In his Gettysburg Address at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln pointed out that the United States was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” “Now,” he continued, “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”
Thankfully, we are not in a civil war today – and, one hopes, never will be again. We are, however, in a battle for the soul of our country.
The fight today is not about what we want to achieve but, rather, how best to achieve it. Both sides claim to want a society in which people can live fulfilling lives. Both claim to adhere to the vision outlined in the Declaration of Independence and supported by our Constitution. Yet neither side has any sense of common ground on which to move forward.
Put generally, one side envisions improving our society through a highly involved federal government that provides greater support and greater regulation meant to benefit everyone. The other side believes that traditional American ideals of individual freedom, limited government, and free markets will lead to a better life for all.
Those who want to restrict government power and reach are depicted as greedy and without compassion for the disenfranchised and less fortunate. Those who desire larger government aid and controls are seen as ignorant of history and human nature. One side is judged heartless; the other, brainless. These polarizing caricatures quash any desire for a real understanding of how we as one nation can move forward.
The 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis – a miscarriage of justice – was the spark that led to the popularization of critical race theory, riots and looting in many cities, and the tearing down of statues of great Americans. It also gave impetus to the 1619 Project’s skewed framing of the American Founding. All these developments have widened our divide. So has teaching young people in colleges, universities, and K-12 schools that America is systemically racist, which has angered parents across the country.
In fact, ever since the Vietnam War era, civic education has been under attack, beginning at the university level and now at the K-12 level. To make sure our nation, “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” can endure, we must rise to the challenge.
The good news is that most Americans believe in the vision of our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and that all are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Over the years, that vision has united us as one people, even through the most divisive debates, and has attracted millions to America’s shores.
It is that unifying vision that must be taught to our young people. After all, it will fall on their shoulders to continue the progress previous generations have made. Frederick Douglass, during the Civil War era, and Martin Luther King Jr., during the civil rights era, both invoked that vision in advocating for a colorblind society and fair play for all. We have come a long way toward achieving those goals. But teaching our young people through a lens of racial grievance and Marxist historicism corrupts and reverses that progress.
This miseducation must stop. Fortunately, now that parents and the public are becoming aware of and alarmed about the situation, change is possible. The solution is clear: it is to reintroduce and reinvigorate the teaching of both our founding principles and a well-rounded and unbiased American history in our classrooms. While not complicated, this solution will require hard work and financial support.
If our country is to endure, every child should be assured of a high-quality education. Not everyone needs to go to college to lead a successful life. But every child needs, and is entitled to, a quality K-12 learning experience. That should include a solid civics education in our founding principles and our form of government, as well as our history of progress toward achieving the promise of our Declaration. Children should learn about the American culture of freedom and opportunity that enables anyone to achieve success and has made our country a magnet for people from around the world. Together, we need to continue working to achieve the vision of our Declaration.
For the past two years, the mainstream media has given tons of coverage to the Black Lives Matter movement — and rightly so. More than 80 percent of black Americans, including me, support the movement, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody. But the media is missing many nuances among African-Americans. For one, we don’t all vote alike.
Yes, almost 90 percent of black voters went to bat for the Biden-Harris administration last year. But that leaves 10 percent of black voters who didn’t. Meanwhile, 25 percent of black Democrats actually consider themselves “conservative” and 43 percent say they are “moderate.” White Democrats with a college or postgraduate degree are most likely to call themselves “liberal.”
Some issues that matter to the black community just aren’t getting noticed. Two in three black Americans said they don’t feel represented in media, according to a 2020 study.
Charrise Lane, 22, of Orlando, Florida, is one person who has no interest in voting Democrat. She calls herself a “Conscious Black Conservative” and told me: “I’m a conservative because the Democratic Party has always been anti-black and racist towards black Americans.”
During one of her YouTube posts, Lane explained that her conservatism is shaped by “being surrounded around God and family and placing your values around that … [but] being conservative doesn’t mean you’re Christian… There are a lot of black Americans who agree with conservative values.” She said she wants leaders who are conscious of issues that plague the black community and “listen to the community instead of calling people in the community ‘victims’ and ‘slaves’… It is also about having empathy… and then coming up with policies and ways that will combat these issues.”
Former President Donald J. Trump increased his share of black voters by four percentage points in 2020, partly because he focused on issues that matter to the community — jobs, safety, opportunities, education and healthcare. He also had the backing of black musicians including Kanye West, 50 Cent and Kodak Black, who was pardoned by Trump last year. Just last month, Kodak tweeted, “Bring Trump Back.”
Now, as 45 percent of voters say they strongly disapprove of how President Biden is handling the economy, Felecia Killings, the CEO of the Conscious Conservative Movement, sees an opportunity for black conservatives to make their case. She believes they can mount a strong challenge against Stacey Abrams, who recently announced she is running again for governor of Georgia against Republican incumbent Brian Kemp. Killings regularly tweets her support for conservatism to her more than 22,000 followers on Twitter.
“For decades, we’ve watched progressive policies and government overreach destroy our communities and our rising wealth,” said 38-year-old Killings, who was born in California and is now based in Atlanta, Ga. “Today, these same politicians want to abuse our economic opportunities by implementing heavier regulations and taxations. Conservatism promises to keep more economics right in our hands. This is the message we must preach.
“In areas like Atlanta, which is controlled by Democrats, we’re witnessing a lot of turmoil. We only need to read history to understand Democratic/progressive politics do not work. Having a Democrat governor who is to the left will usher in what citizens experience in states like California. As great an activist Stacey is, her politics will stifle growing wealth.”
In a blog post earlier this year, Bradford Traywick, a black conservative engagement strategist based in Washington, D.C., wrote: “We believe in hard work and entrepreneurship, we have a general distrust of government (albeit for important historical reasons), we have historically supported the right (and even the responsibility) to educate our own children how we see fit, and we respect our right to bear arms to defend our families and communities. African Americans have generally wanted what we believe America promises: a fair shake at achieving the American Dream.”
Two of the most significant trends I noticed among conscious black conservatives are their belief in God and their desire to protect their Second Amendment rights. Research shows that 24 percent of African Americans own guns (compared to 36 percent of whites), and gun owners are almost three times more likely to be Republican than Democrat. Meanwhile, almost 50 percent of new gun buyers are women.
Lane, who said she is currently saving money to purchase her own firearm, wants to be one of them.
“I support guns,” Lane told me. “You never know what might happen when you step out the door or who will try to put their hands on you. It is imperative to put your safety into your own hands.”
Black conservatives said it’s tough being a minority within a minority, especially when members of your own community judge you harshly for your views. “I’ve been called a house slave and … told that I was in the sunken place,” said Claude J. Wheeler, Jr., 26, of Sumter, SC, who is the vice president of his chapter of the South Carolina Federation of Republican Men.
But many also say their faith gives them the courage to speak up.
“My responsibility as a Christian is to love people and to spread the truth,” said Lane, who added that she relies on meditation and prayer to keep her grounded while making her case for conservatism.
“I need my sanity to stay in the fight because I know people need to hear the truth.”
