Catastrophizing With Ted Cruz

“Norman Podhoretz has done us all a service by pointing to the unvarying political content of the proclamation of impending doom. The person making such a statement is asking that power someone else has be given to him or to her.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Coping: Essays on the Practice of Government

“We’re nearing the edge of a cliff, and our window to turn things around, my friends, I don’t think it is long. I don’t think it is 10 years. We have a couple of years to turn the country around or we go off the cliff to oblivion.”

– U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, speaking to the Values Voters Summit

Oblivion?

Call it what one will. “Populist” works. So does “alarmist.” But “conservative” does not—not to describe the doomsday rhetoric that has overtaken a certain strain of political figures who nonetheless claim exclusive title to that label. Cruz is one; Glenn Beck (“the violent left is coming to our streets … to smash, to kill, to bankrupt, to destroy …”) another. It is too given to the cult of personality, to the concentration of power, to convulsions anathema to the very idea of conservatism. For if oblivion waits around the corner, surely emergency powers and sudden change do too. A Cruz presidency, one can be sure, would be neither reserved nor restrained. Constitutional deference to Congress? Unlikely—not with the nation careening toward the cliff.

It is time for a serious self-examination within conservative thought, and not just on tactical grounds. The cult of personality arising around these figures is simply incompatible with basic principles of conservatism: the dispersal of power, the stability of constitutional systems, the suspicion of sudden change and the respect for perspective and facts.

CruzThat is not to say the nation does not face serious problems or that Cruz does not have serious points. It does, and so does he. Scores of trillions in unfunded liabilities loom. A great debate over the proper role of the state is afoot. But to suggest the survival of the nation is at risk is both demagogic and absurd. It no more is today than it was when the left was engaging in similar hysterics during the Administration of George W. Bush.

It may be, as Cruz told the Values Voters Summit, that the relative stature of the nation is at stake. But this is quite different from its survival; indeed, it might be conducive to it.

Throughout the history of the world [Cruz said], we have seen great nations rise and fall. And everyone here today is here today because we are not content to allow the United States of America to do anything but continue to rise and remain the greatest country on the face of this earth.

This triumphalist rhetoric—note that we need not be merely strong enough for our own defense and our own purposes but “ris[ing]” and the “greatest country on the face of this earth”—is itself arguably unconservative, but that is not the point. It is, rather, this: The problems we face, while serious, are political in character. Doomsday rhetoric is a flight from politics, a thrust of alternatives to unreal extremes that are antithetical to the conservative quest for prudential solutions.

Compare Cruz’s insistence that the Republican leadership is constantly selling out the American people, for whom he alone evidently speaks—never mind polls that show he is, simply and in point of fact, wrong about public opinion—to Burke’s description of Britain’s steady constitutional institutions:

[T]hey render deliberation not a matter of choice but of necessity; they make all change a subject of compromise, which naturally begets moderation; they produce temperaments, preventing the sore evil of harsh, crude, unqualified reformations; and rendering all the headlong exertions of arbitrary power, in the few or in the many, forever impracticable.

Burke warned in the Reflections that “[m]oderation will be stigmatized as the virtue of cowards, and compromise as the prudence of traitors.” Yet these, he separately wrote, are the true conservative virtues, because these comport with human limitations: “Moderation, prudence, and equity are far more suitable to our [human] condition than loftiness, and confidence, and rigor.” This is conservatism. It relies on compromise not on the basis of a Progressive insistence on “getting things done” but because compromise disperses power and reflects the frailty and uncertainty of human nature.

Yet deliberation is not evident in the rhetoric of oblivion. Neither is limitation. There is no sense of caution, no awareness of the limits of human judgment or the horizons of human perspective. There is only certitude and righteousness. (Burke: “Nothing universal can be rationally affirmed on any moral or any political subject. Pure metaphysical abstraction does not belong to these matters.”) The will of the people is neither channeled nor seasoned to distill its common sense but simply exalted in its raw form—measured, in Cruz’s formulation, by Twitter followers and online petition signers. Meanwhile, defeat seems merely to reinforce the messianic sense, a perverse form of victimhood once glorified by liberalism but now embraced in this strain of self-described conservatism too.

None of this is to be Pollyannish. The constitutional order is coming under growing strain. Its contours would be unrecognizable to its founders. But the problems can be serious in scope and even constitutional in character without the stakes rising to oblivion.

