Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


A Truly Radical Redefining of Marriage

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.

Categories > Religion

Health Care

The Trials of Obamacare

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.

Categories > Health Care


The New Breed of Republican

Some conservatives have rightly questioned whether, after the November elections, they should expect to be disappointed by the new GOP majority(ies?).  I hesitate to say we shouldn't ask that question because I remember being young and very excited about the elections in 1994--only to slowly watch my enthusiasm drip away.  It is true that there is an undeniable tendency for members of Congress and the Senate to "go native."    People rather thought that because the freshmen class of 1994 was so large, there would be a bulwark against that tendency.  In retrospect, it seems that it was not large enough.

Maybe I'm just not old enough to know better than to be more hopeful this time, but I'll venture my reasons for my optimism anyway.  In the first place, the candidates.  Take a look, for example, at this op-ed written by Teresa Collett, candidate for Minnesota's 4th Congressional District.  She is not merely spouting off a laundry list of to-do items for when she lands the seat--she's talking about a fundamental shift in the way people view government.  She's talking about an understanding of rights and of popular sentiment and of the sovereignty of the people under law.  This is not your father's Republican party. 

In the second place, as Collett notes, Republicans are finally getting around to remembering and articulating their roots and how those differ from the Democrats.  That's important because it shows that Republicans no longer understand themselves as merely representing a different collection of interests than those represented by the Democrats.  They understand themselves to be offering a completely different understanding of liberty.  And now, they mean to defend it.  "While the Democrats still believe government is the source of liberty, most Republicans finally have remembered that liberty is the natural right of the people, not a gift from government," Collett says.

Finally, Collett makes note of Obama's and the Democrats' annoyance with Americans for their inclination now to "stand up"--as she calls it--and demand that their government respect their liberty.  I am, in the end, most optimistic because I am so encouraged by this movement of the people.   The Tea Party--or whatever we want to call this mass swing in public opinion and engagement--is something to behold.  That it has continued to take hold and grow, as it has done, is remarkable to me.  If there are parts of it that are sometimes unwieldy, that almost makes me even more encouraged because it demonstrates how genuine and grass-roots it really is.  It's not--as was the Obama wave--a top down following of hypnotized robots grasping at undefined and undefinable platitudes.  This actually means something.  People want a smaller, more responsible, less bumbling, and--above all--more Constitutional government that respects their sovereignty.  They don't want this merely because some messiah has come to tell them they ought to want it.  They want it because they have seen and felt what it means to live under the opposite.  They've had enough. 

I think it is going to take a very long time for the Democrats to undo what their over-reaching and hubris have done.  And I think it will be an equally long time before the usual suspects will be comfortable with their default positions of power within the GOP.  A great many of the old guard and those new guys who wanted to join them, are going to find themselves having to answer to a different master.   There will be homework, as some teachers might say.   I am smiling. 
Categories > Elections



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

Categories > Politics


Anger and the Bees

This story about what scientists are now discovering may be the true cause of the mystery of the disappearance of honeybees--a fungus and a virus--is interesting.  It is interesting because it brings to mind the hysteria that has dominated previous media reports on the subject that centered mainly on suspicions that the die-off might be caused by pesticides and increased radiation in the atmosphere from cell phone usage.  And this points to the default position of some well-meaning but, perhaps, too conventional and angry environmentalists who assume that mankind is the root of all environmental evil.  If one is a well meaning person and a lover of natural beauty and phenomena, it should not be difficult for the rest of us to understand why such a person holding to this default view (i.e., that mankind wreaks havoc upon the object of his affection) becomes a little . . . um . . .  mad (and angry too).

