Red, White, and Blue

by Daniel A. Kaufman

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I was almost eight years old when the American Bicentennial Hit, and I remember it well. It was all over children’s television and especially, Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Schoolhouse Rock. The latter devoted an entire season to American history and government for the bicentennial, with the “I’m Just a Bill” episode being perhaps the most well-remembered.

Schoolhouse Rock, “I’m Just a Bill” (1976)

There were Bicentennial quarters and postage stamps that I became obsessed with collecting, special celebrations and fireworks on July 4th, and even my favorite band expressed the Bicentennial spirit in a series of posters you could buy or find as fold-outs in rock magazines like Hit Parader and Creem.

I grew up reasonably patriotic, despite the fact that my first political memories are of Richard Nixon saying “I’m not a crook” on television, “Vietnamization,” Stagflation, and Abscam. It wasn’t that American did nothing terrible, because of course it did, but because my parents had established in me a firmly relativistic ethos. “Compared to what?” my father would always ask, when presented with categorical judgments, and from the end of WWII to the last decades of the 20th Century, America looked pretty good to Jewish Holocaust survivors.

My parents had come to the United States in the 1950’s from Israel. They came to Israel [then Mandatory Palestine] in the 1930’s and 40’s, after having been expelled from Europe: my father’s family from Germany, and my mother’s from Transylvania, via Bergen-Belsen. To them, the United States represented the opposite of everything they’d left. It was a place where they could be Jewish and not be persecuted or forcibly converted or imprisoned or murdered; where they could earn a decent living and enjoy an upwardly mobile lifestyle, and this did not require political connections; where they could raise a child and live in suburban comfort and even enjoy some luxury. Freedom, opportunity, and a live-and-let live ethos was what America represented to them and what it was to me growing up. The point was not that there was nothing wrong with the country, and in my schooldays in the 1970’s we were taught pretty unflinchingly about the history of slavery and segregation, the massacres of the American Indians, the Red Scare, and all the rest. The point, rather, was that when compared with other places at the time, the US seemed like a pretty good one.

My impression growing up was that political issues could be hotly contested; that there was a significant distance between our two major parties; and that this distance could cross over into antipathy and even hatred. [Read anything from Hunter S. Thompson back in the day, and you’ll see how much Nixon was hated by those on the political Left.] But there also was a strong sense that most of us were engaged in a common endeavor; that beyond a certain point, we were all Americans. The Republican Party had a liberal wing and the Democratic Party had a conservative one. Cross-aisle collaborations and friendships – like those between Reagan and Tip O’Neil; Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch; and Joe Biden and John McCain – were visible and productive and commonly known. Even Thompson could bring himself to board a campaign bus with Nixon and talk about football. There was a general aura of seriousness about the job of President, Senator, and Congressman, and a Nixon or Reagan could make enormous strides forward in foreign affairs with Chinese and Soviet counterparts so ideologically and politically opposite to them that one might have thought it impossible. This was the sense of the political landscape I had growing up in the third quarter of the last century, and it was consistent with my largely positive view of the country.

Now, at almost fifty-four years of age, forty-six years past the bicentennial, and contemplating another Fourth of July gone by, I no longer feel the same way about America. I can’t tell you how long it’s been like this, but certainly the last six years and likely longer. Undoubtedly many of the things I’m most unhappy about began much longer ago – I think the Clinton/Gingrich era is when things really started to go south politically in this country – but as my last twenty-plus years were spent building a family and a career, I haven’t been entirely paying attention.

If the Republican Party still has a liberal wing, it is invisible and impotent, seeing that the entire party has been compromised by Trump and Trumpism. [The handful of semi-reasonable conservative writers that remain, like David French or Jonah Goldberg, are entirely irrelevant in American politics right now, and have no capacity to reform the American Right.] The Democrats’ conservative wing also has all but vanished, and the rabble of liberals and barking-mad “progressives” that remain are much more interested in knifing each other than teaming up to take on the Republicans and Trump.

