Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


leave a comment »

Let’s begin with an incident that, although it has had saturation coverage, has not been treated properly. On her TBS show on 30 May, Samanta Bee made this statement directed publicly at Ivanka Trump:

Do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless c—!

The next day, Bee issued this apology on Twitter:

I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.

Let’s accept Bee’s apology literally. Her use of the c-word has been flogged to death in the past four days. Everything that can be said about it has been said about it.

I want to discuss her use of feckless, for which she has not apologized, and for which I do not expect any apology to be forthcoming. According to The Free Dictionary, feckless is defined as:

  1. Careless and irresponsible;
  2. Feeble or ineffective.

In order to accept Bee’s application of feckless to Ivanka, we have to accept that Bee’s position on the immigration practices of the Trump Administration are unquestionably morally correct. At least, that her position is  Then, either Ivanka would be careless and irresponsible in not advocating morality within the administration, or ineffective in the way she was going about advocating morality.

On CNN yesterday, Michael Smerconish interviewed comedian Spike Feresten (who wrote the 1995 “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld). Feresten’s remarks illustrate the thinking from whence this attitude originates:

There’s this popular misnomer that comes from the right, that these are liberal writing rooms, and there not.

The writing rooms that I’ve been in, the Letterman writing room, “Saturday Night Live,” my own show, what we’re doing is right and wrong, not left and right. When I’m sitting down and going hey let’s tow the whole – tell the water, tell the line for the left today.

We look at news and we’re social judges. And this is a right or wrong issue that she’s commenting on and I don’t think we should be caught on the word she used because I think we’re all fine with it. We’re all OK; our ears aren’t bleeding.

We should be caught up with what she was talking about. What she was trying to point out with her humor. And that is this horrible Administration policy, where children and parents are being separated.


I believe that what Feresten meant to say is, “When I’m not sitting down and going hey let’s tow the whole – tell the water, tell the line for the left today.” I will proceed on that basis, and accept the responsibility if I am wrong.

What I most want to call attention to is the part where he said, “what we’re doing is right and wrong, not left and right.” If one really believes this, then one has to claim that those who support the Trump Administration policy accept that what they are doing is morally wrong and are going to do it anyway.

I find this to be a monumentally arrogant position to take. He delegitimizes those who disagree with him. He maintains that it is a question of morality, not subject to politics. We objectively know what is right and wrong. He and Samantha Bee are right, and those who disagree with him are wrong.

It is easy to see how the faultfinding man of words, by persistent ridicule and denunciation, shakes prevailing beliefs and loyalties, and familiarizes the masses with the idea of change. What is not so obvious is the process by which the discrediting of existing beliefs and institutions makes possible the rise of a new fanatical faith. For it is a remarkable fact that the militant man of words who “sounds the established order to its source to mark its want of authority and justice” often prepares the ground not for a society of freethinking individuals but for a corporate society that cherishes utmost unity and blind faith.
— Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951), p. 139.

Hoffer’s landmark study is backed by the experiences of mass movements starting in the Roman empire, moving through the French Revolution with its successive levels of terror and culminating in most violent century since the Dark Ages, in which over 100 million people were put to premature and gruesome death by their own governments. To be cavalier about the consequences of having such moral arrogance and playing an established role in paving the way for it in this country is careless and irresponsible. Bee and Feresten are, in a word, feckless.

There, I said it. And, unlike Bee, I have taken the effort to support my use of the term.

There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.
— Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin (1807-1874)

More immediately, how do you think Trump got his following? He’s primal and instinctive, but he’s no philosopher-king. There are a large number of people in this country who have their own ideas of right and wrong, and they materially differ from the ideas that Bee and Feresten have of right and wrong. It would be a good thing if everyone could get in a room, debate the relative merits and figure out how we are going to move forward as a nation. But that is not what is happening.

What is happening is that people like Bee and Feresten, who have access to channels of communication, use that to promote their point of view, wrapping themselves in the mantle of righteousness (“what we’re doing is right and wrong, not left and right”). As I have documented earlier, people who have a differing concept of right and wrong are fed up with being shouted down and labeled, and plumped for the first person who would stand up and push back, however badly.

Stanley Greenberg, the Democratic pollster who put Macomb County, MI on the political map, went back in 2017 to try to understand what had happened. It takes effort just to peel away the demand characteristics and get a real conversation going.

To learn from these Macomb voters, they had to be able to speak freely. They feel they are under attack – from younger generations in their own families but also in their communities. Some have been ostracized by close family members criticizing them for their vote, others confess they have been “called racist, a xenophobe, homophobe, whatever phobe they could come up with.” One woman’s son was bullied after his 1st grade class held a mock election: “my son hears us and he says, ‘I’m going to vote for Trump,’ and two of the kids in his class started yelling. Like, ‘You’re going to vote Trump? Are you crazy?’ And just started yelling at him.” This is personal.
— Stanley Greenberg and Nancy Zdunkewicz, Macomb County in the Age of Trump

This is the real double standard in American public life. The general tone is that anyone who does not follow the orthodox Progressive line is fair game to be insulted, labeled and denied a hearing.

