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Posts For: October 20, 2013

Even Weakened Hamas Retains Peace Veto

It’s open season on mocking Hamas lately. Israel’s discovery of a tunnel the terrorist movement had dug along the border is widely seen as an example of the impotence of a group that seems to be running out of credibility as fast as they are running out of cash. The millions of foreign aid money expended as well as the concrete intended for civilian use employed in building a structure aimed at executing a terrorist attack across the Israeli border is a symbol of the group’s priorities. But the fact that Israel’s military reportedly had been aware of the project and let Hamas go ahead and finish it before exposing the scheme makes it look as if there’s no doubt about which side of the struggle has the upper hand. Combine that with the fact that Hamas is still reeling from the fall from power of their Muslim Brotherhood allies in Egypt and the closing of the border and smuggling tunnels that linked Gaza to the Sinai and there’s little question that the Islamists are in genuine trouble.

So it’s little wonder that Hamas chose this weekend to make a big deal out of the anniversary of their last victory over Israel: the ransoming of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit with the release of more than a thousand Arab terrorists. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh spoke yesterday to remind Palestinians of this feat and to speak of the latest surge in violence against Jews in the West Bank as evidence that his movement is by no means as isolated as its critics believe. As beleaguered as they may be, the Islamists clearly seem to think they are just one kidnapping of an Israeli away from being back in the catbird seat in Palestinian politics. But whether they are able pull such a crime off in the near future or not, those discounting Hamas’ impact on the future of Israeli-Arab coexistence need to take a deep breath. The pressure being exerted on it in the West Bank by Fatah security cooperation with Israel is a real blow to the Islamists and their cash shortfall is harming their ability to keep a lid on their Gaza stronghold. But anyone who thinks this gives Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas the leeway he needs to cut any sort of a peace deal with Israel in the talks currently being conducted under the aegis of the United States is forgetting the realities of Palestinian politics.

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It’s open season on mocking Hamas lately. Israel’s discovery of a tunnel the terrorist movement had dug along the border is widely seen as an example of the impotence of a group that seems to be running out of credibility as fast as they are running out of cash. The millions of foreign aid money expended as well as the concrete intended for civilian use employed in building a structure aimed at executing a terrorist attack across the Israeli border is a symbol of the group’s priorities. But the fact that Israel’s military reportedly had been aware of the project and let Hamas go ahead and finish it before exposing the scheme makes it look as if there’s no doubt about which side of the struggle has the upper hand. Combine that with the fact that Hamas is still reeling from the fall from power of their Muslim Brotherhood allies in Egypt and the closing of the border and smuggling tunnels that linked Gaza to the Sinai and there’s little question that the Islamists are in genuine trouble.

So it’s little wonder that Hamas chose this weekend to make a big deal out of the anniversary of their last victory over Israel: the ransoming of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit with the release of more than a thousand Arab terrorists. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh spoke yesterday to remind Palestinians of this feat and to speak of the latest surge in violence against Jews in the West Bank as evidence that his movement is by no means as isolated as its critics believe. As beleaguered as they may be, the Islamists clearly seem to think they are just one kidnapping of an Israeli away from being back in the catbird seat in Palestinian politics. But whether they are able pull such a crime off in the near future or not, those discounting Hamas’ impact on the future of Israeli-Arab coexistence need to take a deep breath. The pressure being exerted on it in the West Bank by Fatah security cooperation with Israel is a real blow to the Islamists and their cash shortfall is harming their ability to keep a lid on their Gaza stronghold. But anyone who thinks this gives Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas the leeway he needs to cut any sort of a peace deal with Israel in the talks currently being conducted under the aegis of the United States is forgetting the realities of Palestinian politics.

Most observers assume the negotiations going on in private between Israel and the PA are stalled. Indeed, given the Palestinians’ stated unwillingness to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, it is hard to imagine how there could be hope for an accord that would truly end the conflict. But that has not stopped the Obama administration to continue to push the talks. Nor has it stopped those groups seeking to promote more pressure on Israel to make concessions in the vain hope that the PA will ever make peace on any terms that would allow Israel to survive as a Jewish state.

