One Bad Road in a Rotten Wood

The growing racial balkanization of this country is something to be concerned about. I’m not just speaking of the white supremacist movements to which Donald Trump has lent so much prestige and political legitimacy; I am also speaking of the self-segregation that seems to be coming from more and more black Americans, many of who seem to have reached a tipping point of sorts over the past year or two.

Two events, both of them at the recent Black Entertainment Television awards, serve as useful examples. The first was a speech by Jesse Williams, an actor and activist who took home the humanitarian of the year award. Williams announced:

We’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment… ghetto-lyzing and demeaning our creations, then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.

This is a rather pregnant speech, laden as it is with modish, academia-driven catchphrases: “whiteness” (which, quite obviously, is really just a synonym for white people); the term “body,” a weirdly trendy buzzword lots of folks use these days to describe black people; the idea that white people “steal” black “creations.” All of this could be lifted directly from an upper-level postmodern African-American lit course. But, more importantly, notice also the implicit, rather dismaying subtext: black people apparently exist entirely in their own socio-political sphere, separate, walled off from the rest of the body politic and the larger culture except in instances where white people “use and abuse” them; “black” “genius,” too, is apparently something that is distinct if not antithetical to “white” “genius.” There are a set of assumptions in Williams’s speech, and none of them are particularly pleasant, at least for those of us who view skin color as indeterminate and, ultimately, irrelevant.

The second thing that took place at the BET Awards was Beyoncé’s and Kendrick Lamar’s performance of the former’s “Black Lives Matter anthem,” the song “Freedom.” I’d encourage you to watch it: it is very good. It is also very heavily laden with the kind of militant, almost militaristic black aesthetic which Beyoncé has been cultivating recently. The whole Black Panthers thing at the Super Bowl was another example, as was a great deal of her video album Lemonade. The goofy belly-dancer levity of “Bootylicious” this is not. It is something much angrier, more deliberate, more purposeful. It often makes for great art and for great music. It also makes for a few other things as well: a kind of clarion call to black identity, one that seeks to set blacks apart from everyone else in a way that preempts other and arguably more important forms of identification and community.

I suppose it’s possible Beyoncé is just taking advantage of our current political moment for her own selfish purposes: maybe she just wants to use the Black Lives Matter movement to sell stuff. But I don’t think so.

What these examples point towards, I think, is not simply another manifestation of “black culture.” The intent here seems to be not merely to create but also to divide: to draw a sharp line between two things and then keep them separate. Earlier this year Saturday Night Live ran a spoof film trailer entitled “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black,” which mocked the purported shock that white people felt after Beyoncé, well, “turned black.” It is of course a humor skit (and it is actually fairly funny). But it is also a commentary on how bankrupt popular American racial discourse ultimately is: it features the standard cartoonish, clueless white idiots; the black people either baffled by white idiocy or else smugly, serenely amused by it; and of course the overarching idea that whites are terrified by even the existence of blacks. Does this sound familiar? If not, you have not been following very closely the perpetual “national conversation” we’re constantly having about race.

Amidst this rather useless and counterproductive discourse, it is somewhat unsurprising that we may be seeing a rising and deliberate effort at racial divide, one that is not merely intentional and calculated but publicly celebrated. A lot of white liberal people, for one, seem to like it. White liberals can be astoundingly nasty towards black conservatives while at the same time shielding black liberals from any meaningful criticism whatsoever. It is not hard to see why many white liberals would be very excited at the rising cultural force of resurgent black militancy: it would confine a lot of black people to the narrowly-proscribed behavior many progressive whites think is acceptable.

Then, too, this steady shifting of cultural forces has surely been abetted by intellectually shallow public personas like Ta-Nehisi Coates, a fellow whose obsession with skin color borders on the neurotic and who tacitly encourages his readers to engage in racially-motivated violence.

Maybe this new militancy is just a passing cultural fad, and it will fade in a few years. But maybe not; indeed, if Donald Trump wins the White House in November, it’s entirely possible that his small, anonymous, cowardly but very vocal white supremacist contingent could further inflame certain passions and push more black people towards the kind of intellectual and cultural self-segregation espoused by people like Jesse Williams and Beyoncé. It is a very troubling thing to contemplate: American history is littered with the poisonous effects 0f racialism, and it is certainly not hard to see things getting worse than they already are.

