TBT: The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding

My high school American history classes are getting into the American Civil War—or the War of Northern Aggression, or the War for Southern Independence, or whatever you’d like to call it—this week, so we’ve been talking about beginnings a good bit.  The Civil War had deep roots that go back not just to the 1840s or 1850s, and not even to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Indeed, the fundamental division dates back to the English Civil War in the 1648, when the Puritan Roundheads under Oliver Cromwell ousted and beheaded Charles I, and established the English Republic (which—the English having little taste for radicalism or dictatorships, fortunately collapses in 1660 with the restoration of the Stuart monarchs).  Loyalists to the king and the monarchical order were the aristocratic Cavaliers.  Those same Puritans of East Anglia settled heavily in Massachusetts following the Pilgrims’ famous landing at Plymouth Rock, and the Cavaliers—in body and spirit—dominated the tidewater plantations of the South.

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TBT: Mueller Probe Complete, Trump Vindicated

Remember when the Mueller probe ended, then Robert Mueller gave bumbling, incoherent testimony to Congress?  For two years the Democrats engaged in major psychological projection, accusing President Trump of malfeasance akin to what Secretary Hillary Clinton actually committed.  The Deep State scrambled to overthrow the duly elected President of the United States.

After a brief reprieve—even Democrats have to take time off from playing Marxists to splash about at Martha’s Vineyard during the summer months—the progressives are at it again with a ginned up impeachment inquiry.  Trump talked to the new Ukrainian president and mentioned Joe Biden’s son.  GASP!  POTUS is colluding with scary Eastern Europeans to get dirt on a political opponent!

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TBT: The Left’s Cluelessness on Gun Control

The Left is totalitarian in nature.  As such, it seeks to utilize whatever means possible to deprive individuals of their liberty, and to amalgamate Americans into a faceless collective—all the easier to rule over us.

Gun control—by which the Left always means “total gun confiscation and disarming of American civilians”—then, is a logical goal for Leftists.  Deprive Americans of their guns, and you’ve taken away their ultimate line of defense against the lockstep, persistent march against their liberties.

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America’s Roman Roots

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Armchair historians and dime-a-dozen political pundits (like yours portly) love to compare the United States to the Roman Empire, usually during its decadent latter-day decline.  The comparison is an easy one to make; just like Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries, the United States possesses an underclass of wage slaves; an obsession with mystery religions and spiritualistic fads; an immigration crisis; a decadent, self-indulgent quasi-morality; declining birth rates; and a sense the precious liberty of the old Republic has been lost.

Yet for all those declinist comparisons—apt though they may be—Americans should extend their historical gaze back further, to the Roman Republic.  That is what Dr. Steele Brand, Assistant Professor of History at The King’s College, urges Americans to do in an op-ed entitled “Why knowing Roman history is key to preserving America’s future” (thanks to a dear former of colleague of mine—and a regular reader of this blog—for sharing this piece).

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#MAGAWeek2019: Alexander Hamilton

It’s #MAGAWeek2019 here at The Portly Politico.  Each day’s post will be a SubscribeStar exclusive.  For a subscription of $1/month, you gain exclusive to each day’s posts, as well as exclusive content every Saturday throughout the rest of the year.  Visit my SubscribeStar page for more details.

Last year for #MAGAWeek2018 I highlighted several of our great Founding Fathers, including obvious picks like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  I also threw in the less-obvious son of a Framer, John Quincy Adams.  One key Framer I left out:  the ubiquitous Alexander Hamilton.

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Somali Shenanigans

Mass immigration and open borders are huge problems, but their costs are sometimes difficult to see.  Generally, Americans take a rosy view of immigration, as it conjures up images of plucky Irishmen crammed onto ships, chuffing past Ellis Island.  We’re the melting pot—people of different creeds and races come here, each contributing some distinct spices to the stew, but ultimately subsuming into the larger cultural heritage and mores of the host country.  Learn English, learn the Constitution, follow the rules, and you’re golden.

