"Racism, racism, fight, fight, fight/Workers of the world unite"--a Communist leafleteer provided some zest for the Glenn Beck rally and handed out fliers to bemused participants. In my mere 20 minutes at the rally (I had a lunch engagement) I heard little from the stage and saw less, save the apparently middle to upper-middle class crowd, very thick just NE of the Lincoln Memorial. I have no way of estimating its overall size, except to observe that where I was it was denser than, say, the Fourth of July crowd. I did hear numerous complaints about the sound and the lack of a view, as many people left, but maybe the audience further back had better sound and perspective on the stage.
In case someone else hasn't made this obvious point, I note that the Lincoln Memorial unites the Beck crowd, the counter-rally, and the original civil rights March on Washington through its presentation of simple justice. After all, it was Lincoln who defined slavery as "you work, I eat." That was at the heart of his attacks on slavery in the 1850s, and it is the moral precept that condemns slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and compulsory redistribution of wealth today. And it is the logical deduction from the proposition that all men are created equal. The Communists and others who don't share American principles would have a different view of the matter.
On the methodology of counting crowds: Consider this photo analysis. That's fine as far as it goes, but this is like taking roll at the start of class and ignoring all the students who sneak out (and others who come in later). As I came in, around 11 a.m., I saw innumerable folks leaving, some complaining they could not see or hear. Others may have found the heat too hard to take. Yet they should count as attendees, too. Many more people were coming in than leaving. So the count needs to take into consideration the total numbers who were there throughout the day--not just a static snapshot of the event. Maybe some (overly clever) social scientist (a new-bred economist) has devised a methodology for doing this. So my total count would exceed the static count at the crowd's greatest size by a considerable factor.
Instead of cataloging philosophers for rows of classroom note takers, he throws students into an ongoing argument: How should we live? He forces students not merely to study political philosophy but to engage in it."
So liberals have already started their attacks on Joe Miller (h/t to Andrew Sullivan.) If that is the best they can do, he should be fine in a Republican-leaning state in a Republican-leaning year - as long as it stays a two person race.
It seems like Lisa Murkowski might be thinking of going the third party route. It is tough to imagine a rationale for her campaign. I guess she could cobble together some kind of pro-choice, pro-pork, pro-seniority platform. It would clearly just be a Charlie Crist-like attempt by a hack politician to hold on to office for the sake of holding on to office.
Even though the polls are all over the place, I don't expect Crist to win in Florida. Rubio's message is a little overwrought for me, but he is a well above average speaker, seems to have a clue on domestic policy, and will have plenty of money to get his message out. With Crist's movements to the left on abortion and Obamacare, Rubio should be able to consolidate the right-of center vote. It would take a major Rubio scandal and/or virtually unanimous tactical voting from usually Democratic voters for Crist to win.
It is interesting to compare Crist and (maybe) Murkowski with the Democrat-affiliated independents in the Senate. Lieberman broke with his party over differences with his party's base on a high salience issue. Bernie Sanders is an explicit social democrat and the Democrats (an internally complicated party) tend to furiously reject that label. Their formal estrangement from the Democratic Party is based on stuff that matters. What, other than ambition, estranges Crist or Murkowski from the Republicans? Does anyone doubt that Crist would take back his support of the stimulus and the Obama hug if it could be guaranteed he would get the Republican nomination and a two man race against Kendrick Meek or that Crist would still be pro-life and pro-repeal of Obamacare if he was the Republican nominee?
Men and Women
For just about everyone who has addressed the question, the controversy has to do with whether Muslims ought to build a Mosque in the blast-zone of Ground Zero. Almost everyone agrees with President Obama that the owners of the property have a legal right to build it. Even so, most people who heard Obama's remarks thought he was endorsing the Mosque, rather than making a trite comment about the legality of the matter.
In this context it is interesting to consider the question of "strategic default"--defaulting on one's mortgage not because one cannot pay it, but rather because it is no longer an economically sound position. Megan McArdle takes the classic view on the question, saying it is, morally wrong and financially stupid. The first half of that comment is relevant here. McArdle believes that a moral man pays his debts. Failure to pay one's debts when one has the means to do so is a form of fraud, or perhaps theft. Many Americans, however, don't see it that way. They simply think that the law allows it, and, therefore, they are perfectly entitled to do it.
I suspect that in both of these cases we are seeing nature at work. It is natural, and I would say inevitable, for people to conflate what is right with what is legal. Everyone allows that there is daylight between what is right and what the law allows or requires. On the other hand, to hold that the legal and the moral are completely separable is to wish for that which cannot happen among men. The law is by nature a moral teacher. It cannot be otherwise so long as we remain human.
says Dick Armey, and he is right. But I don't think he spells out why it takes so much political courage. Alot of conservatives are thinking of 2010 in terms of 1994, so it might make sense to compare the Ryan Roadmap to the Contract With America. The Contract was a collection of poll-tested rightish proposals that the House Democratic leadership was not willing to support due to some combination of opposition from Democratic political elites (welfare reform), the arrogance of power (ending congressional exemptions to federal regulations) or principle (the tax limitation and budget balancing amendment.)
What the Contract lacked was any provision that seemed to threaten the economic interests of any constituency that Republicans were courting. About the only group that was being directly asked to give anything up were the trial lawyers (families on welfare are a complicated case.). The Ryan Roadmap is a totally different kind of document. It isn't designed to put together a set of popular policy ideas as a campaign document. It is designed to try to answer the hard questions about how to get the long-term deficit to sustainable levels without crushing the economy. That means asking for sacrifices from alot more groups than the trial lawyers. Running on the Roadmap is nothing like running on the Contract. It is more like running on the 1995 Medicare cuts, plus some major Social Security cuts, plus a middle-class tax increase. Oh, and it might cost you your employer-provided health care coverage. Running on that does take courage, but it might also be the wrong political answer in the short and medium term.
It might also be something less than the ideal policy answer. I think that the Ryan Roadmap is best thought of not as the economic policy agenda for the center-right, but as framework for thinking about a broad range of policy problems. Individual Republicans might want to structure the tax burden differently. They might want to transition to a more market-oriented health care system differently. Those might be better ideas and debate between different approaches should be encouraged rather than demanding featly to one plan as a sign of seriousness (something which Ryan himself has never demanded.)
But I'm prone to some of the same vices as Armey and I do recognize that Republicans need something more than just not-Obama. Actually I don't think that (Republicans could probably make big gains just based on the huge flop that "recovery summer" has turned into), but I would like to see the Republicans advance arguments in favor of a set of policies that have a chance of winning majority support and are achievable in the medium term. This would structure the forthcoming debates with Obama in a way that would force Obama to either compromise or hurt his chances for reelection. The Ryan Plan doesn't put that choice to Obama. It makes it easier for him to dig in and paint the Republicans as the party that will cut benefits for Granny, take away your health insurance(and your children's) and raise your taxes for the privilege.
The best such Republican agenda I have seen was the one put together by Ramesh Ponnuru. I would also throw in some version of Medicaid reform that introduces some kind of Swiss-style voucher option into the program.
Two distinguished scholars explore its original meaning. First, poitical scientist Edward Erler:
Most revealing, however, was Senator Howard's contention that "every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States." Almost everyone certainly would have understood "natural law" to refer to the social compact basis of citizenship, the basis for citizenship adumbrated in the Declaration of Independence.
The argument of the Declaration grounded citizenship in consent. The natural law argument of the Declaration was a repudiation of the notion of birthright citizenship that had been the basis of British citizenship (i.e., being a British "subject") ever since it was first articulated in Calvin's Case in 1608.
