Category Archives: History

An American Jewish Problem Now Confronts Gentile America

The Rabbi of my synagogue gave a fascinating sermon recently. He praised America as a blessing for its Jewish citizens, but he said that it also threatened their Jewish identity. As he put it: “America is killing us with kindness.” He cited a survey that caused a ruckus a few years ago when it revealed that a surprising number of gentile Americans sought to marry Jews. He went on to point out that America posed a unique problem for its Jewish citizens – a problem virtually unparalleled in the history of the Jewish people.

Specifically, the United States is the first (and arguably the sole) country in world history that is dedicated primarily to the ideals of individual liberty, limited government and sacred personal rights granted by God and not the government. Because of the environment created by this credo, Jews, like all Americans, are free to choose their spiritual, cultural and economic paths in life without being subject to a veto of their plans by any corporal higher authority – of course, within the rule of law. The modus operandi of Jewish civilization over the millennia is quite different. As the Rabbi phrased it, Jewish life is more dictated by “commandment” than by individual freedom. First and foremost, the Jew is enjoined to be faithful to God’s law, as transmitted by Moses, which entails a great deal of limitation on his individual freedom. One can argue – and scores have – that it is precisely this faithfulness to binding commandments that has allowed the Jews to survive many centuries of persecution and torment.

But Jews are not persecuted or tormented in America. We are free to pursue our individual dreams as much as is any other American citizen. And we have done so, with a remarkable degree of success. Furthermore, our beloved country has welcomed and celebrated our success as much as it has for individuals from any other ethnic or religious group. Ah, but there is the rub. Observing the success of their American Jewish brethren and ancestors, increasing numbers of Jewish youth have opted to pursue their individual dreams at the expense of their Jewish heritage. Thus the Rabbi’s humorous lament that “America is killing us with kindness.”

Now how does this Jewish problem translate over to a problem for gentile America? The issue is a clash between an individual’s identity as a member of some religious, ethnic, racial or regional subgroup of Americans as opposed to his identity as an American.

It is my contention that prior to the Civil War, the issue arose primarily with regard to region and race. Ethnically and religiously, the country was relatively, but certainly not completely homogeneous. While the people were mainly of European ancestry, ethnic Germans and ethnic Irish often did not see eye-to–eye, for example. Similarly, while the population was overwhelmingly Christian, the variety of sects and denominations often made for contentious relations. But among the vast majority of these groupings, disharmony between them was not reflected in any group feeling disaffected from the national ethos. There was no fundamental clash between any individual’s ethnic or religious identity and those of the nation as a whole.

This was not true in matters of race or region. The slave population certainly could not identify with American principles since the benefits of those principles were denied to them. And because of that, when combined with certain economic considerations, a huge regional divide opened up between North and South. Furthermore, those in the South definitely felt a disconnect between their moral values and those of the national psyche.

The regional issue was resolved by the Civil War, although the racial issue would take another century to heal. But here is my point: despite massive immigration – whose people the US did an amazing job of digesting, assimilating and fusing with the native population – during the roughly 75-year period from 1875 to 1950, the issue essentially did not arise. During this period, Americans by in large felt little conflict between their local identity (be it religious, ethnic or whatever) and their identity as Americans. (Again, there may have been conflicts between different groups, but very few felt a sense of alienation from their country’s ethos.)

The 1960s would put an end to that. Actually, the progressive cancer had been eating away at traditional America for more than half a century. But it was in the latter part of the twentieth century that traditional America succumbed to the lethal progressive advance. The country ceased to be committed in a primal way to individual liberty, limited government and, as Mr. Jefferson, put it, unalienable rights endowed by the Creator. Increasingly, our rights came from the federal government, a government which ruled by its own designs and not according to the consent of the governed. As a consequence, many segments of the American population found themselves at odds with the national government. Some of those segments included: white males – who were beset at every turn by government policies that disfavored them; WASPs – who fell prey to multiculturalism; entrepreneurs – who came under suspicion because they earned too much money; gun owners – viewed as a threat to the increasingly hegemonic federal government; rural Americans – considered provincial, backward and reactionary; but above all else, religious people – deemed hopelessly retrograde and a threat to the progressive script for a secular, humanist America made safe for unlimited abortion, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration. Even patriots became suspect as America was now seen as a flawed country, not at all exceptional among the nations.

