Lindsey Graham is making noise by proposing an amendment that would deny U.S. citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.
Such an amendment might not, in fact be necessary. The Fourteenth Amendment says that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." The Supreme Court, if memory serves, has not ruled on whether illegal immigrants are "subject to the jurisdication" of the U.S.
Moreover, as scholars like John Eastman have noted, the Supreme Court was mistaken when it declared that the Fourteenth Amendment awarded citizenship to the children of foreigners.
When pressed about whether Indians living on reservations would be covered by the clause since they were "most clearly subject to our jurisdiction, both civil and military," for example, Senator Lyman Trumbull, a key figure in the drafting and adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, responded that "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States meant subject to its "complete" jurisdiction, "[n]ot owing allegiance to anybody else."  And Senator Jacob Howard, who introduced the language of the jurisdiction clause on the floor of the Senate, contended that it should be construed to mean "a full and complete jurisdiction," "the same jurisdiction in extent and quality as applies to every citizen of the United States now" (i.e., under the 1866 Act). That meant that the children of Indians who still "belong[ed] to a tribal relation" and hence owed allegiance to another sovereign (however dependent the sovereign was) would not qualify for citizenship under the clause. Because of this interpretative gloss, provided by the authors of the provision, an amendment offered by Senator James Doolittle of Wisconsin explicitly to exclude "Indians not taxed," as the 1866 Act had done, was rejected as redundant.
Eastman gives a good account of the broader argument. It is well worth reading his full essay. The Supreme Court need only apply the law that the people ratified in order to do what Graham wants to do with an amendment.
One of the many ironies of the current situation is that, on the right, there is a mismatch between the stridency of rhetoric and the radicalism of policy proposal. The more established conservative media figures often have an unusual relationship to policy. Their policy bark is more radical than their bite. In Liberty and Tyranny, Mark Levin is highly critical of Social Security and Medicare as bankrupting statist projects designed to tie down the people. His main policy proposal is to fight against nationalized health care. In Arguing with Idiots, Glenn Beck took a similar path. He bashed the NHS, Michael Moore and pointed out how Medicare's actual costs have far outstripped the initial cost projections. As a positive program, he mentioned some information technology and productivity enhancing developments but there was little on policy.
Neither guy came out for the actual repeal of Medicare (though Levin seemed to make an implicit argument for allowing younger people to somehow opt-out of Medicare.) The focus is less on undoing the resented past, than to prevent the next state intrusion into medicine. Medicare isn't going away, but we can learn from the problems of Medicare to stop nationalized health care. The result is a combination of rhetorical maximalism and policy stand patism. The result is also a ratchet effect in which conservatives resentfully acquiesce to the last expansion of state power over health care and do battle against the next one, and then, when that fight is lost, throw up new defenses against the next statist proposal. The result seems to be the super slow motion government takeover of health care.
I'm not singling out Levin and Beck. This strikes me as having been the general position of most conservatives since at least the mid-90s. I'm irritated at hearing liberals argue that Obamcare's (at least it's current iteration) combination of individual mandates, coverage mandates, and subsidies was the conservative position on health care reform because similar proposals had been floated by some guy at Heritage, Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney. Just because a position was taken up by some think tank guy I never heard of, an FOTK (Friend of Ted Kennedy) Senator I didn't care about, and a politician I never trusted didn't make it the conservative position. I knew what I thought, what the other conservatives I talked to thought, what I read, and what I heard and saw in the broadcast media. The conservative position was that government involvement had gone too far already and , minus some tweaks like tort reform and (later) interstate purchasing, the government should leave the private health care system alone.
This defensive mentality creates a situation in which whenever liberals move policy closer to government-run health care, they win and when they fail, they don't lose - because policy doesn't go backwards. This has implications for the future of Obamacare. There are structural reasons to think that Obamacare won't be repealed anytime soon (though Republicans should try.) The danger is that, five or seven years from now, conservatives will have come to a resentful acquiescence of Obamacare and thrown up a new set of defenses that will be worn down over time as the current iteration of Obamacare makes existing problems of medical inflation worse. Based on the experience of Massachusetts, it is reasonable to expect that Obamacare will lead to an even faster increase in insurance premiums. This will, over time, lead liberals to advocate for some combination of price controls and a government-run insurance option that will crowd out private health insurance. Conservatives will point to the problems caused by Obamacare as a reason not to go further in the direction of government-run health care. They will be right, but a merely defensive policy position will be overrun. The premium increases really will be unsustainable and liberals will only have to win the policy battle once. A mere repeal of Obamacare strategy will also be problematic because with premiums much higher than at present, people will be terrified of losing guaranteed issue and government subsidies in the hope of declining insurance prices that might never happen.
If conservatives really want to stop a government takeover of health care, they (and I don't just mean some think tank nerds and Paul Ryan) are going to have to go on the policy offensive and popularize the arguments for a more free-market driven health care system and a series of policies that will help people of low income and preexisting conditions participate in such a system. It means more than just undoing Obamacare, it means creating a more free market health care policy than we had before Obamacare. This strategy will have to be specific. It will have to offer real world benefits and be constructed in such a way that it can be implemented a little at a time with victories here and there that increase the number of health care consumers that act like health care customers and are better off for doing so. We should move to a strategy on health care in which winning means more than temporarily not losing.
