Archive for March, 2016
31 Mar 2016

Zack Snyder Killed Superman

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Devin Faraci really really does not like the direction taken by the latest Superman films.

Warner Bros, custodian of the Superman legacy, has handed the keys of the character over to Zack Snyder, a filmmaker who has shown he feels nothing but contempt for the character. In doing so they have opened the character to an ugly new interpretation, one that devalues the simple heroism of Superman and turns the decent, graceful character into a mean, nasty force of brutish strength.

Where Superman was originally intended as a hopeful view of strength wielded with responsibility, Snyder presents him as a view of strength as constant destructive force; where Christopher Reeve’s Superman would often float and flit away, Snyder’s version explodes like a rocket at all times, creating sonic booms above city centers in fits of pique, such as after his scene of moping on Lois Lane’s Washington DC hotel balcony. He is a constant weapon of destruction, often smashing concrete when he comes to earth. There are no soft landings for this Superman.

Grace is a word that I have used a number of times here, and I have meant that in multiple ways, both as a description of physical movement and as a way of behaving. Superman can be firm, but is always polite, and he does not hold his powers as a cudgel above others… unless it’s Zack Snyder’s Superman. Here is a character who threatens first and asks questions later, who resorts to physical violence against Batman at the slightest provocation, who has no words of comfort or wisdom for anyone, who even flies away after a terrible disaster at the US Senate. …

After two films I do not believe this is an accident. I believe that Zack Snyder is systematically destroying Superman not because he doesn’t understand the character but because he profoundly dislikes the character. One of the larger themes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the idea that every act of heroism is a catalyst for something terrible in the world, a point of view that is not only a) insane but b) inherently anti-Superman. And in case you think I’m reading too much into the film (where Pa Kent’s ghost gives a bizarre horse-drowning speech that makes this explicit) here’s Snyder on the press tour for the film:

    When we find him, he’s been dealing with the everyday world of being a superhero, but there’s a paradigm shift happening in that the unintended consequences of some of those rescues are starting to come into fruition.

    Like, if you’re just taking a cat out of a tree, you can’t touch anything or the arborists will say, ‘he damaged the tree branch when he got the cat down.’ Or, ‘the cat wasn’t neutered, so now there’s thousands of cats.’ There’s no winning anymore for Superman.

Somebody tell Zack Snyder how cat reproduction works.

What Snyder is talking about, and what his movie ends up being about, is the concept of staying in your own lane – don’t get involved in the affairs of others because it’s always going to create unintended consequences, and usually bad ones. That’s an intrinsically nihilistic point of view, and it’s absolutely bizarre to me that it’s a point of view that Warner Bros allowed to be attached to Superman. It’s like making a Strawberry Shortcake movie that is all about diabetes. …

For generations there have been depictions of Superman that get the basic qualities – Truth, Justice, the American Way (an idealized version of it, at least), decency, kindness, happiness, love – correct. Whether you think Superman Returns is any good or whether you think the animated Superman show or Justice League Unlimited is the best ever, they all contain depictions of the character a someone a young person can look at as a model for action. What would Superman do? Be a good guy, be polite, be kind. Every time.

Every time until 2016.

Just like 1938 and just like 1978 it’s a tough world out there. We’re in a sluggish economic recovery and we’re stumbling out of two terrible, costly wars of aggression. We are in the middle of an election cycle that is actually insane, one where a guy with openly fascistic and racist tendencies is a lock to win the GOP nomination. We wake up to news reports of suicide bombings in Brussels and in a park full of women and children in Pakistan. … The ideals of America seem distant today, and hope seems even more distant. Just as in 1938 and 1978 we need a bright, hopeful figure to fly in and remind us of what we can be, of who we are when we’re not weighted down by the hate and the problems. We need a Superman.

Zack Snyder killed him.

When I was four years old I sat in a movie theater and I believed a man could fly. I sat in a movie theater and I saw a guy doing the right thing because it was the right thing, and he never hemmed or hawed, he never held himself above the people he helped. His strength wasn’t just physical, it was moral, and it was inspirational to me. While I identified with other characters who struggled – characters like Spider-Man – I always looked to Superman’s inherent rightness as true north for my moral compass.

