Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Summer School Assignment: Remedial Vote-Counting

Fred Barnes and Linda Chavez have written many smart things over the years. Their recent arguments that this week’s defeat of the immigration bill in the Senate will do political harm to the Republicans don’t measure up to their usual efforts. The key problem for both of them is that in a two-party nation, congressional politics will always be a zero-sum game. Whatever helps the Democrats hurts the Republicans, and vice versa.

Chavez and Barnes call the decisive cloture vote against the immigration bill a self-inflicted wound for the Republicans. That opinion is, to put it generously, difficult to square with the fact that one-third of the Democrats voted against cloture. If they thought the bill was a political winner, why would they jump off the train rather than seize the opportunity to claim credit for themselves and their party? As Michael Barone pointed out, 24 of the 33 senators who have to run for re-election next year opposed cloture. Among senators who won’t face the voters again until 2010 or 2012, 37 out of 56 voted for it. The fact that the politicians most concerned about popular sentiment were least likely to help the immigration bill casts doubt on the idea that Republicans will “find themselves sitting on the back benches for years to come,” in Chavez’s phrase, because they passed up this golden opportunity.

According to Barnes, “For Democrats, the failure of immigration reform is a twofer. Democrats are likely now to begin to solidify their hold on the Hispanic vote. And their House members in rural and conservative districts have been spared a risky vote in favor of immigration reform.” Do you see the zero-sum problem here? Barnes is saying that the Democrats are going to win Hispanic votes by stressing their support for the immigration bill, the same one that’s going to lose votes for them in rural and conservative districts. It’s not that both can’t be true, exactly, but that they can’t be true in the same direction. If the Democrats have more Hispanic votes to gain than rural votes to lose by supporting the immigration bill, the raw political calculation would be to support it. And if not, not. But there can’t be a net gain for the Democrats if they support the bill, and also a net gain if they oppose it.

Barnes says that while “opposition to the bill may aid individual senators, it clearly undercuts Republican efforts to capture the Hispanic vote.” Fred, they’re all individual senators and representatives, and none of them got elected without having a pretty good idea of how to assess political risks and rewards. Their professional judgment that supporting the immigration bill would increase the likelihood that their careers would be moving into a post-congressional phase deserves respect. So does their understanding that the party that wins the most individual races in 2008 will have a congressional majority in 2009. Vying for the loyalty of a particular voting bloc is not some collateral effort that benefits either party, except insofar as it manifests itself in all of those individual elections.

What’s Really Wrong with BROWN

Here I’m hastily reacting to Rob’s post below, shamelessly using my power to create a new entry every time I want to pontificate about God, nature, the Constitution or whatever:

BROWN would have seemed less punitive had it been more assertive. BROWN II was racist in its lack of a timetable for implementation, in its "all deliberate speed." The remedy was not guaranteed to the particular kids whose rights were violated (and they were) but to members of their race at some indefinite time in the future. The South correctly saw in BROWN II a sort of license to stall--and that stalling made the Civil Rights movement necessary, was the real cause of much of the violence and corresponding use of federal troops and eventually of the perceived need for busing etc. Had the Court set a deadline for taking race out of the law of, say, 1958, then implementation might have been somewhat harsher initially but more benign over the long run. I tend to think that more damaging than anything in BROWN I is the more explicit racism or anti-individualism of Brown II. I actually think the strange BROWN I opinion is not oriented toward indefinite progress toward perfection integration but is better understood as a misguided tactical move to shape a radical decision with a seemingly moderate and limited argument--one that didn’t reverse PLESSY (because it had no implications for segregated transportation) and was limited only to primary and secondary education. The argument used in BOLLING v. SHARPE (announced the same day) about racial distinctions in the law being hostile to our tradition or something like that showed that the Court knew better than BROWN and a lot about their real intention.
Listen, the Second Reconstruction could have been handled better but certainly was necessary: The South rose to American dominance only after the end of segregation and the coming of air conditioning.