When is a Rose Not a Rose?

I confess that I have started watching the Bachelorette this season, and I use the word “confess” very deliberately: I am rather embarrassed to be watching this television show (and my wife should be embarrassed for dragging me into it). The Bachelorette (and its brother series, the Bachelor) is an embarrassing endeavor for anyone involved in either its creation and its consumption. Up and down the ladder we should all be embarrassed that this show even exists.

If you are not familiar with the Bachelorette, here is the basic premise: a bunch of men squabble over the chance to propose to a woman, and the woman goes on dates with these men and says words like “amazing” and “exciting” a lot. In each episode, if she wants a man to stay, the woman gives him a rose. The men who do not receive roses go home. Eventually the last man she chooses will theoretically be the one she marries.

That’s basically it—and the show has been on for twelve seasons, which is an astonishing runtime even for a reality show (the Bachelor boasts a staggering twenty seasons). I guess it fills a niche, but I’m not quite sure just what niche it is filling: the awkward-romance-decathlon-featuring-unlikable-men-and-the-women-who-for-some-reason-like-them niche? How did the producers pitch the advertising slots when this show first aired?

Reality TV shows have always been an easy target for cultural critics who want to bemoan the sad state of American artistic refinement, and one of the principle complaints of reality television has always been: “It’s not ‘reality.’ It’s all scripted!” Well, yes—and the Bachelorette‘s own producers have admitted as much about the Bachelorette (creator Mike Fleiss has spoken of “develop[ing] characters that the audience is going to root for and root against”). I actually don’t have that much of a problem with “reality” television being scripted, insofar as nearly everyone knows that it’s scripted. Very few people are likely under the impression that they are watching something real and genuine when they watch the Bachelorette. And that’s okay.

The problem isn’t that the Bachelorette is scripted; it’s that it’s so badly scripted. Each episode is an essay in awkward, uncomfortable human interaction. The entire charade feels like a middle school sock-hop. Nothing meshes well; everything makes you squirm, not because it’s inappropriate or obscene (though there’s plenty of that) but because everything is so clumsy and ungainly.

For just one example, take a recent encounter between bachelorette JoJo Fletcher and male suitor Robby Hayes:

JoJo: You know, after last week, you *really* opened up to me.

Robby: I had to…You know, it’s like, in realizing how unhappy at this point I was after I didn’t get those dates, the emotions that I knew were there (gestures at heart) came out (gestures grandly with hand).

JoJo: What’s amazing to me is that we haven’t had a ton of time together, but it’s very comfortable. And I feel like we’re making progress without…even having time? Does that make sense?

Robby: Yes it does. I’m so hoping, fingers crossed, that that one-on-one is coming up, so…

JoJo: I can promise you that we’re going to have time.

Robby: (whispers) Yes, please…

Robby then confesses privately to the camera that he is “falling in love with JoJo day by day.” The two then proceed to make out on a pool table.

The whole exchange is painful. Notice the faux emotion, the desperate grasping for some kind of romantic connection, the clunky attempts to divine some kind of significance from a relationship that is only about three hours old. Does that sound familiar to you? Yeah, me too: it sounds like what we used to do in eighth grade. But these are grown adults! And they can’t even put on a convincing pretend romance.

Elsewhere, on another date, JoJo and a fellow named Jordan Rodgers have an exchange next to a water fountain display:

Jordan: I feel like I’m falling for you. I mean, I can see somebody that…I can fall in love with. And it means the world to me.

JoJo: I love that you’re telling me this right now.

Shortly thereafter, the two make out by the fountain.

Look, I’m not trying to be overly critical here. But in the real world, if you tell a girl “I can see somebody that…I can fall in love with,” and that these feelings “mean the world to you,” you’re probably not going to impress her all that much. I mean, it’s a really lame thing to say; it’s almost a romantic catastrophe. What does it even mean to “see somebody that you can fall in love with?” How does that signify any kind of special emotion or attachment apart from maybe a little crush? It doesn’t—it’s a child’s conception of what a real romantic pledge would look like. And why the hell does it “mean the world” to Jordan that he has a crush on JoJo? What does that even mean? It’s nonsense! And yet JoJo was all over Jordan after he laid it on her.

