What’s with all this anti-Establishment nonsense? (Harrumph.)

Society needs an Establishment: Benedict Cumberbatch as "The Last Tory," Christopher Tietjens, in "Parade's End."

Society needs an Establishment: Benedict Cumberbatch as “The Last Tory,” Christopher Tietjens, in “Parade’s End.” A very steady and dependable fellow…

It’s really gotten ridiculous. This anti-establishment impulse on both the left and the right (to the extent such ephemeral things actually exist) has gotten almost as absurd as it was in the ’60s. (Remember “Never trust anyone over 30?” And if you are old enough to remember it, how childish does it sound to you now?)

The Establishment is that which gives shape and order to the world. It anchors us in a safe-enough environment that it makes free expression and innovation possible. You don’t have time to invent or build a business or dream in a state of nature; you’re too busy keeping your next-door neighbor from killing and eating you. A free and dynamic country needs an establishment, a core of steady folk who cling to such essential values as running a country of laws and not of men, who maintain police forces and military strength and courts and streetsweepers and keeping the Social Security checks coming so that the rest of us can get on with our lives without having to look over our shoulders and preparing to fight every second.

And the thing is, such an Establishment is nonideological. You don’t need ideology to keep things running. The postwar consensus regarding our role in the world kept us focused on containing the Soviets, whether we were led by Democrats or Republicans, and it worked. That’s why I am so encouraged when I see continuity in the essential field of international affairs when the White House changes hands. Sure, it’s frustrating to him that Obama hasn’t been able to close the Guantanamo prison, but it’s reassuring that he sees the same challenges in doing so that his predecessor did, and his successor may.

So I’m impatient with these people who make “Establishment” out to be a curse word.

I got to thinking about this the other day when I read a piece headlined, “What is the dreaded ‘establishment,’ anyway? It depends on who’s talking.

Across the board, people are running against the supposed Establishment, even Hillary Clinton. And sometimes this takes really ridiculous forms — such as when members of the Democratic Party Establishment had a cow when Bernie Sanders made a simple, honest observation:

The Democratic Party, which has seen its progressive wing grow as conservative white voters have bolted, has discovered its own family argument. On MSNBC, Sanders grouped the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood into an “establishment” that the grassroots needed to challenge. Both groups rejected the term immediately, as if Sanders had called for their offices to be demolished and replaced by Chick-fil-As…

Planned Parenthood is an entrenched institution within the Democratic Party every bit as much as, say, teacher’s unions. That’s one of the big reasons why I am not a Democrat. And because it is so holy to Democrats, because they are all required to genuflect before it, because their visceral response is to fight tooth and nail against any threat to it, it has become part of the larger Establishment. How else to explain its federal funding, which continues in the face of anything and everything thrown at it?

So yes, there are aspects of the Establishment I don’t like, and would change. But even if I could weed out such elements, I would still see the need for the Establishment overall — the ongoing, continuing, consistent core of people and institutions who know how to keep the wheels turning — because you can’t have a civilization without it.

Sir Humphrey in "Yes, Prime Minister." Politicians come and go, but the Establishment endureth...

Sir Humphrey in “Yes, Prime Minister.” Politicians come and go, but the Establishment endureth…

79 thoughts on “What’s with all this anti-Establishment nonsense? (Harrumph.)

  1. Doug Ross

    The establishment is usually wrong. It’s the anti-establishment attitude that has done more to advance causes in this country than anyting. Think women’s rights. Think civil rights. Think technology. These things happened in response to the establishment.

    ” “Never trust anyone over 30?”

    I’d still agree with this with a slight change. ” “Never trust anyone over 50 unless they have friends who are under 30″. Too many older people have no idea what’s going on in the real world.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And yes, this entire post was a setup for that line. I was thinking of it from the start… Because I know my readers, and I knew what was likely to be my very first response…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and if it’s any consolation to Doug, I have friends who are under 30.

      One can’t help but like them. They’re so clueless, it’s adorable… 🙂

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Also, I think Cumberbatch’s character in “Parade’s End” is under 30 — or at least, 30ish. But he is most indubitably a creditable member of the Establishment…

        He’s also someone who cares about the downtrodden and is a good egg all around. And speaking of those WELL under 30 who want to shake things up, he’s incapable of stopping himself from falling in love with this young lady. This attraction flies in the face of his sincerely, deeply held notions of how a gentleman should conduct himself, which is what drives much of the conflict in the series and makes it interesting. (As a viewer, you care because you know he’s not a hypocrite, so you can feel his pain…)

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            A significant amount of time?