Many in these groups now found themselves in the same place as American Jews. Namely, there arose a fundamental clash between their communal values and those foisted upon them by a distant national government.

There are two basic differences in the nature of the problem faced (for at least three generations) by Jewish Americans and the somewhat newer problem experienced by portions of gentile America. First, for Jews, the choice was between two pleasant alternatives. Not so for Americans who feel oppressed by a gargantuan, debt-ridden, unresponsive government. The second difference is in how the two communities deal with the problem. At least for now, disfavored Americans are fighting back – convening TEA parties, trying to capture the Republican Party and thereby the controls of government, working feverishly in political, cultural and economic spheres to restore America to its traditional roots. It is a formidable challenge, but they seek to change the national paradigm.

Jews cannot imagine such a capability. Constituting less than 2% of the population (already a devastating indicator of our precarious state as in 1950 we constituted 4%), we are not about to change the ethos of the nation. But I have argued that the progressives managed to do so. And how has that change impacted the Jews? The halving of our percentage of the population supplies the answer: not well! In fact, a tremendous percentage of American Jewry has bought into the progressive line and has switched its allegiance from Judaism to liberalism. (This is explained brilliantly in Norman Podhoretz’s book, Why Are Jews Liberal.) The remaining part of American Jewry has the daunting task of on the one hand, joining with the disfavored segments of American society that seek to restore a traditional America, while at the same time, retaining their Jewish identity in a restored America of individual liberty.
This article also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:

Nation Building: From Success to Failure

An examination of the differences between past and recent US nation building efforts; why the former succeeded and the latter failed.

The United States has been involved in serious nation building over the last decade in two Middle Eastern nations – Iraq and Afghanistan. These ventures recall two other major efforts of this type dating back to the middle of last century – Germany and Japan. By any measure, the earlier two (Germany and Japan) were rip-snorting successes. On the other hand, with regard to the most recent two (Iraq and Afghanistan) – although the final word is not in yet – it appears highly unlikely that either will prove to be anything other than a disaster. To evaluate why success has been followed by failure, we shall first need a concrete definition of the concept of nation building.

Wikipedia entries must always be treated with caution, but in this case, the definition provided there will serve adequately for the purposes of this piece. To wit: [The] deliberate effort by a foreign power to construct or install the institutions of a national government, according to a model that may be more familiar to the foreign power…[and]…typically characterized by massive investment, military occupation, transitional government, and the use of propaganda to communicate governmental policy. Furthermore, in all cases in which the US has been the foreign power, the process has always been …succinctly described by its proponents as the use of force [and coercion] in the aftermath of a conflict to underpin an enduring transition to democracy.

The US occupations of (West) Germany and Japan following their defeat in World War II were absolute and unqualified successes. Both nations were converted from brutal, totalitarian dictatorships into peaceful, democratic, free nations whose societies adopted social/political/cultural mores much more reminiscent of the Western, liberal tradition than of an Eastern, authoritarian model. Moreover, those changes have endured over three successive generations.

No one expects that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which are now winding down, will achieve even a fraction of the success enjoyed by the preceding two. A fragile democracy has indeed been installed in Iraq. But it appears unlikely to survive the fractured ethnic structure of the population, the intrusive enmity of its neighbors, the lack of any historical basis of free institutions, the sponsor’s loss of interest, and a position in the crosshairs of radical Islamic forces seeking to remake that portion of the world. We have also installed a fragile government in Afghanistan, but it is certainly not a democracy. Moreover, each of the five conditions stated above calling into question the survivability of the US sponsored regime in Iraq applies to Afghanistan – with even more emphasis, if possible.

One might argue that the US engaged in two other great efforts at nation building between the first two and last two named above – namely, Korea and Vietnam. The second of these will immediately and legitimately be labeled as an abject failure. On the other hand, given the situation today in (South) Korea, one could argue that that effort was a success. But strictly speaking, neither of these efforts qualifies as nation building according to the afore-stated definition. In Vietnam, we never got to that phase, because we never achieved the requisite military success to initiate the process of changing the political/cultural structure of the nation. In Korea, at least in the South, we did reach that point, but after the armistice, we made no serious effort to alter the politics or culture of the nation. Nevertheless, I will apply to both Korea and Vietnam the criteria that I develop below as I attempt to identify why our retooling of the Axis nations succeeded, while our remaking of the two Muslim Middle Eastern nations failed.

