More bad news from campus: Ovid frightens students

Back in the day my professors essentially bragged that their job was to rattle me and my safe little assumptions.  In the Happy Warrior column of the 7/6/15 National Review, David Harsanyi offers more proof that is sadly less true today.  Here are a few excerpts from “Not Avid for Ovid

Not long ago, four members of the Columbia University Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board wrote a letter of complaint to the university alleging that the study of classic works of Western civilization — specifically, the Metamorphoses — was insensitive and made many of the students feel “un­safe.” So please add reading Ovid to the growing list of potential triggers, -isms, and phobias that could rattle the brittle psyche of a college student. Even the act of grading — sometimes known as “grade shaming” — can leave young people feeling distressed.

The news that there are students unable to handle the Western canon at one of the leading universities in the country sparked a new round of think pieces contemplating the question: Is this the most sensitive — and least intellectually curious — generation ever? And if so, what does it mean?  …

There are more serious criticisms to be made of Millennials, of course. As the most ethnically diverse generation ever, they claim to be more tolerant of differences in our culture. But in reality, they have a growing aversion to the institutions and ideas that protect legitimate ideological and philosophical diversity. The younger you are, the more likely you are to support hate-speech laws and laws that undermine religious freedom and political speech. …

They are also less religious than previous generations were at the same point in their lives, and describe “Christianity” — every denomination, apparently — as “hypocritical” and “judgmental.” One doesn’t need to be a theological authority to understand that judgment is an important aspect of faith. Millennials don’t want to be judged.  …

A Reason Foundation poll in 2014 found that although Millennials claim to have an aversion to both political parties, 42 percent favored socialism over capitalism.

Most polls find that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will easily capture most of the Millennials’ vote in 2016. If anything, the former first lady may not be liberal enough for them. The real preference of Millennials, according to a Fusion poll, is Stephen Colbert. Nineteen percent say that they’d like to see him as president, versus 17 percent each for Jon Stewart and Tina Fey. They will not rest until we have a clown as president.

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Book review: The Wright Brothers

Michael Knox Beran reviews The Wright Brothers by David McCullough in the 6/22/15 National Review.

My first impression of this book was unfavorable. Emerson said that writing ought to be an effort “to drop every dead word,” and thought surprise the first principle of style. Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough would perhaps beg to differ; he would seem to think that a writer should never seek for originality where the predictable and conventional, indeed the formulaic, will do. The virtue of McCullough’s writing is its ease and readability; its vice is superficiality. Only once in his new book about the Wright brothers did I come across a penetrating image, a flash of insight, that illuminated the depths of his subject; but as fate would have it, the insight in question was sufficiently arresting to overcome my skepticism and make me think the book after all worthwhile.

What gives The Wright Brothers its interest is the character of its central figure, Wilbur Wright. Four years older than the duller Orville, Wilbur had a good deal in common with such democratic monks and Yankee mystics as John Woolman, Johnny Appleseed, and Henry David Thoreau. Like Thoreau, Wilbur Wright was by nature ascetic, a Spartan in all his habits, and to all appearances celibate; he gave the impression, one of his schoolmates in Dayton, Ohio, said, “of a man who lives largely in a world of his own.” The French aviation journalist François Peyrey, studying Wright as he gazed upon a French sunset, was reminded “of those monks in Asia Minor lost in monasteries perched on inaccessible mountain peaks.”

Like many such austere characters, Wilbur Wright had a passion for beauty, one that early fixed itself on the spectacle of birds in flight. The 19th-century naturalist James Bell Pettigrew said that the motions of a bird on the wing are infinitely more “beautiful than the movements of either the quadruped on land or the fish in the water.” Wilbur Wright, who read and profited from Pettigrew’s work, would have agreed.

Thoreau had gone to Harvard College; the young Wilbur intended to go to Yale, but was prevented from doing so by a hockey injury. A fortunate escape; had he been liberally educated in New Haven, the craftsmanship that was to find expression in the first airplane might have been devoted instead to the production of bad paintings or mediocre verse. Solitude, it has been said, is the school of genius, and in his father’s house in Dayton, Wilbur educated himself, reading voraciously in subjects that appealed to his fancy or, more precisely, to some inner necessity of his nature. Among these subjects was physics, which he studied less as a technical discipline than as the poetics of flight.

