By now the term was a jumble. Commentators and politicos who worried that democracy was under threat seemed to hold the Deweyan view that democracy wasn’t so much a form of government as a means of expanding novel individual rights and generating other allegedly benign policy ends. At the same time they embraced an aggressive majoritarianism, demanding an end to the Electoral College and the filibuster and threatening to add states to the union and justices to the Supreme Court to achieve their goals.
The trouble with progressive thought—both in the early-20th-century and the 21st-century senses of that term—and with the way progressives speak of “democracy,” is that they ignore the first two parts of Lincoln’s formulation and care only about the third. Government, in the progressive view, ought to benefit the people. But it has to resist their crazy impulses, and it’s necessarily composed of credentialed experts empowered to overrule the people when they act against their own interests.
My friend and GMU colleague over in the law school J.W. Verret is seldom wrong, but I believe him to be so in his case – made recently in the Wall Street Journal – for a second Trump term in the Oval Office. In this letter to the editor, Ben Zycher warns of some of the dangers of a second Trump term (except I would use the term “liberal principles” rather than “conservative principles”):
Mr. Verret argues that Never Trumpers should vote for Mr. Trump because Mr. Trump “is the only alternative to” Mr. Biden’s leftist policies. Most of Mr. Biden’s policies have been pursued through administrative fiat, and thus can be reversed. So Mr. Verret is answering the wrong question. The correct one: What are the medium-term implications of a Trump victory for the defense of conservative principles?
Should Mr. Trump win, his continuing alienation of independents and suburban voters will result in a massive Democratic Party wave in 2026. The House will be lost along with more seats in the Senate, and a Democrat will win the presidency in 2028. Let’s not kid ourselves: Democrats will end the filibuster, pack the court, and might grant statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, adding four leftists to the Senate. If it is left-wing policies that must be resisted, then Mr. Trump’s defeat is necessary.
American Enterprise Institute
Long Beach, Wash.
Many investigations and rules are justified on the grounds of ensuring that students feel safe. But I’m not at all sure the college classroom should be a place of comfort. It should be a place, rather, where students regularly face the challenge of difficult questions, as their professors help prepare them for the life of the mind. The more successful the teaching, the more students will carry their taste for the give-and-take of argument out of the classroom and into the larger world.
But the Nazi toll adds up to barely a tenth of the lives that have been extinguished by communist dictatorships. According to The Black Book of Communism, a magisterial compendium of communist crimes first published in France in 1997, the fanaticism unleashed by Lenin’s revolution has sent at least 100 million men, women, and children to early graves. Beginning in 1917, communist regimes on four continents — from Russia and Eastern Europe to China and North Korea to Cuba and Ethiopia — engineered death on a scale unmatched in human annals.