            Oh, I don’t have anyone like that, other than my family — and you folks here on the blog. When you have a large family you care about, work and blog, there’s not a lot of time for being sociable. I have friends; we just don’t spend scads of time together.

            There are the people at my Club, of course, but when I’m there, I generally sit alone and read.

            (I’m enjoying playing this role. Harrumph…)

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Even Phileas Fogg, standoffish as he was, spent more time with “friends” than I — he played whist daily with the other gentlemen at his club.

              But then, he didn’t have a family, or a job, or a blog…

  2. Lynn Teague

    We need an establishment in some of the senses that you mention, but a permeable one. If it is all about the luck of the draw when you are born, and then about insuring that you and yours remain at the top of the heap, then the establishment becomes a source of social ills. Much of the establishment in our country has reached that point. Not all, but far too much.

    As an anthropologist I associate the virtues that you mention primarily with the bureaucracy. I’m sure I’ve made this argument here before and won’t belabor it here, but a stable bureaucracy is the defining characteristic of state-level civilizations. I’ve studied this professionally, but I’ve also seen it in action. For example, without the bureaucracy Reagan’s Interior secretary would have destroyed the National Park Service out of ideological fervor. Bureaucrats seldom suffer from ideological fervor (something that makes them especially unappealing to those who want instant change) and they were very instrumental in dampening those fires of destruction.

    Of course establishment figures can also be useful in the political class, so long as their impulse to preserve the status quo for self-serving reasons is restrained.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Lynn, I’m with you completely on the bureaucracy — hence the picture of Sir Humphrey.

      But I thought I was very clear that I was NOT talking about “the luck of the draw when you are born, and then about insuring that you and yours remain at the top of the heap.” The Establishment I extol is “a core of steady folk who cling to such essential values as running a country of laws and not of men,” which is the precise opposite of governing for the benefit of you and yours.

      In fact, quite often, it’s the insurgents who are about them and theirs rather than the greater good. And some of that is good, if you have a situation where a particular group lacks input into the system and fails to benefit from it.

      I like your word, “permeable.” The establishment shouldn’t be about how you were born; it should be about choosing to dedicate oneself to your society’s highest ideals, and committing oneself to creating a space in which they can be realized and preserved…

      1. Lynn Teague

        Yes, I think you were clear about the kind of person and behavior you are looking for. My concern is that too often some of the steady folk begin to rationalize that the best way to preserve their values is by clinging to their own power. They can also become diverted protecting allies who don’t deserve that protection. I’ve seen it happen at the State House and elsewhere and I’m sure you have. One of the saddest instances is from my work on ethics reform. A legislator whom I admired (and still do on some ways, although far less than before) admitted in so many words that he knew that some of his colleagues oppose reform because they are corrupt – and then joined them in circling the wagons.

    2. bud

      We need an establishment in some of the senses that you mention, but a permeable one.

      What a great line. Couldn’t have said it any better.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    I can’t speak for the left-leaning folks, but I can at least explain to you where the anti-establishment push is coming from on the right. First of all, I’m not sure the word “Establishment” is the exact word. It certainly doesn’t mean what you’re talking about. People aren’t against government. They aren’t against laws. They aren’t against police. Can you seriously tell me the people who want a border enforced are against laws?

    A better word would be “Entrenched GOP Leadership”. I’m talking about the Entrenched Republicans who have been in Washington for a long time. Senators are a good example.

    For instance, Orrin Hatch has been in DC for forever. Every six years, he puts on a good election show, makes all sorts of statements about how much he’s a big conservative, and spends tons of money to win the senate seat. After the election, he goes right back to his normal ways of going along and getting along with the powerful and the uber-rich. There are plenty of other people who fall into this category, but he’s just one example I picked at random.

    So, I’m talking about the frustration with the “Entrenched Politician”.

    Okay, now that we have the object of the ire defined, let’s talk about an issue. I’ll use the issue of amnesty, since that issue is a major part of the Entrenched/Establishment’s agenda, and it’s one of the issues that has so ruptured the base from the party leadership.