If Samantha Bee wants to use her show, which is a comedy show about politics, to advocate political positions on public policy, she gets to do that. People who don’t like it can change the channel. But it is a mistake to think that, because those who disagree with her do not get to voice their contrary opinions, that they buy into her version of right and wrong or will allow themselves to be dictated to any more than Bee and those who share her moral norms will tolerate being told where to get off.

People who are good with words like to think that, because they can show greater verbal facility than those who disagree with them, they have all the cards. They think that, because they argue more stridently, more cleverly and more loudly, that they have won the argument. They have not, and 2016 was a proof statement of this. Just because people stop arguing with you to your face, doesn’t mean you have won them over.

It is the height of presumption for Bee to determine the proper order of Ivanka Trump’s priorities for her. It would be entirely warranted for Ivanka to reply: Who died and left you Pope?

If you follow these trends to their logical conclusion, you get two groups of Americans who have utter contempt for each other as moral agents, believe that reasoning is a waste of time and effort and demand resolution now, in the form of total surrender by the other group (“You lost, live with it”). If you’re wondering why people are making YouTube videos forecasting a future civil war, this is why.




Written by srojak

June 3, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Play the Ball, Not the Man

leave a comment »

Roseanne Barr issued a Twitter comment this morning directed at former Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett which was crass and outright abusive. She tried to back out of it as a misguided attempt to be funny, but those of us who have grown up know that defense doesn’t work. As a consequence, ABC cancelled her show. But that ain’t all.

Roseanne had something of value to say about how we in this country were not hearing each other, before she abruptly decided to become part of the problem and say things no one needs to hear. Now, everyone who doesn’t want to hear the points she was trying to make can dismiss them by calling her ignorant, racist, or whatever other label is handy.

Roseanne Barr has always been one of us, but with a whole lot more access. She’s got a lot of baggage, but so do many of us. Her whole premise for the Roseanne revival was that this was the voice of Americans who weren’t being heard. Now, the people she wanted to raise that voice to can say, “No, you are not being heard, and with good reason.”

In the past week, Chelsea Clinton said that President Trump was acting “to degrade what it means to be an American.” No, he doesn’t. We have had unfortunate and regrettable people in the office of President before, who did not represent what we are about. James Buchanan, Warren Harding and Barack Obama spring immediately to mind. But they do not define us. We, the People, define us.

What Roseanne did degrades what it means to be an American more than anything Donald Trump has done, because Roseanne is closer to We the People than is Donald Trump. In her apology, Roseanne said, “I am truly sorry for having made a bad joke about her politics and her looks.” There is no call to attack Valerie Jarrett for her looks, and I saw nothing from Roseanne about Jarrett’s politics. I saw an uncalled-for ad hominem attack on Jarrett relating to her race and her faith.

We the People have to stop this. We have to be able to discuss politics with those with whom we disagree. I have written previously about the need to settle political differences. How do we settle our political differences with words if we can’t even have a conversation that does not degenerate into name-calling and outright abuse? How do we have consent of the governed if the governed can’t even talk to one another?

This is why what Roseanne wrote is so important and so destructive. You want to call out Valerie Jarrett for what she believes, what she advocates and what she’s done? That is all fair game. Her gender, faith, ancestry and ethnicity are not.

Written by srojak

May 29, 2018 at 4:06 pm

Taking Religion Seriously

leave a comment »

As part of a series of videos from The Atlantic titled “Unpresidented”, Emma Green, who is a staff writer, presents “Why Don’t Democrats Take Religion Seriously.” She analyzes the support given to Donald Trump by Christian voters and recounts the statistics showing the increasing number of Democrats who self-describe as not religious.

Green uses a video clip where Charlie Cook said, in a 2016 interview, that “The Democratic Party has become a secular party.” She illustrates her argument with the famous incident from 2008 where Barack Obama put his foot in it, saying “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them … as a way to explain their frustrations.”

This would work better if Democrat attitudes toward religion were a simple marketing decision, where they could just stop alienating traditionally religious voters. In fact, the issue is more complicated than that.

The people who are in control of the Democratic Party agenda self-identify as Progressives, and I am going to identify them as such. As we shall see, across all the changes from the Progressive Era through the New Deal to the social justice initiatives of today, there is a fundamental thread that connects them.

Green touched on the difference between Progressives and all Democrats when she cited the statistic that about a third of the Democratic grass-roots opposes abortion, but very few of the national leadership does. The national leadership is Progressive, but not all of the Democratic voters are.

Green also identifies Rev. William Barber II as an inheritor of a Christian spiritual tradition that traces back through Martin Luther King (and, indeed, abolitionists such as Garrison and Phillips), advocating a political viewpoint that is informed by Christian teaching and tradition. However, she notes that he is outside the Democratic Party elite.

