Why The Past 10 Years Of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid
Its not just a phase.
What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower with its top in the heavens to make a name for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:
Look, they are one people, and they have all one language and this is only the beginning of what they will do nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one anothers speech.
The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so lets hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension.
Defining Your Republican Beliefs
Atlas Shrugged By Ayn Rand
The fourth and final novel by Objectivist founder Ayn Rand, Atlas Shruggedis considered her magnum opus, and a must-read for any budding conservative.
The book describes a dystopian America, in which society collapses under increasingly oppressive government intervention, as the most productive members disappear, led by the hero John Galt. The story lays out the basic tenets of Rand’s philosophy, championing reason, individualism, capitalism, and “rational selfishness.”
Despite being very long and very, very dark, Atlas Shrugged has enjoyed enduring popularity since its 1957 publication. Sales of the book have spiked since the 2007 economic downturn, and the opening line, and its opening line, “Who is John Galt?” has become a common slogan on Tea Party signs and bumper stickers.
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It Was All Just A Show: Confessions Of A Republican Campaign Hit Man
Tim Millers new book reveals the ways he and his fellow GOP operatives poisoned the national discourse and helped enable the rise of Donald Trump.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo
Michael Kruse is a senior staff writer at POLITICO and POLITICO Magazine.
The post-Trump era has produced a librarys worth of books from people who had access to the rooms where decisions were made but kept quiet about the rotten things they witnessed. The volumes mostly read as after-the-fact justifications for morally debatable behavior spiced up with a few damning anecdotes that feel too-little-too-late.
Tim Millers Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell is not one of those books.
Before he became a committed Never Trump contributor to The Bulwark and MSNBC, before he was even a top aide to Jeb Bush during the 2016 presidential campaign, Miller was a self-described GOP hit man for the Republican National Committee and an opposition research firm he helped start. Along the way he got quite comfortable operating within the trollish zero-sum norms of the Game, inflaming voters who werent in on the joke.
Tim Miller was a top aide to Jeb Bush during the 2016 presidential campaign.|Courtesy of Tim Miller
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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kruse: So, because of that, did you have to write this book?
God And Man At Yale: The Superstitions Of ‘academic Freedom’ By William F Buckley Jr
In 1951, the 25-year-old William Buckley burst onto the political scene with his first book, God and Man at Yale, an impassioned invective against his alma mater, Yale University, which he accused of forcing a liberal academic orthodoxy on to its students.
Buckley went on to become a renowned leader in the modern conservative movement, founding the conservative political magazine National Review. He was arguably one of the most influential political intellectuals of the late 20th-century, and is credited with combining political conservatism with free-market capitalism and anti-Communism thus shaping the ideology of the GOP as we know it today.
Although Buckley’s later works are arguably more polished, God and Man at Yale continues to resonate with new generations of Young Republicans fed up with marginalization of conservative ideas in academia.
Abortion Politics Money And The Reshaping Of The Gop
In Dollars for Life, Mary Ziegler argues that, over the course of decades, the anti-abortion movement laid the groundwork for an insurgent candidate like Donald Trump.
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DOLLARS FOR LIFEThe Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican EstablishmentBy Mary Ziegler318 pages. Yale University Press. $35.
Republican As Party Name
In 1792â93 Jefferson and Madison created a new “Democratic-Republican party” in order to promote their version of the doctrine. They wanted to suggest that Hamilton’s version was illegitimate. According to Federalist Noah Webster, a political activist bitter at the defeat of the Federalist party in the White House and Congress, the choice of the name “Democratic-Republican” was “a powerful instrument in the process of making proselytes to the party. … The influence of names on the mass of mankind, was never more distinctly exhibited, than in the increase of the democratic party in the United States. The popularity of the denomination of the Republican Party, was more than a match for the popularity of Washington’s character and services, and contributed to overthrow his administration.” The party, which historians later called the Democratic-Republican Party, split into separate factions in the 1820s, one of which became the Democratic Party. After 1832, the Democrats were opposed by another faction that named themselves “Whigs” after the Patriots of the 1770s who started the American Revolution. Both of these parties proclaimed their devotion to republicanism in the era of the Second Party System.
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Even when Republican politicians tried to placate the restive anti-abortion wing of their party, they could count on campaign finance restrictions that favored the party machines, which in turn could crush any upstart competition. A Georgia delegate at the 1988 Republican National Convention described his socially conservative colleagues as the people who brought you the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem witch trial.
But people like James Bopp Jr. werent about to let that happen. A central figure in Zieglers book, Bopp was 24 when Roe was decided, and has been a determined anti-abortion Republican ever since. He drew a direct connection between money and speech, noticing that even Republican control of the White House didnt translate into the kind of anti-abortion regime that he wanted to see.
Audio produced by Kate Winslett.
Witness By Whittaker Chambers
Published in 1952, Witness detailed the author’s upbringing and rise as a communist spy for the Soviet Union. The book delved into the famous outing of government officials as communists, including Alger Hiss, a high-ranking member of the U.S. State Department.
The Hiss-Chambers spy case of the late 1940s had far-reaching effects on the political landscape. It elevated obscure congressman Richard Nixon to the national stage and brought on the notorious communist hunt of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Even further, it marked the beginning of a conservative ascendancy that would culminate in Ronald Reagan’s election as President in 1980.