The Civil War & Lincoln
In celebration of Alexis de Tocqueville's 205th birthday, today, July 29. Standing against the French Revolution, the author of Democracy in America wrote what is likely the best book on modern democracy, the character it gives rise to, both virtues and vices. Whether it is the greatest book on America is problematic. Does not Tocqueville fail to appreciate the profundity of the American Founding, the danger of hard (as opposed to soft) despotism, and the significance of the Civil War and hence a common citizenship in combating the racial divide? Does he misleadingly conceive of equality as primarily a historical force and not a description of man's in-between status, his suspension between beastiality and divinity? Yet his appreciation of the strengths of civil society--in particular religion, associations, and the family--stands out among students of America.
My reservations concerning Tocqueville notwithstanding, Harvey Mansfield's brief book provides profound guidance about the primary source.
The Standard links to Paul Ryan on Hardball. Matthews is banging the table, as are his fellow Democrats, and Democratic operatives, that it is fair to raise taxes on people who make more than $250,000 per year. In the abstract that rings true. Ryan replies by noting that those taxes, in fact, hit small businesses because of how our tax system works.
Would it be worth noting that the tax rate for such people will be raised to roughly 40%> (In 1995, Americans said that taxes should top off at 25% for people making $200,000 per year Here's some recent related polling.) I suspect that pointing out that the effective tax rate for the wealthy in places like New York is getting close to 60% would be worth noting.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Literature, Poetry, and Books
are by Carl Scott in this thread over at Postmodern Conservative.
On a related note, while I think that it is perfectly predictable for conservatives who feel offended by cynical accusations of racism to seek to respond in kind, I don't think it is effective except as a form of therapy. The cries of racism (to the extent they are insincere) have two purposes. The first purpose is to change the subject. This excerpt from Journolist gives some idea of the mentality at work. Even if it doesn't totally work, it creates a kind of secondary conversation that puts the Left's critics on the defensive. It is designed to produce news programs structured like this: "Up first tonight, why is Obama's health care plan not popular? And later, exactly how racist are President Obama's opponents?" The second purpose is to reinforce Democratic margins among African Americans (and to a lesser extent other nonwhites.)
Responses that accuse liberals, Democrats, Obama supporters etc of racism just don't work. They are mostly aired on conservative-leaning media so the target audience for the original racism accusations don't really hear them. It doesn't lead to deterrence. Cynical liberal activists and organizations would much rather be talking about who is and isn't racist than about how Obamacare (based on the experience of Massachusetts) will tend to increase premiums. Conservative accusations of liberal racism don't hurt the feeling of liberals, don't make it less likely that they will engage in this behavior in the future, and don't win over new people to center-right politics. It does seem to make some people feel better.
The idea isn't to stop these kinds of accusations. It isn't up to us to stop them. It isn't our choice to make. The idea is to defeat the people who make them and then let them rant as they please. The best way to defeat them is to stigmatize those accusations as defenses for policies that hurt Americans of all races, as defenses for politicians who are hurting Americans of all races, and to offer specific alternative policies that offer real life improvements to people of all races. And find ways to make those arguments to people who don't consume much right-leaning media. Of course this means (as a necessary but insufficient condition) that you have something real to say - so don't look at the folks running in Arizona Republican senatorial primary for guidance.
So I got around to watching the Arizona Republican senatorial debate on youtube. Whoa. Here is my snarky summary,
Moderator: Have at it gentlemen.
Hayworth: I'm a consistent conservative
McCain: I'm a Reagan conservative
Deakin: Neither of you are conservatives. Get back to the Constitution. And repeal the Sixteenth Amendment.
Hayworth: You were for amnesty and are making mean personal attacks.
McCain. I was never for amnesty and you appeared on an infomercial for free government tax money.
Deakin: Hi. I'm Jim Deakin.
Hayworth: You sponsored earmarks.
McCain: No you sponsored earmarks.
Moderator: Senator McCain, didn't you sponsor an amnesty bill in 2007?
McCain: These are not the droids you're looking for.
Hayworth: McCain's amnesty will cost 2.6 trillion dollars in health benefits for illegal aliens.
Moderator: So health care. Whats up with that?
Deakin: Get government out of Medicare and make it state-by state [so help me God thats what he said].
Hayworth: I love Medicare. Vague, one sentence mention of market based reform that is totally incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't have a very clear memory of the bill establishing Medicare Part D. John McCain's amnesty is bad for Medicare.
McCain: Obamacare will destroy Medicare. No cuts in Medicare.
Moderator: And specific policy proposals for improving health care policy?
Crickets: Chirp, chirp.
Moderator: So what about working across the aisle?
Hayworth: You won't see me at any Georgetown cocktail parties hanging out with network news anchors.
McCain: I'm really against earmarks. I'm the anti-Ms. Congeniality sheriff of being against earmarks. That will get us the trust of the American people.
Deakin: Both of you guys voted with the other party to impose capital gains taxes on songwriters and bring light rail to Arizona.
Moderator: So what about taxes and the deficit?
