Greg Weiner

Greg Weiner teaches political science at Assumption College. His latest book is American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Lincoln and the Fathers

41-3O8Pe8OL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Sons’ relationships with fathers are never simple. Richard Brookhiser’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s connection to the Founding Fathers from whom the statesman politically descended is estimably rich. Founder’s Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln is a biography that seeks not to narrate every detail of its subject’s life, but rather to establish a perspective from which it has not yet been explored in depth: Lincoln’s intellectual connection to the American Founding. Brookhiser plainly admires his subject, but does not deify him. Lincoln appears in these pages as wholly human. Indeed, one of this book’s striking features is how utterly normal Lincoln…

Read More

The Moynihan Report at 50: Greg Weiner Replies

In assessing the Moynihan Report at 50, I have the privilege of far more thoughtful interlocutors than Daniel Patrick Moynihan—who was subjected to a digest of calumnies for the rest of his life—enjoyed on the original product. I am grateful to Scott Yenor, Robin Fretwell Wilson and Susan Love Brown for their thoughtful commentaries. Yenor and Brown present challenges to the Moynihan Report itself, and Yenor to my analysis of it, while Wilson calls for a renewed emphasis on family policy, especially for the role of family law in it. Yenor mounts the most frontal assault. It is formidable but also…

Read More

More Responses

Two Cheers for the Moynihan Report . . . Or One

Knowing what we know today about family breakdown among Americans and across the modern industrialized world, it seems that Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s The Negro Family: The Case for National Action mistakes the particular for the general and might reflect a misunderstanding of the decline of the family. Moynihan’s 1965 Report emphasizes the ways in which…

Read More

From Moynihan to Murphy Brown

If there is one thing Pat Moynihan taught us, it is that talking about the family can be fraught with peril. Published at a time when nearly one in four African American children was born outside of marriage—seven times the rate for whites (see Figure 1)—the Moynihan Report gave a “faithful contemporaneous portrait” as Greg…

Read More

Owning the American Past

One of the advantages of looking at The Negro Family: The Case for National Action after 50 years is perspective. Perspective is a form of knowledge that allows us to see from a different vantage point and to bring new information to bear on a problem. In responding to Greg Weiner’s essay, I bring the…

Read More

Fools Rush In?

Don’t get into theological arguments with Masters of Divinity, and don’t argue Daniel Patrick Moynihan with his most astute intellectual biographer! That is a good rule of prudence, but fools rush in . . . sometimes. Moynihan is mostly known in conservative circles for his emphasis on the limits of social policy, and my question concerns…

Read More

Evaluating the Moynihan Report on the Negro Family 50 Years Later

Moynihan

A half-century after its publication, the Moynihan Report—The Negro Family: The Case for National Action—endures. It does so for many reasons, its prescience and courage chief among them. But the Report is more than a faithful contemporaneous portrait, and deeper than an accurate projection. It is a political document in the noble sense, reflecting searching and enduring principles about the nature of society and the place of political institutions within it. Assessments of the Moynihan Report at this milestone should therefore be more than historical. Its method of capturing truth in generality would enrich social science in 2015.  Its insights could…

Read More

Responses

Two Cheers for the Moynihan Report . . . Or One

Knowing what we know today about family breakdown among Americans and across the modern industrialized world, it seems that Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s The Negro Family: The Case for National Action mistakes the particular for the general and might reflect a misunderstanding of the decline of the family. Moynihan’s 1965 Report emphasizes the ways in which…

Read More

From Moynihan to Murphy Brown

If there is one thing Pat Moynihan taught us, it is that talking about the family can be fraught with peril. Published at a time when nearly one in four African American children was born outside of marriage—seven times the rate for whites (see Figure 1)—the Moynihan Report gave a “faithful contemporaneous portrait” as Greg…

Read More

Owning the American Past

One of the advantages of looking at The Negro Family: The Case for National Action after 50 years is perspective. Perspective is a form of knowledge that allows us to see from a different vantage point and to bring new information to bear on a problem. In responding to Greg Weiner’s essay, I bring the…

Read More

The Moynihan Report at 50: Greg Weiner Replies

In assessing the Moynihan Report at 50, I have the privilege of far more thoughtful interlocutors than Daniel Patrick Moynihan—who was subjected to a digest of calumnies for the rest of his life—enjoyed on the original product. I am grateful to Scott Yenor, Robin Fretwell Wilson and Susan Love Brown for their thoughtful commentaries. Yenor…

Read More

Fools Rush In?

Don’t get into theological arguments with Masters of Divinity, and don’t argue Daniel Patrick Moynihan with his most astute intellectual biographer! That is a good rule of prudence, but fools rush in . . . sometimes. Moynihan is mostly known in conservative circles for his emphasis on the limits of social policy, and my question concerns…

Read More

Turning Right

novak

Michael Novak’s evocative new memoir, Writing from Left to Right: My Journey from Liberal to Conservative, is a quick and enjoyable read that will engage many readers in familiar terms. Its story is one of awakening, of an expansion of mind from the narrow constraints of what he seems to regard as a facile liberalism to the embrace of a nuanced and variegated conservatism. It is, as one would expect, clearly and compellingly written—at times coolly persuasive, at others warmly moving. Its only disappointment is also a tribute to Novak: Dr. Johnson said of Paradise Lost that none ever wished…

Read More

Not Creeping but Galloping to Caesarism

Appearing in this space is a privilege; having the benefit of responses from scholars of such stature is especially so.  I appreciate the careful and respectful reading both Stephen Knott and George Thomas gave to a confessedly polemical essay.  I find much with which to agree in their replies, and even more about which to think.  But sport compels me to reply, so, in order, I shall. Steve, observing my tendency toward overstatement—fair enough; again, I admit the style was polemical—says “creeping Caesarism” has been with us since 1789.  He adduces a series of instances of Presidential behavior to illustrate the…

Read More

More Responses

Congress, Heal Thyself

Greg Weiner calls for reinvigorating those elements of “prudence” and “deliberation” found in the American system of separation of powers. These elements are located in the legislative branch, Weiner argues, noting that all “partisans of liberty” must “resist the creeping Caesarism of the contemporary Presidency.” Weiner rightly notes the bias toward change oriented presidents, with…

Read More

Has Congress Failed as an Institution?

Pointing the finger at Woodrow Wilson is tempting. It is a common enough trope to blame Wilson while longing for a return to the founding (in Weiner’s case, the “first” founding, as in the Mayflower Compact). Weiner traces the roots of the “creeping Caesarism” of the presidency—which eclipses liberty, disregards prudence, and neglects deliberation in…

Read More

The Founders Were no Shrinking Violets in the Use of Presidential Power

I agree with Greg Weiner that Woodrow Wilson changed the character of the American presidency and of the entire American political order, and not for the better. Where I disagree with Greg is whether Wilson and his 20th century successors expanded presidential power over national security and foreign affairs to such an extent that they…

Read More

Congress and Deliberation in the Age of Woodrow Wilson: An Elegy

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of the Second Continental Congress voting on the United States Declaration of Independence.

Are we all Wilsonians now? Neoconservatives, it should be said in fairness, brought the 28th President's ideology through the front door in the plain light of day in the form of a moralized and expeditionary foreign policy.  What few noticed is what got simultaneously smuggled in the back: a constitutional philosophy that suppresses Congress, elevates the Presidency and replaces deliberation and an awareness of human frailty—once staples of conservative thought—with moral certitude and an emphasis on power concentrated in the daring man of decisive action.   Those who prefer simpler political pleasures—liberty is one, prudence another—have reason for concern.  For them, this…

Read More

Responses

Congress, Heal Thyself

Greg Weiner calls for reinvigorating those elements of “prudence” and “deliberation” found in the American system of separation of powers. These elements are located in the legislative branch, Weiner argues, noting that all “partisans of liberty” must “resist the creeping Caesarism of the contemporary Presidency.” Weiner rightly notes the bias toward change oriented presidents, with…

Read More

Has Congress Failed as an Institution?

Pointing the finger at Woodrow Wilson is tempting. It is a common enough trope to blame Wilson while longing for a return to the founding (in Weiner’s case, the “first” founding, as in the Mayflower Compact). Weiner traces the roots of the “creeping Caesarism” of the presidency—which eclipses liberty, disregards prudence, and neglects deliberation in…

Read More

Not Creeping but Galloping to Caesarism

Appearing in this space is a privilege; having the benefit of responses from scholars of such stature is especially so.  I appreciate the careful and respectful reading both Stephen Knott and George Thomas gave to a confessedly polemical essay.  I find much with which to agree in their replies, and even more about which to…

Read More

The Founders Were no Shrinking Violets in the Use of Presidential Power

I agree with Greg Weiner that Woodrow Wilson changed the character of the American presidency and of the entire American political order, and not for the better. Where I disagree with Greg is whether Wilson and his 20th century successors expanded presidential power over national security and foreign affairs to such an extent that they…

Read More