    To be specific– the establishment/entrenched has been selling lies to everyone outside the donor class for years. They use their power to enact their own priorities into law, while telling the rest of us “it’s too hard” or “it will scare the moderates.” All the while, the big check writing companies who are part of the Chamber of Commerce wing of the GOP keep getting what they want – cheap labor, and the base of the GOP keep getting the excuses.

    And for years the regular GOP primary voter (the base who want actual illegal immigration to stop) went along with this for varying reasons. For instance, maybe some didn’t want to have a big distraction from the war on terror.

    However, over time, people get tired of getting the excuse. On the issue of immigration this continuous bargain — the elites get their actual agenda, everyone else gets lies and empty promises — has caused the trust between the base and the leadership to break down, probably forever. (Marco Rubio is a good example of this.)

    People on the right are simply tired of being ignored, or lied to, or given excuses by their own party’s leadership. For years, the base has dutifully voted GOP because the Democratic alternative was simply worse. That’s what the GOP simply counts on at this point. They seem to simply tell their base voters, “Yeah, sorry about all that stuff that we promised but never did. What are you gonna do about it? Vote Democrat?

    And the people are simply saying – no more. If it requires electing a Democrat to humble the party leadership, then lots of people will do exactly that, happily, I might add.

    That’s the explanation.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, I understand all that. And your points help reinforce my faith in the Establishment. Whatever the issue, I appreciate a system that resists the extremists of either the right or the left and keeps things on an even keel.

      You use the word, “conservative.” The thing is Hatch IS a conservative, and those who want him to do radical things are not. Just to be clear.

      To be even clearer, here’s a good way of separating the good Establishment from those who hate it: The good Establishment consists of people who have a clue. The folks who are so excitable about illegal immigration are furious that the Establishment hasn’t made all the Mexicans disappear. They still overhear Spanish being spoken in the aisles of Walmart, and they conclude that there’s no enforcement of immigration laws and the government just isn’t trying and the problem is getting worse every day, and they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, like that absurd person in the film.

      People who have a clue know two things: That enforcement efforts have increased markedly in recent years, with hundreds of millions more being spent on border security as Congress has responded to the concerns of the angry folk. They also know that we’re seeing immigration in reverse these days, with more folks from South of the Border going home than coming in, so that the illegal population is down by about a million. And since they do have a clue, they know that the second fact is not markedly due to the first, because the greatest cause has been economic: Things aren’t as rosy here, and not quite as awful back home. Markets are working, which should please more people, since a lot (but certainly not all) of the angriest folk on immigration also claim to appreciate market forces.

      But the Mexicans (and Central and South Americans misidentified as “Mexicans”) haven’t all disappeared, you see, so the anger continues.

      I used immigration because you did. An even better example is foreign aid. The populists and others who oppose it think some ungodly amount, like 15 or even 20 percent, of the federal budget goes to shiftless folk in distant lands (which sometimes makes them even angrier than it going to those they perceive as shiftless at home). The truth is that it’s more like 1 percent. As Michael Kinsley wrote in 1995 in a much-cited New Yorker piece headlined “The Intellectual Free Lunch“:

      Comment about informed opinions. The weekend before President Clinton’s State of the Union Address, the Wall Street Journal assembled a focus group of middle-class white males to plumb the depth of their proverbial anger. These guys are mad as hell. They’re mad at welfare, they’re mad at special-interest lobbyists. “But perhaps the subject that produces the most agreement among the group,” the Journal reports, is the view that Washington should stop sending money abroad and instead zero in on the domestic front. “Tells about a poll released last week by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland which stated that 75% of Americans believes that the US spends “too much” on foreign aid, and 64% want foreign aid spending cut. Apparently a cavalier 11% of Americans think it’s fine to spend “too much” on foreign aid. Respondents were also asked, though, how big a share of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The median answer was 15%; the average answer was 18% the correct answer is less than 1%. A question about how much would be “too little” produced a median answer of 3%–more than three times the current level of foreign aid spending. This poll is less interesting for what it shows about foreign aid than for what it shows about American democracy. It’s not just that Americans are scandalously ignorant. It’s that they seem to believe they have a democratic right to their ignorance. Populism, in its latest manifestation, celebrates ignorant opinion and undifferentiated rage. As long as you’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore, no one will inquire very closely. No conventional poll disqualifies an answer on the ground of mere total ignorance. It may be too heavy a burden of civic responsibility to expect every citizen to carry foreign aid numbers around in his or her head. But it is not asking too much to expect a citizen to recognize that he or she needs to know that number, at least roughly, in order to have a valid opinion about whether it is too large or small.