The Wright brothers’ first flights near Kitty Hawk on North Carolina’s Outer Banks were conceived as experiments, and although both there and at Huffman Prairie, northeast of Dayton, their flying machines drew spectators, the brothers for some time resisted an authoritative trial. When, at last, they agreed to a demonstration, it took place not in America but in France, where Wilbur had gone to negotiate a sale of his flying machine to the French. (Washington had turned the brothers down.) In Paris, Wright seems for the first time to have encountered forms of beauty that were the work of human hands. He saw at once how superior, in point of civic artistry, Paris was to American cities built up mechanically on the gridiron plan. “There is always an open space as big as a city square in front of each building,” Wright said. “And in addition there is nearly always a broad avenue leading directly to it, giving it a view from a long distance. It is this, as much as the buildings and monuments themselves, that makes Paris such a magnificent city.”

The Louvre was another revelation. If Wright was not transfigured by the museum in the way Henry James was when, in the Galerie d’Apollon, he crossed the “bridge over to Style,” it nevertheless made its mark. “I must confess,” he wrote to his sister, Katharine, “that the pictures by celebrated masters that impressed me most were not the ones that are the best known.” He thought Leonardo’s John the Baptist superior to the Mona Lisa, and he liked “the Rembrandts, Holbeins, and Van Dycks, ‘as a whole,’ better than the Rubenses, Titians, Raphaels, and Murillos.” He was drawn especially to Corot’s skies.

In June 1908 he arrived in Le Mans, and in August, on a nearby racetrack, he conclusively demonstrated to the world the efficacy of his flying machine. McCullough does the moment full justice, even as he shows that the awakening that had begun in Paris continued in Le Mans. Walking about the streets of the old town, studying its art and architecture, Wright sensed an identity between the spiritual yearning latent in his own skyward ascents and that of the civilization that built the town’s cathedral, Saint-Julien. (The saint who is the subject of Flaubert’s “The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller” is often said to have been born in Le Mans.) The oldest parts of the cathedral, McCullough writes, were “in the Romanesque manner, and dated back nearly 900 years, to the eleventh century”; the “larger, more spectacular” Gothic portion of Saint-Julien was the work of the 14th and 15th centuries. It was “this, all so plainly in evidence, that so moved Wilbur.” Nowhere was what McCullough calls the “upward aspiration” of the cathedral more evident than in its soaring choir, which impressed Wright “as one of the finest specimens of architecture” he had ever seen. In the book’s most perceptive passage, McCullough suggests that Wilbur was fully cognizant of the affinity between his own grammar of ascent and that of the medieval burghers of Le Mans.

“The phenomenon which I might call American medievalism is highly interesting,” wrote the German scholar Ernst Robert Curtius. “I believe that it has a deep spiritual meaning.” McCullough’s Wilbur Wright is closer, in spirit, to such American medievalists as Henry Adams and Charles Homer Haskins than he is to such purely practical innovators as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. He experiences in France an enlightenment not unlike what Henry James’s Lambert Strether experiences in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. In describing Strether’s illumination in The Ambassadors, James borrows unashamedly from the medievalists:

The day was so soft that the little party had practically adjourned to the open air, but the open air was in such conditions all a chamber of state. Strether had presently the sense of a great convent, a convent of missions, famous for he scarce knew what, a nursery of young priests, of scattered shade, of straight alleys and chapel-bells, that spread its mass in one quarter; he had the sense of names in the air, of ghosts at the windows, of signs and tokens, a whole range of expression, all about him, too thick for prompt discrimination.

The American who in his pilgrimage to the Old World comes to the realization that there is something missing in his up-to-date American life is, of course, a familiar, even a threadbare figure. He is close to the heart of Adams’s Education and his Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres; he drives a good deal of Hemingway’s fiction, pops up in Santayana, and reaches his apogee in T. S. Eliot, the “latent monk” (as his biographer Lyndall Gordon calls him) who sought sanity in the poetry of Dante and the sacraments of the Church.

Wilbur Wright died in May 1912, at age 45. It is impossible to say where his pilgrimage would have taken him had he lived longer. He might have outgrown his zeal for mechanical innovation; alternatively, his technical aspirations might have coexisted with his newly awakened passion for old Western forms of beauty and order. Such incongruous cohabitations are not uncommon. Jefferson, the child of the modernizing Enlightenment, was deeply attached to the traditions of Greco-Roman art, the by-product of innumerable antique mysticisms; Emerson, the prophet of the “American newness” that has bred so many golden calves, was a disciple of the anti-materialist philosophy of Plato.

The fact that so many of our republic’s sages have been drawn to apparently defunct mysticisms ought to disturb a little our progressive complacencies. But it is not so; most of us are not disconcerted by what these flights into primitivism tell us about ourselves. The truth is that we are, many of us, more at home in Mechanopolis than we care to admit. I used to deplore the weakness of these surrenders, but I have more recently found myself thinking them the fruit of very pardonable realism. Such things as the temple of Nike in Athens and the cathedral of Saint-Julien in Le Mans may well represent a freakish anomaly in our evolution as a species; in our modern exchange of marble for plastic, we may simply have reverted to our habitual simianism, our default factory settings.

But the pilgrimage of Wilbur Wright, as told, not brilliantly, but serviceably, by David McCullough, has somewhat restored my older faith. Here you have one of mankind’s greatest technicians, a master of mechanical innovation, who found his chief inspiration not in the pervasive utilitarianism of his environment but in a desire to experience the beauty and the poetry, what he called the “intoxication,” of flight. Wright’s temperament was essentially that of an artist and a prophet — a recurring type. And so long as the type does recur, we may be justified in thinking that our current crudenesses are what the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga took them to be, the fatigued but temporary “after-play of a civilization in decline” — a winter to be followed by the longed-for spring.

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“An interregnum between master cultural narratives”

Daniel Foster, writing in the Happy Warrior column in the 6/22/15 issue of National Review, decribes “This dialectical two-step, from medicalization as legitimization to de-medicalization as redemption.”  From “The Sex-and-Gender Interregnum

If you were into such morbid thoughts, you might reflect on the possibility that “gender-identity disorder,” as the psychiatric community calls it, is really a special case of a broader dysmorphia called “body-integrity-identity disorder.” What’s BIID, you ask?

“We define [BIID] as the desire or the need for a person identified as able-bodied by other people to transform his or her body to obtain a physical impairment,” said Alexandre Baril, a researcher in “critical disability studies” at Wesleyan University. The ranks of the so-called trans-able, described in a recent National Post article for which Baril provided his comments, include individuals who have voluntarily amputated their hands, crushed their legs with large stones, or sought out operations to blind them, deafen them, and, yes, destroy their genitals.

As human beings and sinners, we are by nature in the business of self-destruction. But if you ever wanted a litmus test of whether you’re more of a conserva- than a -tarian, in Charlie Cooke’s formulation, ask yourself whether surgically induced paraplegia falls under the aegis of “Live and let live.”

It’s interesting to note that even as the trans-able are petitioning to have BIID moved from an appendix into the main body of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, many in the transgendered community are petitioning to remove gender-identity disorder from the DSM altogether. Perhaps this is to be expected, given that the former community views the lopping off of a penis as obtaining a physical impairment and the latter as realizing an identity.

I — we all, no doubt — have had more occasion to think about this front in the culture war of late. That’s because, I’m convinced, we’re living in an interregnum between master cultural narratives, the punctuation of a punctuated equilibrium, and I don’t think any of us really has any idea what the next epoch will look like. Some slopes are slippery and others are not, which is why they named a logical fallacy after them.

Look, I have no interest in what anyone does in the boudoir, and I will call Caitlyn Jenner by whatever noun, pro- or proper, she likes. But what I do know is this: Like all evolutionary processes, this interregnum is producing grotesqueries, neither fish nor fowl, that cannot coherently endure — from the schizophrenia, if you’ll forgive the term, over the medicalization of identity, to a sexual culture whiplashing from the libertinism of “free love” to the new Victorianism of “affirmative consent.”

Functional liberal societies can tolerate just about anything. But they can’t tolerate absurdities — not forever, and maybe not for long. I don’t know what the new regime will look like. But the revolution keeps getting weirder.

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“Pluto is alive, and no one knows why.”

Somehow, Pluto is generating heat.  And that has huge implications for the solar system at large.”

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So writes Josh Gelernter in Pluto’s Astonishing News:

During the autumn, you can estimate how recently a lawn has been raked by how many leaves are on it. In the same way, you can estimate how recently a planet’s surface formed by how many objects have had a chance to crash into it. When things crash into a planet, they leave craters. Not one single crater on 150,000 square miles of Pluto means its surface is brand new.

That doesn’t mean Pluto itself is brand new — it means that Pluto was recently, or still is, geologically active; that its surface is being churned up and changed and covered by new material. That’s an enormous breakthrough.

