In which an older and wiser yet terminally earnest former liberal struggles to come to grips with the cynicism, hatred, and paranoia that plague both sides of the American political spectrum. "Can we all get along?"
"The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered."
Edmund Burke, 2nd speech on conciliation with America, Mar. 22, 1775 (Bartlett's 16th ed., p. 331)
Mrs. Powel: "Well, Dr. Franklin, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
Benjamin Franklin: "A republic, if you can keep it."
After Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Sept. 18, 1787. (Bartlett's 16th ed.)
"As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other, and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves."
James Madison ("Publius"), The Federalist Papers No. 10 (1787)
"Of the three forms of sovereignty [autocracy, aristocracy, and democracy], democracy, in the truest sense of the word, is necessarily a despotism because it establishes an executive power through which all the citizens may make decisions about (and indeed against) the individual without his consent..."
Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795)
"To act successfully, that is, according to the rules of the political art, is political wisdom. To know with despair that the political act is inevitably evil, and to act nevertheless, is moral courage. To choose among several expedient actions the least evil one is moral judgment. In the combination of political wisdom, moral courage, and moral judgment, man reconciles his political nature with his moral destiny."
Hans Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (1946), p. 203
"Thus, whenever a concrete threat to peace develops, war is opposed not by a world public opinion but by the public opinions of those nations whose interests are threatened by that war."
Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations 6th ed., rev. by Kenneth Thompson (1985), p. 288
"The texture of international politics remains highly constant, patterns recur, and events repeat themselves endlessly."
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (1979), p. 66
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discerned in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following upon another as wave follows upon wave, only one great fact with respect to which, since it is unique, there can be no generalizations, only one safe rule for the historian: that he should recognize in the development of human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
H. A. L. Fisher, History of Europe (1935), p. vii [Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991), p. 80]
"Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favour."
Robert Frost, 'Black Cottage' North of Boston (1914), [Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991), p. 86]
"My thoughts encompass divinity, therefore divinity is. The divinity that my thoughts encompass is associated with the order that arises out of chaos... As we expand our knowledge of this realm, we ... see it in terms of one sublime order that awaits full realization."
Louis J. Halle, Out of Chaos (1977), p. 646
"Here, then, is the complexity, the fascination, and the tragedy of all political life. Politics are made up of two elements -- utopia and reality -- belonging to two different planes which can never meet."
E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939 2nd ed. (1946), p. 93.
"My biggest blunder in life was attempt to seek common ground with Keynesians, based on the naive thought that by putting my ideas in Keynesian language that I would make any dent on the Keynesians."
Milton Friedman, New York Times, July 4, 1999
"War made the state and the state made war."
Charles Tilly, The Formation of National States in Western Europe (1975), p. 42
"Americans like to mock Kuwaitis as rich and pampered and lazy and decadent, which is exactly what the rest of the world says about Americans. Actually, we shouldn't mock Kuwait at all. It represents the hopes and dreams of Americans of all political persuasions. For liberals, it's a generous welfare state with guaranteed employment and a huge government bureaucracy. For conservatives, it's a country with no taxes and plenty of cheap maids who aren't allowed to vote."
Peter Carlson, "Castles in the Sand," Washington Post Magazine Jan. 14, 1996, p. 32-33
"[Bill Clinton's] greatest strength is his insincerity... I've decided Bill Clinton is at his most genuine when he's the most phony... We know he doesn't mean what he says."
Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, in a speech in Indiana quoted by Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Apr. 27, 1996
"Whatever one thinks of Bill Clinton, his opponents [*] must be thwarted. They are enemies of democracy and of the Constitution that insures its possibility. We long ago lost the luxury of choosing our allies. This is war."
* (referred to elsewhere in this piece as "mad dogs bent on political annihilation")
Eric Alterman, "Democracy Disappears" The Nation, Jan. 11-18, 1998
"There are no enemies in science, professor. Only phenomena to study."
From the movie The Thing, 1951 (a Cold War sci-fi allegory)
Julia Roberts: "Can you prove any of this?"
Mel Gibson: "No... A good conspiracy is unprovable. If you can prove it, someone must have screwed up somewhere along the way."