      As Daniel Patrick Moynihan is famously said to have said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

      Moynihan being, of course, an exemplar of the sort of Establishment that I’m on about…

      1. Jeff Mobley

        The folks who are so excitable about illegal immigration are furious that the Establishment hasn’t made all the Mexicans disappear. They still overhear Spanish being spoken in the aisles of Walmart, and they conclude that there’s no enforcement of immigration laws…

        I’m fairly sure that when you wrote that, Brad, you had in mind a group of misinformed people, and there’s no doubt such people are out there. But there are plenty of people who view the immigration issue in view of national security and safety, economic considerations aside.

        ICE’s treatment of those awaiting their deportation proceedings has been controversial for several years.

        In 2013, the agency released 36,007 convicted criminals who were awaiting the outcome of their deportation cases. Those released had amassed 116 homicide convictions, 15,635 drunken driving convictions and 9,187 convictions stemming from what ICE labeled involvement with “dangerous drugs.”

        Then there’s the matter of President Obama’s executive action which will be examined by the Supreme Court.

        So, not every complaint out there with respect to immigration is illusory.

        Your characterization appears to be dripping with disdain, and it’s not clear how narrowly that disdain is focused. That’s the kind of attitude (whether it’s a correct perception or not) that epitomizes “the establishment” for a lot of people.


    2. bud

      From the left I would say the banking industry is an entrenched “Establishment” institution. We need banks but the size and power that they’ve accrued over the years is both unnecessary and dangerous. Hence the appeal Bernie Sanders has for me.

  4. Jeff Mobley

    One of the big problems is that “the establishment” is that it can mean almost anything depending on who uses it (though I kind of like Bryan’s definition). Ted says Marco is part of the establishment. Marco says he’s fighting the establishment. Some might say you’re in the establishment by definition if you’re a U.S. senator. Is the establishment just politicians, or does it include the media, big banks, other corporate interests?

    I say, get it from the horse’s mouth.

  5. Mprince

    This is where your conservative elitism shows through most clearly: in your anti-populist reflex, your disdain for political demonstrations, your stated preference for hat-in-hand petitioning and for the election of senators by state legislators as well as in your High-Church pietism and moralism.

    You forget: Lincoln was a populist, too.

    Instead of the sheer popular appeal of a movement or its attitude toward elites (a.k.a. “the establishment”), you should instead be concerned with its intellectual content – or lack thereof.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ve said the same myself, although perhaps not for the same reasons…

      The way I look at it: The Framers wisely tried to give each bit of the government a different constituency, as a way of balancing interests. The Senate should not be directly, popularly elected. That’s the House’s role to play…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Nope. It’s the People’s House; it’s supposed to represent the voters who directly elect it.

          The whole idea behind the Senate was that it was to represent states. That’s why every state has two of them — it’s not about population.

          It’s about checks and balances, having the different parts of government elected differently.

          With the House, it’s direct election. With the courts, it’s executive nomination with Senate confirmation. With the executive, it’s the electoral college, which more or less follows a popular vote.

          Having senators elected directly, like the House, diminishes the purpose of having two chambers. It doesn’t do away with it entirely, since senators are elected statewide and serve for six years. And for that reason, this is not too bad, and not really a burning issue for me.

          But if you ask me, I say go back to the old way.

          People look at the political situation that helped create the Constitution, and they believe that taints the structure. “This setup was in the service of slavery!” they will cry.

          But pretend slavery wasn’t a factor, and consider this structure in the abstract: It fits with the rest of the Constitution, in terms of balancing entities that are elected differently.

          Also, even if slavery had not existed, less-populated states would have needed an incentive to join this stronger union. And that was a desirable outcome after the disaster of the Articles of Confederation. (Just as, even if slavery had not been an issue, Lincoln would have wanted to fight to preserve the union.)

