I must admit that I am really enjoying "Decius", we think MUCH alike, he writes better, and he is even wordier than I (ok, well maybe not by much). Most of my focus will be on our differences and some of the larger themes. My recommendation is to take the time to read him.
"One must also wonder what is so “immoderate” about Trump’s program. As noted, it’s to the left of the last several decades of Republican-conservative orthodoxy. “Moderate” in the modern political (as opposed to the Aristotelean) sense tends to be synonymous with “centrist.” By that definition, Trump is a moderate. That’s why National Review and the rest of the conservatives came out of the gate so strongly against him. I admit that, not all that long ago, I probably would have too. But I have come to see conservatism in a different light. To oversimplify (again), the only “eternal principle” is the good. What, specifically, is good in a political context varies with the times and with circumstance, as does how best to achieve the good in a given context. The good is not tax rates or free trade. Those aren’t even principles. In the American political context, the good is the well-being of the physical America and its people, well-being defined (in terms that reflect both Aristotle and the American Founding) as their “safety and happiness.” That’s what conservatism should be working to conserve."
In my view, the principles that a conservative seeks to "conserve" are eternal -- reverence for God, truth, wisdom, cultural heritage, family, community, and the ability to pass these from generation to generation. Animals "breed", man seeks to pass on transcendent meaning to successive generations through intellectual and spiritual means. "The good" doesn't change, and "happiness" is at most a byproduct, and really never a goal for a Christian. Christ promises "peace" and "joy", but neither are really the sort of "peace and joy" that secular people imagine. They are more the sort of a joy a parent gets when their disabled child makes some progress, or the peace of exhaustion after a day of of chasing a toddler.
I'm not sure when "safety" ever became a supposed value. First or all, it is always an illusion, and secondly, the belief that you have it is like the rich man in the Bible that had stored up all sorts of earthly wealth and then finds his soul is required of him that very night. We and those we love most are always only a heartbeat from eternity.
It seems that Decius believes that a a secular good can suffice and somehow the old America can be rebuilt on that foundation. He definitely disagrees with the founders on that -- John Adams in particular. Yet, he links to an argument by John Marini which would seem to point out the perils of the secular bureaucratic rule of elite intellectuals.
Understood in this way, what is central to politics and elections is the elevation of the status of personal and group identity to something approaching a new kind of civil religion. Individual social behavior, once dependent on traditional morality and understood in terms of traditional virtues and vices, has become almost indefensible when judged in light of the authority established by positivism and historicism. Public figures have come to be judged not as morally culpable individuals, but by the moral standing established by their group identity. Character is almost unrecognizable and no longer serves as the means by which the people can determine the qualifications for public office of those they do not know personally. As a result, it is difficult to establish the kind of public trust that made it possible to connect public and private behavior, or civil society and government. When coupled with the politicization of civil society and its institutions, the distinction between the public and the private or the personal and the political has almost disappeared. Anything and everything can become politicized, but things can only be understood and made intelligible—or made politically meaningful—when viewed through the lens of social science and post-modern cultural theory. In short, the public and private character of American politics has been placed in the hands of the academic intellectuals.
Our lives have been subsumed by the great political machine, the experts are in charge, and what is more, our past has been found to be a horror.
Post-modern intellectuals have pronounced their historical judgment on America’s past, finding it to be morally indefensible. Every great human achievement of the past—whether in philosophy, religion, literature, or the humanities—came to be understood as a kind of exploitation of the powerless.
So we live in a culture and nation judged evil by it's own elites -- who run it, but like to pretend that they don't.
Members of the vital center understand the world through their attachment to their professions: academia, science, economics, business, media, entertainment, and even religion. They often lack political consciousness of themselves as a class. Many of them do not even think of themselves as political. Their interest and loyalty is to what it is they profess to study and what they think they know, and what establishes their intellectual and political authority is their production of what is seen as useful knowledge in the administrative state. Indeed, it could be said that without the policy sciences, the administrative state would be almost impossible to operate. It is the technical requirements of the modern administrative state that have made it possible to politicize the elites in a manner that disguises their political role. When nearly every social, economic, scientific, religious, and political problem is decided in a bureaucratic or legal way—and always from a central authority, usually Washington, but sometimes New York or one or two other places
"The Party" (TP-D) really doesn't consider itself to be political, certainly not a "party" (in the sense of the communist party, which it now closely resembles), and absolutely not a "class". It sees itself as "correct" and it's hierarchy is based on "merit" -- 30% technical merit and 70% the merit to parrot the party line with conviction and even "leadership".
It is not surprising, therefore, that few are willing or able to praise Trump in an unqualified manner. Insofar, as Trump has refused, to “walk on paths beaten by others,” as Machiavelli would say, “he has all those who benefit from the old orders as enemies, and he has lukewarm defenders in all those who might benefit from the new orders.” But it is not “fear of adversaries” alone that makes it difficult to bring about change, Machiavelli writes, but “the incredulity of men, who do not truly believe in new things unless they come to have a firm experience of them.” In our post-Machiavellian age, which is open to every kind of novelty, we are faced with a new kind of incredulity—one that prevents men from believing in the old things of which they no longer have any experience. It has become far easier for modern man to accept change as something normal, almost natural. What has become difficult to understand, let alone preserve, are things that are unchanging or eternal. History, understood in terms of the idea of progress in politics, economics, science, and technology, has made change, or the new, seem almost inevitable. As a result, the desire for the newest has become almost irresistible.
Since the moderns are steeped in the propaganda that the new is always better, and the latest drip from the still is better than 20 year old aged Scotch, Trump's slogan to "Make America Great Again" seems perfectly selected to anger the modern sensibility. They have judged America and the entire history of the world with it, and found it evil. The concept of "greatness" in the past is antithetical to modern liberal dogma.
The most controversial aspect of Trump’s campaign, his slogan to “Make America Great Again,” goes to the heart of the problem. Trump’s view presupposes that the old America was good and established the conditions for its greatness. Is this true? Or is America something to be ashamed of, as the protestors against Trump have insisted, having accepted the teaching of post-modern cultural intellectuals?We have abandoned morality and true merit for the promised "security" of the administrative state, claiming itself to be "above politics", driven only by "science", which as we have previously covered, is completely blind to the human experience. To science, only that which you can MEASURE exists, and beauty, consciousness, love, emotion nor any type of morality can meet that test.
We have fallen into an abyss so dark that the light of what makes us human -- consciousness, SPIRIT, is denied by those who control our lives.
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