Next, law professor John Eastman:
Such a claim of birthright citizenship traces its roots not to the republicanism of the American Founding, grounded as it was in the consent of the governed, but to the feudalism of medieval England, grounded in the notion that a subject owed perpetual allegiance and fealty to his sovereign.
So is "Born in the U.S.A." an anti-American song? No, as long as we agree through democratic republican principles. "All men are created equal" means that Americans are free to determine their destiny through proper means--not through the aristocratic principles that underlie birthright citizenship. In the current debate over illegal immigration, the true egalitarians here, the believers in the Declaration of Independence, are not the "birthers." This nation long ago stopped recognizing "squatter rights."
UPDATE: See at least this earlier post on the 14th amendment, with Richard Adams' comments.
Over in one of the threads, political scientist Carl Scott referenced the shrinking of the mainstream media. He is certainly right when you look at the long-term ratings trends of the CBS Evening News or the prime time line up of the old big three networks. But I don't take much solace from that decline. My sense is that the decline of the mainsteam media and the resulting audience fragmentation is going to make it harder for conservatives messages to reach certain segments of the population.
The old MSM sure wasn't fair. I remember being in seventh grade and reading a Time magazine story about abortion. I didn't know what abortion was. At the end of the really long story I still didn't know what abortion was, but I knew that people who were against abortion were bad. It wasn't like the story outright told you to dislike them but the message got across.
But even though the coverage wasn't fair, the vast size of the MSM's audience, its commercial orientation and certain journalistic conventions that predominately liberal journalist felt they had to follow gave conservatives the space to get their message out. If you had the money to but ads, you could be pretty sure that most people would hear your thirty second (or thirty minute) message. The interviews for conservative figures might have been more hostile than the ones for liberal figures, but at least people got to see you and the hostility was usually limited to subtle cues (an exception being Bryant Gumbel, who usually didn't bother to disguise his detestation of center-right figures.) Even an overtly hostile interview could play to a center-right figure's advantage as George H.W. Bush and Dan Rather could tell you. Certain conventions where journalists were discouraged from openly taking sides and were obligated to describe center-right arguments, and provide coverage and interviews for center-right figures usually put boundaries on a press corps with liberal defaults. That these conventions allowed conservative messages to reach the public has been bitterly noted by liberal media critics who wanted the media to more overtly side with liberal partisans. Even when the MSM clearly took sides (as in the 1964 presidential campaign), if you had the money, you could buy a thirty minute ad that could make a huge impression on people who never thought of themselves as conservatives
The decline of the MSM, rise of the right-leaning media and the fragmentation of audience into small pockets that consume formally "nonpolitical" media has made it much easier to mobilize right-leaning Americans even as it has made it much harder for conservative messages to reach that majority of Americans that don't consume right-leaning media. Reaching that majority is now tougher because it means fighting for space in hundreds of outlets that aren't overtly political. These media often have a celebrity, lifestyle or ethnic/racial focus. The defaults of those who produce the media are probably liberal, and those producers can, by their occasional interventions into political issues, shape the political orientation of their media consumers. The most obvious example was the US Weekly "Babies, Lies and Scandal" cover story on Sarah Palin. This helped shape the perceptions of people who don't follow much "news." While reading my wife's Parenting magazine (don't judge me!) I was struck by an explanation of Obamacare that read like a paid advertisement. It didn't seem "political." It was just telling busy middle- class women (and me apparently) how a new law was going to change the lives of their families.
Twenty years ago you could count on at least reaching those people by ads during popular programs. Today it is much tougher not only because of audience fragmentation, but because it is easier to skip ads. Getting conservative messages into the forums that people are consuming will require different techniques than the ones that conservatives developed to deal with their relative weakness in the old MSM. It doesn't matter so much now that the economy is so bad, the turnout model for the November elections favors Republicans and the right-leaning media is able to help mobilize tens of millions of voters. But reaching those tens of millions who aren't being reached now is a major long-term problem with no obvious solution.