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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?"

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And I quote:

"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


January 28, 2018 [LINK / comment]

GOP Sixth District candidate forum

Yesterday afternoon I went to see the forum for Republican candidates for the Sixth Congressional District at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, about 15 miles north of Staunton. It was the first real political event I had attended in over a year. Since I no longer have any affiliation with the Republican Party, I was merely there as an observer. Given the strongly Republican makeup of the Sixth District, it is almost certain that whoever wins the Republican nomination will win the general election in November.

GOP 6th District candidate signs at BRCC

The sidewalks outside the Plecker Center at BRCC were lined with GOP 6th District candidate signs, and those of Cynthia Dunbar were by far the most numerous. The conference room inside was nearly packed with over 200 attendees and campaign workers for the various candidates. As far as I could tell, the only journalist present was Bob Stuart of the News Virginian, based in Waynesboro. I saw nothing about this very important event on either WHSV-Channel 3 (based in Harrisonburg) or in the News Leader (based in Staunton).

GOP 6th District candidate forum at BRCC

Convention, no primary

The reason this forum was so important was that the Republican 6th District Committee decided to nominate a successor candidate to Bob Goodlatte by means of a convention (to be held at James Madison University in Harrisonburg on May 19) rather than a primary election. Adding to the controversy is the fact that only a plurality will be required to win the nomination, meaning that whichever candidate gets the most number of votes on the first ballot will automatically win, even if it is far less than 50 percent. For more on this, see the News Leader.

The man reputed to be behind that maneuver is Sixth Congressional District Chairman Scott Sayre, who gained fame by running a brass-knuckle campaign against incumbent State Senator Emmett Hanger in 2007. (See my June 12, 2007 blog post to refresh your memory on all that.) The nomination procedures decided upon by the 6th C.D. Committee are believed to favor the populist "anti-Establishment" candidate Cynthia Dunbar, and Delegate Ben Cline (one of the front-runners) has taken issue with them.

I personally favor nomination by conventions, in part because primary elections in effect create an "official" two-party system, artificially restricting voter choices. True, conventions tend to nominate more ideologically hard-line candidates compared to primaries, which is why the GOP right wing is so hostile to relative moderates within the party who can count on crossover voting to win the nomination. Conventions would do away with that practice, and thereby make candidates more directly accountable to the parties to which they claim to belong.

GOP 6th District candidate montage

Meet the (8!) candidates

On May 19, delegates will presumably choose from among eight candidates, which seems absurdly excessive. (I would expect some of them to drop out between now and then, as part of the normal political horse-trading and jockeying for position among the front-runners.) Cynthia Dunbar is the clear favorite, and Ben Cline and Chaz Haywood are the other serious candidates.

Ben Cline: Currently representing the 24th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, a seat he has held since November 2002. He later earned his law degree and worked as a prosecuting attorney in Harrisonburg for a few years. (See At the forum, he aligned himself with President Trump by seeking to "Make America great again" and defending the Second Amendment. (DISCLAIMER: I know Ben personally, though we haven't been in touch for at least a year or two.)

Cynthia Dunbar: Currently serving as National Republican Committeewoman, a position she has held since 2016. According to Wikipedia, she served on the Texas State Board of Education, getting involved in controversies over creationism and the separation of church and state. She later moved to Virginia, where she worked as co-chair of the Ted Cruz presidential campaign in 2016. Her campaign flyer begins with "Establishment Beware," as though she were somehow not part of the Establishment. She too wants to "Make America great again" and "drain the swamp," another favorite slogan of President Trump. At the forum, she warned that our republic is in grave danger and emphasized the U.S. Constitution as the fundamental guarantor of American freedom. It was an impressive presentation, but she came across as perhaps unduly alarmist and strident, especially during the question-and-answer period. For example, when asked how she would deal with the problem of gridlock in Congress, she said she would confront any colleagues who oppose her, and campaign against them in their home districts. Wow!?

Chaz Haywood: Currently serving as Clerk of the Circuit Court in Harrisonburg, and before that as the local liaison to Congressman Bob Goodlatte. His campaign flyer highlights his military background but is rather vague on what he stands for, aside from defending the principles that make possible the American Dream. At the forum, he came across as poised, confident, and intelligent, though he steered away from controversial issues. From my point of view, not emphasizing support for the Trump agenda is a positive aspect.

Ed Justo: An attorney specializing in immigration matters, based in Harrisonburg. He impressed me with his earnest, forthright manner, taking issue with some of the harsh anti-immigrant sentiment that has been expressed by some Republicans. [He even defended DACA.] That took guts! Otherwise, he talked about the importance of business-friendly policies that create new job opportunities.

Kathryn Lewis: A small business owner in the [Bedford County] Roanoke area, she has lived in Virginia her whole life (27 years). She pledged to only serve four terms if elected, and would hold forums open to the public, drawing a contrast between her and the incumbent, Bob Goodlatte.

Elliot Pope: A building contractor in Lynchburg, he said that freedom is in danger and that we must uphold the Constitution. (It was a milder version of the same points made by Ms. Dunbar.) He pointed in particular to elitism and over-regulation as threats to our country.

