Category Archives: Political Philosophy

A Constitutional Betrayal

Today, Donald Trump is expected to join a small, ignominious fraternity, becoming the third U.S. president to be impeached. This historic rebuke is richly deserved. It may also prove deeply imprudent. Continue reading

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Filed under Political Philosophy, Quotidian Politics

Republicans’ Breach of Trust

The hysterical argument against impeachment reveals a poor understanding of, or brazen contempt for, constitutional principle

During the last fortnight’s impeachment hearings in Washington D.C., Republicans loyal to Trump asserted that the opposition party was embarked on nothing less than a political coup against a duly elected president. This, needless to say, was a large—and, if true, damning—claim against the national Democratic party. According to the president’s defenders, the impeachment proceedings arose from quotidian policy differences rather than grave presidential misconduct.

In reality, this entire line of argument was deranged. Continue reading

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Whither the Impartial Arbiters?

Impeachment may be imprudent. But this lamentable fact does not acquit Republicans who, in l’affaire Ukraine, have made it so.
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One Man’s Self-Portrait

A new memoir about race violates shibboleths on the left and right, and drives a stake through the heart of identity politics.

There is a saying from Roman antiquity: Nihil humanum a me alienum puto. “I am human and I consider nothing human alien to me.” I confess this swaggering pronouncement (by the Roman poet Terence) has always left me feeling a touch ambivalent. For starters, there is a great deal about the human condition that, upon reflection, is quite alienating. Ignorance, solipsism, envy, cruelty, capriciousness, bigotry, vulgarity, idiocy, superstition, provincialism, cowardice, to name a few. Not a very agreeable list, but then, as the scribbler put it, man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to.

Nonetheless, there is surely something to credit in the idea of the unity of human experience, and in the solidarity of human belonging. For better or worse, the concept of human nature is not infinitely plastic, and to a remarkable degree members of our species are the same everywhere. This insight is powerful ballast against the eternal promptings of race and tribe. As Thomas Chatterton Williams points out in his learned and candid memoir about race Self-Portrait in Black and White, Terence did not proclaim, as he might have, “I am Roman, therefore nothing Roman is alien to me.” Continue reading

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Filed under Political Philosophy, Social Policy

Saluting The Honored Dead

A new book celebrates The Old Guard at Arlington

In April, Israel brought home the remains of Sgt. Zachary Baumel, a soldier who perished in Lebanon in 1982. After 37 years tracking Baumel’s remains to Syria and negotiating their recovery through Russia, the Israeli government laid him to rest at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

For Senator Tom Cotton, the extraordinary measures taken on behalf of soldiers who rallied to the flag and did not return from the breach is not simply a de rigueur tradition. In Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery, the junior senator from Arkansas has written an encomium to the martial virtues as embodied by his his former unit, the storied 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment—The Old Guard. In the process, Cotton echoes Plato’s view that the ancient ritual of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice has as much to do with advising the living as it does with praising the dead. Continue reading

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Filed under Book Reviews, Political Philosophy

Disgrace in Charlottesville

The facts from Charlottesville are plain in their ugliness. White nationalists from around the country descended on the campus of the University of Virginia ostensibly to protest its plan to remove a statue memorializing Robert E. Lee. But even before the spectacle of a torchlight demonstration featuring a toxic blend of Confederate nostaliga and Nazi propaganda, it was clear that its true purpose was a rendezvous for the nation’s leading bigots and anti-social hooligans to make their presence known in the social sphere.

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Europe’s Suicide Pact

A new book points to Europe’s self-destruction—and warns about the consequences for the West.

As we approach death, it is not unusual for members of our solipsistic species to suspect that the world is similarly doomed. When Stefan Zweig executed a suicide pact with his wife in Brazil on February 23, 1942, the Viennese novelist had more reason than most for harboring this suspicion. After fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe where his books were being burnt, Zweig wrote the manuscript Die Welt von Gestern (The World of Yesterday) with confidence that the world of tomorrow would be irrepressibly dark. Europe’s destruction was not yet complete, but it had long since “passed its own death sentence.”

In The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, the British writer Douglas Murray opens his forensic inquiry on the impending suicide of the old continent by picking up where Zweig left off. Zweig never lived to see the death sentence carried out, but Murray fears that coming generations of Europeans will not be so lucky. Continue reading

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