Geological activity requires energy. Earth’s geologic activity — earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and so forth — is powered by its internal heat, which comes from the friction of Earth’s innards moving around, and from the decay of radioactive elements. The heat in the Earth’s interior is proportional to its immense size; if our planet were smaller — Pluto-sized — it would be colder, and thus, it had been thought, inactive.

There are geologically active bodies that are much smaller than Earth, but they don’t generate their own heat. The most active body in the solar system is Io, the innermost of Jupiter’s four big moons; its energy comes from constantly being pulled back and forth by Jupiter and the other three moons. But nothing is pulling on Pluto. It has a big moon of its own — Charon, whose mass is about 10 percent that of Pluto — but Pluto and Charon orbit each other in perfect synchronization. Something else is powering Pluto’s surface changes; somehow, Pluto is generating heat. And that has huge implications for the solar system at large.

Also a good article in the Weekend Journal, The Man Who Flew Mankind to Pluto:

But geological processes require heat, and therein lies the riddle. “There’s no really good model for how these small planets can have their engines running after four billion years. As planets get smaller, the ratio of surface area compared to their mass goes up. That means that they can’t trap the heat inside very long. They cool off.”

He gestures to the paper cup of coffee on the table in front of him. A small cup of coffee will go cold faster than a large one; a large cup of coffee will go cold faster than a big pot. The point is that without an outside source of energy, such as tidal forces from a nearby gas giant, a planet like Pluto, which is one-sixth the size of our moon and circles the outer reaches of our solar system, should be long dead.

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WI’s “John Doe” statute

WI supreme court ruled on the “John Doe” assaults on free speech.  As one of the litigants stated,  “It does not take a law degree to know that raiding family homes in the dark to look for political papers is un-American.”  I’d say.  Hope the story cuts through the clutter.

This article in National Review covers it pretty well; an excerpt:

The John Doe statute empowered the prosecutor to issue gag orders on raid targets, prohibiting them from defending themselves even as leaks to the press cast them as suspected criminals. The Court has now ruled that the legal reasoning from which the entire investigation proceeded was fatally flawed.

The problem with the prosecutor’s theory, according to today’s ruling, is that Chapter 11 applies only to “express advocacy” — speech that “expressly advocates the election, defeat, recall or retention of a clearly identified candidate or a particular vote at a referendum.” Consequently, the court held:

The special prosecutor has disregarded the vital principle that in our nation and our state political speech is a fundamental right and is afforded the highest level of protection.  The special prosecutor’s theories, rather than ‘assur[ing] [the] unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people’ . . . instead would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished.

In its first story about the court’s ruling, the New York Times claimed that the case raised “broader questions about how political campaigns and independent groups may interact in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010, which gave wide latitude to outside campaign spending.” This is wrong. The legal precedent granting broad constitutional protection for issue advocacy is quite clear. The “broader questions” raised by the case are far more consequential: Will the aftermath of the John Doe witch hunt halt a disturbing trend toward attempting to criminalize political disagreements

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Iran: wanting it too much

On Iran, or perhaps our recent foreign policy in general, I think Noonan gets it right today:

There will be plenty of serious criticism of the deal, accompanied by a generalized sense that the U.S. probably got taken—because Mr. Obama always wants it too much. As with the opening to Cuba, Mr. Obama put his face on it too early, put his name on it too hard, talked about it too much in public, let his aides give background interviews saying this is a crucial effort, a historic gambit, part of the president’s visionary legacy. The adversary sees this, the need and the want—they watch the news too!—and proceeds accordingly.

Mr. Obama is an odd one in that when there are rivals close by, in Congress for instance, with whom he could negotiate deals, he disses them in public, attacks their motives, yanks them around with executive orders, crushes them when possible. But when negotiating with actual tyrants he signals deference, hunger. I leave it to others to explain what it means when a man is bullying toward essentially good people and supplicating toward bad ones. But the sense is he always wants it too much and is consequently a poor negotiator, and this will have some impact on U.S. and world reaction.

It’s technically a column about the 2016 race, and includes this little bit about a speech given by the president’s likely successor:

She offers policy clumps wrapped in general sentiments. There was policy jargon—“consumer economy,” “quality, affordable child care,” “paid family leave,” “our fiscal outlook is sustainable.” In the tired rhetoric department there were “currents of change” and getting “our country moving.” There were a few fleeting shots at Republican candidates, which provided the speech with a kind of leavening cynicism.