Of course you can’t even bring a four year old to see Batman v Superman, but even if you did – and if they didn’t run screaming from the film’s excessive violence and darkness – what kind of a Superman would they find waiting for them? Not a hero. Not a decent guy. They would find a guy filled with anger, a guy who is haughty and disdainful of regular humans. They would find a guy who, in many ways, represents the worst of us, a guy who struggles against his urge to do the right thing. And there are no current cartoons to fill in the gap, no explicitly kid-friendly comics. (There is, thankfully, Supergirl on CBS, a show forced to pick up the torch of Superman that Warner Bros and Zack Snyder have tried to douse)

Every generation has had a Superman to look to, to learn from. I feel terrible for the youngest generation who has this cruel, selfish Superman.

31 Mar 2016

Donald Trump’s Gettysburg Address

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If Trump, instead of Lincoln, had given the Gettysburg Address (via Kevin M. Levin):

It was a long time ago – I don’t think anyone can even remember, but I can remember, I have a great memory, I’ve got the best memory ever. These guys, they made the most special thing, really, really special. Where everyone was free and everything was great, just the way I’ve made America, I really, really mean that.

Now we’ve got these people – I don’t like these people, let me tell you, they’re really awful, they said, “Hey Trump, you’ve got small hands,” and so I went after them, I really did, I sued them, and what did they do? They decided they wanted a fight and I said, “Okay, we’ll see who’s still here in a few years,” and see, we’re still here, on this battlefield. It’s a yuge battlefield, and it’s really, really, great, it’s so special. See, we’ve built this cemetery, so how big it is? It’s so special. And these guys – we’ve got the best guys – they tell me, “Hey Donald, give us someone who can lead us and we’ll beat these rebels,” and so I made things happen – it’s what I do – and boom, look, we’ve got this big, big win. These guys died winning, and I’m sure that makes their families just so, so happy, all this winning. It’s really great that we can be here to make this place special because of all the winning they did.

But really, we can’t make this place any more special than they did by winning so hard, unless it’s to build a brand new Trump Towers – Gettysburg – that’s right ladies and gentlemen, that’s right, right here, right where you’re standing, we’re going to build this yuge tower, and oh my goodness, it will be so special, so big. You’ll just get sick from how big it is. You say to yourself, “Hey, I wonder if anyone will remember this place.” And now you don’t have to wonder anymore because you’ll be able to see it from miles and miles away, that’s how yuge it will be. We’ll make those rebels remember this place where they lost, where they became losers. I really hate losers. I hate them so much that we’re going to keep on winning, just to show them how much of losers they really are, that’s what we’re going to do. What these guys did – and they’re just the best, so special – well, we’re going to make sure that what they won for is going to be kept alive forever. Know what I’m going to do? I’m going to build a wall, a yuge wall, really, really yuge, all along the Mason-Dixon Line, and know what? I’m gonna make Jeff Davis pay for it, I really am. That guy’s such a loser, it’s why I hate him so much, and I think it’s what the guys that won here would really want. I’m just going to keep this great country really great, and yuge, just like me. We’re going to keep winning until we’re so tired of winning that you’ll have to thank me for making everything so great. My government is going to be around for a while, so get used to that winning.

Oh hey, look, we’ve got someone yelling about issues over there. What’s that? Slavery? Throw that guy outta here, get him out, this is about winning, and he’s a loser.

31 Mar 2016

Jim Geraghty: “Trumpkins Should Be Handcuffed to the Titanic They Volunteered to Crew on”



Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos recently discovered that their political idol is “mental”. Stephanie Cegielski worked for his nomination, but concluded that the truth of the matter is: “Trump only cares about Trump.”

Jim Geraghty has some unkind words for them and all the other little Trumpkins out there.

Trump supporters, no one should let you off of that bandwagon now. You should be handcuffed to that Titanic you volunteered to crew.