          But totally apart from the politics, in the abstract, it strikes me as an elegant system…

  6. Mark Stewart

    The Establishment is monolithic, but it is not immutable. It’s a tempered response to the call for change. Occupy Wall Street (or the State House grounds in Cola)? Rejected. Gay marriage? Accepted. Removal of the CBF? Accepted. Trump/Cruz? TBD…

    Also, I know this is just going to be anathema to you; but maybe it wouldn’t be unreasonable to consider that abortion rights/family planning is a widely held “establishment” viewpoint? As is Evolutionism (as opposed to Creationism).

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, I think it is. And that’s a case where I hold an anti-Establishment view (as I suggested above, at the end of the original post). On abortion, I mean, not evolution.

      The court failed in its duty on that, coming up with a decision that was markedly contrary to having a society of laws and not of men — granting a single, extremely interested party the absolute power to choose death for another, without even a pretense of due process.

      Unfortunately, rather than that error being corrected by a subsequent ruling, the establishment — particularly the Democratic part — rallied around it.

        1. Mark Stewart

          To subscribe to your viewpoint one has to believe that one can die before one is born.

          Forget religion; it’s a logical inconsistency to hold that abortion is the power to chose death for another. Control of one’s own body is the very definition of liberty. And you only get that right when you are born – i.e., take the breaths that make you your own individual person.

          It’s a pretty simple standard, an one as grey on the edges as any other. But that’s life and what we have to navigate through. Collectively, we are trying to do just that; it just doesn’t feel very collective from any one person’s vantage point…

          1. Jeff Mobley

            How can it possibly be considered more “logical” to assert that “taking breaths” is what gives a person her own unique identity, rather than say, oh, I don’t know, DNA?

          2. Bryan Caskey

            “And you only get that right when you are born”


            a baby inside the mother’s uterus = not a person
            a baby outside the mother’s uterus = a person

            Seems like you’re basing personhood on location.

            1. Michael Bramson

              That’s not all that far off from the way the law works in most cases right now, which as I understand it bases the legality of abortion on whether the fetus would be viable outside of the womb.

              1. Jeff Mobley

                Viability depends on environment. If you let a toddler loose at a busy downtown intersection, he wouldn’t be viable, apart from the compassion of strangers. If you dropped me in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park without water or GPS, I would certainly not be viable, though some others of you might be just fine in that circumstance.
                My daughter was born about 6 weeks early, because my wife had high blood pressure associated with preeclampsia. She went in to see her doctor, and he informed her: “We’re doing a C-section today.” Our daughter was just under 4 lbs when she was born, and she had to have a surgical procedure on her intestine. Everything went very well, and we were able to take her home after she spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit. During that month, we saw several babies both smaller and sicker than our own. And there was a picture of a baby who had stayed for nearly a year before being able to go home. The doctors and nurses provided amazing care for those kids, some of whom may not have been considered worthy of legal protection, based on the “viability” standard, had they been at the same stage of development, but inside the womb rather than outside it.
                Is my worth as a person determined by my environment? If not, why should it be different for a child not yet born?

          3. Brad Warthen Post author

            Of COURSE you can die before you are born. I don’t think I’ve encountered the argument that the fetus is not ALIVE. That’s a new one to me. It’s completely dependent life, but it’s life. And HUMAN life, in any clinical sense — I mean, check the DNA.

            Mark, I’m surprised you buy into that “control of one’s own body” cliche. Surely an individual growing within you — one whose genetic makeup comes partly from you and partly from someone else — is not part of the mother’s body. It’s another body, rapidly developing, that is completely dependent on the mother. It is an individual that, if you don’t interfere with the process, will soon come out and be breathing and eating and walking and talking and making moral decisions for himself or herself.

            This is a concept that people have NO trouble grasping when the child is wanted. The mother and everyone else will refer to the “baby,” and talk about the baby kicking or the baby turning over or the baby sucking his or her thumb in the ultrasounds. And that relationship of dependence becomes a sacrosanct thing, with the mother and others around her doing all they can to give this child the best chance it has of being healthy, happy and successful.

            This understanding only goes away when one individual, the mother, decides she doesn’t want the child. Then it’s “part of her body,” like a wart or something. Which is CRAZY. Either this individual has moral value or not; either it’s a person or not. That moral value, that claim upon our protection, does NOT change according to the opinion of the mother or any other solitary person. How could it?

            1. bud

              Still trying to drive the blog traffic with the abortion issue. I think most folks have figured out that no one’s mind gets changed on this issue. I choose not to rehash my opinion.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                On that, we are in agreement.

