Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Winston Churchill

What can one say about Mr. Churchill?  It is his birthday. I will go home and have a shot of cognac and a stogie in your honor.  I feel too prosaic today to try say anything poetic or elegant about this wonderful fellow who, at every turn in his life and words, reminds us of human excellence.  And that, as he might say, is an incontrivertable truth.  Thank you, Mr. Churchill and I will toast you.  Here is a piece Justin Lyons did on Churchill and here is a good book about him by a friend.  

Categories > History

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

From President Jackson's Bank veto message:

It is maintained by the advocates of the bank that its constitutionality in all its features ought to be considered as settled by precedent and by the decision of the Supreme Court. To this conclusion I can not assent. Mere precedent is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of constitutional power except where the acquiescence of the people and the States can be considered as well settled. So far from this being the case on this subject, an argument against the bank might be based on precedent. One Congress, in 1791, decided in favor of a bank; another, in 1811, decided against it. One Congress, in 1815, decided against a bank; another, in 1816, decided in its favor. Prior to the present Congress, therefore, the precedents drawn from that source were equal. If we resort to the States, the expressions of legislative, judicial, and executive opinions against the bank have been probably to those in its favor as 4 to 1. There is nothing in precedent, therefore, which, if its authority were admitted, ought to weigh in favor of the act before me.

If the opinion of the Supreme Court covered the whole ground of this act, it ought not to control the coordinate authorities of this Government. The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others. It is as much the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the President to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution which may be presented to them for passage or approval as it is of the supreme judges when it may be brought before them for judicial decision. The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve.

Categories > Quote of the Day


Self-Control NOT Self-Esteem

Dennis Prager's column at NRO today discusses the evolution of the "self-esteem" school of thought that--despite ample evidence of and experience with its deleterious consequences--still seems to function as the de-facto premise of all institutions concerning the education and activities of today's children.  Prager suggests that in the eyes of most ordinary people, this emperor now stands naked and they realize what a disaster his methods have been.  I agree with him that there is an undercurrent of mockery and complaint surrounding the self-esteem movement. 

Unfortunately, however, if the practical adoption of this approach is dying at all, it appears to be dying a very slow and obnoxious death despite this undercurrent of scorn.  It lingers, unwanted and unloved, but it refuses to be ignored.  Perhaps for those of us raised with the approach, there remains a lingering suspicion that we are engaged in some form of cruelty when we do not massage the egos of our children--and maybe our vanity suggests to us more power in our role as molder and shaper of our children's egos than any parent has a right to imagine he possesses.

As a corrective to that temptation, today's parents and teachers ought constantly to remind themselves of the following:  "[G]ood character is created by teaching self-control, not self-esteem . . . if you don't agree with this conclusion, do the following:  Ask the finest people you know how much self-esteem they had as a child.  Then ask all the narcissists you know how much their parent(s) praised them."
Categories > Education

Literature, Poetry, and Books

How to Lose Writer's Block

You think you struggle with writing?  Consider this WaPo profile of Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken.  Hillenbrand suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome so crippling that for two years she could not leave her DC house nor, for months, even her room.  

In the carefully calibrated world of Laura Hillenbrand, every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction. On one day, she might agree to an interview but skip a shower. Energy is finite, and she typically has enough for one activity a day. She is constantly measuring herself, monitoring herself. She might write a bestseller - she might write two - but the ensuing fame will touch her only tangentially. She will not see her books in Barnes & Noble.

The profile explores not only her writing on a champion horse and a champion athlete who suffered as WW II POW but also the love between her and her political theorist husband, a Thucydides scholar.  Both attended Kenyon College.



Megan McArdle wonders if we are headed for another financial crisis.  Andy Kessler offers his policy prescription for saving the banking system in the event of another crisis..  It seems pretty similar to something commenter Art Deco suggested in one of the threads (unless I misunderstood - which is likely.)  Heck, I dunno.

h/t Reihan Salam.

Categories > Economy


Not Giving Much Away

I'm impressed with the President's suggestion of a two year pay freeze for civillian federal employees.  I'm not impressed by the savings and I don't think for a moment that he has come around more to my way of thinking (or Paul Ryan's or Mitch Daniels or...), or that he is ready for real compromise.  I think he understands what is central to the changes that he wants to implement and institutionalize and what is peripheral.  Or put it this way, he knows that the Democrats can freeze the pay of federal employees, cut domestic discretionary spending, make earmarking a felony, and still win the future.
Categories > Politics

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American Exceptionalism, Upate

Greg Sargent responds in the WaPo to that paper's coverage of conservatives questioning Obama's belief in American exceptionalism by asserting that "the right intends this attack line as a proxy for their real argument: That Obama is not one of us." He concludes, after many paragraphs supporting his thesis, by revealing that the "real goal [of right-wingers] is to hint that you should find Obama's character, story, motives and identity to be fundamentally alien, unsettling, and insidious."

Sargent indubitably intends his indictment as a "gotcha" moment - a discovery of hidden motives and stunning revelation.

The only problem is that most conservatives would likely agree with everything Sargent wrote. Obama doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, probably because of his character, story, motives and identity, and therefore he isn't really one of us. Oh, and we find that unsettling and insidious. And even if you set aside the whole issue of American exceptionalism, Obama still probably isn't like us - for all the same reasons and with all the same results.

The left just isn't getting the message.

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Extolling American Exceptionalism

WaPo notes that Palin, Romney, Pence, Huckabee, Santorum and Gingrich have all recently extolled "American exceptionalism." In part, this arises from Obama's reluctance on the matter.

Obama was asked by Financial Times correspondent Ed Luce whether he subscribes, as his predecessors did, "to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world."

The president's answer began: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

Though purportedly affirming his belief, many understood the president to have signaled denial by nuance.

The rhetoric of exceptionalism is likely to continue, as it has an eager audience not only in Tea Party and conservative circles but also among moderate American. The (rightful) perception that Democrats eschew the doctrine not only plays very well in the current environment but clearly defines a fundamental divergence in liberal and conservative political perceptions and policies.

WaPo quotes the late political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, who employed exceptionalism to explain "why the United States is the only industrialized country which does not have a significant socialist movement or Labor party." Many Americans see in Obamacare, finance regulation, massive spending and the like an attempt to impose institutions and policies which conflict with the established modes and inheritances consistent with a sense of exceptionalism. Tea Party Americans instinctively responded to this shift with defiance, demonstrating a visceral attachment to a continued sense of American exceptionalism and its social, political and economic consequences.

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Constitutional Conventions

The Federalist Society recently hosted a debate (video here) on amending the Constitution. WaPo covered the event by noting the "jarring" juxtaposition as "liberals urged caution, and judicial modesty," while conservatives "called for revolution." The latter saw potential for a constitutional convention to restore states' rights, considering amendments to balance the budget, mandate a supermajority to raise taxes and afford a line-item veto. The former rebutted that policy differences should be resolved by the political branches.

The debate seems to be conservative elation over the November election run amok. That states' rights have been unduly curtailed is evident, but exposing the Constitution to reform risks denigrating the prestige of the cherished document. And what's good for the goose.... Liberals will not always be the target of popular ire.

The Constitution says what is should - it has been a fault of the electorate that our leaders have failed to legislate and adjudicate in accordance with the Constitution. We have the opportunity to amend that particular error every November or so.

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Political Parties

Beware Your Leaders

I've long thought that the greatest impediment to the advancement of the civil-rights movement is the leadership of the civil-rights movement. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the like inspire (intentionally, I believe) division and angst where none need exist, personally profiting from the perception of victimization but thereby alienating their cause.

This syndrome can just as easily affect a political party. Thus, Democrats attempted to portray Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove and the Tea Party as de facto leaders of the GOP. These attempts generally failed, but the GOP has been laboring to provide its own red meat for the grinder. RNC Chair Michael Steele has been an embarrassment and general disgrace from the onset, and continues to make headlines with his unprecedented and shady spending.

Party leaders generally ought to be distinguished (by longevity or merit) members of Congress or sitting presidents. A president is an obvious and inevitable leader, but the out-of-office party may find itself without a discernable head - or sporting a multitude of heads. Both are generally unsightly conditions. Nonetheless, peripheral characters, such as Palin, Romney, Huckabee and Steele, are dangerously unaccountable. They may work mischief without being personally held responsible by voters (unless they attempt to run for something) - the party suffers for their sins.

Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, Sessions, Pence and Ryan spring to mind as genuine GOP leaders. Insofar as a character such as Steele shares the stage, all the more pressing is the need to divest him of his authority.

Categories > Political Parties


Obama Compromising?

WaPo reports:

Bowing to growing budget concerns and months of Republican political pressure on federal pay and benefits, President Obama will announce a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers.

The freeze is "the first of many difficult steps ahead," according to the OMB. "[T]he president is clearly asking [federal workers] to make a sacrifice." The GOP responded that the freeze is "long overdue" and suggested further spending cuts proposed in the "Pledge to America." 

Meanwhile, the WSJ reports congressional Dems "are preparing to put up a fight over tax relief for wealthier Americans before they agree to any compromise with Republicans that could extend the Bush-era breaks." The Dems will need Obama's support to hike upper-income taxes and fend off across-the-board tax breaks - a losing position which will further erode the president's flagging approval rating. Further, the WashTimes reports that advocates of government transparency are calling for Obama to "follow through on a slew of unfulfilled pledges he made during the 2008 campaign"

Opportunities to change course and compromise (whether out of new-found enlightenment concerning the popular will or mere political necessity) are quickly arising during the lame duck session. This vestigial period will be a fine indication of Obama's response to the electoral disavowal his policies received in November.

Categories > Presidency

Pop Culture

Today it's Happy Meals, in the 1950s it was comic books

It's not every day that George Will editorializes about the history of the comic book industry.  However, he did so yesterday and I'm glad he did.  Few outside the uber-geeky circles I frequent have ever heard of Frederic Wertham of the 1950s investigation into comic books.  Those who have tend to portray the tale as a predictable case of uptight "family values" conservatives infringing on artists' creative freedom.  But, as Will informs us, Wertham in many ways represented the progressive ideal of the crusading social scientist seeking to purge society of all that wasn't good for it.  Surely all of the decent, right-thinking progressives of the time lined up behind Wertham.

The Wertham case puts me in mind of an article I wrote some ten years ago, published in 2001 in the Historian.  Entitled "Gigantic Engines of Propaganda", it posits a link between the progressive investigations of the motion picture industry in the 1900s and 1910s, and the late-1940s hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Categories > Pop Culture

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Partisan Mind

Ross Douthat is a smart guy, I think.  Yet, this op-ed on the partisan mind is very light.  Given that bi-partisanship is such a cause (even) among some, and is so misleading, etc., this issue need a more serious discussion, but one which I can't attempt today....yet I throw this out in case some else is willing to start it.
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A Virginia jury convicted five Somali men of piracy on Wednesday, the first such conviction in the U.S. for almost two centuries.

While this is a victory for law and order, it would be a mistake for leftists to seek herein a justification of civil trials for terrorists. That avenue has thus far proved intellectually and practically unpersuasive (e.g., Gitmo detainee Ahmed Ghailani).

Off the record, I support the Russian solution.

Categories > Courts


Defending Con Law

PrawfsBlawg, "Where Intellectual Honesty Has (Almost Always) Trumped Partisanship -- Albeit in a Kind of Boring Way Until Recently -- Since 2005," raises an interesting topic by Elizabeth Dale on the state and relevancy of Constitutional Law classes in law school. After all, most lawyers aren't going to work for (or on) the Supreme Court -  very few lawyers actually work in the field on constitutional law.

Admitting to be "a bit puzzled by the fact that [Con Law] seems to play a smaller and smaller role in the law school curriculum," Dale argues persuasively on both practical and ideological grounds for teaching the Constitution.

At some basic level, the constitution is about the only thing, aside from geography, that we share as a nation. (I hasten to assure you that I use the word "share" very loosely, I have grasped that in many ways what most unites us are our bitter disagreements over what the constitution means.)  And while one could once assume that students who finished grammar school had studied the constitution (it was a requirement for graduating from 8th grade and from high school when I was a K-12 student), I assure you that that is no longer the case. My undergraduates rarely have studied the constitution before they take one of my history courses, and often have hazy (if not disturbingly wrong) ideas of what it provides.  I doubt they are unique.  Given that the constitution is no longer taught to younger students on a routine basis, I am puzzled by the fact that law schools are de-emphasizing it as well.

Dale continues to expound upon the pervasive influence and relevance of constitutional knowledge across the legal spectrum - and the need for a broad background in the Constitution. As they say, read the whole thing.

Categories > Education

Foreign Affairs

Eurozone Circles the Drain

Portugal is apparently resisting calls to accept a EU bailout, joining Greece and Spain in attempting to ward off the Grim Reaper. EU officials view a bailout as securing the euro and centralizing EU power over member countries, while EU nations are attempting to avoid the shame and obligation accompanying a bailout. But it is far from certain that proposed austerity measures will either be adopted or sufficient.

For a sobering and sensible take on the EU, try this clip of the indefatigable Euroskeptic, Nigel Farage (h/t Powerline):

Categories > Foreign Affairs


International Religious Freedom

The International Religious Freedom report is submitted to Congress annually by the State Dept., supplementing the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing detailed information on religious freedom. It includes country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide.

Highlights of the 2010 edition:

Recommends the State Dept. designate 5 additional "countries of particular concern," CPCs, for egregious violations of religious freedom - Iraq, Nigeria,Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam;

Recommends 8 countries be re-designated as CPCs - Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan - and that additional actions are taken;

Documents violations of religious freedom in countries placed on the USCIRF Watch List and urges increased U.S. government response;

Highlights efforts of some member states at the United Nations to undermine religious freedom standards through the flawed "defamation of religions" concept; and

Discusses measures still required to address flaws in U.S. policy regarding expedited removal of asylum seekers."

The full report is here.