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Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save The World By Andrew Breitbart
Reverence of Andrew Breitbart borders on hero-worship within the modern conservative movement, and his book Righteous Indignation is required reading for any budding right-wing blogger.
Released less than a year before his death in 2012, Righteous Indignationfocuses largely on “Weinergate,” the bizarre texting scandal that took down New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, and which was first exposed by Breitbart’s website.
More broadly, the book serves as a how-to manual for conservative provocateurs, laying out Breitbart’s vision for how the right can “gain back control of the American narrative” by battling the “Democrat-Media Complex.”
Study Shows Books Can Bring Republicans And Democrats Together
Political rhetoric has never been more polarized but getting together to discuss a good book may be the answer, or so research into literary behavior suggests
This falls election offers a poignant reminder of how polarized our political rhetoric has become. Sundays debate was no exception. The mutual contempt on display was unquestionable. In this, the candidates felt like all-too-vivid proxies for the electorate at large.
It seems as if every day we are reminded of the ways some Americans hold strongly opposing views on a variety of issues. A host of academic studies has reinforced this belief, revealing one finding after another on just how differently liberals and conservatives think. A vicious circle is at work today in which reporting on political polarization only creates an even more entrenched sense of the problem. How, many of us are starting to ask, are we ever going to get out of this?
This past year we began a project to try to reverse this tendency. Using the techniques of big data, we wanted to see if there were spaces where Republicans and Democrats occupied common ground. Rather than look for more divisiveness clearly an easy find we set ourselves the more challenging task of trying to discover what we have in common as a culture.
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Ideas Have Consequences By Richard Weaver
Conservative ideas about and borderline obsession with the decline of Western Civilization can largely be credited to Richard Weaver’s 1948 treatise Ideas Have Consequences.
“This is another book about the dissolution of the West,” the book begins. Weaver goes on to argue that the 14th century idea of “nominalism” or the denial of universal truths marked the beginning the long deterioration of Western culture and morality.
Like Kirk, Weaver has had a lasting impact on post-World War II conservative thought, and the phrase “ideas have consequences” has become a common refrain in the movement.
On Liberty By John Stuart Mill
The 1859 work of British philosopher John Stuart Mill, On Liberty highlights the struggle between liberty and government encroachment. Mill’s seminal work discusses the relationship of the individual to society, his objections to government intervention, and outlines his conception of “basic liberties” including freedom of speech and freedom to pursue tastes , as long as they do not harm others.
Mill also offers harsh criticism of an untethered democracy infringing upon individual liberty, writing that the “tyranny of the majority” could turn out to be worse than tyranny of government.
Working against the prevailing opinion and feeling of the society, he writes, can be much harder to counter than a despot.
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The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.
Its been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. But Babel is not a story about tribalism its a story about the fragmentation of everything. Its about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. Its a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.
Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the countrys futureand to us as a people. How did this happen? And what does it portend for American life?
The Rise of the Modern Tower
Things Fall Apart
Politics After Babel
Claremont Review Of Books
Especially in a democratic age, statesmen are careful students of social trends. They know that the art of political leadership can’t afford to ignore the science of political demography, even though the former can never be reduced to the latter. Conservatives who seek a revival in their movement must exhibit similar wisdom and closely examine how America has changed since the glory days of President Ronald Reagan, and how those changes pose new challenges to, and may impose new limits on, conservatism today.
The conservative ascendancy of the Reagan years centered in the middle class. It wasn’t just any middle class, though conservative strength was concentrated in the modern suburb. Commonplace today, suburbs revolutionized American life. In 1940, 23% of Americans lived on farms by 1980, only 4% did. Big cities declined too: between 1950 and 1980, cities in the North and Midwest lost millions of residents either to their own suburbs or to those in the Sunbelt. Though they began as a small, largely upper class phenomenon, the suburbs eventually became home to nearly a majority of the American population.
The Reagan Coalition
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The Democratic Resurgence
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The Revenge Of The Normal Republicans
Will Hurd thinks there are enough normal voters to deliver him the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. But is he right?
About the author: Tim Alberta is a staff writer at The Atlantic.
This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic, Monday through Friday.
HELOTES, TexasLast spring, having just retired from Congress, Will Hurd was feeling adrift. He had agreed to write a book, telling his remarkable life story and diagnosing a malfunctioning political system, all while teasing out a run for the presidency in 2024, but Hurd struggled with an underlying anxiety. For the first time in his adult life, the guy whod climbed so quicklyfrom college class president to star CIA operative to lone Black Republican in the Housedidnt know his next move. Finally, Hurd sat down with his nearly 90-year-old father and shared his concerns.
William, I cant give any advice on what you should do, because I dont understand any of these things, Bob Hurd told his youngest son. But I know what you shouldnt do. Dont be desperate. Because when youre desperate, you make bad decisions.
Some of my friends, some of my former colleagues, they are desperate, Hurd tells me. They are so desperate to hold on to their positions, to hold on to their power, that they make really bad decisions.
Something normal, Hurd says.
I ask Hurd what he would propose instead.
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