The show is littered with this kind of dirge—shallow, emotionally stunted hack romance. If the producers of the Bachelorette wanted to make the fake liaisons of this show compelling or interesting, that would be one thing. But it’s all crap. One finds it hard to believe that JoJo—even fake scripted JoJo—could possibly see anything in the gaggle of men placed before her. She does not, after all, seem like a stupid woman; and anyway even a stupid woman would probably have trouble with the stuff these guys are slinging.

But that is what the Bachelorette does (the Bachelor does the same thing): it creates unconvincing, uncomfortable, uninspired fake relationships, and it tries to pass them off as life-changing romantic affairs.

I suppose it’s possible that the show is just reflective of our culture’s current romantic moment, which has sort of collapsed into a sad pastiche of sexual hook-up apps, legions of men who have no idea how to treat women well, and women who often indulge the men who treat them like garbage. A great many young people today have forgotten how to have even a grownup conversation, let alone a full-fledged adult relationship. Kind of like the people on the Bachelorette.

So maybe most people tune in because it’s all comfortable and familiar: the Bachelorette is a carefully-controlled survey of modern dating, and it offers all of the useless melodrama of a dumb date without any of the moderate difficulties associated with going on a date. It asks nothing of its viewers, other than a little bit of shallow emotional investment over which male slut bodybuilder will get a flower from a pretty lady. Viewers are treated to a blossoming romance without any of the work: characters “fall in love” with each other after spending less than a day together. Also, there’s usually some sort of parasailing or collegiate shag dancing activity or something. Those things are fun too. It’s all rather “amazing” and “exciting,” even if it’s all fake.

Doing What Doesn’t Work

Recently my family tried to convince a young relative to consider foregoing college after high school; college, after all, is a very expensive investment with returns that are most of the time lopsided if not in some cases completely unrealized. Then, too, what is the immediate, practical benefit of higher education? On many campuses in varying degrees one has to contend with a perpetual high-strung culture war, as is the case at Georgetown University:

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia pledged a vigorous and wide-ranging effort to make amends for the Jesuit school’s 1838 sale of 272 slaves.

“This is an important moment in the life of our university,” DeGioia said in a meeting with The Washington Post on Wednesday. He said that the university is studying a range of actions that it plans to unveil later this summer, part of an effort to address the legacy of slavery, racism and segregation for the nation as a whole and for Georgetown in particular.

“I don’t think putting a plaque on the wall is going to be an answer,” DeGioia said. Georgetown will no doubt install something tangible on the D.C. campus to memorialize the stain on its history. But it also is exploring other steps. Exactly what those will be remains to be seen.

Here is an honest, non-rhetorical question: does anyone honestly, truly believe that Georgetown’s “effort to address the legacy of slavery, racism and segregation” will have much effect on anything at al at Georgetown? Maybe John DeGioia does; surely this plan is due in no small part to the wave of student protests and demonstrations that swept American campuses over the past few years, and DeGioia is probably hoping—perhaps unconsciously—that if he just does enough, if he takes enough “steps,” and “memorializes the stain” to a satisfying-enough degree, then the bizarre, baffling, incomprehensible studentry over which he presides will stop camping out in his office. That’s understandable. DeGioia surely learned well the lessons of Mizzou, of the Christakises at Harvard, and of the many other cowed administrative officials at universities across the country. “Maybe if I undertake a wide-enough ‘range of actions,'” he says to himself, “they’ll leave me alone.”

And maybe they will. But I don’t think so. These protests have never been about any kind of meaningful reflection or practical course of action; an honest attempt to change the world (or even just a small university) generally doesn’t turn on a tent city literally built on a foundation of cardboard. Modern American student activism does not seem to care about much other than (a) engaging in dopey, meaningless protest gestures, and (b) tweeting about those gestures. It is highly unlikely that the Black Lives Matter contingent on Georgetown’s campus will be fazed at all by any “amends” that John DeGioia attempts to make. The point of all of this has never been to make “amends” for anything but rather to do silly things and get some attention on social media. In that regard, the new student activism has been remarkably successful; in the ways that matter, not so much.

