries, museums, libraries, higher education, the federal bureaucracy, the legal profession and so on. Classic American culture celebrated individual liberty, limited government, free market capitalism, strong morals grounded in religion, intact traditional families and vibrant cohesive communities, individual responsibility and the meritocracy, and American Exceptionalism – in particular, the idea that America is a model and force for good in the world. That culture has been supplanted by one that values: group rights, big government and crony capitalism, loose morals and banishment of religion from the public square, global American weakness and disengagement, and an obscene focus on the warts in American history. It is little wonder that in such a culture, the least experienced, most anti-American, anti-Constitutional, radically left, lawless president in American history could be elected and re-elected.

We must recapture the culture. It took the left a century to overthrow America’s classic culture. It may take us a century to win it back. We’d better get started. Here are a few suggestions. Instead of Sheldon Adelson dumping tens of millions of dollars into a futile attempt to nominate Newt Gingrich, we would have been better served if he bought CBS. Thank God for Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and Talk Radio. But conservatives will have to take control of a lot more organs of the American media for us to make significant progress in the long quest to reassert traditional American culture. Thus I am suggesting that instead of trying to elicit money from donors for, for example, futile runs against Chris Van Hollen, you should try to get those donors to buy the Washington Post or start a conservative organization of school teachers to rival the NEA or create more Hillsdale and Grove City Colleges or start a foundation like Heritage or CATO or the Manhattan Institute, or fund tens of conservative law professors at Ivy League institutions.

In short, we need to replace – or at least supplement – our laser focus on politics by a new and sustained effort to reorient America’s culture back to its historical roots.

Elevate the right GOP candidates. (Pun intended.) Activists need to discover, recruit and if necessary train GOP candidates who understand the previous point about the culture. Equally important, nurture candidates who not only have a clear understanding of what the progressives have wrought in the last century, but who can in addition explain exactly how the results of the leftist putsch have damaged the Republic. Finally, stand up candidates who can describe how a return to conservative principles will undo the damage and enable our citizens to lead lives of greater prosperity and freedom.

In spite of the assault on its merits by their school teachers, most Americans still revere the Constitution and believe it constitutes the founding document to which American government should adhere and be faithful. Conservative candidates – which, if recent history is any guide, will be almost exclusively GOP candidates – must be able to explain to voters why almost all of the program of the modern Democrat Party is in direct violation of the Constitution. Furthermore, they must be able to explain how a return to Constitutional principles and the traditional American ethos will reverse the economic stagnation, constriction of freedom, loss of control of world affairs and diminution of the American spirit that are the hallmarks of twenty first century America, which has been under the hypnotic sway of progressivism for far too long.

Too many Republican candidates and elected officials fall into one of the following two categories:

  1. RINOs, meaning that they do not really believe that progressivism and big government are bad for America – it’s just that the Democrats are screwing it up and Republicans should be entrusted with the task of implementing the progressive agenda because they will do it more efficiently and cost effectively than liberal Democrats have or could; or
  2. In tune, but inadequate. That is, candidates whose hearts and minds may be in the right place, but they are unable to: (i) articulate their beliefs, (ii) explain the connection between progressivism and the ills that beset the nation; and (iii) deflect the vicious slanders that the Democrats hurl at them. Regarding the latter, Reagan parried the attacks with humor. David Horowitz believes we should fight as dirty as the Dems do. However GOP candidates combat Democrat demonization of their GOP opponents, those candidates must understand that the Dems no longer feel constrained by “Marquis of Queensbury” rules in political contests. We need to recruit candidates who understand that and are prepared to deal with it forthrightly and effectively, but also with optimism and good-nature.

Arguably the greatest good that conservative activists can do is the identification, nurturing, support and promotion of GOP candidates who meet the criteria just stated.

Shorten the Time Frame with a Major Constitutional Initiative. As I said, it took progressives a century to capture the culture and, as a natural consequence, to reorient the politics. As I also said, it might take conservatives another century to recapture the terrain. But perhaps the process can be speeded up.