That’s why Hamas’ efforts to remain relevant should not be ignored or dismissed as a last gasp for a group that is struggling to hold onto power. Though Hamas is in serious trouble, Abbas knows all too well that the one way to revive its fortunes is for him to make a genuine effort to make peace with Israel. While Israelis and Westerners would hope that the people of the West Bank and even many in Gaza would prefer peace to another generation or two of conflict, Abbas knows that the legitimacy of his Fatah Party rests on bolstering its reputation as furthering “resistance” against the Jewish presence in the land, not cooperating with Israel. That’s why his official media continues to foment hatred of Israel and honors terrorists in a manner that is not that much than that of Hamas. He is also aware that for all of its troubles, another coup like a kidnapping would once again raise Hamas’ stock among Palestinians.

Until a sea change in Palestinian culture occurs that would enable a Palestinian leader to make peace, Israel will remain powerless, no matter what it gives up, to change this equation.

The bottom line is that for all of the ridicule now being heaped on Hamas’ boasting; it retains a veto over peace. That means even if Abbas and Fatah were to transcend their origins in terrorism, something that highly unlikely, the Islamist tyrants of Gaza are still capable of overturning any movement toward a solution. That’s why Israel would do well to ignore any American pressure to make concessions on borders, Jerusalem or refugees that would be pocketed by Abbas but never reciprocated. Nor, given the recent developments in the P5+1 negotiations, should the Israelis assume that they could trade a Palestinian state for an American guarantee against a nuclear Iran. So long as Hamas remains in power in Gaza, no matter how bankrupt or precarious they might be, they are the guarantee that peace is not in the offing.

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Respecting the Military at the Movies

These are dark days for the U.S. military, which is being hit hard by sequestration-induced budget cuts. Readiness levels are falling and, if sequestration isn’t turned off, this could be only the beginning of the pain. So those of us who care about a strong defense and the well being of our armed forces have to take our solace where we can find it. In my case I’m finding it in a darkened theater watching movies such as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Captain Phillips” and the forthcoming “Lone Survivor” which depict the U.S. military’s elite units at their best.

I haven’t actually seen “Lone Survivor,” which is not out yet,” but like the others it’s a story of the Navy SEALs, in this case of a mission in Afghanistan that went horribly wrong, resulting in the death of three out of four men who were on the objective along with a helicopter-full of reinforcements. It is obviously different from the other two movies in that the SEALs didn’t achieve their objective but they did fight heroically and skillfully against great odds, and I am sure the movie will do their deeds of valor justice.

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These are dark days for the U.S. military, which is being hit hard by sequestration-induced budget cuts. Readiness levels are falling and, if sequestration isn’t turned off, this could be only the beginning of the pain. So those of us who care about a strong defense and the well being of our armed forces have to take our solace where we can find it. In my case I’m finding it in a darkened theater watching movies such as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Captain Phillips” and the forthcoming “Lone Survivor” which depict the U.S. military’s elite units at their best.

I haven’t actually seen “Lone Survivor,” which is not out yet,” but like the others it’s a story of the Navy SEALs, in this case of a mission in Afghanistan that went horribly wrong, resulting in the death of three out of four men who were on the objective along with a helicopter-full of reinforcements. It is obviously different from the other two movies in that the SEALs didn’t achieve their objective but they did fight heroically and skillfully against great odds, and I am sure the movie will do their deeds of valor justice.

As for “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Captain Phillips,” they are virtual SEAL propaganda films, all the more potent because that is not what they were intended to be. They were, and are, accurate depictions of real life missions–in one case, killing Osama bin Laden, in the other rescuing a merchant marine skipper held hostage by Somali pirates. In both cases the SEALs are not named and not delineated individually but their competence and skill shines through.

“Captain Phillips” ends–warning: plot spoiler ahead–with SEAL snipers making an all-but-impossible shot from a ship deck on the heaving seas to take out three pirates in an enclosed life boat where Tom Hanks, err Captain Phillips, sat just feet from them. Three shots, three kills. Amazing.

What is even more impressive is how the movie shows the SEALs acting completely unemotionally as if there were an ordinary day at the office for them, which in some sense it was. The snipers quietly repack their rifles and other gear and walk away like gunslingers in some Western.

I can only hope that “Captain Phillips” and other movies will receive wide airing abroad because nothing will inculcate respect for America more than for foreigners to see these movies with their displays of almost superhuman skill on the part of our armed forces. Everyone knows the U.S. has the best and most expensive military equipment but these movies show our true secret is the great skill and dedication of our men and women in uniform. If only Congress would keep faith with them by providing the funding they need to continue defending us.