The question conservatives must ask is why the stakes must so be inflated. The answer may lie in Cruz’s legions of adoring fans, a phenomenon prudence tends not to produce. (Note the shouted interruptions in his Values Voters speech, such as: “God is for you, who can be against you!” and “We’re inspired by you!”) Conservatives are going to have to decide, sooner or later, whether to call this what it is: a cult of personality, a quest for power; moral certitude, political puritanism. Perhaps some of these things; perhaps all. But conservatism it is not.

Greg Weiner

Greg Weiner, who teaches political science at Assumption College, is the author of Madison’s Metronome: The Constitution, Majority Rule and the Tempo of American Politics. His book American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan will be published by University Press of Kansas in early 2015.

About the Author

Comments

    • gabe says

      Actually, a terrible post! It explains nothing, refutes nothing and is entirely dismissive of the growing dissatisfaction with an overbearing, fiscally undisciplined Federal behemoth.

      Greg: you know better than this. This is just rhetoric presented for effect. While it may seem a little over the top, I doubt seriously that many in earshot of it seriously expect the heavens to come crashing down within the next few weeks.
      What is more, in the face of a recalcitrant GOP establishment that refuses to honor its campaign promises, it serves the purpose of clearly identifying the forces at play. (Heck, I can see this and I am not even intending to vote for Cruz.)
      This sounds to me like the Rovian Wing of the GOP is once again criticizing any one who dares question their go-along get along policy of longstanding.

      I think David does a very mice job of putting things in their proper perspective below.

      take care
      gabe

  1. David Upham says

    I think Cruz’s rhetoric reflects a Burkean response (like his response to the French Revolution), Publius’s response (as set forth in Federalist 15-16) in the face of the following facts:

    1. Our national debt, both private and public, is reaching unprecedented unsustainable levels.

    2. The portion of our population that is underemployed and dependent is reaching unprecedented and unsustainable levels.

    3. One major party is heavily influenced by radicals who for decades have railed against our (formerly) industrious and marital working and middle class, and the resulting American prosperity.

    4. The current occupant of the White House had a long history of aiding and abetting such hostility, and has fostered the accelerated collapse of marriage and industry among the poor and middle class.

    5. And another major party is heavily influenced by self-described moderates whose idea of moderation is token resistance to expansion of the federal government and an indefinite increase of our national debt –a phantom prosperity to be financed by the next (crippled) generation.

    Sometimes you really have a crisis. And sometimes the appropriate response is resolution. http://www.constitution.org/cons/virg1798.htm

  2. Jose says

    talk about a wet blanket

    Perhaps Cruz is engaging in some hyperbole for effect, but so what? He’s right on the basic merits.

  3. Stephen Knott says

    Nice job Greg.

    Cruz in 2016! As Texas goes, so goes Mississippi. Time for Hillary to dust off her inaugural gown.

    • gabe says

      Yes, but first another face lift! Oops, I forgot, isn’t that what Democrats do for every election – get a temporary facelift – then like a paint-on tatoo it comes off on Inauguration Day! Unfortunately, too many of the Rovian GOP’ers do the same thing.
      take care
      gabe

  4. says

    Hey guys, step back a minute. Ah, there we go, thank you. Greg is voicing – nothing more than – it’s not ‘oblivion”, as Cruz emphasizes. That is why we, here, are all working to see that the lives of our children, and grand/great-children, return to our Constitution’s Federalism enumerations — not a new, progressive, philosophical Executive – Congressional – Judicial, arrangement. (All of them – are not in sync. with us, are they?
    In those years gone by (and I believe Gage has seen them too) drastic changes have occurred. I grew up a rather innocent young man. It was an era when the society itself was governed mainly by the towns and the cities and overseen by the state-governing bodies. To a great degree, the federal government had left the compact of liberty and freedom with the people geographically. Their religious heritage, regardless of sect and their personal civil liberties, was mainly free from federal encroachment. At that time, the young generation was brought up with a great sense of respect for all of their surroundings; it was ingrained by a subtle, yet determined, God-given atmosphere of kindness and good will between ourselves. Marriage between that handsome young man – and beautiful young lady was – oh so great. The young ladies were highly respected; foul language was a no-no in their presence. (And “gays” were “gays” then – just not as vocal.) The schools of learning taught a student the three Rs successfully. The teachers were of a high moral character. The people, as a whole, were honest, hardworking, neighborly individuals. Doors and windows of homes would be left open with little fear of criminal behavior happening. As a community of people then, we believed we were the fortunate benefactors of a society that had carried on the wholesome religious and patriotic consciousness of those before us.
    Those years have changed. I, personally, never thought it could come to this (chaotic), permissible, society of (good) people. Along the way – I thought that religion would save us all (regardless of our sect). The Judiciary has changed all of that with “incorporation” of the B.O.R. Neither the Presidency, nor the Congress, nor the Judiciary, has moved to support — the majority of the people.
    So be it – it is not “oblivion” – it is — let us, as the nation of (good) people take back that which is enumerated in the Constitution of Federalism.
    From what I have read of all of Greg’s Posts – he does not believe in “oblivion” – and from what I have been fortunate enough to read of most of my fellow posters – they are of the same character.
    Respectfully, John