I believe that there were several fundamental changes effected by the progressives a century ago, which, if they didn’t speed up the putsch schedule, at least they had the effect of signaling that America had changed significantly and was on a new path. I am speaking of the nearly simultaneous passage of the 16th, 17th and 19th amendments to the Constitution [the income tax, direct election of senators and women’s right to vote] and the establishment of the Federal Reserve. (Actually, three of these four occurred in 1913, women’s suffrage in 1920.) Extending suffrage to women was absolutely the right thing to do, although it had the predictable effect of skewing the overall electorate somewhat to the left. But I have no doubt that the other three steps had an overall negative effect on liberty, economic prosperity and constitutional government. Their arrival at nearly the same time signaled a major shift in American society.

Well, let’s kick start the engine in the reverse direction. Once again, the place to start is the Constitution. Conservatives should make a major effort to pass and send to the States one or more amendments that would herald a return of the Republic to its founding constitutional ethos. In his recent book, “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic” Mark Levin has offered up a number of conservative amendments that would fill the bill. They range from repeal of amendments 16 and 17 to term limits (for both the legislative and judicial branches) to limits on federal spending, taxation  and regulation to one designed to grant the States the right to amend the Constitution. I urge you to read them if you haven’t and join the effort to actually bring some of them before Congress.

Most inspiring of all would be a call for a new Constitutional Convention to consider these amendments. Of course this could only happen if sufficient numbers of Americans joined the conservative cause and became convinced that the century-long and ongoing progressive revolution has done severe damage to the US – damage that needs to be repaired as part of a major effort to reconstitute the nation and the Constitutional Republic that it was for more than a century.

It’s still about winning elections. My first three recommendations – culture, candidates and constitution – are, if you will, big picture items. For activists the objective is, of course, still primarily about winning elections. So let me offer a few suggestions for doing so. Here, I may very well not be telling you anything that you don’t already know, but I think it worthwhile to highlight a few important points. Of course, if we succeed in my three big picture items, then electoral success will follow naturally. Nevertheless, here are a few suggestions for winning elections:

  1. Our candidates must be attractive – no more witches, “legitimate rape” apologists or crooks or kooks. It is self-evident, but we should be putting forward people who are knowledgeable, articulate, poised, experienced and optimistic.
  2. I believe the defect that I am about to mention has been corrected, but our efforts must involve the most advanced technology. Technology is a constantly moving target and we need to stay on top of it.
  3. The electoral process has become enormously expensive and it looks like a trend that will only accelerate. We need to devote special attention to conservatives in those sectors of society that can afford to give big time – big corporations of course, but also the entertainment industry, successful entrepreneurs, and even those whose wealth is inherited. At the same time – not that we haven’t been doing it – we should try to broaden the base of donors.
  4. Recognize that the Dems play dirty. Be ready for it and if necessary, fight fire with fire.
  5. The demographic issue. Actually, I believe the situation is not as dire as the pundits are saying. There are encouraging signs of an increased number of conservative women, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. We should be open to these communities, proselytize to them, recruit among them for candidates and we should be tireless in pointing out to them how progressive policies – supposedly designed to help these communities – in fact harm them. Romney’s 47% remark was catastrophic. We need to contest the whole field. If we could in fact convert substantial numbers from these communities, then the electoral map would bleed bright red.

Finally, let me clarify my intent. I do not mean to cast any doubt about the self-awareness of the activists in the room. Certainly many, likely most of you are keenly aware of the underlying rationale for the conservative cause and have clearly in mind what motivates you to wage your worthy fight. Except that I do believe that it is natural – for any of us – to sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees.

My words were meant to reinforce your strength and desire to continue the struggle by highlighting what I see as some of the fundamental reasons why you and I are in this battle, as well as to offer some hopefully novel, but concrete suggestions as to how to wage it. I wish you Godspeed and I hope that we will live long enough to see America’s progressive slide firmly and irrevocably reversed.