                I only remember one case of someone’s mind changing, and it was when we were in college. A good friend of mine was pro-choice, and we used to argue all the time about it. Then one day, he told me he had changed his mind when his girlfriend got an abortion.

                Not that it always works that way. I was arguing the subject with another of my best friends a few years later, and he cut me off to say, “Look, I’ll never change my mind. My wife had an abortion back before we were married. We had to come up with the money to go to New York (pre-Roe). I have to support it. I can’t possibly think we were wrong.”

                I understood, and never talked about it with him again. If I had done what he had been through, I would never be able to handle even considering that I had been wrong. It would overwhelm my mind…

            2. Karen Pearson

              If you’re not going to require a victim of violent rape or incest to carry a fetus to term, if you’re going to elect to save the mother over saving the fetus (the mother’s life is endangered), or if you are going to allow abortion in the case of gross abnormality then you are not valuing the fetus as a post birth human being.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Karen, I follow what you’re saying, except for the part about saving the mother’s life.

                This is about valuing human life. Why would I not value the mother’s as much as the child’s? The fact that I care the mother’s life doesn’t mean I am “not valuing the fetus as a post birth human being.”

                1. Karen Pearson

                  When you allow an abortion because the mother’s life is in danger, you value the mother’s life over the fetus’. “In danger” does not equal “going to die in the next 24 hours.” The mother might be able to make it a few weeks or a few months until the fetus is developed enough to survive outside the womb. Or she might die tomorrow. It’s a chance situation. For my part, I’m willing to agree with an anti-abortion stance when we come up with a way to ensure that a man cannot impregnate a woman (or child) unless she states that she wants to become pregnant. I would also suggest a way to absolutely insure that the man helps pay to raise the child.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Yes, you point to real difficulties in the “danger to the mother’s life” scenario.

                    But that’s still the only situation where there’s a moral argument for an abortion. It’s qualitatively different from the other situations.

                  2. Bryan Caskey

                    “For my part, I’m willing to agree with an anti-abortion stance when we come up with a way to ensure that a man cannot impregnate a woman (or child) unless she states that she wants to become pregnant.”

                    That technology has been around for a long time.

                    “I would also suggest a way to absolutely insure that the man helps pay to raise the child.”

                    We already have that, too. It’s called court-ordered child support.

                2. Karen Pearson

                  Whether it’s qualitatively different or not, if you allow it, you’ve just relegated the fetus to a lesser status than the mother.

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    Still failing to get many harrumphs out of y’all (although I got a fairly good one from Lynn), but I ask you: Don’t any of y’all think the current political situation, in which EVERYONE is so eager to be a populist that each claims to be fighting the “estabilishment,” is ridiculous?

    If not a harrumph, could I get an “Amen” on that?

      1. Mark Stewart

        Entropy, man.

        But the thing is, in society the center does tend to hold – it just recenters itself as it were. The true rifts are the anomalies; noteworthy as they may be in history. We aren’t headed there; we are now, politically, on the path to determine (once again – this is sort of getting old as an ideological dispute, people) whether we are a society comprised of individuals, or alternately individuals who incorporate into a society.

        The establishment view holds that we are a society comprised of individuals. The greater good view and all that. It’s a big tent. Or stockade. Or walled city.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Bryan, you stopped before you got to the best bit!

        The best lack all conviction, while the worst
        Are full of passionate intensity.

        That’s what I have seen, over and over…

        1. bud

          Brad, who would you consider the BEST. Jeb Bush? Hillary Clinton? Rubio? Christie? You can’t just throw Bernie and Trump under the bus then hide behind this vague concept of defending the “establishment”. That’s kinda cheap don’t you think?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I was just speaking in general. I don’t know of anyone in this race who was the “best,” unless it was Lindsey, who never had a chance.

            When you talk about the “best” in politics, that’s a small set of people.

            Joe Riley. He’s one of the best. Had he ever run for president, I’d definitely have been in his corner… When he lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1994, by less than one vote per precinct, it was a very, very dark day for South Carolina.