Glenn Youngkin's victory and the Republican future
Consensus forms quickly. Within hours of winning the Virginia governor’s race, Glenn Youngkin was identified as a model for GOP candidates. The argument ran as follows: The former businessman and political newbie figured out how to hold Donald Trump’s hand—as one Republican senator put it, under the table and in the dark—and still win big in a blue state. He ran on kitchen-table issues: rising prices, schools, crime. He tailored his message to his locality and avoided national debates. None of his television advertisements featured President Biden and none mentioned illegal immigration. He defined himself as a basketball-playing, dog-loving dad from the suburbs before his opponent was able to portray him as Trump in fleece. He built coalitions with parents, veterans, and minority groups. Republicans who follow his path might enjoy similar success in 2022 and beyond.
In truth, Youngkin might not be as replicable as he appears. The reason is candidate quality. For a political rookie, Youngkin has mad skills. He has a preternatural ability to stay on message. He is positive and optimistic without coming across as treacly or sentimental. I have yet to see him frown. He has what Reagan adviser John Sears called “negative ability”—the power to deflect, repel, and ignore personal attacks. Nothing seems to get under his skin. Politicians who have this quality drive the opposition nuts. You could sense the Democrats’ frustration when Biden told a Virginia audience that extremism can come “in a smile and a fleece vest.” Maybe that’s right, but the average Virginian doesn’t look at Glenn Youngkin and see a neo-Nazi or a Proud Boy. The average Virginian sees an approachable and energetic father of four with commonsensical plans to improve the quality of life in his home state. That’s the type of profile any candidate, Republican or Democrat, ought to aim for. But it’s easier said than done.
Both his opponent and the national environment helped Youngkin. Terry McAuliffe learned how difficult it is to win nonconsecutive terms—something that may be of interest to the ruler of Mar-a-Lago. And McAuliffe clearly believed that demographics are destiny and that Virginia was irrevocably blue. He ran on airy evocations of a pleasant past and fiery denunciations of Youngkin as a Trump-like threat to institutional stability and social peace. McAuliffe’s inability to find a galvanizing issue led him to run an idea-free campaign based on mobilizing Democratic interest groups. His accusations of racism and nuttery turned out many Democrats to the polls. Just not enough to win.
The general deterioration of Biden’s presidency hurt McAuliffe. The inflation, incompetence, and cultural radicalism dragging down Biden’s job approval rating are taking other Democrats with him. The red shift in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere on election night hints at bad things to come for the incumbent party. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy speculates that another 2010, when the GOP picked up 63 House seats, may be in the making. For that to happen, McCarthy has to find plenty of candidates who aspire to be Glenn Youngkin, match them against clueless incumbents, and pray that Biden’s approval rating next November is the same as or lower than it is today. This is a possible scenario, and perhaps even the most likely one. But this is also the Republican Party we are talking about. Things can always end in disaster.
It’s less as a candidate than as a governor that Youngkin can be a model for the Republican Party. He’s been given the opportunity to govern, and to govern well. His coattails brought in a Republican lieutenant governor, a Republican state attorney general, and a Republican House of Delegates. The Democrats control the state senate by two seats—but this narrow margin is pliable and open to compromise. Youngkin is in a unique position. He’s the first high-profile Republican chief executive elected in the Biden era. He has the chance to demonstrate that Republicans can address parental revolt, public safety, and economic insecurity in responsible and effective ways. He has the chance to define that agenda in the coming year, and even to broaden it, so that Republicans in 2022 have an example to point to and a lodestar to follow.
This agenda starts with education. Parents became the centerpiece of Youngkin’s campaign, the lynchpin of his victory, after McAuliffe’s career-ending gaffe of September 28, when the former governor said that parents shouldn’t be telling teachers what to teach. In a post-election interview with Hugh Hewitt, Youngkin mentioned charter schools, high curricular standards, and more spending on teachers and on special education. On the trail he pledged to ban “Critical Race Theory,” or “CRT,” from public school instruction—though he has to find a way to do so without revising or omitting the history of slavery, segregation, and the civil rights movement. My American Enterprise Institute colleagues Brad Wilcox and Max Eden suggest that Youngkin promote “academic transparency” by requiring parental review and opt-in for hot-button curricula, prioritize educational savings accounts, and align school-board elections with the national political cycle.
Youngkin also has said that he will place public safety officers in schools. This initiative should become the basis for a more wide-ranging effort to bolster state and local police forces, with an eye toward community policing and the reassuring presence of cops on the beat. Youngkin’s “game plan” includes firing the state parole board to discourage early release of violent offenders. He wants to reform the state mental health system. He might also want to combat drug trafficking and opioid abuse—with the understanding that it is better to do several things well than many things poorly.
As Henry Olsen observed in October, Youngkin’s economic agenda fits well with the emerging Republican coalition of non-college-educated voters. Rather than cut marginal tax rates, Youngkin would double the state standard deduction, eliminate the grocery tax, and suspend the gas tax, easing the burden on lower- and middle-income taxpayers suffering from a rising cost of living. He says he’d like to encourage innovation and job creation throughout the state. One way might be to take the lead in “strategic decoupling” from China and incentivize manufacturers of critically important goods to reshore facilities in the commonwealth. Over a decade ago, I accompanied then-senator George Allen (R.) on a tour of a Virginia-based semiconductor plant. Let’s make room for more of them.
The danger for the governor-elect is that he will entangle himself in national debates over vaccine and mask mandates. I expect the next state attorney general to join the legal challenges to President Biden’s vaccine mandate on private-sector employers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the incoming state government attempts to end public school masking requirements. In general, however, Youngkin ought to be wary of intruding on local control and private-sector decision-making, even if it might win him fans among certain parts of the right. It ought to be remembered that Youngkin’s populism was actually popular and commonsensical—unlike some of the anti-elitism and suspicion of expert opinion that one encounters in politics these days.
It would be a missed opportunity if the governor-elect frittered away his resounding victory on cultural squabbles that generate headlines and score likes but do not improve life for Virginians in the real, not virtual, world. Still, I have a feeling—maybe it’s just a hope—that Youngkin will be a serious governor in demanding times who shows his fellow Republicans not just how to win, but how to govern. All with a smile and a fleece.
The Susan B. Anthony List, a national organization that backs anti-abortion candidates running for public office announced Tuesday that, in partnership with Women Speak Out PAC, it had kicked off a “six-figure” effort over the August congressional recess to expose what it called “the abortion extremism” of as many as 20 Democrats currently serving in the U.S. House and Senate.
“Most Americans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, yet a majority of Democrats have no problem ignoring their constituents to vote in lock-step with the abortion industry,” Mallory Quigley, the vice president of communications for the SBA List and Women Speak Out’s national spokeswoman said.
The push to highlight the records of what organizers have labeled “The Terrible 20” began Monday with the posting of digital ads, a grassroots-driven phone call campaign, and a three-state press tour kicked off in North Carolina.
“Senators and representatives who insist on forcing taxpayers to fund abortion on demand and support barbaric, late abortions without limits must and will face the consequences of their extremism at the ballot box. SBA List’s ongoing campaign to expose abortion extremism in battleground states and districts includes a multifaceted education campaign and even door-to-door visits from our field team,” Quigley said.
The targeted Democrats – referred to by the campaign on social media as the #Terrible20 – include those who voted with the Biden Administration on initiatives to expand abortion and access to funding by ending the protections provided by “The Hyde Amendment” and other anti-abortion measures that have for decades blocked taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion-related services.
