In light of the controversy surrounding attempts to redefine marriage to include homosexual couples, one of the more radical solution would be to exclude the state from marriages altogether and remand the whole business of matrimony back to religious communities.
This is the state of affairs in Egypt, where civil ceremonies are invalid and marriage is the sole purview of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The civil authority, however, recently attempted to force the church to permit a divorce and remarriage, defying a constitutional court ruling holding marriage to be fully within religious jurisdiction. The conflict is yet unresolved, but exposes the likelihood that political-religious disputes would accompany such a scenario anywhere in the world.
Marriage is one of those delicate institutions which fall well within both the religious and secular spheres. A sacrament of the Church, it is also a foundation of society and law. Even if the state were merely to recognize religious unions, it would be necessary to regulate the requirements of such unions - i.e., recognized religious authorities, non-polygamist unions, consenting adults (no minors) and, again, homosexuality. If a solution is to be found, it is not entirely in this recourse.
A U.S. District Court in Michigan has refused a request for injunction of Obamacare's individual mandate provision (requiring everyone to buy health insurance or face a federal penalty). The opinion lays out a brief history of Commerce Clause adjudication in the Supreme Court before addressing the merits of the arguments at hand. It's worth a read, particularly because it is short, legible and seemingly intended for a non-legal audience.
The significance of the ruling is only of particular interest because it is the first official ruling on Obamacare. It is only a denial of the plaintiff's request for injunction - the court was merely required to find a reasonable basis for constitutionality (not actual constitutionality) for denial. The ruling will be appealed.
Further, two independant suits have been brought in other courts. A federal judge already refused to dismiss a challenge to Obamacare in Virginia, meaning to case will proceed. And another suit brought by twenty states and small-businesses is pending in Florida. A victory in any of these three courts would demand Supreme Court review of the law.
Should that day come, it will be of particular significance to Obama and the Democrats. The lack of a severability clause in the law, requiring that the whole law be held void if a single provision is found unconstitutional, could swiftly and easily effect the end of Obamacare. The principle acheivement of the Obama administration would not only be nullified, but it would be found unconstitutional and many Tea Party criticisms would be vindicated.
A heavily reduced Democratic presence in Congress would leave the president with a difficult decision: accept defeat or compromise with Republicans. The loss of a near-super-majority in Congress will likely prove crippling to a president so unwilling to compromise.
Jay Cost's horserace analysis at the Weekly Standard is one of my favorite reads on the web.
I guess the Nobel Committee chose 2010 to stop sniffing glue. Good for them, but I'm afraid next year's Peace Prize is going to Bart Stupak.
Fascinating and sympathetic article by Megan McArdle on the spiral of bad incentives and bad (but logical given the incentives) short-term decisions making that led to the collapse of the Big Three car companies. It made me think about how the short and medium-term political incentives align for putting off dealing with the federal government's fiscal issues. It made me want to put together a bumper sticker that says Daniels/Christie 2012: Reality Starts Now
Remember when the left began sputtering with anaphylactic shock upon the release of The Passion of the Christ, shrieking that the movie was pornographically violent, hatefully anti-Semitic and simply inappropriate for American audiences in its overtly pro-Christianity? They fled to Michael Moore's movie as an antidote to such Christ-smut and reassurance of their world-view.
The entire episode provided a useful measure by which to identify those on the left who had simply gone off the reservation in their knee-jerk, irrational hatred of all-things-Christian.
Well, another cinematic stimulus has triggered another outbreak of lunacy amongst the radical left: Secretariat. A Disney movie about a horse. Salon's review condemns the movie's NAZI-driven racism, pro-Americanism and "Christian-friendly and 'middle-American' inspirational values." From the Catholic League:
The Sarasota Herald is not happy with the movies' "barely concealed religiosity" and "all the talk about 'lifting up.'" The New York Times notes its "Bible-thumping" elements, while nj.com says, "the film is bookended by quotes from the book of Job, interrupted by mystical shots of clouds and sunbeams, and even has a scene where the horse gets a rubdown scored to a gospel song." Newsday goes so far as to claim that the director "insists on turning the horse into Christ himself," and New York 1 opines "it's a bit much" to endure "passages from the Bible and playing gospel music." Similarly, Hollywood.com complains the film "reeks" of "grandiosity," even to the extent of "using Old Testament quotations and gospel music."