    • Kevin R. Hardwick says

      John–

      I was born in 1961–so I am now in that subset of the population that is older than the average American, by an unpleasant and growing margin. And there has not been a day in my life in which incorporation has been the law of the land.

      One of the hoarier questions in American public life is the one that Lincoln and Douglas debated in 1858. If a majority of the population is committed to evil (and I have no compunction in defining slavery as morally evil), by what right can a minority gainsay them? What does one do, when a majority of our neighbors are committed to violation of natural right? To my eye, Lincoln successfully held that majority will can not make right; but he had no answer to Douglas’ rejoinder that if the American revolution means anything, it is that the majority makes law.

      Incorporation, it seems to me anyway, is the substitution of the will of the greater whole–of the nation–for the will of the majority in a region that was in 1866 and 1867 committed to denial of natural right. For all that I agree with you that its effects have quite often been pernicious, it does strike me as an imminently practical solution to a pressing national problem, at the time we started down that particular constitutional path.

      • Kevin R. Hardwick says

        woops. That should read “there has not been a day in my life in which incorporation has NOT been the law of the land.” That one word makes a world of difference!

      • gabe says

        Kevin:
        I think Lincoln did answer Judge douglas – and did it rather well!
        Lincoln’s response was that the American Revolution was about more than majority rule – it was about an “equality principle” and consent of the governed. Yes, there can be a tension between the two – but in Lincoln’s mind, the notion of equality and natural rights was to take precedence. As i am sure you are aware, his debates with Judge douglas defined the central issue of the day, and to my mind, at least, were (and continue to be) quite persuasive.

        David is right below in that our problems are more serious than the judiciary – we ought not to look to the stars, but to ourselves.

        take care
        gabe

        • Kevin R. Hardwick says

          Gabe–

          I would much benefit from reading your thoughts more fully on this issue. My reading of Lincoln is that he did indeed assert an “equality principle,” properly understood. But the “properly” is precisely where his response to Douglas is not fully adequate.

          It is useful to remember that pro-slavery southern thinkers were also working within the liberal and Lockean tradition descended from the framers. If one wishes to reconcile slavery with Lockean contracturalism, one obvious solution is to insist that those people fit to be slaves are also people who cannot assume the responsibilities of citizenship because they never will be able to possess and exercise fully adult rational faculties.

          Douglas’ solution to the problem posed by the western territories makes sense, provided that you agree with the proslavery argument, and disqualify slaves (and blacks) as persons who should be consulted on the civic and public matters. The proslavery argument never denied the *humanity* of the slave. Rather, they denied the capacity of slaves (and blacks more generally) ever to “grow up” to possess adult rationality.

          Lincoln’s rejoinder to Douglas is not fully consistent with Lockean contracturalism. Locke, in replying to the patriarchalism of Filmer, argues that the problem with patriarchalism is that children eventually grow up. So long as they are children, they owe obedience to their parents. So the patriarchal metaphor is flawed–authority in public society is not like authority within a family, he says, because in a family, at some point most children cease to owe obedience to their parents. What distinguishes that point at which they owe respect but not obedience is the time in their lives at which they become capable of exercising adult, rational faculties. In other words, citizenship in the Lockean social contract is premised on possession of adult rationality.

          So if slaves (and blacks) are “adult children” (the phrase, is, I think, from George Fitzhugh) then they are civically incapacitated. Lincoln, as I read his Springfield address, does seem to nod towards the racial essentialism of the proslavery argument, even as he denies the conclusion that slaves (and blacks) cannot be citizens.

