Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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In Some Ways We Are Better Off...

On 9/11, let’s consider this reminder of all that’s gone right for our country over the last five years. Save your "yes, buts" until tomorrow.

Discussions - 15 Comments

In this vile political season, with those on the left suggesting that our president’s a worse threat to civilization than Islamist terror. . .

Here we go again. I concur Peter Lawler’s sentiment. The silliness lies with the NY Post.

No "yes, buts" here, just a thank you. It is not silly, but true, and nice to remember today.

" unchallenged outfit it was in the years of Clinton-era cowardice."

" In this vile political season, with those on the left suggesting that our president’s a worse threat to civilization than Islamist terror,"

"Those who whine that we haven’t offer no specific solutions themselves - "

" No end of lies have been broadcast about our liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan "creating more terrorists." The terrorists were already there,"

By all means, let the right wing get in its cheap shots today, and have the good grace not to respond to them until tomorrow. We wouldn’t want to be rude, would we? After all, Republicans own Patriot Day.

You know, I think you guys have a point. I focused on the listing of accomplishments and not the extreme enveloping rhetoric. Well, sorry.
Get your shots in if you want.

At the risk of sounding like a moderate and middle-aged wuss (which I am), this:

Peter Schramm’s Lincolnian post should have reminded us that this is a day to remember that we are a political community. In it, partisanship has an essential role, but there is such a thing as political friendship even among intense partisans. Blogs -- and not only blogs -- too often neglect that side of things, introducing a toxic and personal animus that parades as political commitment. On most days, that’s harmless enough, and fun.

In distancing himself from the rhetoric of the NY Post today, Peter Lawler reminds us that he is a Christian gentleman and a citizen.

Steve - nicely put. It reminds me of Top Gun when the commander says, "Just remember, when it’s over, we’re still on the same team." We are Americans; we share a set of ideals including freedom and liberty by consent of the governed. Our Constitution and system of government has survived over 200 years of political squabbling and will continue to do so. The true enemy is out there, trying to take our precious rights, especially our lives; though sometimes he is lurking among us. Let’s celebrate this great nation on Patriot Day even as we remember our dead.

I’m sorry, but I no longer believe we are a single political community (or, like a dysfunctional family, we are self-contradictory and self-destructive community). I’ve seen and heard too much...I seriously doubt that the Left has America’s best interests at heart. It goes beyond an argument about means -- this is about what we value and who we are.

So can say I’m wrong, but that’s the way I feel about it.

Dain, why do we need to be a single political community? We have never been a single political community...nor do the ideals of freedom or liberty require such a single political community...we are a Madisonian Republic. E Pluribus Unum. The American project rejects the idea of a single political community in the sense that you present it. That is why no particular ontology can ever come to dominate the American Regime...in this sense then a single political community would be like the thinking of an abstract reasoner(whom I am sure you abhor)and like a philosopher persuing the logical consequences of a subtle reasoning, and with one mistake being a parent to another we would soon find a people undeterred from embracing any conclusion, by its unusual appearance, or its contradiction to wiser opinion(because it has already established (ontologized)itself as most wise...and in truth because knowing who is wise requires a particular ontology...which is then to say that a single political community would have no checks and ballances.) But philosophy according to E Pluribus Unum, (or as I see it David Hume teacher to Madison)"Purposes only to represent the common sense of mankind in more beautiful and more engaging colours, if by accident he falls into error, goes no farther; but renewing his appeal to common sense, and the natural sentiments of the mind, returns into the right path, and secures himself from any dangerous illusions."(Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)

Hey, John, Steve and Tony were talking about Peter’s "Lincolnesque" call for us to realize...yadda, yadda. I was only pointing out that about 40% of the country wasn’t going to do that...ever. Or rather, they do if for about 5 minutes after a few thousand people die...and then back to the routine of hating Amerika.

If you go to the Mark Levin blog on NRO, you can find evidence that some of Ralph Peters’ columns seem a bit unhinged. You can also find on NRO a defense of the column I linked at the beginning of this thread. Again, all I liked about the column is its spirited defense of what we accomplished (in the mode of our noble Carl. But overall, let me apologize again. My judgment was not so great. Thanks to Steve for the Christian gentleman compliment and all that, but I guess I’m too Christian to be a good judge of the limits of acceptable partisan polemic.

Peter and Steve,

I also appreciate Peter’s retraction, and acknowledgment. But, as for the Christian part, I wonder what, in his writing here, distinguishes him from a reasonable Jew, or Buddhist? Or, for that matter, a woman?

Peter - I didn’t mean to say that the polemic was unacceptable, only that it contradicted the spirit of what you posted.

Besides, your post provoked John Lewis to write a remarkable note about the nature of the American "political community." It took a while, but I finally realized where it took me: to a brilliant essay that Sam Beer wrote on Walt Whitman, which Beer rewrote for Political Theory I think, recasting the argument as deriving from Durkheim. But it was essentially John Lewis’ point: the various characters in this country form a tough unity whose exact substantive content is elusive but formidable. I will see if I can track down Beer’s Walt Whiman piece, which I think appeared in The New Republic in the 1970s.

The Beer citation is:

Beer, Samuel H. "Walt Whitman on American Community: Liberty and Union." The New Republic, 190 (23 January 1984), 26-30.

Others can say if I am being tedious, but as I recall the Walt Whitman piece it was Beer’s way of responding to all the alarums that went up in the wake of Boston’s busing crisis. There were those who argued at the time that defensive "communities" like South Boston were, as such, antagonistic to liberty. He thought not. Or in another way, it was a corrective to loose talk about American "individualism." Anyway, that’s how I remember it, without digging in an old file cabinet.

Beer, by the way, now 94, was on two panels in Philadelphia. I saw him at the last Chicago meeting, leaning on a stick that could have killed a bear. He launched into a discourse on Innocent III.

Even with "yes buts" it was very nice to be able to think about, to have pointed out (even with, maybe necessarily with, extreme rhetoric,) some positives that came out of a very negative event. Of course, we need the "yes buts" to bring us back to a place of equilibrium.


I had been grieving about the negative effects on America of 9/11 for more than a week. It was a bit of a boost to see someone saying that something good came from the whole sorry mess. Just now, looking back at the Peters article, I do have plenty of "yes buts" of my own, but it was very nice, yesterday morning, to have someone insisting that there were good things that followed the sad event. We do not keep a TV that is connected to the world or I might have been watching uplifting memorial events from all over America, such as those I have subsequently read about online. These are things that make us more like a traditional nation, and a nation is supposed to have that "unum" thing. Obviously, some people still have the urge to that, and there would be a sweetness in it.


In America, that happens so rarely, because we have so little to go on; we only have those central ideas. Maybe. Lots of people don’t even think about them. Just think about stopping people, randomly, at the supermarket or Walmart, to ask about their notion of "liberty" or "consent by the governed." I would prefer to see a little more philosophizing around me, thank you. Partisan polemics can be seen as a check and balance against the disinterest of the general populace.

Of course, it is a wonderful thing to have different points of view coexisting, E Pluribus Unum style, but any time you have different forces pulling in different directions, there is an energy expended in the tension and stress. This can also be looked at as an energy produced by those forces, which wonderfully fuels our political dynamo. If we didn’t have that energy, I think we would get to feeling pretty stagnant and that would just not be America. What a horrible place this would be to live if all thought (or worse and more likely, did not think) all alike? Yet sometimes, sometimes, the quarreling tensions just make us tired, irritable, almost as a nation, a little cranky and some get more cranky than others.

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