The criteria I will examine are:

  1. Size of the occupying force.
  2. Duration of the effort.
  3. Extent of US control of developments in the occupied country. This includes whether there is any local resistance, but also the isolation of the target, i.e., the US’ ability to control the regional environment surrounding the occupied country.
  4. US understanding of the culture and history of the occupied country and its people.
  5. Level of support in the US for the venture.
  6. Stature of the US in the world at the time and its willingness to project power.

The meaning of each of these half-dozen criteria should be evident. Moreover, it should be clear that all have a bearing on the success or failure of a nation building effort. While other criteria could be envisioned, I believe these six represent the crucial factors that will determine success or failure in a nation building enterprise.

Let’s consider the cases in chronological order:

  • Germany. Five of six of the factors were in our favor. The occupying force was large; it stayed for a long while (remnants are still there); we had an excellent understanding of Germany and its people (at the time, Germans comprised one of the largest ethnic groups in the US); the American people were totally behind the recreation of Germany as a democratic state; and the US was the preeminent power in the world with no shame or hesitation about projecting that power. The only failing criterion was #3: Germany was half-surrounded by Soviet clients and mischief across its borders was theoretically possible. But Germany was thoroughly defeated, America had ample forces on the ground and the Soviets were so preoccupied consolidating their own gains in Eastern Europe as to forestall any meaningful attempt at subversive destabilization of W. Germany (at the time).
  • Japan. Again, we enjoyed five of six. The missing ingredient here was #4: a deep understanding of the Japanese people and culture. But we had total control of the country, which contained a people willing to try something different, and we deployed some extraordinary personnel (from MacArthur down) who did a fantastic job. In some ways, our success in Japanese nation building was more amazing than in the German effort. The Japanese nation, indeed the world is a far better place for our nation building project there. It was a phenomenal American achievement.
  • Korea. Although we were in a position to engage in nation building in South Korea in 1953, we did not do so. Actually, of the six criteria, only #4 and #5 were not satisfied. We had sufficient troops, and as time has shown, the capability of keeping them in place for a very long time. We were in complete control of the southern portion of the peninsula and we were still the most powerful nation on Earth. Of course we had little understanding of Korean culture and the folks at home were weary of the venture. Whether this would have been sufficient to succeed cannot be known since we didn’t really try.
  • Vietnam. Like Korea, our effort here does not count because we never got to the nation building phase. As for the criteria: only #1 and #2 applied. We committed a half-million troops for nearly a decade. But we failed at the remaining four criteria. We never really established control of South Vietnam or its neighbors; we understood the Vietnamese even less well than we understood the Koreans or Japanese; the domestic opposition to our Vietnam adventure was fierce; and from the mid 60s to the end of the 70s, US global stature was declining as the Soviets were on the march.
  • Iraq. Again only #1 and #2 were satisfied. That we failed at 3-5 is self-evident. And certainly with the arrival of the Obama administration, #6 eluded us too. In fact, one could claim, as many did, that we did not have enough boots on the ground. As for #2, eight years should be long enough. It didn’t take much longer than that in Germany and Japan. But now we can’t get out of Iraq quickly enough.
  • Afghanistan. Once again, virtually everything said about Iraq is true here in spades. The only caveat is domestic opposition to this venture is somewhat tempered by 9-11 and our elimination of Osama bin Laden.

So what conclusions can we draw? All the criteria are important to the success of a nation building mission; in principle, one would like them all to be satisfied. But is it possible that the lack of any one or specific group of them must prove fatal? In Germany we lacked #3 and in Japan #4, yet we succeeded. On the other hand, I believe that the other four are indispensable. However, I also believe that, regarding #1 and #2, this is so basic as to be obvious and uninteresting. They are a set of minimum necessary criteria. What is more surprising is the absolute necessity of #5 and #6. These are not as self-evidently necessary as are #1 and #2. But as history has shown, without them, there is no chance of success. Without the support of the homeland, there cannot be a sustained will to carry through with the incredibly difficult task of fundamentally altering the course of a nation. And without the requisite power and willingness to use it, even with the political will to nation build, there will not be the capability.