She seemed at times to knock Mr. Obama, or at least distance herself from him. Wall Streeters who tanked the economy in the late 2000s got off with “limited consequences—or none at all.” Who’s been in charge since 2008? She made two references to rising health-care costs. I thought we took care of that.

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In the Bernieverse, there’s a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism.

b-sandKevin D. Williamson has written some funny and spot-on stuff on The Donald:  “ridiculous buffoon with the worst taste since Caligula” and “action star for the sedentary” and “performance art… butch overcompensation for threats against [his] virility“.

Well, here he does the same for Hillary‘s primary challenger:  the Honorable Senator from the great state of Vermont. From Adventures in National Socialism:

Aside from Grandma Stalin there, there’s not a lot of overtly Soviet iconography on display around the Bernieverse, but the word “socialism” is on a great many lips. Not Bernie’s lips, for heaven’s sake: The guy’s running for president. But Tara Monson, a young mother who has come out to the UAW hall to support her candidate, is pretty straightforward about her issues: “Socialism,” she says. “My husband’s been trying to get me to move to a socialist country for years — but now, maybe, we’ll get it here.” The socialist country she has in mind is Norway, which of course isn’t a socialist country at all: It’s an oil emirate. Monson is a classic American radical, which is to say, a wounded teenager in an adult’s body: Asked what drew her to socialism and Bernie, she says that she is “very atheist,” and that her Catholic parents were not accepting of this. She goes on to cite her “social views,” and by the time she gets around to the economic questions, she’s not Helle Thorning-Schmidt — she’s Pat Buchanan, complaining about “sending our jobs overseas.”

L’Internationale, my patootie. This is national socialism.

In the Bernieverse, there’s a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism. He is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was largely wiped out in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics. The incessant reliance on xenophobic (and largely untrue) tropes holding that the current economic woes of the United States are the result of scheming foreigners, especially the wicked Chinese, “stealing our jobs” and victimizing his class allies is nothing more than an updated version of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s “yellow peril” rhetoric, and though the kaiser had a more poetical imagination — he said he had a vision of the Buddha riding a dragon across Europe, laying waste to all — Bernie’s take is substantially similar. He describes the normalization of trade relations with China as “catastrophic” — Sanders and Jesse Helms both voted against the Clinton-backed China-trade legislation — and heaps scorn on every other trade-liberalization pact. That economic interactions with foreigners are inherently hurtful and immoral is central to his view of how the world works.

He turns to the “longstanding conservative criticism of Bernie-style schemes to re-create the Danish model in New Jersey and Texas and Mississippi.”

Like most of these advocates of “economic patriotism” (Barack Obama’s favored phrase) Bernie worries a great deal about trade with brown people — Asians, Latin Americans — but has never, so far as public records show, made so much as a peep about our very large trade deficit with Sweden, which as a share of bilateral trade volume is about the same as our trade deficit with China, or about the size of our trade deficit with Canada, our largest trading partner. Sanders doesn’t rail about the Canadians stealing our jobs — his ire is reserved almost exclusively for the Chinese and the Mexicans, as when he demanded of Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the words of the old protest song, “Which side are you on?” The bad guys, or American workers “seeing their jobs go to China or Mexico?”

That the relative success of the Western European welfare states, and particularly of the Scandinavian states, is rooted in cultural and ethnic homogeneity is a longstanding conservative criticism of Bernie-style schemes to re-create the Danish model in New Jersey and Texas and Mississippi. The conservative takeaway is: Don’t build a Scandinavian welfare state in Florida. But if you understand the challenges of diversity and you still want to build a Scandinavian welfare state, or at least a German one, that points to some uncomfortable conclusions. Indeed, one very worked-up young man confronts Bernie angrily about his apparent unwillingness to speak up more robustly about his liberal views on illegal immigration. Springer gets a few sentences into a disquisition on ethnic homogeneity when a shadow crosses his face, as though he is for the first time thinking through the ugly implications of what he believes in light of what he knows. He trails off, looking troubled.

Bernie, who represents the second-whitest state in the union, may not have thought too hard about this. But the Left is thinking about it: T. A. Frank, writing in The New Republic, argues that progressives should oppose Obama’s immigration-reform plans because poor foreigners flooding our labor markets will undercut the wages of low-income Americans. Cheap foreign cars, cheap foreign labor — you can see the argument.