Of course, that all assumes the assimilability of the immigrants.  Back in those rose-tinted Ellis Island days, waves of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants (not to mention Chinese and Japanese migrants to California) caused great consternation, as each ethnic tribe and nationality stuck to its own.  With the National Origins Act of 1924, that great wave of migration trimmed to a trickle, with quotas favoring immigration from Western Europe.  Combined with the national struggles of the Great Depression and the Second World War, those migrants had time to get “baked in” to the national pie, and emerged full Americans.

Consider, too, that these immigrants came to the United States at a time when there was significant friction by doing so.  Many of them would never return to their home countries, or would do so only many decades later.  Lacking the access to mass, global communications networks, many of them never saw or heard from their relatives and families again.

Today, immigrants are able to communicate seamlessly with their relatives back home—a wonderful marvel of our modern-age.  They can also hop a jet plane and be back in hours (or get here quickly).  That same friction is no longer present to the same extent as it was 100 years ago.

Couple that with massive legal and illegal immigration, and the push to assimilate begins to vanish rapidly.  That push becomes more of a gentle nudge, if that.  Why learn English and the local customs when you can be surrounded by your hombres from back home?

Let’s go a step further:  what if your host culture no longer promotes or defends the rightness of its own beliefs and values?  Instead, it promotes multiculturalism and diversity as self-evident goods.  The official and cultural messages are no longer “assimilate” and “respect our laws, values, and God,” but instead become, “do your own thing” and “we’re nothing special—we don’t even really believe this stuff.”  Suddenly, there’s no compelling reason to assimilate into a culture that lacks confidence in itself.

Take all of that and add in a culture that does have some conviction in the rightness—and righteousness—of itself, and you’ve got the makings of a cloistered, insular community of unassimilable immigrants in your midsts.

Such is the situation in Minnesota with the Somali “refugees” living there.  They are, almost universally, devout Muslims.  They are also what the cool kids call “visible minorities”—they’re black—which serves as a further impediment to assimilation.  Islam in its most fundamental form is, essentially, at odds with Western civilization.  The very existence of Sharia law conflicts directly with the Constitution.  It’s all a recipe for disaster.

Indeed, the situation in “Little Mogadishu“—the Somalian neighborhood in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area—is a miniature form of the Islamic migrant crisis Europe has endured for years now.  Like the banlieues of France and Belgium, Somalian Muslims have created their own ethnic enclave in the heart of a State once dominated by Swedes and Germans.

Little Mogadishu is, sadly, following the pattern of other Muslim-dominated areas in the West.  It’s crime rate is through the roof, growing 56% in 2018.  Most of that increase is due to gang violence between competing Somali street gangs.

Minnesota—in a suicidal display of “Upper Midwestern Nice”—has encouraged the accumulation of Somalis into its State, creating a powerful ethnic voting bloc that holds increasing sway over the Democratic-Farm-Labor Party (the technical appellation for the Democratic Party in Minnesota).  Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who can barely speak English without an anti-Semitic accent, is a troubling figure to have walking the highest corridors of power.  She’s a political figure ripped straight out of sub-Saharan

That’s had lethal consequences, too, such as Somali police officer Mohammed Noor’s fatal shooting of Australian Justine Damond.  That killing drew attention to what was likely an unfortunate diversity-hire.  The Minneapolis Police Department is, apparently, attempting to hire more Somali officers to improve community outreach in Little Mogadishu, but why did the city allow such an alien enclave to develop in the first place?

That incident at least received coverage from the mainstream media.  What didn’t was this piece from InfoWars, which details (with police documents) the antics of a group of eight or ten Somali teens.  It seems these precocious, vibrant youngsters were spreading diversity with hammers and pipes in an attempt to rob elderly white people.

Some of these attacks are, no doubt, the result of typical inner-city gang violence.  But the insidious influence of radical Islamism is alive in well in the environs of this Minneapolis banlieue.  Fox News calls it “the terrorist recruitment capital of the US.”  Ami Horowitz, in a jaw-dropping YouTube video, demonstrates that Somali Americans believe Sharia law is preferable to (and, by implication, should replace) America’s constitutional law.

So, how does the United States avoid replicating the errors of Europe and Minnesota?  Tighter immigration restrictions would be a key first step.

Another would be more drastic, and unlikely politically.  Indeed, were it to succeed, the precedent it established could be destructive in the long-run to religious liberty.  I’ll elaborate:

Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.”  That is a beautiful statement in favor of religious liberty.