The One True BROWN

Our Bench Memo friend, Ed Whelan, explains that the clear intent of BROWN was not to integrate, but desegregate, to command the assignment of students to schools on a nonracial, nondiscriminatory basis. Breyer is wrong to say it’s obvious that the precedent could be used to justify a racially conscious educational remedy to somehow compensate for patterns of residential segregation. So, contrary to the Court’s unanimous ruling in SWANN, "Court ordered busing" is clearly unconstitutional. It’s not as clear that the voluntary use of race by legislative bodies as one factor many in some sort of narrowly tailored remedy is; truth to tell, BROWN can’t be cited as settling that issue authoritatively one way or the other. The psychotherapeutic argument of BROWN is mushy and has been abused in many ways, but arguably all racially based remedies stigmatize minorities, unless the remedial character for particular, identifiable individuals is very transparent. The real issue on our nation’s deliberative agenda is this: Is the educational objective of diversity--which the Court typically justifies according to the First, not Fourteenth, Amendment--really weighty enough to justify compromising the elementary individualistic principle of nondiscrimination on the basis of race? It is, in truth, not a compelling state interest and does not even pretend to have a remedial effect for particular individuals who have suffered discrimination.

Beach Blogging

From San Simeon, California. Only 36 seconds long.

Minimalists and visionaries

That’s how Cass Sunstein would divvy up the conservative bloc on the Supreme Court. So far, the evidence seems to support his distinction: Justices Scalia and Thomas want to reach the big questions, while Justices Roberts and Alito want to find a relatively narrow, if not the narrowest possible, ground for the ruling, not overruling precedent if they don’t have to.

Thus far, this combination has generally succeeded in carrying along Justice Kennedy. What would happen if they didn’t need his vote (my fond hope) is anyone’s guess.

If PETA Hates Him He Should Advertise It

This is not exactly the humanizing flaw I was looking for in Romney, but I’ll take it. If PETA hates the guy, he must be doing something wrong that’s actually right. Notice the comment from the PETA spokeswoman equating the importance of dogs with that of children. There’s nothing new about that, of course, but it is telling. I think that attacks like this do wonders to improve the perceptions the vast majority of sensible Americans have about Mitt.

Liberals’ Eric Alterman Problem

Eric Alterman doesn’t like Martin Peretz, who was the publisher of The New Republic from 1973 until its sale earlier this year. Why? Because over the course of those 34 years, “Peretz has done lasting damage to the cause of American liberalism. By turning TNR into a kind of ideological police dog, Peretz enjoyed the ability – at least for a while – to play a key role in defining the borders of ‘responsible’ liberal discourse, thereby tarring anyone who disagreed as irresponsible or untrustworthy.”

Although Alterman has complaints about the tone of TNR under Peretz, and about some of its domestic policy positions, what really infuriates him is the magazine’s hawkishness, especially concerning Israel and the Middle East. Alterman writes, “TNR was not simply wrong about Iraq, it was viciously, nastily wrong. . . . By pretending to speak as a liberal but simultaneously endorsing the central crusades of the right, [Peretz] has enlisted The New Republic in the service of a ruinous neoconservative doctrine, as the magazine sneered at those liberals who stood firm in the face of its insults.”

So far, so bad. Peretz is a graceless writer; little of his work would see the light of day if he had to send it to editors not on his payroll. The relentlessness of his efforts over the past 20 years to chisel Al Gore’s face onto Mount Rushmore defies parody. The Alterman critique goes from angry to weird, however, when he says, “the hard work of coming up with a genuinely liberal alternative to the neoconservative foreign-policy nightmare, an alternative to which TNR might have usefully contributed, remains not merely undone but undermined in the pages of the magazine.” Is one publisher of one magazine really so powerful that he can stymie the otherwise promising efforts to reconceptualize liberal foreign policy? William Randolph Hearst didn’t throw that kind of weight around on his best days.

