At the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida, we sat down with Josh Hammer, the opinion editor of Newsweek and a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation, to discuss the values of national conservatism, how America has strayed from its original founding vision, and the two greatest threats that America faces today.
Jan Jekielek: Josh Hammer, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Josh Hammer: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: Josh, you do something really amazing at Newsweek. Actually, this is one of the most interesting podcast series I’ve seen out there and you bring these opposing voices together and have interesting, stimulating discourse. First of all, thank you for that.
Mr. Hammer: You’re very welcome. Hard to believe that that discourse exists in the mainstream media, but we’re doing what little we can to steer the ship in the right direction.
Mr. Jekielek: What’s the birth of this? As you said, you don’t see a lot of it.
Mr. Hammer: It’s countercultural, lack of better term in mainstream media. I’ve been in Newsweek now for about a year and a half. I was effectively hired to air a wide diversity of views to chair up our then nascent, now slightly more developed debate platform. Initially, we just had these longer-form written dueling op-eds. We called a written debate of the week that emerged into a podcast, which launched, I don’t know, maybe seven months ago or so now.
It’s exactly what you say it is. We oppose cancel culture. We are institutionally dedicated to airing the full diversity of viewpoint. Look, you know me very well. I’m a very conservative guy, as far as my politics and all that go, but we run the entire spectrum. My editors run the full gamut of political persuasion and we’re just trying to do what little we can to air civil, polite, reasoned but nonetheless also charge discourse within the bounds of reason here, because we’re just trying to air all views. That’s why we’re very grateful that our management supports that.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, there’s this idea, let’s call it wokeism, the multiple names that it has, that if you even have debate, you are quote platforming the wrong side. You’ve heard about this. How is it that you avoid this seemingly very powerful tool?
Mr. Hammer: Look, I’m smiling because I don’t fully avoid it. Wokesters come at me and come at Newsweek frequently here. The secret is solely getting out that a conservative is the op-ed editor in Newsweek and we do air all sides, which makes us very different here. We air a lot of liberal content that I obviously personally disagree with here, but if it’s quality journalism, that’s ultimately what we’re looking for, but I don’t want to undersell that.
On Twitter, just this week that we were recording this, we ran a pretty powerful op-ed by Harvard Med School professor and Stanford Med School professor yesterday about, “How Fauci Fooled America.” Suffice to say that has gotten a lot of pushback.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned that op-ed, but Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who are the authors, they’re not exactly extremists.
Mr. Hammer: Yes. Look, as you and I both know here, deviating from the capital S “Science,” not the lowercase S science, deviating from the capital S Science, we can even call it like Science Inc. if we want to the institutionalized apparatus of really scientism like the cult of a very narrow myopic view of what the science entails here. Deviating from that makes you a fascist, it makes you a skeptic, a climate change denialist because they very, and or really in terms there, they literally borrow the language oftentimes of the Holocaust. As a Jew, I find that ridiculously offensive, to be honest with you.
But they are just trying to de platform anyone who deviates from their line, but like these are reputable, well trained top credential people. But it doesn’t matter how well credentialed or how well educated you are for a certain subset of people. If you deviate from what they’re trying to do, the orthodoxy, you’re done.
Mr. Jekielek: Science Inc. You actually talked about another Inc today on your panel– Conservatism Inc. That’s maybe actually tell me what that is. Maybe not all the viewers are familiar with it. A lot of the people at this conference are familiar with the term.
Mr. Hammer: So as I use the term Conservatism Inc, I’m really referring to a set of ideas and a set of institutions that really emerged in the early postwar, early onset Cold War period, the 1950s into the 1960s reaching its culmination in the Reagan Era. But a whole generation, I think of people and thinkers, pundits, commentators, institutionalists have taken what was then a Prudential ad hoc time in place policy response or set of policy responses and they’ve conflated policy with principles. And they think that what worked at a certain time becomes a timeless principle.
So when I criticize Conservatism Inc. I’m really criticizing the notion here that what worked at a certain given time in place to address a certain set of challenges must be set in stone here. I’m really the preeminent example of this, the quintessence, you might say, it’s this notion that anytime you deviate from like the 1984 Reagan Bush platform, the Reagan Bush orthodoxy, you’re a heterodox thinker. You’re a liberal, you’re a Marxist. Not true, not the way it works here. So I’m just criticizing the notion that conservative principles are synonymous/ The same as policies that worked back when Barry Goldwater was running for president or when Ronald Reagan was president himself.
Mr. Jekielek: What are the conservative principles?
Mr. Hammer: So this obviously, look, this is a great question here. So we’re recording this at NatCon and NatCon 2, the national conservatism. And I’m a research fellow at the Yemen Burke Foundation, which is chaired by Yoram Hazony who’s a dear friend in many ways– a mentor of mine. So he co-wrote a very long essay on this with our colleague of Haivry in 2017 at American Affairs Journal entitled, “What is Conservatism?”
So it gets down ultimately, one thing that is crystal clear is the notion of historical and empiricism. The notion that we have to actually observe and learn and then apply the lessons of history. Edmund Burke obviously is like a preeminent example of this, hence the name of our organization. And that stands in contrast to grand ideological theorizing about basically sitting and ruminating and thinking.
Well, my pure reason tells me X, therefore I have to apply it in A, B, C, D, E, F, G places around the world. That’s not conservative. What is conservative there, or what is more conservative is humility is about the ability of the human mind to reason and grasp all sorts of abstractions about just being willing to observe here. And David Hume, the great Scottish and Enlightenment thinker was of course big on this.
And then of course, an overt injection of morality, a public religiosity into the public square here. I would argue that monarchy, as it developed a common law, became not conservative. There has to be separation of powers there. Parliamentary supremacy was a big thing in the conservative era of common law England here. We don’t have congressional supremacy here in the United States. No branches are Supreme. I’ve read about this at great length actually. But some notion of conserving individual Liberty via structural mechanisms in our case, separation of powers, I think is pretty conservative as well.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, a lot of people are arguing that this separation I’ve been learning about this separation of powers in the U.S. System. It’s absolutely fascinating, but it isn’t really working, like it was supposed to work these days, right?
Mr. Hammer: No, I mean to put it mildly, it’s not right? I mean, look from my perspective here. I basically, I’m going to do a one-eighty of what I just said, none of the three branches are Supreme. That’s true. But if you go back and read the U.S. Constitution, Article I establishes the Congress and I’m a constitutional lawyer by training. So I could use it with my eyes closed.
Article I, establishes the Congress, Article II, establishes the executive branch, Article III, establishes the federal judiciary. Now it’s true that our very elaborate well designed system of checks and balances of course ensures that none of those three branches can reign supreme over the others, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the founders did codify those three branches in the constitution in relative intended order of power.
So Article I was Congress. Congress was definitely intended to be the most powerful. James Madison, The Federalist 45 has this wonderful line where he says in republican governance, lower case, our republican governance, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. That’s just common sense, but at least over the past 110 years, especially since the Woodrow Wilson administration in particular, there’s been a huge power grab from Article II, the executive branch, the formation of the administrative state, the entire alphabet super bureaucracy. The intelligence agency is obviously like the quintessence of that taken to its logical conclusion.
And then of course, Article III, of the judiciary, which Hamilton federal 78 very clearly says it’s supposed to be the quote “least dangerous of the three branches,” especially over the past 50, 60 years. And the war court in particular in the middle of last century has just totally engulfed and engorged its power. So we are very, very far away removed from the founder’s conception and separation of power. So that’s no doubt true.
Mr. Jekielek: Now. Basically I keep hearing people talking about let people legislating from the bench so to speak.
Mr. Hammer: Right.
Mr. Jekielek: But the argument is that basically Congress has absolved itself from creating meaningful legislation hence this is what ends up happening.
Mr. Hammer: So one of the tensions going back to the American founding was whether one of three branches actually was able to wield ultimate authority over the other three or whether they truly were separate, but equal effectively. Abraham Lincoln famously opposed the Dred Scott decision. The Dred Scott decision came out in 1857, the Lincoln Douglas debates 1858. Lincoln repeatedly condemned Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Dred Scott Case. He said that he would not recognize the authority of that opinion beyond Dred Scott.
Mr. Jekielek: Just super briefly for the benefit of our audience in case you don’t know, what is the Dred Scott?
Mr. Hammer: The Dred Scott Case is almost as surely the worst case in United States Supreme Court history. I would argue even more destructive than Roe versus Wade, thankfully was overturned much sooner than Roe has been. The Dred Scott case, basically it was an egregiously racist opinion for lack of a better term that in effect, we said black Americans effectively are not Americans are not citizens can never be citizens and said that slavery is mandated in the Western territories at the time.
So overturning the Missouri compromise as well. It was really a monstrous opinion, just awful. So Lincoln basically said that he would not respect the authority of that, except as it applied to the parties, to the lawsuit. He comes out swinging for this in his first inaugural address. And that was largely the consent until somewhat obscure little known case in 1958 called Cooper versus Aaron, where the court arrogates to itself the power to pronounce what the final binding quote law of the land is.
The very few people outside like law school circles are familiar with this case, but really since 1958, and really the war and court in particular, we as the society have just let it sink in this notion that what the courts say is the final binding exclusive and authoritative adjudication on any lawsuit. So for example, in like 2015 after the Obergefell, same sex marriage case here, people regularly discuss that case as the quote law of the land.
Well, it’s actually really not. I mean the judicial power of which Article III of the constitution speaks, strictly speaking, Lincoln got this right. Only applies to the parties, to the lawsuit here. So it’s a big misconception, but it’s one that we have ibid the legal academy, the legal profession judges, they’ve all accepted it, it’s wrong as a theoretical matter. I think it’s destructive as a matter of lower case, our republican self-governance and ultimately our sovereignty over our own destiny as a society. So it’s very destructive, I think, but we have imbibed this life.
Mr. Jekielek: But precedent and people accepting things is obviously, I mean, decisive in some cases, isn’t it? Yes.
Mr. Hammer: Totally. But the way to… once a precedent in society from my perspective is taken, and you want to enact that as, let’s call again like the quote “law of the land,” the way to do that, to go back to our discussion a few minutes ago is through Article I, is through Congress, is to legislative or the state legislatures, of course. But that is the domain where the battle of public ideas is really best expressed. In the legislative chamber where the battle of ideas is obviously in the intellectual volume of ideas as best expressed at Newsweek and The Epoch Times.
Mr. Jekielek: So no, so this is great. We are at the NatCon conference. I’ve learned so many things from so many people, including yourself, have this rich, deep, I guess, education in these conceptions of nationalism. And I was talking with you earlier on camera about this, that nationalism has taken on almost a pejorative connotation like, or it’s that has been forced on it. When you we’re talking about nationalism here, it’s almost like you have to explain what you’re talking about because the association of some significant part of society is not a positive one.
Mr. Hammer: It’s not because people of all political stripes, both the liberal left and the liberal right I would argue, have been very successful in condemning Mussolini and obviously the Third Reich itself as examples of nationalism. Look, I can think back to my own high school education, what do you learn, what was the cause of World War I in Europe? Hold aside World War II for a second.
The way that it’s taught to most American students, that World War I was caused by the excesses of arch fierce nationalism taken to its logical conclusion there. But the way that Yoram defines nationalism, obviously he did his greatest life in his 2018 book, “The Virtue of Nationalism” is that nationalism is from his perspective in contradistinction, in contrast to a theory of empire, to a theory of the thirst, the need to forcibly export and ultimately conquer other civilizations and export your values here.
But, I didn’t quote them in my speech here, but I guess I would argue to see you in the audience now that is completely antithetical to actually the American tradition itself. I think back to John Quincy Adams in 1821, he had a very famous line here where he said America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, we are the proponent of the rights that we have espoused for all human kinds. We are the champion and vindicator only of our own. So it’s that humility that I think Yoram is getting at in his conception of nationalism. And I think that’s a profoundly conservative humility.
Mr. Jekielek: No, it is. But again, when you hear the term Forever War. You think of a very different conception don’t you?
Mr. Hammer: Yeah. Look, foreign policy obviously is a big part of, I think, what we’re trying to do here at the National Conservatism Conference. Frankly, a lot of people on the right are trying to think what it is we stand for as a matter foreign policy in general, especially in the aftermath of the just utter epic boondoggle that was America’s exit from the third world backwater of Afghanistan.
I mean, look, our generals for a solid decade to a decade and a half told us that we were investing blood treasure and toil to train the Afghan forces–to defend Afghanistan. Hold this over for a second, that Afghanistan, by the way, as quote-unquote “country” is not exactly a naturally arising country. So like so much of Islamic culture, these civilizations are oftentimes more fundamentally tribal than national. That’s one of the many reasons, by the way, why the Palestinians don’t have a state yet.
There’s a lot of reasons there to put a mildly, but Palestinian culture is actually inherently tribal. This notion of a Palestinian nationality, nationhood is really just a figment of the Western Academy’s imagination. That’s not how they structure society. It’s tribal. Same thing in Afghanistan.
So our generals told us for forever that we could train these forces to fight and defend this largely fictitious, imagined nation state. And then what, Kabul falls in five days. So, I mean really puts an end to, I think, a lot of neoconservative neoliberal shy bullets. We hear we’re trying to rethink what it means to be a national conservative in the foreign policy realm, the domestic realm as well. The latter is probably a little more my wheelhouse, to be honest with you.
But as a matter of foreign policy, look, humility has to be the name of the game. Now that doesn’t mean that you turn a blind eye obviously to China, which is as we know, obviously is committing the genocides, the Uighur Muslims, which is beyond horrific. We’re not trying to be an ostrich and bury our heads in the sands here. But within the bounds of reason here, we are not seeking to go abroad to conquer civilizations and forcibly export our values. Really the Birken conception of epistemological humility of being humble about what it is and that which you do not know should apply both in the domestic realm and the foreign realm as a general matter.
Mr. Jekielek: What I think is how could anyone argue with that? It just seems like a self-evident truth, right?
Mr. Hammer: Look as you and I both know so much of what often seems like common sense, especially to our people does not actually ultimately pass the muster of what the well-informed neoliberal, halls of power in D.C. take is true. Because as a foreign policy matter, I mean, look, the neoconservatives, the progressive liberal humanitarians, they ultimately align many of the same ends they get through different means.
But I think about the toppling of Gaddafi and Libya in 2011, that was really Samantha Powers War. Samantha Power had this elaborate doctrine where she called it like R2P responsibility to protect… That is like progressive humanitarianism as a means. But to take to the end of the opposite of epistemological humility, you have going abroad to do exactly what John Quincy Adams told us not to do to topple monsters and seeking to destroy them.
So it’s common sense, but for a lot of people, especially in the halls of power who have been given power or irrigated power to themselves, it might not seem like common sense, but I agree for us it’s common sense.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and of course something that we cover a lot at The Epoch Times obviously is communist China and the aggressive, and I would argue expansionist is a fair term to use, power that exists there. An expansionist and not necessarily physically, but through all means of unrestricted warfare is one term that’s used based on this, the manual that they presented to the world of what they intend to do. This was very interesting when I was speaking with Yoram, he said, there’s two things that are the most important things for the national conservatives to deal with.
If I recall correctly, one of them, he said, communist China. I thought that was fascinating. I didn’t expect him to say that, although I agree with him. And the second part was basically the emergence of the Marxian ideology here at home, in every institution practically, except perhaps The Epoch Times and your branch of Newsweek. No, I’m joking but…
Mr. Hammer: Not really though. I mean a little bit, but look, the rise of China… I think for a lot of us who aspire to be national conservatives, nationals, conservatives, whatever it is you want to call us. We see China as an enemy for many reasons. But some of the reasons that you just accurately outline, which is that China is the expansionist empire of today. It is the equivalent of the Soviet Union obviously during the Cold War. I’m not going to directly compare it to the Third Reich during World War II. But I mean, they’re both genocidal– literally regimes.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, so I’m going to say something maybe a little bit controversial. This is the question that I have. In the 1930s, we didn’t know the Nazis had a final solution in mind. We knew they were incredibly racist and there was still a lot of cooperation, but today we know there’s a genocide that’s comparisons, there must be some fair comparison to make here.
Mr. Hammer: Totally look, it is disgraceful and shameful that with administrations of both parties, that’s the Trump administration, the Biden administration recognizing what’s happening in Xinjiang is genocide. It is shameful that we have not already done more to at a bare minimum, economically disentangle, extricate ourselves from China period. Period!
That has to happen ultimately from governance officials, as you and I both know the Wall Capitalists, the Wall Street Firms, the Investors, the Fortune 500. So many of our political ruling class in D.C. in general are so financially tied up with what’s happening in China. It’s going to have to happen from governance officials.
Mr. Jekielek: And not only they’re tied up, they’re boosting investment.
Mr. Hammer: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: As we speak some of them.
Mr. Hammer: It’s blood money.
Mr. Jekielek: It blows my mind frankly.
Mr. Hammer: It’s absolute blood money. Look, I published a good op-ed back in March. Ellie Cohanim, my friend, co-wrote it with someone. I can’t remember her co-author [Keith Krach] but the title, this op-ed was a wonderful piece. She said, China’s committing genocide right now. Here’s what you can do.
And it’s like a step by step guide to how to decouple your own personal consumption decisions within the realm of what you’re feasibly able to do from China. So it really ultimately has to come from government. But even before our government wakes up to the moral gravity of the moment, it can have been on an individual level as well here. But look, we can compare them also as to what happened to Imperial Japan.
I mean, during the 1930s, a lot of people don’t realize this look, I’m Jewish. I was at Treblinka in May. I have seen the horrors of the Third Reich for myself, but people oftentimes don’t study as much as they study the Nazis. How horrific Imperial Japan is the rape of Nanjing, the Kamikaze pilots. They were barbaric to the core and they were one of the most Imperial civilizations that has existed in the world.
Now, personal story. I’ve been to Japan twice now. I’m actually culturally a Japanophile. And I think Japan is actually a very useful ally in the year of 2021, but their history back then was galling and horrifying. And that really is China is now the equivalent of what Imperial Japan was. I’m not saying they’re engaging in rapes of Nanjing that the Western media is failing the cover. It’s not out there in the public like that, but in Xinjiang, it’s basically going on behind closed doors there.
So it’s shameful that we have not done more to economically disentangle, but if you care about the fate of Western civilization, ultimately here in national conservatism, that’s what we’re about. We care about the fate of the West. We care about the fate of sovereign republics, like the United States, like Britain, like our allies, Poland, Hungary, Israel, and countries like that. If you care about that, then you have to be opposed to the rise of a hegemonic Marxist-Leninist Empire committing genocide. I literally don’t understand that.
Mr. Jekielek: I always think back to Niemoller’s poem. How can you imagine they won’t come for you when they’ve come for so many? I mean, by my count, it’s three genocides in China, the Tibet, the Uighurs of course officially, and Tibet and Falun Gong are all close, if not actual genocides and nevermind the pond supremacy culture, which is a whole another discussion we could have.
Mr. Hammer: But it has strong Aryan overtones from the Nazi era. And you’re accurate to make that comparison. You are.
Mr. Jekielek: Absolutely no. And I say this as someone who has, father-in-law’s a Holocaust survivor, there’s no scenario. We can look at history. There’s no scenario where this ends well, where appeasement and engagement ends well or is there?
Mr. Hammer: No, there’s not obviously, but the key there is prudential empirically based engagement. So for example, here, one of the main reasons that I oppose the Afghanistan boondoggle for years, and I’m on record, going back years now was saying this is stupid. Let’s find a smart way to get our people out of there. And because when you engage in these stupid “forever wars” to use the term, you do sap the ability of the American people to ultimately rally around the flag and oppose a real threat when need be.
There’s only a limited reservoir of social capital that any people can be willing to have to engage threats abroad here. So you have to be extremely careful about picking your battles. So I think it’s not just possible, but logical for a national conservative inspired foreign policy to be less aggressively interventionist than the neocons or the progressive humanitarians, whatever they would call themselves at the same time, soberly recognize that we have to engage the real threats here.
So look, I went to the China panel here on the first day on Sunday. It was a fiery panel, obviously Mike [Pillsbury] and Micheal Anton, I thought might have punched each other on that stage, full disclosure, but I published in both the Newsweek. I’m a big fan of both of theirs, but look, we have to recognize that it might not make a whole lot of sense anymore in the year 2021 to have 10,000, 20,000, whatever it is troops in Germany or that’s a vestige of obviously the horrors of World War II.
But we should be arming the crap, pardon my language. We should be arming the crap out of Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, all of our friends over there, all of our allies, it should be all hands on deck to disincentivize and dissuade what is the Imperial Japan equivalent of the year 2021, which obviously is the genocidal Chinese Communist Party.
Mr. Jekielek: I didn’t expect that we’d be talking foreign policy today. I think it’s funny that our conversation took-
Mr. Hammer: Went from constitutional structure to the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay, well, so let’s finish up, but in a nutshell, this is day three now that we’re here. What did you take from this? What do you think is the most useful? And I want to talk a little bit about coalition building, because that’s really important to me too.
Mr. Hammer: So look, the coalition part is very important here. So I wrote my column in April entitled, “The Coalition of the Un-woke,” calling for exactly what Yoram is now calling for. Yoram and I, again, were friends and we’re frequently in touch. We play off each other’s ideas. And that column basically said, conservatives now the imperative is such that conservatives and anti woke liberals and, my coworker Badia who has been the show, I know is nothing, if not an anti woke, anti Marxist-liberal. She’s a socialist, but not a Marxist. We have to be willing to tactically come together in some sort of new fusionism, because the fusionism that I alluded to earlier, this postwar early Cold War conservative tactical alliance, which at that time was attended to defeat the ascendant Soviet Marxism, it’s time for a new alliance here.
Now that doesn’t mean that we have to dilute and water down conservatism. We should be very clear about what it is that we stand for, but when it comes time for public facing political coalition, ultimately in America’s two party system, coming down to partisan politics realize what it all comes ultimately down to, we then have to be willing, probably to eventually compromise. Now to be clear, we are the majority in here, so we’re not going to compromise too much with the anti Marist-liberals. But that ultimately is I think, where American politics is shaping out.
The Democratic Party right now is the dog that is wagged by the tale of blue checked nut jobs, the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren wing of the party there. So there are enough sane liberals still out there, where we need to espouse an openness to ally with them on a common cause.
And that’s definitely part of the purposes of this conference. And I’ve enjoyed that purpose of it as well here. But I guess the only other thing that I would add here and I come up was alluded to this earlier, is I think NatCon is ground zero for the future of the American right. Where we go as far as enunciating what it is that we stand for here. So look, the limited government absolutism of what was a very overly libertarian inspired conservative movement for the past 40, 50 years. It served its place. It really did.
When the conservative movement was ascending to power in the 1950s, really, under President Eisenhower, the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent. That’s insane. I mean, if I were living during that era, I would sound like a [Heike] and Milton Freeman, like citing libertarian as well that no one wants to pay. That’s nuts, insane.
But we just don’t live in that era anymore. Our challenges are very different with critical race theory with identity politics in general, with the notion that the Big Tech oligarchs are trying to get us out of the public square using quote-unquote private sector companies, but whispering, oh, by the way, we’re private sector, but Jen Psaki in the White House are telling us what to do.
So we’re seeing this rise of a new socio corporate tyranny. It’s how I’ve been phrasing it. And the only way to combat that is not by necessarily shrinking government. You have to be willing to use state power. You have to be willing to actually enact legislation and wield power to quash and ultimately punish these very pernicious forces here. So that’s at a 35,000 feet altitude level, the form of conservatism that I talked about today. And then I would try to help formulate here for the Edmund Burke Foundation.
Mr. Jekielek: And actually, at The Epoch Times, this is what we’ve discovered is as our readership continues to grow, of course we have plenty of conservatives and plenty of religious people, but we also have seemed to have a lot of these folks that are wondering where their home should be.
And I get letters almost every day from people that are saying, thank you for a sane perspective. Thank you for trying to take it down the middle. Thank you for… and I think that there’s an element of that in coalition building a place where people can agree on reality at least or something like that, but it needs to be more than that.
How do you imagine outside of here in a forum like this, that this shared like overt shared values or this compromise fusion coalition. How is that going to be established?
Mr. Hammer: So look, I’ll give you an example. So last night they had a panel with Dave Rubin, Douglas Murray, Yoram and Sohrab Ahmari, all four of them–I’m a big fan of all four. All four are friends, and they tease this out. So one thing that they discussed there was school curricula.
So Yoram since he was a freshman in college at Princeton he’s been remarkably consistent on this. One of his big issues is putting God back in the public square, getting the Bibles back in schools, which I agree is crucially important here. But hold aside for a second, how we overturn the Supreme court cases to actually allow us to do that short of just outright [defying] the court, which I’m not really that opposed to.
Mr. Jekielek: This sounds like apostasy, what you’re describing here. I mean, I’m joking but, well, because this is, really people are going to be attacking us, but just because if you said that right now, right?
Mr. Hammer: But this still is a majority Christian country. The percentage of weekly churchgoers is declining, but this still is a majority Christian country here. And you’re totally right. This is apostasy I guess in a year 2021 here to back to example last night, just from like a theoretical perspective here, the notion of getting bibles back to the schools, a permitting just public religiosity in general, a lot of town hall meanings would not be getting with benedictions, nativity scenes in the public square, all that stuff.
So last night, I think it was either at this panel, it was either Dave Rubin or Doug Murray basically said, well, like I’m gay. So like, what about like LGBT and all that?
So, Sohrab then came back to that question and said that he would cite Hungary as a good example of this. And I would agree with that, because in Hungary, they’ve taken the LGBT ideology out of school indoctrination–they’ve publicly removed it. I think Prime Minister Orban did that just a few months ago, but the same time, no one is trying to round up gay people for goodness sake.
Like there’s a thriving subculture there we’re able to do it privately, but publicly it is discouraged, disincentivized and is removed from the public square. So that’s just one idea of what a compromise between the overt public religion of public morality crowd, and the individual rights crowd, which I think Yoram accurately refers to as fundamentally liberals. That’s what individual rights absolutists usually are. That is what a pragmatic compromise might look like in that particular example.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. I mean, these are dangerous waters we are swimming in, because of the intellectual reality that we’re living in. It’s interesting that we’re even discussing these things, right?
Mr. Hammer: Hopefully I don’t get canceled for it.
Mr. Jekielek: Sure. Well, okay. And so, as we finish up, what’s your one big, I guess, hope for where this, I guess the outcomes of this conversation at this conference will take us?
Mr. Hammer: So the running theme, the leitmotif, I guess you might say of my current written podcast, broader intellectual output, I guess is probably a fancy word to say it. The leitmotif of my current output is trying to convince conservatives to warm up to the idea that they have to prudentially actually use power where we have it, when we have it, and once we get it back here.
Because at the end of the day, the political process is, right now,arguably the only thing that the left cannot fully kick us out of. They tried to do it. They tried really hard to do it with all the COVID era mail-in and balloting, the early vote expansion, all that stuff. They’ve tried really hard, but as of right now, we’re still a Republican America and we still have access to the ballot box.
We don’t really have access to big tax, ideologically censorious public square. We don’t really have access to the academy. We’re increasingly just not allowed in there. Our ideas are lambasted, they’re safe spaces, microaggressions, all that. But the only place that we’re still able to stand a chance where proverbial deplorables of the heartland can actually make their voice heard is the ballot box.
And our elected officials have to be willing to Intuit and understand that. And by consequence of understanding that they have to be able to recognize that where the threat is coming from the quote-unquote “private sector,” whether it’s the Big Tech Oligarchs, or you some Will Capital really in general, we have to be willing to again, pass legislation and use power to combat that threat because there’s simply no other way of doing it here.
So again, my parting message, my speech today at this conference is, corporate tax cuts are just not going to cut it. That was the issue of the Jimmy Carter era, Reagan very successfully slash taxes on that. Again, I don’t like taxes at all. I’m not a particularly like fan of a big fan of taxes here, but our problems are just so fundamentally different and they are so culturally ascendent and aggressive and unapologetic in how they wield any level of power, state, political, cultural, media, whatever. In the one realm, the political process, the direct ballot box where we are not yet kicked out of, we have to be willing to then use that political power when we actually went off.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Josh Hammer, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Hammer: Thanks so much for having me.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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