Malevolent Distortion of Tea Party Objectives

An article appeared in the Washington Times under the heading “Texas professor teaches students tea party akin to Nazi party.” A psychology professor (named Armstrong) at South Texas College drew a direct comparison between the Tea Party of today and the Nazi Party in Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s. Here are a few of his words:

“In 1931, which was really interesting, the Nazis — people were kind of tired of them. They’ve been around since 1920, 11 years now. They’ve won seats — they’re like the tea party! That’s such a good example. … But in the sense of how they politically came to power, there’s a good analogy there. That eventually, people realized, ‘Oh these Nazis are a bunch of nuts [and] these tea party people are a bunch of nuts.’ I mean, the analogy really is a good analogy.”

The mind boggles, and not just at the wretched English. First of all, there can be little doubt that Professor Armstrong believes that his comparison is valid. Second, I doubt that his opinion represents an isolated occurrence of this kind of mental malady. Third, although he actually implored his students not to spread the word about his opinion, he has undoubtedly shared his assessment with others on prior occasions. And finally, the monumental stupidity of his idea completely escapes him. [For a video of his presentation, you can go here.]

Woe is our Republic! Among three hundred million citizens, it is not surprising to encounter some whose touch with reality is slim and who are willing to spread the poison that infects their souls. What is astonishing is that there are literally millions of Americans who would not be troubled at all by Professor Armstrong’s distorted view of reality. After all, only one student in the class rebelled at the Professor’s lunacy. Of course there may have been others in the class who objected – alongside too many who accepted the assessment as legitimate. But the fact that a college professor could freely, and without reprimand, spout this kind of offensive and incendiary nonsense speaks volumes about the sorry state of freedom in the United States today.

How have we come to this? The T.E.A. in Tea Party stands for taxed enough already. The movement arose in reaction to the wanton federal spending that exploded in the first year of the Obama administration. The fundamental tenets of the movement were and are:

  1. The federal government is too big, taxes and spends too much, and interferes with the lives of American citizens with an authority far beyond what is granted to it in the Constitution.
  2. A reaffirmation that individual liberty is the raison d’etre of this nation and that it is the primary (one could argue, the sole) objective of the federal government – which is supposed to operate only with the consent of the people – to protect the rights afforded to the people by the Constitution.
  3. Legislation, such as Obamacare, which infringes on the rights of the people, must be rescinded.
  4. Elected and appointed government officials must be subject to the same laws as are the people.

Sounds just like Mein Kampf! That is what Professor Armstrong believes and what he would have his students believe. Unfortunately, his opinion is shared by far too many government officials, journalists, media types, public school teachers and, alas, college professors. Of course, they would reject the above four points as representative of the Tea Party’s objectives. They would assert – and in their madness – probably believe that the fundamental goals of Tea Party people look more like:

  1. The federal government must be reined in so that big corporations, powerful groups like the NRA and rich people like the Koch brothers are able to control the country and determine its agenda.
  2. Maintenance of privilege for white people as implied, if not provided for, in the Constitution.
  3. Legislation, such as Obamacare, which runs counter to objectives 1 and 2, must be rescinded.
  4. Minorities, women, gays and illegal immigrants must know their place and respect it.

How can we possibly bridge the gap between the pure and wholesome motives of the Tea Party and the subversive, regressive interpretation of it by leftists like Professor Armstrong? It is not possible!

Therefore, we must recognize that there is a battle taking place between those who would restore the United States to its Constitutional roots and those who would overthrow it in favor of a statist, Euro-style social welfare state. There is no middle ground upon which the two sides can meet and establish some hybrid system. The hybrid system already exists and it is inexorably evolving into the form of government that the statists desire.

Either the Tea Party beliefs will triumph and America will revert to the land that once was and is envisioned to be again. Or we will continue the descent into the hell envisioned by Professor Armstrong. There is no other alternative.

The benighted professor is beyond help. But the students in his class are not. The rise of the Tea Party signaled a new effort by conservative/traditional Americans to take back their country. Professor Armstrong and his ilk are resisting that effort with all their might. One of the weapons they deploy in the battle is the distortion and demonization of the objectives of the Tea Party. Shall they succeed?

