Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts--a sample

Here is a recording of a talk I gave on March 29 about undesigned coincidences in the gospels and Acts.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Only connect the prose and the passion III: For Easter

I first wrote the post that I am, to some extent, recycling back in 2011. It's here. And the second post by the same name is here. And an accessible version of the music video with Vestal Goodman in that second post, which has now become unavailable from the U.S., is here.

If you had been there on that first Easter morn, you could have photographed the risen Jesus of Nazareth. He didn't live within people's hearts then. He was walking around. His resurrected feet printed the sod. If you had been with the disciples when he came to them in the upper room, you could have touched his hands and his feet; you could have seen the scar from the spear in his side. You could have handed him a piece of fish and felt his hand touch yours as he took it.

There is only one religion that connects the prose and the passion, and that is Christianity. Christianity offers mankind all the scope the imagination and the heart could desire--God become man as a baby with a virgin mother, sin taken away mysteriously by means of the God-man's shameful death, His vindication by a glorious resurrection, the possibility of new life for each of us and the remission of sin, the final promise that all shall be made new.

For this very reason, too many Christians have played into the hands of the skeptics, fearful that the prose might cancel the poetry, separating the "Christ of history" from the "Christ of faith" and assuring the faithful that they can have the latter in whom to rest their hearts and on whom to feed their imaginations even if the former is...a bit lacking.

But this is not Christianity. For Christianity affirms, "He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell, and the third day He rose again from the dead." There is no separation between the great truths of the Gospel and the prosaic truths of history, between the massive miracle of Jesus risen and the all-too-human, bureaucratic hand-washing of a harassed Roman official two thousand years ago.

Some writers are offended by the "physicality" of the resurrection accounts and attribute them to later additions. But there is nothing in the accounts themselves that suggests that. Indeed, the confidence of Peter on the day of Pentecost is best explained by precisely such physically grounded appearances as those recounted in the gospels--a resurrected Lord who eats and even cooks on a fire of coals for others to eat, who is tangible and invites his disciples to touch him and who, says the first chapter of Acts, shows himself to them repeatedly over forty days by many infallible proofs.

John 21, one of the longest accounts of Jesus' interactions with his disciples after his resurrection, throws in the irrelevant detail that the disciples caught 153 fish that morning. Attempts to give this detail heavy theological or allegorical meaning are laughable. The detail is there because that's how fishermen think. In this particular case, John was also struck by the fact that the net didn't break.

Here, in these truths, you can indeed rest, and upon them you can stake your lives, because they are not cloudy truths. Christianity has its mysticism and its mystics. Indeed, St. John may well have been one of them. Yet it is in John that we see most of all that mysticism and empirical hard-headedness are not at odds but rather go hand in hand. John who tells us, "He that feareth is not made perfect in love," which I, for one, feel is far beyond me, who tells us, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," is the same author who tells us that there were 153 fish and that the net didn't break, that the fire on which Jesus cooked was made of coals (not wood?), and, oh, by the way, the servant whose ear Peter cut off was named Malchus. John the mystic is John the man of detail, the man with something akin to a photographic memory, the man who remembers, when Judas opened the door and went out to betray the Lord, "And it was night."

Well might he say, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which our hands have handled, of the word of life. For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." 

It is all one to John. The Logos who was from the beginning and the man who cooked and ate the fish. In the mind of John there is no division between the prose and the passion.

So, on this basis, I invite you to rejoice and be glad, for our Lord is risen indeed!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure

In the novel Theophilus, Michael O'Brien portrays the main character, a physician like Luke but not initially a Christian believer, as sickened by the cruelty of crucifixions. He is therefore horrified when he finds one of his servants praying with a crucifix in his hands. He cannot understand why the Christians have made a symbol of worship out of this horrible instrument of torment. O'Brien captures very well the surprising nature of the Christians' veneration of the cross. And indeed, the oddity--either for Jews or Gentiles--of the early glorification of the cross is one of many pieces of evidence that they had strong reason to believe that Jesus was not just another victim of the evil of man, that God had vindicated him.