The Republicans have fallen so far that they will be unfit to govern for a generation at least. If you are skeptical, consider that the most recent crop of Republicans is by far the worst of the lot, whether the revolting teen-chaser, Matt Gaetz, or gun-crazed, certified Christian lunatic Loren Boebert. The Democrats, meanwhile, have fallen victim to their own whackjob wing and are unable to mount any kind of serious opposition, which would be pathetic at any time but is especially so, now. [If you can’t beat the likes of Trump, Gaetz, and Boebert, you should be too ashamed to show your face in public, let alone run for office.] This is why, at a moment when women’s social standing and rights have been set back fifty years, with the Supreme Court’s recent abortion decision, self-styling “progressives” in the Democratic party are more interested in telling everyone that “trans, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming folx [sic] get pregnant too” and avoiding any use of the word ‘woman’, than they are concerned with working alongside liberals in the party so as to win the next election.

Beyond being trapped in the narrowest and most extreme of ideological tunnels, then, the two parties seem to be suffering a catastrophic failure of maturity. That someone is more concerned about performing for and maintaining standing within his or her clique than the business of the nation or the well-being of its people is not what one expects from adult congresspeople, senators, and political activists, but from twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. And the trouble with both parties today is that the people in them think and behave like twelve- and thirteen-year-olds, while the few who remain in possession of adult attitudes and behave like grown-ups refuse to reign in these proverbial children and tell them, “no.” In this regard, our political problem is an expression of our much greater, societal problem: a nationwide crisis of maturity and authority.

But the diminishment of my longstanding patriotism isn’t just due to this decline in the quality and maturity of American political leadership. The truth is that I’ve come to dislike the place, its people, and its culture.

The juvenile obsession with shallow and trendy identities that is not limited to juveniles; the ubiquitous and weirdly celebrated neuroticism; the widespread belief among young people that they have been deputized to “hold accountable” anyone whose views or lifestyle they dislike; the general [non-partisan] inclination towards a politics based primarily in spite; the deranged gun-people who don’t care how many elementary schools get shot up; the techno-worship and retreat into cyberspace; the self-enslavement to corporations and their stupid, manipulative trends; the complete abdication of authority on the part of adults to children, adolescents and imbecile 20-somethings; the disintegration of anything resembling a popular culture; the debased Trumpist movement and the vulgarians and crazies that comprise it; the newly emboldened Christian Right; and I could go on. The 1970’s may have suffered its “malaise” and Jimmy Carter may have had his “misery index,” but I was there, and I can tell you that America back then was a thousandfold more pleasant, interesting, healthy, and serious place than it is now.

The bicentennial was a long time ago, and America was a very different country with very different people and a very different ethos. I felt good about that place and those people and that ethos, something that I can no longer truthfully say. It hurts all the more because I have a young daughter and can already see the diminished forms of life into which she is being forced: high-school; college; dating; early jobs; all of it. Worse. And it is our fault — the Baby Boomers and Generation X — as we’re the ones who created the world and culture that these young people are growing up in. And what an irony it is: the two generations who enjoyed the best childhoods/young-adulthoods in human history create a society in which their children and grandchildren have among the worst childhoods/young-adulthoods a person can experience in a developed nation.

To our eternal shame.

37 thoughts on “Red, White, and Blue

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  1. I mostly agree with this. And yes, it was during the Newt Gingrich era that I sensed things were going bad, especially with the Republicans.

    Some of it, I suspect, is due to some really bad Supreme Court decisions — Buckley v. Valio and Citizens United v. FEC come to mind. The result is that big money now has far too much influence on campaigns, and the qualities of the candidates seem only of lesser importance. I suspect that the cost of a campaign persuades many potential leaders to not even try.

    But perhaps things were never as good as we had thought. Perhaps we had been looking at America through rose colored glasses.

    1. Rose colored glasses? The essay very clearly and explicitly is not doing that. My first political memories? What we were taught in school about the country? Hardly rose colored.