This essay also appeared in Canada Free Press

Please, Not Romney Again

The 2014 election is over and attention has already turned to 2016. Does the Republican success in this election portend a similarly favorable outcome in two years – as did the Democrat congressional sweep in 2006 herald the election of a Democrat President in 2008? Perhaps. But, of course, a great deal depends on whom the GOP nominates. And lately, there has been a lot of talk that one of the serious possibilities is Mitt Romney. Well, I am about to tell you why that would be an unmitigated disaster for the Republican Party and for our country.

First of all, Romney ran a terrible campaign in 2012. Barack Obama’s litany of failures in his first four years was clearly evident to the American people well before the election. Yet Romney was unable to capitalize on them. It is almost beyond imagination that he was unable to articulate clearly why Fast & Furious, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and the Benghazi outrage were colossal failures that endangered the nation. Moreover, his equal inability to describe clearly and simply what he would do differently, what philosophy motivated him and how his policies would benefit the country was also a glaring failure. He came across as a wooden, detached, corporate-type with no flair, no charisma and no passion. The nail in his coffin was when he allowed Candy Crowley to intervene in the third debate in order to rescue Obama from a debacle on the Benghazi issue. If Romney could not stand up to Candy, how could he be expected to stand up to the Chinese and Russian presidents or to the Iranian ayatollahs?

Next, the Obama camp was able to cast Romney as a corporate stooge, beholden to big business interests and out of touch with the average American worker. The Dems portrayed rich Mitt as aristocratic, unsympathetic and heartless. Romney was unable to counter these impressions. In fact, he reinforced them with his ill-advised 47% remark. Moreover, he never launched any counterattack. Mitt was content to talk about what he’d done at Bain, but – like McCain – he made no effort to point out the unsavory nature of Obama’s history, associates or polarizing proclivities.

Third, there was the Mormon thing. It’s disturbing to think so, but it might have played a role in the vast number of evangelicals who declined to vote. That may be unfair, but Mitt should have anticipated it. Like Kennedy did with the Catholic issue, Romney should have gotten in front of it, argued strenuously that his religion would play no role in his presidency and thereby not turn off the evangelicals.

Finally, he never conveyed any sense of historical political understanding. He never discussed the increasing role that collectivism has been playing in our society, how it is a betrayal of the Founder’s vision and how it damages the nation – and why the continuation in office of Barack Obama would push us dangerously close to a transformation of the Republic into a Euro-style social welfare state. Yes he said “big government bad, free market capitalism good.” But it always seemed like the recitation of a mantra rather than an articulation of why progressives like Obama were destroying the nation.

Which leads to an even more devastating evaluation of Romney’s candidacy. Had he won, he certainly would have been better than Obama. But I seriously doubt that it would have made any difference in the long-term trajectory of these United States.

In the last century the progressive movement has captured the culture of the nation. Progressives now control virtually all of the opinion-molding organs of American society: the media, libraries, museums, public education, the legal profession, seminaries, higher education, foundations, the federal bureaucracy – and of course, the Democrat Party. A half century ago, very few – for example, Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater – understood what was happening. It is only since Reagan that more Americans began to catch on. And while a substantial part of the GOP has grown conservative and aware of the historical transformation, alas, many – especially those in the so-called GOP establishment – are either in the dark or worse, in agreement with the program. Reagan made an effort to thwart the leftward drift of the nation. And while he had great success in foreign and economic affairs, he had hardly any lasting impact on cultural or social matters. Furthermore, neither of the two Republican presidents since Reagan (coincidentally, both named Bush) made any effort similar to Reagan’s. They both came from a long tradition in the party – exemplified by Eisenhower and Nixon – of GOP leaders who apparently believe one of two things:

  1. The conversion of the US from a constitutional republic, practicing free market capitalism and devoted to individual liberty into a Euro-style social welfare state is a good thing. It’s just that we in the GOP can do it so much more effectively and efficiently than the hair-brained Democrats can; or
  2. The afore-mentioned is not a good thing, but it seems to be inevitable because that is what the people want. Repeat second sentence in #1 above.