Donald Trump didn’t suddenly change in the past few days, weeks or months. He’s the same guy he always was, the same guy that most of us in the conservative movement and GOP have been staunchly opposing for the past year. He didn’t abruptly become reckless, obnoxious, ill-informed, erratic, hot-tempered, pathologically dishonest, narcissistic, crude and catastrophically unqualified for the presidency overnight. He’s always been that guy, and you denied it and ignored it and hand-waved it away and made excuses every step of the way because you were convinced that you were so much smarter than the rest of us. You were so certain that you had received some superior wavelength giving you special insight into the Donald; only you could tell that it was all an act. Only you could grasp that his constant courting of controversy was just to get attention from the media. Only you could instinctively sense that his style would play brilliantly in the general election and win over working-class Democrats. (SPOILER ALERT: It isn’t.) You insisted that you could “coach him.”

You came to those conclusions not because you’re smarter than the rest of us, but because you’re actually more foolish than the rest of us. You insisted Occam’s Razor couldn’t possibly be true– that Trump acts the way he does because this is who he is, this is the way he is all the time, and he will always be like this. You fooled yourself into believing that Trump was playing this nine-level chess that only you and a few others could perceive and understand. Only you could see the long game.

There is no long game. He’s winging it. There is no grand strategy. There is no master plan. Trump doesn’t look ahead to the next sentence, much less the next step in getting elected.

“Our candidate is mental?” No Shinola, Sherlock, some conservatives said this from day one and all we got for it was the alt-Right vomiting forth endless vitriol and profanity and threats.

Oh, what’s that? Trump’s Twitter behavior is “utterly stupid”, Newt? Thanks for noticing; six days ago you were telling the media there was absolutely nothing about Trump that worries you. Maybe your previous comparison of Trump to Reagan was frankly, fundamentally, profoundly wrong from A to Z.

“Trump only cares about Trump”? Gee, thank you, turncoat former insider, for this shocking bit of secret intelligence. News flash, some of us didn’t need to work for Trump for several months to figure that out. We saw it, we said it, and you called us liars for saying it.

Technically we’re supposed to welcome previous Trump fans-turned-foes with open arms. But barring some miraculous comeback by Ted Cruz, the Trump campaign will have cost the Republican Party the presidency after eight years of Obama, and perhaps the Senate and even the House – and Scalia’s replacement on the Court as well. Years of effort spent attempting to dispel the accusations of inherent Republican misogyny, xenophobia, hypocrisy, ignorance and blind rage have been undone by Trump’s campaign. And every Trump advocate in front of a camera had a hand in this.

We’re not just gonna hug it out.

30 Mar 2016

We’re Screwed

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Jonathan V. Last, of the the Weekly Standard, (via email) observes that we are in a no-win situation here. Whatever happens, Donald Trump is going to split the GOP vote.

With Easter break behind us and a pause before the vote in Wisconsin next week, let’s have a deep breath and take stock of where we stand now in the GOP primary.

It’s now abundantly clear that the Republican party is broken. There’s no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again this cycle-whether the nominee is Trump, Cruz, or [insert White Knight]. The idea that Republicans could rally to Trump in a meaningful way-even if party elites cave in-has basically been invalidated by the exit polling coming out of Florida, Ohio, Utah, and pretty much everywhere else. A giant chunk of Republican voters isn’t going to come to him.

Now maybe it’s not the 40 percent or so who tell pollsters they won’t vote Trump if he’s the nominee. I’m sure some of those people feel that way because they’re in the heat of a primary fight and will reconsider when facing the prospect of a Clinton administration. But some won’t, because Trump isn’t just distasteful. You could argue that the potential downside of Trump (expansive authoritarianism unmoored from ideological commitments) is worse than the potential of downside of Clinton (lawless progressivism run amok) [Good summations –JDZ]. For some GOP voters, Clinton could be the lesser of two evils.

But even if half the Republicans who now say they won’t vote for Trump stay that way, there are a bunch of knife’s-edge states that come off the board. So long Florida. So long Ohio. So long North Carolina and Colorado. My colleague Jay Cost thinks that in a Trump vs. Clinton matchup, Clinton starts with a floor of 400 Electoral votes. He may be right. (By the by, Trump supporters generally place a great deal of faith in poll numbers when they show their guy doing well against Bush, Rubio, Cruz, et al. Yet somehow they totally discount the mountain of polls showing Trump being the weakest Republican-by far- against Clinton. Weird.)