Jonah Goldberg writes a good piece today picking up on that sick 10:10 campaign in Britain and the insular group-think that propels people clinging to that kind of anger to produce an ad as noxious as that and imagine it salutary and beneficial to the public good.  It's not so simple as to say that these folks are barking mad--for the cause of their madness is more instructive than this kind of dismissive judgment allows us to imagine.  For people who study politics, it is worthwhile trying to come to grips with the kinds of things that motivate angry people.  That's because this kind of propensity toward fascism is not, of course, limited to enviros any more than it is characteristic of all environmentalists.  Among environmentalists, it does seem to be limited to those who don't particularly like human beings and would like the world better if most of us weren't around.  Jonah's point is well taken that the numbers of that kind of environmentalist appear to be a good bit higher today than many would like to believe.   

Anger in politics can be useful.  But when it is not managed by reason--sweet reason--it proves itself a costly master.  Everyone interested in politics ought to examine the bad examples of anger in politics from time to time and, of course, to remember NOT to allow oneself when thinking or commenting upon politics to be propelled exclusively by it. 
Categories > Environment

Pop Culture

The Passion of the Horse

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 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, 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.

Categories > Pop Culture

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Mario Vargas Llosa

I agree with John Podhoretz:

The man who may be the world's best living writer won the Nobel Prize for literature yesterday. That is a surprise, since the primary distinction of most literature laureates is either their country of origin or their anti-Americanism.

Mario Vargas Llosa won, the Nobel citation says, "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat."

(Although an argument for Cormac McCarthy being the world's best living writer could be also made).


Finding Beauty

Giovanni Boldini's "a woman in a pink muslin evening dress," was found in an apartment in Paris.  The story is short enough and fine enough to be read on its own.  It gives you a glimpse of a muse, of a love, of a sadness and even of grief, even of a mystery, and then of beauty living, obliterating black Chaos.  More Boldini here: "O momentary grace of mortal men, Which we more hunt for than the grace of God."
Categories > Leisure


Hayward on "Beat Down Day"

Here is yesterday's podcast with Hayward on the elections.  It's only twenty minutes long, but, of course, being Hayward, there is an hour worth of good thinking here.  The short of it is that the Dems are in fact in trouble and, so far there is no resurgence of Dem support.  Next month really will be a wave.  He calls the "wave", "beat down day."  I especially thought his insights on the Connecticut Senate race are thoughtful, as well as his opinions on why all this is happening: People have buyer's remorse about Obama; Obama bought into the narrative of the New Deal-- that people wanted to expand government--but that turned out not to be true; the expectations about Obama were too high (the hope and change campaign was too vague) as he came in; there was a disengagement between his campaign and what he did on becoming president.
Categories > Elections


Excellence, Charm, Pain, Beauty and Memory

Though I am no expert "fan" of baseball, I am a lover of the game.  My tie to the sport is not one of an athlete or, even, that of a former athlete.  It is merely that of having grown up in a family where ballparks were a kind of church and excellence--particularly in pitching--was viewed as a kiss from the gods doubling as a curse that demanded of its object sweat and sacramental perfection.  In short, I grew up loving men who had perfected a love of baseball and, now, I love a boy who loves it with fresh eyes.

My father is a south paw and was, in his day, an excellent and locally celebrated pitcher.  He made a run for the big leagues and, even, for a time played in the minor leagues--which accounts for my birth in the Sunshine state and the tingling of my olfactory system every time I get within 50 feet of a stadium.  Being Catholic, I sometimes get a similar sensation of warmth and memory when I smell incense at Mass, but on a pure sensory level I must confess that this rates only as a fleeting waft compared to the almost hungry inhaling I can do when anywhere near a leather glove.

But for all my love of the game, I was always pathetic as an athlete and a poor student of the details in the sport.  I was more the "sit up high at home plate and watch the whole" sort of fan.  If you start plying me with statistics and averages, my eyes will glaze over and I'll get nightmarish visions of algebra class.  I don't begrudge these kind of fans their pastime and I sometimes even envy their facility with facts and figures; their amazing capacity for recall.  But I do sometimes wonder if an absorption in these things can cloud their heads and keep them from seeing the poetry of a perfect line drive; the power and the vision behind an out-of-the-park home run; the comedy of errors in multiple errors; and the sheer wonder of an in-fielder grabbing, leaping, twisting and throwing in one, perfect ballet-like motion to make an out--and sometimes, even, the double or triple play.