A sign of the times. The only examples in Hollywood of gratuitous violence, harmful messages or inappropriate themes visible to liberals involve gospel music and Bible passages. It's hard not to feel more pity than consternation for such miserable people.
NOTE: I've not seen the movie, but I'm a life-long fan of Secretariat. I wasn't alive to view his historic Belmont victory, but my mother recounts that she wept at the beauty.
Imagine that you are president. Your party has passed a major overhaul of health care. However, on the eve of midterm elections you learn that about a million people, many (perhaps most) of whom normally support your party, will lose their health care coverage as a direct result of provisions of that law. Do you:
1) Admit that the law, which few if any legislators read beforehand, was a mistake, and work to repeal it.
2) Offer exemptions to the law to the companies that employ these people, effectively putting the problem off until after Election Day.
Click here for the answer.
Ricochet's Rob Long asks what Republicans can do to win over a larger share of the Latino vote. I don't think amnesty per se is the biggest stumbling block. Even the pro-amnesty lobbying group America's Voice, using leading questioning found immigration to be a low salience issue when compared with the labor market, health care, and education (look at the question wording in the attachment.) That doesn't mean that the salience of immigration would not rise if Republicans came out for mass deportations (which does not seem to be on the table for the national party.) A policy of stricter border enforcement, the introduction of a tamper-resistant national identification system, and the prospect of a limited amnesty once we have a functional immigration system would seem to combine gaining majority support and moving policy in the right direction with an agenda that would minimize alienation of Latino voters.
But having an answer on amnesty is only a small part of the problem. I think that a large part of the GOP's problem with Latinos comes from an inability to communicate with people who have not bought into (or are at least familiar with) certain narratives and stock phrases within American politics. A policy of stop tax increases (or cut taxes) to create jobs isn't quite an appeal on tax policy. It is an appeal to people who buy into a certain narrative of what is wrong with the economy and how to fix it. To someone who is unfamiliar with the unarticulated premises of "cut taxes to spur the economy" the statement isn't exactly wrong. It is just noise.
People who pay alot of attention to politics seem to me to not notice how the vocabulary of our politics is incomprehensible to large fraction of the public. This is true of many Latino voters, but is also true of many young voters in general (including whites) who have not been socialized into understanding the terms of the debate through their families, the right-leaning media or through large doses of the MSM's traditional news broadcasts.
The Democrats have certain built-in advantages with Latino voters and especially with Latinos in heavily Latino areas. Personal interactions with politics involves contact with local elected officials, community organization activists and school teachers. All of these groups are probably Democrat-leaning and can create the impression that Democrats are the "good guys." One shouldn't exaggerate the strength, or complexity of that impression. That impression can coincide with any number of opinions on abortion, taxation, or whatever (and no particular policy preferences on a broad range of issues.) As long as the impression of the Democrats (or a given Democrat) does not come into direct and seemingly unavoidable conflict with an important issue preference or deeply held principle, the impression can form the basis for political action.
This has implications for how Republicans (and conservatives) should seek to win over Latinos (and to a large extent all voters who do not consume much right-leaning media but do not have strong liberal-leaning policy preferences.) The first thing is to realize that large parts of basic conservative speech is worthless as an appeal. There are lots of people who are unmoved at the thought that government spending is out of control (what does that even mean? it can be explained but still...), who neither fear nor lust for government-run medicine, who don't know that tax cuts are the road to recovery and don't care that the Obama administration's alleged Wilsonian progressivism makes dead George Washington cry in heaven.
One implication for policy is that policy and messaging should focus on tangible benefits to the audience you are addressing. That means that if you are going to build an appeal around tax cuts, you should include significant tax cuts for most of the audience you are appealing to. Compared to Obama's program, the 2008 McCain tax plan, the Ryan Roadmap, and the Pledge to America did not include significant tax cuts to most non-wealth Americans. From personal experience, I think that there is probably a political market among younger Latinos for a policy mix of lower taxes and fewer (though perhaps better functioning) government services. But that would mean actually cutting their taxes rather than having some story about how tax cuts that go to someone else will benefit them in the end. I also think that there is room to move the US tax system that provides tax cuts to young middle-class workers (especially parents) and increases economic efficiency.
Something similar can be said for other policies. It isn't enough to be against socialized medicine. That isn't a scare phrase for alot of people. It isn't enough to be for tort reform. It makes plenty of sense to blame forthcoming premium increases on Obamacare, but it will be just as important to have policies that can plausibly offer life improvements. And the focus of explaining those policies should be on the benefits that individuals would derive. It would include explaining how reforming Medicaid into a voucherized system of high deductible insurance would decrease the working poor's wait times for seeing a doctor and maybe save the taxpayers money. In fact that last sentence is at least eight words too long to be maximally effective. It would mean explaining how a system that bypassed state mandates and funded reinsurance pools could increase the take home pay of middle-class workers and increase their security of keeping health insurance if they change jobs. It also isn't enough to be pro-life. You have to be clear and gutsy in highlighting the abortion extremism of the Democratic Party. It wouldn't hurt (and it is only just) to remind the public of the visible humanity of the late-term fetuses that much of the senior Democratic leadership wants to have a virtually unlimited license to destroy.
There are of course bad ways to explain these policies. They would include spending alot of time citing journal articles and economic models. They would also include falling into Bob Dole-type Congress talk (I coauthored an amendment to SB 141 to authorize the Secretary of HHS to...) Selling the right policies will have to be a combination of wonkiness and populism.
There is also the issue of the media environment. You will have to get people where they are which would mean using paid media to get to people who aren't consuming right-leaning media (with focus on the Comedy Central bloc of show, entertainment programming and Spanish language media.) It would also mean structuring your ad buys differently. Many thirty second ads are only collections of buzzwords and atmospherics. The buzzwords are probably meaningless to your target audience. It might make more sense to buy one ninety second or two minute ad that says something clear instead of four thirty second ads that don't effectively communicate anything.
Personal note: I'll be away tomorrow. See (well, read) you on Friday.
Men and Women
Should the Republicans get a majority in one or both houses of Congress, how will the President react? My guess is that he won't be in an accommodating mood. President Obama seems to be the kind of liberal who thinks that his analysis of things is the simple truth. Others may come to different conclusions, but that's only because they have not thought hard enough about things, or, perhaps, they have narrow, or interested motives. In short, they are political; he is not. Obama sees his ideas as being above politics; those who disagree with him are being political, and dividing us. By contrast, his ideas are designed to unite us. If that analysis is correct, he will dig in against a majority that disagrees.
One further point on the same subject. President will probably also think he can imitate President Clinton, and get the GOP Congress to overplay its hand. He may be able to do that. On the other hand, after 1994, the main elements of the
I'm not sweating the tightening generic ballot. It probably reflects one of two things. First, some polls have a too large number of self-identified Democrats in their voter sample. The second is some Democratic leaners coming home. The second factor is more relevant but should be kept in perspective. The Democrats are going to get their 45% or more of the House vote. I'm confident that Republicans will win control of the House and win 9 to 11 seats in the Senate. I think Angle will win but the Democrats will win close ones in Connecticut and California.