The hard work Alterman describes has been fruitless for longer than Peretz has been running The New Republic. It was 40 years ago that the Americans for Democratic Action denounced Lyndon Johnson and the war in Vietnam, which Johnson had pursued in the belief that it was exactly the sort of commitment required by the liberal anti-communism that was the ADA’s raison d’être. Since then, “the Democratic Party has had no foreign policy,” according to a New Yorker article by George Packer at the start of the 2004 election campaign. Its “base remains instinctively uncomfortable with activism and armed force.” Liberals’ “intellectual shortcomings” include “isolationism and pacifism,” and the multiculturalist reluctance to “mount a wholehearted defense of one political system against another, especially when the other has taken root among poorer and darker-skinned peoples.” Liberals “have continued to speak the language of liberal internationalism” but “haven’t wanted to back up the talk with power.”

The “genuinely liberal alternative” Alterman longs for will have to solve all these problems. It will indeed be hard work. Alterman shows just how hard by contending that liberals who want their resolve in the face of Osama bin Laden to be credible are frightened of Martin Peretz.

Hey John Moser . . . Beat This!

Remember John’s confession of pyromania last July? My native Californian husband is likewise fascinated when he visits Ohio in the summer and sees all the amazing fireworks available for purchase. And I used to be rather proud of the spirit of Ohioans that they would insist on keeping the sale, if not the use, of these things legal. (Because everybody knows they get used anyway.) But I should have remembered . . . everything’s bigger in California!

What Happens When PC Turns in on Itself

Is it just me, or does this all sound like a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors"? Do gays trump blacks? I don’t know if racism really got him fired, but Isaiah Washington is right about one thing: he ought not to have apologized in the obsequious way he did. And he’s right about another: if anything will help him now, it’s pulling this card.

Elephant in the Room

Bill Bennett here points to the biggest problem faced by our nation: a lack of self-understanding. I don’t think it’s too much to say that unless and until we address this problem in our schools and in our popular culture, we aren’t going to be able to solve any other problem--from the war to immigration--in a satisfactory way. There must be a special place in hell for teachers who persist in making American history boring or repulsive. Of course, that’s why the work of the Ashbrook Center is so important.

Cleared the Schedule . . . ?

Al Gore has cleared his schedule for the next 6 months, lost a good bit of weight, and has this big extravaganza planned for next week . . . Hmmmm. Any predictions, Steve?

Research Proves Kipling Right

This study (cited today by Rush Limbaugh) proves that Rudyard Kipling had it more or less correct when he wrote The Cat Who Walked by Himself. Apparently cats were not domesticated by man, but vice versa. Rush said that dogs have masters and cats have servants. I guess. But I think the man in Kipling’s story had a better view of what to do when confronted with a cat.

More thoughts on Hein

Prawfsblawgger (I guess that’s how you’d spell it) Andrew M. Siegel offers additional thoughts on the Hein case, about which I blogged (without the J.D., I can’t blawg) here. Defending the position taken in Flast, and by Dahlia Litwick, Siegel argues that the Establishment Clause is just plain different:

the Establishment Clause is the only Clause in the Constitution that seems to bestow an individual right on individuals in their capacity as taxpayers. After all, the ur-injury against which all modern Establishment Clause claims are reflected is the Establishment of a national church, i.e., the use of federal tax dollars drawn from all segments of the population to support a particular religion. Given the central role the Establishment Clause plays in protecting freedom of conscience and its placement in the first Amendment’s list of liberties, the right not to be conscripted into paying such taxes to support an alien religion is as personal a right as the freedom of speech or the free exercise of religion. The fact that a government action impermissibly funding a particular religion violates the individual rights of many, many individuals should not defeat standing, as it would not in a case where the government outlawed all speech critical of the current administration or prohibited the exercise of Christianity.

I’m willing to take seriously much of that quasi-originalist point, were it not for the fact that it’s the basis for permitting objections to activities that are lightyears away from amounting to an establishment of religion. Litigation as a resort against genuine establishment (however unlikely that would be) makes sense. But we ought to rely primarily on political barriers--elections and legislative oversight--to deal with milder forms of interaction between religion and government, forms, by the way, that were tolerated and even embraced for most of our history.

Peggy Noonan Explains How Someone Becomes an American making The Decision.