Mitt Romney is, without any doubt, one of this type of Republican. Whether he comes from camp 1 or 2 is unclear – he governed Massachusetts according to #1, but his book paints him as #2. Whichever he is, it is irrelevant. If there is to be any hope of reversing America’s century-long slide toward socialist oblivion, we will need to experience a cultural counter-revolution. A key part of that movement would be a succession of GOP presidents who understand the issue and have the leadership skills to guide the country’s politics back to the ethos of the Founding Fathers. Mitt Romney is not such an individual.

This essay also appeared in The American Thinker

False Hopes

Numerous articles have appeared recently celebrating the GOP victory in this month’s elections and predicting future electoral success for Republicans. The reasons offered for the prediction usually run along the following lines:

  • The voters are thoroughly and permanently fed up with the mess that Obama and progressive Democrats have made of the economy, foreign affairs and the federal bureaucracy. The American people are so disillusioned that they intend to entrust the fix of the mess to the Republicans for an extended period.
  • Save Obama, the leaders of the Democrat Parity are old, tired, dispirited and out of ideas. At the same time the GOP has a surfeit of young, energetic and passionate candidates who are brimming with attractive ideas.
  • Contrary to intuition, it’s the demographics. While the Democrats have a lock on the minority, female and youth votes, the Republicans are laying claim to the loyalty of white, male and senior voters. Moreover, the former are concentrated in major urban areas in a few states. Those states (California, New York, Illinois…) are large with a significant tally of electoral votes, and so provide a huge advantage in presidential elections. But the GOP core voters are spread throughout the nation and provide an equally compelling (if not greater) lock on county and state elections, as well as for the House of Representatives and even the Senate. And though the minority vote is growing, it is offset by the also enpanding senior community.

There is a lot of truth to this analysis. But there are also some strong caveats. For example, there is no question that a great many Americans have had enough of the malfeasance, incompetence and dissembling of the Obama administration. But it was not so long ago that the public was equally fed up with a Bush administration that had the country mired in two bloody and seemingly endless wars in the Middle East. The bloom wears off every administration, and memories can be short.

Regarding the second point, yes, Hillary is a frumpy old hag, Elizabeth Warren is only two years younger, and Joe Biden is a doddering old fool. Moreover, the last few elections have catapulted to prominence quite a few young and impressive Republican Governors and Senators. But that sort of age discrepancy can change in as little as half a decade.

Finally, the demographic argument is more difficult to assess. Is the minority population growing faster than the country is aging? The GOP had some success peeling off the Asian vote from the Democrat ranks in the last election. Can that continue? Could it be expanded to the Hispanic community (as many in the GOP believe)? What about the black community? And are seniors really in the bank for the GOP?

These are legitimate questions and the uncertainty of the answers definitely should give pause to anyone arguing for a solid GOP majority. There is an even more compelling reason for those predicting a GOP majority to step back. It is the following.

The election and re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States is proof positive that Obama’s primary goal – the fundamental transformation of the US – had indeed already occurred before he took the oath of office. To wit:

  1. Obama was the least qualified person ever to be elected president.
  2. Obama’s mentors and life guides were all radical leftists; moreover, this was known to the electorate.
  3. Obama made no secret of his contempt for American history, traditions and ideals. He was a “constitutional scholar” who viewed that sacred document as fundamentally flawed.
  4. During his first term, he: added 60% to the already bloated federal debt; crippled American business via Dodd-Frank and extraordinarily stringent regulatory rules; essentially nationalized the healthcare industry (more accurately, he converted it into a public utility); betrayed US allies and coddled America’s sworn enemies; and repeatedly lied to and deceived the American people (Obamacare, Fast & Furious, Benghazi, IRS, etc.). And yet, the American people re-elected him.

Here was/is a man who denigrates the founding ethos of our nation: limited government, separation of powers, free market capitalism, American Exceptionalism, strong morals grounded in religious faith. Nevertheless, the American people freely and willfully elevated him to the presidency; and then compounded the crime by reaffirming that choice in 2012. Given that, how realistic is it to expect that there is an emerging GOP or conservative majority arising among the same people?

