Through my membership in the Theodore Roosevelt Association, I have had the pleasure of corresponding with James Strock, one of the TR Association’s advisory board members. He hosts a blog on the Substack platform named “The Next Nationalism”, which also promotes TR’s philosophy in the present age. I can heartily recommend his well-written articles and thought-provoking podcast interviews.
One of his recent posts combines beautiful writing and a sharp perspective to deliver a biting assessment of the state of our current politics. However, it also points out that we have been here before as a nation and always overcame similar internal crises through deepening our commitment to our democratic values and our own national community. It is a long piece and, at the same time, the best summary of what is wrong with current American politics and why American nationalism is the cure.
I have not previously commented on social issues like abortion because they are so divisive in a world where national unity is a key element of strategic strength. Personally, I am a practicing Roman Catholic and am pro-life on the issue. However, as an attorney, it has been heartbreaking to see the division over this issue corrupt the judicial nominating process. The branch of the federal government once called “the least dangerous” now mirrors our divisions instead of healing them.
The Supreme Court’s Dobbs opinion feeds this polarization by punting a fundamental human rights issue to the vagaries of federal, state and local politics. It overrules Roe v. Wade on the theory that the right to an abortion and indeed, the question of when life begins, is not deeply rooted in the concept of American due process and human rights and thus protected by the 14th Amendment. The majority opinion rules it is thus “time to heed the Constitution” and return these issues to the states.
Herein lies the one concept on which pro-life and pro-choice activists can both oppose; namely, that the question of when human life is entitled to protection should be allowed to differ from state to state. This is a fundamental national value enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and protected by the due process clause of the Constitution. Instead, the definition of this right will now be subject to the whims of state legislatures, which can change the definition after each election. At the same time, pro-choice advocates are pushing a federal stature legalizing abortion nationwide even though it also could be repealed by a subsequent Congress. Many states will continue to offer liberal abortion services and structures are now being developed to allow women from anti-abortion states to travel to those states to obtain one. In the end, the rate of abortions may change little because of this opinion.
The Constitution provides a nationalist solution to this dangerous political chaos – a constitutional amendment creating a national standard. If the pro-life movement had put its energy since Roe into evangelizing for such an amendment instead of trying to reshape the courts, we might now have one that bans abortion nationwide. Conversely, the pro-choice movement also could propose a constitutional amendment overruling Dobbs and legalizing abortion nationwide. The adoption of either amendment would require supermajorities at both the federal and state levels. Thus, the eventual solution would have to be supported by a broad consensus achieved through an open democratic process rather than judicial fiat. Each would clearly involve a period of intense debate, but the eventual solution would have more legitimacy in the eyes of the American people.
As Theodore Roosevelt says above, the Constitution was designed to insure that, in the end, the American people always had the last word. The constitutional amendment process is an integral part of the checks-and-balances system designed to insure it reflects the fundamental values of the American people. It has been used several times in the past to overrule Supreme Court rulings. If the issue of abortion must be addressed through the democratic process as suggested by the Supreme Court’s opinion, the two sides should concentrate on building the support necessary to propose and adopt an amendment that reflects their position. This is the best way to achieve a resolution of the issue in a way that also preserves our unity in the long run.
The 2021 off-year elections showed the continuing appeal of American nationalist themes previously exhibited in on the congressional side of the 2020 elections. However, the divisive methods of appealing to this pride resulted in close races where almost all the victors won narrowly. The use of emotional dog-whistles like critical race theory or former President Trumps’ responsibility for the January 6 insurrection obscures the issues that we must face to truly build a strong America.
As I mentioned in this previous post, we have been in such politically divisive days before and survived to renew our civil political culture. In post-Civil War 19th century politics, the real social and economic dislocations caused by the Industrial Revolution were obscured by campaigns about the tangential issues of alcohol temperance, religion, and responsibility for the Civil War, or “Rum, Romanism & Rebellion” as it was called by one observer. Similar red herrings are used by today’s political propagandists to distract us from the real issues. The modern equivalent of “Rum” is the abortion and other social issues, which distract us from discussing the real crises faced by today’s families attempting to raise moral and successful children. Instead of warnings about the supposed religious threat of Romanism, we now focus on woke politics, critical race theory and other ethnic grievances rather than improving the education of our children to insure they can compete in the world workforce. Finally, the constant harping over the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol enables our leaders to avoid addressing the sources of the extremism on both sides that justifies political violence (see the section “Political Violence” in this previous post).
Two years ago, this website was started to cut through these emotional dog- whistles used by extremists on both sides by highlighting the real issues that weaken the America and its people in a age of rising nationalism elsewhere. I believed the way Theodore Roosevelt guided us out of the political abyss of the late 19th century was a model for curing the fevered politics of these times. He, like us all, was never perfect in his actions, (see this post), but he was a pioneer of his time on them. Over the next year and in preparation for the next election, we will continue to help you identify the true issues facing America and act on them. For example, we will develop a new American Nationalist Voting Index you can use to evaluate your local congressional candidates in the upcoming 2022 elections. There will also be some changes in the structure of the website, including a new subscription service that will deliver website posts right to your e-mail box.
Thank you for your attention and support for the website. It is my goal to continue to inform you on how you can preserve a strong America and the American Dream.