With these lessons in mind, we might ponder any future nation building enterprise under consideration. There are those who advocate such an exercise in Syria or Iran. But it should be completely clear that none of conditions 3-6 will be fulfilled for either of those nations. Our examination has revealed that this might not prove fatal in case of #3 or #4, but the missing pieces in #5 and #6 would surely spell doom. Of course, we have a compelling interest in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We will just have to do so without attempting to alter the character of that tortured nation.
This article also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:
and also in The Land of the Free at:

On the Two-Term Presidency

One of the greatest gifts that America has given to the world is the idea that the leader of a nation should be chosen freely by its people. Well, perhaps the notion did not originate in America, but the Yanks certainly showed the world how to do it. More spectacularly and more originally, the United States pioneered the following novel concept: when the favor of the people transfers from one faction (as Madison called them) or party to another, then the defeated incumbent gracefully steps aside as his victorious opponent peacefully and lawfully takes his place as the new leader. Indeed the peaceful transfer of power from the Federalists (Adams) to the Democratic-Republicans (Jefferson) in 1801 must be regarded as one of the most momentous advances in the history of human freedom.

Thus having taught the world how to peacefully install a legitimate leader, as well as how to gracefully escort him to the exit, it was incumbent upon the American people to decide how long they wished the time span between entrance and exit to last. George Washington solved the problem. He refused to serve more than two terms – thus setting a powerful precedent that lasted nearly a century and a half. This feature of America government became ingrained in our political DNA: presidents serve no more than two terms. And when finally this virtual commandment was violated by FDR, the nation ensured that there would be no repeat offense by writing it into the Constitution.

It is my thesis, however, that Washington set not only an upper bound, but a lower bound as well. Namely, he established the precedent that, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so, a sitting president shall be re-elected to a concluding second term. In fact, with the exception of two relatively brief periods (of 20-25 years each), it has been the habit of the American people to re-elect their presidents – unless one of two readily identifiable conditions (to be explained below) obtains.

In particular, not only Washington, but five of the first seven presidents were elected to two terms – the only exceptions being the Adams boys, father and son. Then followed a period (1837-1861) in which the American people gave the hook to every president. This fickle electoral behavior coincided with the extremely volatile antebellum period during which America was wrestling with the highly divisive slavery issue, as well as the rapid westward expansion of the nation.

The country reverted to form during 1861-1877 when it elected and re-elected Lincoln and Grant. But then came another 20-year period (1877-1897) when no president was re-elected. This includes Cleveland who served two non-consecutive terms. The explanation for non-stop presidential turnover in this period is not as clear cut as it is for the antebellum period. Certainly the late 1800s was a time of great upheaval in the country – but without any calamitous issue like slavery. It was the period of America’s industrialization: large migrations from farms to cities, growth of manufacturing, accumulation of wealth, massive immigration and the emergence of the USA as a world power. America was impatiently fulfilling its destiny as the world’s greatest bastion of individual liberty and free market prosperity. Perhaps its impatience extended to its assessments of its leaders.

Whatever the cause, following this period, the country reverted to form again in terms of its treatment of sitting presidents – and it remained there. From 1897 until 2009, only four US presidents were defeated for re-election: Taft, Hoover, Carter and Bush the father. (I do not count LBJ as he stepped aside voluntarily.) In the specified 112-year period, most sitting presidents, of both parties, were re-elected. The American people even re-elected FDR three times. So, how to explain the four exceptions? They fall into two categories. First Taft and Bush the elder. Both fell victim to an unusually strong third party candidate – Taft to Teddy Roosevelt and Bush to Ross Perot. Sans the extra competitor, it is almost certain that both Taft and Bush would have been re-elected. (I note, parenthetically, that the existence of such a candidate does not guarantee an upset – witness the 1924 election where the strong third party candidacy of LaFollette did not derail Coolidge’s re-election.)