Still, every once in awhile, an amazing thing like a Roy Halladay happens, and I am reminded that there is a precision worth appreciating, even in poetry.  The big picture can't happen without the little ones . . . and the facts and the figures matter.  When properly appreciated, statistics only add to the beauty of the game.  Excellence of this kind--with its singular and unceasing focus--has a certain charm that appeals, even to the losing team (and even when that losing team is from Ohio!). It becomes something to celebrate, to admire, and to ponder.  It is a glimpse, perhaps, at the order of the universe; something so close to perfection that we long to inhale it and to hold our breath forever.  But it is something that, alas, is as fleeting as it is rare.

So the thrill must pass.  But perhaps the charm can linger?  This story caught my eye, in part, because it is so charming.  Some good folks in Italy, recalling the glory days of the sport of cycling (before demon soccer came to conquer Europe or dared set foot in America), now sponsor a "race" where the object is less to conquer or to achieve victory than it is to remember and to revel in the beautiful things of the past.  They don the gear of a bygone era and indulge in the sights, the sounds, the smells and the food that transports them to a memory of something they understand to be high.  It is beautiful, even if sad . . . and painful!  As a man interviewed for the story summed it up, "Cycling was never fun," Mr. Wolbold said. "It is literally painfully beautiful."  As a person who only learned how to pedal a bicycle on her 24th birthday (I told you I was a pathetic athlete) I can attest to the pain.  The beauty of the sport, I find, is best appreciated in the past tense (i.e., after the ride is complete!)  I am going to have to try to appreciate the beauty of it, next time, as the Italians do . . . with Chianti.

If you will forgive the self-indulgence, these two stories--taken together--remind me of yet another fond memory:  the re-dedication of the local stadium in my hometown a year or so before I left for California.  To celebrate and remember and re-establish a sense of excellence, charm, and beauty in the newly re-stored park, several of the local baseball legends were assembled into two teams outfitted and equipped in 1890s style baseball regalia.  As many of these "once greats" were then well-past their prime, there were also some moments of pain (not to mention comedy) to prevent anyone from getting too caught up in the solemnity or beauty of the occasion.  Moreover, all the ball players (including my dear father) looked a little bit ridiculous . . .

I recall these things in order to wonder if true excellence, in order to be fully appreciated, requires us find beauty in things that are both painful and, even, merely charming.  Does it not require us to remember what our place in the order of the universe is and to develop a healthy sense of humor about it?  If we are too vain we will be too pained by our inadequacies and we will hesitate to give something excellent its due.  If we forget the past--our past--our senses (olfactory or otherwise) will be unable to lead us back to the things we have that are worth loving and we may never learn to understand why the charm lingers, even as the thrill fades.

Categories > Leisure

Health Care

Political Quiz

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.

Categories > Health Care


Lincoln's "growth"

Allen C. Guelzo correctly slams Eric Foner's "The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery," in today's WSJ.  Guelzo's book on the subject of emancipation is, of course, the last word on the subject because Guelzo understands both Lincoln's principles and his prudence.  I suspect Foner wanted the progressive counterweight to it, hence this boring tome on on Lincoln's "growth," how he is our "contemporary," the "living constitution," etc.
Categories > History


Bear Baying

This NYT piece on bear hunt training in So. Carolina is worth a read for a number of reasons, not the least of which is this line from the Bear Man, Robbie Grumbles: ""People raised on the concrete don't understand people raised on the dirt. I just don't know how to explain it to them."
Categories > Leisure


Policy, Language, Etc.

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.