      1. This part of your essay really eats at me the most. In previous years, American educational institutions, at the secondary level, at least, were able to wrestle, however imperfectly, with the country’s complicated and often disappointing past. Now, across the country, state governors and legislatures are actively working to obfuscate and sanitize the history. In service of what? I thought the “Snowflakes” were on the Left.

        1. “Now, across the country, state governors and legislatures are actively working to obfuscate and sanitize the history. In service of what? I thought the “Snowflakes” were on the Left.”

          Is that supposed to be a rhetorical question? The right wants to promulgate its narrative of American exceptionalism, the flag and apple pie. That the left wants to pull the scab off of our past and bring the blemishes into the light so that the nation can better appraise the current sociopolitical dynamic, deal with it, and move forward, is anathema to the sensibilities of the right. Of course, the progressive push, with theses like the 1619 project and CRT greatly exacerbates a fair and balanced presentation of our national character.

          So, in a real sense that right has its triggers and mini-aggressions too, but unlike the left that might melt or run to a safe place, the righties are more prone to punch you in the face, storm school board meetings or attack the Capital Building. A snowflake by any other name.

  2. One of the mistakes that I think people make in analyzing the decline of the Republican Party and the rise of Trumpism is the belief that it is a top-down phenomena and something relatively recent in our history. That Trump is this great corrupting influence that poisons everything he touches and did so to the American right. On the contrary Trump was very much a bottom-up phenomena, and the inevitable consequence of something that started in the 70’s. That is when Paul Weyrich hit on the idea that a natural ally for Republicans was the Evangelical Right. Outside of Molly Worthen I haven’t seen too many commentators really analyze the relationship between the rise of Trump and the fact that the base of one of our political parties overwhelmingly believe that Noah’s Ark is an actual historical event, and are likely to defend it with the aphorism “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”. They have abandoned any critical reasoning faculty to be lead by deference to an absolute authority. They were already used to living in a “fake news” view of the world where much if not all of mainstream intellectual thought is simply wrong. It is not much of a leap from David Barton and Ken Ham to Donald Trump and QAnon.

    It also doesn’t help that you have another phenomena happening on the other side of the political aisle. Pat Buchanan was right. There was a cultural war going on for the hearts and minds of America. It had been going on since the 50’s and gained huge momentum in the 60’s. And the Left won, pretty much within the past decade. And like any new revolutionaries they have no plan and are punch-drunk on their own untouchability. They now get to censor on a whim, redefine words, establish their own personal pet in-groups, and the only ones leading a huge charge against them is the previous tyrants they ousted. To criticize one’s own even when they are wrong is to give ammunition to the enemy so there is no push back on the crazy excess. There is no sensible alternative to the crazy, only the other crazy.

    One aspect that needs to be looked at because of the Left’s cultural victory was the Right no longer feel that this is there country and they are right. And they have a legitimate question to ask. Must they live in a country that no longer respects their beliefs and values?

  3. Agreed.

    Philosophically, I’d say we have been brought low by excess individualism, by toxic individualism.

    We spend so much time discussing the rights guaranteed by our freedoms and our inherent diversities that we have forgotten the language with which to discuss the constraints of justice and the commonality of our human nature so necessary to construct a collective society.
    Too much Henry David Thoreau and not enough Martin Luther King.

    Yet the seeds of collectivism are there at the founding of the nation;
    – We the people
    – To form a more perfect union
    – Establish justice
    – Provide for the common defense
    – Promote the general welfare
    – The United States of America

    I mostly fault liberals for the loss of this language. Modern liberalism has permitted itself to be baited by modern conservativism into the adversarialism so necessary for the later’s fear-based ethos. Liberals spend as much time talking in terms of “us and them” domestically as conservatives do and don’t appreciate that the only way to counter the divisions and xenophobia necessary for the foundational fear of modern conservative is to speak only about “us” and our commonality and refuse to permit there to be a “them” in domestic politics.

    This is where conservative think tanks have been so much more successful at framing for so much longer than liberal one’s. George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant” got it right in so many ways.

    1. It probably won’t surprise, but I disagree with this take. “Philosophically, I’d say we have been brought low by excess individualism, by toxic individualism.”