The targeted Democrats who make up the #Terrible20 are:
–Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA)
–Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ)
–Rep. Deborah Ross (NC-02)
–Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01)
–Rep. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07)
–Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-06)
–Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07)
–Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03)
–Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-03)
–Rep. Jared Golden (ME-02)
–Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08)
–Rep. Haley Stevens (MI-11)
–Rep. Christopher Pappas (NH-01)
–Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13)
–Rep. Susan Wild (PA-07)
–Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08)
–Rep. Conor Lamb (PA-17)
–Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15)
–Rep. Elaine Luria (VA-02)
–Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04)
All are thought to be seeking spots on the November 2022 ballot — though not all are running for re-election. Reps. Ryan of Ohio and Lamb of Pennsylvania have thrown their hats in the ring and are seeking the nomination of their party to run for the open U.S. Senate seats in their states. Sens. Warnock and Kelly, first elected in 2020 to fill unexpired terms, are expected to seek election to full six-year terms in the next election.
They didn’t call Ronald Reagan “The Great Communicator” just because he knew how to deliver a speech. The fact is, he—more than any president in recent memory—knew how to bring a complex idea to life in ways the public wouldn’t just understand but would embrace.
Sometimes this required some simplifications the media—which continually tried to prove Reagan a dunce—used to distort what he was saying. That’s not to say he didn’t get a few things wrong; every president does. On the big things, however, like the importance of economic growth and how to get it, he was very, very right.
Growth matters. The Republicans who followed Reagan into the White House either didn’t get it or couldn’t explain it. That left the door open for the media and progressives to slander and then dismiss pro-growth measures as deficit-enhancing tax cuts for the wealthy that produced greater income inequality.
The Republicans who tried but failed to follow Reagan into the White House—Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney—didn’t make it in part because they didn’t understand the need to explain how growth happens. They never communicated how the right kinds of tax cuts and deregulatory measures would cause economic expansion, leading to rising wages, more jobs and new businesses, making everyone better off while eventually bringing into the U.S. treasury as much revenue or more as the liberals claimed the tax cuts “cost.”
Reagan honed his ability to explain the politics and economics of growth to working Americans over years. As a spokesman for General Electric, he went around the country to the company’s various plants and facilities to talk to employees about the virtues of the free market system. More recent Republicans’ comparative inarticulateness may in part explain why the country appears to be embracing the soft socialism Joe Biden and his congressional colleagues are offering.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen just released a national survey of 1,200 registered voters that found 35 percent of them saying economic fairness was more important than economic growth. The fact that just over a third of the country thinks equality of outcomes deserves more focus than equality of opportunity—a key component of any pro-growth policy—should alarm Republican leaders and growth hawks.
Even when the numbers are broken down by party, the results are disheartening. According to Rasmussen, a third of Republicans now believe fairness is more important than growth. In the Reagan years and throughout the Gingrich era, which saw the first balanced budget in decades alongside a period of continued growth, a number that high would have been inconceivable.
It’s not that the GOP doesn’t believe in fairness. The free market is the fairest system ever conceived for the exchange of goods and services between willing sellers and willing buyers. It’s that they reject—or ought to, anyway—the idea that no matter where anyone starts, we all need to end up in the same place.
It’s really that kind of outcome that’s the most unfair. It presumes that no matter how creative a person is, how hard they work, how good their innovation might be or even how lucky they are, no one should do any better than their neighbor. Identical per capita income for every family—that’s the ticket.
Except it’s not. The progressive politicians’ response to the COVID crisis—shutting down the marketplace state by state while the federal government borrows trillions, inflating the debt while doing nothing to stimulate the economy—leads to disaster. It won’t take too much more of this before the United States starts to resemble Greece, and not in a good way. We’ll be comparatively lucky if it stops there, without the U.S. sliding all the way down into the same space as Venezuela.
There is a bright spot in Rasmussen’s data. “Those respondents who believe focusing on economic growth is the most important rated cutting spending and taxes as the best prescriptions” for doing so, as did those “who would rather focus on economic fairness.” Both sides agree on what needs to be done and, at least by implication, reject the Biden White House’s tax-and-spend plans. This means the growth wing of the GOP has a chance to carry the day—if it’s smart and can find leaders who can explain what is going on in ways the public can understand, even through the filter of the elite media and the opposition’s critique.
Among the best remembered summits of the 20th century are those of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan’s commitment to dialogue with America’s primary adversary and what then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz called his “personal chemistry” with his Soviet counterpart were hallmarks of his presidency. But even more important was the fact that Reagan had a clear strategy for victory in the global contest with the Soviet Union.
Reagan’s approach — applying intensive economic and military pressure to a superpower adversary — became foundational to American strategic thinking. It hastened the end of Soviet power and promoted a peaceful conclusion to the multi-decade Cold War.
Now it is useful to ask if a similar approach would be equally successful in America’s contest with an even more formidable rival, the People’s Republic of China, a challenger with whom the free world’s economies are intertwined and increasingly interdependent.
In 1983, Reagan approved National Security Decision Directive 75, which set the course for an assertive, competitive approach to the Soviets, in contrast to the “live and let live” aspirations of détente. Reagan drew on George F. Kennan’s innovative policy of containment, which acknowledged both the disastrous consequences of a hot war with the Soviet Union and the impracticality of cooperation with a Kremlin driven by communist ideology.
Working from Kennan’s original intuitions, the operational approach that Directive 75 emphasized was “external resistance to Soviet imperialism” and “internal pressure on the USSR to weaken the sources of Soviet imperialism.” Rather than trying to reduce friction with the Soviets as prior administrations had done, Directive 75’s aim was “competing effectively on a sustained basis with the Soviet Union in all international arenas.” Within nine years, the Soviet Union collapsed, worn out by economic pressure, an arms race it could not win and internal political contradictions.
The goal of a competitive strategy versus Chinese Communist Party aggression should be different. The United States and like-minded liberal democracies must defend against the expansion of the party’s influence, thwart its ambitions to dominate the 21st century global economy, and convince Chinese leaders that they can fulfill enough of their aspirations without doing so at the expense of their own people’s rights or the sovereignty of other nations.
These efforts must apply Reagan’s fundamental insight — to win against a rival of China’s magnitude requires sustained pressure against the true sources of the adversary’s power.
China is an economic juggernaut. Through its engagement with the United States and other major markets, it has made itself central to global supply chains, moved to dominate strategic industries and emerging technologies, and built up a military designed to win a war with the U.S. and its allies. Numerous multinational corporations and global financial institutions pump capital, technology and know-how into China. This transfer of capability and competitive advantage can be used against the free world to devastating effect. As the CCP puts it, China is poised to “regain its might and re-ascend to the top of the world.”
To foil China’s plans for preeminence, the United States and its partners should restrict investment into Chinese companies and industries that support the CCP’s strategic goals and human rights abuses. The U.S. should work to block China’s access to Western technology in areas that contribute to military advantage and to construct a new global trade and supply chain system that reduces dependency on China. With India, Australia and Japan, the U.S. must also maintain preponderant military power in the Indo-Pacific to convince Chinese leaders that they cannot accomplish their objectives through threats or the use of force.
In all of this, America and its allies should be confident. At the start of the Reagan administration, the Soviet Union, like China today, appeared to be at the height of its ambitions, exerting influence in every corner of the globe. One decade of focused American strategy helped bring about a peaceful conclusion to what many believed could have been an endless Cold War.
Just as Reagan generated the national and international will necessary to overcome the Soviet challenge, the Biden administration can galvanize efforts to compete effectively with an emboldened China. That effort will bolster the administration’s goal of building back the United States’ strength and prosperity.