Categories > Politics

Men and Women

Edward Taylor, a fine man

Back in August I made mention of my old friend, and his broken leg, and alluded to his many virtues.  I bring him to your attention again to announce, sadly, that he passed away.  His 100 year old body gave way, it just could not go on.  I saw him about two weeks ago and he was recovering from his wound, and his mind was what it has always been, a fine thing to behold.  The combination of his mind and heart made him into a gentleman.  He was fine, noble, and beautiful, everything a man should be.  I have never known him to be base, ignoble, or ugly, or to do anything coming close to base.  It should not surprise anyone who knew him that he often spoke of excellence; he wanted to see the excellence in things, and he wanted to be excellent in everything.  He had a deep appreciation for the highest things among human beings, and cultivated them in himself and his fine family.  I once heard him describe his wife Louaine (who died about eight years ago) as an artist, how she had a keen appreciation of the beauty in perfection, and how she disliked ugliness of any kind.  He loved to emphasize the massive fact that she had an artists love of color and detail.  I remembered this when I saw a rainbow yesterday, and I listened to Amazing Grace.  He was right about Louaine and I am right about Ed.  Excellence is rare.  Good men are hard to find, good old man are rare.  I am going to try to grow old into a good old man, into an Ed Taylor.  Rest in peace, my friend.
Categories > Men and Women


What Will Obama Do?

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 Clinton program were welfare reform, school uniforms, stable money, deficit reduction, a capital gains tax cut, and war in Bosnia.  I don't think Obama can pivot like that.  President Clinton refused to sign a budget and was able to blame the Republicans for shutting down the government only because he had moved in a centrist direction.  During the 2008 campaign, President Obama convinced many he was a centrist.  It will be harder sell now.

Categories > Presidency

It's the Family, Stupid!

Robert W. Patterson, editor of The Family in America  (LINK UPDATED--a journal that deserves far wider circulation), emphasizes the link between economic conservatism and moral conservatism.  He finds Theodore Roosevelt a most useful source for urging the strengthening of the family.  The criticism of him as a Progressive needs to take this observation of his into account.  This academic work, by John D. Mueller, a former adviser to Jack Kemp, makes the case for Augustinian, natural law economics, which also understands the family, not individuals, as the root of economic activity properly understood.  It is due out in mid-October from ISI Press.



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.  


Categories > Politics


Old, Dry, Disjointed Bones

Byron York at the Washington Examiner pens a nice article today comparing the Glenn Beck "Restoring Honor" rally with the Big Labor "One Nation Working Together Rally" in Washington.  There are a lot of mysteries in politics, but the question of why the Big Labor rally fell flat isn't one of them, according to York.  To explain this, York draws out a clever insight inspired by Al Sharpton's address at the rally that could be a metaphor for the entire liberal establishment as it now reveals itself to us.  Sharpton tried to energize the crowd by telling the story of Ezekiel who saw a valley of dry bones and brought them together to make new life (though, as York points out, Sharpton neglects to mention the miraculous intervention of God in this).  What we are left with, York notes, is ". . . Sharpton's striking image of the Democratic Party as a bunch of old, dry bones."

Considering the shrinking size and importance of labor unions (at least of the private sector variety),  the tired old saws that animate what remains of the loyal Democrat party, and the disillusioned and now wavering young people who were burned by "hope and change," old, dry and disjointed bones do seem a perfect metaphor for the Democrats.

But lest Republicans get too confident amidst the coming groundswell aimed in their direction, they ought to abide this message from a young, connected and anything but dry Republican governor. 

Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

Out of the Mouths of "Babes"

God bless these young women in Connecticut who have the good sense to appeal to their local school board and ask that the cheerleading squad to which they belong be allowed to purchase some clothes!  I point to this story both to "cheer" the good sense of these girls and to point to the many ways in which adults surrounding young people can expose themselves as morons when they veer away from common sense and decency.  This is a simple story of a group of cheerleaders who have enough respect for themselves to want to do their job in a way that brings honor to themselves and to the school they represent.  The reports about it bring us speculation and hair-tearing about the possibility of links between uniforms and eating disorders; the intricacies, proprieties and legalities of dress codes; and the rantings of a superintendent who would rather see the girls expose themselves in short shorts than wear skirts she considered to be "cheesy." 
Categories > Pop Culture