McCain: I was against the Bush tax cuts because I wanted spending to be under control first. Spending isn't under control and I'm against repealing the Bush tax cuts. Also cut corporate taxes and hold off [presumably cut] payroll taxes.
Hayworth: McCain is a Bush tax cut flip flopper.
Deakin: They both love the PATRIOT Act better than the Bush tax cuts and that is why the tax cuts aren't permanent. Cut taxes more and get rid of free trade agreements.
Moderator: So what about defense cuts or other cuts to reduce the deficit? What would you cut?
Hayworth: Here is what I won't cut. Fight terror, especially on the southern border. Stop Obamacare, and use unspent TARP and stimulus funds for the deficit. And no amnesty.
McCain: Stop overruns on defense programs. And there will be lots of jobs for defense industry firms in Arizona. Just say no to pork.
Deakin: Don't have military bases in countries just because it feels good to have them there [I'm not kidding. He said that.].
Moderator: So what about unemployment and job creation?
McCain: Extend unemployment benefits based on a clean bill. Cut corporate taxes. I'll make sure Arizona military bases and defense industry firms get plenty of federal money.
Deakin: Don't extend unemployment benefits. Cut regulations [no specifics] and end free trade agreements.
Hayworth: Did I mention that I voted for the Bush tax cuts?
This debate was really sad. McCain's positioning on domestic policy is utterly cynical. He barely even bothers to come up with plausible explanations for changing his positions in whatever directions his consultants tell him to go. He is ripe for a populist, principled conservative challenger. The problem is that you can listen to Deakin and Hayworth and have no clue how, in any specific way, their policies (drawn from their principles) will improve people's lives in any meaningful way. How much (if any) would their tax plans save you? What policies will slow the growth of health insurance premiums? How much does McCain plan to cut corporate taxes and how will that change corporate behavior? It is all cliches, buzz words, and signaling to people who are already broadly familiar with the conservative narrative. The problem is that it is just patter (Reagan, tax cuts, earmarks, Obamacare etc.) and McCain can deploy it too. About the only place the debate got down to the human level, was when McCain was talking about bringing home government bucks to Arizona bases and defense companies.
Ross Douthat wrote last week that one of the great vices of the contemporary right is the "blithe conviction that "true conservative" good intentions trump policy substance and deep expertise." I'm not totally on board with that. I would say that a great vice is too many politicians who market themselves as conservatives tend to try to win over voters far more by posturing and trying to show cultural affinity (I'm a Reagan conservative, I'm a consistent conservative) than by articulating relevant policies that are based on shared principles in a way that the consequences of those policies are understandable to the average somewhat-but not-very-involved voter who isn't just looking to cheer on a team.
One of my worries about the problem of center-right communication is that I'm not sure that conservative ideas are well communicated to those who do not consume the populist right-leaning media like talk radio and FOX News. This problem takes many forms. One of those is the problem of reaching nonwhites generally, but another is reaching the people (of all races) who will pass through the country's top colleges or those who will graduate at the top of their classes in less exclusive schools. This is the problem of winning over (or at least making marginal gains) among the country's A students.
As Ross Douthat writes, alot of these kids are going to end up in influential positions in society, and their cultural formation is probably pushing them to various kinds of left-of-center politics. Douthat worries that the Ivy League schools taking in more students from white working-class and rural backgrounds will only assimilate those students to the dominant values of the left-leaning establishment. Maybe, but I don't think losing those kids is so inevitable. I also don't think that conservatives are doing a very good job of talking to those kids.
My own experience with really bright, hard working, ambitious, and politically engaged (but not obsessive) kids is that conservative messages rarely get to them in a detailed or friendly form outside of major election campaigns. There are exceptions, but those kids are a minority and usually have to find conservative media on their own. That means that, for most of these kids, their perceptions of politics are framed by media institutions that are liberal-leaning to various degrees of intensity and openness. They are also going to go to colleges where their professors will be varying degrees of liberal. This makes a generalized friendliness to liberal politicians and policies the default position.
The populist conservative media isn't really much of a help. The vast majority of these kids don't listen to the radio for politics (neither talk radio nor NPR.) They aren't going to watch Hannity or Beck. Those shows aren't really designed for them anyway. Those shows work best for those who have already bought into the conservative narrative and they don't really take on the best arguments of the other side. But these kids will have heard the best arguments that liberals have to offer and they are smart enough not to forget them. It does no good to argue that these kinds of shows might lead kids to Hayek. They won't because most of them just will not watch that long. I remember Roger Ailes explaining one of the reasons that FOX News was such a success was because he was producing a product for a niche market underserved by liberal-leaning media. The niche market was "half the country." Well it wasn't half the country, but it was tens of millions of people. The problem is how to communicate to the audience that isn't part of that (not quite) half of the country and whose average member Charles Murray described as being a "bright reasonable person who doesn't agree with me but comes to my text ready to give me a shot."
While reading Kevin Smant's biography of Frank Meyer, I was struck (but not totally convinced) by James Burnham's vision for National Review as a conservative magazine for the broadly educated public, a magazine on the desks of "politicians, professors, bureaucrats" and not just ones who were self-consciously conservative. Burnham was picturing a media institution that could shift the uncommitted (or even the liberal) a little in the general conservative direction or even only on one issue, but also got the educated class to constantly take conservative ideas seriously. This isn't to endorse every prudential judgment made by Burnham or to deny that elements of Burnham's vision are dated. For instance, it probably won't be any one institution that that manages to improve conservative communication with the most highly educated fraction of the public.