The Trump administration’s recognition of that the Chinese Communist Party is a strategic competitor was a crucial shift in U.S. foreign policy. There is now a bipartisan consensus in Washington about the need to sustain a multinational effort to restrict the party’s mobilization against the free world. Applying pressure abroad and fostering growth at home will allow the United States and its partners to prevail in this century’s most important competition, preserve peace, and help build a better future for generations to come.
Even though America is still within the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency, most voters are telling pollsters they approve of his performance on the job. According to a poll conducted recently by the AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the president gets high marks from 60 percent of those surveyed.
Along party lines, Biden’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic is viewed favorably by 70 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans. Some analysts would say the latter figure lines up nicely with pollster Tony Fabrizio’s post-election autopsy for the 2020 Trump campaign that concluded it was the former president’s mishandling of the COVID crisis that did the most to alienate GOP voters and drive them into the Democratic camp, at least at the presidential level.
Importantly for the GOP, which is still trying to figure out how best to proceed in the post-Trump era, a
new Rasmussen Reports survey found that 51 percent of Republicans considered likely to vote in 2022 thought congressional Republicans had “lost touch” with them over the past several years.
While 41 percent of the likely GOP voters surveyed said their individual representatives “have done a good job representing the party’s values,” their criticism of the congressional party is an ominous sign. It’s true, Rasmussen Reports said, that the numbers were a marked improvement “over previous surveys dating back to 2008” but with well over a third still dissatisfied with what the party in Congress is doing it will likely be difficult to bring the pro and anti-Trump forces together on any affirmative plan to win back the majority in both chambers.
“Democrats are far more satisfied with their representation in Congress,” the polling firm said as, “62 percent of Democratic voters say Democrats in Congress have done a good job of representing Democratic values, while 32 percent say their party’s Congress members have lost touch with Democratic voters from throughout the nation.”
Other findings revealing in the survey include:
–Sixty-five percent (65 percent) of voters not affiliated with either major political party think Republicans in Congress have lost touch with voters, while 51 percent of unaffiliated voters say Democrats in Congress are out of touch.
–Voters under 40 are more likely than their elders to say Democrats in Congress have done a good job representing their party’s values. Voters with incomes over $200,000 a year say Democrats in Congress have done a better job than Republicans of representing their party’s values.
–Among all likely U.S. Voters, just 29 percent think Republicans in Congress have done a good job representing Republican values over the past several years. Most (59 percent) think congressional Republicans have lost touch with GOP voters from throughout the nation, down from 63 percent in 2018, but 12 percent are not sure.
–Forty percent (40 percent) of all voters believe congressional Democrats have done a good job representing their party’s values over the past several years. Forty-nine percent (49 percent) disagree and say they’ve lost touch with Democratic voters, but 10 percent are not sure,” the polling firm said in a release.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. likely voters was conducted on February 28 and March 1, prior to the passage by the United States Senate of the COVID 19 federal stimulus bill adopted without Republican support and has a +/- 3 sampling error. The bill now heads back to the House where Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to call it up quickly rather than go to a conference committee to iron out the differences between the new bill and what the House passed last week.
Iowa is considering legislation that would fund students directly to allows more families to access educational alternatives.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and school reopening battles across the country prompt families to search for alternative educational options for their children, school choice policies are increasingly being looked at as a solution.
This is happening nowhere more prominently than Iowa, where a bill to enact an education savings account program has passed the State Senate and is being considered in the House. But the proposal has also sparked substantial debate, the kind that tends to feature a lot of anti-school choice myths. Iowans cannot afford to let these myths block better educational opportunities for their children.
At the heart of Senate File 159 is the creation of new “Student First Scholarship” education savings accounts, into which the state would deposit funds. Eligible families could use the funds for private school tuition, like a traditional voucher, but also for myriad other educational uses, including after-school tutoring, therapy for children with disabilities, and more. Students in public schools flagged for poor performance would qualify for the scholarship and have around $5,200 put into their education savings accounts each year.
A common concern is that such a program would “siphon” money from cash-strapped public schools, hurting the children left behind. As the Des Moines Register editorialized, calling for choice “is an attempt to put lipstick on the pig of siphoning taxpayer money from public schools to funnel to private schools.”
At first blush, that may seem like a reasonable concern: having state dollars following a child to another education provider could, indeed, leave a public school with fewer funds. But that is not siphoning. It is connecting the money to the people it is most supposed to serve — children — and the funds only leave if a family has found an education provider it prefers.
Look at it this way: A family taking money for their child’s education from a public to a private school no more siphons dollars from a public school than choosing to go to Price Chopper siphons from Hy-Vee. Pell Grants similarly do not “siphon” money from community colleges just because they can be used at private universities chosen by students.
Education funding should not belong to any particular institution. It is meant for educating children.
Moreover, since only state funding would follow a child, a lot of money would stay with the public school, increasing resources for each child remaining in the public school. With Iowa spending an estimated $13,774 per public-school student according to the Census Bureau, a $5,200 savings account deposit would leave money behind.
Imagine if Hy-Vee were able to keep most of your grocery budget after you started shopping at your preferred Price Chopper. That would be a fantastic deal for Hy-Vee. The public schools similarly get to keep large sums of money for children they are no longer educating.
Perhaps the per-pupil financial gain for public schools is one reason research has found that in regions where there is more private school choice, public schools perform better. Or perhaps public schools’ improvements have to do with competition — as schools have to up their game when someone else could get their funding. Regardless, 26 of 28 studies on the topic find that school choice leads to better outcomes for children who remain in public schools.
It is the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats.
And let’s be clear: Anti-choice myths disproportionately prevent the least advantaged from having educational options. The most advantaged families already have school choice. They can afford to live in neighborhoods that are residentially assigned to the best public schools. They can afford to pay out of pocket for the costs of private education.
Funding students directly allows more families to access educational alternatives. School choice is an equalizer.
Ultimately, the need for choice is simple: It is unfair to have a child’s ZIP code determine their future. Iowa should fund students, not institutions.
Now that she’s a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren plans to give the progressive agenda a boost by introducing a bill that would create the nation’s first-ever tax on total assets.
This so-called “wealth tax” would consider anything and everything owned by a taxpayer in computing the taxes owed. More than double taxation – which is taxing the same income twice as happened with the Death Tax – the taxes the former Democratic presidential candidate wants to put on the books would essentially tax savings, investments, and real property over and over and over again.
According to some early static estimates, Warren’s proposal could generate as much as $2.75 trillion per year – but that does not take into account any change in behavior that might occur on the part of the taxpayers on whom it would be assessed.
A study recently released by the non-partisan American Action Forum found a wealth tax would lead to a decrease in innovation and investment, drive down wages and cause unemployment and produce a $1.1 trillion shrinking in U.S. gross domestic product over the first ten years of its existence. In subsequent decades, GDP would be smaller by about $283 billion, a 1 percent annual decrease from current projections.
The Warren plan would impose this new tax, published reports indicate, on taxpayers with assets above $50 million at a top rate of 6 percent per year while giving the U.S. Internal Revenue Service far greater power than it currently enjoys. With a wealth tax on the books, the IRS would have to hire thousands of new agents and auditors to keep track of all the assets held by those of whom the tax falls, to account for them, and assign them proper valuation at tax time.