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Tea Party Despair and ObamaCare

Despair is a contagion that can kill a political movement. As Pete Wehner brilliantly noted here earlier today in his piece about the Tea Party mindset, the apocalyptic view of the ObamaCare defunding fight has led many conservatives to take an all-or-nothing position that sees greater value in going down fighting for a lost cause than continuing the patient, incremental struggle toward eventual victory. Since they see nothing but darkness ahead, treating the debate about how to combat the liberal agenda has become one in which anyone who preaches compromise on any point or even patience is a traitor. As George Will admirably put in his column in Friday’s Washington Post, the Tea Partiers seem to have something in common with their foe President Obama: a disdain for politics that respects the intent of the Framers to restrain factions via divided government with checks and balances. James Madison would view Obama’s notion of imposing his views on Congress and the nation with horror. But he would have had the same reaction to the notion that the House of Representatives could do the same to the Senate and the executive branch.

That’s the ideological framework for the disagreement between the Tea Party and those on the right who believe they are in danger of crashing the Republican Party and the chances of conservatives stopping Obama’s agenda in the long run. Yet the tactical mistake they are making isn’t that ObamaCare is bad. They are right about that. Where they are wrong is the assumption that losing today’s fight about health care means an inevitable descent into socialized medicine and the ultimate death of American freedom. In fact, the implementation of ObamaCare over the coming months and years is not the end of the battle. And that is why Tea Partiers need not only to stop trying to shoot their allies but to keep their power dry for the coming rounds of combat over the issue that will be just as, if not more important than the fight that just ended.

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Despair is a contagion that can kill a political movement. As Pete Wehner brilliantly noted here earlier today in his piece about the Tea Party mindset, the apocalyptic view of the ObamaCare defunding fight has led many conservatives to take an all-or-nothing position that sees greater value in going down fighting for a lost cause than continuing the patient, incremental struggle toward eventual victory. Since they see nothing but darkness ahead, treating the debate about how to combat the liberal agenda has become one in which anyone who preaches compromise on any point or even patience is a traitor. As George Will admirably put in his column in Friday’s Washington Post, the Tea Partiers seem to have something in common with their foe President Obama: a disdain for politics that respects the intent of the Framers to restrain factions via divided government with checks and balances. James Madison would view Obama’s notion of imposing his views on Congress and the nation with horror. But he would have had the same reaction to the notion that the House of Representatives could do the same to the Senate and the executive branch.

That’s the ideological framework for the disagreement between the Tea Party and those on the right who believe they are in danger of crashing the Republican Party and the chances of conservatives stopping Obama’s agenda in the long run. Yet the tactical mistake they are making isn’t that ObamaCare is bad. They are right about that. Where they are wrong is the assumption that losing today’s fight about health care means an inevitable descent into socialized medicine and the ultimate death of American freedom. In fact, the implementation of ObamaCare over the coming months and years is not the end of the battle. And that is why Tea Partiers need not only to stop trying to shoot their allies but to keep their power dry for the coming rounds of combat over the issue that will be just as, if not more important than the fight that just ended.

It should be remembered that as bad as ObamaCare is, it was actually a hybrid plan based on something that was promoted in the 1990s by, of all places, the Heritage Foundation, as a way to get more people covered by insurance without creating a socialized medicine scheme. It was mistake but it was also the inspiration for Massachusetts’ foray into the same topic under Mitt Romney a few years later. To note this is not to defend the concept (which I continue to oppose) or to mock the good people at Heritage who have now changed their minds about the idea (everyone’s entitled to a mistake and to change their mind). Rather it is to point out that for liberals, ObamaCare was a foot in the door rather than an end in of itself. Their goal remains a single-payer system. ObamaCare will raise health care costs rather than lower them, take away choices from Americans as well as many of their jobs and hurt the economy. But it is just the first step toward measures that will truly be a step away from freedom that conservatives fear. As such, the real battle for liberty is the one that is ahead of us, not the one just concluded.

In the coming years, conservatives must be ready to do two things.