The Progressives began their long march through the US culture, economy, education and politics a century ago. They scorched the landscape and the result is that over the last two generations, they have taken control of all the opinion-molding organs of American society: the media, public education, foundations, seminaries, higher education, libraries, museums, federal bureaucracy, etc. Miraculously, many have resisted the leftist indoctrination and brainwashing – as the results of the just concluded elections reveal. But the left’s chokehold on the nation’s cultural institutions has not been broken. Until it is – if it ever is – talk of an emerging majority that adheres to the classic American ethos, which has been under a withering progressive assault for generations, is rather unrealistic. It may take another hundred years to restore the United States to its founding deals. Foolish talk of a nascent conservative electoral domination only obscures the understanding of the long, arduous and critical task that lies ahead for what is left of conservative America.

This essay also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative

Oscillating Between Rage and Resignation: A Review of David Horowitz’ Book, ‘Take No Prisoners’

In David Horowitz’ new book, Take No Prisoners, there is a surfeit of rage and an undercurrent of resignation. Horowitz was a red diaper baby and one of the leaders of the radical left movement five decades ago. But he saw the light and remade himself into a bedrock conservative, which stance he has maintained for many years. In books, magazine articles and online journals, he has argued forcefully that his youthful leftist views were misguided and that his more mature conservative philosophy represents the correct view that Americans ought to pursue.

Indeed there is little in the book that Horowitz hasn’t said before – multiple times in multiple venues. This is not to diminish the fact that he says it very well – with passion, insight and clarity. He has the conviction of the convert and the literary skills to convey his convictions eloquently and convincingly.

In the book, Horowitz rues the fact that conservatives are getting their butts kicked in the election booth. Manifestly incompetent leftists, with little in the way of accomplishments and with radical philosophies far to the left of the average voter, routinely defeat sensible, thoughtful and experienced conservative candidates. Unethical extremists like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama – people whom Americans should reject outright – win election to the highest offices in the land. This in spite of the fact that their malfeasance and radically anti-American ideas are only barely hidden from the electorate. This drives Horowitz crazy. For example, of Obama, he says (among other delightful comments):

We have a Chief Executive who is determined to bankrupt this country at home and bring it to its knees abroad. He has deliberately lost two American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and betrayed the lives of the young Americans who sacrificed their lives there for what they thought was the cause of liberty and national security.

We have a commander-in-chief who has made America an international laughing stock through his cowardice in dealing with the Syrian dictator and a Russian aggressor in central Europe, who has set America on a course of enabling the Iranian Mullahs to acquire nuclear weapons. A leader who has made the world a far more dangerous place for his country and its citizens.

Barack Obama is a brazen, compulsive, serial liar about matters of the utmost gravity.  He is a habitual, pathological, calculated violator of the American Constitution, who has directed the IRS to use the taxing power of the state to crush his conservative opposition, and to remove the resistance to his plans for a one-party socialist state.[1]

I suspect that for Horowitz, as for this writer, the re-election of Barack Obama was a crushing blow. His reaction is to go into full electoral war mode. As such he has written a flaming manifesto on how conservatives need to assess the dire situation and reverse the slide by adopting the tactics he advocates in his book. In short, according to Horowitz: the Dems play dirty, while the Republicans play fair; the Dems call Republicans evil bigots who oppress women and minorities, whereas the Republicans call Dems liberals; the Republicans discuss policy, the Dems appeal to voters’ emotions.

The GOP is channeling its better angels, while the Dems are dirty street fighters. But, alas, sayeth Horowitz, the Dems’ strategy has proven far more effective. The only way to stop the horrible slide into a permanent electoral minority is to fight fire with fire. No more mister nice guy. The GOP should fight back by deploying all the duplicitous tools that the Dems use against them and “take no prisoners.”