Elizabeth, You Failed

Four gun control measures failed in the Senate on Monday—four—although rather than call these proposed laws “gun control,” we might more properly term them “stupid, counterproductive, unconstitutional show bills,” because that is generally all that the Democrats ever propose on this issue. The centerpiece effort this time around: denying gun rights to people who are on “terrorist watch lists,” which is a clever way of saying that Democrats want to strip both Second and Fifth Amendment rights from Americans who have not even been charged with a crime, let alone convicted.

The breathtaking mendacity on display simply cannot be overstated: the purpose of these bills is not to “stop terrorist from buying guns,” as the repeated refrain has gone, but to stop suspected terrorists from buying guns: Democrats want to be able to put your name on a secret, unaccountable list, charge you with no crime at all, and consequently nullify the protections offered you by the Bill of Rights. This is a fact. To pass such a law would be a travesty against the American constitutional order, a direct violation of the Fifth Amendment and a genuine instance of authentic political tyranny. Thank goodness it was voted down.

The hysterical, histrionic reaction from much of the Left was a sight to behold: spurned from their attempts to legislate away our precious and inestimable civil rights, many liberals appeared to more or less lose their minds. “How weird,” Samantha Bee wrote. “I sent my thoughts and prayers to the gun control bills today, and they failed. Guess that shit doesn’t really work.” Prayers work all the time, of course, as anyone who has devoted any time to the habit can tell you. Trampling on the constitutional rights of American citizens, on the other hand, doesn’t usually work all that well, no matter how many smirking second-rate television show hosts tweet about it. Republicans in the Senate, wrote Senator Elizabeth Warren, “have decided to sell weapons to ISIS.” The sheer intellectual dishonesty on display here would be a record-breaker, had Elizabeth Warren not already lied about being a Native American “minority” in order to advance her career in minority-obsessed academia. Nevertheless, she should be ashamed of herself for explicitly equating innocent American citizens with Islamic terrorists. “What am I going to tell the community of Orlando?” asked Senator Bill Nelson. “Sadly, what I’m going to tell them is the NRA won again.” No, Bill, you’re going to tell them that, thankfully, the Fifth Amendment remains intact and that their rights to life, liberty and property were not lost to your own shortsighted fly-by-night political grandstanding.

It says something truly dismal about the Democrats that they believe due process is simply a hang-up of “the NRA” rather than an eight-century-old blessing of our forbears and the birthright of every freeborn man and woman of this country. How contemptuous of your fellow Americans can you possibly get?

It is almost comical, if it were not such a threat to American civil liberties: a man pledges allegiance to ISIS, carries out a terrorist attack on innocent Americans, and the Left’s response is to demand that the rest of us be divested of some of the principle legal protections we have at our disposal.

Ultimately this was not a push for gun control so much as it was an attempt to consolidate power away from individual Americans to the benefit of the central government. It is deeply troubling that it even got to the point where these measures could be voted down in the first place; they should have never made it out of committee. From a global perspective, American civil liberties are both rare and invaluable, but that does not meant that they simply exist independent of anyone’s political effort. To maintain these rights requires considerable effort and diligence; there are far too many people who are all-too-willing to exploit tragedies and terrorist attacks in order to advance their own authoritarian agendas. Chris Murphy didn’t do it this time, but—absent a sustained effort from those of us who actually value liberty—someone else may succeed after him. All of which is to say: do not get very comfortable. There is much work left to do.

Knowing the Difference

Some family emergencies this past week kept me preoccupied, but in the meantime I invite you to take a listen to my recent appearance on Issues, Etc., where I discuss the recent terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida. Pastor Todd Wilken and I discuss what the attack says about real, genuine homophobia, as opposed to the ersatz kind most often brought up by the Left whenever a Christian baker or florist does something the Left doesn’t like. Enjoy!

Here Comes Everybody Else

Every so often the perennial debate over ordaining women in the Catholic Church gains some steam before dying back down again—this in spite of the fact that the Church has ruled that female ordination is, canonically, impossible. Well, some people are very determined. Most recently, the group “A Church for Our Daughters” petitioned the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to make some sweeping changes to the structure of the Church:

Among the demands are a church that “honors the vocations and ministries of all its members,” removes gender and sexuality-based restrictions on the sacraments, and “seeks to be fully inclusive and representative of women and to integrate their wisdom and insights in all areas of Church life including governance, decision-making, teaching, theological reflection, and canon law.”