That said, Islam may very well be the grand exception.  It is a faith that is fundamentally incompatible with the faith, culture, and laws of the West.  It has no desire to reform (indeed, it may lack the ability to do so), and it contains within it no separation of church and state.  The faith of Islam is the law code.

As such, one could argue it may be necessary to amend the Constitution to ban Muslims from serving in higher office.  That is a bold step, and one that I shrink away from even as I ponder it.  But can there be any guarantee of loyalty from followers of a religion that is so hostile to American and Western values?

Of course, the flaw in this approach is that individual Muslims are, like lapsed Catholics and Protestants, sometimes easygoing about their faith.  At the same time, even lax Muslims have a tendency to radicalize quickly.  Just look at the Boston Marathon bomber, who went from being a pot-smoking loser to killing innocent people in the blink of an eye.

Regardless, the West has to wake itself up to the real, existential threat Islam represents.  We’ve spent nearly 1400 years fighting against its aggressive expansion—the Battle of Tours, the defense at the gates of Vienna, the Reconquista—only now to invite the invaders in with open arms?

A few hundred Muslim immigrants a year is no big shakes.  But if we adopt Europe’s “come one, come all” approach, we’ll lose everything that makes our country great, and free.

Reblog: Practically Historical on the Electoral College

A quick (and late) post today, as the Internet is still out at home (although this time it’s not entirely due to Frontier’s incompetence).  SheafferHistorianAZ of Practically Historical posted another classic piece yesterday defending the Electoral College.  Rather than rely solely on abstract arguments, he went to the primary sources:  in this case, the words of James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury.

Here is an excerpt from SheafferHistorianAZ himself, taken from before and after quotations from Madison (writing in Federal No. 39) and Hamilton (Federalist No. 68; emphasis is Sheaffer’s):

Plurality is part of the Federal electoral process, but integrated to meet the needs of federalism.  States matter in our compound republic.  Madison wanted them involved in the process of choosing the executive.

Think of the electoral vote this way…  In the 1960 World Series, the New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates 55-27  and out-hit the hapless Pirates 91-60.  Using the rationale of plurality as demanded by the national popular vote crowd, the Yankees were clearly world champs that year.  But runs are integrated into games, and in 1960, the Pirates won 4 games, the Yankees 3.  Runs and hits are part of a process, but the process integrates all parts of the sport into choosing a winner[.]

That sports metaphor is one that I think will resonate with many voters, and it’s one that is intuitive.  It’s probably the best I’ve heard.  It’s a tough pitch to say, “the States have rights in our system, and without the Electoral College, LA and NYC would decide every election.”

Anti-Collegiates (the best term I can come up with on the fly for the anti-Electoral College crowd) always argue that States like Wyoming would get more attention from presidential candidates, which is numerically ludicrous—what’s 600,000 Wyomans against millions of New Yorkers?—and disingenuous.  No one arguing against the Electoral College cares about the people in Wyoming; they just want progressive elites and their urban mobs to always carry presidential elections for progressive Democrats.

But the sports metaphors takes something abstract but important—States’ rights and accounting for regional differences—and puts in terms that are more concrete but trivial.  Everyone knows it doesn’t matter if you win every game by an extra point—what matters is that you win every game (college football fans may disagree slightly, but a W is a W).

One final note before wrapping up:  I’ve recently heard proposals to reform the Electoral College to conform with congressional districts, so that it’s more reflective of the popular will, while still retaining the essential “flavor” of the Electoral College.  It’s intriguing, but I also think it’s a trap:  it’s a compromise position for a side that has no leverage.  Engaging in that debate tacitly concedes that there’s something wrong with the Electoral College, when there really isn’t.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken.  Yes, we occasionally get distorted outcomes.  But those “distortions” act as an important break on mob rule and the tyranny it inevitably breeds.

Reblog: Lincoln and Civil Liberties

One of the joys of blogging is the opportunity to read the work of other writers in the “blogosphere.”  Recently, I’ve been reading SheafferHistorianAZ‘s work at his blog, Practically Historical.  Sheaffer writes brief, pithy posts about various historical figures and problems, and seems to have a particular interest in both Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, two of my favorite presidents.

