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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Irish Elk - Blogged


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Irish Elk
Monday, December 06, 2004  

One of the things I like so much about Edward Windsor Kemble is the way his characters bound – cakewalk, really -- through the frame: See his 1908 GOP conventioneers, and especially, his Taft as cross-country harrier.

You can listen to contemporary recordings of cakewalks at The Ragtime Ephemeralist. And Perfessor Bill, of course, has an extensive menu.

* * *

Why I appreciate The New Republic, Exhibit A: Editor Peter Beinart's recent "Argument for a New Liberalism: A Fighting Faith," urging American liberals to follow the example of the postwar anti-communists and stand for freedom against totalitarianism. The Moore-MoveOn.org crowd, the piece argues, are heirs to the Henry Wallace tradition, not even acknowledging Islamist terrorism as a threat, as the Seegeristas didn't Stalinism:

Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not "been fundamentally reshaped" by the experience. On the right, a "historical re-education" has indeed occurred--replacing the isolationism of the Gingrich Congress with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's near-theological faith in the transformative capacity of U.S. military might. But American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s--a collection of domestic interests and concerns. On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.

When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative--against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.

Bull Moose blogger Marshall Wittmann says bully.

* * *

Harvard Law Professor William J. Stuntz sees potential common ground between blue-state academics and red-state evangelicals:

True, university faculties are heavily Democratic, and evangelical churches are thick with Republicans. But that red-blue polarization is mostly a consequence of which issues are on the table -- and which ones aren't. Change the issue menu, and those electoral maps may look very different. Imagine a presidential campaign in which the two candidates seriously debated how a loving society should treat its poorest members. Helping the poor is supposed to be the left's central commitment, going back to the days of FDR and the New Deal. In practice, the commitment has all but disappeared from national politics. Judging by the speeches of liberal Democratic politicians, what poor people need most is free abortions. Anti-poverty programs tend to help middle-class government employees; the poor end up with a few scraps from the table. Teachers' unions have a stranglehold on failed urban school systems, even though fixing those schools would be the best anti-poverty program imaginable.

I don't think my liberal Democratic professor friends like this state of affairs. And -- here's a news flash -- neither do most evangelicals, who regard helping the poor as both a passion and a spiritual obligation, not just a political preference. (This may be even more true of theologically conservative Catholics.) These men and women vote Republican not because they like the party's policy toward poverty -- cut taxes and hope for the best -- but because poverty isn't on the table anymore. In evangelical churches, elections are mostly about abortion. Neither party seems much concerned with giving a hand to those who most need it.

* * *

Georgetown government professor Rev. James V. Schall, SJ, makes the hawk's case in an essay, "When War Must Be the Answer:"

We are left with the need to see force and power as actual servants of justice. C. S. Lewis wrote in his essay “Why I Am Not a Pacifist:”

It is arguable that a criminal can always be satisfactorily dealt with without the death penalty. It is certain that a whole nation cannot be prevented from taking what it wants except by war. It is almost equally certain that the absorption of certain societies by certain other societies is a great evil. The doctrine that war is always a greater evil seems to imply a materialist ethic, a belief that death and pain are the greatest evils. But I do not think they are. I think the suppression of a higher religion by a lower, of even a higher secular culture by a lower, a much greater evil . . . . The question is whether war is the greatest evil in the world, so that any state of affairs, which might result from submission, is certainly preferable. And I do not see any really cogent argument for this view.

Lewis, as usual, had it about right. War is not the greatest evil, but at times the only means to prevent evil. This is true on both a large and small scale. What we are left with is that the effective use of force is still best and most properly left in the national state. This is not the war of all against all, but the war of those who can limit terrorism and tyranny when and where it occurs. The worst modern tyranny in the twenty-first century will not come from armies but from their lack, from the lack of capacity and courage to use them wherever they are needed to protect justice, freedom, and truth.

The real alternative to just war cannot be viable without including the necessity and ability to deal with those who do not know or listen to reason.

* * *

A pro-choice party no more: If every vote counts, asks Kristin Day of Democrats for Life, why does the Democratic Party ignore pro-life Democrats?

Meantime, if you haven't yet, do read the text of the inaugural Bob Casey Lecture given this fall in the Archdiocese of Denver by William McGurn.

[T]he Democratic party is frank about where it stands. Here is the relevant language from the 2004 platform:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right.

I will spare a reading of the contrasting plank from the Republican party, because my object here is not to declare between Republicans and Democrats but to highlight the cleavage between the Democratic party whose mission Hubert Humphrey defined as standing for "those in the dawn of life, those in the shadows of life, and those in the twilight of life" and the Democratic party of this platform, whose first sentence thumps for the most extreme of all abortion positions: abortion on demand with taxpayer funding. Thumps for it clearly and without apology.

The political consequence of this position is evident every day in our headlines: war on anything that threatens this absolutist stance, whether it be restrictions on federal funding or partial birth abortions, to the maligning and political destruction of judicial nominees deemed to show insufficient piety for the view that Roe is sacrosanct while at the same time every other precedent is for grabs depending on the social or political exigencies of the moment.

John Kerry did not create the abortion test that is today operates to push faithful Catholics off the public square on the grounds that their Catholicity may be deeply held. But John Kerry, like all national Democratic contenders, must be defined by it or become, a la Governor Casey, a stranger in his own land.

Also of interest: a Sojourners cover story from this past summer on the isolation of pro-life progressives.


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