      3. Karen Pearson

        Bryan, what’s the sure fire means to prevent pregnancy unless the woman wants a chilld. Should she take a medicine (the pill) which has some potentially dangerous side effects even though she has no intention of engaging in intercourse. Have a device inserted in her body just in case a rapist shows up? Let’s let the guys make these choices for themselves. And court ordered child support? That is so much a joke as to be absurd. Even assuming that you know the man well (like your ex-husband) it is so easy for so many men, especially those who make little income to start with to simply start working for cash only–no record involved. And don’t say this is rare; I’ve seen too many cases where that’s exactly what has happened. When the choices affect your body, then and only then do you have the right to make decisions about that body. It is so easy to say what’s moral when you’ve got no sacrifice to make.

  8. Burl Burlingame

    So sayeth the lad who helped foment a faux revolution in high school!

    A much better phrase is the journalist mantra “Question Authority.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      But we meant that revolution ironically… We had been inspired by seeing “Bananas” a few nights before.

      No, this isn’t “question authority.” That’s just healthy skepticism. I don’t think that describes what either Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders are about.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Why did we not take pictures during our “revolution”? I’d love to see those, if only they existed. We were really different in those days, not to think of that. Technology has really changed us. Today, there’s no way a bunch of kids would dress up in mock-military gear and pretend to take over their school during classes without getting video.

      I know video was shot during our Senior Talent Show. I’d love to see it if it exists. I should have thought of that while I was there. Or before — I should have written ahead to Radford to see if someone could make me a copy, and picked it up while there…

  9. Michael Bramson

    What exactly do you mean by:

    How else to explain its federal funding, which continues in the face of anything and everything thrown at it?

    Are you suggesting that Planned Parenthood only has federal funding because Democrats are too afraid to oppose it? If so, I think that’s nonsense. Planned Parenthood has kept its federal funding because a great many people, myself included, recognize that in many communities it is a vital provider of women’s reproductive healthcare. And no, “reproductive healthcare” is not just code for “abortions,” which are not federally subsidized.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Sometimes, it is a euphemism for abortions. A lot of folks on the pro side don’t like to say the A word — although there’s movement afoot to try to change that.

      And saying the abortions aren’t subsidized is disingenuous. If you run an enterprise that does X and Y, and someone kindly agrees to pay for X, then Y is being subsidized as well, because every penny they give is one that you don’t have to get from other sources for X, so you can spend whatever else you do get just on Y, rather than X and Y both.

      And no, I don’t think Democrats are “afraid” not to support PP. They WANT to support it, with the exception maybe of a few folks like Bob Casey. I say it reaches the point of being established in the broadest sense because Republicans, even when they’re in the majority, don’t seem to get it together to cut off the funding either.

      1. bud

        Why in the world would you want to defund Planned Parenthood? That’s just about the worst policy proposal since the Iraq war vote. It has helped thousands of women who never sought an abortion. You’ve made this absurd argument that we actually do fund abortions indirectly. Couldn’t you make that same argument about any entity that we fund? Take the military. You could say that we fund ISIL since the weapons we gave to the Iraqis ended up in ISIL’s possession. Does that mean we should stop funding the military because some of it ends up being used for an unintended purpose? (I would of course stop funding anything that has to do with the Iraq situation but that’s for another day),

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, that test was ridiculous! It put me in the upper right quadrant, with this description:

      You’re on the right and collective quadrant of the political compass! You believe in a strong military, an efficient government to intervene when necessary, low taxes and a free market economy. You value tradition, hardwork, and you tend to respect religious authority. You’re patriotic and sceptical of people looking for a hand out. You believe in government institutions and you have a strong sense of belonging to those with the same nationality as you. You believe in individual freedoms, but you also take into account tradition and social order. Anarchy and communism are your worst nightmares! Ronald Reagan is most likely one of your personal heroes! What do you think? Is this accurate?

      I could demolish that point by point, but I’ll just refute the last thing: One of the most appalling moments in my political life was when Ronald Reagan was elected. I NEVER saw what other people saw in him. His election was almost as great a political calamity as when Andrew Jackson was elected over John Quincy Adams in 1828. I haven’t gotten over it yet. And when other people go on about how awesome he is, it makes me wonder if I’m actually from some other planet.

      That’s just for starters. I could go on (“collective?” really? is that their term for “communitarian”)…

      I shouldn’t have been in ANY of the quadrants. Practically all of my answers were either 2s or 3s; I should have been in the middle. So many of those choices were just bogus.