Also included in the draft of Warren’s plan circulating through the nation’s capital is a 40 percent “exit tax” to be imposed on anyone who seeks to leave the United States permanently and is reminiscent of the so-called “tax” forced upon Jewish individuals and families seeking to emigrate from Nazi Germany in the years prior to the onset of World War II.
There are some, even in Warren’s own party, who doubt the plan is legitimate.
“We are tax law professors who identify as liberal Democrats, donate to Democratic candidates, publicly opposed the Trump tax cuts, and strongly support higher taxes on the affluent,” Daniel Hemel and Rebecca Kysar recently wrote in the New York Times. “We are worried, though, that leading figures in our party are coalescing around an idea whose constitutionality is doubtful at best.”
Warren’s plan is one of several under consideration on Capitol Hill that, on paper, raise tremendous amounts of money for the U.S. government. Unlike tax changes that achieve such ends by stimulating economic growth, however, her plan would simply redistribute income already earned, long a progressive objective.
To date, there has been no comment from the Biden Administration on the Warren wealth tax or any of the similar proposals under consideration. For his part, President Joe Biden remains committed to his promised repeal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in its entirety. If he’s successful, that would violate his repeated campaign pledge in which he vowed no American family making less than $400,000 per year would see their taxes go up “by one thin dime.”
Some people, even some very prominent economists like Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman simply cannot get their heads around the idea that letting people keep more of what they earn is the best kind of economic stimulus there is. Instead, despite years of hard data proving otherwise, they still maintain more spending by the government is what greases the wheels and keeps the economy running.
This is nonsense. The tax cuts of the 1920s, the 1960s, and the 1980s were all followed by periods of remarkable growth in the U.S. economy. The spending binges pushed by FDR, by Richard Nixon, and among others, Barack Obama did little to fuel the engine of productivity or raise living standards.
The latest experiment, if it need be called that, was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act proposed by a Republican-led Congress and signed into law three years ago by President Donald Trump. Progressives derided the legislation as “welfare for the rich” that would see the “poor get poorer.”
The progressives were wrong. After the TCJA became law, optimism among Main Street business leaders reached an all-time high in the third quarter of 2018 while the unemployment rate reached a generational low. Before the implementation of lockdowns as a mostly Blue Strategy for combating the novel coronavirus, the economy added 5 million jobs while unemployment among women, people of color, and workers without high school degrees reached record lows.
Thanks to the reworking of the tax code by the TCJA, American business started to put money into itself again. Core investments in equipment and other business necessities reversed its five-year downward Obama-era trend, shooting back up, adding to productivity, and raising workers’ wages. And, most distasteful of all to liberals whose economic policies are all about spending your money like it was theirs, federal revenues reached an all-time high because more Americans were working for bigger paychecks in businesses that were expanding.
This is what Joe Biden has promised America he’s going to undo. That’s the practical effect of his promise to “repeal the Trump tax cuts” which, in his mind only benefited the ultra-rich like him. He and his party win votes by exploiting the resentments that exist in America between those who are well off and who work hard and those who don’t. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., may think the $600 per person being doled out in the latest COVID-19 relief bill will stimulate the economy – but that will be hard to do while other benefits provide a disincentive for people to go back to work in the places they can. Believe it or not, there was a hiring crisis in the Red States once their economies got moving again during the pandemic because some folks decided, rationally enough, they’d rather stay home and collect unemployment plus rather than go back to work.
They – and Biden and his incoming team of economic advisers – don’t know what they missed. Figures released by the Federal Reserve show low- and middle-class families saw large gains in wealth growth in 2018 and 2019. Low-income families saw their net worth increase 37 percent while middle-class families saw their net worth increase 40 percent.
Figures supplied by the House Ways and Means Committee show household income reached new highs as real median U.S. household income in 2019 rose nearly 50 percent more than during the eight years Barack Obama was president. Median household incomes increased 7.1 percent for Hispanics, 7.9 percent for Blacks, 10.6 percent for Asian Americans, and 8.5 percent for foreign-born workers while wages for minorities and women and young people grew at a faster pace than they did over Obama’s second term.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act worked, so well in fact it established the foundation for what should be – and looked like it was going to be a rapid recovery from the pandemic lockdowns. Instead, we have Joe Biden hinting that higher taxes, new taxes, carbon taxes, and other taxes are coming even if – as he unbelievably promises – families making less than $400,000 a year won’t pay a single dime more.
It’s sad really. With all the evidence showing Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan were right, that a rising tide does lift all boats, Biden would rather pursue policies that play to the rhetoric of classically socialist class envy while ignoring the need to create an environment in which opportunities exist for those who most need them
Historically, ubiquitous political and cultural hatred, be it individual or multitudinous, is the combination of the person’s warlike self-loathing and his or her violent rejection of all forms of otherness. Such an antithetical twin moral corruption of the mind gives rise to a hybrid persona, which leads to desperate self-liquidation and to the ultimate destruction of each and every civilized society. Thus, hatred in its infinite manifestations is confined to an existence that is without even the slightest redeeming value for both the person or the society at large. In addition, hatred lacks solid human roots and intellectual foundations, because it forces the person into a pathological spiritual myopia. Moreover, hatred conditions the person to view others uncompromisingly as menacing enemies who must be annihilated rather than tolerated. Finally, hatred is quintessentially a narcissistic adventure of the individual and thus a personal quest to define himself or herself against everyone who dares to think differently.
In this manner, hatred is always an aggressive drive toward existential absolutism. In the end, individual hatred coalesces into the most convenient herd mentality when the person realizes that alone he or she cannot change his or her surroundings and needs the like minded others’ participation for fundamental transformation. Presently, in the United States of America, under the guise of fighting the putative existence of white supremacy and the ostensibly systemic or institutional racism, a miniscule minority, possessed by an all consuming hatred toward the vast majority, have endeavored to seize power by terrorizing physically and morally the entire population. Consequently, it is in such a hateful political and cultural environment that the unabashed deceptions of identity politics, perverted social justice theory, tell tale myths of political correctness, the idiotic idea of Great Awokening, the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci’s Marxist “ideological hegemony”, the German Rudi Dutschke’s “long march through the institutions to dictatorial power”, Antifa’s racist Marxism, and Black Lives Matter’s “original sin of white America” preposterous lies, have gained political virtue within the Democrat Party in justifying the stealthy process of total delegitimization of the United States of America’s constitutional democracy and its entire two-and-a-half centuries history. The shared trait of all these political and ideological falsehoods is the notion of We against Them in an irreconcilable conflict, in which We must defeat Them decisively.
Having turned into an uncontrollable monster in the wake of the hardened criminal George Floyd’s death, the rampaging mob have rapidly devastated many large cities across the nation with the active criminal participation of elected Democrat politicians. To wit, the overwhelming majority of the written and electronic media as well as all the social media platforms have joined giddily into this macabre orgie of the cult of unpatriotic believers in violent despotism. Offensive hate speech and boundless racist attacks have been defined as acceptable and peaceful expressions of justifiable anger against the oppressors by the oppressed. Mayhem and destruction have been ignored and facts have been turned into bold faced lies by both sympathetic politicians and journalists. As in the French and later in the Bolshevik Revolutions, a small minority have declared a ruthless war of annihilation on everything that existed in the past and exist in the present.
