So I have been remiss.  This isn’t all about bashing Democrats.

Yet in another sense, it is.  Or at least, the shibboleths of the left, for as uncomfortable as my friends on liberal side of the aisle may feel about the prospect.

To some degree, I feel the criticism of Bruce Hedrick of Southside Virginia fame — the staff posts and frankly current events have seen me take the Democrats to the woodshed more often than praise them.  So be it in that regard — there’s a great deal about why Trump was elected that the political left has been terribly numb to perceive.  Case in point would indeed by President Trump’s reception from the 45,000-strong Boy Scouts of America.  It wasn’t merely polite, it was rapturous.  Enthusiastic, even… all from a bunch of young men who will indeed one day become the future leaders of the United States of America.

One of the constant struggles I find with today’s politics between the globalist left (whose smug cosmopolitanism is so unbearably elitist) and the nationalist right (whose knuckledragging contempt for humanity is so unbearably base) is that there is no middle ground for the patriot.  By patriot, I mean this in a strictly American sense of the word — someone who believes in the Founding principles of this great nation and perhaps with a head slightly turned towards history.  For myself, that will always be a Virginian turn; Southern in orientation, yet distinct from our South Carolinian bretheren and the New England brahmans that won the contest between Hamiltonianism and Jeffersonianism (as was recounted in the pages of The Bull Elephant, in 500 words or less).

If one were to consider themselves a Virginia nationalist, I might not mind.  Virginia has a 400 year tradition on this continent, one that stretches back an additional 250 years behind that if one considers the Virginia gentry as the heirs of Pocahontas, the Powhatan Confederacy only becoming ascendant around 1350 if one believes the archaeologists and anthropologists who care about such things.

This is 650 years of continuity on this continent, perhaps shorter than the 800 years of continuity my forebearers in Ireland have enjoyed as they define themselves against English, Dutch, and Dane.  Certainly shorter than the 1400 years my Maronite forebearers from Lebanon enjoy, being a Phonecian island in an Arab sea after the collapse of the Byzantine front against Muhammad’s heirs in the 5th and 6th century A.D.

Yet the vast majority of my patrimony finds me a Virginian, with family rooted here as early as the 1640s in the Tidewater, even if branches of my family found themselves in North Carolina and Missouri before modernization and industrialization brought them back to places difficult to find on a map: Marion, Falls Church, Chancellor — but not Fredericksburg.

Certainly not Fredericksburg.  Fredericksburg we can find on a map.  My education about “the War” (three syllables) was an afternoon walk with my brothers down Marye Heights, across the Sunken Road, and past the Kirkland Monument to our left.  Sergeant Kirkland is little remembered today, but his monument is a shadow of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington.  After the First Battle of Fredericksburg, thousands of Union dead were dead or dying across the battlefield.  Contrary to what one might have seen in the movie Gods and Generals, Kirkland climbed over the Sunken Road to give water to the dying — an act of both mercy and extreme heroism, as sharpshooters were certainly picking off men left and right.

Fredericksburg has certainly endured its changes since I was a young man.  No longer the quaint little antique town whose idea of economic prosperity centered around “three ladies and a Mercedes” with a population of 15,000 and a surrounding population of perhaps 100,000, the small town finally recovered its pre-war population by the early Naughties and had become a destination unto itself.

Yet it changed.  The old money somehow stayed in charge (as old money tends to do), but the new money grafted itself in.  What was more significant is that it no longer mattered who your grandfather was even if that still helped.  What mattered is that old Yankee colloquialism that offends everyone else in the world: what do you do?

Virginia is experiencing the same trauma my hometown experienced.  Come heres are frowned upon; been heres are praised.  Some folks hearken for a Virginia that never was; some come here’s pretend to sympathize.  Others welcome the changes as fast as they can get rid of the rifraff; others lament the old greasy spoons and empty drugstores.

Ireland has a population of just under 5 million, and yet its cultural impact across the globe remains strong.  Virginians in contrast stand at 8 million and change, half of whom were actually “born here” and remember our tremendous history, both glorious and regrettable.

Modern culture doesn’t give us much time for the introspective.  Virtue signalling has a definition, but it’s not the ones that the alt-right or the alt-left (or alt-light) afford it.  West Point graduates had another name for it: quibbling — and it is an honor violation.

Most times, what we consider discourse is more often than not an exercise in quibbling.  We might consider ourselves purveyors of nuance; but truly consider how often you have found enlightened discourse and dialogue in your interactions and you’ll discover how little nuance there is.  We present our arguments as a means to say “reward me for my thoughts!” as if this were the modern currency.

Of course, it’s a post-modern currency.  We are all individuals just like everyone else.  Each of us is a god; everyone else a potential heretic.  Shouting matches pass for dialogue.  Emotion trumps logic.  Such are the tools of the identity politics of the right; such are the tools of the identitarian right and the alt-right trolls that have traded an open door to dialogue to a closed wall of contested ideologies.

One might rightly ask: What, Mr. Kenney, is this exercise but virtue signalling in long form?  The answer?  An essay — or rather, an essai in the tradition of that great founder of they modern essay, Michel de Montaigne.

Much has been made about long form writing as the salvation against the postmodern era of 140 characters or less — reflection vs. refraction.  The twitterati may scoff, but the more reflective among us may take a moment to pause and consider what the essay does to ameliorate the garbage-in-garbage-out media of the present day, or what we used to call “splash and trash” a decade ago.  Essays were intended to be reflective; the exploration of an idea.

This above all else is what is missing from today’s political discourse — the twin gift of the logos of Western civilization: discourse and logic.

For myself, I am not ashamed to be a man of the right.  That constitutes a fundamental belief in the tried and true, in the traditions of our forefathers being the democracy of the dead, that process triumphs over passion, and that there is nothing fundamentally wrong about America that cannot be fixed with what is right about America (to borrow from a previous occupant of the White House).

This is part and parcel why one struggles to see anything wrong with President Trump’s speech in front of the Boy Scouts of America — a venue long ignored by an Obama adminstration who at best saw these young men and their values as hostile and at worst frowned upon the Scouts as a proto-fascist boot camp for Christian conservatives.

That progressives are deaf to this reality speaks volumes.

And there was no problem with 45,000 screaming Boy Scouts lauding a man who they saw as a protector of an America their parents saw as good.

That progressives are deaf to this reality speaks volumes.

That after eight years of being ridiculed by an Obama White House, for a sitting president to come to a Boy Scout Jamboree while the crowd and the president clapped one another on the back about dreaming and accomplishing the impossible against a condescending and sneering class of elites who told their parents that their America was dead and that the new “ascendant class” would inherit the earth?  Was harmless in the face of the hyperbole and ridicule that followed.

That progressives are deaf to this reality speaks volumes.

History is replete with these examples.  Why was Corey Stewart’s campaign for U.S. Senate so popular?  Why do people hold on to ideas of “old Virginia”?  Why do statues matter?  Why do traditional ideas of family matter?  Why does affordable health care rather than health care accessibility matter so deeply to conservatives?  Why does the basic human right to exist matter?  Why does the financing of an institution committed to the extermination of future taxpayers — yes, Planned Parenthood — horrify working class Americans?  Rattle the questions off…

That progressives are deaf to this reality speaks volumes.

What should alarm casual observers isn’t what President Trump had to say to the 45,000 young men in West Virginia.  What should alarm progressives was the reception he was given.  This was no mere polite applause — the Boy Scouts were rapturous in their reception of Trump, the adulation was real, the in-your-face response to the world who treats them as rapists and seeks to wind them down into passive and androgynous betas…

That progressives are deaf to this reality speaks volumes.

Just recently, an Irish journalist by the name of Angela Nagel wrote a book entitled Kill All Normies.  It is a book that was worthy of an editor, but all the same it is still excellent in exploring a subculture that is not only dominating the minds of young males, but finding itself to be fertile ground for the manipulation of others.  Though I wish Nagel had added just one more chapter about Russian manipulation of online forums in places where the alt-right lurks, there is a counterculturalism that bleeds entirely through young men — some frustrated by modern culture, others entirely dismissive of what Nagel terms “transgressive” identity politics pushed by the progressive left.  As Nagel explained for Vox:

I think parts of the left have conflated my attempt to criticize this identity-based internet subculture with all of identity politics, and that’s simply not true. Identity politics gave us the women’s rights movement, the gay rights movement, the civil rights movement, and so on. It would be absurd to conflate that entire radical history with this small internet subculture.