For though ours is a godless age, it is the very opposite of irreligious.
— Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951).

Whether or not they acknowledge it as such, Progressives already have a religion. They do not worship a supernatural deity. They do not endorse a book claiming to contain revealed truth about that deity. They do not believe that someone can miraculously change water into wine. But these are incidental features; the essential ingredient is faith, and Progressives have that in abundance.

By definition, faith is not open to persuasion. It cannot be proven false. If a believer can be talked out of her faith, it can’t have been very deeply rooted to begin with.

We can compare Christianity and Progressivism, thinking theologically about both of them:

Christianity Progressivism
Focus of faith and worship God The People
Creation Is good
Humanity is given dominion as stewards of creation.
Is good
Humanity is nothing special
Sin I put my will before the will of God I put my will before the General Will, the Public Interest
Judgement You get your reward in Heaven We must make matters right here and now
Redemption Acceptance of Jesus as savior Acceptance of the General Will
Is intrusive? No, you have free will Yes, the power of the state must be used to coerce right behavior from the unbelievers
Grace An unmerited gift of God Earned by right thinking
As a believer, you cannot deserve Grace The results of your efforts
Human nature Conflicted: good and evil contend within and for the soul of every person All good; evil is external to the person
“Love and do as you will”
Cardinal virtues Temperance
Social Justice
Sacraments Baptism
Holy Eucharist
(Roman Catholics have five others)
Community service
Prophets from before the common era Moses
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Auguste Comte
Karl Marx
Bearers of wisdom in the common era Paul, born Saul of Tarsus
John Chrysostom
Augustine of Hippo
Theodor W. Adorno
John Rawls
Michel Foucault
Salvation is Individual Collective
Eschatology Jesus shall return to judge the living and the dead; his kingdom shall have no end Social progress shall reveal the truth, allowing us to transcend politics; history will end

A sacrament is defined as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Christians obtain sacraments by ritual actions. Progressives obtain sacraments by ritual promotion of beliefs.

Progressives do not believe that five thousand persons can be fed from five loaves and two fishes, but Christians do not believe that the entire world can be fed without honest effort by all persons.

Even though many Progressives have turned their backs on technological progress or economic progress, their faith in social progress is central. They believe that history will prove them out, justifying their beliefs and repudiating those of the people who disagree with them. They like to say that those who disagree with them are “on the wrong side of history.” For this reason, I find they are properly identified as Progressives.

A faith in The People also requires a priestly class to interpret the inexpressible will of The People. Just walking up to actual people and asking them what they want appears to be both unreliable and unsatisfactory. One needs special abilities to discern between the public interest and one’s own special interest, much the same way that not everyone can discern between the Will of God and their own wills.

There are, to be sure, persons who are both Christian and Progressive. They are serving two masters; if they think otherwise, they have another think coming. The People are also a jealous god, demanding that the faithful have no gods outranking The People. The two beliefs of human nature and the two concepts of spiritual authority are wholly incompatible.

In the late 1800s there was the Social Gospel movement. Leaders of this movement called for social redemption of the entire community, giving this priority over redemption of individual believers. As John Taylor summarized it, “The Social Gospel adherents considered it to be their mission to fulfill, in this life, the New Testament’s call to bring about the perfect Kingdom of God.” One Social Gospel leader, Charles Sheldon, introduced the question, “What would Jesus do?”

The problem for the Social Gospelers was that, if the goal is to achieve social salvation on earth, God is at a disadvantage compared to the State. As noted above, God is not intrusive; the State has the means to be very intrusive, marshaling its police power to coerce desired behaviors. Thus, for those whose goal was to be the reform of society along these moral lines, the State was a much surer bet than God. Instead of sitting around praying for change, you can seize power and make people obey. In this way, the Social Gospel served as a gateway ideology, leading many persons to a point where they would switch their faith to The People and the power that sits at the right hand of The People, the State. This is entirely consistent with Comte’s three-stage theory of societal development, and John Dewey is a notable example of a person who followed this path.

The so-called mainline Protestant churches tried to square the circle, to endorse Progressive agenda items while remaining Christian. These churches include the Episcopalians, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA) — distinct from the Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church — and the United Church of Christ. As Lyman Stone wrote for, they “focus more political efforts toward Christian social relief rather than Christian moral teachings.” And they are losing membership, while eyeing with envy the full parking lot at the evangelical church down the road.

So, while Green calls upon Progressives to make peace with those faithful to traditional, deity-centered religions, they really have no room to do so. Progressives have a religion to which they are strongly committed. I argue that Progressives do have moral beliefs, just that those do not sit well alongside Christian moral beliefs. It is unfair to accuse Progressives of not having moral beliefs; they think their beliefs are fully moral. Their ideas of what people deserve, whom ought to be helped in society and on what terms are rooted in their faith. Their beliefs about justice, equity and a good life are informed by their faith every bit as much as the parallel beliefs of Christians and Jews are informed by theirs.