On the other hand, Trump can honestly claim to have brought a bunch of new voters into the primary process. And where are these people going to go if Trump isn’t the nominee? Who knows. But it probably won’t be pretty. Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, so they clearly needed a revamped coalition. Last summer, it looked like Trumpism might be an answer to this problem. Now that Trumpism has devolved from being a semi-coherent nationalist worldview into an ad hoc series of contradictory positions held together by an authoritarian cult of personality … not so much.

Which leaves us where, exactly?

Either Trump gets to 1,237 delegates and wins the nomination outright, or he doesn’t and someone else gets nominated after a floor fight at the Republican national convention.

But let’s be clear: Neither or these options is ‘good’ and neither is likely to result in a Republican victory in November. So when someone says, Yeah, but if you don’t do X, you’re giving aid and comfort to Hillary Clinton, just remember: There’s a good chance that ship has already sailed. The priorities for picking the Republican nominee are a lot more near-term right now.”

30 Mar 2016

Trump Too Flakey For Even Ann Coulter

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Ann Coulter on the back porch of a certain house in Woodstock

Nobody can possibly maintain that Ann Coulter is anything less than keen, but even Ann (who flung herself happily in true berserker fashion into the Trump camp) is apparently having second thoughts, watching The Donald act up.

Washington Examiner:

Defending billionaire businessman Donald Trump is like constantly having to bail a teenage son from prison, author and political commentator Ann Coulter groused in a recent radio interview.

“I’m a little testy with our man right now. Our candidate is mental! Do you realize our candidate is mental?” Coulter said jokingly during a taping of an episode of the “Milo Yiannopoulos Show,” which is scheduled to air in full this weekend. “It’s like constantly having to bail out your 16-year-old son from prison.”

Yiannopoulos and Coulter have spent most of the 2016 GOP primary enthusiastically defending Trump, and making the case for why he is the most qualified candidate to take on the Democratic front-runner in the fall.

However, Coulter is now unhappy with Trump over his late-night Twitter shenanigans, which have included attacks on journalists, businesses, television networks, heads of state and Heidi Cruz, the wife of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Sigh. And I’d been hoping that, were Trump to be elected, at least, he would make Ann Coulter Secretary of State.

30 Mar 2016

Is Anyone Surprised?

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Politico reports that Donald Trump, recognizing that he may well fail to win a majority in the first ballot at the GOP Convention, is welshing on his pledge to support the eventual nominee.

Donald Trump has rescinded his pledge to support the Republican nominee for president.

Asked during a CNN town hall whether he stood by the earlier pledge — which he signed in September after meeting with party chairman Reince Priebus — Trump said: “No, I don’t.”

“We’ll see who it is,” he told moderator Anderson Cooper.

Trump said he had been treated “unfairly” by the Republican National Committee and the GOP establishment. He said he was unsure whether the Republican establishment was plotting to take the nomination away from him during the convention in Cleveland.

They have the wrong guy heading the Republican National Committee. If it were I, instead of Reince Priebus, I’d be holding a press conference this morning, announcing that Donald Trump, having repudiated his own affiliation to the Republican Party, is now ineligible to compete in any subsequent GOP primaries. And I would then just sit back and watch how Trump would like that!

30 Mar 2016

Folk Architectural Detail



30 Mar 2016



28 Mar 2016

Great Bronze Age Battle Fought in Northern Germany

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Around the time that the Greeks were fighting the Trojans because Menelaos’ wife Helen had run off with Paris, evidence has been found proving that a great battle involving thousands of men was fought over a nearly 2 mile (3 kilometer) front along the Tollense River in Northern Germany.

The conventional perspective is that Northern Europe, in the Bronze Age, was a sparsely-populated wilderness containing only scattered individual farmsteads, no cities, no advanced cultures, no major population centers, just a few pitiful, fur-clad barbarians.