The United States of America is at a crossroads. A crossroads between good and evil. Unless the majority of the Americans are willing to accept their own as well as their Republic’s demise, they must rise up and decisively defeat these enemies of the United States of America. Defeating them will be an act of self-defense. Established on the respect for the rule of law and Judeo-Christian tolerance ingrained into the Constitution by the founding fathers, those who break the law and practice criminal intolerance must be arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced. Accordingly, when individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion, who have committed criminal acts against the United States of America or the laws of the fifty states, bringinging them to justice is not racist but lawful by any standard. The laws, whether federal or state laws, are designed to protect society against criminal elements. Bringing them to justice is society’s self-defense against those who want to destroy it. Also, when foreign actors or foreign governments do harm to the United States of America or its citizens, the American government is within its lawful rights to defend itself. Doing so is not immoral. On the contrary. It is ethical and imperative. It is called administering justice in the name of a multitude of positive values that the majority accept and share. This is the reason that only nations that live under the rule of law can exist, endure, and prosper. Today, the living have a sacred duty to future generations together to preserve the nation’s heritage, to protect the Republic, and to develop the foundations upon which a stable and peaceful future can safely rest.
Joe Biden’s education transition team lead has a long history of praising China’s school system—a system the Chinese Communist Party designed to indoctrinate students.
Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor and the president of the California State Board of Education, has praised the Chinese Communist Party’s education system for its “magical work” in establishing a strong teacher-government presence in student life. In her 2017 book Empowered Educators: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teaching Quality Around the World, she explained the centrality of the teacher to Chinese students’ lives.
“Teachers in China are revered as elders, role models, and those whom parents entrust to shape the future of their children,” Darling-Hammond wrote. “In the Tao traditions of ritual, the phrase ‘heaven-earth-sovereign-parent-teacher’ is repeated and becomes ingrained in how people see themselves holistically governed and supported.”
The Stanford educator failed to mention that any other teacher-student “relationship” could result in imprisonment. The Chinese government continually cracks down on “Western values” in the classroom by sending state-sponsored inspectors to monitor teachers—particularly in higher education—for “improper” remarks. Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has said that China’s schools and teachers must “serve the Communist Party in its management of the country.”
Not serving it can carry steep consequences. In July, for example, Chinese professor Xu Zhangrun was placed under house arrest after he criticized Xi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. He was subsequently fired from his teaching position at Tsinghua University—one of China’s most elite institutions—after he spoke out against Xi’s removal of presidential term limits.
In her book, Darling-Hammond also praised China for dramatically increasing spending on education. But that money has been unevenly distributed, resulting in persistent inequalities. Sixty percent of rural students drop out by the time they reach high school, and of the remaining 40 percent, only a small fraction take college entrance exams.
Similar disparities apply to teachers—yet in a 2011 Washington Post article, Darling-Hammond lauded China for boosting spending on teachers’ professional development. She also took a “detailed statement” from the Chinese minister of education at face value, in which he claimed that China had allocated “billions of yuen” to improving teachers’ “working … and living conditions.”
Such omissions appear in Darling-Hammond’s Twitter feed as well. In 2018, she tweetedthat the United States had 71 times as many school shootings as China, but declined to note that Chinese crime statistics are notoriously inaccurate. She also ignored the numerous stabbings that plague Chinese schools. In October 2018, a woman stabbed 14 children in a kindergarten class. In April 2018, nine students were murdered at a middle school.
Darling-Hammond has spent nearly her entire life entrenched in Ivy League institutions, beginning at Yale University in 1969. In 2008, she served as the lead for Barack Obama’s education transition team. Darling-Hammond had been under consideration to be Biden’s secretary of education but claimed she was “not interested” in the position, citing her desire to continue working with California governor Gavin Newsom.
The Biden team did not respond to requests for comment.
The following is adapted from an online lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on November 6, 2020.
Every generation of Americans, from the beginning, has had to answer for itself the question: how should we live? Our answers, generation after generation, in war and in peace, in good times and bad times, in small things and in great things through the whole range of human affairs, are the essential threads of the larger American story. There is an infinite variety of these smaller American stories that shed light on the moral and political reality of American life—and we keep creating them. These fundamental experiences, known to all human beings but known to us in an American way, create the mystic chords of memory that bind us together as a people and are the necessary beginnings of any human wisdom we might hope to find.
These mystic chords stretch not only from battlefields and patriot graves, but from back roads, schoolyards, bar stools, city halls, blues joints, summer afternoons, old neighborhoods, ballparks, and deserted beaches—from wherever you find Americans being and becoming American. A story may be tragic, complicated, or hilarious, but if it is a true American story, it will be impossible to read or listen to it attentively without awakening the better angels of our nature.
Here’s one, about the beautiful friendship of two remarkable Americans.
Helen Keller was 14 years old when she first met the world-famous Mark Twain in 1894. They became fast friends. He helped arrange for her to go to college at Radcliffe where she graduated in 1904, the first deaf and blind person in the world to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She learned to read English, French, German, and Latin in braille and went on to become practically as world-famous as her dear friend, writing prolifically and lecturing across the country and around the world. Twain, with his usual understatement, called her “one of the two most remarkable people in the 19th century.” The other candidate was Napoleon.
Keller lived into the 1960s and shared some of her fond memories of Twain in an autobiographical book she published in 1929. In particular, she records recollections from her last visit to her friend in his “Stormfield” home in Redding, Connecticut, which she thought of as a “land of enchantment.” She preserves for us a vivid image not only of Mark Twain—Mr. Clemens, as she called him—but of her own vivacious mind. About Twain she writes,
There are writers who belong to the history of their nation’s literature. Mark Twain is one of them. When we think of great Americans we think of him. He incorporated the age he lived in. To me he symbolizes the pioneer qualities—the large, free, unconventional, humorous point of view of men who sail new seas and blaze new trails through the wilderness.
As they gathered around the hearth one night after dinner at Stormfield, she records,
Mr. Clemens stood with his back to the fire talking to us. There he stood—our Mark Twain, our American, our humorist, the embodiment of our country. He seemed to have absorbed all America into himself. The great Mississippi River seemed forever flowing, flowing through his speech.
When Twain took her to her room to say goodnight, he said “that I would find cigars and a thermos bottle with Scotch whiskey, or Bourbon if I preferred it, in the bathroom.”
One evening, Twain offered to read to her from his short story, “Eve’s Diary.” She was delighted, and he asked, “How shall we manage it?” She said, “Oh, you will read aloud, and my teacher will spell your words into my hand.” He murmured, “I had thought you would read my lips.” And so that is what she did. Upon request, and as promised, Twain put on his “Oxford robe,” the “gorgeous scarlet robe” he had worn when Oxford University “conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Letters.”
Here is Keller’s recollection of the evening:
Mr. Clemens sat in his great armchair, dressed in his white serge suit, the flaming scarlet robe draping his shoulders, and his white hair gleaming and glistening in the light of the lamp which shone down on his head. In one hand he held “Eve’s Diary” in a glorious red cover. In the other hand he held his pipe. . . . I sat down near him in a low chair, my elbow on the arm of his chair, so that my fingers could rest lightly on his lips.
“Everything went smoothly for a time,” she wrote. But Twain’s gesticulations soon began to confuse things, so “a new setting was arranged. Mrs. Macy came and sat beside me and spelled the words into my right hand, while I looked at Mr. Clemens with my left, touching his face and hands and the book, following his gestures and every changing expression.”