I was struck by this conflict between the cross as symbol and as reality this evening while singing "In the Cross of Christ I Glory." The title is taken from St. Paul's avowal in Galatians, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ." The last verse goes

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure
By the cross are sanctified.
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.

And I began thinking of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil (though I couldn't then remember his name) who has been captured by ISIS in Yemen. The nuns of his order fear that he will be or has been crucified by ISIS today, Good Friday. Others have argued that the fear is unfounded, but in any event, Fr. Tom is certainly in danger if not already dead, and ISIS has been known to crucify people.

How, I wondered, could I glorify the cross as a symbol of my salvation while Christians are literally being killed on crosses by the most evil of men who glory in torturing and mocking Christians by this means of death? When the notion of crucifixion ceases to be a notion and becomes all too real, it becomes difficult to sing about how "peace is there that knows no measure."

Yet the Apostle Paul was not a comfortable, 21st-century, American Christian. He lived in a time when men were crucified. He personally knew Peter who, according to tradition, was later crucified upside down. Paul escaped a similar fate only because he was a Roman citizen. And it is the Apostle Paul who first teaches us in Scripture to glory in the cross. "For I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified." "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world."

Somehow it was possible for those early Christians to hold the cross in their minds as both a symbol and a reality and to embrace that reality because, as Paul quotes a "faithful saying," "If we die with him, we shall also live with him. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." "Buried with him by baptism into the likeness of his death, raised in his likeness to walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection."

And so, they were willing to die, like Christians facing the evil of ISIS. Like Fr. Tom. It wasn't that they did not know, that they did not understand. It was, and is, that they understand better. They go past the easy thoughts of the cross, mind half-wandering, heart unmoved by what has become old hat. But so, too, they go beyond the sheer, stark, horror, a horror to darken the mind, of the thing itself. For on the other side of the horror that Our Lord suffered, and that all Christians are called in some measure to suffer with him, and that some suffer literally, there is a deeper meaning yet again, which is neither easy symbol nor mind-paralyzing evil and torture. And that meaning is the reversal of evil, accomplished by that death. If it had not been accomplished by that crucifixion, then every crucifixion would be nothing more than, at most, a tale of gross evil nobly born by an innocent victim. And at worst we should suspect that perhaps even nobility itself had no meaning at all.

But now, we see through a glass darkly that death need not be just death, that crucifixion, yes, even real crucifixion, need not be just crucifixion, because Jesus died and, by death, defeated death, and lives again.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

An invitation to peace

Through the invaluable Screwtape, telling his nephew demon how to tempt, we get the following words of wisdom from C.S. Lewis:

Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy's will. What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him--the present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that he is to say "Thy will be done," and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will be provided. It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the present fear as his appointed cross, but only of the things he is afraid of. Let him regard them as his crosses: let him forget that, since they are incompatible, they cannot all happen to him, and let him try to practise fortitude and patience to them all in advance. For real resignation, at the same moment, to a dozen different and hypothetical fates, is almost impossible, and the Enemy does not greatly assist those who are trying to attain it: resignation to present and actual suffering, even where that suffering consists of fear, is far easier, and is usually helped by this direct action. The Screwtape Letters, p. 29
Every person who is naturally a worrier, as I am, needs to read this passage so often as nearly to have it memorized. The only part with which I might quibble is the assumption that the worrying human will always work out a set of future fears about which he can reassure himself that they can't all happen to him. Those of us who are really good at anxiety are also good at developing a list of highly varied things to fear in the future, all of which actually can happen to us.

Aside from that, however, Screwtape is completely right. (Very insightful, those demons have to be sometimes.)

When I was younger, I used to hear a lot of talk in the churches about "surrendering to God's will." That's good, and I don't want to tear it down. Anti-piety is much more corrosive than slightly over-enthusiastic piety. But unfortunately, some of us devout young ones got the idea that surrendering to the will of God meant something like this: Think of something that you really, really don't want to happen to you, or think of something's not happening to you, that you really, really don't want not to happen to you. For example, imagine that it's God's will that you never get married. (I don't know if the young men worried about this. But we girls did.) Or imagine having to give up some activity you really enjoy. Or having to move to some unpleasant location, or just having to move somewhere you don't want to move to. Or getting a terrible disease. Then ask yourself, "Would I be willing to accept that, if it were God's will?" If you feel hesitant about your spiritual ability to submit to this fate, especially if you feel inclined to grumble or chafe at the prospect, then you have failed the test of submissiveness to God's will, and you should start wondering if whatever-it-is has become an idol to you. In fact, you should maybe start wrestling in prayer over this hypothetical loss until you have reached the proper mindset of acceptance and submission.

That is precisely what Screwtape is talking about. It is not actual submission to the will of God. It's psychological gymnastics. It's a kind of emotional self-test, and there's no reason to think that it is reliable, either. For one thing, you don't know what spiritual resources will be given to you if that feared outcome really presents itself to you. Nor can you predict those resources from your own present feelings, including your present feeling of your own submissiveness to God. There is a reason why Jesus said "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," and that applies to things you think you need to submit to in prospect.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not advocating sitting around in an attitude of defiance toward God. "God, I'm just serving you notice that if you let me fail that class, or lose my job, or if I ever come down with a terrible, painful disease, or if you don't bring me a good husband within a reasonable time frame, then it's sayonara. I'm outta here. My submission to you and faithfulness to you is only on the condition that you not let any of these things I'm worried about happen to me. I'm getting geared up to fight this out with you, Lord." Of course not. But the person trying to submit to a host of hypotheticals is, in practice if not in intent, trying to call up such internal defiant feelings by imagining an event that hasn't happened and that may not happen, and then chiding himself for the fact that he now feels somewhat angry at God because of the hypothetical prospect he has deliberately, mentally entertained! This is folly. It's a waste of emotional strength.

It is also an attempt to gain spiritual strength in the wrong way. As Lewis/Screwtape says, there isn't really a reason to think that God will grant you today the strength to "face" a prospect that you don't really need to face, a prospect that is merely possible. Instead, if for some reason you are filled with fear about some particular future possibility, then pray about that. Pray to be delivered from that present feeling of fear or, if the fear is the will of God for you to bear as your present cross, to be given the grace to bear it well and not to be a burden to others. Then, after thus praying, resolutely attempt, with God's help, to turn your mind to something else about which you can actually do something positive.

Digression: The chronic worrier always thinks that maybe he actually can do something about the future thing feared by worrying about it now. The Internet encourages this. Maybe I can look up something that I can "bear in mind" if such-and-such ever happens. Maybe I can think of an idea that I can do now that will fend off such-and-such. And so forth. This is also a snare, by and large.

Maybe nobody nowadays goes around trying to "submit to God's will" in the way described above anymore. Nobody else, that is. But I still occasionally do it, and I need to learn not to. At the risk of sounding like a motivational poster, I will say that the chronic worrier needs to learn that it's okay to be happy right now. But I can do better than a motivational poster, simply by quoting more from Uncle Screwtape, who lets us into the aims of hell. "The Enemy," of course, as Screwtape uses the term, is God:

[The Enemy's] ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hagridden by the Future--haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth--ready to break the Enemy's commands in the Present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other...We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the Future every real gift which is offered them in the Present. pp. 69-70
What Lewis seems chiefly to have in mind in this passage is a kind of utopianism rather than a tendency to fear for one's personal future happiness or for the personal happiness of those one loves. Nonetheless, the comments apply to the latter as well as the former. I note, too, that the technology we now live with has made it much harder to "wash one's mind of the whole thing" and to "commit the issue to heaven," much less to regard such "washing of one's mind" as returning to the reactions that are demanded of us at the moment. In a time of 24-hour Internet, we are likely to feel that at all waking moments of the day we are required to be beating our brains or harrowing our own emotions with whatever debates, stories, or concerns come across the screen. Lewis's whole picture of a division of life into different compartments and of taking one's mind off of one thing and putting it onto another is one we would do well to ponder and perhaps to try to recreate.

Beyond that, the point for the worrier is that the Devil wants a man to be hag-ridden by the future, and all the better (from the devil's perspective) if he is a Christian. If what the devil wants is that we should never be kind or happy now, then perhaps one of our first items of business should be to try to be both kind and happy (and honest) now, let the future bring what it will.

The idea of a duty to try to be happy is rather shocking in a way. Certainly it isn't, especially not to the worrier, an invitation to hedonism. Rather, it is an invitation to peace. I suggest that those of us tempted too much to "take thought for the morrow" accept that invitation wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A civics lesson

I've been getting a civics lesson lately in what is meant by a "brokered convention." I've done some googling, and asked a poli sci expert, and you can check out what I say for yourself and correct me if I'm wrong. With that caveat, here's what I believe I've learned.

Contrary to popular impressions fostered by vague headlines, vague articles, and vague talk, a contested or brokered convention (say, the Republican convention in July) is not a convention in which "the establishment" simply picks a political candidate out of nowhere, whom no one wants, and by fiat makes him the party nominee.

All the talk about "stealing" the convention or "taking" the nomination from a candidate who has a bare plurality (but doesn't meet pre-existing party rules for number of delegates for the nomination) is sheer rhetoric, and misleading, and I will no longer be a party (pun intended) to it.

In the end, the delegates choose the nominee. It's like voting for the pope. If no one has the required number of delegate votes on the first ballot, where they are all bound to vote for the candidate they came there to represent, they are freed from their original pledge, and the delegates vote over and over again until someone gets the requisite number of delegate votes. So the nomination is still made by the delegates. Any wheeling and dealing, any "brokering," any influence, must ultimately cash out in terms of delegate votes on some subsequent ballot. The delegates must be persuaded.

Now, certainly, illegitimate things could be done there. People could be outright bribed with $10k apiece. People could be outright threatened with physical harm. There is plenty of room for corruption as there is, unfortunately, in any political process, including votes of Congress.

But the process is not intrinsically wrong, corrupt, or even "undemocratic," anymore than are votes in Congress. People have this weird idea that democracy isn't democracy unless representatives are automata. In this case, the delegates should be thought of as representatives. They get sent to the convention in the first place according to all the Byzantine rules by which the popular primary (and caucus) votes select them. Once there, they vote. First according to their pledge, and, if that doesn't garner any one candidate the required total on the first ballot, according to however they are persuaded to vote. This isn't intrinsically bad any more than any representative democratic process is bad.

I am sorry to see that even some sensible people (including my favorite candidate, Ted Cruz, himself) are getting into this talk about "stealing" the nomination and the "illegitimacy" of a brokered convention. At this point, if D.T. cannot get enough delegate votes ahead of the convention, then guess what? The real "fix" would be just saying, "Ha, we didn't mean it. We'll give you the nomination even though you never won enough delegate votes." That would be illegitimate. He, just like anyone else, has to win enough delegate votes on some ballot or other. And if he can't win it on the first ballot, then he has to try to win it on subsequent ballots. Requiring that is just fair play. Indeed if anyone is likely to cheat at that point and use outright illegitimate tactics, perhaps threatening delegates with personal harm if they don't support him on subsequent votes, I fear that it is D.T.--the very man whose followers are most likely to yell about "letting the will of the people be heard" and "not stealing the nomination."

Cruz himself should hope to be the unity candidate in case of a contested convention (that's certainly what I hope), and unfortunately he's leaving himself only the tiniest inch of wiggle room, if that, in the above linked interview to do that without being accused of hypocrisy.

I think we conservatives, of all people, ought to be here to educate ourselves and others about how these processes actually work, not just to repeat talking points and empty rhetoric. I offer this post as a small step in that direction.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Ben Shapiro on nationalism and the nasty right, with a few tweaks

Ben Shapiro has been excellent in his criticisms of a certain dreadful political candidate, D.T., whose last name rhymes with "Dump." Here he skewers his lack of character and his lies. And here and here he calls him out for deliberately appealing to the nasty right.

I would like to talk about this article, with which I have many agreements, and to see if I can "tweak" Shapiro's views, particularly on the issue of nationalism. The result, I would say, will be very similar to what Shapiro says, but a little bit different.

To begin with, Shapiro is importantly right (and I'll probably say this more than once in this post) that conservatives need to recognize and reject the despicable, self-styled "right," whether it goes under the name of the alt-right, the racialist right, or any other title. These groups have been growing on the Internet and the Dump candidacy has brought them out of the woodwork. We should, quite simply, have no truck with them whatsoever and condemn them repeatedly. Why? Well, certainly not to ingratiate ourselves with the left, which will never work anyway. No, for the sake of our own clarity of mind and that of any with whom we have influence.

To my mind this is all the more important for someone who has ever written anything politically incorrect on an issue such as race or immigration. I was calling for a ban on Muslim immigration years before anyone ever thought that D.T. would be a candidate for the presidency, of all things. It's an idea that deserves a much better, more careful advocate. I argued for it in a series of posts co-written with my then-co-blogger, Jeff Culbreath. Mine are here and here. I am also generally an immigration hawk. In general, I think there's just too much immigration going on from all locations and that this is causing all kinds of problems. In Europe, the mass influx of Syrian "refugees" has been an unmitigated disaster. The reports of crime, cities taken over, medical systems overloaded, unspeakably bad behavior by immigrant gangs, and the like, all utterly predictable, should make all the bleeding heart Christians who chided the so-called "xenophobes" repent in dust and ashes and apologize personally to the German women who can't walk in safety on their own streets.

So given that some of my ideas resemble some of theirs, I have all the more reason to make it excessively clear that I loathe the self-consciously racist, often anti-semitic, ideology of the following that has erupted around D.T. And I've suffered from it right here at Extra Thoughts, having to change my comment policy to block vile comments.

Interestingly, I think that Shapiro's comments could actually sustain a fairly hawkish immigration policy. For example, Shapiro seems to endorse the propositions

that Muslim refugees to the United States must be treated with more care than non-Muslim refugees thanks to the influence of radical Islam, for example, or that illegal immigration brings with it elevated levels of criminality. 

I would quibble that "radical Islam" isn't really so radical but is basically just Islam and also that legal immigration sometimes also brings with it elevated levels of criminality. But the point is that Shapiro and I could no doubt work out together a set of principles that would place a lot more limitations on immigration, including Muslim immigration, than the moderates would ever be comfortable with, and vastly more than we have right now.

Shapiro also says, "It’s one thing to object to an influx of people who disagree with basic constitutional values."

Right, well, look at the ways in which Muslim enclaves behave and their treatment of, say, Christian missionaries, and you will find out quickly that those who want to set up such enclaves disagree with basic constitutional values.

I think, too, that it would be possible to get Shapiro to recognize the importance of negative cultural values--forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child marriage, honor killings, and the like. Other cultural communities may take bribery and cheating for granted--"values" they have brought to the U.S. from their own countries.

Once we start taking such cultural values into account, there is no doubt that immigration policy would become "discriminatory" and would have "disparate impact" upon groups of various national origins. That is not racial per se--indeed, a careful immigration policy might rationally prefer an African Christian from Mombasa over a light-skinned Bosnian (think of the Tsarnaev brothers). But there is no doubt that taking cultural background into account would end up having ethnic implications in the broad sense of "ethnic."

Again, I would like to think that Shapiro's interest in the "content of our character" would lead him to recognize that possibility without flinching.

But there is one place where I think what he says does need to be tweaked.
According to Trump, we ought to operate off of the assumption that Americans deserve better lives not because they live out better principles or represent a better system, but because they’re here.
Setting aside the question of whether that candidate actually has any worked-out opinion or principle on any subject whatever, including that one, I would submit the following proposition for Shapiro's consideration:

It is legitimate for the American government and American employers to have special concern and loyalty toward American citizens over the citizens of other countries.

This seems like a very mild version of the principle. Suppose that you are an American employer and can hire an American worker who can do the job that you need done, and do it well, for a wage you can easily afford. Is it legitimate for you to have some preference, any at all, for that arrangement as opposed to hiring a non-American from abroad, bringing him here, and giving him the job? To put the matter no higher, it is a good deal more efficient for everyone involved to hire the person who is already here. It can also increase community cohesion by keeping people who already live here employed rather than leaving them to become a burden on the surrounding community. And, if your business is located in America, you have a stake in having stable, law-abiding, employed communities surrounding your businesses.