      A lot of tests are devised by people who can’t imagine anyone like me, but think everyone fits into neat boxes.. This was one of them.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I mean, seriously: Does anyone here think I’m about “low taxes and a free market economy” and that I’m “sceptical of people looking for a hand out?”

        If they’d asked about single-payer, my answer would have blown all of those out of the water.

        A test like this really makes me respect that test that said I was part of the “faith and family left” a whole lot more. That one was onto something, even though I didn’t like the “left” part…

      2. Assistant

        I’m curious about your reaction to Reagan, not your initial reaction, but your apparent continuing antipathy. Have you read Reagan, In His Own Hand? What a lot of folks are completely unaware of is the connection Reagan forged with everyday folks through his radio commentaries during the 1970s. Prior to that, in addition to hosting General Electric Theater in the early 1950s, he served as General Electric’s goodwill ambassador giving speeches at GE plants throughout the country. It was during the 1950s that his conversion from Democrat to conservative occurred. Although he did not change his party affiliation until 1962, he did campaign for Nixon. While those in or on the periphery of the establishment were ignorant of Reagan’s reach, middle America knew the man.

        My point is that the depiction of Reagan as an empty-headed actor with little foreign or domestic policy knowledge is incorrect and misleading.

        A top advisor to Ronald Reagan once remarked of his boss: “He knows so little and accomplishes so much.” Reagan, in His Own Hand will show that the 40th president knew far more than some people have given him credit for. It collects Reagan’s recently discovered writings from the late 1970s, when he delivered more than a thousand radio addresses. He wrote about two-thirds of these himself, in longhand on yellow legal paper. “In writing these daily essays on almost every national policy issue during the 1970s, Reagan was acting as a one-man think tank,” suggest the editors. This edition reproduces everything faithfully, right down to the spelling mistakes and crossed-out words. And it offers a compelling look at the ideas and principles that animated one of the most important Americans of the 20th century. In one address, Reagan describes his contribution to a time capsule:

        I wrote of the problems we face here in 1976–The choice we face between continuing the policies of the last 40 yrs. that have led to bigger & bigger govt, less & less liberty, redistribution of earnings through confiscatory taxation or trying to get back on the original course set for us by the Founding Fathers…. On the international scene two great superpowers face each other with nuclear missiles at the ready–poised to bring Armageddon to the world.
        Often his rhetoric is admirably forthright: “Calling a communist a liar when he is one is pretty frustrating. How do you insult a pig by calling it a pig?…. Fidel Castro is a liar.” And there are frequent glimpses of his later achievements, such as the foreshadowing of his desire to build the Strategic Defense Initiative: “If the Soviets should push the button our magnificent warning system would immediately detect the launch of their missiles…. But there is no defense against them–no way to prevent nuclear devastation of their targets here in the U.S.”

        Just curious.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I found his speaking style extremely off-putting. The very thing that others seemed to love about him just grated on me.

          There are few things that send me over the edge — and this was particularly true when I was younger — than foolishness that is absolutely sure that it is wisdom, and smugly condescending about it.

          He just said too many foolish things in that smirking, smug way of his. He said other things I could agree with, but he put me off too much with what I saw as dumb stuff. The things that most caused his admirers to say, “Yeah! That’s right!” were in some instances the things that grated on me the most…

      3. Karen Pearson

        The test told me I was a left libertarian just like Doug–who’d a thought! That leads me to believe the test is absolute stable refuse.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That. Is. Awesome, Bill.

      I had a mystical experience with that song once. I was at a Braves game in Atlanta. Fantastic seats, right behind home plate.

      Greg Maddux was on the mound, and they had one of those TV timeouts. The ballpark P.A. system started playing “Strawberry Fields,” and Maddux was just sort of wandering back and forth on the mound, staring at the ground, communing with the source of his powers, summoning his juju for bewitching the next batter. Nothing else was going on at all. Strawberry Fields… Nothing is real… I felt I’d entered another dimension. Very transcendental…

  10. Norm Ivey

    Was it H. L. Mencken who thought that the great tragedy of the Civil War was the loss of the aristocratic ruling class in the south?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t know. But I think of two things when his name comes up:

      1. He was a jerk. I don’t remember all the reasons I decided that, back in my college days, but I decided it rather emphatically.

      2. He entered South Carolina legend when someone asked him whether he was familiar with The State, and he said something like, “I know someone shot your editor once, and you haven’t had one worth shooting since.”

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