The communication problem with this group is tough. We need a set of institutions that speak to an audience that will have heard many of the best (or maybe second best) liberal arguments for this or that liberal policy. As Murray pointed out, if conservatives "take a cheap shot" or "duck an obvious objection" to their arguments, they will lose this audience. All of which is to say that for conservatives to do better among this group, they will have to get the personalities and arguments of Yuval Levin, Reihan Salam, Peter Lawler and Jim Manzi (among others) into the faces and heads of more of our valedictorians and Ivy League graduates.
The comparison to Reagan may give Obama cheer, but it is not really apt. For even in Reagan's darkest days when, according to Gallup, six out of 10 Americans reported that they did not like the job he was doing, an astounding six in 10 nevertheless said they liked the man himself. He was, of course, phenomenally charming, authentic and schooled at countless soundstages in appearing that way. Just as important, the public had faith in the consistency of his principles, agree or not. This was the Reagan Paradox and it helped lift his presidency.
No one is accusing Obama of being likable. He is not unlikable, but he lacks Reagan's (or Bill Clinton's) warmth. What's more, his career has been brief. He led no movement, was spokesman for no ideology and campaigned like a Nike sneaker -- change instead of swoosh. He seems distant. No Irish jokes from him. For the average voter, he casts no shadow.
Reagan, by contrast, had been around forever. He was not defined solely by gauzy campaign ads but by countless speeches, two contentious and highly controversial terms as California governor, and a previous race for the presidency. There was never a question about who Reagan was and what he stood for. Not so Obama. About all he shares with Reagan at this point are low ratings.
What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions because, as far as they're concerned, he hasn't. He went for health-care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn't. He's been cold to Israel's Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. Americans know Obama is smart. But we still don't know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he's done, they have to know who he is. We're waiting.
Kevin Williamson writes that Republican politicians like Mitch McConnell aren't serious about restraining spending. He specifically cites bits of pork that McConnell is pursuing through the legislative process. Ramesh Ponnuru says not so fast, or at least that conservatives shouldn't focus too much on pork and instead use what influence they have to push reform on more important fiscal issues.
I tend to agree more with Ponnuru. I'm no fan of pork, and I think that it probably redirects federal resources in inefficient ways. I also don't think pork is the most pressing fiscal issue and it is not nearly as effective a political issue some think. I keep hearing McCain blathering on about earmarks and Obama noting that earmarks were only a small part of the federal budget. McCain kept trying to plug back by talking about this or that federal project (he seemed especially upset about some kind of light bulb in Illinois), but, in the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, most people recognized that the kinds of grants McCain was talking about weren't the biggest problem in their economic lives.
There is a school of thought that says that if we can't stop the kinds of federal spending that go to bike paths, bridges to nowhere, and such, then we will never get a sustainable federal budget. I wonder if the reverse isn't true and pork fighting is getting in the way of more important priorities. Maybe talking about pork is a way for politicians to seem fiscally conservative without having to actually vote for entitlement reforms or explain market-oriented health care reform . There might, in some circumstances, be a direct conflict between solvency and pork fighting. One can imagine a close vote on entitlement reform (means-testing, raising retirement ages, whatever) that might pass only in return for funding some local project (or fifty local projects). In any case, the public's attention is limited, and conservative writers and populariziers and Republican politicians would be better off focusing their energy on the kinds of policies that offer people higher living standards in the short and medium term and a program that puts the federal government's books somewhere in the neighborhood of balance. Reducing domestic discretionary spending on local projects should be part of that project, but the political energy spent on fighting pork should be proportional to the kinds of savings to be gotten as compared to the savings that might be gotten from other cuts or reforms.
Jonah Goldberg writes that recent events seem to be disproving the "rule" (by which I think he means conventional wisdom) that "hard economic times make big government more popular." Obama took over during an economic crisis and expanded the size and reach of government, but the idea of more and bigger government doesn't seem any more popular now than it did five years ago. I think that the "rule" is mostly wrong and I suspect Goldberg does too. I think it is closer to the truth to say that the popularity of the public philosophy of those in power when hard times strike, tends to decline and the popularity of the public philosophy of those in power when things get better tends to increase. The irony is that, depending on how events go, the idea that "hard economic times make big government more popular" may seem more plausible (without actually being more true) in 2012 than now.
The historical record when it comes to "big government" and economic downturns seems pretty complicated even if you simplify by only looking at the downturns and who the public voted for in response to those downturns. As Goldberg well knows the post-WWI economic downturn under Wilson was immediately followed by the election of the lower taxing and lower spending (and quite popular) Harding/Coolidge regime. Now as Reihan Salam might say, there are causal density issues here. There were lots of reasons for voters to repudiate the Wilson administration and liberals have their own self-serving narrative of pro-business stooges being elected by isolationist bumpkins, but the record is clear for those who want to see. The voters, during a severe economic downturn, replaced a high spending and high taxing administration with one that sharply cut both taxes and spending.