One is to hold the Democrats accountable for the failures and the costs of the scheme they shoved down the throats of the American people on a partisan vote in 2010. The problem with the so-called Affordable Care Act is not just a bunch of computer glitches. It is a structural monstrosity whose ill-considered features will continue to be exacerbated by governmental incompetence. Instead of assuming that once in place it cannot be revoked — the conceit that is at the heart of liberal confidence about their ability to prevail in coming debates — they should have more confidence in the American people. If conservatives truly believe that it is a bad idea and will hurt the country, then they shouldn’t take it for granted that Americans will not have the sense to get rid of it after it has proved a failure.

Second, they must prepare for the next round of political combat on the issue that will not be merely more attempts to repeal ObamaCare but the inevitable effort from the left to expand it toward the single payer model that they really want. That is especially true since liberals will dishonestly blame ObamaCare’s failures on it being a halfway measure rather than on the faults at the heart of the concept.

Doing so successfully will involve not only providing reasonable arguments against the leftist agenda but coming up with alternatives that will create a safety net for those not covered by insurance but who really need it. Above all, it will require a functioning political force that is able to work within the Madisonian construct rather than a band of zealots on a glorious if ultimately unsuccessful kamikaze mission. If conservatives spend the next year attempting to purge their ranks of those who didn’t ride along enthusiastically on Ted Cruz’s charge of the Light Brigade, they will be ensuring that the Republican Party won’t be able to stop the liberal’s next move.

History did not end this past week. Nor did the conservative movement. In many ways, the real challenge for conservatives isn’t just stopping ObamaCare but, as I wrote last month in an essay for the Intercollegiate Review, rescuing the cause of freedom from despair. The struggle to defend the Constitution they care so much about depends on them dropping their pessimism, resuming the obligation to pursue Madisonian political compromise and taking heart for the struggles that are ahead of them.

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Academics and BDS: An Update

Last week, I criticized the most recent issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom (JAF), a journal of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Mainly activists in and sympathizers with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement author that issue of the publication. I thought that the AAUP, which opposes academic boycotts, should be troubled that Ashley Dawson has used the journal he edits to promote his politics. I hoped that AAUP leaders would speak up.

But Cary Nelson, past president of the AAUP, and Ernst Benjamin, former AAUP general secretary, were already preparing fine responses, which the JAF has published here and here. Nelson rejects the argument that academics should boycott Israel because it does not respect academic freedom. There “is more academic freedom in Israel than in other nations in the Middle East.” Boycotting Israel’s universities because of the policies of its government is “hypocritical and a fundamental betrayal” of the mission of academics. While Nelson personally supports a boycott targeting Israeli goods produced in the West Bank, he acknowledges that supporters of  “any economic boycott,” risk being “harnessed to more radical agendas like the abolition of the Israeli state. Some in the boycott movement have exactly that goal.”

I am unlikely to agree with Benjamin and Nelson about Israel and will protest if they seem to conflate legitimate concerns about campus anti-Semitism with the desire to censor anti-Israeli speech. But AAUP is the only organization not formed to combat anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity that criticized the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) when it embraced the BDS movement. Nelson and Benjamin’s responses to the essays in the JAF, which have, apart from the efforts of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, escaped criticism, are another sign of the importance of AAUP principles. If AAUP’s 45,000 members heeded its call to defend the unique place of colleges and universities in American life from those who would use them as a base of propaganda operations, I would be very optimistic about the future of higher education.

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Last week, I criticized the most recent issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom (JAF), a journal of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Mainly activists in and sympathizers with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement author that issue of the publication. I thought that the AAUP, which opposes academic boycotts, should be troubled that Ashley Dawson has used the journal he edits to promote his politics. I hoped that AAUP leaders would speak up.

But Cary Nelson, past president of the AAUP, and Ernst Benjamin, former AAUP general secretary, were already preparing fine responses, which the JAF has published here and here. Nelson rejects the argument that academics should boycott Israel because it does not respect academic freedom. There “is more academic freedom in Israel than in other nations in the Middle East.” Boycotting Israel’s universities because of the policies of its government is “hypocritical and a fundamental betrayal” of the mission of academics. While Nelson personally supports a boycott targeting Israeli goods produced in the West Bank, he acknowledges that supporters of  “any economic boycott,” risk being “harnessed to more radical agendas like the abolition of the Israeli state. Some in the boycott movement have exactly that goal.”