I'm watching the California Senate race because it could be a sign of where politics is going. Republicans should be winning this race. The Republicans have the lousy economy working in their favor. Boxer is an extremist (she is cagey about whether it should be legal to "abort" fully delivered fetuses...ugh...babies), and she has an obnoxious personality. Fiorina isn't a perfect candidate, but she is competent. Fiorina's problem seems to be that Republican gains seem concentrated among two groups. First are right-leaning voters who (if polls are to be believed) are very excited about voting. The second group is made up of white persuadables who don't have a strong liberal/Democrat political identity. The Republicans are getting huge margins among whites. Among white voters this isn't 1994. This is 1984 at the congressional level. In other words, the white voters who aren't voting Republican are committed liberals. That is enough for Republicans to win in most places in 2010, but it might not be enough in California. The Democrats are, under very adverse circumstances, doing surprisingly well among Latino and African American voters. Obama's job national job approval rating among Latinos is 55%. I'm not sure exactly how much stock to place in the California polls, but Boxer seems to be beating Fiorina among Latino voters by about 2 to 1. The problem for Republicans nationally is that the national electorate will look a little more like California's every election cycle starting in 2012. Or to put it another way- if ethnic voting patterns stayed the same, Scott Brown would probably have lost his Senate race in the demographic Massachusetts of 2020.
Now there is no guarantee that the racial or ethnic voting margins of the present will reproduce themselves exactly in the coming decade-plus. But there are reasons to worry. The Democrats are holding undivided power and the American labor market is as bad as anyone under seventy can remember. Unless something changes, the Republicans are near their historical ceiling among white voters and are only barely back where Bush was among Latinos in 2004. The situation points to Republican losses among both groups if circumstances improve even a little.
So that means that Republicans are going to have to earn (or not) gains among Latinos, and probably under less favorable circumstances than they have now. It isn't exactly clear how to go about doing that, but Ricochet's Rob Long asked an interesting question. I'll try to give a tentative answer tomorrow.
Following up on Ken's observation that CNN and other liberals were troubled by politicians and decision-makers attending the Red Mass (or, more generally, attending any Catholic services), one should note that the same media (see today's NY Times - subscription only) runs several articles this morning on liberal Democrats campaigning from the pulpits, and all without the slightest mention of impropriety.
Democrats have always had the privilege of converting churches into campaign pit-stops. The NY Times this morning relates that a local pastor begged his congregation to vote for Andrew Cuomo as the Democrat made his rounds of the local church circuit.
So, Catholic politicians and judges are scolded for attending a Catholic mass which simply articulates Catholic doctrine, yet the same critics find no fault in liberal, usually black churches actually endorsing specific Democrats before turning over the pulpit for those candidates to deliver political stump speeches.
Try to imagine the outrage if a Catholic archbishop declared that the Church was endorsing Sarah Palin - maybe she could also read from her latest book in place of the Gospel before blessing and distributing the Eucharist. (It would, at least, be the only instance in which the NY Times would object to a female usurping the Catholic hierarchy.) Principles find no footing amongst partisans such as these.
In the view of CNN via the LA Times, it is problematic for the Catholic Church to denounce abortion at the "Red Mass"--a Catholic Mass on the Sunday before the Supreme Court's opening of its session, tomorrow. A tradition since 1952, the Mass has attracted both Catholic and non-Catholic Justices, and an audience of several hundred from the local legal and political community.
But recently "Critics have called the attendance of leading decision-makers, including members of the highest court in the land, inappropriate"--for its "unhealthy mix of politics, religion and the law." Indeed, Justice Ginsburg stopped attended because of the tone of the remarks in recent years: "I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion." As a sign of atonement, perhaps next year a priest should give a homily on foreign sources of American constitutional law.
In keeping with this criticism, I propose that the Catholic Church should henceforth base homilies and readings on Hobbes' Leviathan. The President and the Democratic Congress should ratchet up their treatment of the Court from the last State of the Union address, in order to help exorcise any demons inflicted on the five attendees (and Vice President Biden).