For many participants, the jarring incongruities between the way women are treated in the larger world and in the Catholic Church become increasingly difficult to accept as their daughters grow up in the church. “I sort of feel that I’m selling her a bit of fakery by continuing to take her to a segregated institution,” Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, told RD in reference to his daughter. “Can you imagine if Apple told its women employees that they could go to the cafeteria and make lunch for everyone but that they couldn’t be on the Board of Directors? The Catholic Church is the only large institution that we accept this from.”

Note the bizarre value system implied within this whole mess: that the Catholic Church is, or should be, analogous to a multinational computer corporation; that the role of women in the church is equivalent to “making lunch for everyone” (wouldn’t you have to say the same for non-ordained men?); that the Church doesn’t already “honor the vocations and ministries of all its members” within the context of its own doctrinal structure; that the Church cannot be “fully inclusive” without devoting itself entirely to the gender politics and sensibilities of 21st century America.

To be fair, if you are the president of a pro-abortion “Catholic” advocacy group, I suppose these assumptions and demands seem perfectly reasonable. Of course, if you’re willing to call yourself both pro-abortion and Catholic, a full grasp of Catholic theology probably eludes you to some degree. Call me crazy.

Meanwhile, the Church’s response to the Orlando massacre is coming up short for at least one writer at the Daily Beast:

The free world demands that Pope Francis come out and name the victims of the Orlando massacre and hate crime, and identify them as homosexuals born in the image and likeness of God. Until Francis comes out in support of LGBT people during one of their most vulnerable moments he contributes to that “absurd and terrible violence” that others their community and makes them the target of any extremist with access to hate, and arms.

Naming the victims as gay men and women is an important next step in a papacy some years removed from Pope Francis’ historic, off-the-cuff invocation, “Who am I to judge?”, uttered when he was asked what he thought about gay priests. That was a promise that’s yet to be kept.

This idiotically fashionable talking point—that, if one is not both fully on board with the gay activist agenda and also quasi-worshipful of gay people themselves, one “contributed” to the Orlando attack—is profoundly repugnant. But the writer misses another point. Pope Francis’s “Who am I to judge?” comment dovetails perfectly with his unwillingness to “identify [the victims] as homosexuals.” The Holy Father rightly and properly sees every human being as a beloved child of God, made in His image and worthy of love, irrespective of the sexual preference or orientation of each individual. Assuredly Francis would mourn the loss of fifty straight victims as much, and in the same way, as fifty gay ones—which is kind of the point.

Recognizing that the Orlando killer specifically targeted gay people is useful for the purposes of explaining the killer’s motivation and the terrorism that undergirded it. Demanding that we “name the victims as gay men and women,” on the other hand, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense: partly because in the end Islamic terrorism is as happy to kill straight people as it is gay ones, and partly because the precious lives lost in Orlando were not valued by dint of their homosexuality but by dint of their humanity. The Pope and the Catholic Church understand this; a shame the Daily Beast doesn’t.

Think Before You Don’t

In the event of a terrible tragedy such as the massacre in Orlando, it is understandable that people get upset. Also understandable are the calls to “do something.” Helplessness is a terrible, terrible feeling, and it makes sense that people want to “do something” in order to prevent the next terrorist attack or mass shooting or similar tragedy.

What is baffling after these terrible events, however, is the invariable amount of sheer stupidity that’s usually on display afterwards. I don’t mean “stupidity” in a nasty partisan way—I’m not saying that people who disagree with me are stupid simply because they disagree with me. Nor do I mean genuine stupidity, i.e. intellectual inability or low intelligence; it is nasty and hateful to make fun of someone just because they are not all that bright. I’m referring, rather, to willful, heedless ignorance from people who should know better. It is the worst kind of stupidity, because it is both easily preventable and, by that token, unacceptable.