Barone on the Gallup Poll

Picking up on Peter's post yesterday on the astonishing Gallup poll results for President Obama, I note Michael Barone's analysis today of the generic Congressional ballot poll.  Key graph: 

These two numbers, if translated into popular votes in the 435 congressional districts, suggest huge gains for Republicans and a Republican House majority the likes of which we have not seen since the election cycles of 1946 or even 1928. For months, people have been asking me if this year looks like '94. My response is that the poll numbers suggest it looks like 1994, when Republicans gained 52 seats in a House of 435 seats. Or perhaps somewhat better for Republicans and worse for Democrats. The Gallup high turnout and low turnout numbers suggest it looks like 1894, when Republicans gained more than 100 seats in a House of approximately 350 seats.
Categories > Elections


All Eyes on Ohio

Several media outlets today report on the trends in Ohio's big political races and what they may say about national trends--not only in 2010, but also looking forward to 2012.  Moreover, they consider the factors that are motivating these trends and what might animate voters moving forward.  In general, they point to a more independent-minded and entrepreneurial spirit emerging in the American people that--despite the economy and the tough choices we will certainly face in the coming years--may also point to the best hope we have of overcoming our economic and governmental woes.  A brief overview:

Time Magazine concludes:

Democrats can stomach a defeat for Fisher, in whom they never invested high hopes. But Strickland is another story -- and it's not just Ohio Democrats riveted by the race. A governor can have a major impact on his state's presidential race, and Obama, who narrowly won Ohio in 2008, will probably need to carry the state again in 2012 if he wants to gain a second term. At the moment, panicky Democrats are watching Ohio slip from their grasp--and wishing it was spring again.

The New York Times features a whole symposium of journalists and political scientists focusing on Ohio.  A key theme that emerges from the discussion is the need for jobs and a growing sense among Ohio voters that the old way of thinking about "creating jobs" (i.e., attracting big manufacturing-based companies through government incentives or pouring lots of government money into jobs programs and government work) are not the way forward in this changing economy. 

In the NYT exchange, John Green from the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron argues that, "Ohioans are currently skeptical of the public sector, doubting its capacity to create jobs. Thus the election may be a referendum on government itself, no matter who wins."  He suggests that the only reason Ted Strickland is even treading water in the current governor race is because he may be the "right kind of Democrat" in that he does not appear to disagree (at least not fundamentally) with John Kasich about the way jobs are created:  "Kasich argues for reducing spending, not raising taxes, and for reinvigorating the private sector. Strickland advocates all these same things -- and claims he has done them while in office."  The question, in the end, may be whether Ohioans believe in Strickland's commitment to the things he claims for himself or whether they think Kasich, with his private sector experience, is a better representation of the best way forward.  Real Clear Politics averages out all of the polls and still has Kasich in a pretty clear lead, by the way.  The most recent of these polls (Quinnipiac) shows Kasich with a 9 point lead.

What is the best way forward for Ohio?  I like something Ray Cooklis (deputy editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer ) said in the NYT discussion and it is something that ought to have deep appeal to Ohio voters of the Tea Party stripe--regardless of previous political party affiliation:  "There's a growing sense the state must become far more savvy on venture capital and entrepreneurship. And there's a growing sense among young Ohioans - those who don't leave for the coasts after college - that their economic norm will be to start your own business, create your own job and bring your peers along for the ride."  I think that's a very healthy and encouraging realization, if true.  Why should self-respecting Ohioans wait around whining for a big company or the government to ride into town on a white horse and give them a job? 