      What’s probably right in it is that some of the politcal fracturing owes to the uniqueness of America’s liberal culture, where we put profound cultural and legal protection on freedom of conscience, pluralism (in that we don’t even have a national language), etc. That plus an individualizable internet means that when everyone goes down separate rabbit hole,s there is no real national framweork within which to stop it.

      But the idea that we ever had some common language within which to discuss justice, the common good, etc. Modern historians have very handily debunked the idea that we were ever a unified single nation. (For just one, see American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard.) I certainly don’t need to remind anyone that when “We the people” was penned, a significant number of non-people people were explicitly excluded from that calculus. But even still, we were always too big and diverse to be a single nation, and when we talked about being one, it was generally because whatever values the speaker/author had in mind were being falsely universalized.

      If anything, I think the problem has more to do with too much damned care about others in the age of social media. Every culture war problem we have has its roots in one group’s desire – motivated, of course, by care – to tell others what the true moral values are and force them to live in accord with them. I really do suspect that if we all shut down social media for the next month and no one could consume it, we’d all stop caring about what others do just a tad and this would actually do wonders for our national health. More “live and let live” individualism, please!

        1. Yes!
          Diversity and commonality are both manifest realities of the human condition, and any social order needs to have a language and tradition that encompasses both.

          Individualism and collectivism are both good but in many ways opposed, and both are needed and must exist in a reasonable tension for society to work just as (personal) liberty and (social) justice must exist in a reasonably balanced tension with each other.

          My point, which I think is in the background of Dan’s essay, is that there currently exists an unreasonable excess of individualism in American culture and we have become unbalanced and dysfunctional as a culture because of it. It is interfering with the ability to be united around the common good.

          1. “My point, which I think is in the background of Dan’s essay, is that there currently exists an unreasonable excess of individualism in American culture and we have become unbalanced and dysfunctional as a culture because of it. It is interfering with the ability to be united around the common good.”

            I think I’d likely need some follow-up on what you mean here by individualism. Do you mean moral individualism as in everyone is out for themselves? Epistemic individualism as in everyone is reaching wildly different conclusions and feel “entitled to their own facts”? Something else? If anything, I see that the internet paired with our liberal ethos means that we are all traveling in our own directions, which makes any appeal to the common good harder.

            But on that point, I want to say that I am skeptical that there ever really was a common good in this diverse nation, and that the reason we think there was was that it was so easy to suppress – in reality and in historicla memory – the dissenting and excluded voices. So, I’d be more willng to entertain the idea that there wasn’t really a common good even during the founding generation, but the rise of various ‘democratizing’ media has increased our inability to sustain the illusion that there was a common good. We always disagreed on key vlaues, but the internet makes us more aware of it.

    2. But as I say below, I just think this is sort of what happens when the scrappy upstart country becomes the bloated dominating corporation. The ideals that got us there dissipate becauase as a nation, we become different than we were, a once agile system becomes stulfitied and gamed, and we become less concerned with expanding our potential than with maintaining market dominance. Amazon had different priorities when it was an upstart and now; same with the US. It also has a more diverse customer base to try and satisfy; same with the US.

      1. Responding to your prior comment here.

        Your point is well taken regarding the common good!
        The good of the country at its founding and since has historically been for white Anglo-Saxon Christian heterosexual males of middle to upper wealth brackets. The last century of equal rights movements has generally seen other groups trying to include themselves in the common good (i.e. women, poor workers, African Americans, gay, trans, etc.) with some success. That a good thing that America has done. In that sense, the common good in the country is perhaps becoming more common from at least a demographic standpoint, … in theory. However, the ever-growing wealth divide between the 1% and the rest of us would argue that the financial piece has not been addressed well.

        What I mean by my use of individualism is the tendency to engage in public discourse from the perspective of my own identity (i.e. identity politics) and to maximize my own personal benefits (e.g. exclusive rights and freedom discourse). What I mean by my use of collectivism is a compassionate interest in the good of the group and in the perspective of others and how my own social choices affect others – a discourse in responsibility and justice.