Categories > Religion


Southern Poverty Law's Shameful Hate-List

Following up on Gloria Steinem's accusation that Republicans are universally sexist, Southern Poverty Law Center quickly labeled conservative organizations as "hate-groups." SPLC, like Steinem's feminist movement, once served at least a partially noble cause. Now, all Republicans are misogynous oppressors and conservatives are the equivalent of neo-NAZI's and the KKK.

Tea Partiers were attacked as racist, sexist and hateful prior to the election - but November proved the movement resistant to such smears, no doubt to the chagrin of the progressive left. So, along with broad brush smears, the left has also adopted a narrower, targeted form of character assassination: SPLC's list of hate-groups includes Family Research Council and American Family Association. Virtual skinheads.

I doubt the good work of sexual, ethnic and gender tolerance is quite finished, so it's a shame that the self-described champions of such causes have decided to waste their time, efforts and credibility on ridiculous, partisan smears. These people defile themselves by accusing decent people of abhorrent intentions, and injure the greater cause of justice by wielding such weighty accusations with ideological frivolity.

Categories > Race


Haitian History

The stream of sad news from Haiti reminds us of its founding and ours.  I once heard Walter Berns remark that a great unwritten book was how the Haitian slave revolt and subsequent government influenced the case against emancipation.  This new book by Jeremy Popkin is probably not that work, but it may be a start.  A snide Wall Street Journal review nonetheless gives one an impression (not the least from the artwork) of the significance and tragic failure of that early republic.
Categories > Race

Men and Women

Steinem's Shameful Feminism

I had a good laugh at Gloria Steinem's latest stunt to remain relevant as the spokeswoman for leftist, radical feminism. The lady is obsessed with Sarah Palin, and again recently expanded her ridicule to include all conservative women. It's the same absurdity visible among leftist race-baiters who bitterly refuse to acknowledge Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, Colin Powell or any other right-of-center African American as authentically black.

Steinem scolded Palin for using the "mama grizzly" motto, insisting the bear is solidly pro-choice, and condemned "Republican" and "right-wing" females as "obedient women" who "have accepted their own subordination" and "think they better do what the powerful tell them to, otherwise they'll be in even more trouble."

Yes, that's exactly how I think of Coulter, Ingraham, Palin, Noonan, Malkin, Crowley, Hutchison, Bachmann, etc. I assume it entirely escapes Steinem that her stereotyping of half the women in the country as obedient subordinates due to their divergence from her political ideology is profoundly sexist, intolerant and disgraceful.

In fact, I should have just ordered obedient and subservient Julie Ponzi to write this article for me, since she'd obviously do my bidding in order to stay out of trouble. Right, Julie...?

Categories > Men and Women

Lawrence Lindsey Says...

We are in huge trouble if we don't adopt sensible spending policies and make some tough choices really soon.  We are in huuuuuge trouble.


Rubio In 2012?

Regular commenter Redwald asked about our opinions of Marco Rubio as a potential presidential candidate.  I don't know about anyone else, but these are my thoughts:

1.  There are things to like about Rubio.  It doesn't do him justice to say he is an excellent speaker.  He is funny when he talks about his kids and really moving when he talks about his parents but all those generational themes are tied into a coherent and powerful message about the ethics and policy implications of political responsibility.  A lot of politicians take this approach ("I went into politics so that my children could blah, blah, blah..."), but Rubio does it better than anyone I've ever seen.  Rubio showed impressive strategic patience after Crist went the independent route and the polls for most of the summer showed Crist leading.  Rubio didn't opportunistically change his policy positions after the Gulf oil spill.  He showed confidence that as people heard his message they would come around.  Rubio was pretty honest about Social Security reform and he still won in a swing state with an outsized population of retirees.  Rubio presents his differences with Obama as being high stakes but his criticisms of Obama never come across as malicious, petty, or personal.  He projects a kind of mental and emotional stability that serves an ideological politician especially well.

 2.  If Rubio ran for President, loads of Democrats would attack the freshman Senator for inexperience.  This would give most of us plenty of opportunities to practice hypocrisy.  I'm not sure that the right question to ask is whether Rubio would pass some minimum standard for experience (my answer? sure!).  I think a better question is what kind of experience (and other qualities) will maximize the chances that a Republican presidential nominee will get elected and mobilize enough public support to work with Congress to implement the policies we need.  The main domestic policy challenges for any conservative politician in the coming decade will be to get the deficit to a sustainable level without imposing crushing tax increases (which isn't necessarily the same thing as no tax increases), and reforming our health care system in a more free market-oriented direction.  Trying to do either of those things will be really scary to much of the public.  Having a Republican presidential candidate with a record of cutting government spending during the Great Recession while keeping public services at an acceptable level would go a long way to defusing inevitable Democratic scare mongering about killing Granny.  This is a place where the kind of experience is a lot more important than the volume.  Even a first term governor like Chris Christie has some of this kind of experience (though Bobby Jindal and especially Mitch Daniels have more), while a second term senator like John Thune doesn't.

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

A 21st Century Great Plague?

Fascinating account of the purported "Stuxnet" computer virus that apparently disrupted the Iranian nuclear program.  Someday we'll likely learn the whole story, just as we learned after the Cold War about many espionage and other covert actions.

The question for the moment is--if we, or someone, can do this to the Iranians, can't we please do it to the Norks, too?  At the very least pre-load their iPods with Team America?
Categories > Foreign Affairs

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A John Wayne note

Peggy Noonan's discourse on the presidential bubble, and the need for a Special Assistant for Reality aside, is worth a mention if for no other reason than her mention of John Wayne.  In other words, there is an important note about the American character in her essay.  It doesn't matter how many special assistants, advisers, spinners, and philosophers in residence you may have, if you don't understand a fundamental fact--a grounding if you like--about the American character (and then the cause of it) then you are in a bubble, and you will never understand the manly eloquence of an American at an airport talking about his junk.  Noonan:

"President: I've wondered if this general feeling of discomfort might be related to a certain Puritan strain within American thinking--a kind of horror at the body that, melded with, say, old Catholic teaching, not to be pejorative, might make for a pretty combustible cultural cocktail. This heightened consciousness of the body might suggest an element of physical shame we hadn't taken into account.

SAR: Mr. President, the rebellion isn't shame-based, it's John Wayne-based.

President: I don't follow.

SAR: John Wayne removes his boots and hat and puts his six-shooter on the belt, he gets through the scanner, and now he's standing there and sees what's being done to other people. A TSA guy is walking toward him, snapping his rubber gloves. Guy gets up close to Wayne, starts feeling his waist and hips. Wayne says, "Touch the jewels, Pilgrim, and I'll knock you into tomorrow."

President: John Wayne is dead.

SAR: No, he's not. You've got to understand that. Everyone's got an Inner Duke, even grandma."

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Obama Losing His Game

First it was his approval rating, then his Democratic majority in Congress, and now Obama is even having it handed to him on the basketball court! The President took an elbow from the director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (suspicious, say I) during a game of 5-on-5, earning 12 stitches for his efforts. It's tough out there for a liberal.

I don't want to take the metaphor too far, but it's as fine an opportunity as any to note the theme of this president taking it on the chin (or lip) for and from his closest supporters in recent days. Having ushered through a series of radically leftist policy initiatives (universal health care, stimulus spending, finance regulation) - always through grueling political contests - Obama has now been attacked by the left for disappointing their expectations.

I may disagree with Obama's policies, but it is unimaginable to claim that he has not pursued - with great determination, success and pride - the most liberal agenda in recent memory. A more treacherous and less grateful cabal of curmudgeons could not be found than among these whiny liberal elites. It's lonely at the top, Obama.

But I suspect this president is going to spend more time than he expected licking his wounds over the next two years.  

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Iceland's Folk Constitution

Following an economic collapse and subsequent revelations of systemic corruption in the government, Iceland has decided to reinvent herself by drafting a new constitution. However, in what appears to be a prime example of the pendulum swinging too far in the opposite direction, the new constitution is to be drafted by ordinary, everyday bubbas. The only people who may not be elected to the drafting board are current politicians.

While the entire scenario is humorous and somewhat refreshing, perhaps it speaks to the underlying non-seriousness in political thinking which got the Icelanders into such trouble in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I fully concur with William F. Buckley assessment, "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University." Perhaps the people will elect thoughtful statesmen from among their midst. But this seems a perfect stage for demagoguery.

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, "Let us not forget it is a constitution we are expounding." Iceland should take care to preserve the dignity due to such documents. The American Constitution is sacred secular-scripture, whereas the French constitution is a periodical.  Perceptions have consequences.

Here's to wishing our Viking neighbors the best of luck with their radically democratic shot at nation-building.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


More 2012

A commenter in a below thread had these very worthwhile insights:

Pete, why do you prefer Mitch Daniels to Thune and Pence? Daniels may be great on fiscal and economic issues (which, I'll grant you, are of greatest salience now), but he has a demonstrated tin ear for dealing with hot button issues and, having watched a speech of his, he seems to me unlikely to appeal to ordinary voters, either in the base or in the general electorate. From what I've read, other than on money issues, he seems to be an unimaginative, uncharismatic, standard issue RINO/mainstream Republican. Also, can he address foreign policy or national security with any authority? In sum, he strikes me as well-suited for a governorship, but not for the presidency.

I think this is a very plausible interpretation of the problems that a Daniels presidential campaign might face and I would further add that Daniels' flirtation with a VAT would also be a problem.  That is why I think Thune or Pence are more likely to emerge from the pack.  That isn't how I want it to be, but it is how I see it.  Some points,

1.  Daniels is a standard social conservative on issues like abortion/gay marriage/Second Amendment.  He is no RINO. 

2.  Daniels' record of maintaining an acceptable record of public services while keeping spending under control is an important strategic advantage.  It gives him some credibility when talking about cutting the deficit and reforming government, while allowing him to point to a record to help parry accusations that he will starve Grandma.

3.  His health care policies begin to offer a plausible alternative to Obamacare that increases worker take home pay, decreases government costs, maintains care, and begins to reform the expensive and dysfunctional Medicaid program.  The fact that these policies were actually implemented is a huge advantage because he would not be offering purely speculative benefits.

4.  I would not underestimate Daniels as a speaker.  He was a former George W. Bush functionary who outperformed the Republican presidential nominee by 20% in a year when Bush's job approval ratings were in the mid-to-low 30s.  He is governor of a state with an unemployment rate over 10%, but his job approval rating is around 70%.  He doesn't project good humor like Huckabee or charisma like Rubio, but someone is liking what he is saying.  I know Indiana isn't America writ small, but on a national election level, it leans Republican less than does Mike Pence's congressional district, Huckabee's Arkansas, or Thune's South Dakota.  He has a way of talking about economic issues in a way that seems honest, relevant and temperate.  I'm not sure that it translates well in the context of a presidential campaign, but I'm not assuming it doesn't.

5.  Daniels would of course need policy answers on foreign and defense policy.

6.  I think that Pence, in his rhetoric, record and policy preferences is more in tune with a larger fraction of Republican primary voters than any other candidate.  As he gets better known, I think he has a lot of room to gain from voters who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters (he is at least as good as any other candidate on both the social and economic issues) and from more establishment Republicans who might think that Palin and Huckabee have electability issues.

7.  I take back none of my concerns about Pence as a general election candidate and as a President.

8.  John Thune is an interesting case.  There is some evidence he can play in the big leagues.  Beating Tom Daschle (even in a right-leaning state in a right-leaning year) was pretty impressive.  He could dig into Romney's establishment/basically conservative enough support.  Ramesh Ponnuru noted that Thune does not seem to have distinguished himself in six years as a Senator.  I've seen him on tv a couple of times.  He could be a vessel for a lowest common denominator conservative candidacy.   

Categories > Politics


Real American Greatness

James Poulos interviews Ross Douthat.  Stick around for Poulos's closing comment at the very end.  Awesome.

Categories > Politics

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Panicked Progressives

This Michael Gerson op-ed is worth noting,  He thinks the progressives have lost contact with political reality.  We have the most liberal/progressive president we have had in our lifetime, and he is unable to persuade.  Instead of asking why he (and Pelosi, et al) are unable to persuade, they are now relying on their own conspiracy and sabotage assertions.  This forces them to  assume, according to Gerson, that "the case for liberal policies is so self-evident that all opposition is malevolent."  If this is true then they are not likely to engage in the conversation we think we want in the next many years.  This will have an affect on our attempt to revive fundamental political questions on behalf of self-governance, on behalf of constitutionalism.
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Thanks to the 111th Congress

Michael Schwarz is grateful to the 111th Congress for allowing us to have a serious political conversation.  Pelosi's dismissal of constitutional issues ("Are you serious? Are you serious?") has led not only to the shellacking, but more importantly, to a conversation about fundamental political questions. He is right.
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The Founding

Hezké Díkůvzdání!

I'm spending the holiday with mixed Czech-American company - teaching our foreigners the true meaning of over-consumption with turkey, potatoes, cranberries, rolls, etc., etc., etc. So, to add a bit of redeeming intellectualism to a day otherwise crammed full of shameless binging, here's a bit of history on Thanksgiving Day.

The custom originated in 1621, when Governor Bradford of the Plymouth colony appointed a day for public praise and prayer after the first harvest, and the practice spread throughout the other New England colonies. The first national observance was when President Washington, at the request of Congress, recommended Thursday, 26 November, 1789, to the people of the United States "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God". This proclamation exhorted the people to "beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best". It was the first observation of the day on the date that present custom holds it.

In 1817 Thanksgiving Day was first officially noticed in New York State, and by 1859 its observance had spread to twenty-eight states and two territories. In 1863 President Lincoln made his first proclamation, naming the last Thursday of November as a day of national observance.

Tak, hezké Díkůvzdání - Happy Thanksgiving!

Categories > The Founding



Happy Thanksgiving!