Keller reflected that,
To one hampered and circumscribed as I am it was a wonderful experience to have a friend like Mr. Clemens. I recall many talks with him about human affairs. He never made me feel that my opinions were worthless. . . . He knew that we do not think with eyes and ears, and that our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses. He kept me always in mind while he talked, and he treated me like a competent human being. That is why I loved him. . . . There was about him the air of one who had suffered greatly.
Whenever I touched his face his expression was sad, even when he was telling a funny story. He smiled, not with the mouth but with his mind—a gesture of the soul rather than of the face. His voice was truly wonderful. To my touch, it was deep, resonant. He had the power of modulating it so as to suggest the most delicate shades of meaning and he spoke so deliberately that I could get almost every word with my fingers on his lips. Ah, how sweet and poignant the memory of his soft slow speech playing over my listening fingers. His words seemed to take strange lovely shapes on my hands. His own hands were wonderfully mobile and changeable under the influence of emotion. It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me, but when I recollect the treasure of friendship that has been bestowed upon me I withdraw all charges against life. If much has been denied me, much, very much has been given me. So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart I shall say that life is good.
When Helen Keller left the enchanted land of Stormfield on that visit, she wondered if she would ever see her friend again, and she didn’t. It was 1909, and Clemens would live just one more year. But, she writes for us, “In my fingertips was graven the image of his dear face with its halo of shining white hair, and in my memory his drawling, marvelous voice will always vibrate.”
Here’s another story about an American whose name the whole world knows.
Twenty-two-year-old Marion Morrison, known to his friends as Duke, was carrying a table on his head across the soundstage of a John Ford movie. He was working as a prop man at the Fox Studio in Los Angeles early in 1930. Director Raoul Walsh was looking for a leading man for an epic western film he was developing about a great wagon train journeying across vast deserts and mountains to California. Walsh didn’t want a known star to play the lead. He was looking for someone who would “be a true replica of the pioneer type.” He didn’t want the audience to see a part being acted; he wanted them to see the real thing—“someone to get out there and act natural . . . be himself.” Then he happened upon the young Duke Morrison lugging a table across a soundstage.
“He was in his early 20s,” Walsh recalled, “[and] laughing. . . . [T]he expression on his face was so warm and wholesome that I stopped and watched. I noticed the fine physique of the boy, his careless strength, the grace of his movement. . . . What I needed was a feeling of honesty, of sincerity, and [he] had it.” Within a few weeks, after a quick screen test, Duke would be signed up for the part of Breck Coleman, the fearless young scout in an ambitious film to be called The Big Trail; he would more than double his income, from $35 to $75 a week. He had to let his hair grow long and learn to throw a knife—and he would have a new name: John Wayne.
Already, as the young frontiersman in The Big Trail, the man the world would come to know as John Wayne is recognizable. He is more athletic and beautiful than we remember him from his later pictures, and he has a sweetness and shyness of youth that recedes over time, but he is “tough and in charge”; he has “a natural air of command.” The widescreen film is still visually stunning and interesting to watch, but it was an epic flop and left Wayne languishing in B-movie purgatory for almost a decade before John Ford decided to make him a star as the Ringo Kid in the great western Stagecoach.
Ford was inspired by something similar to what Raoul Walsh had seen in Duke Morrison. “It isn’t enough for an actor to look the part and say his lines well,” said Ford. “Something else has to come across to audiences—something which no director can instill or create—the quality of being a real man.” Ford added that Wayne “was the only person I could think of at the time who could personify great strength and determination without talking much. That sounds easy, perhaps. But it’s not. Either you have it or you don’t.” John Wayne had it. As James Baldwin wrote, “One does not go to see [Katharine Hepburn or Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne] act: one goes to watch them be.”
And Duke Morrison decided that John Wayne would be the kind of man he—and the audience—wanted to believe in. Whatever his flaws, and Wayne’s characters had many, he would present on screen a character that had something admirable in it. This character took on added dimensions in his greatest films like Red River and The Searchers. But its essence was discernable from the earliest days. He had courage and self-reliance, obstinacy and even ruthlessness; but also generosity of soul and spirit. As his biographer Scott Eyman put it, he had the kind of “spirit that makes firemen rush into a burning building . . . because it’s the right thing to do.” He had “humor, gusto, irascibility”; he was “bold, defiant, ambitious, heedless of consequences, occasionally mistaken, primarily alone—larger than life.” As one of Wayne’s colleagues said, “John Wayne was what every young boy wants to be like, and what every old man wishes he had been.”
Wayne was 32 when he made Stagecoach and 69 when he made his last film, The Shootist, in which he plays the dying gunfighter, John Bernard Books. His oft-quoted line from that film would have been right at home in The Big Trail: “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” For 25 years, from 1949 to 1974, he was among the top ten box office stars every year but one. And he was more than a star for his time. Well into the 21st century, 35 years after his death, he was still listed as one of America’s five favorite movie stars; he became “indivisibly associated with America itself.”
On his 72nd birthday, May 26, 1979, as Wayne lay dying of cancer in UCLA Medical Center, the United States Congress, in a unanimous bipartisan vote, approved an order signed by President Jimmy Carter for striking a Congressional Gold Medal in his honor. Wayne would be the 85th recipient of the Medal. The first recipient was George Washington. Winston Churchill was awarded the Medal just a few years before John Wayne. As President Carter said, Wayne’s “ruggedness, the tough independence, the sense of personal conviction and courage—on and off the screen—reflected the best of our national character.” Wayne’s friend, actress Maureen O’Hara, testifying before Congress, said: “To the people of the world, John Wayne is not just an actor, and a very ﬁne actor, John Wayne is the United States of America. He is what they believe it to be. He is what they hope it will be. And he is what they hope it will always be.”
And finally, here’s a story about an American whose name you may not know, but will want to.
“We Are All Americans”
Ely Parker was born in 1828 to Elizabeth and William Parker of the Tonawanda Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy in western New York. Parker became a leader in his tribe at a very young age. Trained as a civil engineer, he earned a reputation in that field. In 1857, when he was 29 years old, he moved to Galena, Illinois, as a civil engineer working for the Treasury Department, and there his life took a fateful turn.
He became friends with a fellow named Ulysses S. Grant. In these years, Grant was an ex-Army officer working as a clerk in his father’s store. Parker later liked to tell the story of coming to Grant’s aid in a barroom fight in Galena, the two of them back to back, fighting their way out against practically all the other patrons. At about five feet eight inches and 200 pounds, the robust Parker referred to himself as a “Savage Jack Falstaff.”
When the Civil War came on, Parker tried several times to join the Union Army as an engineer but was turned down because he was not a citizen. When he approached Secretary of State William Seward about a commission, he was told that the war was “an affair between white men,” that he should go home, and “we will settle our own troubles among ourselves without any Indian aid.”
Eventually, with Grant’s endorsement, Parker received a commission, with the rank of captain, as Assistant Adjutant General for Volunteers. By late 1863, he had been transferred to Grant’s staff as Military Secretary. He soon became familiarly known as “the Indian at headquarters” and was promoted to lieutenant colonel and later to brigadier general. He may have saved Grant’s life or at least prevented his capture one dark night during the Wilderness Campaign in 1864, when Grant and his staff, unbeknownst to themselves, were riding into enemy lines.