Don’t Cry for BROWN’s Demise

That’s the thoughtful if partly misguided conclusion of Juan Williams. Williams is wrong that BROWN imposed a race-conscious remedy. It actually only demanded that a kid not be assigned to a school based on his race. But it is true that a unanimous court in SWANN (1971) ruled that BROWN actually mandated maxing out on real integration and so Court-ordered busing. All other educational considerations should give way to the goal of racial balance. It is disquieting that a proper understanding of BROWN eluded every member on the Court, and one reason for that is that BROWN just isn’t a well reasoned argument (although it was a perfectly correct decision). Now, Juan contends, racial malice just can’t be blamed for all our bad schools and the real scandal of very unequal educational opportunity. Our new goal should be much less about integration and much more about a good education for all our children. Empty, elitist talk about diversity should give way to a serious examination of what our devotion to equality really demands of us.

The Narrow Anti-Diversity Ruling

The NATIONAL REVIEW wishes the Court had gone further and declared all use of race as a legal category unconstitutional. We defenders of judicial restraint disagree. The principle found in the relevant precedents is that every individual must be treated as an individual, or not merely as a member of a race. But race may be used as one factor among many in thinking about individuals, with the burden of proof being on those who must show that the use of race is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest. Justice O’Connor clearly did not apply the principle correctly in GRUTTER. There was no serious inquiry into diversity (as opposed to, say, justice or equality) as a govermental objective, and there was deference to (no strict scrutiny of) Michigan’s factual claims. But in the Seattle and Louisville cases, the principle was used correctly to strike down policies, and there was no need to develop a new one.
Declaring all racially-based remedies unconstitutional would have been contrary to all precedent (the Court has never said the Constitution is color-blind--BROWN itself is ambiguous and sort of rightly used by both sides in this controversy), needlessly controversial, and surely an act of judicial activism. We conservatives have to be consistent in applauding the Court when it has a modest but firm view of its role in our constitutional order. I’m more inclined to applaud the Court when it acts aggressively to withdraw itself from places it never should have been to begin with--abortion, for example.

Gerson on Obama on religion

Michael Gerson nails Barack Obama on religion.

He also raises the issue about how to appeal to the younger generation of evangelicals, who, he says, differ on some issues from their elders. I think he’s right about those differences (on matters like the environment and their attitude toward gays). He thinks that these developments might provide an opening for both parties to educate themselves and this constituency about the difference between prudentially adopted means and essential ends:

This has been the Christian compromise on faith and politics. The essential humanism of Christianity requires an active, political concern about human dignity and the rights of the poor and weak. But faith says little about the means to achieve those ideals. The justice of welfare reform or tax cuts or moving toward socialized medicine is measured by the outcome of these changes. And those debates cannot be short-circuited by the claim "Thus sayeth the Lord," spoken by the Christian Coalition or the United Church of Christ.

I’m not sure I’d use the word "rights" in this context, because it--especially in our political culture--tends to short-circuit prudence and the kind of balancing political judgment always requires. I can have a duty toward someone and he or she can have a claim on my attention and compassion without requiring me to take political action on his or her behalf. Stated another way, by emphasizing the political as opposed to the charitable element of the concern with widows and orphans, Gerson already begins to distort the debate.

Update: Acton’s Jordan Ballor adds more nuance here, arguing in part that not all rights language is merely political in its import and implication. This is a complicated question, made so in large part by the power and hence the extension of rights language in the contemporary world. Every strong preference, and indeed every human good, tends to have a right attached to it, with the goal of provoking a response from those to whom the claim is addressed. When I say I have a right to something I want very, very badly (or when I say I have a right to something I need), the normal implication is that someone has a responsibility to provide it. I realize that this isn’t simply the classical liberal conception: Hobbes’s rights were, in effect, hunting licenses; and the right to pursue happiness in the Declaration demands respect, but not necessarily assistance or service. But Gerson’s rights language doesn’t draw simply from the older liberal tradition, but rather from the welfare rights tradition that borrows liberal language for more communal, not to say paternalistic, ends. It’s meant to borrow the powerful rhetorical advantage of the liberal conception of rights and apply it to a different set of issues. And especially in the American context, as Tocqueville already notes, rights language trumps all other moral language, absolutizing claims and pushing them to the center of our legal and political systems.