A fellow I met in the cruise reminded me that the flickering lamp of history sometimes becomes vivid and the passions of former days may be rekindled through modern magic, in this case YouTube.  We talked about the great Hungarian soccer team of the early 1950's and he told me that some of their play was available on YouTube.  Amazing.  They were a grand team, called the Golden Team, or the Magical Magyars. They invented "total football", the 4-2-4 offense, and their captain was Ferenc Puskas ("Gunner", his real name was Purczeld), one of the greats.  His name was always in my ear as a boy, as Babe Ruth must have been in the ear of American boys in the 1920's.  After 1956 Puskas played for Real Madrid.  I saw him play once.  I never forget beauty.  He lived to be eighty years old and grew fat and, I hope, happy.  Here is a YouTube Puskas Compilation (five minutes) and England-Hungary game of 1953.  Enjoy, and my thanks to Al Jenkins.
Categories > Sports

The Founding

Rush and the Rest

Rush Limbaugh just read George Washington's original Thanksgiving Proclamation.  You won't hear such antiquated language from any other popular media.  The Progressive left disdains the founding and its principles (see, e.g., Wilson's "What Is Progress?"), so it cuts itself off from the most powerful and true resources of America.  Obama's politics reflects the extremes of Progressivism, thus rejecting what is in its interest and the national good.
Categories > The Founding

Foreign Affairs

Time for Team America

So I read in the New York Times that we're going to respond to North Korea's latest provocation with military "exercises."  It reminds me of the clarity of Ronaldus Magnus, who listened to everyone at a national security council meeting offer big talk about having naval exercises in the Gulf of Mexico to rattle Fidel Castro but scuttled the whole thing with a simple question: Just how, exactly, is Castro going to be intimidated by exercises?

The obvious answer is to send in Trey Parker and Matt Stone for a sequel to Team America: World Police.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Looking At 2012

Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore looks at how the 2012 Republican primary race is shaking out.  I think his take is a bit concern trollish, but I think he is right about how big of a problem the family resemblance between Obamacare and Romneycare will be for Romney.  Huckabee would seem to have the clearest path to the nomination.  His social conservatism is articulate, authentic, and a strength rather than a weakness.  He talks the populist economic rap as well as anyone.  He is very likeable.  His biggest weakness is that I haven't seen him take a hard shot on the FairTax.  I'm not sure how well his support holds up when it becomes clear he wants to slap on a 30% sales tax.  I'm not sure Palin is running, and I'm not sure how well she would do in a crowded primary.  It isn't that I think she would do badly in the Republican debates (she knows her audience), but I do think she risks being diminished if she doesn't do great and seems no better than solid performers like Huckabee and Mike Pence.  Gingrich's personal history will probably keep him from the nomination.

I think that all of the Republicans who are currently polling best are vulnerable to bleeding support as the nomination contest unfolds.  There is plenty of space for a not-very-well-known candidate to emerge from the Republican presidential debates of 2011 and become the anti-Huck/anti-Romney/anti-Palin/anti-Gingrich.  They will have to seem more authentically conservative than Romney, more orthodox on taxes than Huckabee, more electable than Palin, and less baggage-encrusted than Gingrich.  Who will it be?  Well, maybe no one, but it depends on who runs.  I would prefer it were Mitch Daniels, but I think John Thune and Mike Pence are better positioned to hit that sweet spot of being the freshest, most conservative, most (seemingly) electable candidate who is acceptable to the most kinds of Republican primary voters.  

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Obama's America at the UN

It's that time of year again, when the UN sternly speaks truth to power and publicly denounces those nations which transgress upon human rights. Some might expect to hear stern words for Sudan, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China, etc., etc. - but, those people haven't been keeping their eye on the ball.

21 resolutions, totaling 80% of all resolutions, were - as always - directed toward Israel. Six additional countries each earned one scolding resolution. Among the six: the Republic of Georgia and the United States. We shared the honor with Burma, Iran and North Korea (the latter having just attempted to instigate a war with its neighbor while announcing illegal nuclear weapon facilitation, but nevermind that).

And all of this follows on the heels of the UN's "universal periodic review" session last week, during which non-human-rights-violating countries such as Cuba, Libya and Venezuela lined up (literally) to condemn the U.S. - and for which the Obama Administration offered "thanks to very many of the delegations for thoughtful comments and suggestions." (Note: Obama joined America in the UN human rights body which condemned America, contradicting the wisdom of all former presidents who sought to elevate the U.S. above such humiliating company.)

The only thing more sickening than U.S. involvement in the UN is US self-abasement before the UN.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Don't Touch My Junk Yard

Has anyone seen a good article or discussion about how much more secure the new machines and screening procedures will make us, compared to those which have been in force since 9/11, and which compares them to the procedures in place before that?

No one that I've seen is saying that we should go back to the days of no screening of passengers on airplanes.  The question is how intrusive the rules should be for all passengers, and how to decide who deserves more scruitny.

We could reduce car crashes if we banned left turns and made the speed limit 5 miles an hour.  The question of what is a reasonable regulation in such cases is, in part, a calculus of convenience v safety.

In some instances, our bureaucrats seem to forget that.  The new security screening looks like it might be such a case.

Ultiamately, I suspect part of the problem is the delegation of legislative powers.  Congress has, in effect, delegated law-making to unelected bureaucrats.  In a democratic republic, more decisions should be in the legislative arena than is currently the case.  The American people want more say, through our duly elected representatives, in making the rules by which we live.

Categories > Politics

Political Parties

November 2nd Aftershock

I'm presently about five minutes from the Alabama border, and the big news down here is that four state house Democrats have just announced that they'll abandon ship and switch parties - thereby giving the GOP a supermajority in the 'Bama house.

The reason for their switch is reportedly that "they're very conservative, and their views are more in line with Republicans than Democrats." Funny they just figured that out.

In the wake of a landslide election, and with Obama polling at an all-time low of 39%, state Dems can hardly be blamed for noticing the rising water and deciding not to go down with the ship. The Alabama mutiny follows a similar mass exodus by six Georgia State House Reps, as well as recent party switches in Louisiana, Maine, Texas and S. Dakota. I'm at a loss to find any significant state GOP-to-Dem crossovers.

But the Dems did poach Arlen Spector - for a blissfully short time.

Categories > Political Parties


The Invasion of the Body Scanners

John Podhoretz makes a good point about where the anger at the TSA is coming from:

The message of the election was: No, stop, enough. The federal government has gotten too big, is doing too much, and may be acting in ways that are impinging on our freedoms. Through a coincidence unfortunate for the Obama administration's political future, it just so happens that the same month in which the public was explaining this to the political class, the terror threat rose, and the TSA instituted tougher measures to counter it. And where do people outside Washington encounter the federal government directly? At the airport.

I wouldn't put it quite that way, but I suspect he's onto something about what's making Americans angry. 

P.S. If large numbers of Americans demand pat-downs on Wednesday, should we call it, "The evasion of the body scanners?"

Categories > Politics


Was It The Organization?

The knives are out for Sharron Angle and her top campaign staff.  I discount stories like this as party hacks trying to maintain their viability by trying to shift the blame onto someone else.  The fact that there are names attached to many of the criticisms of the Angle campaign are perhaps a reason to take the article a little more seriously than the despicable and anonymous post-election attacks on Palin by McCain's campaign staff.

The thing is, I'm not sure that, even if the disarray was as described, it would have mattered that much in itself.  The conventional wisdom before the election was that even a weak Republican had a very good chance to beat Harry Reid.  I'm now leaning more toward Byron York's judgment that Reid was able to run a focused, ruthless, and competent campaign that it would have taken a pretty good Republican candidate to beat him.  If you look at the exit poll, Angle lost because she underperformed among whites.  She didn't lose because of her margins among Latinos.  She didn't do much worse among Nevada Latinos than did the Latino Republican candidate for governor who beat Harry Reid's son by a significant margin.  Looking back, there are probably several models of candidate that could probably have beaten Reid.  There is the Pat Toomey-type conservative politician who spent years trying to hone a persona that appealed to working and middle class persudable whites.  There is the Kelly Ayotte-type establishment conservative politician who is already well known and well liked around the state and who has a reassuring affect.  No such candidate ran against Angle in the Senate primary.  I'm not even sure if an affable and disciplined self-funder like Ron Johnson would have beaten Reid.  

I've been tough on Angle, and there are a lot of lessons to be gained from her defeat, but she didn't just lose, Harry Reid also earned a win.   

Categories > Politics

Shameless Self-Promotion

"Toward the Precipice"

I have an article in the November 29 issue of National Review on how the midterm elections will affect the debate over federal spending and borrowing.  It's now available on the NR website. 


Benedict XVI on Condoms

Continuing on the religion theme, the media seems especially breathless in reporting the Pope's confirmation that Church teaching may permit condom use to prevent the spread of STDs. There is an obvious desire for a "gotcha" moment, to be followed by the customary litany of demands for social and doctrinal change. But Pope Benedict XVI's pronouncement isn't actually radical in the least.

First, here's the statement (link provides commentary):

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.  But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

While the statement is among the most direct and on-point with regard to condoms, the Pope's opinion (it was spoken in an interview, not officially) is not new. Abortions are allowed within Catholic morality if necessary to save the life of the mother (e.g., in the case of ectopic pregnancies), and the1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae explicitly approved of birth control pills and hormonal contraceptives as licit means to "cure bodily diseases" (i.e., endometriosis). Contraceptives are licit "even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from - provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever." As in criminal law, intent is critical to discerning moral justification.

Further, the Pope reiterated the Church's opposition to the "banalization of sexuality" threatened by wide-spread condom use, and criticized the "fixation" on condom use in the fight against AIDS.

The learning moment here regards the knee-jerk proclivity of the media to reduce moral questions to "yes/no" criteria - a consequence of their aversion to discussions of morality and condescension of religious moralists as anti-philosophic automatons reciting Scripture on blind faith.

Categories > Religion


The Old and New Politics of Faith

I've been completely off the grid for some time - traveling for work and play, moving into a new home and entertaining family (some visiting from abroad) - my sole internet has often been a blackberry ill-suited for blogging. But there has been much news, and I'm late in arriving to the party!

Let me begin by drawing attention to a Brookings Institution survey of "Religion and the 2010 Election." The study reveals several interesting, if not unexpected, currents of American thought. Catholics broke heavily for the GOP, 58% of Americans agree that "God has granted America a special role in human history," 56% agree that "If enough people had a personal relationship with God, social problems would take care of themselves," Americans split almost evenly when asked whether "the values of Islam, the Muslim religion, are at odds with American values and way of life," and 35% see their religious views as "very different" from Obama's views (12% saw them as "very" similar).

Categories > Religion


The Trouble with Earmarxism?

As the debate over banning or at least suspending Congressional earmarks continues, it's worth returning to a recent study from Harvard Business School which indicates that earmarks have a negative impact on economic growth overall.

Why would that be the case?  Because the rise of earmarks and other hand-outs for business encourages the most talented and ambitious people to try to make money by lobbying Congress and gaming the system rather than by becoming entrepreneurs and creating new businesses.

Next question: can corporate hand-outs be reduced without reducing other hand-outs?  Or is the cultural logic that leads to one almost impossible to square with a refusal to do the other?

Categories > Economy


Birthrights and Wrongs

Since the correct interpretation of the 14 Amendment is again being discussed, I thought I'd post another link to the debates.  Here's how Mr. Howard introduced it in the Senate:

The first amendment is to section one, declaring that "all persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the
States wherein they reside." I do not propose to say anything on that subject except that the question of citizenship has been so fully discussed in this body as not to need any further elucidation, in my opinion. This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, 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. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. This has long been a great desideratum in the jurisprudence and legislation of this country.

Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

The End of Diversity?

Not long after the Fort Hood shooting, General Casey said, "It would be a shame -- as great a tragedy as this was -- it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well."

Most Americans, I suspect, reacted to that comment with a roll of the eyes.  Casey's comments reflect a mindset that is common among our governing class, inside and outside the military.  They have come to embrace diversity as a good in and of itself, rather than recognize that respect for a variety of points of view and ways of life is, itself, a consequence of a something larger.

I wonder if the controversy over the newly invasive screening at airports represents a beginning of the end of the religion of diversity.  As Charles Krauthammer notes:

everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; three-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives, when everyone -- everyone -- knows that none of these people is a threat.

We pass all passengers through the same, cumbersome screening because we want to pretend that all Americans are equally likely to be security threats.   In short, we do it to avoid profiling.  The effort does credit to the tolerance of American soceity.  On the other hand, tolerance is not the only good.  There are limits. 

What we are seeing now is, I suspect, a reflection of a frustration Americans have with the worship of what is called diversity run amok.  By pretending that all passengers are equally likely to represent a threat, we have stretched the myth of sameness past the breaking point.  The same is true in other cases.  For example, a landlord cannot tell someone from India whose cooking stinks up the hallway outside his door by cooking his native cuisine that he is in violation of a general policy against stinking up the hallway.  Were someone from anywhere else in the world to cook the same thing, however, the landlord could tell him to nock it off.  Similarly, were that same person from India to stink up the hallway one night by cooking Italian food, the landlord could say something. That's absurd.  Given how intrusive the screen is becoming, it's no less absurd not to profile.

Two further points.  Liberals might say that it is unconstitutional to discriminate in the way that profiling would lead us to discriminate.  But liberals also say that the constitution is a living document.  Why can't it "live" in that direction?

Finally, we should recall Washington's wisdom.  In his famous letter to Quakers, he noted, "

Your principles and conduct are well known to me; and it is doing the people called Quakers no more than justice to say, that (except their declining to share with others the burden of the common defense) there is no denomination among us, who are more exemplary and useful citizens."

If all religious groups claimed the same exemption that Quakers demanded, Washington recognized, the U.S. could not survive as a nation.  Americans are free to believe and to profess whatever they choose, but when it comes to action, we have to negotiate between the demands of conscience and our obligations to the good of the community (a good which, of course, includes respect for the rights of conscience).  Squaring that circle is no mean feat.  The best we can do is come up with partial solutions.  There are no completely resolved problems in politics.

Respect for diversity grew up in the wake of the civil rights movement, as part of a push to gain respect for individuals who had been deprived their rights.  It might be that the idea is reaching the end of its term of usefulness, and the anger at the TSA reflects that.  After all, in America the invdividual is supposed to come first.  The group, other than local and state government, is not supposed to have official recognition at law.

