Mark Lilla is always worth reading, even if he is not always convincing. His latest book makes a straightforward argument that can be reproduced in a syllogism: The Democratic Party is the only hope for America; identity politics is tearing the Democratic Party apart; therefore the country is imperiled by identity politics.
The first person I ever knew who wanted to tear down a statue of Christopher Columbus was my mother. It was 1986 and my father, an editor at National Geographic, had erected a 10-foot statue to the explorer in the small backyard of our suburban Maryland home. Mom didn’t like the way Columbus dominated the half-acre, even if the basin at the foot of the statue attracted some nice birds.
In a New York Times op-ed a week ago, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) lauded the recently deceased Delmer Berg and other Americans who volunteered to fight on the Loyalist side during the Spanish Civil War, which began 80 years ago. Berg was thought to be the last living veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a unit of American volunteers who fought in that storied but oft-mischaracterized conflict that took place from 1936 to 1939.
When the Great Terror, Robert Conquest’s documented expose of Stalin’s Purge Trials, was published in 1968, the response from the Kremlin was predictable. Conquest, who died last week, was denounced as peddling fascist propaganda by Leonid Brezhnev, the hardline replacement for the thaw-attempting Nikita Khruschev when the latter was toppled in 1964. But in private, the truthfulness of Conquest’s account was validated by the KGB, who consulted it to see what their predecessors had been up to.
In "Limited Government and Individual Autonomy" Michael Ramsey joins the discussion in the current Liberty Forum on the Constitution as a Bill of Rights. Scott Yenor reviews in our Books feature this week Mark Brandon's States of Union: Family and Change in the American Constitutional Order: Brandon’s description of marriage and family life reflects a notable narrowing of what “constitutional” means. The original constitutional vision reflected a comprehensive system of how to sustain republican self-government in the long term. Government had its tasks, private institutions including the family had their tasks, and the proper functioning of each depended on the other. From…
Communism killed some 94 million people in the 20th century. It ranks alongside any other evil of that period, which is saying something. Consequently, no less than Nazism, it is not a word to be casually used or a charge to be lightly made. Both happened in response to Richard Reinsch’s eminently sensible observation in this space that Barack Obama is “not a socialist”—a clause followed hard on by another stating that Obama’s policies were incompatible with the genius of the American regime. Despite the latter clause, this set off a range of posted comments that placed “progressive,” “socialist” and “communist” on the same slippery continuum, with one commentator remarking that they were separated only by meaningless degrees, another claiming that Obama was not a socialist, he was a “radical socialist,” and still another clarifiyng that, no, he was a “fascist” instead.
It is difficult to see what purpose is served by these excesses other than to trivialize charges conservatives ought to take seriously while deflecting punches that might actually land. Certainly no converts are going to be made by forcing choices to falsely stark extremes—either a state scaled back beyond what anyone in the mainstream of politics, Republican or Democrat, today supports on the one hand or the specter of socialism on the other—that, not incidentally, crowd 62 million Americans who voted for Obama into the same pejorative category. A charge of communism is a charge of totalitarianism that conjures the Gulag, the collectivization of farms and the deaths by starvation or slaughter of tens of millions. It is not the same thing as socialism, and socialism is not the same thing as progressivism.