Political conservatism, say its critics, is less a rational movement to shape the future than an irrational impulse to flee the present.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. famously called it “the politics of nostalgia.”
In reality, the temptation to romanticize the past is evident across the ideological spectrum. Politicians, activists, and intellectuals often wax nostalgic about mid-century America, for example, but for widely divergent reasons. Conservatives like the period’s low rates of crime and single parenthood. Progressives like its high rate of unionization.
If Marty McFly floated by in his flux-capacitated DeLorean and offered us a trip to the 1950s, however, few would take him up on it. We know we’d be poorer for it. We’d be giving up too much in the trade — from our daily conveniences, more comfortable homes, and higher incomes to modern medicine and equality under the law.
My fellow conservatives direct our gaze backward not to worship at the altar of some idealized past but instead to study and practice the lessons of history. We believe they reflect unalterable facts of human nature.
“Modern formulations are necessary even in defense of very ancient truths,” wrote William F. Buckley, one of the founders of modern American conservatism. “Not because of any alleged anachronism in the old ideas — the Beatitudes remain the essential statements of the Western code — but because the idiom of life is always changing.”
One historical subject it would profit everyone to know more about is the history of American conservatism itself. As it happens, two insightful authors have given us new books on the subject. Matthew Continetti’s “The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism” (Basic Books) describes the movement as a sprawling, intricately woven, but also somewhat-frayed tapestry of ideas, institutions and individuals. In M. Stanton Evans: “Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom” (Encounter Books), Steve Hayward offers a perfect companion piece: a loving and entertaining profile of an especially colorful thread in that tapestry, my longtime friend and mentor Stan Evans.
Continetti, an American Enterprise Institute fellow and editor of the Washington Free Beacon, begins his narrative of American conservatism in the Coolidge era of the 1920s and skillfully integrates the political, intellectual, and social history of the ensuing decades. Among the strengths of the book are Continetti’s careful study of documents, both published pieces and correspondence, and his accounts of the founding of key conservative institutions such as National Review and Young Americans for Freedom.
As for Hayward, a resident scholar at the University of California at Berkeley and biographer of former president Ronald Reagan, his book properly places Stan Evans at the center of many consequential events in the history of American conservatism, including the foundational moments I just mentioned. Named editor of the Indianapolis News in 1960 (at 26, he was the youngest editor of a major American newspaper at the time), Evans went on to write a syndicated column and many books, become a national TV and radio commentator, and train hundreds of budding journalists (including yours truly) as head of the Washington-based National Journalism Center.
Local readers will particularly enjoy the books’ North Carolina connections. For example, Continetti recounts U.S. Sen. Josiah Bailey’s efforts to organize opposition to the New Deal. While Bailey never achieved his dream of rolling back the federal government’s unconstitutional usurpation of state and private responsibilities, his proposed alliance of Republicans and conservative Democrats did come to pass after the 1938 midterms, blocking some of Franklin Roosevelt’s later and more-expansive programs.
Two other North Carolinians, scholar Richard Weaver and politician Jesse Helms, get their due in the books. And Hayward reveals the key role that Stan Evans played in Reagan’s surprising victory over Gerald Ford in
North Carolina’s 1976 primary, which helped ensure he would be the GOP nominee for president four years later. In his conclusion, Continetti argues “the job of a conservative is to remember.” Quite right. And you’ll find no better memory aids than his and Hayward’s new books.
What were the two most used new words in the news last week? The term “Great Replacement.”
I admit that I had never heard of the term until the recent attack in Buffalo by a white 18-year-old man that left 10 people dead. A long document, found with the attacker’s property and presumably written by him explained his motives and concerns about the "replacement" of the "white race" and "white culture."
CNN reported that, “The author also writes about his perceptions of the dwindling size of the white population and claims of ethnic and cultural replacement of whites.” In an article published by CNN, Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney and a columnist for The Daily Beast, writes that what the document found with the shooter “espouses is, in essence, the white supremacist concept known as the Great Replacement Theory. This ‘theory' is meant as a warning to white people that soon, people of color — typically immigrants, Latinos and African Americans — may outnumber white people and in essence ‘replace’ them.”