Categories > Pop Culture


The Happy Loser

CNN's Political Ticker has a short blog on John Boccieri, the US Rep whose district includes most of Ashland County. Boccieri, a freshman Democrat, was defeated for reelection two weeks ago by Jim Renacci, 52-41.

Boccieri is happy, apparently, because he thinks he did the right thing and lost only because the economy is bad. The man leaves DC with a clear conscience and, as the comments section on blog suggests, the applause of many outside OH-16.

But the reality is more complex. While the economy did hurt him (and every Democrat in Ohio this year), it doesn't explain something that Boccieri either cannot see or will not admit: people in the district were angry at him - at least Republicans and moderate or conservative independents. Boccieri voted for the stimulus and cap and trade, and switched his vote at the last minute to "yes" on the health care bill. The health care vote was especially damaging, and Boccieri's allies knew it. SEIU, for example, ran a TV ad praising Boccieri the day after he voted for the bill. They knew what was coming. The next day I saw signs in Ashland that said "Bye, Bye Boccieri".

Boccieri didn't understand that the Right (and even center-Right) feels the same passion about ObamaCare that the Left felt about the Iraq War. The Left hated the war on principle; the Right hates ObamaCare on principle. Both regard them as stupid, malicious, and unconstitutional. But the great turn happened in the middle. Independents didn't hate the Iraq War to begin with; Bush won Ohio in 2004, remember. In fact, the middle never hated the war, but they got frustrated and turned against it when it didn't go well. The same is true of ObamaCare. The middle might have tolerated it but with the economy faltering and mountains of debt piling up, their frustration became anger and the arguments of conservatives made sense. They turned against it and anyone who supported it.

So Boccieri may be a happy loser, but I wonder if his happiness is bought at the price of not actually understanding what happened to him and why.
Categories > Politics

The Founding

Quotation du Jour

From James Madison:

The incompetency of one Legislature to regulate all the various objects belonging to the local governments, would evidently force a transfer of many of them to the executive department; whilst the encreasing splendour and number of its prerogatives supplied by this source, might prove excitements to ambition too powerful for a sober execution of the elective plan.

Categories > The Founding


What's This?

Hayward in Mother Jones?  Mother Jones??  How's this for a VC raid behind enemy lines?
Categories > Environment

The Civil War & Lincoln

Gettysburg Address Anniversary

I'm on Cozumel, an island 10 miles off the Yucatan peninsula, on the National Review post-election cruise.  I'm having a good time, listening to good speakers, meeting nice folks, and swimming a bit.

Someone just reminded me that today is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  Not much needs to be said that you don't already know, but I do want to remind you of a few points: it is simple, to the point, only 32 words in it are Latin-based (the rest are Anglo-Saxon based), and without a doubt, it is the most patriotic speech in American history.


Helping Paul Ryan Out

Paul Ryan and former Clinton OMB Director Alice Rivlin have come out with a Medicare and Medicaid reform proposal.  As you would expect from Ryan, the proposal is transformative and thoughtful.  Ryan and Rivlin's proposal to turn Medicare into a means-tested voucher for private insurance is a good idea and probably where the system should go in the future - though here is another way to go about it. As far as I see there are two main ways to control Medicare costs in the long run.  The first if for the federal government to simply ration care.  The promise is one of technocracy (which has its own set of problems), but we aren't likely to get technocracy.  The process of rationing Medicare will more likely look like the combination of the short-sighted and stupid across-the-board benefit cuts and lousy access to health care that characterize Medicaid and the corrupting interest group politics that that marred the passage of Obamacare.  By the time the American political system is done rationing health care to seniors, we'll be begging for death panels.  The alternative is a system that uses market pressure to spur productivity increases and business-model innovation to control medical inflation. 

Just the same, if I were a conservative Republican candidate for state or national office in the next few years, I think I would steer clear of supporting the Ryan-Rivlin Medicare reform proposal (I think that conservative journalists and popularizers should boom it at every opportunity as an alternative to simple state rationing.)  The proposal sounds terrifying because it means replacing your Medicare with a voucher and a "good luck finding an insurance plan."  I don't think market-oriented change to Medicare, even if phased in for those currently 55 and under, will happen in such a radical way.  I think that the conversion of Medicare into a private insurance voucher (if it is to happen) will have to follow rather than lead the expanded use of consumer-driven health insurance policies elsewhere in the population.  If market-driven reforms are having highly visible benefits in other population groups, it might become nontoxic to push to convert Medicare into a private insurance voucher.  In the meantime, I think it makes more sense to emphasize other incremental market reforms for the working-aged and phasing in a competitive pricing system for future Medicare beneficiaries who are currently 55 and under (though you would have to be willing to answer attacks about that policy too.)

Ryan and Rivlin's proposal to turn Medicaid into a block grant is more politically saleable, but Ryan (or even Ryan and the congressional Republicans) can't do it alone.  Transitioning Medicaid into a block grant that gives states the flexibility to implement market-oriented reforms (and there are lots of ways to go about this) would have to mean winning over the public despite the hysterical objections of the dominant social democratic wing of the Democratic Party.  Social democratic-leaning Democrats (to include our President and most of the remaining House Democrats) would be sure to argue that block granting Medicaid would mean abandoning the poor.  This is where Republican governors and state legislators need to step up if they are serious about averting government-run health care.  If the Republican-run states have plausible plans for how to use those block granted funds (and push to implement market-oriented reforms even before Congress votes to block grant Medicaid), in ways that will control costs and maintain or even improve access to health care for the poor, it will go a long way to educate and reassure the public.  One of the reasons it was politically possible to block grant AFDC to the states in 1996 was because some states had already implemented work requirements and eligibility time limits similar to the ones in the eventual federal law.  The fact that states had already implemented such policies made it tougher for opponents of welfare reform to terrify the public into thinking that the federal welfare reform law would kill masses of children.  The example of reformist governors in the early 1990s also shows the value of persistently working the waiver process.  It will be easier for Republicans in Congress and an (eventual) Republican President to win over the general public and maybe even some moderate Democrats to the block granting of Medicaid, if Republican-led states governments show that they are ready to take over a block granted Medicaid program in a useful and responsible way.    

Categories > Politics


Sen. Rockefeller wants to ban the free press

Politicians always complain about their press coverage, but over at Real Clear there's video of Senator Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia saying that it would be a lot easier for Congress to do its job if the FCC would just ban "the Left and the Right" from the airwaves (specifically, MSNBC and FOX).

While we're at it, maybe the FCC can muzzle politicians who are bad for "political discourse", or at least the ones who hate the Constitution.

When is that guy up for re-election?

Categories > Politics

Men and Women

It's a Name, Not a Destiny

Many thanks to Kate for passing along this interesting and frequently amusing article about recent trends in baby names--and male baby names in particular.

It is not the first time that I've seen an author take up the subject of gender-neutral trends in naming and reflect upon what the trend may mean about today's parents and the future of masculinity in America.  It is, however, probably the first time that I've read something in this line that--while leaning toward a kind of traditional and general distaste--is not breathless about the threat the trend poses to the Republic.  In other words, it is a sane piece.

A reason for that, it seems to me, is that the author actually took the trouble to talk to the people engaged in all of this creative naming.  She discovers quite a few interesting things.  One of them is that while there is a core of people who really are consciously and conspicuously engaged in the careful practice of baby naming with a feminist and ideological purpose, most people pick baby names for the unoriginal and simple reason that the name--for whatever random and non-ideological reason--appeals to them.  Nuts and political philosophy students who stay up too late and take in too much caffeine (or other substances) may protest that whether these people are conscious of it or not, there is some movement of the culture afoot or an ideological force that is propelling these tastes.  Well, ok.  But so what?  Here's something those worrying sorts can stick in their pipes and smoke:  this pathetic gender-neutral ideological trend has given rise to a counterpart; the deliberate choosing of hyper-masculine but non-traditional names . . . like Colt!  So, if it turns out that the idea of a name being destiny holds water in the cosmic ordering of the universe, at least there will be ideological parity . . . and when it comes to a shooting war, we'll know which side holds the guns.  

The more important and rational observation comes at the end of the article when the author reports on the surprise of some of the hopeful parents who named for the purpose of gender-neutrality.  It appears that their efforts have had no effect at all on the actual character distribution of children.  Whatever we may hope, kids will be largely whatever those kids will be.  It is an observation rooted in the common sense of the subject:  a name is only destiny in Shakespeare and other works of art, after all.  And however good you may be as a parent, it is unlikely that you are a Shakespeare--and besides, even if you were, your child is not your manuscript or canvass. 

More disturbing than the notion that wild-eyed feminists or sociology professors will succeed in their evil plot to emasculate American society with sissy names, is this idea (one that appears to have adherents on both sides of the masculinity divide) that a human soul is putty in the hands of its parents.  After serious reflection on that proposition every actual parent--liberal, conservative, feminist, or neanderthal--will probably agree to raise their glasses in bewildered and exasperated agreement.  It is most decidedly false!   A toast to that point.  The dignity and freedom of the human soul remains.  Nature wins.
Categories > Men and Women

Videos for the Week

If you wonder why the Chinese are running circles around us in terms of economic growth, check out this time-lapse video of a hotel built in China . . . in six days.  Here, it would take six years just to get the permits.

Meanwhile, I was hoping someone would post a clip from the old Airplane 2 movie scene capturing the farce of airport security screening.  I'm already looking for some magnetic tape that will show up on these backscatter x-rays.  I'm planning to spell out "screw you TSA" on my stomach.


Eroding Obamacare

One of the strengths of Obamacare is the power it delegates to the Department of Health and Human Services to both define what is an acceptable (and thereby legal) health insurance plan and to grant waivers if they deem the waivers to be good policy or good short-term politics (whether to reward allies or avoid bad publicity.)   This mandate-and-waiver approach allows bureaucrats to slowly drive consumer-driven plans out of the market through a process of harassment and force coverage mandates that will either drive private insurers out of business or force ruinous premium increases that will push public opinion in favor of the legislative enactment of first price controls and then a single-payer health care system. 

The weakness of this system of mandate-and-waiver  is its lack of legitimacy.  If the public's attention can be focused on HHS bureaucrats denying particular insurance policies to particular people, then the Obama administration will be forced to choose between backing off or getting mired in a losing public relations fight.

Since the Obama administration is certain to make use of the strengths of the mandate-and-waiver to advance the cause of government-run health care, conservative politicians should use the political weaknesses of this approach (and the potential policy space this weakness opens up) not only to weaken Obamacare but to increase the numbers of Americans with consumer-driven health insurance policies.  Republican gains in governorships and state legislature seats gives the GOP an opportunity to force supporters of government-run health care to either retreat or fight (hopefully) losing political battles. 

One way that Republican governors and state legislators can weaken Obamacare is to reform their Medicaid systems into a subsidy for high deductible private insurance coverage.  A second way is for GOP governors and state legislators to adopt and expand Mitch Daniels' policy of offering and HSA/catastrophic insurance coverage to Indiana state employees.  This approach has saved Indiana money (which is pretty important considering the circumstances of many state budgets) and increased the take home pay of Indiana state employees while expanding the number of Americans with consumer-driven health care policies in a consensual (rather than mandated) way.  Other states should adopt this approach for their own state workers and make it mandatory that municipal governments offer identical HSA/catastrophic coverage plans to municipal workers as union contracts expire.  Let the union leadership fight not only the taxpayers, but their own members who might want the option of picking HSA/catastrophic insurance plans that would save them money in premium costs.  Also, let HHS and the Obama administration explain why a plan that is good enough for Indiana's employees isn't good enough for Kansas, Florida, or Georgia.  And let Republicans in Congress push for laws giving states the unambiguous legal authority to enact these kinds of policies. 

This approach of reforming Medicaid in a free market direction and giving an HSA/catastrophic coverage option to state and municipal employees has the potential to sharply increase the number of Americans in consumer-driven policies, making it much more politically difficult for the Democrats to abolish these kinds of plans through either legislation or bureaucratic fiat.  It also gives conservatives arguments in favor of eventually expanding use of these kinds of insurance policies to groups other than Medicaid clients and public employees.  If they are good enough for those two groups, they are good enough for most of the rest of the working public.  The very act of fighting the Obama administration for waivers for these kinds of policies will tend to increase public awareness of the existence and benefits of free market-oriented health care reform policies.  These kinds of state-level reforms (vocally supported by Washington Republicans and the right-leaning media) could do more to avert government-run health care than a dozen sure-to-be-vetoed votes to repeal Obamacare - though let's do that too.   

Categories > Politics


Deja Vu

Jonah Goldberg in February.

Newsweek today.

I wonder if Steve Hayward is having flashbacks.  What whiny, prolix nonsense. If the Democrats had won ten seats in the House and two in the Senate, no way does this article see the light of day.  The funny part is that Stone think he is explaining away Obama's problems by ascribing them to institutional problems beyond the President's control, but all Stone is really doing is taking Obama's measurements for a Jimmy Carter Halloween costume.

h/t The Corner

Categories > Politics


Obama's Greatest Hits

Writing for the Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last gives us a catalog of Obama's greatest hits.  Hint:  Carly Simon didn't sing them (since "nobody does it better") and every song actually IS about him.
Categories > Presidency


The Conservative Journalist's Candidate

Another conservative magazine offers another flattering profile of Mitch Daniels.  I think he should run.  Even if he doesn't win, he would improve the quality of the debate, and if the eventual Republican nominee in 2012 loses, the issues and policies that Daniels would raise would only become more and more relevant as the years went on - and the sooner reformist conservative ideas get before the general public, the better. 
Categories > Politics


Opportunity Knocks

There are reports out of Texas that as many as a dozen states are thinking of opting out of Medicaid.  They have their reasons.  The program is expensive for the states and seems to do a lousy job of delivering care. 

