Quote of the Day
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.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
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.
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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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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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
Men and Women
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...?
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.
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"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."
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.
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.
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.
James Poulos interviews Ross Douthat. Stick around for Poulos's closing comment at the very end. Awesome.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
The Civil War & Lincoln
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.
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.
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?
Men and Women
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.
Jonah Goldberg in February.
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
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.
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.
Refine & Enlarge
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.
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?
Refine & Enlarge
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.
Refine & Enlarge
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.
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.
A radioactive rabbit was trapped on the Hanford nuclear reservation, and Washington state health workers have been searching for contaminated rabbit droppings.
There's a movie in this somewhere: Attack of the 50-Foot Glow-in-the-Dark Killer Rabbit.
The rabbit was trapped in the past week and was highly contaminated with radioactive cesium. It was killed and disposed of as radioactive waste.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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?
|IN||House 2||Donnelly won by 37% in '08|
|7:00 PM||IN||House 9||Hill (D)* vs. Young (R)||Hill won by 20% in '08|
|7:00 PM||KY||House 6||Chandler won by 30% in '08|
|7:00 PM||SC||House 5||Spratt (D)* vs. Mulvaney (R)||Spratt is a 14 term incumbent and won by 25% in '08|
|7:00 PM||VA||House 5||Perriello (D)* vs. Hurt (R)||Liberal in Conservative district; Only Obama visit for a House candidate on 10/29|
|7:00 PM||VA||House 9||Boucher (D)* vs. Griffith (R)||Boucher is a 13 term incumbent and ran unopposed in '08|
|7:00 PM||VA||House 11||Connolly (D)* vs. Fimian (R)|
|7:30 PM||OH||House 1|
|7:30 PM||OH||House 6||Wilson (D)* vs. Johnson (R)||Strickland's former seat; Wilson won by 29% in '08|
|7:30 PM||OH||House 15||Kilroy (D)* vs. Stivers (R)|
|7:30 PM||OH||House 16||Boccieri (D)* vs. Renacci (R)||Boccieri voted against health care then for it. The Ashbrook Center is in his district.|
|7:30 PM||OH||House 18||Space (D)* vs. Gibbs (R)||Space won by 20% in '08|
|7:30 PM||OH||Governor||Strickland (D)* vs. Kasich (R)||Obama Visits 10/17 and 10/31|
|7:30 PM||WV||Senate||Manchin (D) vs. Raese (R)||Open Seat (D)|
|7:30 PM||WV||House 1||McKinley (R) vs. Oliverio (D)||Open Seat (D); Mollohan (D) ran unopposed in '08|
|8:00 PM||CT||Governor||Foley (R) vs. Malloy (D)||Open Seat (R)|
|8:00 PM||CT||Senate||Blumenthal (D) vs. McMahon (R)||Open Seat (D)|
|8:00 PM||DE||House AL||Carney (D) vs. Urquhart (R)||Open Seat (R)|
|8:00 PM||IL||Senate||Giannoulias (D) vs. Kirk (R)||Open Seat (D); Obama Visit 10/30; Obama's former seat|
|8:00 PM||IL||House 10||Dold (R) vs. Seals (D)||Open Seat (R); Kirk's former seat|
|8:00 PM||IL||Governor||Quinn (D)* vs. Brady (R)|
|8:00 PM||FL||House 2||Boyd (D)* vs. Southerland (R)||Boyd won by 25% in '08 and ran unopposed in '06|
|8:00 PM||FL||House 8||Grayson (D)* vs. Webster (R)|
|8:00 PM||FL||House 22||Klein (D)* vs. West (R)|
|8:00 PM||FL||House 24||Kosmas (D)* vs. Adams (R)|
|8:00 PM||FL||House 25||Rivera (R) vs. Garcia (D)||Open Seat (R)|
|8:00 PM||FL||Governor||Scott (R) vs. Sink (D)||Open Seat (R)|
|8:00 PM||OK||Issue 756||Health Care Choice|
|8:00 PM||MA||House 4||Frank (D)* vs. Bielat (R)||Unlikely GOP win but fun to watch|
|8:00 PM||MA||House 10||Keating (D) vs. Perry (R)||Open Seat (D); Delahunt (D) ran unopposed in '08|
|8:00 PM||MA||Governor||Patrick (D)* vs. Baker (R) vs. Cahill (I)|
|8:00 PM||NH||House 2||Kuster (D) vs. Bass (R)||Open Seat (D)|
|8:00 PM||PA||Senate||Sestak (D) vs. Toomey (R)||Open Seat (D); Obama Visit 10/30|
|8:30 PM||AR||Senate||Lincoln (D)* vs. Boozman (R)|
|9:00 PM||CO||Senate||Bennet (D)* vs. Buck (R)|
|9:00 PM||CO||House 4||Markey (D)* vs. Gardner (R)|
|9:00 PM||CO||House 7||Perlmutter (D)* vs. Frazier (R)||Perlmutter won by 28% in '08|
|9:00 PM||CO||Issue 63||Health Care Choice|
|9:00 PM||LA||House 2||Cao (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 PM||MN||House 8||Oberstar (D)* vs. Cravaack (R)||Oberstar is a 14 term incumbent and won by 36% in '08|
|9:00 PM||NY||House 13||McMahon (D)* vs. Grimm (R)|
|9:00 PM||NY||House 19||Hall (D)* vs. Hayworth (R)|
|9:00 PM||NY||House 20||Murphy (D)* vs. Gibson (R)|
|9:00 PM||NY||Arcuri (D)* vs. Hanna (R)|
|9:00 PM||WI||Senate||Feingold (D)* vs. Johnson (R)||Feingold is a 18 year incumbent|
|10:00 PM||AZ||House 3||Hulburd (D) vs. Quayle (R)||Open Seat (R); typically a Republican district|
|10:00 PM||AZ||Prop 106||Health Care Choice|
|10:00 PM||NV||Senate||Reid (D)* vs. Angle (R)||Obama visit 10/22|
|10:00 PM||NV||House 3||Titus (D)* vs. Heck (R)|
|11:00 PM||WA||Senate||Murray (D)* vs. Rossi (R)||Obama Visit 10/21|
|11:00 PM||WA||House 8||Reichert (R)* vs. DelBene (D)||Obama won District by 14|
|CA||Senate||Boxer (D)* vs. Fiorina (R)||Obama Visit 10/22|
|11:00 PM||CA||House 3||Lungren (R)* vs. Bera (D)|
|11:00 PM||OR||Governor||Dudley (R) vs. Kitzhaber (D)*||Obama visit on 10/20|
|12:00 PM||HI||House 1||Djou (R)* vs. Hanabusa (D)||Typically a democratic seat; Djou is the one of the few Republican losses expected in '10|
|1:00 AM||AK||Senate||Miller (R) vs. McAdams (D) vs. Murloswki (I)|
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"?
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