The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. … For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.)
— Mark Tushnet, “Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism“. Balkinization, 6 May 2016.

(To be fair to Tushnet, he did recognize at the end of his essay, “Of course all bets are off if Donald Trump becomes President.”)

The normative pull Tushnet cites is the moral basis of his beliefs, founded in his faith and those who believe along with him. The only element of hubris in his argument is his assertion that the issues are already settled (and his history would have you believe we adopted the Morgenthau Plan). I sincerely doubt he would say that he is having a hard time talking about morality. He has a simple moral message: We’re right; they’re wrong. Come to think of it, James Carville wrote a book with that title in 1996.

The foundation in faith is what makes the issue really matter. My disagreement with Green’s analysis is not an idle point of theory — and give her proper credit: her essay is a great starting point. We need to understand the religious nature and righteous characteristics of Progressive faith in order to really understand how much trouble we as a society are in.

I do not want to reduce this discussion to the idea that, If Progressives would just shape up and get with our faith, we wouldn’t have all these problems. That has already been said; meanwhile Progressives are saying similar things about others, including me. There is no room to persuade people. How does one be heard if one says, I know your faith calls you to do A, B and C, but you really need to compromise on B and C to get A? No group of faithful believers has ever been receptive to this kind of message. If you truly believed, would you want to back down and settle for half a loaf because someone is arguing with you? Militant faith demands that you go out and get it all, or die in the attempt. Anything less is moral degeneracy and faithlessness. There are souls out there depending on you.

Sir, let me tell you that which is true, if you do not break them, they will break you; yea, and bring all the guilt of the blood and treasure shed and spent in this kingdom upon your head and shoulders; and frustrate and make void all that work that with so many years’ industry, toil, and pains you have done, and so render you to all rational men in the world as the most contemptiblest generation of silly, low-spirited men in the earth, to be broken and routed by such a despicable contemptible generation of men as they are; and therefore, sir, I tell you again, you are necessitated to break them.
— Oliver Cromwell

This is how you get a holy war, like those that consumed Europe after the Reformation. When Mary I had Protestants burned or John Calvin had Michael Servetus burned, they thought they were following the only moral course of action. The various dissenters were putting their wills before the will of God. They would lead everyone astray if they were allowed to do so. Such behavior cannot stand, especially if we are ever going to get to Jerusalem. You are necessitated to break them.

What we have here is a holy war in the making. At this time, we cannot say how hard is the road ahead. We sense that it will be hard going indeed, and we sensibly fear it. But we cannot turn from it. It is a road we must travel to get to our destination.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
— Abraham Lincoln, “Cooper Union Address”, 1860

Oh, That Maggie Haberman

leave a comment »

Remember the 2016 WikiLeaks dump of John Podesta emails? Here is an excerpt from one of them. The author of this email is Nick Merrill, traveling press secretary for Hillary Clinton.

Placing a Story

As discussed on our call, we are all in agreement that the time is right place a story with a friendly journalist in the coming days that positions us a little more transparently while achieving the above goals.


For something like this, especially in the absence of us teasing things out to others, we feel that it’s important to go with what is safe and what has worked in the past, and to a publication that will reach industry people for recruitment purposes.

We have has a very good relationship with Maggie Haberman of Politico over the last year. We have had her tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed. While we should have a larger conversation in the near future about a broader strategy for reengaging the beat press that covers HRC, for this we think we can achieve our objective and do the most shaping by going to Maggie.

So there is the evidence.

Is the Evidence Accurate?

Please notice that I did not say credible. I would be interested if I were seeing any discussion where Merrill produced evidence that this mail was fabricated, or Haberman produced evidence rebutting the claim that she was reliably teeing up stories for the Clinton campaign. I would still be interested in seeing such challenges to the evidence.

But I am not seeing that.

Or Can We Be Distracted?

Instead, I have been watching a small PR campaign to defend Haberman over the course of the past year and a half. Perhaps the high point, if you will, of the effort was the episode of CNN’s Reliable Sources on 3 Sept 2017, in which Brian Stelter hosted a little father-daughter outing for Clyde and Maggie Haberman. Awww.

Evidently Stelter and his colleague, Dylan Bylers, got into Haberman’s doghouse in May 2016 for arguing over the narrative of the Trump campaign. Maybe this was a make-good? I have a day job, so I can’t stay current on what the cool kids in journalism are up to.

Another Target of Donald Trump

On 21 Apr 2018, Donald Trump issued this tweet:

The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will “flip.” They use…

Here is the piece co-written by Haberman that triggered this outburst. We know that Trump swings wild; this show has been going on for over two years now. It’s part of his “plain everyday folks” shtick, along with the bad grammar and misspellings. He’s convinced that his people love him for it, and nobody is going to tell him otherwise. He’s going to run this play until someone provides undisputable proof that it doesn’t work anymore.