But I don't think the answer is for states to opt out of Medicaid.  I think the answer is for Republican governors (and the newly elected Republican state legislators) to offer policy fixes for Medicaid in their own states, apply for waivers from the federal government and let the Obama administration say no if they dare.  There is obviously a policy component to this.  The governors would have to put together Medicaid reform plans that would either save money or plausibly offer better care to Medicaid recipients or both.  There are several models to choose from including Mitch Daniels's Healthy Indiana Plan, and Bobby Jindal's plan to introduce insurance competition into Medicaid.  Let a dozen reform plans bloom.  Then the governors (hopefully a lot of them) could put public pressure on the Obama administration (and make intense use of media) to allow the states to experiment with plans that would save the their states money and offer better care to their states' residents.  This could also be a good way to open a two front war against Obamacare as it would let congressional Republicans introduce bills to give the states flexibility.  All of this would tend to increase public awareness of more free market approaches to health care reform and we might actually get some good policy out of it to boot.   

Obamacare includes a huge expansion of the already problematic Medicaid program.  It is also contains an opportunity for conservative politicians to gain ground on the health care issue and restructure Medicaid in a direction that nudges the country toward a more consumer-driven health care system.    

h/t to Peter Suderman.

Categories > Politics


2012 GOP Candidates Need to Lay Down the Law on Debates

When it comes to the debates, blogger and columnist, Matt Lewis, reminds Republican candidates seeking the 2012 nomination for President of this axiom:  "The people asking questions are usually more powerful than the people answering them." 

GOP candidates need to remember this, he argues, when agreeing to the terms of any and all debates.  The time is long past when Republicans need sit back and accept that the trade-off for necessary media exposure requires them to take the left-leaning proclivities of mainstream journalists as the given and only reality.  The media world is a much bigger place these days and the people watching these debates have a right to expect something better and more challenging than a peppering of questions from the likes of Tom Brokaw.  The debates should feature the best of both sides, of course.  But featuring the best of the right side of the debate is long, long overdue.  If the candidates can agree about nothing else when it comes to the terms of debate, they should--at least--be united and strong in the demand that we end the charade of mainstream media objectivity.

Read the whole post from Matt Lewis.  It's 100% dead on.

H/T Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt
Categories > Elections

Foreign Affairs

Grand Strategy for Eurasia

While we don't have to agree with every word that Charles Krauthammer and Robert D. Kaplan write on Obama and his Asia trip, we can note (and agree with) the fact the US has to be interested in the region, and not just for economic reasons.  India is very important for geopolitical reasons (the Obama administration  is not in fundamental disagreement with the Bush administration in all this; one of Bush's great contributions was the establishment of the firm alliance with India, which Obama continues), as is Indonesia.  If you don't know geopolitics, or think much about China, or why India is interested in Afghanistan, or why the Strait of Malacca are important, or anything about Spykman, or the "rimland" of Eurasia", etc., the Classics of Strategy might be a good start.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Pop Culture Indicator of Voter Sentiment?

H/T to John J. Miller at NRO for bringing my attention to this not-to-be-missed (though I had missed it) November 2 article in the LA Times by Andrew Klavan in which he dubs the 2010 midterms as the "Toy Story 3" election.  If you have not seen the movie yet (it's now available on DVD), proceed with caution.  It's a "spoiler." 
Categories > Elections



Rich Policz wrote this a few years ago for Veteran's Day.  It is good.
Categories > Military


Moving The Ball Forward

I've been thinking about what public spirited Republican governors and Republican members of Congress outside the senior Republican leadership should talk about in the next year if they are at a public forum (thanks to our commenters in the thread below.)  I've also been thinking about the political implications of Henry Olsen's insights.

I think that the important thing for folks like Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio to focus on are ways to talk about significant policy change in the least scary way possible.  The budget fight looks like it will mostly be on domestic discretionary spending, and while that is important, I'm not sure it is the best use of Daniels' or Rubio's time with the public to spend a lot of time talking about how this or that smallish program will be cut.  We won't be saved by such changes (though we should pursue them of course) and there will be so many other folks talking about them that the comments of a Daniels or Rubio  are not likely to add much value.  I think the same is true of Obamacare.  There will be frontal assaults ( a vote to repeal) that won't be enacted and  the flanking actions most likely to pass (getting rid of the 1099 reporting requirements and undoing the cuts to Medicare), would add to the deficit, and more deeply entrench Obamacare politically, while leaving Obamcare's core structure untouched.

Folks like Daniels and Rubio should focus on strategy rather than tactics and always try to use examples drawn from the real life experience.  They should build their criticisms of Obamacare around the basic problems of how Obamacare's combination of individual purchase mandates, coverage mandates, guaranteed issue and community rating have involved large premium increases in Massachusetts and increased the cost to taxpayers too. They should also note that Obamacare is an inferior system to Romneycare and that the consequences of Obamacare promise to be worse.  They need to explain how the crony capitalism of Obamacare's system of health insurance waivers allows bureaucrats to cancel your health care policy and force you to pay higher premiums while others in more politically connected companies are allowed to keep the same kind of insurance. 

They should keep in mind Henry Olsen's observation that many working-class (and I would add not only working-class) voters are not enthusiastic about sudden change.  Conservatives should never seem like they are getting high off their own radicalism.  Conservative reforms should, whenever possible, be presented not as radical change but as the moderate alternatives to the radical and disruptive changes (in the forms of higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, denial of care and fewer jobs) that would come from leaving liberal policies in place. 

This has implications both for which policies should be emphasized and how policies should be sold.  A Ryan Roadmap-style health care reform that would  destroy the employer-provided health insurance system in one step is probably not going to fly.  Incremental policies that demonstrate benefits to people who choose consumer-driven health insurance policies have a much better chance of winning public support.  Whenever possible, conservative policy proposals should be paired with examples of how similar policies achieved perceptible benefits. Mitch Daniels' system of HSAs saved the government money and increased the take home pay of workers.  It should be talked about at every opportunity.  Where examples of well functioning alternatives are not available (like with reinsurance pools), there is no alternative to doing your homework, knowing the details and driving home the basic points that the reinsurance approach would save the taxpayer's money, cover people with preexisting conditions, and avoid sticking the rest of us with purchase and coverage mandates that will cost us more in premiums and put us at the mercy of government bureaucrats.

Whenever possible, try to steer the conversation away from the tactical political fight of the moment or the latest inflammatory comment.  Try to be bigger than the moment and talk about the big things that get lost.  Major political reform often come very, very slowly before they can come quickly.  Obamacare was fifteen years in the making and is itself some distance from the intended final destination of government-run health care.  We have a lot of catching up to do.

Categories > Politics

Just a Reminder. . .

Jerry Brown.jpg. . . of what California has done: Jerry Brown's official state portrait from the last time he was governor.  What will the next one look like?


Semper Fidelis

Today is the birthday of the Marine Corps (1775).  Happy Birthday!  You can read more about the outfit from Frank G. Hoffman (Foreign Policy Research Institute), or my impressions here.  Or, you can think about the Marines you have known, say, Mac Owens, or, John Schramm.  Better yet, find any Marine (remember, there is no such thing as a former Marine, so a retired Marine is a Marine still), shake his hand, or give him a hug, and you don't even have to tell anyone.   I  knew a guy in the Army, because I was young I mistook him for a Marine.  He stepped back and said, "You know what happens to a soldier when he believes his own BS, don't you?  He becomes a Marine."  Not bad.  Maybe it's also the birthday of marketing.
Categories > Military

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The Great Repudiation

The great James Ceaser writes the best summary of the meaning of the 2010 midterms that I have seen to date.  I recommend taking it in tandem with Henry Olsen's recent piece--which repeatedly has been noted here as deserving of much consideration and reflection.  Unless I am misreading the two pieces (which, I confess, is entirely possible) they seem to be in disagreement on one very important point.  Whether they actually are in disagreement is another matter, but as this point is something that has been gnawing at me for weeks in my own consideration of the best of leading commentary on the election, I venture now to address it and put the question to you.  Is it really true that Republicans--in the wake of this historic victory--have to steady themselves against the temptations of hubris?  Is there really an overwhelming danger of so-called "over-reach"?  And, perhaps even more important, what exactly do we mean when we talk about hubris and over-reach?  Some clarification is in order.

Ceaser's closing paragraph comes closest to what I think must be the heart of the matter:

The Republicans' case [for representing the what "the people really want" from their government], . . . is already under assault. Along with the Democrats' open campaign to persuade the public that the election did not mean what Republicans thought, there is an allied effort underway, far more subtle, to undermine and weaken the Republican position. It comes from a group of self-proclaimed wise men who present themselves as being above the fray. These voices, acting from a putative concern for the nation and even for the Republican Party, urge Republicans to avoid the mistake of Obama and the Democrats after 2008 of displaying hubris and overinterpreting their mandate. With this criticism of the Democrats offered as a testimony of their even handedness and sincerity, they piously go on to tell Republicans that now is the time to engage in bipartisanship and follow a course of compromise. The problem with this sage advice is that it calls for Republicans to practice moderation and bipartisanship after the Democrats did not. It is therefore not a counsel of moderation, but a ploy designed to force Republicans to accept the "overreach" and the policies of the past year and half. It is another way to defend "the change." If Republicans are to remain true to the verdict of 2010, they cannot accept that the message of this election was just containment; it must mean roll back.

Olsen's argument, however, is deeply rooted in his thoughtful observations of working class voters and their fears of too much change.  He seems to suggest that there is something very real in the caution offered Republicans to beware of hubris.  Tea Party or no Tea Party, there is no evidence of a real and consistent conservative majority in American politics--as some hopeful or lazy conservatives would have us believe.  Perhaps there is something fundamental in the American character that resists progressivism . . . but it probably does not reflect much of anything conservatives have done to win them over.  As Olsen puts it:

Conservatives often assume that elections like 2010 show America has a consistent conservative majority. I think it is more accurate to say that they show that America has a consistent anti-progressive majority. The task conservatives have today is to transform the anti-progressive majority into a pro-conservative one.

In other words, conservatives have still got a lot of persuading to do.  And the problem for conservatives, as Olsen suggests and Ceaser flatly asserts, is that conservatives are the ones who will now be pushing for change.  So called "progressives" will become the ones trying to preserve the status quo.  If Olsen's understanding of working class voters holds true, there is reason to suppose that too much "change" will frighten them.  Thus the caution--not coming so much from Olsen, but quite loudly from Democrats and some bewildered Republicans who do not trust this revolution within the Republican ranks--to "go slow," avoid the temptations of "hubris," and avert the disaster of 1994.

There are many reasons why 2010 is not 1994--beginning, above all, with the personalities involved.  If ever there was a display of hubris on all sides, the Clinton/Gingrich cage fight was one for the annals.  But leaving personalities aside, time and circumstance have been a great clarifying agent in what Olsen calls the "50 years war" (I might stretch it out a bit further than that, but why quibble?).  But it is also true that Clinton won that match by allowing conservatives to wallow in their own victory.  That is, he gave us most of what we said we wanted and claimed that it was nothing more than what he'd always wanted too.  That people believed him and that voters were largely satisfied with this "victory" was our fault.  We did not engage in the fundamental disagreements at the heart of our differences over policy.   Instead, we assumed that voters were already in lock-step agreement with us on these fundamental points.  We became policy wonks and we boldly pushed where no Republican had pushed before for that idiotic word:  "change."  To what, for what, and why were left there lying on the gurney--with barely a pulse to share between them--and expected to rise at a moment's notice and stand together, arms linked and firm in the face of an onslaught dedicated to "progress." 

Conservatives are right to suggest that there will still be a lot of work to do in the realm of persuasion.  But when some Republicans hear this kind of talk, they are going to interpret it as "let's not try to do too much . . . let's be trimmers and go slow"--which means they'll be tempted to compromise too much on principle and work at odds with the spirit of the Tea Party. 

The failure of 1994 was not in going "too fast" but in failing to persuade as they moved.  The Republicans of 2010 will make the same mistake, this time, if they fail to understand the spirit of the Tea Party which is, at bottom, nothing more than the spirit of '76.  This does not mean that they have to set themselves up for a mad dash to satisfy the demands of every Tea Party organizer or supporter.  But it does mean that they cannot act in ways contrary to the principles of 1776.  More important, it means that they are going to have to understand what those principles are and they are going to have to explain themselves and justify their actions in light of these principles at every turn. 

The Tea Party Spirit is not as coherent as it needs to be among the people most vocally clamoring for it.  But that doesn't mean it is actually devoid of content.  The content is there and it can be discovered and defended.  This, above all other things, is what these Republicans were elected to do.  Americans want action on behalf of directing the economy to a more freedom loving and, therefore, prosperous territory.  But its almost true to say that they'd like that to come along with a tutorial for their friends and neighbors who now operate with only a dim understanding of these things, thanks largely to the progressive narrative of American history.  They want America to once again coalesce around the principles they understand once made us great.  They want to be great again and they want elected officials to be worthy of this project.   

Again:  Slow is not the operative word here.  Slow is NOT the key element of what ought to be the recipe for GOP success.  Persuasion is.  And while the GOP should make no compromise that involves compromising a principle--it is almost more important that they be clear about why they won't make it--even if not compromising means that they fail to get close to achieving their goal.  Little things (and some big things) can be sacrificed or ignored if there is no violation of principle or if there is no possibility of success for our side.  But the principle has to be explained every time something is done (or attempted) in the name of it . . . and almost nothing should be done that is not in the name of these big principles.   

Categories > Refine & Enlarge



Say you are a Republican governor (like Bob McDonnell or Bobby Jindal) or a recently elected Republican Senator (like Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey or Kelly Ayotte.)  You are able to get some bookings for the cable news networks, conservative talk radio and even the dreaded NPR.  To the extent that you can steer the conversation, what issues do you talk about and what  policies do you propose and emphasize in the coming year?