More interesting are Hoover and Carter, who were trounced by their challengers without the help of a strong third party accomplice. Simply put, the people judged these two men to be incompetent, misguided and dangerous to the Republic. The public held them directly responsible for the sorry economic state of the country at the time of their race for re-election and sought remedy by decisively expelling them from office. Since the Spanish-American War, these two men hold the unique distinction of being the only sitting presidents to be summarily fired. This is quite an achievement on their part because many of our re-elected presidents were not held in universally high esteem. Yes, some were extremely popular and were re-elected in a cake walk (e.g., Reagan, Eisenhower, FDR); but others had to battle mightily to retain their positions, sometimes by slim margins (e.g., Bush the younger, Truman, Wilson). The American people might have been ambivalent about the latter presidents’ performances, but as was their natural inclination, the people stuck with their president. Not so for Hoover and Carter who are now universally ranked among our worst presidents.

Which brings me at last to Obama? What is to be done with him? Despite various entreaties, it appears that Hillary will not challenge him, nor will The Donald or Bloomberg – so no serious non-Republican contender is about to emerge. Therefore, the Republican challenger – whoever he or she might be – can oust the president only if the people judge Obama an utter failure. In fact, contrary to his promises, Obama has not brought forth hope, or any change for the better. He has not fostered a post racial society, but rather he is the author of economic despair, class warfare, a vision of America in decline, and the remaking of the US according to the European welfare state model. All this has led to dissatisfaction and a sense of betrayal about his presidency. The issue is: what is the magnitude of the dissatisfaction? Either the people will swallow their disappointment and follow their natural instinct to grant him a second turn at the wheel; or if the dissatisfaction is truly deep and broad, he will be dismissed with gusto. Given the well-known features of the red-blue electoral map, there are therefore only two possibilities. Either Obama will squeak by in an extremely close contest (à la Bush junior in 2004), or he will be blown out of the water like Carter in 1980. Personally, I believe that Obama is an incompetent, overly self confident, narcissistic, hardcore leftist ideologue who is dragging America toward a cliff similar to the one off of which most of the countries of Western Europe are plunging. I hope, but am not confident, that most of America recognizes this. If so, he is toast. If not, he might squeak by and retain the presidency. We will know in less than a year.
This article also apeared in The American Thinker at:

Afloat in the Ether on my Smartphone


The impact of revolutionary technology advances on politics, culture, education, finance and other areas of modern life.


In order to bolster his argument that Western Civilization is dying, Mark Steyn in After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, makes the following comparison between 60-year intervals. He posits that a time traveler from 1890 who alighted from his machine in 1950 would find a world that he could barely believe or comprehend. The automobile and airplane have been invented and are in widespread use. Indoor plumbing is ubiquitous. Radio, TV and movies provide spectacular entertainment. Washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators transform the meaning of what it means to be a housewife. Miracle drugs like penicillin and insulin have been discovered and previously fatal diseases like diabetes, diphtheria and tuberculosis have been tamed. And the atom has been split.

The nature of human life was altered radically by these developments, and mostly for the better. By contrast, asserts Steyn, the time traveler from 1950 would be far less impressed. Oh the gadgets have been glitzed up a bit, but the American home, neighborhood and country did not look all that much different in 2010 than they appeared in 1950.

Steyn acknowledges two great exceptions to his assertion of an overall desultory advance in the last 60 years: space travel and information technology (IT). But he doubts that either has had a beneficially revolutionary effect – the first because we have lost interest (due to cost, boredom and a lack of vision and boldness); the second because much of the information technology revolution has resulted in vapidity (mind-numbing computer games, frivolous communication, pornography, cyber crime and too often, great wastes of time, energy and resources). I would like to take strong exception with him in the case of IT.