I believe he gets to the nub of it (for me):  the illiberal nature of today’s Left.  In this specific instance, the Senator’s idea “that his political opponents are a tribe apart.”

And this is where the Bernieverse is really off-kilter, where the intellectual shallowness of the man and his followers is as impossible to miss as a winter bonfire. The Scandinavian welfare states they so admire are very different from the United States in many ways, and one of the most important is that their politics are consensus-driven. That has some significant downsides, prominent among them the crushing conformity that is ruthlessly enforced on practically every aspect of life. (The Dano-Norwegian novelist Aksel Sandemose called it “Jante law,” after the petty and bullying social milieu of the fictional village Jante in A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks.) But it is also a stabilizing and moderating force in politics, allowing for the emergence of a subtle and sophisticated and remarkably broad social agreement that contains political disputes. Bernie’s politics, on the other hand, are the polar opposite of Scandinavian: He promises not just confrontation but hostile, theatrical confrontation, demonizing not only his actual opponents but his perceived enemies as well, including the Walton family, whose members are not particularly active in politics these days, and some of whom are notably liberal. That doesn’t matter: If they have a great deal of wealth, they are the enemy. (What about Tom Steyer and George Soros? “False equivalency,” Bernie scoffs.) He knows who Them is: The Koch brothers, who make repeated appearances in every speech; scheming foreigners who are stealing our jobs; bankers, the traditional bogeymen of conspiracy theorists ranging from Father Coughlin and Henry Ford to Louis Farrakhan; Wall Street; etc. …

The radical political language of the 1970s and 1980s spoke of a capitalist conspiracy or a conspiracy of bankers (a conspiracy of Jewish bankers, in the ugliest versions), a notion to which Sanders pays ongoing tribute with the phrase “rigged economy.”

His pose is not the traditional progressive managerial-empiricist posture but a moral one. He is very fond of the word “moral” — “moral imperative,” “moral disaster,” “moral crisis” — and those who see the world differently are not, in his estimate, guilty of misunderstanding, or ignorance, or bad judgment: They are guilty of “crimes.”

And criminalizing things is very much on Bernie’s agenda, beginning with the criminalization of political dissent. At every event he swears to introduce a constitutional amendment reversing Supreme Court decisions that affirmed the free-speech protections of people and organizations filming documentaries, organizing Web campaigns, and airing television commercials in the hopes of influencing elections or public attitudes toward public issues. That this would amount to a repeal of the First Amendment does not trouble Bernie at all. If the First Amendment enables Them, then the First Amendment has got to go.

F. A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom notwithstanding, corralling off foreign-made cars does not lead inevitably to corralling off foreign-born people, or members of ethnic minorities, although the Asians-and-Latinos-with-their-filthy-cheap-goods rhetoric in and around the Bernieverse is troubling. There are many kinds of Us-and-Them politics, and Bernie Sanders, to be sure, is not a national socialist in the mode of Alfred Rosenberg or Julius Streicher.

He is a national socialist in the mode of Hugo Chávez. He isn’t driven by racial hatred; he’s driven by political hatred. And that’s bad enough.

Williamson writes that we probably don’t have to worry that “an outlier of a senator from Vermont wants to organize politics as a permanent domestic war on unpopular minorities.”  However…

“This is not about me,” Bernie is fond of saying. Instead, he insists, it’s about building a grassroots movement that will be in a permanent state of “political revolution” — his words — against the people he identifies as class enemies: Kochs, Waltons, Republicans, bankers, Wall Street, Them — the numerically inferior Them. His views are totalitarian inasmuch as there is no aspect of life that he believes to be beyond the reach of the state, and they are deeply illiberal inasmuch as he is willing to jettison a great deal of American liberalism — including freedom of speech — if doing so means that he can stifle his enemies’ ability to participate in the political process. He rejects John F. Kennedy’s insistence that “a rising tide lifts all boats” — and he is willing to sink as many boats as is necessary in his crusade against the reality that some people make more money than others.

Part of this is just a parting sentimental gesture from a daft old man (Occupy Geritol!) — soupy feel-good identity politics for aging McGovernites and dopey youngsters in Grateful Dead T-shirts. That an outlier of a senator from Vermont wants to organize American politics as a permanent domestic war on unpopular minorities is, while distasteful, probably not that important.

That Hillary Rodham Clinton made the same speech in Des Moines a day later, on the other hand, is significant, and terrifying.

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