Categories > Politics


Religion and Politics Blog

Besides First Thoughts (see especially the companion Pomocon blog), there is  It's not on the Realclearpolitics home page. 
Categories > Religion

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John Moser argues in today's Columbus Dispatch that a good definition of the word progressive is needed.  In focusing on this a certain kind of healthy political conversation would follow and then the partisanship would become both more understandable and more meaningful.  I would add that the same thing could be said, of course, about conservatism.  One of the things I like about the Tea Party movement is that even in their name they mean to remind us of the beginning of the country (and then we can talk about what to conserve).  Progressives have the reverse problem.  They assume a movement away (progress) is better than saving something.  Therefore that silly word, change.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


To Every Thing There is a Season

After the election, Naomi Klein commented:  "What Obama refuses to get: There is no escape from furious enemies."

No less true in international affairs than in domestic politics.

Categories > Journalism

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Making a Majority: Can Conservatives Win the Working Class?

Over at NRO, Henry Olsen of AEI has written a very interesting (and sprawling) "memo" outlining the challenges for conservatives if they hope to reclaim the public mind after this election. After last Tuesday night three points particularly stick out as worth thinking about right now.

First, if conservatives are going to build November 2 into an enduring political majority, they need to start by understanding their political opponents, the progressives. Today the Democratic Party is the home of progressives, who according to Olsen are more or less defined by their idea of freedom, which is that government must remove "material and immaterial obstacles to some individuals' ability to make the decisions they would prefer to make, even if removing those obstacles places obstacles in the paths of other Americans."

Olsen notes, however, that there is a running civil war among progressives over how to advance their goal. Liberal progressives (the "wine set") have "lofty ambitions" for transforming America right now while moderate progressives (the "beer set") want to work more modestly and slowly. (EJ Dionne has written the liberal argument in The Washington Post; Evan Bayh makes the moderate's case in The New York Times.) The two groups don't have fundamentally different goals (for example, Bayh calls universal health care a "noble aspiration"), but they do have very different attitudes. Liberals are impatient and willing to act without public support if they have the political power; moderates believe in accommodating and working on public opinion before advancing. Bill Clinton was a moderate (at least after 1994); Barack Obama is a liberal.

Second, conservatives need to understand when and why progressives crash politically, as they did on Tuesday. Olsen shows that since the Democrats have become the party of the progressives, they have suffered big defeats four times after holding both the White House and Congress with "large supermajorities": 1965-1966; 1977-1980, 1993-1994; and 2009-2010. Each time, it was the loss of working class voters (including independents) that ruined them, as we saw in the Midwest this election. (Both Ron Brownstein and David Brooks have recently made the same argument.) Such voters deserted the Democrats in reaction against the policies and attitudes of liberal progressives (something the Blue Dogs have been warning about for a while).

This is because liberal progressivism runs contrary to a number of what Olsen calls "The Seven Habits of the Working Class": hope for the future; fear of the present; pride in their lives; anger at being disrespected; belief in public order; patriotism; and fear of rapid change. He explains these at some length (it is really worth reading), but for now it is enough to note that in some of these habits the working class is aligned with conservatives (hope for the future, pride in their lives, patriotism), in some with progressives (fear of the present), and in other habits they are aligned with conservatives or progressives depending on the policy. For example, Olsen argues, working class people like the police (conservative) and public education (progressive); and they do not like ObamaCare and privatizing Social Security for the same reason (fear of rapid change).

Third, Olsen argues that conservatives need to understand what it means when working class voters abandon the Democratic Party (as they did in this election). As many people have said, conservatives shouldn't overinterpret their mandate like the liberals did in 2008. On November 2 working class people did not so much vote pro-conservative as anti-liberal. This means that conservatives need to win these voters over to their principles if they want to begin to really make limited government conservatism the center of gravity in American politics.

Here, according to Olsen, is where conservatives run into a problem. To win working class voters, conservatives need to understand and respect their "Seven Habits" when running for office and when advancing policies. According to Olsen, Ronald Reagan was great at doing both (hence Reagan Democrats). George W. Bush also did a good job in 2000 and especially 2004.

Yet Reagan created Reagan Democrats, not new conservatives committed to limited, constitutional government. He tapped into the conservative elements in these voters, but he did not convert them. Olsen suggests that Reagan went as far as a conservative could go because working class voters simply will never wholeheartedly embrace limited government conservatism just as they have never really embraced liberal progressivism. They may not want ObamaCare but they do want the security of Medicare.

The question then is whether it is possible for conservatives to persuade such voters. The only way would be to show working class people that the principles of constitutional self-government fit with their "habits," especially if those habits can be broadened by persuasive arguments. For example, conservatives could talk about education not by calling for the immediate abolition of the Department of Education or by attacking public education altogether (which the working class respects and depends on). Rather, they could emphasize reform ideas like school choice, which is consistent with the working class "habits" of hope for the future and of taking pride in knowing what's best for your kids and being responsible for doing it. Of course, school choice is an idea rooted in the principles of limited government, but conservatives don't have to talk that way in order to begin to persuade working class voters to support conservative education reforms. Persuasion has to happen step by step. Once the idea of school choice becomes part of their "habits," for example, the working class would move further away from any alignment with progressives on the issue. The same could be possible for health care and Social Security.

In considering the problem that Olsen poses to conservatives, we shouldn't forget that enduring political change only happens in American politics with the right combination of principle and persuasion. Persuasion must be rooted in principle, but it also must respect people's habits, interests, and attitudes. You don't persuade people by shouting at them to change their habits when they don't fit with the principles of limited, constitutional government. You go to them, talk to them as equals, and try to persuade them that their concerns are met by those principles. You respect them as fellow citizens. Then they can hear what you are saying and start to embrace your principles. If conservatives could be persuasive in that way, November 2 could be the beginning of a new political alignment.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Michael Ramirez on the GOP Challenge

From Investor's Business Daily:

Categories > Politics



Michael Knox Beran writes that Obama has already begun the process of transforming our nation's institutions in a way that will be very difficult to reverse and that he is in a (potentially) strong position to block conservatives from undoing his work or (what would be even better) substituting their own reforms.  For all the talk of Obama being arrogant or obtuse (and his explanations for the widespread opposition to his policies are as self-serving as they are probably sincere), he is also a principled, determined, ambitious, and strategy-minded politician who holds some pretty good cards.  He isn't like Bill Clinton.  Clinton was willing to work with conservatives in order to maximize his approval ratings.  Obama is willing to trade a lower (but not too low of course) approval rating in return from passing (check) and then defending policies that transform the political economy of the country. 

Categories > Politics


Did They Kill It with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch?

Time for the Monty Python troupe to come out of retirement; either that, or Jimmy Carter, nookular engineer, should get his canoe paddle out of the attic.  From the Associated Press: "Radioactive Rabbit Trapped, Killed":  

A radioactive rabbit was trapped on the Hanford nuclear reservation, and Washington state health workers have been searching for contaminated rabbit droppings.

The rabbit was trapped in the past week and was highly contaminated with radioactive cesium. It was killed and disposed of as radioactive waste.

There's a movie in this somewhere: Attack of the 50-Foot Glow-in-the-Dark Killer Rabbit.

Categories > Technology



This is E.J. Dionne's understanding and weak justification for Pelosi staying on as the leader of the Dems in the House.  I could be missing something, or, this foolish act on her part (and Reid staying on, and Obama's post-election press conference) is proof that the three liberals (Pelosi, Reid, Obama) have as much self-understanding as I did when I thought about becoming a medical doctor (the day before my organic chemistry class started). This perfect number (3) really is a gift to the GOP.  Aren't you glad Reid didn't lose his seat?
Categories > Politics


Latinos And The GOP

It looks like Democrats won the Latino vote for Congress by about 2 to 1.  Ruy Teixeira argues that this is in line with the slightly more than 2 to 1 margins that Democrats won among Latinos in the 2006 and 2008 congressional elections.  It is also in line with Obama's 2 to 1 victory over McCain in the 2008 presidential election.  The Democratic margin among Latinos is more disturbing this year than in 2006 and 2008.  In 2006 you had undivided Republican control of the elected branches combined with a Democratic wave connected to public discontent over the Iraq War (and to a lesser degree gas prices.)  In 2008 you had an incredibly unpopular incumbent Republican President, rising unemployment, a financial crisis that the Republican presidential candidate was obviously clueless about, and an excellent Democratic presidential candidate.  This year, the labor market was worse than in 2008, the Democrats were holding undivided power in Washington, Obama wasn't on the ballot, and yet Republicans only made the slightest gains among Latinos.

It is at least possible that a broad majority of Latinos are consolidating around a shared identity as Democrats and that, for most Latinos, the Democrats are becoming the "us" party and Republicans the "them" party.  Obama has tried really hard to appeal to Latinos with an almost constant focus on amnesty, even at the cost of alienating some anti-amnesty whites (betting, probably correctly, that amnesty is a low salience issue for most persuadable whites unless amnesty is just about to be passed.) This consolidating of the Latino vote was what Harry Reid's despicable comment about how he didn't know how anyone  of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican was about.  It seems to have worked out well enough for Reid, but on the other hand, Reid's son was beaten by a Latino Republican in the race for governor - though Sandoval only seems to have done slightly better than Angle among Latinos. 

I don't think that the election of Latino Republicans to prominent offices, or even putting Marco Rubio on the 2012 (or 2016) presidential ticket is going to do much to help Republican bring their share of the Latino vote close to 50%.  I think that Henry Olsen's insights on the working-class (and I would add much of the middle-class) might be the beginning of wisdom here.  Adapting Olsen's insights to the particular situation of working and middle-class Latinos (each an internally diverse category) will be a huge challenge.  It is a good start to think about Olsen's categories of "pride in their lives", "fear of being disrespected", and "hope for the future" and think about how conservative messaging could be better.  It would also be nice to have some policies that offered tangible benefits.     

Categories > Politics


What's Really Wrong With California?

Ben Boychuk writes an excellent post today over at Infinite Monkeys to explain the phenomenon that is California.  In brief:  if John Kasich saw his poll numbers tighten up because he came late to the tea party, the California GOP apparently did not bother to read the invitation.

A couple of comments on Ben's key observations about the specifics of the recent contest:  Meg Whitman's obscene spending on the race absolutely hurt her with voters who might otherwise have been inclined to support her (if only so as not to have to support Brown).  And Ben is right, the ad juxtaposing Whitman and Schwarzenegger with IDENTICAL quotes was BRILLIANT political theater.  I found myself nodding my head and smiling despite myself--in a kind of reverential awe of the sort I sometimes felt when confronted with one of Bill Clinton's masterful deceptions.

And what to say about Carly Fiorina who did not seem to be able to decide what, exactly, she is or would be as California's Senator?  She proudly touted her pro-life convictions in some ads, but announced in the closing weeks of the campaign that her voting record might look a lot like Dianne Feinstein's?  Maybe even more curious, she ran another ad where faces would appear on the screen explaining that they were "Democrats," "Republicans," and "Independents" (and let's not forget about the people who don't know what the heck is going on in politics) all saying that they could endorse Carly Fiorina because the time had come where our problems are so large that we need to "get beyond partisan politics."   Whatever that means.

Now, against Barbara Boxer, one would not be out of line in endorsing my dog.  But saying one "could endorse" him doesn't tell you much about my dog's likely voting record or how he would perform as a Senator.  Obviously, I'm not saying that Fiorina is like a dog . . . but that ad certainly was a dog.  How she could have imagined that an ad with overly somber and low energy people saying they could endorse her because, what the heck, things could hardly get worse (!) could be confidence building, I'll never know.  It reminded me of Michael Dukakis' campaign when he proudly touted the fact that he was "competent."  It's not inspiring and above all, it's meaningless.  It's stuff that may fly in a board room when scribbled across the top of some guy's resume . . . but it's not the stuff that makes a great campaign.

If we're going to recruit rock stars from the business world, let's next time make sure we get some who can talk.    
Categories > Elections


You Heard It Here First, Last Week

Peter and others thought I was being more than a bit fanciful last week with the notion that Gov. Jerry Brown might well decide to challenge Obama in 2012.  But the idea seems to be catching on.  This, from Boston Phoenix columnist Steven Stark:

Who could play that role initially? Some are touting former Indiana senator and governor Evan Bayh, but he's untested and not particularly articulate. A far better bet is newly elected California governor Jerry Brown -- a kind of Eugene McCarthy-esque figure -- who once bragged that he was going to move left and right at the same time. He is, of course, a serial presidential candidate, having run three times previously (1976, 1980, 1992). Though he failed each time, he twice ran impressively, finishing third in '76 after entering late in the process, winning (or having friendly delegates do so) in Maryland, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. In 1992, on a financial shoestring, he finished second -- winning Maine, Connecticut, Colorado, Nevada, Vermont, and Alaska, while losing California to Bill Clinton, 48-41 percent.

For Brown, the next nine months are critical, as he'll attempt to use his visibility as governor of the nation's most populous state to become a kind of Democratic Chris Christie, standing up to special interests and proposing bold new fiscal policies. If he does, he could be a formidable 2012 challenger, as he's shown a propensity in the past for running on populist themes (term limits, campaign-finance reform), while taking positions that could attract labor support (he was anti-NAFTA) and even backing from conservatives (he has supported a flat tax). As a Catholic, he does have some appeal to the working-class "Hillary Democrats" -- a part of the reason why he's done well in New England in the past.

Could he beat Obama? It's obviously a long shot. But the hope among some is that his entry into the race would so weaken Obama that Clinton might consider getting in, as Robert Kennedy once did, able to tap into a family-built organization in a matter of days. Some even harbor hopes that, under pressure from his own party, Obama might walk away from the job after one term. Stranger things have happened.

Categories > Politics


Is Obama a Keynesian?