What I criticized wasn’t identity politics in general but a specific version of identity politics that was about performative wokeness, and in particular the reason I didn’t like it was because it was very inclined to censor and it was very inclined to gang up on people. I hate that, and I think it deserves to be criticized.

In this, Nagel is very critical of current efforts by progressives on college campuses to silence speech, despite Nagel herself hailing from the political left in a sense (or at least, as an inheritor of the tradition of the political left).

That this progressive is not deaf to this reality?  Speaks volumes.

One can easily see our re-packing after this grand un-packing of the problem.  These young men — 45,000 strong — who welcomed Trump aren’t even a battlefield for the left to command and conquer: the field is already lost, precisely because the left employed the wrong tactics in the culture war.

If one senses there is a hardening of Trump’s support among populists and some defections among Never Trump conservatives, it is precisely because Trump has taught the political right in this country a lesson we forgot after the first long round ended in the early 1990s — the best medicine is laughter.

Alt-right trolls know that mocking works, and not just mocking, but the sort of intimidation one might find on any given Comedy Central skit, left or right.  Nagel’s point — and it is worth absorbing in full — is that it’s not just the alt-right, but the youth within the alt-right who have simply decided to identify themselves as Neitzschean supermen in the vein of Heidegger: authentic to themselves and to hell with social pressures.  Mock them until they collapse under their own rage and laugh as they self-immolate.

Is there a balance to be struck?  I doubt one exists.  Levinas’ antidote for this was Christian personalism, to encourage folks to see “the Other” in the self.  Derrida’s antidote was to trade personal interaction for the written word.  Foucault’s antidote was to work on power relations and building alternate structures.  Giorgio Agamben — a favorite in Vatican circles at the moment — is simply to abandon power relations altogether and follow the path of St. Thomas More: silence, example, and presence in the hopes that false power relations collapse in favor of more durable, truthful ones.

Yet in this, Agamben is correct that the power relations have to be replaced, not by ideologies or the secular religions of the left or the right, but in the durable processes that eschew the leveraging of power in favor of — not compromise — but balance.

This was the wisdom of James Madison, who balanced the concerns of the Jeffersonians against the will of the Hamiltonians.  This was the wisdom of federalism, which balanced the globalizing effects of Hamiltonian compact against the 13 independent nations that forged these States United.

Senator John McCain’s speech — belittled by those who saw the advantage of the short term — was a bend towards that sentiment.  Fully half of America despises this balance.  Progressives and nationalists share this sentiment: that the system is broken and requires a violent corrective (in milder forms, a social democracy or an Article V constitutional convention). Both of these are inherently dangerous because they fundamentally alter who we are as a country.  Surely, as McCain warned, the grand social experiment of cramming Obamacare down the throats of Americans and nationalizing 1/6th of the American economy was ill-advised at best; surely engaging in a constitutional convention that does not have the consent of the people governed would be revolutionary in its own right.

Republicans understand this in a more direct way than Democrats, if for no other reason than our political traditions incline ourselves towards preservation rather than radicalism.

Where the left sees 650 years of oppression in Virginia compacted by injustice followed by unpardonable transgression, the right sees an incremental advancement in the cause of human freedom — imperfect, but workable.  As the politics of anger dissipate into something more durable, the adults in the room have a choice: either follow the model of Burke and the constitution, or barrel down the path our forefathers did in the 1860s (or worse, Spain in the 1930s or the American South in the 1780s).

Our values don’t have to be imposed upon one another, nor do we have to be forced to pick our own pockets to provide for what our conscience believes is sinful and abhorrent.

Yet if liberty is the balance between tyranny and license, and equality the balance between provision and want, then surely there is an “honorable middle” that recognizes life, liberty, and the pursuit (and not provision) of happiness are the core functions of any government instituted by men.

…or whatever cis-gender pronoun you prefer.