        This collectivism is good and necessary for society and was historically supported by the best of its Christian ethic, which is one of the things currently being lost (in part because of the worst of Christianity). Witness the observations of Alexis d Tocqueville,

        “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

        So let’s be good, and let the good be common.

  4. America is over. I accepted that when Trump was elected and accept it more now. It has been years since I’ve done any patriotic sing songs or such activities, and I expect that my children will end their lives either in something that is no longer ‘the United States” or at very least is not a dominant world power.

    The way I see it, America was once akin to the scrappy upstart company who, because new, was enthusiastic, bubbling with opportunity, agile, and had a system that no one had yet learned to game. Like that scrappy upstart company, being on the bottom made it very skeptical of power, and since it had more to gain than lose, it was worried about gaining and expanding its potential than it was about retaining its market position.

    All of that is gone. All of it. We are still a liberal country (but not at all a democratic one except in veneer). The scrappy upstart has become the dominant market player. Anything good in our system has been gamed. The clever dispersement of power (because of skepticism of power) our founders created has been irrevocably undone and what’s more, the people generally seemed either enthusiastic about, or unworried about, all sorts of centralization. Instead of playing to expand our potential, we – the large corporation – are now worried about retaining market dominance, and that means that the risk Americans largely embraced in the past as part of our national myth and character is now discouraged. What used to be an agile system has become a bohemoth, bloated, and bureaucratic one because it has been gamed and bottlenecked so effectively.

    I have not been patriotic for years and will likely never be again. I feel towards America as a tenant feels towards an okay landlord that one constantly worries has the potential to be a shitty and domineering landlord. I like it when the landlord allows me to live well and am aware that other landlords are worse. But I feel no allegiance to my landlord and when my landlord declares bankruptcy, I will shed no tears for it, but only hope that my family and I can live peacefully in whatever comes after.

    1. Again in reference to Trump, this is an extremely unpopular opinion, but if I was the kind of person who voted, in the 2016 election I would have been forced to vote for Trump. I think Democrats are necessarily in a state of denial over what I see as an obvious fact, Hillary rigged the 2016 primary. Not in any direct way, but just in the general sense that she held all the cards and let it be known that no one was to get in her way. In that sense I think in 2016 she was the real danger to democracy because it would have codified the idea that whoever was your party’s nominee you had no choice, but to vote for them no matter how they got there.

      Of course ironically if that same situation happened in 2020, I would have to vote for Hilary because of Trump’s danger to democracy. It’s strange as a Gen X’er to think that when I was a kid the time we are living in now was seen as “the future”. It was supposed to be the flying car and self-cleaning house era. Yet in politics it seems we have digressed horrifically. None of the candidates in the last 20 years have had any new new ideas or bold leadership. On the contrary they have embraced the worst of the old ways of thinking. We seem to be unable to generate any vision of what a future America looks like that actually takes all of its citizens into account.

      1. Not sure if you saw it a year or so ago, but I wrote about – and did a dialogue with Dan about – how the 2020 election is the first presidential election in which I could not in good faith vote. I would often vote for the Libertarian or sometimes the Green candidate, as there was at least some overlap. Maybe it is my ideosyncracy – Dan thinks so – but I feel entirely out of touch with all the existing political streams of thought. I would have penciled in Andrew Yang, but found out that he was not an ‘approved’ write-in in North Carolina, meaning the vote would be an entirely empty gesture.

        I’m worried that my above comment comes off as entirely pessimistic about America’s future as anything resembling the nation it has been. But there it is. My only optimism on that score comes from (a) not caring at all whether we are a world superpower, and (b) hoping that whatever happens when we dissolve, it will be non-violent and relatively peaceful. I hope I’ll be shown wrong, but that will be an entirely unexpected surprise.

  5. I remember having resurgent thoughts around idealistic hopes. Was thinking how great it would be, if in that decade, racial and gender problems might somehow be resolved. Did not work out that way. Other problems emerged, instead, and all of the preceding are with us still. There were many fireworks, over the last few nights. And an abundance of so-called celebratory gunfire. Last night and this morning, there were neither. It rained. A lot. Looks like more coming today. Just all right with me.