I’m actually disappointed that he didn’t say, “The failing New York Times“, like he usually does when he tweets. He must be having an off day.

I had an accounting teacher who had started businesses. He said that starting a business was like hunting rabbits. You don’t aim at a rabbit, you just point the shotgun and shoot until you hit a rabbit. This is what Trump’s tweets remind me of. Point the shotgun and blast away.

On Reliable Sources today, Stelter saddled up his high horse in defense of Haberman, providing an almost point-by-point rebuttal of Trump’s rundown of Haberman. Countering Trump’s claim that Haberman is “a third rate reporter”, Stelter cited the Pulitzer Prize awarded to her. He showed this image of Haberman and Trump together in the Oval Office in rebuttal to his “who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with” statement.

But the part I am interested in is the claim of her being a flunky for Hillary Clinton, and Stelter left that unaddressed.

When discussing this matter with people I know, someone else called Haberman a hack. I can see why Trump takes the approach that he does; if you disagree with someone, you apparently have to establish that they have no redeeming qualities at all. I can’t explain why that is necessary; it just seems to be something that some people do. I can see why, when Trump tweets, he just loads up the shotgun and blasts away. It seems to find favor with other people, though not with me.

The Issue at Hand

I don’t want to impugn Haberman’s journalistic achievements. For my purposes, I am prepared to take other people’s word that she is an excellent investigator, a great co-worker and a loving mom.

What I want to discuss is whether or not she was known to the Hillary Clinton campaign as a reliable stooge who could be used to tee up news stories to advance their agenda.

In this article, Jack Shafer took the line that, “the Podesta emails give us all a strong sense of how the news sausage is made.” If that is true, there is value in knowing that. But it doesn’t excuse or justify the behavior. Shafer wrote:

I don’t engage in that sort of ass-kissery, but if ass-kissery fills his notebook and produces good copy, I’m willing to suspend judgment.

But now we have a big uproar over news bias and whether journalists can be trusted. If a journalist is in the tank for a presidential candidate, how can that journalist be trusted as an objective source? So there is more to the job than filling a notebook.

The New York Times has launched an ad campaign centered on the idea of the truth. If their reporter is selecting stories to benefit a presidential candidate, are we getting all the truth that is fit to print? Or are we getting a selected subset of truth that favors a particular viewpoint?

Maggie Haberman has some ‘splaining to do. So do other journalists who behave in a similar manner to her. They have to be accountable if we are ever going to come together as a nation, have one version of the truth and trust the media again.



Written by srojak

April 22, 2018 at 6:03 pm

European Integration Timelines

leave a comment »

Here it is: the complete reference of events in time, starting with the European Coal and Steel Community and going all the way to Brexit. All the referenda, the countries that wanted in and those that didn’t.

Here is a diagram illustrating the overlapping relationships among European nations at the time of this writing.

Being a healthy bureaucracy, the European Union has more acronyms than you can shake a composing stick at. I am only going to use a few of those.


The treaties and the acts that significantly amended those treaties, with referenda where held.

Year Treaty Event
1951 Treaty of Paris Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany form the European Coal and Steel Community.
1957 Treaty of Rome The same six nations form the European Economic Community.
1986 Single European Act Amends the Treaty of Rome to create a single market by 1992. Expanded the power of the European Parliament. Signed by the 12 then-current member nations of the European Community.
1986 Denmark ratifies the Single European Act in a referendum.
1987 Ireland ratifies a Constitutional Amendment to permit the state to accept the Single European Act.
1992 Maastricht Treaty Signed by the 12 then-current member nations of the European Community.
1992 Ireland ratifies, by referendum, a constitutional amendment to allow the government to accept the Maastricht Treaty.
1992 France ratifies the treaty in a referendum.
1992 Denmark rejects ratification in a referendum.
1993 Denmark ratifies in a second referendum after Edinburgh Agreement provided four opt-outs for Denmark.
1997 Amsterdam Treaty Signed by the 15 then-current member nations of the European Community.
1998 Ireland ratifies, by referendum, a constitutional amendment to allow the government to accept the Amsterdam Treaty.
1998 Denmark ratifies the treaty in a referendum.
2001 Nice Treaty Signed by the 15 then-current member nations of the European Community.
2001 Ireland rejects ratification in a referendum.
2002 Ireland ratifies in a second referendum after the Seville Declaration established the priority of Ireland’s policy of military neutrality and renounced any plans to develop a European Army.
2004 Constitutional Treaty Signed by the 25 then-member nations of the European Community, this would have established a consolidated constitution for Europe and given legal force to the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
2005 Spain ratifies the Constitutional Treaty in a referendum.
2005 France rejects ratification in a referendum.
2005 The Netherlands rejects ratification in a referendum. Europe lost interest in the treaty at this point.
2005 Luxembourg ratifies the treaty in a referendum.
2007 Lisbon Treaty Signed by the 27 member nations of the European Community
2008 Ireland rejects ratification in a referendum.
2009 Ireland ratifies in a second referendum after the EU leaders agreed not to impose rules on Ireland relating to taxation, “ethical issues” (primarily abortion) or military neutrality.