But Parker is rightly most remembered for something that happened in the parlor of a private residence in the village of Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
In the days preceding, Union armies had captured the city of Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond. Grant and the Federal Army of the Potomac had put Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia in such a position that in the late afternoon of April 7, Grant, sitting on the verandah of his hotel headquarters in Farmville, said to a couple of his generals, “I have a great mind to summon Lee, to surrender.” He immediately wrote a letter respectfully inviting Lee to surrender and had it sent to him under a flag of truce. It took Lee a couple of days of desperate failed maneuvers to come around to the idea. But by the morning of April 9, Lee had concluded that “there is nothing left me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”
They agreed to meet in the village of Appomattox Court House to discuss terms.
Grant had been riding hard for days on rough roads in rough weather. When he met Lee in the parlor of the brick house where they had arranged to meet, he had on dirty boots, “an old suit, without [his] sword, and without any distinguishing mark of rank, except the shoulder straps of a lieutenant general on a woolen blouse.” Lee was decked out from head to toe in all the military finery he had at his disposal.
After introductions, and not much small talk, Lee asked Grant on what terms he would receive the surrender of Lee’s army. Grant told him that all officers and men would be “paroled and disqualified from taking up arms again until properly exchanged, and all arms, ammunition, and supplies were to be delivered up as captured property.” Lee said those were the terms he expected, and he asked Grant to commit them to writing, which Grant did, on the spot, and showed them to Lee.
With minor revisions, Lee accepted, and Grant handed the document to his senior adjutant general, Theodore Bowers, to “put into ink.” This was a document that would effectively put an end to four years of devastating civil war. Bowers’ hands were so unsteady from nerves that he had to start over three or four times, going through several sheets of paper, in a failed effort to prepare a fair copy for the signatures of the generals.
So Grant asked Ely Parker to do it, which he did, without trouble. This gave occasion for Lee and Parker to be introduced. When Lee recognized that Parker was an American Indian, he said, “I am glad to see one real American here.”
Parker shook his hand and replied, “We are all Americans.”
The American story, still young, is already the greatest story ever written by human hands and minds. It is a story of freedom the likes of which the world has never seen. It is endlessly interesting and instructive and will continue unfolding in word and deed as long as there are Americans. The stories that I think are most important are those about what it is that makes America beautiful, what it is that makes America good and therefore worthy of love. Only in this light can we see clearly what it is that might make America better and more beautiful.
You'll be grateful that you made the change (and you'll sleep better).
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” we are often told. And while it can be hard to avoid self-pity entirely, mentally strong people choose to exchange self-pity for gratitude. Whether you choose to write a few sentences in a gratitude journal or simply take a moment to silently acknowledge all that you have, giving thanks can transform your life.
Here are 7 scientifically proven benefits:
We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about the things you think you deserve, take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.
Whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in Wuhan, China, or thanks to Beijing’s increasingly intimidating, if not aggressive, behavior in recent years, one of the more dramatic shifts in global opinion has started a long-overdue reconsideration of the liberal world’s relationship to the People’s Republic of China. In addition to a raft of high-level policy statements from the Trump administration, including the 2017 National Security Strategy, the 2019 Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy report, and the 2020 “United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China,” a number of independent reports have been tracking Beijing’s predatory and threatening policies, whether in economics, security, or civil society. After decades of turning the other cheek to Beijing’s abuse of the free world’s open societies, all in order to maintain trade relations that themselves were turning increasingly one-sided, liberal states have begun the process of recalibrating their ties to China.
This is no easy task for America or other states, after nearly a half-century of engagement. How to reduce supply chain vulnerability without crashing current manufacturing models, how to support Taiwan and Hong Kong in the face of Beijing’s aggressive actions, whether to keep admitting hundreds of thousands of Chinese students to American universities, how to keep doing business with Chinese firms while defending rampant theft of intellectual property, the “to do” list goes on and on. The difficulty is a testament to just how thoroughly the post-Mao PRC intertwined itself with free economies and societies around the world, while at the same time resisting much, if not all, pressure to liberalize in turn. Despite decades of optimistic comments from Western leaders, including U.S. presidents, China under current Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping has become an even more repressive and insular state, committed to the Leninist control by the CCP, and steadfastly opposed to liberal notions of free speech and free association. The PRC’s techno-authoritarian surveillance state has taken the world’s leading technologies, many originated in Western research institutes and universities, and twisted them into a comprehensive network of social control. Western businesses, media, universities, and the like have all submitted to Beijing’s pressure, self-censuring and apologizing for remarks critical of the PRC.
The great question facing the free world is how to deal with the PRC in this new era of competition. One answer is provided in a new “handbook” for democracies, published this week by the Halifax International Security Forum (HFX) to coincide with its annual conference. The handbook, entitled “China Vs. Democracy: The Greatest Game,” is a primer on how the PRC threatens the open global society that is the source for most of its own wealth and power (full disclosure: I am the senior advisor for Asia at HFX, and was part of the team that produced the handbook). Divided into chapters that look at the CCP’s oppression inside China, influence campaigns against democracies, the battle over global economic domination, the race for technological supremacy, and the military competition that may determine war or peace, the handbook is one of the first comprehensive attempts to chart the broad China challenge.
As the handbook notes, this is not the competition, or tension, that the liberal world wanted or expected when it opened its doors to Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and his reform plans back in the 1970s. Betting on China made sense during the Cold War and in light of what appeared to be legitimate reform inside China. The failure of Washington and its allies to conduct due diligence over the succeeding decades, questioning whether Beijing was living up to its promises and was becoming a cooperative nation upholding international norms, gave the CCP a free hand to build up its global power while eliminating any threats to its continued control. By the end of the Obama administration, the severity of the challenge could no longer be ignored or explained away as the result of a China still attempting to find its way in the world.
Yet, it is in the hands of democracies to deal with the China challenge in a way that not only protects their interests, but also may one day help the people of China. As HFX president Peter Van Praagh, who initiated the project, notes in his introduction:
Working in concert, the world’s democracies have overwhelming advantages that China cannot meet. The challenge is no longer about trying to cooperate with a rising China governed by autocrats. The real China challenge for the world’s democracies is how to cooperate effectively with each other.
Indeed, that theme of the HFX China Handbook — democratic cooperation — is one increasingly echoed by other Western reports and studies on China. Despite the disruptions of 2020, from pandemic to elections, liberal societies and free states remain stronger and yes, more peaceful, than their authoritarian counterparts. Their politics may be messier and often inefficient, but they remain laboratories of innovation and magnets for those fleeing repressive systems. They remain more committed to equality and the long-term improvement of their governing mechanisms than states run by unelected oligarchs. More pertinently, democracies may find a renewed appreciation for the moral worth of their systems by working together to defend common interests, whether economic, social, or security, against a PRC that seeks to subvert liberal norms and make the world safe for autocracy.
Perhaps the most innovative part of the handbook is the “HFX China Principles,” a set of seven pledges to not be complicit in Beijing’s assault on democracy. The Principles include a pledge not to censor or self-censor criticism of China, not to punish those who critique the PRC, not to support Chinese businesses that participate in the oppression of the Chinese people, and not knowingly to patronize businesses that benefit from Chinese slave labor. Public pledges to adhere to the China Principles by governments, multinational corporations, universities, media companies, and ordinary citizens would be a beginning in right-sizing the world’s relations with the PRC, giving hope to those in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and bolstering democratic states in Asia, from the Philippines to Japan. As a form of thinking globally and acting locally, the Principles may give the free world the confidence to begin defending itself against the China challenge.