          So we are back to the conundrum posed by Douglas. Who gets to judge when the equality principle is “properly understood?” What do we do when a majority of the population accepts the reasoning of the proslavery argument, and thus arrives at misguided conclusions? (Douglas raises this point in 1854, in a reply to a group of ministers who asserted essentially a natural rights argument similar to the one that Lincoln asserted.)

          If we don’t make these decisions via ultimately consulting the collective will of those persons qualified to be citizens, how then shall we do it?

          To my eye Lincoln never really answered this question.

          Looking forward to hearing where I am going wrong here!

          All best,
          Kevin

          • gabe says

            Kevin:
            Hope the fuss of midterms went well and is now behind you.
            You write: “If one wishes to reconcile slavery with Lockean contracturalism, one obvious solution is to insist that those people fit to be slaves are also people who cannot assume the responsibilities of citizenship because they never will be able to possess and exercise fully adult rational faculties.”
            Indeed, this is a solution, as you say, and one for which one can find some discussion in Locke. It is nevertheless, a little too convenient and was advanced only as part of an overall strategy to portray a “positive good” of slavery. It is also clear that it was not a position of many of its proponents in earlier years. As an example, Judge Taney, circa 1817, issued a Circuit Court opinion in which he clearly stated that blacks were entitled to be treated as “humans” and were, in fact, entitled to certain rights as expressed in the Declaration. So, perhaps, we should look elsewhere than Locke when we seek to explicate Calhoun, Taney, etc. justification(s) for assigning a “sub-human” status to slaves. It may be something as simple as economic self-interest which informed this “new” thinking on the part of Calhoun, etc. As it became apparent that the North was quite sincere in seeking to restrict (eliminate?) slavery, the south needed a “new rhetoric”. The entire economy of the South, and consequently its status and power within the union was to be diminished. While this was a rational response on the part of the planter class, it was nevertheless an immoral one and in contradistinction to the principles that were central to the American political ethic – the equality principle. I know there are some who would argue against the centrality of this position – but we can take it from John C. Calhoun, who argued not that it was not central but, rather, that it was “bunk” and the biggest lie in world history. There was no validity to the equality principle.
            And this is where Lincoln, through the force of his argument and logic, defeated Douglas. Lincoln was able to show, and was later vindicated by the Dred Scott decision and two other cases which also prohibited any “federal effort” aimed against slavery, that a system of popular sovereignty combined with Supreme Court support would first result in the extension of slavery into not just the territories but also into non-slave states and secondly could not be limited to just African slaves. Effectively, “You work, I eat” as Lincoln was fond of saying regarding tyranny in general, but slavery in particular, was a principle, that once accepted admitted of neither cultural (think Mexico, Central America) nor natural limits. (I am simplifying things for brevity’s sake).
            With respect to Lincoln admitting or conceding that perhaps blacks were “not (his) equal in color, temperament…,” etc, I would argue as did Lincoln that you cannot get too far ahead of the people. This is simply prudent if your intent is to move people in the right direction. I think this is evident in his speeches from the days of the Temperance Address right up through the debates with Douglas. A closer parsing of Lincolns words admits of no prejudice beyond what may have been typical of the time. You must also remember that were Lincoln to get too far ahead of his audience, who were clearly racist, but still sympathetic to abolition, would have resulted in the loss of momentum toward emancipation.
            In fact, this is what distinguished Lincoln from Douglas. Lincoln was a leader who would incrementally bring the people along to a fuller appreciation of liberty; Douglas was shown to be inconsistent, subject to the whims of fate, court decisions and ultimately without a central motivation principle. Lincoln asserted that majority opinion must be just – not simply just because it was majoritarian. In this he was able to show that he was consistent with Jefferson, Madison, etc in the recognition of the need to limit oppression of a minority. Events, of course, proved him correct.
            Moreover, the claims of “childlike” status of slaves was belied by the fact, plain to all who had visited the South, where in some southern cities the majority of skilled tradesmen, etc were slaves was plainly false. Indeed some of the resistance of Northerners to the migration of slaves into their states was due precisely to the threat of competition.
            Yet, this does not refute the “childlike” argument in and of itself (one made not by, but cited by, you). No, Lincoln’s argument was an even simpler one. As we do not enslave the feeble, the dimwit, etc we have no justification for enslaving “childlike” Africans. Again, you may find Lincoln comments to the contrary or those that recognize the possibility of “childlike” or savage attributes, but a close parsing of the comments may reveal that a) it was audience conditioned as mentioned above and b) not as dispositive of the charge against him as his critics may claim.
            You write:
            “Who gets to judge when the equality principle is “properly understood?” What do we do when a majority of the population accepts the reasoning of the proslavery argument, and thus arrives at misguided conclusions?…. If we don’t make these decisions via ultimately consulting the collective will of those persons qualified to be citizens, how then shall we do it?”
            Again, Lincoln was plainly concerned with popular opinion and knew that one cannot simply disregard it. His answer was to lead people to a proper understanding of the moral implications of liberty and equality. His speeches never “pushed” the people too far beyond where they were prepared to go but consistently moved them along a trajectory that would support the “proper” understanding of liberty and equality. It is in a sense the definition of a Leader in a classical sense.
            I know there is much I have left out. For instance, Lockean contractualism. Briefly, while the influence of Locke was substantial, the American ethos cannot be said to be solely Lockean as there may be an inattention to certain moral principles in contractualism. I think statements by Madison, Jefferson and Lincoln would indicate that Locke was to be tempered by prudence, wisdom and a deep religiosity all of which would militate against slavery and pure majoritarianism.