At the time of the Single European Act, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution must be amended for the Irish national government to give to the EU powers granted to the national government by the Constitution. Ireland has responded to every integration treaty since with a constitutional amendment to accommodate the change, which must be ratified by referendum. There is every reason to expect further integration treaties would also require amendments to the Irish Constitution, with each having to go before the voters in a referendum.

Entry and Exit

Countries coming in — or not, staying in — or not.

Year Event
1972 France approves the EC Enlargement Referendum.
1972 Ireland approves a referendum to amend the constitution to allow joining the EC.
1972 Norway rejects a referendum to join the EC.
1972 Denmark approves a referendum to join the EC.
1975 The United Kingdom approves a referendum to have joined the EC (since the UK had already joined without a referendum in 1973).
1982 Greenland rejects a referendum to remain in the EC. Greenland left in 1985.
1994 Austria approves a referendum to join the EU.
1994 Finland approves a referendum to join the EU.
1994 Sweden approves a referendum to join the EU.
1994 Norway rejects a referendum to join the EU.
2003 Malta approves a referendum to join the EU.
2003 Slovenia approves a referendum to join the EU.
2003 Hungary approves a referendum to join the EU.
2003 Lithuania approves a referendum to join the EU.
2003 Slovakia approves a referendum to join the EU.
2003 Poland approves a referendum to join the EU.
2003 The Czech Republic approves a referendum to join the EU.
2003 Estonia approves a referendum to join the EU.
2003 Latvia approves a referendum to join the EU.
2012 Croatia approves a referendum to join the EU.
2016 Britain approves a referendum to leave the EU.


Referenda relating to significant financial events.

Britain and Denmark were given the option not to adopt the Euro as their currency (“join the Eurozone”). All other nations are expected to adopt the Euro upon meeting economic eligibility criteria.

Year Event
2000 Denmark rejects a referendum to join the Eurozone.
2003 Sweden rejects a referendum to join the Eurozone.
2015 Greece rejects a referendum on conditions to receive a bailout from the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. Afterward, the Greek government accepted similar terms anyway, as they had their backs to the wall.


leave a comment »

Events of the past year, and discussions about those events, caused me to take a deeper look at the subject of nationalism.

Is It a System of Political Organization?

To discuss nationalism, we have to agree on what we are discussing. This turns out not to be all that simple.

The idea of nationalism depends on the conception of the nation. By 1700, in Europe, some nations were clearly identifiable: France, Spain, Poland, Russia. Others were very confusing. Was Great Britain one nation, two (England + Scotland), three (+ Ireland) or four (+ Wales) ? Was Brandenburg rightly part of Prussia or Germany?

Nations such as France and Russia were identifiable from a common ethnic heritage. But the United States came into existence because of an idea of government. What was to demarcate the membership of the United States as a nation? There has always been some disagreement as to who could really be a citizen of the United States.

Nevertheless, by 1900 the nation-state dominated the world landscape. Those who did not have their own nation-state and were subject to rule by others longed for nationhood of their own. Over the course of the twentieth century, many of them obtained this, although not without much turmoil and some bloodshed.

Or Is It an Attitude?

Overlaid on top of this, to some extend out of necessity, is the attitude of the citizen toward the nation. Since the nation is more abstract than the clan, the nation requires a greater degree of emotional commitment from the citizen than does the clan or the nation would be irrelevant. The French Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle if it did not demand commitment from the citizens. This commitment revolutionized war, because the nation-at-arms could mobilize far more soldiers than the neighboring kingdoms.

Human nature being what it is, the citizen wants to believe that his nation is the superior nation, that his nation can tell any other nation where to get off. This attitude has often been identified as part of the package of nationalism. Einstein called nationalism “the measles of mankind,” likely focusing on the attitudinal aspect. This attitude has also been identified by various terms, such as jingoism or chauvinism.

While I recognize that others have considered the political organization and the attitude bundled together, I do not find it analytically useful to do so. Hereafter, my discussion of nationalism shall be confined to the political structure and not the attitude.

Alternative Sovereignty Structures

A sovereign political entity can make laws and engage in foreign relations. It has relationships with the individuals belonging to it where:

  • They identify themselves as belonging to the entity;
  • They accept the legitimacy of the entity to make laws, demand obedience and tribute and otherwise claim their allegiance.

The nation-state has been so predominant a unit of political sovereignty that it is useful to consider alternative possible forms.

The Clan

There are still places in the world where people identify themselves as members of a clan rather than citizens of a nation. In such places, the concept of citizenship as we know it has no meaning. Others in your clan are your people, whom you will rely upon to keep strangers off your back.