Ohio is the home of America's first pioneers.  It is the place where people went when they were tired of serving the interests of large manufacturers on the east coast and wanted to break out on their own and build something for themselves.  They often came with little more than a keen wit, ingenuity, and a solid back-breaking determination.  Over the summer I read a great little volume about the history of my old stomping grounds in Zanesville and Muskingum county and I was struck--not only by the proud exploits and independent thinking of the community's founders, but also by how many family names I recognized as still inhabiting the area.  Going back as far as Ebenezer Zane--whose gumption and Sawyer-like wits inspired him to build the great Trace that eventually became the first National Road--the beginnings of Ohio attracted American entrepreneurs who understood that the business of America is business.  Government's role in that--though not insignificant--was to facilitate the transportation and communication that made this entrepreneurial activity possible and, therefore, promised a steady supply of citizens who were free men and worthy of the self-government that is their right.  Ohioans (and all Americans) would do well to remind themselves of this history from time to time and reflect upon how they might do what they can to also be worthy--not just of that history and tradition--but also of the self-government that is their right today every bit as much as it was of their forebears. 

Categories > Elections



This NYT article on the Monet Show in Paris is worth reading.  "The biggest art spectacle in Europe this fall, with some 160 paintings, it is, believe it or not, the first full-dress overview Paris has staged in decades, the first chance anywhere to see the whole sweep of his work in some time."  There are some good lines in the story, including these from Proust: "On the threshold of love we are bashful," Proust noted. "There has to be someone who will say to us, 'Here is what you may love: love it.' "

I vaguelly recollect a story about Monet and Sargent painting side by side, when Sargent asked him for some black, and Monet replied, "I never use it."  Perfect.
Categories > Leisure


Obama's Poll Numbers

The Los Angeles Times reports on the latest "ominous new Gallup findings": "The good news for President Obama is his popular support among blacks is holding steady at 91%.  The bad news is no other group of potential voters likes him that much.  In fact, 29 days before his first midterm elections, the Democrat's approval ratings remain mired below 50%.  A new Gallup Poll this morning finds his approval rating for September was 45%, almost the same as August's 44%. Obama's not exceeded the crucial 50% level in a single month so far this year."
Categories > Politics


California at Sunset

Jennifer Rubin writes a piece on the rise and coming fall of California that is both moving and devastating.  The article is part book review and part personal reflection.  Rubin pays special attention to California Crackup:  How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It by Joe Mathews and Mark Paul, and she tells her own story of moving to California as a child and, then, of her decision (in 2005) to re-locate.  But even more than book review or reminiscence, Rubin's is a cautionary tale for populists and reformers of every political stripe.  She cites many examples, but perhaps the best of these are the stories of the unintended consequences of Proposition 13 and term limits.  A good test for the seriousness of any Tea Party candidate or supporter going forward might be to question their understanding of the perils of reform Rubin so wisely addresses in this article.  For Rubin hints at something the Founders understood well:  people generally tend to get the kind of government they deserve.  Put another way (and to borrow from Jefferson), "though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable." 

It is popular sport in California to pin blame for our woes on one or another group of special interests or on one or another political party or politician.  In the end, however, the fact remains that it comes down to the people of California.  They pushed for reforms that made it less and less likely that California's majorities would be reasonable and now we find ourselves in a situation where even as we try to dig out, we dig deeper--using, as we are, the same broken (and progressive) shovels and instruction manuals that got us into this hole.  The question for California needs to be less about how we arrange things to make it easier for a majority prevail and less about trying to keep majorities in check with artificial and easily surmounted barriers (i.e., term limits) than it is about how it is we can do the hard work of making the majority of Californians reasonable and therefore worthy of the self-government that is their right.  The same ought to hold true in the rest of the country.  Tea Partiers should look at the example of California and be very suspicious of people who market quick fixes to governmental woes by proposing to make government even more reflective of the will of the majority.  Whether they mean to make government more reflective of popular will or make their own will more popular is, most often, unclear.  But one thing that appears to be very clear is that the actual results of these bulldozing mechanisms seem rarely to live up to the golden promises. 
Categories > Politics


Supreme Hypocrisy

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.

Categories > Religion


Supreme Etiquette

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).

Categories > Courts