Month: January 2017

It’s time we had a long talk about conservatism

For an American conservative, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. Our party is in power. Republicans hold the White House, both chambers of Congress, and a majority of state legislatures and governorships. You could walk from the Florida Keys to northern Minnesota without touching a single “blue” county, and we finally have a president boldly implementing at least some of our agenda: securing our border, utilizing our natural resources, and putting “America First.” Meanwhile, our opposition remains disoriented and in denial, staggering from one angry group to another, and further alienating a majority of the country. Our Grand Old Party’s elephant stands triumphant over the Democrat’s donkey like Muhammad Ali once stood over a knocked out Sonny Liston … and the bell has rung. On the other hand, our philosophy seems adrift. Conservatives have seen our already difficult to define beliefs stretched during the past year so that they may better fit a single individual, as if conservatism were a suit of clothes rather than a way of thinking. We’ve seen many of our movement’s opinion leaders suddenly embrace failed Democrat policies like central planning and protectionism. We’ve been told that our “purist” approach is an obstacle to “getting things done,” and our younger members are questioning our values after watching their elders fall silent on issues of morality and character. Amidst this clamor, conservatism is at real risk for becoming what the late Lionel Trilling once accused it of being: not a coherent set of…

Conservatives must scrutinize Bill Pryor’s record

President Donald Trump is very close to announcing his choice to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. “I think in my mind I know who it is,” he recently said. If we’re to believe knowledgeable court watchers or aspiring Trump whisperers, we know who it is, too: Mobile native Judge Bill Pryor. Pryor comes highly recommended from all corners of the conservative movement, from the editors at the National Review to firebrand radio host and legal expert Mark Levin. Another Mobilian and frequent conservative writer on these pages, Quin Hillyer, says Pryor would be an “excellent” choice. I’ve read and watched Pryor for years, as well, and have become reasonably confident that he’d be a safe bet to fill Scalia’s robes. But trusting our side’s experts and being reasonably assured simply isn’t enough. There’s too much at stake, and we’ve been burned far too many times. Conservatives must be absolutely certain, and that’s why we must scrutinize Pryor’s record as if we’ve just met the man. Pryor, of course, was Alabama’s attorney general from 1997-2004 and enjoyed a reputation as a capable politician and a pretty good AG. He was placed on the U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals by President George W. Bush, and during the decade since he’s become known as a very conservative judge, much like the late justice he may replace. Conservative legal scholars tell us that Pryor strongly believes in judicial restraint, and holds that political questions must be left to the…

We grade our students, teachers, and schools, but what about our parents?

Earlier this month we learned that dozens of our state’s public schools received a “failing” grade from the Alabama Department of Education, and the list is long and diverse. It stretches from the nearly 100-year old Theodore High School in south Mobile County to the relatively brand-new Columbia High School in Huntsville, and includes schools whose graduates (or drop-outs, rather) will impact nearly every community in our state. Regardless of where you live, or whether you have children in these specific schools, this news should alarm everyone, especially since state law only requires schools that are utterly abysmal to be placed on the list. “The failing school list is just the six percent that are the lowest performing in the state,” said Michael Sentence, the state’s new school superintendent. He added that “the number of schools that are significantly academically challenged is much larger.” Things could not only be worse, they probably are worse. We just don’t know by how much, officially speaking. Lawmakers should, at the very least, require the state to publish a second list comprised of those “academically challenged” schools that Sentence referenced, if only to give our communities a more accurate understanding of the situation. Otherwise some may live under the misunderstanding that if their school isn’t on the state’s official “failing” list then it’s doing just fine. But since we’re on the topic of grading those involved in our public education system, perhaps we need to think about expanding the pool of subjects a little.…

Calling the balls and strikes on Trump’s appointments (Part Three)

Earlier this week President-elect Donald Trump’s most conservative challenger during the primary, Sen. Ted Cruz, praised his former opponent’s cabinet picks, signaling growing approval from the detractors on the right. “This is a serious cabinet, a cabinet of highly qualified individuals and it is a cabinet of strong conservatives,” Cruz said. “The president elect should be commended for bringing together a team of all stars and I think that bodes really well for the commitment to carry through on the promises we made.” What a difference a year makes. During the primary Cruz and others (including yours truly) repeatedly reminded voters of Trump’s lengthy record of supporting liberal candidates and causes – and opposing conservative ones. We justifiably feared Trump was simply using the backlash against illegal immigration as camouflage to conceal the liberal that hid beneath, and worried that his administration would be packed with big government types from both parties. That hasn’t come to pass, at least not entirely. I’m still a little worried (his economic policies sound very pre-Great Depressionish, and his picks for the transportation and treasury secretaries aren’t good), but this is a nearly solid team of conservatives. My last two columns called the balls and strikes on the first 11 cabinet nominees (if you’re keeping score: two homeruns, a triple, three doubles, two singles, a foul ball, and two strikes). Today we’ll pitch to the remaining lineup of big names. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was picked to be our ambassador to the United…