My brother and I against my cousin;
My cousin and I against the stranger.
— Arab proverb

In such an environment, if your people can’t count on you when the chips are down, you won’t be able to count on them, either. It is dishonorable to cut and run from your obligations to your people. All the various folk stories and fables from different cultures where the older, wiser man invites the younger men to break a bundle of sticks as a bundle are meant to reinforce this.

The Dynasty

The dynasty is larger than the clan, but still more personal than the nation. As it is personal, people owe service to the person of the king or lord. The king can have tenants-in-chief, such as dukes or counts, and delegate down. But you can’t have too many levels of delegation or the personal relationship, which is the glue that holds it together, falls apart.

Even as late as the 1800s, ordinary people in dynasties such as Russia or Austria felt a bond of obligation to the Tsar or Emperor. But it was fraying under the pressures of modernity and scale. The dynasties were growing bureaucracies, and while both bureaucrats and lords demand service, only lords offer service in return. The bond was also literally being alienated, in both senses of the word: estranged and converted into a fungible commodity that could be exchanged for money. The dynastic bond works better under feudalism than capitalism.

Britain and France led the world down two divergent evolutionary directions from the dynasty. France continued to be a dynasty, with unresolved conflicts regarding the rights and duties of different classes of subjects, until the conflicts blew up in 1789.

Britain had to confront its structure during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714). Britain had been formed one hundred years before as the personal dynastic union of England and Scotland under the Stuarts. Now the English Parliament did not want any more Stuarts after Anne, because they were all Roman Catholic. Where did that leave Scotland? Where did that leave Britain? Anne had pushed for negotiations aimed at keeping England and Scotland together, and the 1707 Act of Union officially recast the two realms as a unified nation. Thereafter, political development continued in the English direction, with Parliament collecting power at the expense of the monarch.


On the other end of the scale, there is internationalism. After the disaster of World War I, the idea of internationalism became attractive to many people as a possible means to end war. Certainly, if all the world were ruled by one government, there could not be wars between states because there would only be one state.

Whether or not it would end violent conflict was a different question. We don’t need two states to have violent conflict. All we need is an aggrieved minority and a ruling group who are unable to work out their differences any other way and resort to violence. Syria is the standout example of this, but there have been others.

All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but they could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair military efficiency. So long as defeat meant the loss of independence, or some other result generally held to be undesirable, the precautions against defeat had to be serious. Physical facts could not be ignored. In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but when one was designing a gun or an aeroplane they had to make four. Inefficient nations were always conquered sooner or later, and the struggle for efficiency was inimical to illusions. Moreover, to be efficient it was necessary to be able to learn from the past, which meant having a fairly accurate idea of what had happened in the past.
— George Orwell, 1984

You might also want to think twice before promoting a plan to end war. As Orwell, speaking in the voice of Emmanuel Goldstein, pointed out, the possibility of a war your country can lose is the ultimate guarantee of your right to your own sanity.

The Settlement of Political Differences

Persuasion and rational argument look appealing as a means of settling political issues. However, they presume that there is some shared common ground among the participants upon which a persuasive argument can be based. If two sides with opposing viewpoints disagree on everything, including norms and even facts, it is very hard to resolve the differences with words. Both sides go home muttering about how arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon.

Most people don’t like conflict, so they try to put off resolution of political issues, kicking the can down the street if they have to. Unresolved political issues pile up and get noisy. They nag and demand resolution. If a political issue must be resolved and cannot be resolved with words, there is only one way remaining: violence. One side prevails, and the others go under.

Violence is very unpleasant, and I don’t want to be cavalier about contemplating it. Violence is what the internationalists are hoping to avoid. However, not having nations does not guarantee the avoidance of violence. It may make violence certain, as you rope together all kinds of people with no shared norms, values or moral foundations into a single polity which must be subject to a single law. How are they going to get any kind of agreement? How are they going to persuade one another rationally and peacefully?

“How will the other EEC countries feel about having to carry identity papers? Won’t they resist too?”
Sir Humphrey felt not. “The Germans will love it, the French will ignore it, and the Italians and the Irish will be too chaotic to enforce it. Only the British will resent it.”
Yes, Minister, “The Writing on the Wall”

Just bringing all of Europe together collects people with very different senses of the entitlement to privacy and the obligation of law, among other differences. It was always going to be a rickety structure that could shelter all of them under one common legal framework. And, because Britain has a political tradition that does not allow the politicians to ignore the people completely, or to keep asking the people a question until they get the “right” answer, it was inevitable that the British people drew a line under their sovereignty and said, “You will not go further.” Which is what happened in the Brexit referendum of June 2016.


Written by srojak

April 18, 2018 at 10:33 pm

Mead’s Model of Foreign Policy Attitudes

leave a comment »

Walter Russell Mead began an examination American attitudes toward foreign affairs in 1999. He published an article in the Winter 1999/2000 issue of The National Interest titled “The Jacksonian Tradition”, which he further developed in the book Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World.

