Reading through John Adams’ Defence of the Constitutions, (I am currently preparing an edition for Liberty Fund), several passages have brought me up short, as they shed much light upon our current circumstances. Adams was among those who believed that, human nature being constant, history was a source of humane wisdom. His “Discourses on Davila,” which Adams often called the fourth volume of the Defence begins with an epigraph from Aesop that translates roughly as “happy are those who can learn wisdom from the misfortunes of others.”
Like a fever or an irregular heartbeat, Donald Trump’s surge in the GOP primary polls provides important information about the state of the party of Lincoln. Mr. Trump, a terrible candidate in many ways, is inexperienced as a politician. Rhetorically, his mode tends to excess, and only to excess. Moreover, as some have pointed out, given the positions Trump has held over the years, calling him a “Republican” or a “conservative” is a stretch. That said, his current positions are conservative. Which is why his candidacy—in or out of the GOP—might harm the party’s chances of retaking the presidency, and this, in addition to his drawing so much attention away from better candidates, has angered many commentators.