FDR would seem to prove the rule that people turn to big government in hard times, but it is more complicated than that. The role of the actual performance of the economy and the assigning of praise and blame to public philosophies for economic events is important to understanding how FDR's administration made his expansion of government so popular and so enduring. FDR's taking office coincided with the resumption of economic growth and increasing employment (though both from much reduced levels.) This surely had something to do with his popularity and the popularity of his program. Bigger government seemed to be making economic life better. This is also a reason why liberal intellectuals worked so hard to portray the progressive Republican Herbert Hoover as a doctrinaire economic noninterventionist. If limited government (personified in Herbert Hoover) could be tied to the Depression and big government (in the form of FDR) could be tied to the recovery, then liberals would have a rhetorical weapon whose usefulness would outlive both Hoover and FDR.
Reagan broke the rules. He was elected during economic hard times (stagflation) and in some ways, things got even tougher in his first year as President (inflation declined but the economy went into a deep recession and unemployment spiked.) Reagan sharply cut taxes, slightly cut the growth of domestic discretionary spending, and supported the Federal Reserve's anti-inflation policies. If you believed the theory that voters want big government during hard times, Reagan experience in 1982 would seem to prove you right. Reagan's job approval rating fell to 36% by the end of 1982 (Source: "The Reagan Presidency and American Public Opinion" by James Ceaser in The Reagan Legacy: Promise and Performance.") He fought the rules and the rules won - except they didn't. The economy recovered, Reagan got a great deal of the credit and he won a huge reelection victory. Once again, the perceptions of what seemed to fail and succeed mattered, which was why liberals in the late 80s and early 90s invested so much time and energy arguing that the Reagan recovery didn't really happen or that it was only a blip or that only greedy people noticed. To the extent that the economic difficulties of the late 70 - to early 80s were blamed on high taxing, high spending, pro-inflation politics, and to the extent that the resolution of those difficulties were tied to lower taxes, lower spending (mostly notional here), anti-inflation politics, the terms of the debate shifted rightwards for decades.
Obama seems to be combining the experiences of both Reagan and FDR. Taking over during the worst recession since the Great Depression, Obama got Congress to pass both a huge stimulus bill and the first step in the government takeover of the health care sector. He took over two of the Big Three American auto companies. He petitioned Congress to pass a combination of taxes and subsidies that would increase government power over the energy sector. The result has been a slow and steady decline in his job approval rating. Even though Obama has tried to act like a junior FDR, the labor market's performance has more closely resembled what happened in the first half of Reagan's first term. Reagan's job approval rating in the July of his second year was 42%. Obama's job approval in Real Clear Politics polling average has been between 46.3% and 48.0% for the July of his second year. FDR's party gained seats in Congress during his first midterm elections. Obama's party (like Reagan's in 1982) will almost certainly lose seat in 2010.But that doesn't mean that Obama and the conventional wisdom that "hard economic times make big government more popular" won't both make a big comeback. If the labor market recovers even a little (down to the low 7s) by the summer of 2012, we can expect, absent some kind of unforeseen disaster, for Obama's job approval ratings to rise. Perhaps more importantly, there will be a powerful narrative pushed by the Democrats and liberal-leaning media to ascribe the improvement in economic conditions to the stimulus, Obamacare, etc. and establish that big government is what people want during tough economic times, and that even bigger government will lead to even more growth and that the next economic downturn will require even bigger big government.
Reihan Salam points us to an old column by Mark Thompson post in which Thompson argues that conservatives usually failed to offer effective health care reform proposals because they were in thrall to the radical antistatism of Ayn Rand. I think that is false and could lead to confusion about the course of the debates (over decades) that led to Obamacare.
I'm going from my personal experiences both as a consumer of right-leaning media and from conversations with conservatives over the last twenty years, but my impression is that the reason radically reforming health care has not been a huge priority for most conservatives (as opposed to some wonks and members of Congress) is because most conservatives were mostly happy with the existing system. It seemed like a private system. You worked for a private company that contracted your insurance to a private insurance company. You went to your doctor who was not a government employee. The system of tax subsidies and regulations that made this somewhat unnatural system the default was mostly invisible. You had access to timely and very high quality care. You heard stories about lines and waiting lists in the socialized medical systems of Britain and Canada. America had a system of private health care and it was the best system in the world. Rand had little or nothing to do with it. In fact, if you were to try to get all Randian and eliminate the tax subsidy for employer-provided health insurance for most conservatives and also Medicare for their parents (not replace them with other, more consumer-driven systems that include government subsidies, just get rid of them as Rand would want) most of these same conservatives would try to tear you apart - politically of course.
The system had problems. For one thing, premiums seemed to be going up to quickly. Both the left and right had explanations and likely suspects for the rise in premiums. The suspects included greedy insurance companies, greedy trial lawyers, greedy pharmaceutical companies, illegal immigrants, and uninsured people who were clogging up the high-cost emergency rooms. People mostly weren't told by conservative popularizers and mostly didn't want to hear that much of the spike in premiums was inherent in the system of comprehensive employer-provided health insurance that conservatives were defending from liberal attempts to "socialize" medicine.