Or consider governments. It doesn't seem like a terribly radical form of nationalism to say something like this:

The government of the State of Michigan has more of a duty to consider the well-being of an unemployed former auto worker in Detroit than of a Syrian in a refugee camp in Greece.
Having a strong libertarian streak in me, I'm inclined to think that the attention of government is more often a curse than a blessing, but it is possible to think of some concrete circumstances to which this principle might apply. For example, it would seem to follow from this principle that the State of Michigan should be quicker to spend its scarce tax dollars to retrain the former auto worker than to relocate the Syrian refugee to the United States!

When it comes to employment policy, all of this gets very murky. What if the American would-be employee is entitlement-minded and demanding while the would-be (but legal) foreign employee is well-mannered and willing to take a lower (but still legal) wage? All else is rarely equal, and I am not advocating the mindless idea that any employer who prefers to hire a hard-working, mannerly Mexican over a mouthy, difficult American citizen is automatically a greedy, exploitative capitalist. I also tend to think (which makes the Buchananites foam at the mouth) that American unions are to blame for a lot of American unemployment and that carrots are better than sticks at bringing jobs back to America. What if government rewarded employers for certifiably employing American workers rather than punishing (with tariffs, etc.,) those who flee over-regulation for off-shore manufacturing? What about bringing American jobs back by weakening the power of unions and the NRLB?

So I'm by no means a rah-rah America Firster. But at the same time, I'm concerned that one could extrapolate Shapiro's remarks to the conclusion that it is inherently wrong for American government to give any special consideration to American citizens' problems or for American employers to give any preference whatsoever to American workers "just because they are here." This seems extreme and incorrect. Not to mention impractical. In the very nature of the case, American government exists for the purpose of governing Americans and worrying about American problems, not for the purpose of making more and more people into Americans by way of immigration. And some degree of preference for American workers by American employers seems to be a laudable form of loyalty to one's own community, not a blameworthy xenophobia. Again, if one brings in large numbers of foreign workers and leaves unemployed the workers that live right around one's own factory, who would otherwise be suitable for employment there, isn't this a recipe for civil unrest and dependency within the community?

It's worth noting that both the nasty right and the racially hypersensitive left often confuse any sort of "just because they are here" nationalism (if "nationalism" is the word) with racism. The former embrace it and the latter deplore it, but both are wrong. Black, low-skilled American workers have been disproportionately harmed by high levels of Mexican immigration, both legal and illegal. The almost intractable problems of the black community are, for good or ill, our American problems in a way that the problems of Syrians fleeing from ISIS or Mexicans wanting a better life are not. The hypothetical unemployed auto worker in the example above about the government of Michigan could easily be much darker-skinned than the immigrant in the same hypothetical example. In an already multiracial society like America's, the idea of loyalty to Americans qua Americans is hardly inherently racial.

It would be fun to have the opportunity to talk with Ben Shapiro about these proposed tweaks. He seems like a reasonable guy. I think we could have a profitable conversation. Though honestly, if I had the great privilege to meet Ben Shapiro, there are probably a lot of other things I'd rather talk about instead, like the various ways in which America is going to hell, the transgender agenda, and my great admiration for his courage in confronting all of this.

Meanwhile, the imperative remains in place to reject completely what the "alt-right" stands for, the darkness that was already in existence but that has been brought to national attention by the D.T. candidacy. I will not say that we on the right need to "own" the nasties who identify as "right." We don't own them. Many of us didn't even know they existed until five minutes ago! But I do say that now that we know they do exist, we must take them into account. We can't go back to saying, "Nobody thinks that. Nobody is saying that," as perhaps we would have ten years ago. Or saying, "Only the loony fringe, whom nobody listens to, is actually racist." The loony fringe is growing all the time, and too many people are listening. No longer can we leave the loony fringe out of our own calculations or accuse the left of manufacturing them as a bogeyman when, in fact, the left is pointing to a phenomenon that is sadly all too real. And if we do say something (as I myself sometimes do) that happens to agree with some of the ideas that the loony fringe also promotes (e.g., that Muslim immigration is a bad idea or that there are serious cultural pathologies in the black community), we must be especially careful to stiff-arm them as fellow travelers.

Some fellow travelers I'm happy to do without.