  6. I am mostly sympathetic with your critique. However, for perspective, it is important to keep your father’s relativism in mind. No Ukrainian refugee is telling their child that when they were young “at least we didn’t have to worry about pronouns” or whatever. We are still in a place that is safe and free and, I would argue, politically sane, as compared to the vast majority of the planet.

  7. My parents confirmed my hazy memory that I saw Johnny Cash at a 1975 bi-centenial 4th of July party/town fair (even though I could find no record of it) when I was 5 years old. It was my first concert.

    I agree with much of what you say. I don’t agree with everything Jonah Goldberg and French say but I do agree they are sensible people that care about our country, so I have been a member of the dispatch for a while. I also recommend the dispatch to many people that can’t stand trump and can’t seem to find any sensible conservatives.

    I am also often not happy with America. But I think the question is compared to what? Compared to how I imagine the country should be? Ok it will always fall short of how we can imagine it. But compared to other places? Well then I think it is still pretty amazing. It is a huge and diverse country that still most symbolizes freedom and allows people to pursue their own dreams. I’m not against certain European countries I think they are often fine or even great. But they do not take in the diversity of people from around the world and help them live a better life like America does.

    That said I do often get a sick feeling in my stomach that somehow our generation is blowing it and ruining the country for future generations. I do think David French spelled out the best answer in his book divided we fall:

    https://www.amazon.com/Divided-We-Fall-Americas-Secession-ebook/dp/B07P8H7V6T

    The short answer is federalism. The problem is too few people are interested in structures of government as compared to getting their substantive policies enforced in law by any means necessary. I hope that can start to change. Some politicians like Ben Sasse tend to focus on this. But let’s be realistic, it ain’t sexy.

    When I was younger and older professors would try to sell federalism I would roll my eyes. Why not just get the best laws and allow everyone to enjoy the best government possible? After following politics all these years I now am convinced that view is hopelessly naïve and will not lead to good results. We are too large of a country with too many diverse values to think everyone throughout the country will agree on much, beyond a very basic laws. And we would do well to accept that is ok and reduce the role of the national government and allow states and local government more leeway.

    1. Federalism at this point is an unviable solution, given that the economy often determines where one will live, rather than one choosing for oneself. I had to spend my entire career in the shitty Bible Belt for that reason.

      1. It’s your choice as to whether you consider the bad governance bad enough to justify the economic hit. And anyway many people are choosing to retire to states they want, and young people are choosing to start out careers in states they prefer. Politics and shared values is playing a role in these decisions. And that is fine by me because I have no desire to force Tennessee and New York to live by the same laws. I don’t see how that ends well for anyone.

        If the people that elected AOC want her economic policy, that is fine, good luck. I just don’t think any of these national politicians are so smart and virtuous that they should be given the power to force their views on the whole country. Give people options.

          1. As a final point, I’ll just say that the more I read and think and see, the more I suspect that the antifederalists (against the federalists) were a lot more correct than they were incorrect. (And for reference, they were the ones arguing that the national constitution went too far in several key areas and nationalized too much.)

        1. The ideal is always that one gets one’s policies enacted nationally. Problem is, few people get that wish, and everyone disagrees on what those policy prescriptions are. Further problem is that if we aspire to that goal, we sanction others with whom we disagree aspiring toward the same goal.

          So, short of that ideal, my call is to seek a way to live together where each of us has the most shot of living as they want. And quite often, yes, that does mean a federalism that is imperfect – there are exit costs to any community – but preferable to any national-level solution I can think of. It can’t just be “get the right policies in at the national level” because the problem is what thoses policies are is precisely the matter in unrelenting dispute.

      2. Federalism at this point is an unviable solution, given that the economy often determines…”

        I have no idea what your father’s voice sounded like, but here goes…ahem: “Unviable solution compared to what?”