That isn't to say that conservatives weren't in favor of some changes or that the changes weren't worthwhile. They were in favor of tort reform, regulatory changes to make it easier for small businesses to work together to buy insurance at lower rates, and regulatory changes that would allow people to buy a wider range of insurance products (including high deductible/lower premium plans) and bypass state-level regulations that were driving up the cost of health insurance. I remember some mentions of Health Savings Accounts, but not in any detail. But the conservative reforms weren't really the priority on health care policy. Stopping the liberal Democrats from destroying America's best-in-the-world private health care system was the priority. Oh, the Democrats are filibustering health care reform? That just shows that the Democrats are in the pockets of the trial lawyers and don't really care about real health care reform. Lets move on to cutting marginal tax rates.
In any analysis of how most conservatives acted on the health care issue from 1993-2010, I don't think you can overstate the investment of most rank-and-file conservatives to the existing system. There were good (or at least understandable) reasons why the Republican congressional leaders offered a plan of tort reform and interstate purchasing of health insurance rather that the Ryan health care plan as their alternative to Obamacare. That is where most conservatives probably are, and any plan that will destroy the system of employer-provided health insurance (which the Ryan plan would) will face intense public skepticism - including from conservatives who now get their health care through their employers. And this gives some idea of the demands of finesse and public education that conservatives wonks and politicians will face in advancing the cause of free market-oriented heath care policy.
We don't have a missile defense that can handle threats from Iran. So warn former CIA Director James Woolsey and Rebeccah Heinrichs. The Bush Administration was building one, but Obama scrapped it, replacing it with one that "offers no added protection for the U.S. until 2020. That's almost certainly too little too late." Moreover, might the new Obama strategic arms agreement with Russia limit our sovereign right of self-defense?
Rebeccah Ramey Heinrichs is a former Ashbrook Scholar. A former manager of the House Bipartisan Missile Defense Caucus, she is now an adjunct fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. (She is also officially a DC beautiful person, a status she indeed holds by nature.)
Accumulating Lincoln quotations, Tony Blankley spotlights Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's dismissal of the inalienable rights of the Declaration of Independence for understanding the Constitution. Will indignant Republican Senators rally around the principles of their Founder? Alas, what makes one think they will this time?
Blankley: "Without those rights, the body of law is a corpse - a soulless, purposeless, manipulable, disposable, dead, material thing. If Ms. Kagan does not know that, then she knows nothing of our law." Again, the same condemnation can be made of politicians of all parties. Moreover, does any law school teach the proper respect for the Declaration of Independence? In that sense, former Harvard Law Dean Kagan has a bipartisan following.
Here's a poignant cinematic reminder of an earlier Brit's Lincolnian devotion to American principles. (Charles Laughton's Ruggles is a British servant won by a Westerner in a poker game abroad.)
Not since the incident at Chappaquiddick derailed the Ted Kennedy for President boomlet of 1969 has a political movement imploded so fast and so messily as the green crusade to stop global warming. . . The greens, it is increasingly clear, bet the ranch on the Copenhagen process. That horrible meltdown, perhaps the biggest and most chaotic public embarrassment in the history of multilateral summits, turned climate change from global poster boy to global pariah.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
George Will has really been on top of his game lately. His most recent, on Prohibition, is particularly well done. Here's a sample:
By 1900, per capita consumption of alcohol was similar to today's, but mere temperance was insufficient for the likes of Carry Nation. She was "six feet tall, with the biceps of a stevedore, the face of a prison warden, and the persistence of a toothache," and she wanted Prohibition. It was produced by the sophisticated tenacity of the Anti-Saloon League, which at its peak was spending the equivalent of 50 million of today's dollars annually. Okrent calls it "the mightiest pressure group in the nation's history." It even prevented redistricting after the 1920 Census, the first census to reveal that America's urban -- and most wet -- population was a majority.
Before the 18th Amendment could make drink illegal, the 16th Amendment had to make the income tax legal. It was needed because by 1910 alcohol taxes were 30 percent of federal revenue.
Workmen's compensation laws gave employers an interest in abstemious workers. Writes Okrent, Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Co., saw "opportunity on the other side of the dry rainbow." World War I anti-German fever fueled the desire to punish brewers with names such as Busch, Pabst, Blatz and Schlitz. And President Woodrow Wilson's progressivism became a wartime justification for what Okrent calls "the federal government's sudden leap into countless aspects of American life," including drink.
The SCOTUS nominee's pro bono work, in her short stint as a lawyer, included a brief on behalf of Two Live Crew, recounted by Luther Campbell: Kagan "wrote a brief that argued [their] album 'does not physically excite anyone who hears it, much less arouse a shameful and morbid sexual response.'" Campbell then quotes an offending passage, which I won't even attempt to cite with bleeps. H/T James Taranto via Richard Reeb.This is a woman who claims to re-read Pride and Prejudice every year?
"Shameful" and "morbid" are liberalism's contributions to the coarsening of everyday life. That's the liberals' First Amendment, an understanding which makes it all the easier to fail to recognize when it is truly threatened, as in "fairness doctrines" and campaign finance restrictions.