Take, for instance, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the deeply unfunny television show Family Guy. After the Orlando massacre he announced that we needed to “take action” to stop future tragedies, and that consequently we need to “ban automatic weapons.” But the shooter in Orlando did not use “automatic” weapons, and in any event automatic weapons are so heavily regulated by the federal government already that they are more or less subject to a de facto ban. Maybe MacFarlane meant to call for the ban of semi-automatic weapons—but of course that would be flatly unconstitutional. In either case, is it honestly too much to ask for MacFarlane to learn the most basic facts about something before calling for its abolition?

Wil Wheaton, a sometime-child star whose career seems to exist mostly on Twitter these days (I could be wrong, but we don’t have cable television), also lashed out in bizarre fashion: “Fuck the NRA,” he tweeted. A psychotic, ISIS-affiliated Islamic terrorist shot up a gay nightclub in service of a death-worshiping theocratic imperialist ideology, and Wil Wheaton blames….an American civil rights advocacy group that, it’s fair to assume, did not actually pull any triggers at the Pulse nightclub. Why hate on the NRA? Does Wil Wheaton even really know what the NRA does, what its purpose is, why it exists? Is he able to divine a meaningful link between the National Rifle Association and a mass murder committed by an Islamist terrorist? One assumes not, or else he would have provided the evidence in question. Instead, he simply grunted a vulgarity at the Internet in the direction of a group of people who have done nothing wrong.

These are deeply stupid responses to this tragedy, partly because they display a simple inability to actually understand the situation and partly because they distract from the actual problem at hand. To be perfectly fair, one is tempted to be somewhat lenient. The most charitable thing you could theoretically say about both MacFarlane and Wheaton is that they are entertainers, and perhaps they are too busy to invest twenty or thirty minutes to learn the entry-level facts about United States gun policy and gun culture. There’s nothing wrong with not having quite enough time on your hands to look into even so simple a matter as the National Firearms Act—lots of people have full schedules.

Then again, if someone feels confident enough to, say, talk about “banning” an entire class of firearm, or if they feel compelled to viciously insult their fellow Americans for a tragedy they had nothing to do with, might we hold them to a moderately higher standard than the one to which they apparently hold themselves?

Perhaps the most profoundly stupid response came from Democrats in the Senate, who responded to the mass-murder of American citizens by proposing to strip American citizens of their constitutional rights:

Six months after Republicans in Congress defeated a measure that would have closed the so-called terror gap after the San Bernardino, Calif., attack, Senate Democrats moved swiftly on Monday to renew the debate over tightening federal gun laws.

As a first step, the Democrats demanded that Republicans take up legislation aimed at banning the sale of guns or explosives to people who have appeared on watch lists, or who have been suspected by the Justice Department of ties to terrorist organizations.

Note what Democrats are proposing here: that if you are an American citizen and you “appear” on a “list” or are “suspected” of something, you should immediately lose two of your constitutional rights—the gun rights affirmed by the Second Amendment and the due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth. This is what they’re proposing: they want to nullify two of the most precious constitutional protections in American history, putting your civil rights at the mercy of secret lists and whimsical bureaucrats. The idiot children of the Senate Democratic Caucus are so basely stupid—so vacuous and so unwilling to improve their own comprehension of American political affairs—that they believe the proper response to a terrorist attack is to persecute and victimize innocent American citizens. It is a wonder these people were even able to execute a successful campaign for office. Perhaps their campaign staffers took care of most of it, and now—on their own, in the real world—they are lost, helpless, and unable to hide their own stupidity.

We are in some kind of trouble here. MacFarlane and Wheaton’s responses, for one, are not atypical; they are parroted by a great many people. When the body politic’s response to a terrorist attack on our country vacillates between hatred of innocent Americans and empty-headed ignorant demands for redundant and meaningless policy, we have a problem. And when our elected officials respond to an existential threat to our way of life by proposing that Americans be stripped of core civil liberties, we should start getting worried—not merely about terrorists, who are bad enough as it is, but also about the half-bright crusaders who run our government and who view you, the free American citizen, as an enemy to be degraded, and fought, and eventually conquered.