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal gave the following summary: “The great replacement’ is a conspiracy theory that asserts elites — politicians, business executives, media — are using immigration and other policies as a tool to reduce the white population.”
The Journal article continues. “Interest and belief in the idea has increased in the U.S. in recent years, researchers say, as the percentage of white Americans, compared with nonwhite people, shrinks. The nation’s non-Hispanic white population dropped 2.6% between 2010 and 2020, according to the Census Bureau. Projections by the bureau indicate that the total population of nonwhite people in America will exceed the white population by 2045.”
The replacement theory is not new. The idea got its modern start in France in the early part of the 20th Century. More recently, a 2011 article by French writer Renaud Camus and titled “The Great Replacement” is used by white supremacists in the U.S.
According to the Journal, Camus wrote that “white Europeans will eventually be extinct because of immigration and since some nonwhite populations, particularly those of Africa and the Middle East, have higher birthrates. People from Africa and the Middle East have emigrated to France from former French colonies in increased numbers in the postcolonial era.”
The increase of immigrant populations in Europe and the U.S. is fact, not a theory. There are consequences in terms of a rise in influence of immigrants and their children in Europe and the U.S. and the corresponding loss of power and influence of white Americans.
But there is more to the theory than these facts.
Versions of the theory allege a conspiracy among some people to replace the long-time white residents of Europe and the U.S. with people from Africa and Asia. The conspirators, it is said, are politicians, elitist people and institutions. They promote policies that open the doors to immigrants and empower people of color and other minority groups. These people would become voters who would do the will of the conspirators.
I could find no credible evidence about the “elites” exerting control over the votes of immigrants and minorities.
I confess that I have hoped that the changing makeup of North Carolina’s population that is under way would help my political party more than the other party. Does that make me part of some conspiracy?
According to the latest estimate from fiscal analysts at the North Carolina General Assembly, our state government will take in about $6.2 billion more in General Fund revenue over the 2021-23 budget biennium than was originally projected last year.
That’s a huge number. It represents nearly a quarter of the entire General Fund budget for the current fiscal year. And it’s not even the full amount of funds available. As of April 30, there’s $8.2 billion in unspent and undesignated money sitting in the General Fund.
Now that state legislators have returned to Raleigh for their 2022 short session, we are about to hear a spirited debate about how to spend the revenue bonanza. Democrats are insisting that the General Assembly fully fund a court-ordered settlement on education funding.
Republicans are looking at infrastructure needs and tax relief.
Both parties are telegraphing a desire to increase compensation for public employees. I favor some of these ideas. But may I offer a few words of caution?
Our broader economy is in trouble. America’s real GDP shrank by an annualized rate of 1.4% during the first three months of this year. And in an attempt to bring down rampant inflation, the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates.
That’s the right response, to be sure, but everyone needs to be mindful of the probable tradeoffs.
Eight of the past nine periods of monetary tightening by the Fed were followed by recessions. Although a “soft landing” is theoretically possible, then, there’s a very real possibility that the GDP will contract sometime over the next year. If the contraction happens in the second quarter, that would constitute a recession by the standard definition.
I know North Carolina’s economic fundamentals look pretty strong right now. Our labor markets improved markedly in April, with the headline unemployment rate falling to 3.4% (down from 5.1% a year ago) and our labor-force participation rate topping 60% for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other states in our region posted good jobs numbers last month, too (in fact, North Carolina’s unemployment rate is the highest in our neighborhood, though it’s low by historical standards).
Still, it doesn’t require Eeyore-level pessimism to worry about a possible recession and its effects on state revenues and expenditures. It only requires realism. It also requires looking more closely at that surplus-revenue figure of $6.2 billion cited earlier. Most of it, $4.2 billion, is occurring during the first year of biennium, and involves one-time shifts in the timing of reported income. The pandemic produced some rather weird financial patterns in both the public and private sectors. It would be a mistake to assume these patterns will continue into future years. If even a modest recession follows the Fed’s actions on interest rates, that will both reduce revenue collections and increase state expenditures on Medicaid and other forms of public assistance. The projected surplus would shrink. It might even become a deficit.
Thanks to years of conservative budgeting, North Carolina has accumulated a large rainy-day fund and other reserves. Unlike some states, we wouldn’t have to close a fiscal gap by raising taxes, canceling contracts or laying off employees. Indeed, the state could actually play a countercyclical role by giving teachers and state employees a pay bump. That argues for a balance between addressing immediate needs and hedging against future risks — which is precisely what I think House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, and other legislative leaders are likely to do during the short session.
They know that if a recession occurs, they can’t (and shouldn’t) rely on another round of massive federal borrowing to paper over state and local deficits. They also know that their steady and disciplined approach to state budgeting is a big reason why North Carolinians have become increasingly comfortable with GOP majorities in the General Assembly.
We should all hope the Fed can engineer a soft landing. But hoping is not governing.
Today we shall stare into the void. Trigger warning: Before you read any further, remember what our pal Nietzsche said, “If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
Let us carefully descend into the wonderful world of caves. To quote the world’s most famous rooster Foghorn Leghorn, “I say boy, holes in the ground, my boy, holes in the ground.” Today we shall spelunk into what lies beneath. The abysses into which we shall exchange furtive but tasty glances are the fabled Cheese Caves of Springfield, Missouri. What? You have never heard of the famous Cheese Caves of Missouri? Pull up an ottoman and have a seat. Today will be a learning experience. Kindly bear with me; we will get to the Cheese Caves, but first, a brief survey of two other world-famous caves.
Among the most famous group of caves is the Lascaux cave complex in France. These caves feature about 1500 wall paintings done roughly 17,000 years ago by paleolithic cave dudes and cave dudettes. According to Mr. Google, the wall paintings show people, animals and mysterious abstract drawings.
The caves remained undiscovered until 1940, when a teenager was walking his dog. His dog Robot managed to fall into a hole that turned out to be the entrance to the Lascaux caves. If not for Robot’s fortuitous clumsiness, Lascaux might have remained hidden for another 17,000 years. Who’s a good boy? Robot’s a good boy.
A most excellent cave story was in the “Andy Griffith Show,” where Andy and Helen get temporarily stuck in a cave. Barney is not a fan of caves or bats. He tells Thelma Lou why going into caves is a bad idea.
Barney: “You know what you find in caves? Bats. That’s right — bats. You know what they do? They fly into your hair and get tangled up in there and lay their eggs, and you go crazy.”
Thelma Lou: “Laughs.”
Barney: “Alright, laugh, it’s happened. You want a head full of bat eggs? I don’t.”
I agree with Barney. Even if I had hair, I would not want a head full of bat eggs. However, if you choose to have bat eggs in your hair, that is no one’s business but your own. I will not think less of anyone sporting bat eggs in their hair.
Now let us return to the Cheese Caves. America may not have baby formula, enough gas to go around or flying cars, but we have a Strategic Cheese Reserve buried in Missouri. According to no less an authority than The Washington Post, the U.S. government has 1.4 billion pounds of cheese stored underground in various Cheese Caves. The Feds began buying and storing cheese during President Carter’s time to help dairy farmers sell their products. Cheese is easier to store and keeps much longer than milk. The Feds would buy all the cheese dairy farmers could produce. Naturally, the farmers kept producing more and more cheese. Pretty soon, this added up to a lot of cheese. When Reagan became President, he gave out 30 million pounds of government cheese to the hungry masses. Some of you who are a bit long in the tooth may recall the government cheese program. If you can remember this, please don’t drive after dark.
The Springfield News-Leader says that there are seven million pounds of cheese in the Springfield Cheese Caves. The caves have been turned into a giant 3.2 million square foot warehouse. Being about 100 feet underground, the caves remain about 60 degrees year-round. They can be cooled to 36 degrees which makes cheeses very happy. The cheeses can live long and prosper at 36 degrees. Unfortunately, the Springfield Cheese Caves are not open to the public.