I am unlikely to agree with Benjamin and Nelson about Israel and will protest if they seem to conflate legitimate concerns about campus anti-Semitism with the desire to censor anti-Israeli speech. But AAUP is the only organization not formed to combat anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity that criticized the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) when it embraced the BDS movement. Nelson and Benjamin’s responses to the essays in the JAF, which have, apart from the efforts of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, escaped criticism, are another sign of the importance of AAUP principles. If AAUP’s 45,000 members heeded its call to defend the unique place of colleges and universities in American life from those who would use them as a base of propaganda operations, I would be very optimistic about the future of higher education.

But I wish that AAUP leaders and members were more attentive to AAUP’s own 1940 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure. Its argument for academic freedom assumes that the “common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.” While the AAUP should resist attacks on academic freedom, it should also insist that “membership in the academic profession carries with it special responsibilities,” including the responsibility to uphold the “free search for truth and its exposition.” The AAUP, which dismisses criticisms of the university that it regards as political, shows little concern, apart from its stance on academic boycotts, for the responsibility of academics to put the search for truth before activism.

The 1915 Declaration of Principles of Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure claims that the “liberty of the scholar . . . to set forth his conclusions” is “conditioned by their being conclusions gained by a scholar’s method and held in a scholar’s spirit.” While scholars, like other citizens, have freedom of speech, academic freedom merits special protection because the inquiry after truth serves the common good. But if the academy fails to “prevent the freedom which it claims in the name of science from being used . . . for uncritical and intemperate partisanship, it is certain that the task will be performed by others.”

Organizations like the AAAS are objectionable not only because they support academic boycotts but also because they choose advocacy over inquiry. Although the AAAS, in the resolution its membership unanimously supported, mentions academic freedom, it also affirms “a critique of U.S. empire, opposing U.S. military occupation in the Arab world and U.S. support for occupation and racist practices by the Israeli state.” This is no isolated conclusion but, according to the resolution, a goal the AAAS, as a professional academic organization, pursues. The case for academic freedom is weakened when academic organizations consider the advancement of a political agenda their very reason for being.

The “free search for truth and its free exposition” sometimes entails advocacy, as when an economist concludes, on the basis of scholarly work, that a policy is misguided and says so. Defenders of academic freedom are properly wary of attacks on advocacy. But they must also be wary of academics that, by making advocacy the purpose of scholarship, undermine the case for academic freedom. They should remind their colleagues that, to quote the 1915 statement, “the university teaching profession is corrupted” to “the degree that professional scholars, in the formation and promulgation of their opinions, are, or . . . appear to be, subject to any motive other than their own scientific conscience.” If we fail to hold our colleagues accountable, “this task will be performed by others.”

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The Tea Party Mindset

It’s an interesting place in which I find myself. I share the Tea Party’s concerns about the Affordable Care Act and, more broadly, the threats posed by the increasing size, scope and reach of the federal government. I recognize the important role the populist movement played in the 2010 mid-term elections. And I wrote the other day that it’s important for there to be bridges built between the so-called conservative establishment and the Tea Party. Even still, I’ve found myself increasingly out of step with the Tea Party, for reasons that William Galston crystallized in his recent Wall Street Journal column.

Professor Galston, in writing about the Tea Party, relied on focus groups conducted by Stan Greenberg. As Galston reports

Supporters of the tea party, [Greenberg] finds, see President Obama as anti-Christian, and the president’s expansive use of executive authority evokes charges of “tyranny.” … ObamaCare is the tipping point, the tea party believes. Unless the law is defunded, the land of limited government, individual liberty and personal responsibility will be gone forever, and the new America, dominated by dependent minorities who assert their “rights” without accepting their responsibilities, will have no place for people like them.

For the tea party, ObamaCare is much more than a policy dispute; it is an existential struggle.

This analysis of the underlying attitudes of the Tea Party strikes me as basically right, based on my observations of the Tea Party and my own conversations and e-mail exchanges with friends and supporters of the Tea Party, during which I’ve both pushed back against their arguments and tried to understand their point of view.

My sense is they believe that America is at an inflection point. That we are about to enter into the land of no return. That demographic trends are all troubling and that the “takers” in America will soon outnumber the “givers.” That for many decades (or more) we’ve seen a “one-way ratchet toward ever bigger government.” And that a majority of Americans will become hooked on the Affordable Care Act like an addict to cocaine.