Yesterday, he posted a piece entitled “Lincoln and Civil Liberties” that touches on an interesting constitutional question:  did the Great Emancipator violate the Constitution when he suspended the writ of habeus corpus and arrested Americans without due process or the chance to see a judge?

Sheaffer argues that Lincoln was completely justified, as those arrested were actively seditious and traitorous.  He cites the case of John Merryman, the Marylander arrested for his attempt to spur Maryland to secede from the Union.  From Sheaffer (all links are his):

John Merryman was not an innocent victim… of government tyranny as portrayed by Chief Justice Roger Taney.  Merryman led a detachment of Maryland militiamen in armed resistance to troops in Federal service.  Taney was a partisan Democrat staunchly opposed to Lincoln and supportive of secessionist doctrine.  Ex parte Merryman is not legal precedent at all and cannot be cited as such- it is a political document designed to hinder Lincoln’s attempts to protect Washington and preserve the Union.  It was issued by Taney alone- scholars often make the mistake of assuming that the Supreme Court concurred with the ruling.

As Sheaffer points out, there is a trend in Lincoln scholarship that recasts the president as an out-of-control tyrant.  The most prominent figure in this revisionist school is probably Thomas DeLorenzo, and the idea has circulated broadly, even if it hasn’t penetrated the American psyche (remember, Lincoln enjoys a 90% favorability rating among Americans today).

No doubt the American Civil War expanded federal powers, and indelibly changed the relationship between the States and the federal government, in some ways to the detriment of constitutionalism.

Consider that, prior to the Civil War, many States assumed they could “opt out” of the Constitution, having previously “opted in” to it.  Lincoln argued that the Union predated the Constitution, and therefore could not be left; Daniel Webster earlier argued that the Union and the Constitution were “one and inseparable.”

Regardless, the American Civil War resolved by force of arms what could not be resolved in Congress or debating societies (of course, no political question is ever settled permanently).  After that, the States would never have quite the same leverage over the federal government (probably for the better, but perhaps for the worse in some ways), and would lose even more with the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment.

These are interesting questions to consider.  Sheaffer’s contribution to this discussion is sober and direct.

 

TBT: Federalism Denied

It’s a late #TBT post today, faithful TPP readers, as the school year is gearing up and constraints on my time increase.  Better late than never, yes?

This week’s throwback post discusses the Seventeenth Amendment, which ended the election of US Senators via their respective State legislatures, and instead moved that choice directly to the people of the several States.

One of the Progressive Era Amendments—which gave us such chestnuts as the graduated income tax (Sixteenth Amendment), Prohibition (Eighteenth Amendment), and women’s suffrage (Nineteenth Amendment)—the Seventeenth Amendment was part of a broad cultural and political shift toward, paradoxically, greater choice and enfranchisement for the electorate on the one hand, and greater government control and oversight on the other.

Americans were optimistic in the power of the government at all levels—and, increasingly, at the federal level—to solve problems like poverty and privation, naively believing that, in a democracy, the people would make wise decisions about selecting its technocratic, managerial elite.

Not surprisingly, the managerial elites gained enormous power, and the people got the shaft.

This essay explores the consequences of the direct election of US Senators, as well as why State legislatures came to support the idea.  On the one hand, States lost their representation in Congress—the Senate was designed to represent State-level interests nationally—but State legislatures were also relieved of responsibility for what was becoming an onerous duty, susceptible to corruption, or even carelessness.

Here is “Federalism Denied”:

In last Wednesday’s post, “Politics, Locally-Sourced,” I urged readers to become more interested in and educated about their local and state governments.  A keystone of modern conservative political philosophy (and of the classical liberalism of the Framers) is decentralization, the idea that power should be spread broadly, both in terms of population and geography.  Due to the massive power the federal government accrued during and after the Second World War, decentralists also argue that power should devolve from the federal government back to the States.  The federal government, of course, plays an important role in maintaining the national defense, conducting foreign affairs, and regulating interstate commerce, among a number of other constitutionally delineated areas, but a great deal of power is reserved for the States in the X Amendment.

