Happy birthday, USA!
1. Thomas Jefferson’s Day. Since Nike chose this time to announce that it was ashamed of the Revolutionary War flag, and Charlottesville similarly picked this week of all weeks to distance itself from it most famous and accomplished son, it is appropriate to recall why Thomas Jefferson is the single American who should be most honored on the Fourth of July.
At the Foundation for Economic Education site (excellent site, by the way), the organization’s president, Lawrence W. Reed, offers a cogent rebuttal to those who would metaphorically (or literally) tear down Jefferson’s memorials because he could not find it in himself to stop practicing slave-holding while publicly making the case against it. Reed writes in part,
More than any other man or woman, July 4 belongs to Thomas Jefferson. As the principal author of the charter that proclaimed America’s independence and the reasons that impelled it, his spirit and his words are essentially what we celebrate on this day.
That such praise is not deemed “politically correct” in some quarters and may even evoke hostility in others is not a pleasant commentary on the state of current political dialogue. A kind of intertemporal bigotry is loose in the land. It prompts the virtue-signaling self-righteous to judge people of the past against the conventions of today. Isn’t it strange that evolution is accepted as natural in the biological world but often not in the realm of human thought?
…[H]umans didn’t support slavery one day and then oppose it when they all woke up the next. Some people never saw the light; others were against it from the moment it first entered their minds. Millions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were somewhere in between, and lots of them evolved on the issue over the course of their lives. In other words, they learned and they changed. That’s how humanity progresses.
Thanks to visionaries like Jefferson, Americans were forced eventually to end the contradiction between the words of the Declaration of Independence and the reality around them. Jefferson’s own words were evoked to accomplish that.
Historian Jim Powell, in his FEE article of July 1, 1995, titled “Thomas Jefferson’s Sophisticated, Radical Vision of Liberty,” addressed the slavery issue thusly.
“Though Jefferson had personal failings—in the case of slavery, a monstrous one—they don’t invalidate the philosophy of liberty he championed, any more than Einstein’s personal failings are evidence against his theory of relativity. Moreover, every one of Jefferson’s adversaries, past and present, had personal failings, which means that if ideas are to be dismissed because of an author’s failings, Jefferson and his adversaries would cancel each other out. When historians finish dumping on Jefferson, they still won’t have cleared the way for Karl Marx or whomever they admire. Jefferson’s accomplishments and philosophy of liberty must be recognized for their monumental importance.”
So yes, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t perfect. And neither are his critics. They should hope that across their entire lives, they might accomplish for liberty what Jefferson achieved in a few weeks of literary genius. He marshaled the English language on behalf of ideas, and they sparked liberty’s loudest thunderclap in human history….
2. Yes, Rep. Amash is an Ethics Dunce. One reason the Tea Party movement ran out of gas is that the elected officials who rose to power under its banner were mostly unqualified, doctrinaire, simplistic grandstanders who seemed to think bumper-sticker slogans are a substitute for reasoning. Amash is typical of the breed. He recently gained the praise of the Trump Deranged by declaring that the Mueller Report proves that the President engaged in “high crimes and misdemeanors” (it doesn’t, but any effort to undermine President Trump qualifies as heroic to “the resistance”). This predictably attracted a furious backlash in his district and his party, and Amash’s prospects for re-election in 2020 now appear to be about on par with John McCain’s.
His solution? Amash has declared that he is “disenchanted” and “frightened” by party politics, so he is leaving the Republican Party and becoming an Independent.
Party flipping mid-term is per se unethical, as I have pointed out here before. He has a contract with his voters to serve in the party whose banner under which he presented himself for public service, and the party that helped fund his campaign. One of the few party-switchers in political history who did the deed ethically was former Texas Senator Phil Gramm. [CORRECTION NOTICE: I had originally written “the late” here, because I was sure Gramm was dead. He’s not. I’m glad.] From my post about West Virginia’s Governor Jim Justice, who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2017…
Just days after he had been reelected to a House seat as a Democrat in 1982, Gramm was thrown off the House Budget Committee in a dispute with party leadership. In response, Gramm resigned as a Representative, changed parties, and ran for his old seat as a Republican in a special election. He won easily, and was a Republican ever after. That’s the honorable way to do it.
Rep. Amash isn’t honorable. He isn’t ethical. And after Election Day 2020, he won’t be in Congress.
3. Once again, Harvard chooses politics over education. Former GOP Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was named a senior research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. However, after students and activists protested his participation because of the two-term Republican governor’s handling of the Flint water crisis, Snyder announced yesterday that he was withdrawing his acceptance the fellowship, tweeting,
“It would have been exciting to share my experiences, both positive and negative; our current political environment and its lack of civility makes this too disruptiveI wish them the best.”
I cannot imagine any elected state official’s exposition of his experiences, decisions, considerations and mistakes in a crisis more valuable for education purposes than Snyder’s. He failed miserably, and it is through such failures that wisdom is acquired. It is clear, however, from this and other recent developments at the nation’s oldest univeristy, that Harvard students are less interested in education than in enabling ideological division and isolation, and that the university’s administrators lack the courage and integrity to stand in their way.