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It’s an interesting place in which I find myself. I share the Tea Party’s concerns about the Affordable Care Act and, more broadly, the threats posed by the increasing size, scope and reach of the federal government. I recognize the important role the populist movement played in the 2010 mid-term elections. And I wrote the other day that it’s important for there to be bridges built between the so-called conservative establishment and the Tea Party. Even still, I’ve found myself increasingly out of step with the Tea Party, for reasons that William Galston crystallized in his recent Wall Street Journal column.

Professor Galston, in writing about the Tea Party, relied on focus groups conducted by Stan Greenberg. As Galston reports

Supporters of the tea party, [Greenberg] finds, see President Obama as anti-Christian, and the president’s expansive use of executive authority evokes charges of “tyranny.” … ObamaCare is the tipping point, the tea party believes. Unless the law is defunded, the land of limited government, individual liberty and personal responsibility will be gone forever, and the new America, dominated by dependent minorities who assert their “rights” without accepting their responsibilities, will have no place for people like them.

For the tea party, ObamaCare is much more than a policy dispute; it is an existential struggle.

This analysis of the underlying attitudes of the Tea Party strikes me as basically right, based on my observations of the Tea Party and my own conversations and e-mail exchanges with friends and supporters of the Tea Party, during which I’ve both pushed back against their arguments and tried to understand their point of view.

My sense is they believe that America is at an inflection point. That we are about to enter into the land of no return. That demographic trends are all troubling and that the “takers” in America will soon outnumber the “givers.” That for many decades (or more) we’ve seen a “one-way ratchet toward ever bigger government.” And that a majority of Americans will become hooked on the Affordable Care Act like an addict to cocaine.

Assume this is, more or less, your mindset. If you love your country and believe it is engaged in an existential struggle, and about to lose – if tyranny is just around the corner — it might well create in you feelings of anxiousness, desperation, and aggression. And that can lead people to engage in battles you might not win because failure to fight will consign America to ruin. It is now or never.

You therefore end up supporting someone like Senator Ted Cruz, who promises to be conservatism’s 21st century Horatius at the Bridge – in this case leading a quixotic effort to force Senate Democrats, and President Obama himself, to defund his signature domestic achievement. And even if this gambit fails and damages your party and helps the very forces you oppose, so be it. There is glory in having waged the fight, even (and maybe especially) a losing fight.

In addition, this outlook creates rising anger at those whom Tea Partiers and their supporters thought were allies but in fact don’t really see the true nature of this apocalyptic struggle. They are part of the “establishment” – seen as passive, compliant, afraid, members of the “surrender caucus.” Going along to get along. Lusting for the approval of the (liberal) Georgetown cocktail set. Angling to appear on Morning Joe. Even, in a way, traitors to the cause. Which means there’s a need for a mass cleansing, the purification of a movement that can only come about by an auto-da-fe – directed even against those who agree with you on almost every policy matter. And so rock-ribbed conservatives like Senator Tom Coburn and Representative Pete Sessions are considered RINOs.

This is not, from my vantage point, a particularly healthy approach to politics or one moored to reality. You can believe, as I do, that President Obama is doing great harm to America, that his agenda is having an enervating effect and that we face deep and serious challenges.

But some perspective is also in order. We are actually not on the verge of collapse and ruin. This period is not comparable to the Great Depression or the period leading up to the Civil War or the collapse of Ancient Rome. And tyranny is not just around the corner.

This is, rather, a difficult time in some important respects – one that requires sobriety and wisdom, public officials of courage and good judgment who are willing to act boldly but not recklessly. The truth is that our afflictions are not beyond our ability to address them, that our society is a complicated mosaic that eludes simple, sweeping characterizations, and America’s capacity for self-renewal is quite extraordinary.

Beyond that is the importance of understanding that the life of a nation, like the life of an individual, includes ebbs and flows; that almost every generation feels as though the problems it faces are among the worst any generation has ever faced; and that setbacks are inevitable and that progress is often incremental.

A final thought: There is no question that a great deal of repair work needs to be done. But the growing sense among some on the right that a curtain of darkness is descending on America is both unwarranted and can lead people to act in ways that are self-destructive.

Without understating our challenges for a moment, I rather hope a figure will emerge from within the conservative ranks who is not only principled but also winsome, who possesses an open and flexible mind and has not learned the art of being discontent. A person who doesn’t find fulfillment in amplifying anxiety and anger. Who doesn’t dwell in the lowlands because he’s too busy aiming for the uplands. And who knows that this fallen world is not a world without hope.

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