So, how on earth, could there possibly have been two leaders and two societies stretching across such large territories and featuring such potent forms of political organization as to be able to field such large armies prepared to fight to the death?

These questions are absolutely fascinating, but since literacy and written records simply did not exist, we will never know the answers. All this does seem to demonstrate, though, that Barbarous, Prehistoric Europe was a lot more culturally-developed and complex than can be readily imagined.


In 1996, an amateur archaeologist found a single upper arm bone sticking out of the steep riverbank—the first clue that the Tollense Valley, about 120 kilometers north of Berlin, concealed a gruesome secret. A flint arrowhead was firmly embedded in one end of the bone, prompting archaeologists to dig a small test excavation that yielded more bones, a bashed-in skull, and a 73-centimeter club resembling a baseball bat. The artifacts all were radiocarbon-dated to about 1250 B.C.E., suggesting they stemmed from a single episode during Europe’s Bronze Age.

Now, after a series of excavations between 2009 and 2015, researchers have begun to understand the battle and its startling implications for Bronze Age society. Along a 3-kilometer stretch of the Tollense River, archaeologists from the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Department of Historic Preservation (MVDHP) and the University of Greifswald (UG) have unearthed wooden clubs, bronze spearheads, and flint and bronze arrowheads. They have also found bones in extraordinary numbers: the remains of at least five horses and more than 100 men. Bones from hundreds more may remain unexcavated, and thousands of others may have fought but survived.

“If our hypothesis is correct that all of the finds belong to the same event, we’re dealing with a conflict of a scale hitherto completely unknown north of the Alps,” says dig co-director Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage in Hannover. “There’s nothing to compare it to.” It may even be the earliest direct evidence—with weapons and warriors together—of a battle this size anywhere in the ancient world.

Northern Europe in the Bronze Age was long dismissed as a backwater, overshadowed by more sophisticated civilizations in the Near East and Greece. Bronze itself, created in the Near East around 3200 B.C.E., took 1000 years to arrive here. But Tollense’s scale suggests more organization—and more violence—than once thought. “We had considered scenarios of raids, with small groups of young men killing and stealing food, but to imagine such a big battle with thousands of people is very surprising,” says Svend Hansen, head of the German Archaeological Institute’s (DAI’s) Eurasia Department in Berlin. The well-preserved bones and artifacts add detail to this picture of Bronze Age sophistication, pointing to the existence of a trained warrior class and suggesting that people from across Europe joined the bloody fray.


28 Mar 2016

Trump Clueless on Easter

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Daily Caller reports that Donald Trump is just a little shaky on the meaning and significance of the Easter holiday.

Donald Trump says Easter “represents family and get-together and — and something.”

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” on Easter Sunday, Trump was asked what Easter means to him and if he had an Easter tradition. The real estate mogul replied, “Well, it really means something very special. I’m going to church in an hour from now and it’s going to be — it’s a beautiful church. I’m in Florida.”

“And it’s just a very special time for me. And it really represents family and get-together and — and something, you know, if you’re a — a Christian, it’s just a very important day,” Trump said.

28 Mar 2016

Jim Harrison (1937-2016)

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Harrison looked like one of those European mastiffs, so ugly that he was beautiful.

Jim Harrison, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 78, was for my money the best living American writer of fiction. Jim Harrison wrote simply, elegantly, and perceptively about real Americans, the out-of-doors, and what the Japanese refer to as “the immortal questions.” He was prolific: 21 books of fiction and 14 of poetry, and, with the help of a loan of $15,000 from Jack Nicholson early in his writing career that gave him time to complete the break-through collection of novellas which sold some screenplays, successful enough to support a life-style which included flying to Paris to have lunch, extreme oenophilia with an emphasis on Burgundies, and a kitchen larder loaded with caviar and pâté.

Jim Harrison could step gracefully from writing violent escapist fantasies to serious, meditative novels focused on love, guilt, aging, and la condition humaine. He did not like being compared to Ernest Hemingway, but the comparison was an obvious one. Like Hemingway, Jim Harrison was a masculine writer, sophisticated and intellectual, but fundamentally and always an outdoorsman. Like Hemingway, Harrison was a romantic and a stoic, whose fiction was preoccupied with acute and intelligent observation in the course of living up to a demanding and aristocratic code.