From the movie Conspiracy Theory
THE 16 WORDS: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Pres. George W. Bush, State of the Union address, Jan. 2003
While watching Channel 3 news on Wednesday evening, I was stunned to learn that David Beyeler, a member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, had passed away. I knew that he had been treated for cancer a few years ago, but the precise cause of his death was not reported. Thursday's News Leader (which did not arrive until Friday because of the huge snowfall) had an in-depth article on Beyeler, including quotes from people who knew him. What follows is an expanded version of what I wrote on Facebook about him on Thursday:
I was very proud to know Mr. Beyeler, the very model of what a civic leader should be. I first met him during State Senator Emmett Hanger's primary reelection campaign in May 2007. I had probably seen him a few times before that, and he appeared in a photo that I took when the Staunton bypass was completed in August 2006. (That's him next to the U.S. flag.) After seeing him quoted in the newspaper in support of Sen. Hanger, I called him up and asked if we could meet some time. He invited me to his farm, and after talking with me in his office (a small building), he showed me his own private museum situated in a converted barn, chock full of political memorabilia dating back to the 1960s. He had dozens and dozens of campaign signs, buttons, newspapers, and photos, and I was totally enthralled. He also had several Marilyn Monroe pinups on the wall, which made me smile.
Clearly, this was a man with vast political experience and knowledge, and I found it hard to believe that I had not met him years before. (I first became active with local Republicans in 2002.) In fact, I recall when I was putting together the Republican Party Web site (www.swacgop.org, launched in 2003 and terminated in 2007) being told by someone whose judgment I once trusted that Beyeler was not really a Republican -- that he wasn't "reliable." Consequently, I did not include him among the local Republican elected officials on that Web site, even though as I later learned, he clearly was a Republican! I had been badly misled, one of the first signs I had that something was amiss in the Republican Party.
Dave and his wife Elizabeth joined in the jubilant Emmett Hanger victory celebration in June 2007, and we stayed in touch off and on during the months that followed. One of the more dramatic episodes I recall was during the Augusta County Republican mass meeting in April 2008. One of the more hot-headed "grassroots" leaders (who was obviously irritated at losing) called Beyeler a "clown," with Mrs. Beyeler standing right next to him. I couldn't believe it. As always, Beyeler kept his cool and refrained from further discussion with that person. Dave once gave me a very good piece of advice: Never get into an argument with a crazy person, because any neutral person listening to the argument won't be able to figure out which person is crazy and which one is sane. Indeed!
Dave Beyeler was one of the charter members of the Mountain Valley Republicans, and attended almost all of the meetings, until it became inactive in mid-2009. As the "grassroots" faction ramped up their pressure with a mini-tax revolt at the Augusta County Government Center in March 2009, he stood firm and refused to undercut vital services such as education. I wrote then, "I was proud that South River Supervisor David Beyeler flatly refused to buckle under pressure to go back on his solemn vow as a public official." In November 2009, he was at the victory party at the Staunton Holiday Inn. At the time, we thought that the forces of reason were in the ascendancy within the GOP. Turns out we were wrong.
In November 2011, Beyeler won reelection (unopposed) to the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, representing the South River District. His moderate Republican faction barely retained a majority, with four members against the three "grassroots" members: two Republicans (both new) and one veteran Democrat, Tracy Pyles. Now that Beyeler is gone, control of the local government is evenly split for the moment. The vacancy will be filled by a vote of the six remaining supervisors, [and the person chosen] will serve until the next election, in November.
In sum, Dave was an honest, no-nonsense leader committed to good, efficient government. He really cared about his community, and proved over and over again that wouldn't take guff from anybody. He was a hard-working farmer with a real zest for life, an inspiration to those around him. His name will be remembered for many years to come. I hope to attend the memorial service for him this coming Monday, at Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church in Fishersville.
David Beyeler, on his way out of the Republican House of Delegates candidates' forum at Buffalo Gap High School, on July 27, 2009.
The real leaders in each chamber are in bold face.
Last updated: 12 Jan 2013
Pres. Pro Tem
Virginia House of Delegates
This table has been updated to reflect the Nov. 2013 elections, which was not resoved until a recount was done in the attorney general race. The victories by Democrats Ralph Northam (Lt. Gov.) and Mark Herring (AG) created two vacancies in the State Senate, both of which were retained by Democrats in special elections, giving them an effetive majority in that chamber. Also, Democrat Lynwood Lewis won a special election for Northam's former State Senate seat, creatiting a vacancy in the House of Delegates.
Last updated: 05 Feb 2014
Books on politics:
Government Online: Improving Service and Engaging Communities
by Constance Clem