Defending Russell Kirk

I’m at Bethel College in or near St. Paul, Minnesota, typing on a computer that seems to have resisted successfully cutting and pasting. Nevertheless, if you go to the NRO page you will see some nice defenses (especially Jeff Nelson’s) of Russell Kirk from the venom of Alan Wolfe in his NEW REPUBLIC review article. Wolfe has been been disfiguring himself for a while into a gross caricature of a critic with extreme anti-theological and especially anti-Christian ire. Kirk really did like all kinds of people, was a champion of the underdog, didn’t have slaves or want any (despite having a large, wonderful family), was much more interested in making the world safe for bohemians like himself than for aristocrats, loved his country, took some public policy stands that today’s liberal would like, hated Nazism and all ideological thought and practice, was a man of tremendous erudition, was a prolific and graceful writer of both cultural analysis and fiction, and made one of the most serious and likely enduring contributions to American conservative thought. He was also far from perfect as a thinker and interpreter, and his life was surely too eccentric for him to be regarded as a model of human excellence. But his flaws, of course, are part of his charm. I certainly thought Wolfe’s article was shameful enough to ignore, but it could be that even some readers of NLT would actually believe some of his scattershot allegations.

A Good but not Great Ruling?

Daniel Henninger shows us why the new additions to the Court--though good--may not have the fortitude required to make them great. The ruling in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case is correct; the kid has no first amendment right to hold up such a sign. But the reasoning in Roberts’ and Alito’s opinions was, perhaps, too narrow as it tread too closely to the flawed logic of Tinker and other precedents that ought not to be held up to posterity. Here’s the opinion of the Court. Henninger recommends reading Thomas’ excellent concurring opinion as one of the most excellent essays on the failures of American education to appear in the last 35 years.

No cloture on immigration bill

These two articles on the defeat of cloture on the immigration bill make no mention of the wide unpopularity of the proposal, the haste and highhandedness with which proponents were trying to push it through, and the machinations of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Reid is getting his story line: it’s a defeat for President Bush. I say: it’s a victory for republican self-government, which combines representativeness and deliberation. The immigration proposal embodied neither, discouraging a full and free debate in the Senate (where that sort of thing is supposed to happen) and haughtily dismissing the reasonable concerns of the public, not just about the character of the country, but about the security of the borders.

The press will present it as a victory for nativism and unreason (embodied in two words: "Michael Savage"); there surely were irrational and nativist opponents of the measure, but they were at the margins. Most embrace Peter Schramm’s Americanism of principle, care deeply about the rule of law (which our "elites" clearly want to sacrifice to profits or votes), and worry about border security. They rightly distrust promises made by people who haven’t given any concrete evidence about their concern with border security.

I hope the Bush Administration takes a hint and begins to build that trust by enforcing current immigration law and that Congress takes a hint by appropriating the money to build the fence that was authorized. Should they do so, it might be possible to revisit this vexed question in calmer times.

To repeat: yes, this is a Bush Administration failure, but the responsibility for it goes much further. Anyone who tried to deal quickly and "easily" with this complicated problem, without having established the groundwork in public opinion and having persuaded us that they could be trusted, deserves a share of the blame. Harry Reid and his supporters can’t just point down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Did Someone Say "Citizenship"? They Should Check in With Our Fearless Leader Peter

Oddly missing for the most part from the whole immigration debate raging in Congress has been any serious talk of the civic nature of immigrants becoming citizens (or "assimilation" if you like). Sure, there have been one or two half-hearted amendments to recognize English as our official language (after which perhaps Congress will pass a resolution recognizing the law of gravity and observing that water runs downhill), but note that when Newt Gingrich stumbled over this he quickly apologized. In Spanish. Aside from a few good pieces from the Heritage Foundationl, there has been little attention paid to this.

The Senate ought to puase long enough to ponder Peter’s meditation in The Weekly Standard Online today, on "what it means to be an American by choice." Congratulations, by the way: Peter is receiving an award for this. Even if it is from the fedderal gummint, still a nice honor.

Old books and current events

I make a living teaching old books, and constantly try to persuade my students that things written more than a week ago remain meaningful and "relevant." