I think this supports your point, David, but prompted less by reasoning than impulse: I am not discriminating in my television viewing, but, frustrated when Trump seems less persuasive than he should be, I turn off his speeches and interviews. I didn’t really want to vote for him, but to vote any other way was to betray America to a nominee and a party of grifters, liars, and if not actual traitors then a good imitation. But within the first day he did many sensible and surprising things – and it continued. He was surprising, directed, somewhat idealistic but also practical. Energy independence – at last someone who understood its value, the importance of energy! So, his feckless opposition won and here we are – having thrown away an incredibly important position. (Remember how Pelosi told us when Palin campaigned, we couldn’t drill our way to independence? Is it always 2008 or 2012 for those people?)
Talk of his totalitarian streak was absurd; he was bombastic, the force of his will and personality dominate any scene. But his belief that a buy-in from Europe was necessary for true partnership and for NATO to fulfill its mission was that of an honest partner; he thought Israel should be able to decide where its capitol was, he took seriously the North African sentiments – expressed before but not taken seriously – that they had other fears and other fish to fry, they weren’t solely defined by Palestine. He thought Congress should take responsibility and the states should not be ridden over in a national power grab, he accepted the division of adversaries – the executive needed to stand up to foreign powers and the states should be responsible for keeping law and order, even if he found some mayors and governors frustrating. This gaudy entrepreneur argued for prudence – lowering the price of the presidential plane, fighting waste and increasing productivity. He accepted a structure that didn’t make him king. He was not a tall Fauci and he hadn’t the Doctor’s Napoleon complex. He understood schools’ influence, money and policies should arise from local entities. He backed de Vos as she increased choices for parents and justice in controlling campus crime. He valued the blood of our soldiers in a way that Biden never has.
More perceptive people got out of his speeches the energy and vision I appreciated. Of course, I’d rather a leader acted like a statesman than sounded like one and it would have been nice if idiots on the other side didn’t reduce everything to ad hominem. His defended himself – fiercely, quickly, angrily fired back before all the lies or nasty memes became immersed in the wide subconscious. Of course, you are right, a more systematic, rational presentation would have been useful; it also might have raised the level of discussion to policy (where I suspect much more than half the nation would have stood with him). Unfortunately for us, the Churchills and Lincolns of the world don’t come around that often. And even a well-formed argument isn’t a skill America values as it once did. (I taught freshman rhetoric for years. Sure, we read Orwell, sure we talked about the fallacies, but I don’t think I knew and certainly didn’t teach the formal structures that help a writer solidify and reason an audience to agreement.)
I insisted on facts and objectivity and always assumed a knowable and falsifiable truth. The following segues shamelessly to another tempting arena, demonstrating erratic organization.
An interesting take-down of CRT in terms of the Enlightenment/Romanticism is spelled out in the American Enterprise podcast, hosted by Thiessen and Pletka, “WTH is critical race theory? How a philosophy that inspired Marxism, Nazism, and Jim Crow is making its way into our schools, and what we can do”:
They interview Allan C. Guezlo who has been mentioned before at Chicagoboyz, once when I was flailing about and again by Steve Karlson. Guezlo is an historian of the mid-nineteenth Century (books on Lincoln and his time, latest on Lee, does some Teaching Company courses on the Founding and American survey). He also had a course on the Founding and a book on Edwards. Our Enlightenment and our Constitution owe the Great Awakening which just preceded the Founding, as well as European theory so we always coupled rationality with emotion, Jonathan Edwards as well as Thomas Jefferson, aware of man’s imperfection but creating a government that recognizes both our flaws and potential. The rich complexity of that history doesn’t seem emphasized sufficiently today.
Anyway, these are waters I probably shouldn’t be swimming in, but others may want to look at two opinion pieces that continue the argument. The first is Thiessen’s in the Washington Post, which summarizes Guezlo approvingly. Not surprisingly with a subject as fraught as this, the comments session is huge; it prompted a take-down by Tim Suttle in “Paperback Theology.” But Suttle’s straw men – Guezlo/Thiessen – present an argument he wants to debate rather than their own – they don’t doubt that much that is important cannot be explained by reason. However, accusing your opponent of bad faith (as he – inevitably – does as the essay continues) pursues an irrelevant argument, as he himself illustrates. Whatever motivations may prompt us, the truth remains objective and true – whether we, moved as we are by the subjective, can argue that truth persuasively depends on our argument. Such an attack produces heat by misdirecting energy. Surely, we can’t be expected to believe our desire for power and subjugation of others forms (and defuses) our argument while our opponent is free from such desires.