Like a Mighty Stream

At this point, and with the way things are going across the country, many of us feel almost resigned to a President Trump; at any rate, if during any given election you’ve been reduced to proffering Hillary Clinton as the conservative alternative to the GOP nominee, it can never be a sign that things are going well. Mitt Romney, for one—a fellow who has been admirably sounding the alarm on Trump for months now—warns us that the coming Trump Administration could have seriously negative effects on one of America’s most sensitive issues:

Mitt Romney warned on Saturday that Donald Trump threatens to cause “trickle-down racism” and, choking back tears, said the effect of the presumptive Republican nominee on their party “is breaking my heart”.

Speaking to a crowd of politicians, donors and businessmen at his annual summit in Park City, Utah, the 2012 nominee became tearful as he reflected on the chaos wrought by his successor, a former reality TV star who has called Mexicans “rapists”, accused a federal judge of bias because of his ethnicity, and proposed a temporary ban on Muslim travel to the US.

“These things are personal,” Romney said. “I love this country. I love the founders, I love what this country is built upon and its values, and seeing this is breaking my heart, for the party that means so much.”

Aside from that bit about Muslims—Islam is a religion, not a race—Romney is right: Trump’s potential effect on American race relations is one of the more troubling possibilities of his potential ascension to the White House. He has already proven himself perfectly happy to use race and racism as a political cudgel, and it has not seemed to have diminished any of his support: indeed, nearly all of the GOP elites that endorsed him prior to his racist attack on Judge Curiel have continued, grudgingly but willingly, to support him. The message, invariably, is a terrible one: Republicans have more or less conceded that Trump is an avowed and unrepentant racist, but they also want him to be president.

One can assuredly place more than a little blame on Democrats and liberals more generally: the Left has spent the last twenty or thirty years accusing everybody and everything possible of being racist, so much so that the whole shtick has become its own Internet meme. It is understandable that many people might not take seriously yet another charge of racism directed at a Republican, even if that charge happens to be perfectly true.

Yet just the same, the failure of the GOP to purge this disgusting man from its ranks—indeed, the failure of the party’s leaders to even mount a symbolic resistant to Trumpism—is ultimately a problem of the GOP’s own making: they might not have been able to flout the will of the voters, but they might have at least stood on principle. That so many Republicans have failed even this very low bar says something very bad about the Republican Party; more importantly, it has given an ugly, nasty man free reign to spout his toxic racial beliefs on a respected national platform. The GOP will surely suffer for it as a party; yet the United States will almost certainly suffer for it more.

The Citizens, United

I have written before about the coming free speech apocalypse. Our society seems inexorably to be moving towards a culture and a government in which free speech will be both discouraged and, eventually, outright proscribed. Both presumptive nominees of the two major American political parties, for instance, are by their own admissions opposed to freedom of speech in varying degrees: Hillary Clinton wants to censor political criticism of politicians, and Donald Trump wants to censor political criticism of Donald Trump.

It won’t stop there—it never does. Any censorship is always a signal of further intent, as well as a commentary on how one feels about a free people and a free society. Both Hillary and Trump have no use for either.

Yet it is not merely the power-hungry, dead-eyed candidates for president that pose a threat to American First Amendment rights. Free speech is attacked at all levels of government, most lately from California:

Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that he will allow an advisory measure to be put on the November state ballot without his signature to let voters weigh in on the role of undisclosed donors in politics.

The measure asks voters whether Congress should amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the controversial 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which helped clear limits on independent expenditures in political campaigns.

Citizens United didn’t actually allow for “undisclosed donors in politics;” this is something anti-free-speech liberals repeat endlessly, ad nauseum, in spite of the fact that it’s—you know—not true. Political action committees are still required to disclose their donors, something Citizens United did not change and did not even purport to change.

In any event, the liberal opposition to Citizens United seems, to me, to be one of the great untested and unchallenged political positions of the 21st century so far. There is this kind of universal understanding that, in a post-Citizens United political landscape, we now have to deal with rich people—billionaires and the Koch Brothers and maybe the Waltons—“buying” elections. That’s what everyone seems to think is happening now: plutocrats are “buying” elections and also “corrupting” them. California Senator Ben Allen says that the $1 billion spent by SuperPACs since Citizens United was decided represents a “destructive force in politics.” How is it “destructive?” He doesn’t say, which is about par for the course: the people who decry the “corruption” or “destructive” influence of super PAC spending in our elections are also the people who are most loathe to provide any evidence to that effect.