Here are some cheese facts which might help you forget your inability to tour the Cheese Caves for a personal look. The federal government reports that 36% of Americans are lactose intolerant. Demographically 75% of African Americans, 51% of Latinos, 80% of Asian Americans and 21% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant. The Cheese Council reports that processed cheese was originally made for wartime use as it can last almost as long as a Twinkie. Pilgrims brought over cheese on the Mayflower. The first cheese factory did not manufacture cheese until 1851. One-third of all milk in the United States is made into cheese. The average American eats 23 pounds of cheese a year. The most popular cheese recipe in the United States is macaroni and cheese.
I am proud to have gotten through this column without a bunch of gratuitous cheesy puns. There were some Gouda ones I discarded. It could have been a Feta accompli to have riddled this column with bad puns like an overripe Swiss Cheese. But then the column would have smelled like a sweating Limburger cheese on a 100 degree-day. No dogs named Robot were injured during the writing of this column. As Mr. Spock would say,
“Live long and Parmesan.”
To quote Elvis, “I’ll have a Blue Christmas, but you can have a Bleu Cheese.” The Cheese stands alone. Got Cholesterol?
For 24 years, the Up & Coming Weekly community newspaper has proudly showcased the people, businesses and organizations that have invested their time, money and expertise in our community. One of the ways we do this is by publishing our Best of Fayetteville Readers Survey and asking our newspaper readers to identify and ultimately determine who is Fayetteville’s Best of the Best. They have what makes Fayetteville and Cumberland County unique, enjoyable and livable.
Well, it is that time of year, and beginning with the June 8 edition of Up & Coming Weekly and running through July 3, our readers will be able to cast their ballots for the Best of the Best two ways. They may fill out a ballot located in the newspaper and return it to Up & Coming Weekly, or they can go online to the Up & Coming Weekly website, www.upandcomingweekly.com. While there, you can sign up for a free electronic subscription of Up & Coming Weekly and receive your copy every week on your home or office computer.
Using time-tested and enforceable voting rules and guidelines, such as one ballot per reader, we have elevated the honor, integrity and prestige of the Best of Fayetteville designation. This process continues to be a respected, well-organized, informal and non-scientific survey. By monitoring and auditing the ballots, eliminating the nomination process and conspicuous ballot stuffing, our survey has proven to be incredibly accurate and extremely valuable to residents and the businesses and organizations that have earned the honor of being voted the Best.
No doubt about it, this has been a challenging year. Businesses continue to operate in full recovery mode. This makes the Best of Fayetteville recognition even more relevant and valuable by highlighting those who have managed their businesses through high gas prices, supply chain shortages, a challenging labor market, confusing COVID-19 restrictions and rising inflation. Under these circumstances, operating a successful business is a real challenge, and achievement deserves recognition. Your vote is very important to your favorite business or organization. The winners will be recognized and celebrated on September 27 at the Crown Coliseum Complex. The Best of the Best will congregate to celebrate their achievements and contributions to our Can-Do community.
Our newspaper has changed immensely over the past 26 years, especially in the last nine months. However, the Best of Fayetteville reader’s survey has not. It continues to reflect the best aspects and amenities the Fayetteville community has to offer. Annually, we receive thousands of ballots and painstakingly record the comments and sentiments of our readers. This process allows us to get to know the who, what and why our readers value these businesses. We showcase these people, businesses and organizations to Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and Cumberland County residents. Your vote is important! Our readers will determine who the 2022 Up & Coming Weekly Best of Fayetteville winners are.
For area newcomers and those not familiar with the Best of Fayetteville format and guidelines, this is a sanctioned, time-tested reader’s survey. The survey is designed and audited to provide residents, local businesses and organizations the recognition they deserve for their dedication, expertise, trustworthiness and perseverance in their quest for excellence.
And we make it easy to participate. Participants must vote in at least 15 categories to validate a ballot. Since the survey began more than two decades ago, the Up & Coming Weekly newspaper has successfully told the stories of our Best of Fayetteville winners. Then we invite the winners to join the Up & Coming Weekly staff, and our 2022 Best of Fayetteville sponsors at a very special recognition celebration party. This begins the Best of Fayetteville winners 24/7, 365-day exposure in the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community, and year-long presence on our official website www.upandcomingweekly.com.
Thank you for supporting local businesses and for reading Up & Coming Weekly.