            Take care
            gabe

          • Kevin R. Hardwick says

            Gabe–

            Thank you for a thoughtful reply.

            One possible place where I may have, in my original post, written in too compressed and too convoluted a fashion:

            I have been engaged for the last several years in a project that has led me to read extensively in both the pro-slavery and the abolitionist contemporary literature (ie., primary sources). I cannot think of a single proslavery advocate–not one–who argued that the slave was sub-human. Everyone on all sides of the argument understood the slaves to be humans.

            What the proslavery advocates consistently argued–at least from Dew forward–was that black people, African people–could not exercise adult rational judgment, and thus could not be trusted with the responsibilities of citizenship. This is of course an utterly perverse argument–it is a very short step to the argument that slavery is in fact in the best interest of the slave.

            As I suggest, this is a necessary move, if one is committed (as most proslavery thinkers were) to one version or another of the social contract. Racism was present from very early on–but it received a massive invigoration from the intellectual moves necessary to reconcile slavery with the American revolution.

            More as time permits . . .

            Well wishes,
            Kevin

    • David Upham says

      I likewise lament the collapse of American culture. During the time of American growth and progress, Americans were among the most remarkably industrious and marrying of people in history. But I think the judiciary was only a part of the problem.

  5. says

    Gentlemen … I would like to answer your posts individually – if you will bear w/me.
    Kevin, (when you mentioned your age, let me add a little humor – “ok son – I’ll trade ages with ya.” And on a more sober note, if we could trade – I would have my wife back.)
    I put you as born in 52 – you are right, it is 5yrs prior to Justice Hugo Black usurping the Constitution (with “incorporation” of the Establishment Clause). Read his biography, by Newman, – Black was a progressive and believed the BOR was applicable to the States. (He wasn’t reading the same Constitution as you and I are.) When our founders “started down that particular constitutional path” they enumerated what the three branches could and could not do (the separation of powers), fortified by the Supremacy Clause. I apologize for getting into these histrionics Kevin. Am I correct that you are an Associate Professor, Department of History, James Madison University? (I could write a book about “incorporation” by the court – hmmm, by the way, I did.
    Respectfully, John.
    Gabe, I find you right on the mark in most cases. Thank you.
    David, I believe you have some extenuating thoughts, other than the “judiciary” and I am sure you are correct. I do hope that you will comment in that respect. As for “incorporation” – the Congress certainly could not have – they were prohibited, nor could the Executive. That only leaves once branch of the federal government w/the power. The big question is – did they have the right and the power to
    “incorporate”?
    My respects to you all, John

    • Kevin R. Hardwick says

      John–

      Yes–you have the right “Kevin R. Hardwick.” There are actually two of us who publish under the same name–the other is a Political Scientist at Canesius College. He and I exchange emails every so often to share what “we” have published.

      I know the biography you mention, but have never read it systematically. A nice reminder of a good book. There are, sadly, far too many fine books to read.