Here is a small representative sample of his suggestions:

If the unhappy years of Obama’s rule have taught us anything, it is this: elections have consequences…In the 2012 election cycle, Mitt Romney had a good message and an obvious one: Obama’s economic recovery is a sorry failure; twenty-three million people are still jobless; many more are underemployed; if you want jobs and economic opportunities, support the job creators and innovators and deregulators, not those who are attacking them. This message should have worked. But a critical majority of the voting public never heard it. The reason? A $200 million television ad campaign successfully smeared the messenger as a heartless job destroyer, a mouthpiece of the selfish rich, and a person one couldn’t trust.

What was the response of the Romney campaign and the conservative PACs to this killer attack? They didn’t have one. There was no $200 million campaign exposing Obama’s lies, destroying his credibility, and undermining his message. Obama’s opponents never laid a glove on his character and failed to neutralize his attacks. Any effective counterstrategy to these Democratic offensives must take the form of an attack. The attack must expose the Democrats’ hypocrisy, tarring their character in the same way and to the same degree that current Democratic attacks taint conservatives. It must pack the emotional wallop that will neutralize the assaults. How can believers in individual rights and free markets expose this charade and repel the attacks? How can they neutralize the slanders and show that it is actually conservatives who defend opportunity and independence for minorities and the poor, for working Americans and the middle class? How can conservatives turn the tables on the Left? It’s not rocket science: Turn their guns around. Fight fire with fire.

Now here is the problem. The book has two parts. All of the above quotes are from the first part. In fact, Part Two is a verbatim reprint of essays that Horowitz wrote more than a decade ago. This makes for a jarring effect. As one reads into Part Two, the discussion seems to make little sense as he describes events from (say) 1999 as if they had just occurred. Of course they had when he wrote it. Reissuing his essays in 2014 without changing the words and with virtually no indication of what he is doing is confusing and dispiriting.

Why would he do that? Either he ran out of ideas on the topic he was developing. Or he ran out of energy. Or he never intended to say any more – he threw the second part in to fill out his excellent, but limited new essay in order to render the sum book length. Or he just got discouraged. Indeed there are subtle hints toward that direction here and there in Part One as Horowitz expresses his frustration that so many otherwise intelligent Americans remain bewitched by the left, beholden to big government and betrayers of the American dream. There are even a few places where Horowitz seems resigned to the loss of his country to the malevolent left. Like I said: oscillation between rage and resignation.

I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for Horowitz. Indeed I travelled a similar political path. But I cannot count the times that I have sat with the few lifelong acquaintances, who also followed that path, and wondered why the overwhelming majority of our former comrades never saw the light. Why did we few develop antibodies to the poisonous leftist philosophy that has infected America for a century while most of our youthful compatriots succumbed to the disease? I wish I knew the answer to that question.

The first part of Horowitz’ book is a passionate call to arms for conservatives to combat liberals in elections on equally brutal terms. But Horowitz’ despair comes through. He says:

If people simply voted with their pocketbooks, nobody with a taxable income would vote for a Democrat. But an awful lot of them do. If you think voters are too “low information” to be persuaded, you probably shouldn’t be in politics either. Politics is about winning hearts and minds. On the field of battle, armies have often won despite unpromising odds. If you are not up to this task, leave it to those who are.

Yet conservatives …[are]… depressed. [They] voice anxiety about the political future. “Do you see how big the deficit has become and how fast the debt is growing?” “Can you believe the dishonesty of this president, how he has encouraged our enemies and betrayed our friends and brought our nation low?” “How can we possibly stop this nightmare when there are all those low-information voters ready to believe what the Democrats say? Even if we could persuade them, Republicans will probably screw up the elections and return the culprits to power.”

Our democracy is built on the belief that, given the chance, the American people in the long run will do the right thing. If conservatives want to win, they need to embrace this faith.

But it not clear that he believes it. The liberal people of America – brainwashed effectively by the public schools, the media and all the other liberal-dominated opinion-molding organs of our society – will not read his book. What is also not clear is whether the establishment that controls the GOP will also pay no attention. Or whether they will take his advice if they do pay attention. And finally, whether it would do any good.

The first part of Horowitz’ book is an inspiring read – for me. Is anyone who needs convincing going to read it? I wonder what Horowitz thinks.

[1] Actually, this quote comes from the web site ( created as a companion to the book.

This review also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative