Tag Archives: William Antholis

The Case for Moral Courage A Review of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump by Peter Wehner

by William Antholis

Moral courage is, by definition, acting on principle in the face of adverse consequences. The American presidency is filled with examples of moral heroism. George Washington stepped down after two terms, despite a fear of anarchy. Teddy Roosevelt stood up to robber barons to advance a progressive agenda. Lyndon Johnson pursued the Voting Rights Act in 1965, knowing it would subvert the Democratic party for a generation.

When politics are deeply polarized, courage between and across tribes adds depth to these acts. Or, as Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute recently said, “Moral courage is the act of defending someone with whom you disagree politically.” A generation ago, Texas Democrat Jim Hightower said this differently: “The only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.”

Pete Wehner’s new book, the Death of Politics, is at its core a book about moral courage in both senses—obeying principles and embracing opponents. Its great accomplishment is to provide a practical, working definition of political morality that can appeal to all Americans when our politics appear broken.

The former head of Strategic Initiatives in the George W. Bush White House, and a committed Evangelical Christian, Wehner makes the case for why engaged citizenship itself must be a moral enterprise. Wehner’s vision is to weave the rights of individuals together with the needs of society, and to do so with humility, moderation and civility.

The book itself is an act of moral courage. Wehner regularly challenges a range of conservative politicians and Evangelical leaders. He regularly praises actors, thought leaders and ideas from across the aisle. He does this out of principle, not compromise or convenience. Continue reading

Two Blocks from the Culture War

by William J. Antholis

Photo Credit: Susan Melkisethian

Robert E. Lee’s statue stands on 2nd Street NE in Charlottesville. I live two blocks away—in the same small redbrick Cape Cod where we have lived since 1999. For the last 18 years, this house and the rest of our idyllic downtown have been my retreat—the place to which I have escaped, after one world event or another.

This weekend my retreat became the frontline in America’s culture war. And yesterday’s event was different than any I’ve ever experienced.

Over the past two decades, as a government official or policy analyst, I’ve attended at least a dozen major protests—that is, protests that were so large or significant as to garner national or international media attention. At some, I was a White House official, including two G-7 summits and two climate change negotiations. At others, I was an observer—including the infamous riot-filled 1999 Seattle WTO meeting, several anti-globalization protests, and two major Greek-crisis protests.

I’ve seen the power of protest, and also the chaos that it can unleash. I’ve seen protests move public opinion. I’ve also had my eyes burned out by tear-gas more times than I’d like to count, and watched abuses by protesters and police alike.

Yesterday’s protest was different in two senses. First, the introduction of firearms into peaceful protests. Second, that hatred was the centerpiece of the protest. That toxic brew spilled over. Continue Reading…