I believe the IT revolution has changed the way that we live as much as did any of the labor-saving, distance-shrinking machines invented in the first half of the twentieth century. The compute power that I hold in my hand (inside my smartphone) is truly astounding. It dwarfs what was available to me in gigantic machines that I programmed 45 years ago. And “dwarf” doesn’t do justice to a comparison between my smartphone and the guidance computer on the Apollo 11 spacecraft. Moreover, the depth and variety of the tasks that I can perform with my smartphone boggles the imagination. Here is a tiny sample:

  • I can produce in seconds an answer to virtually any question on any topic that is posed to me.
  • I can locate and obtain directions to literally any spot on Earth.
  • I can instantly access news stories about almost any event that occurred in the last decade with the flick of a finger.
  • I can obtain current financial information about any public company, stock or government agency in a flash.
  • I can pay my bills, complete my shopping, find out where my kids are, see the weather forecast for the out-of-town locale at which I’ll be next week, read a pending Congressional bill, peruse the menu of the restaurant in which I’ll be dining tonight, get the ball scores, consult my social club or place of worship’s newsletter, set the temperature in my bedroom (from my office), warm up my car, and oh so much more. The power at my fingertips would be just as inconceivable to 1950s man as were the mid-century gadgets to 1890s man.

These and numerous other capabilities have altered human life in myriad ways – among which are the following:

  1. Information. I have virtually instantaneous and almost unlimited access to all the knowledge in the world. There is barely a question, on any subject, to which I cannot get one or more answers with a few taps and swipes of my finger. Of course, it is incumbent on me to judge the reliability of the source of the information. But – perhaps unbeknownst to us – that was always the case. In the past we trusted unquestioningly the encyclopedia and Walter Cronkite. We should have known that the former made mistakes and the latter allowed his political biases to color the content of his reportage.

This item alone represents a revolutionary feature of human life that was beyond the imagination of any human that lived up until say 30-40 years ago. But the technology in my smartphone has also revolutionized many other aspects of human life.

  • Communication.Email, texting, video-conference and online chat all provide communication capabilities that would have been way beyond the ken of our grandparents. Moreover, we access them at a fraction of the cost of their clunky ancestors.
  • Business & Finance. From online and instantaneous stock trades to QuickBooks to internet banking to ATM machines to smartphone credit transactions, the world of the businessman, investor and consumer has been changed immeasurably.
  • Education. The educational tools available to today’s students and teachers are as many light years removed from yesterday’s slide rules, calculators and chalk boards as was the Ford Mustang from an 1890s nag. My 5-year old grandson’s classroom amazes me, as does the knowledge that is already accumulated in that boy’s head.
  • Entertainment. When I visit the park, I can take with me the music of the world’s greatest composers, the words of its greatest authors and the movies of the finest film directors.
  • Politics. In principle, the activities of our national and local governments are more transparent to the citizenry, as any of us can easily access government legislation, regulations and budgets. It doesn’t always work out as it should, but new IT capabilities have had profound effects on political fundraising, organization and campaigning.
  • Culture. Again, in principle, advanced IT makes the varied aspects of our multicultural society readily knowable to all citizens, which should have a homogenizing and salutary effect on society. Once again, it doesn’t always pan out as expected. But there is no denying that the USA is the most successful polyglot nation on Earth, and the technological improvements that have abetted matters in the previous six items have helped to make it so.


Now one may legitimately ask: are all these dramatic changes good or bad for the human condition? In fact, there is no shortage of arguments on both sides of the issue. On the plus side, the tech aficionado asserts: how can the availability of vast amounts of information, which was previously inaccessible to the individual, not be a good thing? Furthermore, the ability to communicate easily across vast distances helps to keep families close. Investors have more information about investment opportunities; consumers are more knowledgeable about the products they seek; children are exposed to more ideas and opinions in their education; and all of us learn more about other cultures, which leads to a more tolerant and peaceful world.

But not so fast: the unbridled freedom of the internet has led to licentiousness and a coarsening of the culture; the ubiquitous nature of political discourse has led to political polarization and government gridlock; computer trading allows insiders to control the market and enhance the gap between rich and poor; the brevity and unsupervised mode of information technology communication has eroded verbal and literary skills, and contributed to the dumbing down of American youth; the hypnotic nature of IT has turned citizens into automatons and rendered society more fragmented, disunited and incohesive. All the electrons flying around are frying our brains.

These are legitimate, if somewhat overdramatized complaints about the consequences of the IT revolution. But it is instructive to note that the same kind of of diametrically opposed evaluations of societal evolution could be – and were – made in 1950. The arguments for the positive effects of the labor-saving, distance-shrinking devices of the early twentieth century are evident and have already been made. Contrarians would counter: cars polluted cities, created lifeless suburbs and damaged the environment; all the labor-saving devices freed up women to be more like men with horrible consequences for marriage, the family and children; the advent of popular and cheap visual media crippled reading and literary capabilities, and contributed to the dumbing down of America; and splitting the atom led to the most barbarous act ever perpetrated by mankind (Hiroshima) and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation.