Mead decomposed attitudes among the public toward foreign policy into four basic approaches. Arranging them from most realist to most idealist, they are:

  • Hamiltonians emphasize trade and economic development for America and see economic policy as an agent for global peace. They are the most elitist of the groups, seeing nothing wrong with engaging in covert operations to achieve policy objectives. They have historically been the most Anglophile, and in recent decades have been the most enthusiastic promoters of global free trade.
  • Jacksonians see the most limited continuous role for the US in foreign affairs. They don’t want to be “the world’s policeman.” However, when the country is attacked or provoked, as it was in 1941 at Pearl Harbor or in 1979 when the Iranian students took Americans hostage, they want us to do whatever it takes to prevail.
  • Jeffersonians focus on the preservation of democracy and civil liberties in America. They are deeply distrustful of military adventures and the attendant cloaking of government action under the guise of national security. They are predominantly isolationist; pacifists can find a home here.
  • Wilsonians are the most idealistic, seeking to spread democracy, as they conceive of it, throughout the world. These are the people who want to engage in “nation building.” They are also the most opposed to nationalism, favoring world government organizations such as the League of Nations or United Nations, and the most willing to cede sovereignty to such organizations.

The majority of Americans can be considered Jacksonian in their approach to foreign affairs. Theirs is the fire brigade approach to foreign conflict: do what it takes to put the fire out, then go home and go about your business. Thus, in World War II, they had no compunction about sowing destruction from the air on Germany and Japan. Once they surrendered, however, Jacksonians wanted the hostilities to be over. There was no support among Jacksonians for plans to keep Germany in penury forever, such as the Morgenthau Plan.

Mead wrote in “The Jacksonian Tradition”:

For foreigners and for some Americans, the Jacksonian tradition is the least impressive in American politics. It is the most deplored abroad, the most denounced at home. Jacksonian chairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are the despair of high-minded people everywhere, as they hold up adhesion to the Kyoto Protocol, starve the UN and the IMF, cut foreign aid, and ban the use of U.S. funds for population control programs abroad. [pp. 8-9]

However, in the same paragraph, Mead goes on to observe that, “without Jacksonians, the United States would be a much weaker power.”

Although the Jacksonians are least likely to publish articles, promote pundits or otherwise engage in conventional thought leadership, Mead identifies several cornerstone principles of the Jacksonian outlook. Jacksonians demand self-reliance of themselves and others. Among those who are self-reliant, all persons are created equal. Jacksonians are individualistic, but adhere to traditional moral standards. They consider the virtue of courage to be paramount, and many have no problem getting physical when they perceive offense.

Jacksonian culture values firearms, and the freedom to own and use them. The right to bear arms is a mark of civic and social equality, and knowing how to care for firearms is an important part of life.”
— Mead, p. 14.

Because of the values Mead identifies, the influence of Jacksonian thinking is not confined to foreign policy. Mead has some interesting observations about attitudes toward debt and consumption, where “credit is a right and that money, especially borrowed money, is less a sacred trust than a means for self-discovery and expression.” He traces this back before the advent of ready consumer credit, and it does help look at 19th-century Populism in a new way. Mead cites the traditional support for “loose monetary policy and looser bankruptcy laws.”

The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.
— General George S. Patton

For Jacksonians, wars must be fought with all available force. If you don’t like the force we unleash on you, you should have thought of that before you picked a fight with us. Our casualties are to be minimized; our opponents’ casualties are not our problem. Jacksonians since Grant and Sherman have understood Clausewitz: it is not sufficient to defeat the enemy army; you must break his ability to raise another. You must break his spirit and prove to him the futility of resistance. General Philip Sheridan, when an observer with the Prussian Army in 1870, expressed his opinion that the Prussians were insufficiently fierce. Sheridan observed that the Prussians knew “how to defeat an enemy,” but not “how to annihilate one.”

The proper strategy consists in the first place in inflicting as telling blows as possible upon the enemy’s army, and then causing the inhabitants so much suffering that they must long for peace, and force their government to demand it. The people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war.
— Sheridan to Bismarck, 1871.

The rest of the country has recognized the existence, if not the specific nature, of the Jacksonians, and confronted the need to enlist their support in projects in which there was no clear and present danger to the US, such as World War I, Vietnam and Iraq. The result has often been that dangers were oversold to mobilize this population, resulting in a big crash after the discovery of the oversell.

Jacksonians are united in a social compact. Outside that compact is chaos and darkness. The criminal who commits what, in the Jacksonian code, constitute unforgivable sins (cold-blooded murder, rape, the murder or sexual abuse of a child, murder or attempted murder of a peace officer) can justly be killed by the victims’ families, colleagues or society at large — with or without the formalities of law.
— Mead [p. 14]

Mead has made a significant contribution to our ability to understand ourselves. The attitudes he identifies go a long way to help us understand both events in our past and trends in our present. His analysis has explanatory power.

Written by srojak

April 8, 2018 at 10:41 am