The novelist Thomas McGuane was Harrison’s classmate at Michigan State, and Jim Harrison was himself the most distinguished representative of a group of rural, huntin’, fishin’, and shootin’ writers, basically at odds with the contemporary urban community of fashion culture, which included McGuane, Russell Chatham, Guy de la Valdène, and Steve Bodio.

The New York Times obit has some great anecdotes:

His food writing, much of which first appeared in Esquire, was collected in his 2001 book, “The Raw and the Cooked,” whose title invokes the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’s volume of that name. Mr. Lévi-Strauss’s book is about myth and ritual. Mr. Harrison’s is about rituals that include his flying to France for the sole purpose of having lunch — a lunch that spanned 11 hours, 37 courses and 19 wines. …

At bottom, Mr. Harrison was not so much like Hemingway as he was like something out of Hemingway. Or, more accurately, something out of Rabelais — a mustachioed, barrel-chested bear of a man whose unapologetic immoderation encompassed a dazzling repertory:

There was the eating. Mr. Harrison once faced down 144 oysters, just to see if he could finish them. (He could.)

There was the drinking. One fine summer, he personally tested 38 varieties of Côtes du Rhône. (“It was like a small wine festival. Just me, really,” he told The Washington Post afterward.) …

All these ingredients were titanically encapsulated in a dinner Mr. Harrison once shared with Orson Welles, which involved, he wrote, “a half-pound of beluga with a bottle of Stolichnaya, a salmon in sorrel sauce, sweetbreads en croûte, a miniature leg of lamb (the whole thing) with five wines, desserts, cheeses, ports” and a chaser of cocaine.

He will be missed.

27 Mar 2016

Constitutionalism, Not Post-Constitutional Candidates

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Gerard van der Leun of American Digest (who is normally our most kindred spirit blogger) disagrees with NYM on Trump. Yesterday, he responded indignantly in a comment to our quoting John Hawkins‘s negative opinion of Trump:

The enemy of my enemy is always my friend until he helps me to destroy my enemy. After that he becomes my enemy again.

That or adios supreme court for one or two generations.

I think myself that Mr. van der Leun is not looking properly at the big picture. He ought to consider the historical perspective proposed by National Review’s Avi Snyder, to begin with.

With the GOP looking at the possibility of an open convention — complete with floor fights, riots, and the threat that the party will tear itself in two — the best historical analogue seems clear: Donald Trump is Teddy Roosevelt, and this is 1912 all over again.

The 1912 Republican National Convention was a battle for the soul of the party.

Though President William Howard Taft had been Theodore Roosevelt’s chosen successor in 1908, by 1912, the increasingly radical Roosevelt was dissatisfied with Taft’s relative conservatism in office. In violation of an earlier pledge not to run for a second full term, Roosevelt chose to challenge the president for the Republican nomination.

Much like Donald Trump, the progressive Roosevelt was a post-constitutional candidate. There are parallels between Trump’s defense of eminent domain abuse and Roosevelt’s contempt for property rights, and Trump’s strongman tendencies have antecedents in TR’s impatience with the machinery of constitutional government.

In the early 20th century, only a handful of states held popular primaries to choose presidential nominees, and the results weren’t even binding. But Roosevelt was a popular figure, and he took advantage of these contests, carrying nine out of twelve primaries. President Taft, however, still controlled the machinery of the party, and in states where convention delegates were chosen by party regulars, Taft’s forces dominated.

This didn’t stop Roosevelt from crying foul. “I believe in pure democracy,” he had proclaimed at the Ohio Constitutional Convention in February of that year. As the forces of his era’s Republican establishment stood arrayed against him, Roosevelt, in the words of historian Lewis Gould, remained “firm in his conviction that the nomination was being stolen from him.” One can almost imagine the outrage of Trump boosters, such as Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich and others, at the notion that the “will of the people” could be so successfully thwarted by the party apparatus. Unlike Trump, Roosevelt didn’t promise riots if he failed to secure the nomination, but the convention organizers were prepared for them. A thousand policemen patrolled the aisles of the convention, and barbed wire was hidden beneath the bunting of the speaker’s platform in order to prevent assaults. For Roosevelt had cast his battle for the nomination in apocalyptic language, proclaiming to his followers that: “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.”