Nevertheless, on balance, I think most would agree that the positive consequences of the advances of the first half of the twentieth century outweighed the negatives. Although…acknowledging two world wars, one can argue that it was the bloodiest half-century in world history. But the root causes for those tragic conflicts lie at the feet of human beings – whose behavioral instincts have not advanced an iota in millennia. That doesn’t change the fact that the nature of human life improved dramatically over the course of the trip taken by our first time traveler.

With regard to the enormous advances in IT that occurred during the journey of the second time traveler, they must be judged to be generally of benefit to mankind. Human stupidity, greed, cruelty and jealousy may still plunge us into regular turmoil. That doesn’t alter the fact that because of pioneers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Sergei Brin, our physical and social lives have undergone marked improvement.

So, happily afloat in the ether, I will continue to enjoy the marvels of my smartphone. Just like my grandfather when he clicked on that air conditioner for the first time, I am pleased to be living at the present moment and not 100 years ago.
This article also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at
as well as in The Land of the Free at

Two Visions, but Blindness Everywhere

A common lament these days is that Washington is so polarized that it cannot get anything done. It is observed that the Democratic Party is completely dominated by its ultra-liberal wing – with the further recognition that this has been true at least since the nomination of George McGovern. The leftward bias is reflected in the Dems’ insatiable appetite for large government and increased federal spending, and their obsession with multiculturalism, gay rights, affirmative action, global warming and “Wall Street greed.” Simultaneously, the sense is that the Republican Party is controlled by its right-wing constituents – although that dominance can only be traced back to Reagan, or perhaps only to Gingrich and maybe only since the advent of the TEA Party. Whenever its inception, the members of the GOP are now, theoretically, intractably committed to lower taxes, reduced federal spending, deregulation, anti-abortion policies and the repeal of Obamacare. This extreme divergence of fundamental views explains why compromise is increasingly impossible, resulting in a paralytic government gridlock that prevents the nation from addressing its most pressing problems.

Superficially, this analysis is correct. But it glosses over an important historical fact implicit in the dates supplied above for the origins of each Party’s coalescence into a single mindset. It also misses the fact that the national political/cultural conversation has been totally skewed for a very long time because of the vast discrepancy in those dates of origin. Indeed, the Left’s capture of the Democratic Party began during the Progressive Era – especially under Woodrow Wilson – and was arguably complete by the time of FDR – i.e., long before LBJ, McGovern or Obama appeared on the scene. On the other hand, the Republican Party has been adrift from its conservative moorings since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt, continuing right up to that of George W Bush – with some countervailing trends evident only during the Coolidge and Reagan eras.

The point is that while it is indeed true that today there are two very distinct visions for America competing for the allegiance of the American people, that dynamic has not been in play for most of the last century. As I described in an article published several years ago, Different Visions, the Leftist playbook was written by the Progressive Era Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, who asserted: One need only capture the culture. The politics will follow. And that is exactly what the leftists did over the last century. Through an unremitting assault on many fronts, the Left took control of all the opinion-forming organs of American society: the media, educational establishment (lower and higher), the legal profession, foundations and libraries, the government bureaucracy and the unions, the marketing industry and (to a certain extent) the upper echelons of big business. Once the people’s mindset was converted from individual liberty to collective equality, security and order, it was easy to convince them to implement the political changes that enabled the conversion of America from a free society into a statist society.

The Left’s cultural assault was broad, sustained, relentless and purposeful. The Right – naively assuming that things would naturally stay the way they always had been – wasn’t even paying attention. A few noticed (e.g., William Buckley), but for the most part, traditionalists and conservatives did not appreciate that the fundamental organs of society that supported and maintained the traditional American culture were being subverted and diverted to something radically different. It is only in recent times that a substantial portion of traditional America has awakened to the radical leftist revolution that has swept the country and which threatens to kill the historic society that America embodied. Previously – and perhaps still – the framework for the national political/cultural conversation was set entirely by the Left and it was little noted – by any on either side – that the axioms assumed by all who engaged in the conversation were biased strongly towed the left end of the spectrum.