Mike Desjadon: He said his job involves dealing with health insurance, and he wants to fix that problem and then leave Congress and then go back to his plow. (I assume that means he owns a farm, but I'm not sure.) He provided no specifics or general principles to guide the fixing of the health care system, however.

Douglas Wright: A dentist, he emphasized the harm and erosion of choice resulting from Obamacare. He said the Republican Party is based on strong ideals, and that if its members only live up to those ideals, they could build a 60- or 70-percent majority, rather than the bare 51-percent majority they have at present. He is the oldest candidate [in this race].

It occurred to me that the plethora of newcomer candidates may be a tactic to dilute the opposition to the party insiders' preferred candidate, Cynthia Dunbar. If so, unless the relative "moderates" in the party can work out an agreement to rally around either Ben Cline or Chaz Haywood, the nomination would seem to be heavily stacked in Ms. Dunbar's favor.

Goodlatte will retire

The reason this usual situation came about is that two days after the Virginia elections last November, incumbent Rep. Bob Goodlatte announced that he would not seek reelection. He is presently serving his 13th term in the House of Representatives, notwithstanding his original (1992) campaign pledge to only serve three terms in Congress. The 2017 election was a disaster for Republicans in Virginia, widely believed to reflect opposition to President Trump, and signals a possible sharp reversal in the partisan balance of power in the congressional midterm elections to be held nationwide this coming November. Thanks to his seniority, Goodlatte has great power as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, but that advantage will disappear once his replacement is sworn in one year from now. See the Washington Post. I admire Congressman Goodlatte as a solid, no-nonsense conservative, but he seemed unable to cope with the rising storm of right-wing populism that brought about the Trump presidency.

Politics blog hiatus

This marks my first blog about politics since last February, a hiatus of nearly a year. During this time, the United States government has lurched from crisis to crisis resulting from the erratic and often ugly leadership style of President Donald Trump. He has ripped to shreds the conventional norms of political behavior, and has fostered an authoritarian cult of personal loyalty. Indeed, the very fate of constitutional government itself is now being questioned for the first time since the American Civil War. Given the badly fractured state of the American body politic, prospects for constructive dialogue over national policy issues have shrunken drastically, making the effort to advance understanding almost futile. On a personal level, I freely confess to feeling depressed and wondering whether it's too late for any political involvement (such as blogging) to serve any useful purpose. In particular, I am mortified by what has happened to the Republican Party to let things reach such an awful state. But as things continue to go from bad to worse, I suppose I should speak up lest someone accuse me of doing nothing in this moment of extreme national peril.

U.S. Cabinet, current

Department Secretary
State: Rex Tillerson
Treasury: Steven Mnuchin
Defense: James Mattis
Justice: Jeff Sessions
Interior: Ryan Zinke
Commerce: Wilbur Ross
Labor: Alexander Acosta
Agriculture: Sonny Perdue
Health & H.S.: Tom Price
Housing & U.D.: Ben Carson
Transportation: Elaine Chao
Energy: Rick Perry
Education: Betsy DeVos
Veterans Aff.: David Shulkin
Homeland Sec.: John Kelly
Other cabinet-level posts:
W.H. Ch./Staff Steve Bannon *
EPA Admin. Scott Pruitt
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney
U.S. Trade Rep. Stephen Vaughn (Acting)
Amb. to U.N. Nikki Haley
CEA Chairman (vacant)
Small Bus. Adm. Linda McMahon
* = not subject to Senate confirmation.

Last updated: 05 May 2017

115th Congress

U.S. Senate
(Web site)
Post Republicans Democrats
Pres. Pro TemOrrin Hatch--
Leader Mitch McConnell Chuck Schumer
WhipJohn Cornyn Richard Durbin
Seats5246 + 2
Two independents caucus with the Democrats.
U.S. House of Representatives
(Web site)
Post Republicans Democrats
Speaker Paul Ryan
Leader Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi
Whip Steve Scalise Steny Hoyer
The real leaders in each chamber are in bold face.
NOTE: As of Jan. 24, 2017, two House seats are vacant.

Last updated: 29 Jan 2017

Virginia Government

Executive branch
Post Name Party
Governor Ralph Northam Dem
Lt. GovernorJustin FairfaxDem
Attorney GeneralMark HerringDem
Virginia Senate
Post Republicans Democrats
Pres. Pro Tem Stephen Newman --
LeaderThomas NormentRichard Saslaw
Virginia House of Delegates
Post Republicans Democrats
Speaker Kirk Cox --
LeaderTodd GilbertDavid Toscano
The real leaders in each chamber are in bold face.

In the November 2017 elections, the Democrats gained 15 net seats in the House of Delegates (with one tied election being resolved in the Republicans' favor by drawing lots), going from a 66-34 to 51-49. In the November 2015 elections, the Republicans retained a 21-19 majority in the Senate, while the Democrats gained two net seats in the House of Delegates.

Last updated: 16 Jan 2018


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