1. The Tea Parties and the well wishers of the Tea Parties are not an uprising of the American people in any majoritarian sense. Tea Party supporters are conservative Republicans and right-leaning independents who consume more right-leaning media than the average American.
2. The Tea Party movement (tendency?) is somewhere between skeptical and hostile to the Republican Party establishment and candidates who are identified with the establishment. This is mostly a good thing. We might get Charlie Crist anyway, but I'm glad Florida conservatives stood up to him and his anointers within the Republican establishment. American needs a decentralized, broadly conservative (as opposed to single issue groups like the NRA) activist movement that is organically tied to neither the Republican Party nor any particular campaign. There was a big outpouring of center-right activism in Bush's 2004 GOTV operation, but since it was run by the Bush team, it basically disintegrated and McCain had neither the competence nor the personal interest to reconstitute it in 2008.
3. But the distinctly conservative and antiestablishment tendencies within the Tea Parties can produce political problems. In his autobiography, Richard Brookhiser uses the term "rightworld" to describe the interlocking network of conservative journalists, activists, thinkers, and politicians. But there is another rightworld too. It is one in which you get most of your media from right-leaning sources and never had to compete with sharp liberal opponents for the allegiance of persuadables or thought much about how to do so. This rightworld is much bigger and many Tea Partiers are part of it. Rightworld can be a more forgiving place than the broader American political space. There is the guy who would no more discriminate against an African American customer or job applicant than he would write a check to Bin Laden, but who doesn't want the government telling him who he can or can't hire or serve. We know what he means and don't get high and mighty about his seeming lack of empathy for the specific situation of pervasive government and private collusion (backed by violence) that African Americans faced. The problem isn't even that this person is wrong on the merits, it is that they aren't comfortable dealing with the critique, and sure as heck aren't comfortable dealing with it in an environment where the audience is not inclined to take it easy on him because he is one of us. The saddest part of Rand Paul on the Maddow show was his slow, helpless realization that he wasn't in rightworld anymore.
4. Things sound different in rightworld than they do in the rest of America. Sharron Angle has been getting hit for statements that, in rightworld, sound like common sense, tough-minded realism, and good natured hyperbole. The first two sentiments have been expressed by guys like Paul Ryan (somewhat) and Reihan Salam, but Angle's mode of expression (which would have drawn cheers from some audiences) was probably a barrier to communication for others. As Ta-Nehisi Coates might say, hers are the kind of expressions you use "when your're talking to people who already have your back." The problem is that in the modern media environment, a candidate running for high office is accountable to both the people who already have their back and the persuadables.
5. Hopefully Angle and Paul will manage to win in this seemingly Republican-friendly environment, but longer term, conservatives are going have to find leaders, policies, and messages that can appeal to both right-leaning constituencies, and persuadables who don't consume much right-leaning media - and do it under less favorable circumstances. It means connecting with the best ideas of conservative policy intellectuals. It means working hard to imagine how the things you say sound to people who have not yet committed to your worldview. It isn't impossible to talk to both your ideological compatriots and the general public. Obama started his career in corners of leftworld where Jeremiah Wright's ravings and Bill Ayer's past were not considered toxic. He managed to break into the mainstream and has moved the country's politics in a leftward direction, but he put a great deal of effort into crafting a message that could appeal outside the borders of leftworld.
As this post on the Corners notes, it's amazing what's in the Democrats' health care law. Now that it has passed, we can find out what's it it. For example:
If a self-employed individual makes numerous small purchases from an office supply store during a calendar year that total at least $600, the individual must issue a Form 1099 to the vendor and the IRS showing the exact amount of total purchases," the IRS release said.
The rule applies to all businesses and charities too.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Literature, Poetry, and Books
According to this review Richard Reinsch's new book on Whittaker Chambers is well worth reading.
I have long thought that if the politics cut in the opposite direction there would have been several biopics of Chambers by now. You have the story of a great writer, the years in the Communist underground/ spy world, the great confrontation with the Washington establishment, the question of traditional religion in the modern world, and the problem of homosexuality. The only trouble, from Hollywood's perspective, is that Chambers saw the evil of Communism and turned against it, testified against a Lion of the liberal establishmet, and exposed him as a Communist spy (and beyond that showed that a certain part of the Democratic coalition was, indeed, soft on Communism, to say the least), and turned away from modern, secular humanism because he saw how shallow and hollow it is. He became a leading writer for a hip, new magazine that challenged the pieties of the day (the magazine, of course, was National Review). And, finally, was able to turn away from the homosexuality that he took to be sinful, and lead a normal life as a married man. Not the kind of story that today's Hollywood would like.
With considerable detail, on NRO, Tiffany Jones Miller explains the origins of the debt crisis in the Progressives' rejection of natural rights, which meant that the collective good obliterates individual rights.
Our debt crisis, in sum, has everything to do with the transformation of morality and government effected by the late-19th- and early-20th-century Progressive movement. Far from being largely ineffectual reformers, the Progressive academics who articulated the new conception of Freedom and the "positive" State, outlined above, were also the initiators of the entitlement programs that lie at the core of our crisis today.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has delivered a significant speech on the importance of civil society in American foreign policy. ( See Anne Applebaum's positive appraisal.) Commentators on American success (see in particular Tocqueville) have always noted the significance of the informal, non-governmental institutions of civil society.