None of these protests stopped the conservative forces of President Taft from denying Roosevelt the nomination. Taft’s ally Elihu Root defeated Roosevelt’s chosen candidate for convention chairman. Roosevelt’s forces lost important votes on the floor, and the convention awarded contested delegates to Taft. Roosevelt had won more primaries and had entered the convention with a plurality of delegates, but Taft easily wrapped up the nomination on the first ballot.

Taft and Root knew that denying Roosevelt the nomination would likely lead him and his supporters to bolt the convention and run on a third-party ticket, splitting the GOP vote and virtually guaranteeing a Democratic victory in November. Of course, this is precisely what happened. Combined, Roosevelt and Taft won over 50 percent of the popular vote, but Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the election with just over 40 percent.

Why was the Republican establishment of the day so intent on denying Roosevelt the nomination? Didn’t they know that their dirty tricks would “hand the election to the Democrats?” Didn’t they know it was time to “come together as a party?” What Taft, Root, and their allies understood was that, as Root would later put it, “worse things can happen to a party than to be defeated.” In fact, as Root understood the situation before the party, “the result of the convention was more important than the question of the election.”

In 1912, America’s very system of constitutional government was under attack. Woodrow Wilson, the man who would become the Democratic candidate, had spent his prior academic career attacking the Constitution as outdated and dismissing the eternal truths of the Declaration of Independence as passé. Roosevelt’s progressivism led him to support a variety of radical measures — such as popular recall elections for judges and judicial decisions — that also threatened America’s constitutional order. Had Roosevelt captured the party in 1912, America would have been without a constitutionalist, conservative party.

Root and Taft insisted that the party of Lincoln should be maintained as “a nucleus about which the conservative people who are in favor of maintaining constitutional government can gather.” And even though they lost the election, ushering in Wilson’s disastrous presidency, history has proven their wisdom. It is hard to imagine a President Coolidge, a candidate Goldwater, or a “Reagan Revolution” had the Republican party become the vehicle for promoting Roosevelt’s proto-welfare state. In the face of defeat, the losers of the election of 1912 could rest in the knowledge that they had ensured constitutionalism would continue to find a home in one of America’s major parties.

The relevance of 1912 to the 2016 GOP primary race should be obvious.


Of course, apart from such grand issues as preserving the alternative of a constitutionalist party, one needs to bear in mind that it likely to be better for the future of the country, and of the conservative cause, to see one’s adversaries elect a failed and disastrous presidency than to elect one of those supposedly representing your own party and your own principles.

I do not believe that Donald Trump shows any reasonable probability at all of winning, making America great, or making good decisions or appointments. I can easily picture Donald nominating his liberal sister and a few random poker buddies to the Supreme Court. I can picture Donald Trump taking a shot at reviving tariffs and Protectionism and instigating a world-wide trade war, dramatically deepening the economic bad times, and shaking the foundations of the world economic order.

I can picture Donald Trump bullying corporations, initiating his own series of New-Deal-style make-work federal programs, and adding some next larger entitlement to the Welfare State.

I think that four years of Donald Trump at the helm will produce results similar to Trump University’s or Trump steaks’, and that electing Donald Trump as a Republican will inevitably result in giving the radical democrat party a “One-Free-Presidency” coupon to be cashed for absolutely anyone.

Beyond these practical considerations, I think that we have a duty as citizens to respect our country and our institutions and to support for the chief magistracy only, in the words of John Adams’ prayer, “wise and honest men.”

It may be, this year, as in 2008 and other disastrous years, that Fate is against us. There is nothing we can do to win. We may not be able to command success, but we can, at least, conduct ourselves, and choose, in such a way as to deserve it.

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