Thursday, February 23, 2017

Let's Talk

I've started to read, "Conserving America? Thoughts On Present Discontents" by Dr. Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame. I'm not very far in, but I'm going to tell you that you should read it. Setting aside the explosive thesis which I won't share here yet, I still actually believe we can do better in political engagement than we have. I don't think we're too far gone, and that's because little things make a huge difference. One person who takes the time to make an opponent's argument better than they have, or toxic words not spoken improves the climate just a little.

Usually, when a candidate for office says they want to add to the national conversation, that means he or she has no chance of winning that office. And maybe that's still true. But what if candidates saw themselves as caretakers of the civic space? We cannot simply mean a desire to serve the public in some general way; I am aiming for an idea that candidates for office safeguard and de-escalate the "temperature" at which the national debate takes place. It seems few of us are actually skilled at this, but I believe it's something to work toward.

I believe this not for the sake of sentiment and self-image, but to create the intellectual space to think constructively and creatively. I don't think anyone believes we are in a golden age of bold policy.

Leaders can be made by the passions of the moment, but more often they create cultures of engagement, which either benefit or harm the public space.

Monday, February 20, 2017

An Admission

I have always liked Barack Obama. I have spent most of my adult life in academia; I like the life, I like the people. I don't sneer at credentials; I covet them. The former president is an academic, from his ears, to the tips of his toes. He is familiar to me, and he speaks the language of which I am familiar. I get why people don't like him; after all, the sexual libertinism and murder that are now the defining characteristics of the Democratic Party were underlined under Obama, as opposed to muted. Moreover, the former president was not content to simply advocate those things, but to use the government to conscript participation in them.

Most of the other stuff is made up.

But I don't carry around a similar affection for the sitting president. I just don't. And I might even admit that a person who is known for thinking and speaking well will get a break from me, even if he is terrible. I'm an academic, if not in profession, then in manner of life. I don't live in a world where that is a swear-word. I also don't live in a world where a man creates a comfortable enclave of support in an academic environment, whilst propounding bad arguments. (See Sowell, Thomas)

The president is uniquely dangerous, because he doesn't know what he doesn't know, and isn't too interested in finding out. Scads of conservative pieces would call what I just said "the sneering of the intellectual elite." That's fine. The problem with conservatism right now is that it makes sneering at the intellectual elite an art form, and mistakes that for an affirmative case.

If I were young, I'd drop the mic right here.