This is actually a critical problem for the Left, because without such evidence they can’t even justify overturning Citizens United on purely practical grounds, much less philosophical ones. If super PACs were the dens of corruption and scandal that Democrats are constantly claiming they are, then it should be easy to produce some kind of proof. But you don’t see that. Indeed, the efficacy of super PACs themselves seem to be wildly overstated: political action committees don’t have that much effect on candidates’ prospects. Even if all of this bluster about billionaires “buying” elections were creatively figurative, it still wouldn’t hold up: super PACs often can’t drag viable candidates over a primary finish line!

There is an ulterior motive to all of this bluster: many people simply dislike a culture and a political system of free speech. It is offensive to a certain mindset and a certain political persuasion. People of a more liberty-oriented bent look at Citizens United and see a great affirmation of freedom of speech. People like Jerry Brown look at it and see something to be squashed. If we wish to preserve a culture of vibrant political discourse in this country, we must push back against this despotic drift. No good will come of it.

The Classiest, Most Top-Dollar Bed You Made

This whole Judge-Curiel-is-a-Mexican business with Trump, ghastly and repugnant as it is, nonetheless brings with it a grim kind of satisfaction: the GOP elites who have endorsed Trump out of some misplaced sense of tribal loyalty, the ones who have crafted a desperate narrative about “unity” and “shared principles,” are now seeing the fruits of their labor. This is what Trump does; this is who he is. This was abundantly clear before the endorsements began; it is flatly undeniable at this point.

It didn’t have to be this way. Republicans in Washington had a chance to put principle ahead of party politics; to elevate the GOP above the abysmal lows to which Trump had brought it. With a few notable exceptions, they failed to do this. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s wonk in shining armor and a man of good and consistent conservative virtue, got behind a fellow who just a few short months ago publicly threatened him. John McCain endorsed Trump even after Trump mocked him for getting captured in the Vietnam War. Rick Perry offered Trump his support after calling him, correctly, a “barking carnival act” and a “cancer” on conservatism. These are good men—men of integrity, patriotism, intelligence, honesty, strong principles. Trump, on the other hand, is duplicitous, willfully stupid, supremely dishonest and concerned only with his own fragile ego. Why endorse him? Even Trump himself does not care about such endorsements; indeed, he relishes the chance to be spurned, if only so he can engage in more conspiracy theories and issue vague Mafia-like threats to the politicians who have offended him.

There is, too, the great practical mystery of it all: what does endorsing Trump accomplish for the GOP, for conservatives, and for conservatism more generally? Plainly nothing—not now, and certainly not in the event that Trump ascends to the White House. There has been a vague, desperate idea floating around over the past few months that, once in office, Trump can be “controlled” by more conservative and intelligent Republicans on Capitol Hill. This is false—it is so breathtakingly false, so patently and obviously untrue, that it should henceforth be discarded as a reasonable and intelligent proposal. Trump will not be controlled by anyone but the voices in his own head.

We saw the evidence for this most recently when he refused to back down from his racist attacks on Judge Curiel; when his own campaign told surrogates to stop publicly discussing this whole affair, Trump fired back: “Take that order and throw it the hell out…[Y]ou guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

Just marvel at this: a man gets the most sober and prudent advice any presidential candidate has gotten over the last hundred years—“Let’s stop making racist attacks against the judge overseeing your fraud case”—and he calls this suggestion “stupid,” one made by “people that aren’t so smart.”

Call him whatever you want—racist, imbecilic, dangerously unbalanced—but the one thing you can assuredly conclude from the whole affair is this: Trump cannot be “controlled,” and moreover he does not want to be “controlled.” It is just laughable—embarrassing and shameful—to pretend otherwise at this point. This man is not on our side.

The best outcome for the 2016 election at this point—for conservatives, and for America more generally—is for Hillary Clinton to win. With Clinton in the White House, Republicans would at least push back against her reckless policy and her poisonous politics. The GOP does not seem prepared to do that with Donald Trump to any meaningful degree. Better we have Hillary Clinton—whom conservatives will fight against—rather than Donald Trump—to whom more and more Republicans are inexplicably resigned, ineffectual, and in the end, utterly subservient.