Some of the super-smart attendees at Jon Stewart's Rally for Sanity offer their opinions on the subject.
Categories > Economy

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Obama as incompetent complainer

President Obama's press conference the day after the great loss was revealing, and also unimpressive.  This president--the most liberal ever elected--did not defend his policies, but rather made excuses and talked about how he should have been a better marketer.  He certainly did not admit that the shellacking he took had anything to do with the fact the the American disagreed with his principles and policies!  At one point he said that maybe the health care legislation could be "tweaked", but he didn't want to "relitigate arguments" (what a silly courtroom term to use in this context!) over its central elements.  So much for his ability to compromise.  At one point he implied that he should have better explained to the American people that the economic crisis forced him to expand the size of government, but he really wasn't doing it on principle.  Please, that's embarassing.  Everyone remembers Rahm Emmanuel's comment that the economic crisis allowed progressives a great opportunity "to do things you could not do before,"  but they assumed the argument had been out there for almost a century!   Obama was just the man--with his massive intellect and cool demeanor and great rhetorical skills--to take advantage of this crisis and persuade the people to lurch left. He pushed the policies through, but didn't persuade.  And there is the crux, the people did not like the enormous expansion of government that followed; they were not persuaded. That's the short of it, and he still doesn't get it.  Good for Boehner and his Republicans.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Quick Takes

Sorry I haven't been around much but family medical issues and such...  The Republicans didn't do quite as well as expected (including by me) in the Senate.  Here are some thoughts:

Nevada - The line coming from the Weekly Standard and National Review is that Nevada shows that candidates matter.  That is true, but what does it mean?  One of Sharron Angle's problems was that she had a way explaining conservative positions in a way that put them in a bad light, and she made at least one statement that was either obnoxious or a threat of sedition depending on how charitably you want to interpret it.  I think an even bigger problem than her more famous quotes is that she is a rightworld provincial. She seemed very uncomfortable talking to any audience that she wasn't sure was friendly.  If you can find the videos, check out her appearance on FOX and Friends and then her thirty minute interview with one of the Nevada television stations.  She exuded anxiety in front of skeptical or indifferent audiences.  That is probably not uncommon among the general population (I don't think that I would have done better) but such on-the-surface social anxiety is an unfortunate quality in a Senate candidate in a tough race who depends on winning over swing voters.  Her combination of social anxiety and inability to translate her worldview to people who don't share her political assumptions is symbolized by her talk to a group of Latino students.  She pathetically tried to form a rapport by showing that she is so unbigoted that she thought some of them looked like Asians and that one time somebody thought she was Asian.

Pennsylvania - This was as close to an even fight as you were going to get.  Pat Toomey is an excellent candidate.  Every principled conservative who is aspiring to office in a mixed constituency should read this profile explaining how Toomey crafted a persona and message designed to win over blue collar urban and suburban white persuadables.  He isn't perfect, and his coalition might need updating, but conservatives can't hope for much better than Toomey.  Joe Sestak is a principled, articulate, tough and very likeable liberal.  The state leans Democratic but the national environment favored the Republicans.  The closeness of Toomey's win is disturbing.  Toomey's appeal is geared toward Reagan Democrats.  Those Democrats (plus Republicans of course) were enough to win for most of the last thirty years.  The Republican coalition is going to have to expand to win over some post-Obama Democrats.  Be that as it may, a lot of Republicans have a lot to learn from Toomey.

Colorado - See Nevada.  Buck wasn't too extreme exactly.  He was no less conservative than Rubio or Toomey (well maybe Toomey a little on abortion.)  The problem was he couldn't effectively deal with having his ideas cross-examined.  This isn't the same thing as being inarticulate.  I suspect Buck is very articulate in expressing the depths of his beliefs to  people who share his views.  The problem is in explaining those views to those not already on your side and then explaining away the misrepresentations of the opposition.  Conservative candidates need to master pithy responses to the most effective liberal jabs and seem comfortable in doing so.  Some of being able to do that is talent, but a lot of it is preparation.  One of the reasons Reagan was so persuasive was that he pitched his message to appeal to (but not only to) FDR-loving Democrats and then practiced and practiced and practiced.  I get the feeling that Buck and Angle have spent too much time in a conservative bubble and had little practice in winning over nonconservatives in elections where the relationship between ideology and policy was important.   

Categories > Politics

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The Narrative War

As usual, George Will nails it in today's column: "It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever - ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama's idea of unlimited government."

Dear Preacher Will, We Hear You.  Sincerely, The Choir.

At the same time, as NLT readers nod approvingly at Will's analysis, we must contend with the counter-narrative, which Will decimates by implication but which inevitably will gain traction in the coming days.  All the usual suspects--White House, DNC, MSNBC, etc.--will be hard at work pushing their own interpretation of Tuesday's results.  The election was about the economy, they'll say.  It was about jobs.  It was--as Peter Schramm noted in reference to Tim Kaine--about a collective lament that "change has not happened fast enough."  History never actually repeats itself, or so I tell my students, but this last line conjures memories of Bill Clinton's '94 mid-term post-mortem: the voters have spoken, he said at the time, and their message is clear: "Move faster!" 

None of this is surprising, of course.  To the progressive mind, the obvious convenience of interpretations that dismiss electoral misfortune as the product of politically-radioactive conditions--unemployment, slow growth, etc--is that those interpretations help shelter progressive ideas from the fallout of a historic political thrashing.  Still, the Left's near-monopoly over the dissemination of information and opinion guarantees it an enormous advantage in the battle to define the meaning of Election 2010.  Furthermore, the economy is bad, and no doubt it was an issue for many voters.  

Republicans, in short, now face the rhetorical challenge of periodically (I prefer daily, but I'll take what I can get) highlighting their chasmic differences with progressive ideologues while also working to ameliorate lousy economic conditions.  In my view, Republican leaders will meet this challenge in part through unwavering and unapologetic commitment to a narrative that treats as self-evident the symbiotic relationship between a robust economy and a limited, constitutional government.  In the end, though, as Will reminds us with characteristic elegance, one cannot escape the conclusion--no matter how the opposition chooses to rationize it--that Tuesday's results reveal something deeper, something we've recognized all along as more thoughtful and more visceral: a "recoil" against progressive-style government the likes of which we've not seen in more than a generation.         


Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Best News of the Night

Okay, enough of the sober reflections for a moment.  Let's permit a little bit of a happy dance here.  Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics explains--in all its glorious detail--the extensive reach of yesterday's Republican gains:

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that Democrats had the worst night in state legislative seats since 1928. With races outstanding in New York, Washington and Oregon, Republicans have flipped at least 14 chambers, and have unified control of 25 state legislatures. They have picked up over five hundred state legislative seats, including over 100 in New Hampshire alone.

The obvious take-aways from this are that the GOP just expanded its bench by a mile and that the coming re-districting in the several states is going to make political life uncomfortable for existing and would-be Democrat politicians in the coming decade. It also points to a much needed and sorely over-due injection of youth, life and vitality into the Republican party.

But, getting back on message, it should be remembered that the thing about youthful and energized movements (think 2008) is that they are easily disappointed, too easily inspired by emotion, and can turn on a dime.  (Just think:  whatever your age today, weren't you more [misguidedly] triumphant the day after the '94 midterms than you are today?  Age and experience have a way of tempering expectations and setting the jaw.)  What is needed to sustain the kind of energy that has been generated is intellectual firepower and a rhetoric designed to inspire attention to it.  These new Republican representatives are going to have to get excited about the ideas and do the homework necessary to continue to persuade majorities.  Given that these are busy men (and women) with much practical work to do, they're going to need some tutors.   I happen to know a few.  
Categories > Elections


The End of the Beginning

Matt Spalding has some sensible and insightful observations on why last night's victory for the GOP might most accurately be compared to 1938's midterms.  He thinks it signals the end of the expansion of the Progressive agenda rather than a simple end to it.  I agree.  Time to dig up those history books and original documents, read, reflect, and figure a way to do it better this time.
Categories > Elections


California "A Different Kind of State"

John J. Pitney Jr. gives us some important facts to remember about California when considering why the GOP electoral wave did not sweep through the once Golden State.  It seems there's a pretty high beach wall here with an electorate comprised of a 13 point party identification gap favoring Democrats while, in the rest of the country, it's about an even split.  Moreover, he reminds us that Californians approve of the job that Obama has been doing by a 10 point margin while the rest of the country disapproves by a 9 point margin!  None of this is to say that California should be dismissed or written off . . . but it may suggest that it is something like a hot house flower in a greenhouse of strange makings.  I wonder if it will serve some purpose like the token and stubborn full-throated campus Marxist in the wake of the end of the Cold War?  Exhibit A in the case for what NOT to do? 

But for those of us who live here, this bit of otherwise sobering advice from Pitney, may be all the hope we have. 
Categories > Elections

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Sobering Victory

John Podhoretz agrees with Boehner that "This is not a time for celebration."  Boehner hit the right note exactly.  This lack of enthusiasm (note lack of balloons at the gathering where he spoke last night) after a great victory forces reflection on the body politic.  Good.  He knows that the hard part starts this morning.  The other side can continue to say silly things (DNC chair Tim Kaine: "Voters sent a message that change has not happened fast enough"), but we must take this opportunity to make ourselves as serious as possible.  We must earn the authority the people have given us.  Boehner's talk and disposition last night were nearly perfect.  I hope he keeps it up.  He seems to know that now is when the real politics starts.

Michael Barone has some good, what he calls random, thoughts on the elections.  He also has a few cautionary notes.

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The only surprise last night was that there were no surprises (as I had expected), with the exception of Harry Reid, whom I expected to lose.  But I always wondered about the polls in Nevada; because of the transience of the population and the unknowability of who is still there after the housing and employment meltdown, it was always going to be hard to predict who would be around the vote on election day.  But as I said on the Podcast the other day, Harry Reid and the nominally Democratic Senate is going to be a liability for Obama.

Overall, Republicans slightly underperformed what the Gallup and other "generic" numbers might have forecast, which suggests that curve on the generic ballot preference number is logarithmic, or something.  Even allowing for weak candidates in Nevada and Delaware, the GOP should have won the tight races in Colorado (uncertain at this moment it appears) and Washington (looks like Rossi loses narrowly again).  The left coast really does appear to be a hopeless region now.
Categories > Elections


Return to Normalcy?

ABC News notes: "The Republicans' victory in the House will mark only the third time in 50 years that control of the chamber has changed hands."

A telling comment. It is, of course, also the third time the House has changed hands in 16 years.  Other than the long period between the Second World War and 1994, it was much more common for control of the House to change.  Other than the post-War era, our media was also more diverse and splintered than it was during the age of three networks and one or two national newspapers.  It looks like we're heading back that way.  (We also used to have major financial panics every twenty years or so).

That a reporter for ABC used the 50 year comparison says alot about how so many of us see things.  Most voters, pundits, and politicians spent many years in the solid-state, post-war world of politics that we forget that it was the anamoly in U.S. history.  Historically, our politics has often been marked by considerable flux. Perhaps we're just moving back to normal.

Categories > History

Political Parties

Partying Like It's 1773?

Question: If today's elections go as well for the tea party candidates as polls indicate, how should their supporters celebrate?  Should they drink tea?  Or, since the tea party was about dumping tea in the harbor and avoiding the tea tax, should they drink coffee?

Categories > Political Parties


Races to Follow

Below are the races I will be following closely tonight. This is not every close race; nor is it every race that is likely to switch seats. Instead, I tried to find those races where voters are more clearly giving their verdict on the past two years of Democratic control in Congress and the White House. I've also included the ones that Obama has visited in the past couple weeks as well as a few other interesting ones. (Note: An * next to a name notes an incumbent.)

 State RaceComments
7:00 PMINHouse 2Donnelly (D)* vs. Walorski (R)Donnelly won by 37% in '08
7:00 PMINHouse 9Hill (D)* vs. Young (R)Hill won by 20% in '08
7:00 PMKYHouse 6Chandler (D)* vs. Barr (R)Chandler won by 30% in '08
7:00 PMSCHouse 5Spratt (D)* vs. Mulvaney (R) Spratt is a 14 term incumbent and won by 25% in '08
7:00 PMVAHouse 5Perriello (D)* vs. Hurt (R) Liberal in Conservative district; Only Obama visit for a House candidate on 10/29
7:00 PMVAHouse 9Boucher (D)* vs. Griffith (R)Boucher is a 13 term incumbent and ran unopposed in '08
7:00 PMVAHouse 11Connolly (D)* vs. Fimian (R) 
7:30 PMOHHouse 1Driehaus (D)* vs. Chabot (R) 
7:30 PMOHHouse 6Wilson (D)* vs. Johnson (R)Strickland's former seat; Wilson won by 29% in '08
7:30 PMOHHouse 15Kilroy (D)* vs. Stivers (R) 
7:30 PMOHHouse 16Boccieri (D)* vs. Renacci (R)Boccieri voted against health care then for it. The Ashbrook Center is in his district.
7:30 PMOHHouse 18Space (D)* vs. Gibbs (R)Space won by 20% in '08
7:30 PMOHGovernorStrickland (D)* vs. Kasich (R) Obama Visits 10/17 and 10/31
7:30 PMWVSenateManchin (D) vs. Raese (R) Open Seat (D)
7:30 PMWVHouse 1McKinley (R) vs. Oliverio (D)Open Seat (D); Mollohan (D) ran unopposed in '08
8:00 PMCTGovernorFoley (R) vs. Malloy (D)Open Seat (R)
8:00 PMCTSenateBlumenthal (D) vs. McMahon (R)Open Seat (D)
8:00 PMDEHouse ALCarney (D) vs. Urquhart (R)Open Seat (R)
8:00 PMILSenateGiannoulias (D) vs. Kirk (R) Open Seat (D); Obama Visit 10/30; Obama's former seat
8:00 PMILHouse 10Dold (R) vs. Seals (D)Open Seat (R); Kirk's former seat
8:00 PMILGovernorQuinn (D)* vs. Brady (R) 
8:00 PMFLHouse 2Boyd (D)* vs. Southerland (R)Boyd won by 25% in '08 and ran unopposed in '06
8:00 PMFLHouse 8Grayson (D)* vs. Webster (R) 
8:00 PMFLHouse 22Klein (D)* vs. West (R) 
8:00 PMFLHouse 24Kosmas (D)* vs. Adams (R) 
8:00 PMFLHouse 25Rivera (R) vs. Garcia (D)Open Seat (R)
8:00 PMFLGovernorScott (R) vs. Sink (D)Open Seat (R)
8:00 PMOKIssue 756Health Care Choice 
8:00 PMMAHouse 4Frank (D)* vs. Bielat (R)Unlikely GOP win but fun to watch
8:00 PMMAHouse 10Keating (D) vs. Perry (R)Open Seat (D); Delahunt (D) ran unopposed in '08
8:00 PMMAGovernorPatrick (D)* vs. Baker (R) vs. Cahill (I) 
8:00 PMNHHouse 2Kuster (D) vs. Bass (R)Open Seat (D)
8:00 PMPASenateSestak (D) vs. Toomey (R) Open Seat (D); Obama Visit 10/30
8:30 PMARSenateLincoln (D)* vs. Boozman (R)  
9:00 PMCOSenateBennet (D)* vs. Buck (R)  
9:00 PMCOHouse 4Markey (D)* vs. Gardner (R)  
9:00 PMCOHouse 7Perlmutter (D)* vs. Frazier (R)Perlmutter won by 28% in '08
9:00 PMCOIssue 63Health Care Choice 
9:00 PMLAHouse 2Cao (R)* vs. Richmond (D)One of the few Republican losses expected in '10; Longtime Rep Bill Jefferson (D) went to prison in '09
9:00 PMMNHouse 8Oberstar (D)* vs. Cravaack (R)Oberstar is a 14 term incumbent and won by 36% in '08
9:00 PMNYHouse 13McMahon (D)* vs. Grimm (R) 
9:00 PMNYHouse 19Hall (D)* vs. Hayworth (R) 
9:00 PMNYHouse 20Murphy (D)* vs. Gibson (R) 
9:00 PMNYHouse 24Arcuri (D)* vs. Hanna (R) 
9:00 PMWISenateFeingold (D)* vs. Johnson (R) Feingold is a 18 year incumbent
10:00 PMAZHouse 3Hulburd (D) vs. Quayle (R)Open Seat (R); typically a Republican district
10:00 PMAZProp 106Health Care Choice 
10:00 PMNVSenateReid (D)* vs. Angle (R) Obama visit 10/22
10:00 PMNVHouse 3Titus (D)* vs. Heck (R) 
11:00 PMWASenateMurray (D)* vs. Rossi (R) Obama Visit 10/21
11:00 PMWAHouse 8Reichert (R)* vs. DelBene (D)Obama won District by 14
11:00 PMCASenateBoxer (D)* vs. Fiorina (R) Obama Visit 10/22
11:00 PMCAHouse 3Lungren (R)* vs. Bera (D) 
11:00 PMORGovernorDudley (R) vs. Kitzhaber (D)*Obama visit on 10/20
12:00 PMHIHouse 1Djou (R)* vs. Hanabusa (D)Typically a democratic seat; Djou is the one of the few Republican losses expected in '10
1:00 AMAKSenateMiller (R) vs. McAdams (D) vs. Murloswki (I)
Categories > Elections


