Friday, May 31, 2019

Its time to revisit Russell Kirk!

At no time in American history have there been more voices overtly identifying as “conservative” in politics and the media. From newspapers and journals to websites, blogs, a cable news network, and talk radio, voices claiming the mantle of conservatism are everywhere.

Virtually no Republican politician would claim to be anything else, and right-leaning think tanks abound. We are, by almost all outward measures, at the high point of conservative political success.
And yet, what it means to be a “conservative” may be less clear than at any time since the Great Depression. Is it “conservative” to cut taxes, or is the “conservative” policy to reduce the debt we are saddling future generations with? Is the “conservative” policy to promote free and open trade, or is it to raise tariffs to protect domestic industries? Is it conservative to “conserve” the environment, or is it always “conservative” to limit the scope of government regulations? Is it the “conservative’s” primary responsibility to achieve policy victories through any means necessary, or to preserve the institutional arrangements of the constitutional order, even if it means losing some policy battles along the way?

Add to that the fact that despite having so many political outlets, most conservatives feel their country is pulling apart and their culture is disintegrating. How can all these facts be true—that conservatism is at its height, but there is less agreement on what conservatism is, and conservatives have the feeling they are losing the great battles for the future?

In this confusing time, conservatives would do well to revisit the foundations of their modern movement in the great intellectual battles of the mid-20th century. Long before Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh, and before Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater bestrode our politics, several great public thinkers were preparing the culture with the books and journals from which would spring a revolution.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important of those writers and offers a chance to consider his lessons for America today.

See my full column on why we need to read Russell Kirk today here.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Nevada was on the brink of irrelevancy--but a late veto today saved it!

My article ran today in The Hill, the same day the Democrat Governor of Nevada decided to veto the National Popular Vote legislation sent to him! Well done, Governor!

Here is an excerpt from my article in The Hill:

The election in Nevada in 2016, in fact, is a good microcosm of what will happen to Nevada and other small and rural states if he NPV compact succeeds. Clinton did not win Nevada by traveling the state and appealing to a wide swath of the population. She won Nevada by winning a massive majority in just one county (and a slight plurality in one other). Where Clinton won the whole state by just 27,000 votes, she won more than 82,000 votes more than Trump simply in the county containing Las Vegas, and thereby won the state.

If those supporting the National Popular Vote initiative succeed, they will make all small and rural states like Nevada irrelevant in our national presidential conversation. In making these voters irrelevant, they also will be radicalizing our politics by centering ever more power in major urban centers, which already contribute most of the money fueling our campaigns and the media reporting on them.

And all this is happening within state legislatures without a serious national conversation that an actual amendment to the Constitution would demand — one that which our republic deserves.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Cultural Statute of LImitations?

Not many of us would want to be judged today by what we were like at 17, but most of us are not accused of great career-ending mistakes, either. Perhaps a wider conversation now might also help us instruct and preserve our young people who are living through the most filmed, photographed, and preserved age in human history. Forty years from now, we will count on them to lead, and will need them to be able to do so.

Recently I was thinking of all the people embroiled in scandals over things they may have done decades ago. I wanted to contribute to our conversation without weighing on in the merits of any of the charges or individuals. You can read the piece here.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Of Social Media, Humility and Toolsheds

To the degree that social media encourages us to look at others and treat that perspective as the only one to be considered, it has contributed to the breaking of our politics. We must, as Lewis said, “on the pain of idiocy,” deny that “looking at” is intrinsically more true or better than “looking along.” Today, we must also deny that “tweeting at” is the equivalent of dialogue, discussion, or understanding.

If we are to repair the worst aspects of today’s social-media politics, we should start by not just looking at others but attempting to look along their experiences as well. That requires us to do the harder work of taking ideas seriously and treating the experience, values, and beliefs of others as being worthy of actual consideration and respect, rather than reflexively dismissing them with jargon-laced hostility or the dismissive shrug.

These are the last lines from a recent Op Ed I offered riffing on C. S. Lewis' magnificent "Meditations in a Toolshed." You can read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Boethius on Seeking Pleasure

From one of the poems in Boethius' The Consolation of Philosophy

'All pleasures take this road:
Those who indulge they goad.
Then, like the bees that swarm,
Having yielded honey's charm,
They flee; but on the heart
A lasting sting impart.'

Beware that lasting sting when you reach for that honey, people!

Change and Tradition

I have been thinking about change and the incredibly rapid change we experience in the 21st century--no humans ever experienced change of the speed and import we endure as a regular course of existence. Here is the end of a piece I wrote on it recently. Read the rest here.

 An Anchor of Tradition

Tradition, though under attack almost everywhere, may be our only means of finding a rudder with which to guide ourselves through these times of change. To bring balance to our lives, we must hold on to traditions that have stood the test of time or restart some anew. We must have places in our lives that aren’t subject to constant disruption and changing fads.

These might be carving out quiet times more in line with the pace at which our ancestors lived their best days, unencumbered by technological distraction. These might be church services and the inherited religious teachings that sustained our forebears. These might be ditching the latest self-help book and picking up a great text that helped build men and women of character for generations. These might be teaching our children about the great men and women of the past who built our civilization, while all around us the snobbery of the current age tears it down.

If we are to regain balanced, ordered, and grounded lives, we must find some places of refuge from constant change. Doing so will require two great virtues that seem sorely lacking today—humility and courage.

We must have the humility to give some benefit of the doubt to inherited traditions, understandings, and ideas. And we must have the courage to stand firm in their defense, when others would rip them down or just toss them aside for the sake of convenience, self-expression, or enhanced entertainment.
Change is inevitable and often healthy. But it’s up to us whether we will manage our own lives through the change swirling around us, or if we will be managed by it.

I'm Baaaacckkkkk. . .

Though I don't think anyone has really missed me out there and I have been publishing in other venues, its time to come back to the Remnants of Imagination and share some thoughts, ideas, projects, images. So, here is a warning that I am coming back and might have something to say--starting with some things I have already said but I never put up here. So I will share some other pieces as I start thinking afresh.

I hope I have something to say worth thinking about every now and then!