Now, markets and politics usually receive more attention. But civil society is every bit as important. And it undergirds both democratic governance and broad-based prosperity. Poland actually is a case study in how a vibrant civil society can produce progress....
Now, not every nation has a civil society movement on the scale of Solidarity. But most countries do have a collection of activists, organizations, congregations, writers, and reporters that work through peaceful means to encourage governments to do better, to do better by their own people.
There is mischief in the address, for example, the idea that Progressivism was implicit in the founding: "In fact, our founders were smart enough to enshrine in our founding documents the idea that we had to keep moving toward a more perfect union."
But the worst problem is that Clinton downplays the role of religion in civil society (one reference to "congregations"). A valid reason for such reticence would be that many of the nations present at this conference held in Poland have not resolved the issue of religious toleration. In such societies a dominant religion might be destructive of civil society, along with a market economy and democratic institutions. (That in turn forces us to acknowledge the centrality of natural rights for any serious political discussion.) But speaking in Poland, of all countries, she really needed to underscore the role of John Paul II and the Catholic Church in the fall of Communism and the rebuilding of civilization in post-tyrannical regimes.
To be fair, Clinton does conclude the speech with a rousing reference to the Declaration of Independence. Yet her comments on American civil society are a kind of Tocquevillean understanding of America without a mention of religion, and thus a virtual caricature of American history.
The speech is also a good means of assessing the difference between Clinton and Obama--between a neo-Progressive/liberal and a post-modern post-nationalist. Clinton still believes America is exceptional, though she wouldn't be able to explain why.
Mitch Daniels talks about five books that influenced him. He actually seems to have read the books he is talking about. The list also seems authentic in that Daniels doesn't seem to be trying to please and impress everyone ("From A Theory of Justice I learned ...and from the Summa Theologica I learned..."
But since the list seems to truly represent Daniels' mind, it should be taken seriously. For reasons I can't fully articulate, the list left me a little uneasy about Daniels as a potential President. The list seems to tilt towards different kinds of libertarianism (though thankfully not liberaltarianism.) I'm not so sure about a President whose mind runs the gamut from Hayek to Postrel but maybe not much farther. Though we could do worse...and we are.
Political scientists and all around smart guys Carl Scott (in this thread) and James Poulos make the argument that Michael Steele should be fired regardless of procedural and public relations obstacles. I agree, but let's add up the costs and benefits of firing Steele.
If Steele is fired he might well become a critic of the GOP and go on liberal-leaning media to peddle whatever anti-Republican narrative puts him in the best light and plays to the prejudices of those running those media outlets. So from that perspective, it might make sense to have Steele making a fool of himself inside the tent than causing trouble outside. But as Rich Lowry points out, even if Steele isn't fired, he probably won't be reappointed when his term expires in 2011 and he "will be sorely tempted to run to MSNBC to tell the world how awful his party is." So not firing Steele now doesn't so much avoid the risk of criticism from Steele as much as shift it from now (or next month) to next year. Maybe there is good reason to want to risk that criticism next year rather than later this year. But what are the costs of keeping Steele? Those costs include a) more Michael Steele gaffes and b) losing out on whatever good an effective RNC chairman could accomplish. It would seem to me that the costs of keeping Michael Steele far exceed the costs of dumping him. I know that this analysis partly depends on the assumption that Steele's replacement would be competent. A guy can hope.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Apparently, over a quarter of Americans don't know from whom we declared independence in 1776. Gee, even if Americans got their history from Bugs Bunny they should know that. (Sorry about the commercials in the link). And there's always School House Rock.
On a related topic, President Coolidge's speech in honor of the one hundred fiftieth aniversary of the approval of the Declaration of Independence always bears rereading. Too bad it's seldom taught in our schools.
The foreign policy wisdom of Michael Steele. It isn't so much that he seems to be against the Afghanistan counterinsurgency plan (though it would be weird for an RNC chairman to take a position on an issue that divides his party with most of the party's leaders being mostly on the other side of the issue), it is his suggestion that the war was some kind of Democratic Party creation. I think I get what he was driving at in his incompetent and bombastic way. He wanted all the American losses in Afghanistan to be blamed on Obama. But he can't even get that right, and ends up sounding as if he thinks that the war in Afghanistan started in late January 2009. William Kristol wants Steele to go. Me too, but for slightly different reasons. Though it is disgusting to see him try to turn the Afghanistan War into a political footbalI and try to extract political profit from American suffering and (potential) failure, I don't think Steele has done any real damage to the American war effort in Afghanistan. I think that nobody (or almost nobody) takes him seriously enough for his opinion to matter. The greater problem is that he won't stop saying foolish things. He seems to have neither the self-knowledge nor the self-control needed to improve his performance. He should quit quietly and let some more competent person take over the job of RNC chairman. But the same flaws that make him such an embarrassment as RNC chairman might also prevent him from doing what is best for his party.
And it's not to conservatives' advantage--left-wing legal positivism is no better than right-wing, on this most important question, the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This came out in exchanges with Al Franken and Tom Coburn.
UPDATE: Coburn-Kagan exchange over natural rights and the Declaration.