Is Obama a Keynesian?

I don't think Jon Stewart fans distinguished themselves here.
Categories > Economy

The Perfect Bumper Sticker for Tomorrow

Can be found here.  Doesn't that sum up the day in a perfect way?

On a side note, take notice of the Chester Arthur quote on the same page.  Ought to be true . . . but maybe it isn't quite . . .


A Non-Political Thought for the Day

I thought it might be useful to post something on a non-election topic.

Should all science textbooks come with a disclaimer that says: "Some or all of the material in this book may and probably will be found to be mistaken, in whole or in part sometime in the near or distant future"?

Categories > Progressivism


Home Run and Home Work

This is a wonderful article by Henry Olsen.  I really hope for multiple lengthy responses that work out its many implications.  Olsen's insights on working-class politics are useful for understanding how conservatives should structure their appeals on entitlement and health care reform as well as suggesting some possibilities about how conservatives should approach nonwhite working-class and middle-class voters. 
Categories > Politics


Decision Points

Drudge Report has a leak of George W. Bush's forthcoming memoir.


The president reveals he gave the order to shoot down planes on September 11 -- and at first thought the plane in PA had been shot down.

Categories > Presidency


Hard Lessons for Dems in Politics and Political Economy

Concerning the economy, the consistent narrative coming from the Obama administration has been that increasing government control involvement in that economy is not only necessary to suspend or turn back a recession, but that it is the long-hoped-for and desired fulfillment of the American promise.  "Spreading the wealth around" and the idea of justice responsible for the occasional careless and revealing speech of Obama and his surrogates has been the back-story and the underlying motivation of their approach to this recession.  In their minds, it ought to be true that we can spend our way to prosperity because (again, in their minds) such spending is the just and noble thing to do.  Even when the the tax revenues rewards generated from this kind of virtue might prove to be less impressive than the rewards of leaving well enough alone (as Charlie Gibson [!] argued to Obama might be the case with capital gains tax increases), Obama firmly insisted that this kind of "virtue" could be its own reward.

So it should come as no surprise that Obama's economists appear to have the assignment of justifying economic policies not actually designed to improve an economy.  Michael Barone takes note of this today by pointing to yet another arrogant assumption of the Democrats, rooted in yet another misunderstanding of human nature and the facts.  They thought voters would flock to them because in previous business-cycle driven recessions many voters were grateful for government spending--such as unemployment insurance or public works projects that gave them a direct benefit.  But, more important, the timing of the end of these recessions--though resulting from a natural turn in the business cycle--plausibly could be argued to be related to the benefits so many voters enjoyed.  The dubious case for cause and effect did not need an elaborate public defense because the recessions ended and people then had better work to do than armchair political economy.

It's not working out that way this time for the Democrats.  High unemployment lingers--even if the recession is "technically" ending--and people therefore have had a lot of time to think.  It's increasingly clear that this recession is not a simple "business-cycle" recession, Barone argues, but a recession resulting from a financial crisis.  Voters know that aside from the pain of losing jobs, most of their own pain came from spending money that they did not have.  It's obvious to them--in ways that it is not obvious to Obama's elite team of economists--that the federal government's problems are just a large scale reflection of their own.  We do not have a situation here where we just need to be patient and allow the expansion of the economy to catch up with the spending we're doing.  Just like in our own lives, we need to scale back the spending!  Some debt can propel ambition and stimulate healthy growth, but too much weakens a body . . . and a body politic too. 
Contra Barone and those who say that Keynesian ideas are everywhere dying, I think it is still unclear whether the electorate has finally come to reject the narrative that government spending can turn around an economy.  We have much reason to be optimistic that persuasion on this point is now more possible than ever, but interest has a way of attaching itself to thinking when it comes to politics, and I think that when this kind of spending is not so obviously insane (e.g., someday when we have yet another ordinary business-cycle recession and after we finally work through this financial crisis), voters will be more susceptible to the wiles of a Democrat who can tell them that taking from rich is not only their right but also something good for the rich and poor alike because it improves the economy.

Be that as it may, I do think that something even more powerful is happening.  There is more hope this go around to expect that Americans will become much more suspicious of American politicians like Obama who let the mask of their concern for the economy slip and expose an underlying and consuming ideology of justice that is fundamentally at odds with the American idea of justice in equal opportunity.   The nature of this recession and his failure to understand it certainly hurt him and it laid the groundwork for his defeat tomorrow (and make no mistake, it is HIS defeat).  But mistakes caused by ignorance do not make people angry and the Americans excited about voting tomorrow are nothing if not angry and fired up.   They want to punish the Democrats.  Punish them for their failures, yes . . . but more than that they want to punish them for their stubborn and ideological arrogance.  These Dems thought they understood American justice better than the people did and they told us that we ought to be grateful for their superior wisdom in passing legislation that was manifestly unpopular and counter-productive.  It will be an expensive mistake for them tomorrow . . . but the effects of that mistake will last long into the future for the Democrats. 
Categories > Politics

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The People's Gift

This Scott Rasmussen column and this more elegant Ross Douthat column are related to a point that is worth pondering by us, and worth acting on (after the ponder) by the Republicans. It is not silly to assert that the electoral victories that are coming tomorrow are not simple pro-Republican (although they are certainly anti-Democrat).  This is worth noting because the GOP will now have to think and act as if they need to earn Tuesday's votes.  And they will do this by both taking actions (on health care, taxes, deficit, etc) that prove their serious purposes and by talking as the people talk; as Rasmussen says, the people want politicians in Washington "who understand that the American people want to govern themselves."  Furthermore, the GOP certainly can't scoff at the people (the folks in the Tea Parties, for example) by saying they are overly fond of their God and their guns.  They had better talk as if they were of the people, instead of being their haughty rulers, else they will be ruled by the people soon enough.  That this is both right and in the interest of the GOP is self-evident; if the GOP doesn't get this right, there will be a third party within a year, and this time it will get more than twenty percent of the vote (thinking of Perot in '92). 

Anyway, it seems to me that Douthat's point--that the country's leftward momentum has reversed itself; that nearly 20 years of liberal gains have been erased in the last 20 months--is  also important.  The Dems' great mistake was to try to expand the size and scope and reach of the federal government during an economic downturn; this tactical mistake (as Douthat calls it) has gone way beyond a strategic mistake, and if the GOP can take advantage of it, it will have teleological consequences opening up the question of self-government itself.  The people came to realize that the Republic was in danger, that the idea of self-government was about to perish from the earth.  They are voting to stop this.

Douthat doesn't think the GOP will be prepared to wield power.  I don't think this is the most important point.  I think they are prepared to wield power, but they do not yet understand how this gift from the people has opened up an opportunity the like of which has not been seen in my lifetime.  The GOP has to understand this, and also know that it is good that the Spirit of '76 has been raised, and it is up to the GOP to establish a rhetoric appropriate to this end.  I don't mean a narrow partisan rhetoric, I mean a rhetoric that is worthy of the American cause, a rhetoric that is not only acceptable to those in the Tea Party, but also pulls in those who have not yet fully thought things through (i.e., a rhetoric that can shape a majority that will have the authority to wield power).  When the Republic is in a crisis there is a need for the kind of political evangelism that will reveal once again how the salvation of man's earthly hopes is bound up in the American Republic.  This rhetoric will have to prove that self-government is possible, it will prove that (in George Washington's words) the idea of civil and religious liberty yet lives, in short, that Americans are good enough to govern themselves.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


New Podcast with Hayward

I just completed a podcast with Steve Hayward this morning. It's relatively short (a bit over 15 minutes) and serves as a good summary of what's going on and what is likely to happen tomorrow. Steve also shares his thoughts on possible consequences of the election including his assertion that Jerry Brown may challenge President Obama in the Democratic primaries of 2012.
Categories > Elections


Sometimes the Voters Speak Emphatically

And sometimes they speak equivocally.  When deciding which is which, nothing is more useful than guidance from straight-shooter analysts, the kind who don't let their own political preferences determine their judgment.

E.J. Dionne, "No Final Victories," November 1, 2010: "Much of the post-election analysis will focus on ideology, on whether Obama moved 'too far left' and embraced too much 'big government.' All this will overlook how moderate Obama's program actually is. It will also pretend that an anxiety rooted in legitimate worry about the country's long-term economic future is the result of doctrine rather than experience... The classic middle-ground voter who will swing this election -- moderate, independent, suburban -- has always been suspicious of dogmatic promises that certain big ideas would give birth to a utopian age."

E.J. Dionne, "A New Era for America," November 5, 2008: "Barack Obama's sweeping electoral victory cannot be dismissed merely as a popular reaction to an economic crisis or as a verdict on an unpopular president ... In choosing Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress, the country put a definitive end to a conservative era ... Since the Nixon era, conservatives have claimed to speak for the 'silent majority.' Obama represents the future majority... [T]he [economic] crisis affords [Obama] an opportunity granted few presidents to reshape the country's assumptions, change the terms of debate and transform our politics."
Categories > Elections


The Tidal Wave

Politico interviews some Dems on tomorrow's vote: "While few will say so on the record for fear of alienating party officials or depressing turnout, every one of nearly a dozen Democratic House consultants and political strategists surveyed expect a GOP majority to be elected Tuesday -- the consensus was that Democrats would lose somewhere between 50 and 60 seats."

Also: "While there was optimistic talk within party circles early this month that the electoral environment was improving for the party, the operatives said those conversations don't take place anymore."

The latest Gallup Poll confirms their mood: "The final USA Today/Gallup measure of Americans' voting intentions for Congress shows Republicans continuing to hold a substantial lead over Democrats among likely voters, a lead large enough to suggest that regardless of turnout, the Republicans will win more than the 40 seats needed to give them the majority in the U.S. House." And: "The results are from Gallup's Oct. 28-31 survey of 1,539 likely voters. It finds 52% to 55% of likely voters preferring the Republican candidate and 40% to 42% for the Democratic candidate on the national generic ballot -- depending on turnout assumptions. Gallup's analysis of several indicators of voter turnout from the weekend poll suggests turnout will be slightly higher than in recent years, at 45%. This would give the Republicans a 55% to 40% lead on the generic ballot, with 5% undecided."

And, just to turn the screw a bit more, Nate Silver of the New York Times gives Five Reasons the Republicans could do even better.
Categories > Elections


World Statistics Day--Woo-Hoo!

Did you know that October 20 was World Statistics Day?  I missed it too.  Shouldn't it be a national holiday or something?  

The Energy Information Administration has a fun online 20-question quiz.  I got 15 out of 20 correct, and might have got all 20 if I had stopped to think harder about them.  Give it a whirl.
Categories > Economy


Is Obama another Woodrow Wilson?

John Steele Gordon has a short blog in Commentary comparing President Obama and Woodrow Wilson. He focuses mostly on political and biographical similarities, which turn out to be pretty remarkable in many ways. Take a look.

What he doesn't talk much about are the philosophical similarities, on which many contributors and friends of this blog have already done great work. To mention just three: their particular understanding of Christianity, their progressive political ideas, and their commitment to democratic deliberation organized around a leader who turns the people into a "public" by giving them new goals and aspirations. I think we can't understand either president - or what Obama will do in the next two years - without understanding these basic parts of their political outlook.
Categories > Politics