The X Amendment reads thus:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Clearly, then, where the Constitution is silent, the States are reserved broad powers.  They cannot become dictatorial–their constitutions must not conflict with the national supremacy of the US Constitution–but they can have broad latitude in determining statewide regulations, taxes, and the like.

In theory, at least, this federalist structure is how our nation is supposed to operate, and it manages to do so, despite significant hobbling from the federal government.  Congress has forced upon the States a number of unfunded federal mandates.  Essentially, a large portion of State budgets are consumed with fulfilling orders from Washington, D.C., without any form of assistance.  Additionally, States are often coerced into adopting certain policies or passing certain laws, lest the federal government withdraw their funding (this tactic was used to increase the drinking age from 18 to 21–not necessarily a bad thing, but the means matter almost as much as the ends; such coercion circumvents the proper amendment process).

What brought about this change, and how can we reverse it?  How can we restore the proper balance between the States and the federal government?

There are no easy answers here, and the centralization of power in the federal government occurred for a complicated host of reasons:  the acceptance of a desperate people of a greater role for the government in the economy during the Great Depression; the (temporary) success of a massively planned economy during the Second World War; the massive expansion of the welfare state during the Great Society; the (necessary) fight at the national level to protect the civil rights of black Americans; and more.

However, I would argue that a major source of this problem was the passage of the XVII Amendment.

The XVII Amendment replaced the old system of selecting senators with their direct election.  Prior to its passage, senators were selected by their state legislatures, which were themselves chosen in local elections.

There are a number of compelling arguments for why this amendment was adopted.  For one, many states had already moved to a de facto system of direct election, in which voters essentially “elected” their senator, and the state legislatures were duly pledged to vote in accord with the people’s choice.  Also, there were several scandals in which senate candidates merely bribed state legislators for their votes.  Finally, many state legislators found that voters cared more about who the legislators would elect to the Senate, not what they thought about state problems.

You can review these arguments in a (rather condescending) piece from Slate by David Schleicher entitled “States’ Wrongs.”


“[T]he States no longer have a constitutional role in the federal government.”

However, while there certainly appeared to be need for reform in senatorial elections, many of these problems still persist.  Voters are still overly-fixated on national politics, even more so than voters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  If anything, state elections are even more focused on national issues than they were before.  Special interest groups still manage to exert influence over the Senate, and can do so even more effectively by whipping up voters.

Most importantly, though, is that the States no longer have a constitutional role in the federal government.  The Senate used to serve as the representative of the States’ interests, while the House still operates as the representative of the people’s interests.  Now the people have direct influence over both branches of Congress, and an important, necessary brake on the fickle will of the majority is gone.

States’ rights has become an ugly phrase, associated as it is with slavery and segregation.  However, just because states’ rights has been invoked to defend the indefensible doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good idea.  The States function as an important bulwark against tyranny, and federalism affords many opportunities for policy innovation and experimentation–Louis Brandeis’s “laboratories of democracy.”  Also, the geographical, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity of the United States practically demands states’ rights, as different States have different needs, goals, and desires.

Repeal of the XVII Amendment is extremely difficult and unlikely:  people like to vote (actually, people like to know they can vote, even if they often choose not to do so).  But Congress, specifically the Senate, can do much to keep the further expansion of federal power in check.  Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska is spearheading this effort through his speeches, delivered from the Senate floor, about the proper role of the Senate and its obligation to be an august, contemplative chamber.

We, the people, can also take steps to become more involved in state politics.  Ultimately, the drive to restore federalism starts with us.

***

For more information about the XVII Amendment and different approaches to addressing it, here are some resources:

The Campaign to Restore Federalism (pro-repeal of the XVII Amendment):  http://www.restorefederalism.org/

“Repeal the 17th:  Problems to Address” by constitutional scholar Rob Natelson:  http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2013/08/26/repeal-the-17th-problems-to-address/

“Repeal the 17th Amendment?” by Gene Healy of the Cato Institute (great piece that is sympathetic to the idea, but recognizes the political problems involved):  http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/repeal-17th-amendment

“States’ Wrongs” (mentioned above) by David Schleicher of Slate (anti-repeal, with some interesting historical background and a lot of elitist sneering at movement conservatives):  http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2014/02/conservatives_17th_amendment_repeal_effort_why_their_plan_will_backfire.html