  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idP5-vtkhBE

    Dan! Whatsamatter for you? If I was there I’d slap your face, shake you by the shoulders and ask you — “compared to what?!” I’ve always considered America exceptional in the sense that we are the dynamic face of futurity. We are in the vanguard of what will probably be, a smaller more heterogeneous world that we are heading towards and yes, the head winds are strong and at times brutal but, we have always weathered the storm and others have followed in our slipstream. What is the alternative? Withdrawing back into cloistered bucolic and provincial enclaves in an ever interdependent world?

    At this time stamp in history the two competing forms of society appear to be between the two super powers of America and China. The former a liberal chaotic democracy that often seems like its wheels are coming off the cart. The latter a much more stable authoritarian form that puts the collective welfare above the Western ideal of individualism. Whether there will be hybrid chimeras sprouting up here and there I don’t know but I’d wager few in the West would choose the Eastern system, knowingly.

    As far as magic underwear and great bud Orrin Hatch: https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a14533201/orrin-hatch-retire-senator-utah/

    My favorite rock homage to the bicentennial (Miss Liberty. If this doesn’t prove the primacy of American exceptionalism going into the future nothing does.LOL! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8XnCVA5-6I

    As an aside: Just listened to an excellent and comprehensive podcast on YouTube — Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality. Helen Joyce interviewed by Skeptic Magazine’s Michael Shermer. She really covers all the bases.

  9. We’re not getting legislation passed because of a couple of purposively obstructive centrists, not because left-leaning legislators made trans-inclusive tweets. I mean, who on earth would seriously think that we can’t codify Roe because a representative tweeted that trans-men get abortions too? That’s a very online-brained take wallowing in cultural decadence discourse instead looking political realities square in the face. Projected pet peeves. The Left fell in line with moderate members of the coalition, rallying behind the moderate candidate and agreeing on a number of pieces of broadly popular legislation, and that coalition has run aground on a small, unprincipled center. We can chase at further and further distal causes, but that is the most immediate and consequential one in front of us.

      1. You’re free to voice your annoyance at leftist reps, but when you adopt rightwing talking points aimed at fraying your own coalition by way of misrepresenting those leftists as holding up legislation when they have in fact fallen in line, then, well, I don’t consider that prudent. I’ll leave it at that.

        1. Well, we’ll just have to disagree. I call them as I see them. And I haven’t “adopted any rightwing talking points.” That’s just a smear.

    1. We only hold the Senate “majority “ because Manchin and Sinema are who they are. If they joined the democratic bloc on every liberal issue their conservative home states would never had elected them in the first place and then where would be?

      It can be rightfully argued that they are more of a strategic asset than a liability to be blamed for every failed democrat initiative.

      1. Arizona has been gradually bleeding red votes to the point that Biden narrowly won and Sinema’s fellow senator is Mark Kelly, a fellow Democrat who’s willing to kill the filibuster and pass the broadly popular legislation she doesn’t give a shit about. He’s likely to win his seat again and she’s set to primaried out, which I doubt she minds. She’s an opportunist. She seems to have been play-acting more than politicking, enjoying the attention, with no clear ideology or plan to speak of. I expect her to lose her primary and get a cushy job as a lobbyist or something. Manchin isn’t a flake like Sinema, and he’s in a genuinely red state he’s more attuned to. He has genuine political intuitions, even if they are less put to great political effect than they are to puppet a ghost of Appalachian Democratic politics. His biggest legacy, however, will be the things he stopped than the things he did, and I don’t have to bow to the ways he polls in his state to make judgment on what he is doing in the here and now to undermine passing good legislation, what I was addressing in Dan’s essay.

  10. Social movements have taken over the Democratic and especially Republican Parties- social movements lust for their maximal gains sans compromise; for the GOP this means NO abortion and MUCHO guns and Hobbesian power to get the job done; for the Democrats this means childish arguments about gender issues and so on. They are social movements – they care about their issues and not reality or their country’s problems

    1. Hmm, no, gender issues have not taken over the Democratic party. Yes, there’s a noisy minority pushing those issues, but that minority is not in control.

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