Now, how has the one-sidedness of our national political/cultural conversation been accorded recognition across the land? Simple; it hasn’t! With few exceptions, the American people have been largely blind to the vast transformation that occurred in our society over the course of the twentieth century. Does anyone ever question the legitimacy of Social Security? How many doubt that the FDA is critical to keeping America’s prescription drug supply bountiful and safe? Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America, but the mainstream media dubs Rush Limbaugh a fascist. Does anyone recognize that American pop culture is best described as a cesspool? And why exactly are they putting those condoms on cucumbers in the classroom? In presidential debates, candidates argue over how to run the government more efficiently, or who will start or streamline which program that that will most “benefit” the public. But the question of the nature of our Republic, how or even whether we should remain true to our founding principles, or which is more important – liberty or equality; these questions never come up. It does not occur to the moderator to ask them, nor does the failure to do so disturb the candidates.

It may be that there is some clarity regarding political vision today; but in the recent past, America’s perception of where it stood politically and culturally in relation to its historical practices has been that of a blind man. Moreover, the blindness manifests in somewhat different ways according to one’s place in the political spectrum.

  • On the Left: Anyone who has sat in on a university committee meeting, or glanced at the front page of the NY Times, or attended a back-to-school night, or listened to Nancy Peolosi pontificate, knows that the Left takes absolutely for granted that a progressive agenda is the only agenda that is suitable for America. Moreover, those on the Left take it as axiomatic that any intelligent person recognizes and accepts the appropriateness of that agenda. In that committee room, it never occurs to the lefties in attendance (i.e., virtually everyone) that anyone in the room might think differently from them. Having achieved a dominance of the American political/cultural scene that they could only have dreamed of in 1911, the Left considers it normal and permanent, and an abomination (not to mention a surprise) whenever it is challenged in any way by someone on the Right. The horrific idea of returning to the conventions of 125 years ago is tantamount to the restoration of slavery and oppression of women – sins that have irrevocably stained America and which we have finally overcome only by implementing an unchallengeable, progressive agenda.
  • In the middle: This is likely the largest category of people. Those who don’t see themselves as ideological leftists or rightists – but rather practical, sensible, compromise-friendly independents – are blithely unaware that the conversation has tilted tremendously. Such people often have a weak sense of history, little appreciation for the social and economic consequences of a century of collectivist programs, and are easily swayed by the bromides of a slick politician. They do not see how the fulcrum on the political spectrum has been shifted precipitously to the Left. They consider themselves centrists, but do not understand that the positions they take and programs they support are collectivist. A lifetime of exposure to the leftist-dominated opinion-molding organs of society has shifted their fulcrum as well.
  • On the Right. This might be the smallest contingent. In the past, the practitioners were marginalized and ostracized. A few like Buckley were accorded respect. But in truth they were viewed as quacks to be tolerated for amusement’s sake – but they were not to be taken seriously. What is worse, but sadly true, is that many in these ranks were imposters, faux conservatives. For example, George W Bush, who was viewed by nearly all of society as a conservative, serves as a perfect metaphor. Bush expanded the government and exploded the debt as badly as any card carrying leftist (well until his profligate successor appeared). Incidentally, exactly as Bush begat Obama, so did Hoover beget FDR and Nixon beget Carter. Heaven save us from conservatives like Bush, who, in terms of the visions we have been describing, was blind as a bat.
The hope is that the Obama-Pelosi-Reid axis of evil has behaved so egregiously and so transparently that a substantial portion of America can now at last see. A new cadre of true conservatives has been created. Their task is to somehow reach the vast muddled middle. If that contingent can be awakened to what has happened and their complicity in it, perhaps there is a chance to right the ship. Perhaps then people will realize that the competing visions for America held by the Left and Right are irreconcilable. It makes no sense to be “in the middle”; it does not reflect a coherent worldview, but rather a non-Solomonic willingness to split the baby. It is the job of those with the “Right” vision to bring sight to those in the middle who are willing to see.
A somewhat abridged version of this article appeared in The American Thinker at: