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Has America Lost Its Mind?

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Fifty years after writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson reflected on what he had done in a letter to Henry Lee, writing:

“This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.”

That idea, that there was an “American mind” which was an expression of the shared beliefs of the people, was central to the concept of proper government as conceived by the founding fathers. This American mind or national identity was distinctly different from that of other nations, and while clearly everyone did not think exactly alike, it was assumed that there was a basis of common interests and values which all Americans shared.  

From the poor Virginia planter to the wealthy Boston merchant, regardless of wealth or education or status, there was a commonality of values that was the American mind.  Liberty, independence and responsibility formed the basis of that mindset. People were self-sufficient and looked out for their own interests and their own affairs.  They asked little of their government and expected government to take little from them in return.  Government was a necessary evil which worked best when it was small and far away.

The idea of dependence was abhorrent to them as individuals and as a culture.  They wanted no charity and they wanted no overlords.  They were dedicated to individual and national autonomy without the guiding hand of paternalism hovering over them poised to lift them up or swat them down at whim.  Frances Trollope described Americans of the post-revolutionary period as “Provincial, boastful, optimistic, swaggering, patriotic, opportunistic, inventive and crude.”  They didn’t fit her refined sensibilities and she cut her time in America as short as possible, but it did inspire her son Anthony to admire Americans for their “self-asserting, obtrusive independence.”

These were our ancestors, but the same description no longer applies to us.  Their American mind of Jefferson’s time was independent, but we lost that mentality as we became mired in a culture of dependency which has grown at an accelerated rate in the last two generations.  Trollope (the son) went on to address the issue of independence and dependency, writing:

“Men and women do not beg in the States; they do not offend you with tattered rags; they do not complain to heaven of starvation; they do not crouch to the ground for half-pence. If poor, they are not abject in their poverty. They read and write. They walk like human beings made in God’s form. They know that they are men and women, owing it to themselves and to the world that they should earn their bread by their labor, but feeling that when earned it is their own.”

To Trollope even the poor in America were ennobled because they retained an independence and self-sufficiency.  The American Mind was still healthy when he wrote 65 years after Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence

Sadly, Trollope’s words no longer describe us.  In the 1960s our materialistic culture caused us to confuse freedom with freedom from want and we embraced the illusion that if we could make people less needy we would make them more free.  The truth is that you cannot separate freedom from responsibility. If you take away peoples responsibility for their own needs you also take away their liberty. When government gives with one hand it takes away with the other.

Make no mistake here, I am not just talking about the poor.  They at least have excuses.  They’ve been undereducated by our government schools and come from a multi-generational culture of poverty which is a national disgrace.  The culture of dependence has risen up the social and economic hierarchy and it has become the standard in business and industry.  We have a War on Drugs, but we have no war on the most dangerous drugs – money and political influence.  Government acts like a pusher and uses money in the form of subsidies, bailouts and tax breaks to turn businesses into addicts and create a junkie economy dependent on the state.

In 1776 the American Mind was focused on independence and the risks and opportunities which come with it.  Today the American Mind has become dimmed and deranged, yielding to the lure of dependency and fearing the challenges which come with independence. Some argue that we are no longer a young nation and our national mind has become senile and demented, but you can take an analogy too far.  

Clearly the American mind needs a good scrubbing to remove years of bad ideas and the creeping crud of socialism, but there’s reason to hope that somewhere under there we’ve still got something worth saving, that the American mind which Jefferson wrote about has a durability which can withstand the ravages of time and reassert itself if given some proper care and attention by those who still value liberty and independence and want to see them restored.   Let’s tear away the crud of bad government and corrupted institutions and find that American state of mind again – the mind that gloried in independence and the liberty it brings.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Glenn Contrarian

    I’ve always liked Thomas Jefferson. I began liking him a lot more when I found out how he agreed with the necessity of progressive taxation:

    Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.

    He opposed unregulated capitalism:

    Those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge.

    I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.

    He believed in equal rights (though he was a slaveowner). Ron Paul it-is-our-right-to-discriminate supporters take note:

    All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

    He believed in the protection of the middle class:

    am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. … We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. … [Otherwise], as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, … and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers.

    He was a deist who believed that what would be believe must first be proven. Michelle Bachmann supporters take note:

    Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

    He wasn’t afraid of being wrong, but only of remaining wrong when shown his errors:

    He who knows best knows how little he knows.

    But Sarah Palin would be quite happy with him:

    I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.

    He would have opposed Gitmo:

    It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape.

    He would have opposed the idea that corporations should have “freedom of speech”:

    Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.

    I don’t agree with all Jefferson’s views…but neither would Dave Nalle, and Thomas Jefferson himself would rightfully have rebuked either of us disapprovingly were we to agree with everything he believed.

  • Thanks to Glenn for providing a necessary balancing commentary to this article. The article itself was not as shrill as I had feared from its title.

    But ‘culture of dependence’ is a facile phrase that Dave seems to want to apply liberally [no insult intended] to multiple parts of the social and political fabric of the US. And of course he gives it an ideological spin that may well have appalled Jefferson.

    The American Mind and socialism can, do, and will coexist. There’s never been a ‘pure’ libertarian country and there is no purely socialist country among rich nations today.

    Instead of fretting about intellectual purity, we should strive for a workable balance of ideas. The current standoff in Washington does not make one hopeful about this, and the author of this article has contributed numerous heated gusts of extreme rhetoric to that standoff. But at some point, cooler heads will prevail.

  • We’re beyond the point where we can allow “cooler heads” to prevail. You can’t compromise with cancer. You either cut it out or you die. Debt is a cancer which is destroying our nation. It can’t be bought off by putting more burden on taxpayers or at the cost of more jobs sent overseas as the Democrats would do it. It has to be dealt with directly by going after the giant tumor which is the federal government.


  • Yeah, you used that metaphor already… It drew the appropriate chuckles and rolling of eyes then and now.

    It is only hotheads who believe overheated, self-righteous counterfactual rhetoric is accomplishing anything. One possible reason Barack Obama irritates loudmouths on the right so much is his steadfast refusal to heat up his own rhetoric and fire back in kind.

    The current budget standoff is not the apocalypse. It’s just politics, of a particularly raw and ugly kind.

    And your insistence that bumping our heads on the debt ceiling is just fine and won’t cause any real problems, and that immediately, right now, chopping hundreds of billions out of the federal budget will not only not hurt anyone, but miraculously heal us as a nation, is fiction. Myth. Fantasy. Baloney.

    And I think you know that.

  • The unattributed Anthony Trollope quote is an ambiguous segue from the Jefferson’s 18th century idea to Lyndon Johnson’s 20th century “War on Poverty” legislation, presumably where “our materialistic culture caused us to confuse freedom with freedom from want. . .”

    Congress passed the Equal Opportunity Act of 1964 which created the Office of Economic Opportunity to apply federal funds to combat the existing 19% poverty rate. The OEO established VISTA, the Job Corps, and Head Start, among other things. That would be “the creeping crud of socialism.”

    The assertion of a “culture of dependence has risen up the social and economic hierarchy and it has become the standard in business and industry” is such a sweeping generalization that it stabs this piece in its emotional heart. There are no such de facto or de jure standards to support the allegation of “a junkie economy dependent on the state.”

    God bless you, Dave, and God bless America. But let’s not rush to press so fast.


  • Tim

    Its pretty easy to point out the fallacies of Glenn Contrarian when you realize that those statements were taken out of their context.

    First Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.

    This did not say he was agreeing or disagreeing with the idea. It just said that is what would happen.

    Second Those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge.

    Was this a slam against people having money or was it about government corruption. Most people agree that those that seek office for profit are bad which is probably what he was referring to.

    Third I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.

    I think he was referring to the federal banking system. Again, not private institutions.

    Forth All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

    He was talking about the rights of democratic minorities. They still possess their own property and the protection of that property from which every other right comes from.

  • Clavos

    One possible reason Barack Obama irritates loudmouths on the right so much… (emphasis added)

    Now that’s funny.

    Rasmussen Reports, July 3:

    At 69.8, consumer confidence is down three points from a week ago, down 16 points from a month ago and down nine points from three months ago.
    The Consumer Index is now just one-tenth of a point above its lowest level for all of 2010 and 2011.
    Just 21% now believe U.S. economy is getting better while 58% say it is getting worse.

    And guess who’s held responsible? Rasmussen again:

    In June, the number who Strongly Approve of Obama’s job performance fell to 23%. That matches the lowest total of his time in office. The low of 23% was first reached two months ago…the full-month Presidential Approval Index rating for June is down four points from May to -15. That’s back to where it was in the months of March and April. With a few exceptions, the president’s approval index rating has stayed between -14 and -17 since the beginning of 2010.

    A lot more than just “loudmouths on the right.”

  • Rasmussen Reports is new compared to the Gallup Poll, which has been recording since Roosevelt. Gallup offers a comparison of presidential approval, as well. Pollster Scott Rasmussen began his polling in 1995 and is selling a book.

    Gallup shows Obama’s approval rating at 45%, quietly.


  • Clavos

    Gallup shows Obama’s approval rating at 45%, quietly.

    Still a miserable showing…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Tim has shown us a wonderful example of how to take a quote and make it mean something completely different from what it originally meant.

    Conservatives, pay attention and take notes – that’s how you do it!

  • Baronius

    Dave – Surely there’s reason to be optimistic. Across Europe there have been protests every time government threatens to take something away, but in the US, we’ve seen protests against bigger government. That’s got to mean something. Yeah, people might change their tune when the government takes away their pet program, but even so.

  • David Brooks’s column in this morning’s NY Times is quite extraordinary:

    The Mother of All No-Brainers

    He warns that the GOP appears to be transforming itself from a “normal conservative party” to a fringe protest movement — not interested in policy, just slogans and ideology.

    He says independent voters will blame the GOP if a debt default is allowed to happen — and will conclude that the GOP is not fit to govern.

    And, says Brooks, the independent voters will be right.

  • Rasmussen’s numbers are actually better for Obama than Gallup’s when you include [as most summaries do] all favorable responses, not just “strongly support”: 49% approval, 50% disapproval. [Gallup is 45/47.]

    [The RealClearPolitics average of polls still shows a slight advantage for the president: 47.3% approval, 46.4% disapproval. It includes polls like Bloomberg, AP, and CBS/NY Times, which have approval ratings as high as 52% and disapproval as low as 44%.]

    And although the election of a GOP Congress last year was viewed as a rejection of Obama, the approval rating for Congress remains stuck below 20%, 6 months after Boehner took over as Speaker.

    Obama’s numbers could be better. Congress’s could hardly be worse.

  • Baronius

    David Brooks wrote a column warning the Republicans not to move rightward? Really? Has he ever written a column NOT warning the Republicans not to move rightward?

  • Clavos opinion of the numbers lacks comparison. Obama’s and the Gipper’s are almost the same for the number of days in office they served. Gallup Presidential Job Approval data compares Truman to the present and answers the question,”compared to whom?”


  • David Brooks has way too high an opinion of voters. Clearly he hasn’t met them.


  • Of course, Baronius didn’t bother to read the Brooks column before dismissing it.

    If the only way you define ‘rightward’ is “toward the Tea Party,” then that would be one way to describe the article. But if you think “toward the Tea Party” means “toward the lunatic fringe, more interested in making a point, however destructively, than in governing,” then you understand the article’s intentions.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.

    But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

    The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms.

    The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

    The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.

  • Why bother to read something when you have a mind already made up and a comment already prepared? What a waste of time is that?


  • Baronius

    Based on comment #12, I made an assumption. I saw Handy praising David Brooks, saw the Republicans being denounced as “fringe” and potentially unfit to govern, and I made a guess that the column was just like every other thing Brooks has written.

    So now that you called me on it, I read the column. It’s just like every other thing Brooks has written. You make the assumption, Handy, that he’s complaining about the Tea Party, even though he doesn’t mention them by name. That’s a reasonable assumption but Brooks has been saying the same things long before 2009. He always applauds the Republicans for standing on principle while telling them that now is the time to compromise. That’s his thing.

    But I’m glad I read the article because I found this gem: “The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities.” I agree with the statement on some level, but within the context it’s nothing short of hilarious. He’s the token conservative at the Times! Conservatives should be listening to him! The insolence! Brooks is the George McClellan of Republicans, always willing to mount a retreat, and he can’t understand why the charging troops won’t follow him backwards.

  • I don’t expect Baronius [or Dave] to agree with Brooks. But it is no ordinary column. Although Brooks was hired by the NY Times [and PBS] to provide a “conservative” viewpoint, he’s obviously no right-winger. [He’s even coy about who he voted for in 2008.] But this must be a frustrating time for moderates on the right, and he expresses some of those frustrations pretty convincingly.

  • I think the extremist wing of the GOP could well lead them to disaster in next year’s elections. Depends on the economy, of course. But the very low approval ratings for Congress haven’t budged with all the fierce rhetoric.

    True believers [on both left and right] often forget that most voters are in the middle, and recoil from both extreme rhetoric and stubborn deadlocks. So when the left or right wins an election, they suddenly think the electorate has swung in their direction, and they overreach.

    This certainly happened in 1993-94 and 1995-96 [pendulum swinging one way, then the other] and again in 2009-10, to be followed by a swing back next year. Midterms draw a smaller, more partisan electorate. Presidential years are different.

  • Dave Nalle, Rand Paul, Jim DeMint, among others, assure us that a debt default is no big deal. Thus they are refusing to “accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities.” This means economists, the treasury secretary, various eminences grises of both parties.

    To snarkily imply that Brooks thinks of himself as one of the scholars or authorities is, well, snarky. I’m glad you got a laugh out of it.

  • Baronius

    I think that establishment centrists are prone to assuming that they’re the smartest, most reasonable people in the room. If Brooks wasn’t consciously thinking of himself when he wrote that sentence, I have to assume that he was projecting.

  • Baronius

    “…assure us that a debt default is no big deal”

    If I’m playing chicken, you know what thought I want my opponent to have? “Baronius thinks he’s indestructible. He thinks broken glass and twisted metal won’t hurt him. If I swerve off the road first, he might just drive into the ditch and hit me head-on, just for kicks, just because he doesn’t think it’ll hurt.” My opponent won’t even get behind the wheel. He’ll toss me his keys, and run home wetting himself.

    I don’t know that that’s what’s happening here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an element of it.

  • Chicken is not a game for serious-minded people to play. And it can be a game with no winners, only losers.

    Are you suggesting that this is a strategy you approve of? It amounts to hostage-taking, where economic stability is the hostage.

  • Costello

    Republicans don’t want to fix the economy yet because they think a bad economy will get them the White House. Plus, they don’t want to give Obama’s policies a chance to show they might work, which would undercut their rhetoric.

  • John Lake

    The “creeping crud of socialism” seen today may become the saving grace of tomorrow if current trends continue. When the bulk all profit enters the troves of the wealthy, as the poor (nicely defined here) shoulder intolerable burdens, adjustment becomes not an option but a mandate. If those in government daily become more tinged by corruption, or the “appearance of corruption” , if they refuse to comply with demands for a return to earlier, more ethical days, society will find solace in the restoration of some basic and ancient forms; forms in earlier times associated with “socialism”. If, for example, the industries allied to healthcare can’t or won’t police themselves, and if the “pragmatic” in government refuse to insist on an “American vision”, those industries might soon find themselves run and regulated by a government devised to serve the people, to work for the governed. The early Americans in fact envisioned a government of the people, one of its functions being to protect and defend the people, not only from foreign threat, but also from profiteers and commercial criminals whose greed could undermine our patriotism, and diminish our national wealth.

  • Baronius

    Costello – I think you’ve got it backwards. Republicans are giving President Obama an opportunity to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, just as he’d promised. They’re handing him the budget issue.

    Of course, some of them may be doing this because they expect to lose the races for their own seats if they fail to cut the budget. That leads back to my earlier comment that I don’t think that this is all a game of chicken. And considering that Republicans are doing exactly what they promised, completely in line with their stated beliefs, why do you have to attribute bad motives to their actions?

  • Republicans are ‘giving President Obama an opportunity’….by pulling out of negotiations and setting absolutist demands before they’ll return to the talks? It does give him the opportunity to look like the adult in the room once again, but it is no way to run a railroad.

  • Clavos

    Tommy notes,

    Obama’s and the Gipper’s [numbers] are almost the same for the number of days in office they served. Gallup Presidential Job Approval data compares Truman to the present and answers the question,”compared to whom?”

    Neither Reagan nor Truman were sitting on such an abysmal economic outlook as Obama is. If the economy doesn’t improve enough, and improvement doesn’t seem likely, Obama will be one term toast.

  • zingzing

    “If the economy doesn’t improve enough, and improvement doesn’t seem likely, Obama will be one term toast.”

    if, no matter what obama does, “improvement does not seem likely,” how much of that is his fault? the economy is easy to fuck up–you just let a bubble bubble too much. it’s harder to fix–you have to get consumer confidence back when that’s the last thing consumers want to do.

    if the economy continues to be troubled, obama has to make the right moves and say the right things, but republican candidates also have to convince the public that they’re the ones to fix it. which, after their last performance at the helm, seems like a rather tall mountain to climb.

    don’t forget the other side of the equation, clavos. what do you think of michelle bachmann’s economic plan?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    I’ve been wrong on really, really close presidential elections, but none of the others since 1972. It’s fairly easy to see which way the political wind is blowing…and there’s a reason why incumbents tend to get reelected.

    Unless something really radical happens – such as the Republicans actually choosing a non-Mormon moderate that the non-polarized American public might warm to – this next one will be a blowout. It won’t be like Nixon’s victory in 1972, but I think the margin will be at least as great as Reagan’s reelection victory.

    Of course, this is all on the premise that the perennial Republican efforts to corrupt the voting process (disenfranchisement, voter caging, rigged voting machines, “I just found these here votes on my personal computer!”) aren’t sufficient to turn the election to their candidate.

  • zingzing

    i’ve only been wrong on one election. i’ve only cared about two, so i’m .500. but anyway, i couldn’t see how anyone would reelect that motherfucker in 2004, but it happened anyway. given the fact that obama hasn’t called out the army to enforce his socialist agenda (as per dave, a few years ago,) or taken over as a dictator (as per the late, great ruvy, et al), i’d say the republicans have an uphill battle, even if they come up with a good candidate, which they haven’t as of yet.

    seriously. the republican slate is awful. not even republicans will get behind one of them, and they’ll be torn apart in the primary. i can’t wait for this shit to get into full swing. it’s gonna be dirty.

    but we’ll see. i’m not willing to say that obama is assured a second term. but i’m also not stupid enough to insist he’s not. be hopeful, conservatives, but don’t be fucking dumb.

  • Baronius

    Zing – Slates always look bad.

    In about a year, one candidate will have run through all the primaries, winning the majority of them. He’ll have been on the cover of magazines and been the top news story as he travels around the country, win piling upon win. In pro wrestling, there are characters called “jobbers” who the Next Big Thing beats on his way to fame and fortune. In a primary cycle, the rest of the slate will take on the role of jobbers. Then, every Republican will gather in some town, and each former candidate will pledge his fealty in front of the cameras. Romney (let’s say) will become Romney, Lord of South Carolina and Ohio, Conquerer of the Tea Party, Vanquisher of Bachmann and rightful heir to the throne.

    Then the polls will come out, showing that he’s within striking distance of the Presidency. Hint: 40% of the population will vote for any Democrat and 40% for any Republican. There will be 15% undecided. Guess what? The candidates will be 5 percentage points apart! This could be a horse race!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    In pro wrestling, there are characters called “jobbers” who the Next Big Thing beats on his way to fame and fortune.

    But wrestling’s not a sport, is it? The ONLY competition is between entertainers, and he who entertains the best will be chosen by the owner(s) of WWE to be the Next Big Thing. That’s not democracy.

    Real democracy – apart from Republican efforts I mentioned in #32 – depend not on the will of the owners, but on the will of the voters.

    But Republicans don’t want everyone to vote. In fact, the fewer people who vote, the better they like it, as can be seen in this quote by Paul Weyrich, the founder of the Heritage Foundation, in a speech before thousands of Baptist ministers, Jerry Falwell, and Ronald Reagan:

    Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

    I guess one could say that there’s a whole lot of Republicans out there who support democracy…but only as long as it’s only Republicans who are allowed to vote.

  • Brooks clearly does not understand the direction in which the GOP is moving and finds it frightening. His article makes this abundantly clear.

    The movement in the GOP right now is not towards the extreme right. It’s towards an extreme version of the middle.

    Sure, the same old far right ideologues are out there ranting, but for the most part they are not the ones driving change in the GOP.

    The demand for change is coming from people whose viewpoint is in fact essentially ideologically moderate or neutral on almost every issue. Even their strongest position, opposition to increased government spending is by definition moderate, because out of control spending is by nature immoderate.


  • Baronius

    Dave, don’t you think that there’s some genuinely radical elements within the Tea Party movement? They may see themselves as moderates driven to extremism by extraordinary circumstances, but that doesn’t make them any less extreme.

  • If Brooks is a centrist, and I consider myself a centrist, and Obama’s policies are literally centrist [compromises between what his liberal base wants and what the GOP will pass], then the Tea Party is something other than centrist.

    I do remember Ross Perot and the ‘radical middle.’ But the real center of American politics, the independent and swing voters who helped elect Reagan, Clinton and Obama, are not Tea Partiers. There may be some overlap, but I’d put it at 10 or 20% and possibly less.

    The majorities in polls who oppose raising the debt ceiling seem to see it as the equivalent of a spending limit on a credit card, a license for future spending. These indeed may be moderate voters, albeit poorly informed on this subject.

    But the debt ceiling is only about paying for what has been spent already. Tying it to spending cuts is wildly inappropriate, and the potential danger of losing our international credit is real.

    The real radicals on the right are the people who recognize and believe all that and still oppose raising the debt limit. They are literally willing to play with fire — and they may even welcome the prospect of a ‘cleansing’ disaster.

    Nothing ‘moderate’ about that.

  • But they have talking points memorized, handy. They click their channels and say, “There’s no place like Reagan’s.”

    Talking points allow one to avoid thinking anything through critically. Reciting them often enough in hopes of making them become true requires no intellectual investment but the time it takes to do so. It is easy.


  • The GOP has an opportunity to choose a candidate whom they dislike least to run against an incumbent whom they hate.


  • Both Trollope’s observations and Dave’s take on the character of early Americans are very simplistic amounting to blanket statements that are hardly rooted in reality.

    Certainly, the years shortly after our country’s establishment, very little was expected from government at any level. Especially, as regards the Federal government, what could they have had to offer?

    Ours was a largely agrarian society and there was, outside the relatively few large cities at that time little in the way of infrastructure, and virtually no means through which to provide the now hated “entitlements.” No, these stalwart “independent” poor folks just went without,and were proud of it, by god! “We don’t need no stinkin’ food!

    Dave tends to look back in time with rose colored glasses, believing that he is catching glimpses of the “good old days,” when in truth, there are, or were, no such days.

    Libertarians are today’s true romantics. They blithely believe that all that stands between us and utopia is the evil government. What libertarians propose is just one step from anarchy. Remove all the props and supports government provides in virtually all walks of life, and you will see a society crumble into chaos. Dave maintains a low opinion of voters. I maintain an equally low opinion of powerful people left to their own devices.

    As to Obama’s chances in 2012? Unless we experience a shit storm that rages right up to November, Obama will be reelected. If the economy doesn’t tank, despite Republican efforts to make it do so, Dems will also see gains in Congress. I won’t predict their taking back the House, but they will gain a # of seats in both chambers.

    Republican governors and state legislatures are experiencing the wrath of their constituents owing to their gross overreach which has had the effect of exposing their true colors, which in a word, are grotesque.

    The next several months will no doubt be interesting. A lot of water will have flowed under the bridge before any ballots are cast. We’ll see.

    BTW – My dream GOP ticket? Bachmann/Palin. I know it will never happen, but a guy can dream.


  • zingzing

    baronius, if you can remember a slate that looks this bad, i’ll poop on it so it looks worse. that’s not bad, it’s hopeless. everyone has a fatal flaw.

  • Baronius

    Talking points, Tommy? You’re the one who brought up Reagan. It doesn’t count as a Republican talking point if you’re the one who introduces it.

  • Baronius

    Zing, that’s a matter of opinion. I found these lists online:

    2000 R: Bush – McCain – Keyes – Forbes – Alexander
    2004 D: Kerry – Edwards – Dean – Clark – Kucinich

    My earlier point was that when you look at a slate, you’re considering the people who don’t stand a chance, and you’re looking at a frontrunner who hasn’t emerged yet. Looking at those two slates I posted, in retrospect, the depth of talent really seems to drop off once you get past the first couple of names. The same is true today.

    Also, look at the top names on those lists. Bush Jr., a one-and-a-half term governor, McCain, too unpalatable for a party to ever nominate, Kerry, a man lacking the charisma of a Bob Dole, and Edwards, a guy that you knew was slimy even before you knew he was cheating on his dying wife.

  • Just as an afterthought, the only actual or prospective GOP candidate I find palatable is Huntsman, as he is the only one of the bunch who seems to have any intelligence whatsoever. The rest, if not completely without smarts, maintain one or more little harbors of stupidity which tend to pop up on a fairly regular basis.


  • Just as an afterthought, the only actual or prospective GOP candidate I find palatable is Huntsman, as he is the only one of the bunch who seems to have any intelligence whatsoever.

    Indeed. Romney also seems like a fairly decent chap, albeit a blatant opportunist. The prospect of him at the helm doesn’t bring me out in a cold sweat as is the case with some of these other clowns.

    It’s an interesting dichotomy that Dave constantly insists on there being an ideological shift within the GOP towards the fiscally responsible, socially moderate middle (i.e. where he personally stands); yet it keeps churning out the Bachmanns, Palins and Santorums of this world in the apparent conviction that they are uncrazy enough to responsibly lead the world’s most powerful country.

  • Baronius

    Dread, do you ever watch the American version of The Office? There was one scene in which Dwight returned to the office after being fired and rehired. He walks in on a party being thrown for Oscar. There are decorations and a big sign reading, Welcome Back Oscar. Dwight looks around and says, “is all this for me?”

  • Doc – Again, I look at that as Dave’s wishful thinking. It has been made more than clear that the radical element – mainly the tea baggers – has largely taken control of the GOP. The moderates – the few who remain – are basically running scared, afraid to appear to be anything but ideologically pure in the fear of being “primaried” out of office.

    It’s hard to fathom, but Bachmann could pull off the nomination. She is bat shit crazy, but her handlers have reined her in to some degree since her declaration.

    Oh, and as to my dream ticket? Palin/Bachmann would be fine too. 🙂

  • Baronius

    Pardon the internet hiccup.

    Anyway, that’s kind of what Dave does when he assesses the resurgence of fiscal conservatives. He can’t quite make out that there are as many social conservatives as social moderates among them.

    About 5 years ago, the religious right was feeling disheartened. They realized that God’s kingdom is not of this earth, and drifted out of politics. In the last year or two, they were revitalized by watching the Tea Party, and indeed many of them were on the front lines protesting the health care bill’s possible funding of abortion. (I mean, even half the Ayn Randers are Christian, and don’t ask me how that’s possible.) So the new Republican coalition of social, fiscal, and defense conservatives is going to look a lot like the old coalition of the exact same groups.

  • Baronius, I do watch The Office, but I don’t remember that scene. Not clear who or what you’re alluding to, as a matter of fact. Dave? Romney? Me? Someone else?

  • Baronius

    Serious question, Baritone: would you rather see the country become more divided if it meant that your candidate would have a better chance of winning?

  • Anyway, that’s kind of what Dave does when he assesses the resurgence of fiscal conservatives. He can’t quite make out that there are as many social conservatives as social moderates among them.

    Yes, and he’s not alone in that type of error. There does seem to be a tendency to interpret the prevailing mood of your party/country based on your own opinions and those of the people you associate most closely with.

    I still have a chuckle occasionally over an essay I pulled from the ‘net in early 2008, written by a Ron Paul supporter in which he analyzed, strategized and explained in great detail exactly how Paul was going to win the Republican nomination and subsequently the White House. So meticulously did the author do his research that it seemed Paul just couldn’t lose. It seemed plain to him that the groundswell of support for Paul in every state would carry him through with ease.

    What he lost sight of, of course, was the reality that the media and much of the public saw Paul as a fringe candidate; and this led him to grossly overestimate his popularity and electoral clout.

  • Baronius

    “There does seem to be a tendency to interpret the prevailing mood of your party/country based on your own opinions”

    Yes. Likewise, what would John Hancock or Frederick Douglass do today? They’d do exactly what the authors of their articles want them to do.

  • Bar,

    Not sure I get the source of your question. Are you suggesting that an Obama win will widen the divide in this country? If so, how?

    As I see it, the “divide” that has in fact widened in recent years is largely ideological and not rooted in one candidate or other. The rift began as early as the 1950s, and has been with us since at least the early days of the anti-authoritarian movement. It all seems to be coming to a head now.

    With their success in the midterm elections conservatives of all stripes have been flexing their muscles, as it were, and have been attempting to ram through virtually everything they have been ranting about for years. However, the mandate they believed they received last November is coming back to bite them in the ass. They have been trying to turn back the clock on social progress and gains made by the working class over the past 50 to 100 years essentially in one fell swoop. What they are doing is far more radical than anything the Right has feared would ever come from the Left.

    What they are doing in several states across the country, and what they want to do in Congress is, IMO, wholly and unabashedly unAmerican. They fear the “crud of Socialism” so rather, they embrace the grotesquery of Fascism.

    They ramble on about honoring the Constitution, but at the same time have proposed changing it in a dozen ways or more.

    They spout off about the evils of big government, yet they forcibly jam it into the most personal and private matters of our lives. The hypocracy veritably oozes from their veins.


  • “McCain, too unpalatable for a party to ever nominate,”

    Ever? Did you miss the 2008 election?

  • Baronius

    El B – Congratulations. You found an ironic statement on the internet. (I’ve heard there are others, too!)

  • Baronius

    Baritone – I’m making the assumption that a more polarizing Presidential race causes greater national division. To be sure, it reflects underlying division; otherwise, the more extreme candidates wouldn’t have gotten their parties’ nominations. But the division is increased during a race between candidates with wide ideological differences.

    When you root for a Bachmann/Palin ticket, you’re rooting for an easier election for President Obama, but at the cost of greater national division. Is that a trade-off you’d be willing to make?

    Some liberal-leaning BC’ers are saying “Go Huntsman”, but others are saying “Go Bachmann”. I personally always root for the candidates for both parties that I agree with most.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    According to this chart and analysis by one of the best political statisticians in the country, the polarization is actually far more on the Republican side. Republican moderates now comprise less than a third of the party, whereas even now moderates are still a plurality of the Democratic party.

    In the short term, this means that the Republican base is far more likely to turn out as they did in 2010…but as time goes on, he points out that it doesn’t bode well for the future of the Republican party.

    But I disagree with Nate Silver. IMO, if the Democratic party fails to take advantage of this demographic shift in the electorate, the low-level political offices will go largely to the Republicans due to their much stronger (and now far further to the right) turnout, and as a result our national economy will suffer greatly. Seeing as how the Democratic party sucks when it comes to taking the political offensive, I’m not real confident that we’ll be able to stop the “fire-the-teachers-but-don’t-tax-the-wealthy” state-level Republican machine.

    The opportunity for the Democrats is now. If the Obama administration would attack the dogmatic arguments of the Republicans as I did in this article, the Republicans would be in big trouble. But I sincerely doubt they will.

    IMO the Republicans will ‘win’ regardless of who’s in the White House, they will destroy our economy (and blame it on the Democrats, of course), and drink the wine and play the violin while America’s economy burns. Tyranny will have come to America, wearing a flag and carrying a cross.

    Indeed, it already has.

  • Bar – My desire for either Bachmann and/or Palin to be on the GOP ticket is mostly for the entertainment factor. Certainly, they would be a far easier team to beat. I stated somewhere above that Huntsman is IMO the most palatable of all the Reps, but that is also probably why he’ll never get the nomination. The Reps tend to take turns, and this time around it’s Mitt’s turn.

    The ideological chasm is there and will be at the forefront in the upcoming campaign no matter who is running.

    I must admit though, that I, like Glenn, fear that the Dems, will not go against the Reps toe to toe. It is becoming more apparent that Obama is giving more and more ground to the Reps in this debt ceiling tiff. Democrats may have more soul, as it were, but they have proven time and again that they have no guts and no backbone.