      Anyway, I much share your perception of the intellectual (and I might add, ethical) quality of these boards. I have learned a great deal both from reading here but also from trying to organize my thoughts in writing in ways that, I hope, on occasion make sense.

      I am too tired to attempt anything intellectual at the moment, but do want to follow up on the unfinished and I suspect highly stimulating conversation we have begun on Lincoln and Douglas.

      As these days grow colder, please know you have both well and warm wishes from me.

      Kevin

  6. Devin says

    I guess we have different defnitions of what it means to be conservative. I reject burkean conservatism of slow and gradual change. The left is pushing us towards its liberal utopia as fast as it can, its not enough to just slow it down, we need our own vision of where our country should be. We must stand up boldly and proclaim to the world the harm that is occurring because of the socialist institutions that have been created in America. We must in the words of Ronald Reagan raise “a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people”. We cannot continue to pile the debt upon debt that we have been, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” One day our debt will be paid or repudiated, and like we have seen in Europe recently that day can come quickly and unexpectedly, and when it comes it moves like a freight train as everyone starts to doubt the ability of the US government to pay what it owes and refuses to lend to it. Yes dispersion of power is a good thing, but that is the goal we should be striving for, and we should use every tool in our power to end the status-quo of concentrated power. We must identify the principles that are needed but which our government is not following, such as fiscal restraint, and do everything we can to support those principles. Ted Cruz is a true American Hero because he is doing everything in his power to do what is right and he deserves to be treated as such, not in the disrespectful manner in which you have treated him in this article.

    • gabe says

      Devin:

      While I am not prepared, as of yet, to call Cruz an “American hero” as only time will determine whether that is an apt descriptor for Sen. Cruz, I do agree that the article is quite dismissive of Sen. Cruz and others who have sought to highlight the fundamental problems brought on by single party rule (masquerading as a two-party system).
      Indeed, I was surprised by it, as Mr Weiner’s writings generally indicate positions that would support Sen Cruz’s efforts. I can not speak for Mr Weiner but perhaps he allowed a displeasure with tactics color his opinion as opposed to a consideration of principle.

      take care
      gabe

    • Kevin R. Hardwick says

      The devil is in the details. When we look at those moments in the last 90-odd years in which the power of the Federal government has grown, it has been in those moments that significant numbers of people at the time understood to be periods of national crisis. If, as conservatives, we believe that power corrupts, then we should be leery of concentrating too much power into the hands of any one person.

      The phenomenon that we have labelled the “imperial presidency” has been closely associated with Presidents claiming power to deal with national emergencies. Roman dictators were supposed to relinquish power at the end of the emergency. Part of the reason that we rightly admire George Washington was that he modeled himself on Cincinnatus, and repeatedly gave up power at the conclusion of periods of crisis. We admire Washington and should cherish his example, because it takes tremendous character and self-discipline to do what he did.

      But the framers quite rightly rejected the idea that we can count on having a man of Washington’s character on hand when we need him. Most men–like most institutions–will not give up power once it has been granted. In the history of our country over the last 100 years, to whom would you point and say “*he* was like Washington, like Cincinnatus?” It is not just that the power and scope of the Federal government has grown–it is also, and just as troubling, that there has been a consistent shift of power within the frame of the constitution, from the legislature to the executive.

      Professor Wiener is absolutely correct to worry about anyone, left or right, who artificially inflates the extent of a crisis, or the claims that power must be concentrated in his hands, to accomplish what must be done. What it means to be a conservative is to worry about precisely such things–radicals rush in to tear institutions down, but conservatives worry about the *way* the public good is pursued, and they worry about unintended consequences, and they worry about the frailty of human character.

      All best,
      Kevin

      • gabe says

        Kevin:

        You are quite right in this regard. War is the ‘glory of the state” but it is also the “edifier” of state action. I do not know if it is still inforce, but up until a few years ago we were still paying a telecommunications tax for the Spanish -American War. There are a host of other examples that could be cited.
        However, it is with your other point about George Washington, and by comparison, those successors who have failed abysmally to adhere to the Cincinnatus principle, that i wish to especially concur.
        Some have asserted that Lincoln would have been among them. I, personally, do not think this to be correct. In any event, he did not survive the War, so we shall never know. It was with Teddy Roosevelt that we see the first sings of this enhanced executive who sees himself as the peoples champion; followed in short order by Wilson with his grand plans / designs for the remaking of both America and an Executive function sufficiently robust and dynamic to engender and implement such a re-design.
        As a young man in the 1950’s / 60’s I was taught how fortunate we were to have such insightful and forceful leaders; regrettably, I have come to understand that insightful (nefarious, perhaps?) though they may have been, it may be more appropriate to describe them as ambitious, self-aggrandizing and of corrupt (not money) character.
        It has been oftentimes said that there is much myth about America and her leaders. This is true; but it is also true that with great men, the truth is so much grander than the myth. George Washington certainly qualifies in this regard.

        take care
        gabe

      • Devin says

        You are right, it is bad to concentrate power in the hands of one person, but that isn’t what Ted Cruz is doing, nor is he proposing that. Instead he is putting principle first, that idea of what is right is the most important thing. Its not about Ted Cruz, or Rand Paul, or Mike Lee, or the other people that are out there fighting for good principles, its about those principles. And those principles are limited government, one in which power is taken away from the federal government and returned to the states and the people. Its true, its a time of emergency or crisis, that we need BIG CHANGE, but its not about consentrating the power in hands of any individual but removing that power from the federal government. Our country was founded by people willing to be bold, to fight against the status-quo. Would you tell Thomas Jefferson shouldn’t have signed the declaration of independence? I would hope that we would all be willing to stand behind the principles that are right, not because the man that leads is perfect, but because he is leading us in the right direction.

  7. gabe says

    Kevin:
    (Wish I knew how to post reply when the blue reply tab is not shown)
    You are correct that there may have been no clear and definitive pronouncement by slavery supporters that African slaves were “sub-human,” however, substantively this was the case both in practice and rhetoric and was reflected in the opinion of Justice Taney.
    According to Taney, the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
    As even children were thought to possess some rights, any assertion that a human “had no rights” is tantamount to a declaration, in this case, enforceable by both positive and constituent law, that one class of being lacks essential human characteristics.
    In fact, and i can not now remember who it was that said it, a number of anti-slavery types made recourse to the difference in rights / treatment between domestic animals and slaves. Persuasive – no! rhetorically effective – yes!
    Taney’s opinion did not vary significantly from the “slavery is good” rhetoric of many southerners. Self serving – of course. But more; I see it as a corruption of Lockean and American premises – both contractual and moral. Then again, I see the two as inextricably bound as did Lincoln as both on predciated upon a natural rights foundation.

    Hey, one day, I would like to pose this question: If Calhoun had developed his Disquisition, etc in response solely to the Tariff, what would be his place in History? A friend told me that “then he would be Thomas Jefferson!”

    food for thought.

    take care
    gabe

  8. Johnny Turvin says

    Seems to me the author is caught upin an precisely the same extremism (though on “the other hand”) as he accuses Cruz of being. No single person or pilitical faction has enough power or influence to drive political change without caution or restraint. We need not be as alarmed as the author seems to be. Yet Cruz accomplishes much, and I suspect, exactly what he desires in alerting Americans to the dangers of continued blind fairh in government to act judiciously without active accountability to the Constitution. Conservatives have for far too long trusted politicians to adhere to the Constitution, which was, in fact, written precisely because politicians are unable to live up to such trust. The burden of holding government to account has always been the responsibility of “We the People”, and we have failed to bear th allowat burden. It is only in that respect that the author, and ourselves, have cause for alarm. An awakened Conservatism would no more allow the Tea Party to govern unrestrained than it should be to (continue to) allow Progressivees to drive pilitical change independent of the will of the people.

  9. says

    Ted Cruz is certainly a lightning rod. We can evaluate that particular phrase of him to many, many, different considerations. My evaluation of him would be no less, or greater, than the descriptions coming from Greg, and yourselves, posted here. Yet, I do have a problem with “catastrophizing and oblivion”, when it comes to describing the encroachments and usurpations we are having with the Executive, the Congress, and the Judiciary. Greg did say in his next to last paragraph, “The constitutional order is coming under growing strain. Its contours would be unrecognizable to its founders. But the problems can be serious in scope and even constitutional in character without the stakes rising to oblivion.” Do we, here, disagree with this? I, for one, do not.“ In between “catastrophizing and oblivion” – and the problems — is the Amendment process. And quite frankly I believe that is exactly where the States, and the people, — those of the “constitutional order” – should be considering. The words of Jefferson, and Madison, are echoing to us.
    Respectfully, John

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