Same as It Ever Was

The United States and its NATO allies goaded Vladimir Putin into a war that Russia cannot hope to win and which Putin is determined not to lose.  What will happen next? The US mid-term Congressional elections, that’s what.

Interesting election campaigns are unfolding all across the nation. EP takes everything that Republican Party strategist Karl Rove says with a grain of salt, but suspects he is correct when he predicts the GOP will pick up around twenty seats in the House of Representatives in November, enough to give Trumpist Republicans a slender majority there for the next two years.  The Democrats likely will control the Senate, setting the stage for the 2024 presidential election.

To my mind, the most interesting contest in the country is the Senate election involving ten-term Congressman Tim Ryan and Hillbilly Elegy author J. D. Vance, a lawyer and venture capitalist. That’s because, if Ryan soundly defeats Vance, he’s got a good shot at becoming the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024.  Ryan and Vance have agreed to two debates, October 10 and 17.

By now, it goes practically without saying that President Joe Biden will not run for re-election on the eve of turning 82.  Ryan, who will be 51 in 2024, challenged House Speaker’s Nancy Pelosi’s leadership of the Democratic Party party in 2016, and sought the party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

A demonstrated command of the battleground states of the Old Northwest – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – would make Ryan a strong contender against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the likely Republican nominee.

It was a turbulent week. Having proclaimed Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian region, Putin delivered what Robyn Dixon, Moscow bureau of The Washington Post, described as “likely the most consequential” of his 23 years in office. But rather than a clarion call to restore Russian greatness as he clearly intended,” she wrote, “the address seemed the bluster and filibuster of a leader struggling to recover his grip — on his war, and his country.”

A starling miscalculation by Britain’s new Conservative Party government threatened to destabilize global financial markets.  And the costs of gradual global warming continue to make themselves clear.

In the midst of all this, an old friend called EP’s attention to two essays that seemed to take antithetical views of the prospects.  The first, How Europe Became So Rich, by the distinguished economic historian Joel Mokyr,

Many scholars now believe, however, that in the long run the benefits of competing states might have been larger than the costs. In particular, the existence of multiple competing states encouraged scientific and technological innovation…. [T]he ‘states system’ constrained the ability of political and religious authorities to control intellectual innovation. If conservative rulers clamped down on heretical and subversive (that is, original and creative) thought, their smartest citizens would just go elsewhere (as many of them, indeed, did).

Mokyr concluded, “Far from all the low-hanging technological fruits having been picked, the best is still to come.”

The second, Seven Years of Trump Has the GOP taking the Long View, by long-time newspaper columnist Thomas Edsall, cites the success of Viktor Orban in governing Hungry, and then examines various signs of the vulnerability of the liberal state in America. These include  the durability of the Trump base, and  an incipient “National Conservatism” project, created in 2019 by the Edmund Burke Foundation,  since joined by an array of scholars and writers associated with such institutions, magazines and think tanks as the Claremont Institute, Hillsdale College, the Hoover Institution, the Federalist, First Things, the Manhattan Institute, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and National Review.

What characterizes national conservatism?  Commitments to the infusion of religion and traditional family values into the government sphere, Edsall says, and, perhaps especially, opposition to “woke progressivism,” Conservative Conference chair Christopher DeMuth puts it this way: Progressives promote instability and seek “to turn the world upside down:”

[M]ayhem and misery at an open national border. Riot and murder in lawless city neighborhoods. Political indoctrination of schoolchildren. Government by executive ukase. Shortages throughout the world’s richest economy. Suppression of religion and private association. Regulation of everyday language — complete with contrived redefinitions of familiar words and ritual recantations for offenders.

All EP could do in reply was to take comfort in evidence that borders have been open to chaotic traffic for a very long time, across  barriers more intimidating than the Rio Grande River, resulting in successful assimilation.  Science magazine (subscription required) reported last month that new archaeological evidence tends to support the traditional view of How the Anglo-Saxons Settled England.

An eighth-century history written by a monk named Bede asserted that Rome’s decline in about 400 C.E. opened the way to an invasion from the east. Tribes from what is today northwestern Germany and southern Denmark “came over into the island, and [the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes] began to increase so much, that they became terrible to the natives.”

For a time, archaeologists doubted Bede’s account, preferring to think that only a relatively small bands of warrior elites could have successfully imposed their culture on the existing population. “Roman Britain looks very different from the Anglo-Saxon period 200 years later,” one archaeologist acknowledged to Science. But DNA samples from the graves of 494 people who died in England between 400 and 900 show they derived more than three-quarters of their ancestry from Northern Europe.

The results address a long-standing debate about whether past cultural change signals new people moving in or a largely unchanged population adopting new technologies or beliefs. With the Anglo-Saxons, the data point strongly to migration, says University of Cambridge archaeologist Catherine Hills, who was not part of the research. The new data suggest “significant movement into the British Isles … taking us back to a fairly traditional picture of what’s going on.”

That doesn’t mean the migration was especially turbulent, as when the Vikings began raiding a few centuries later, leaving relatively few genetic traces behind. Language changed relatively quickly after the Anglo-Saxons began arriving, a sign that people were talking, not fighting. Integration and intermarriage persisted for centuries. Indeed, archaeologists discovered “one high status woman in her 20s with mixed ancestry was laid to rest near modern Cambridge under a prominent mound with silvered jewelry, amber beads, and a whole cow.” That suggests more complexity than simple conquest, one archaeologist told Science.

Same as it ever was, in other words – all but the cow.


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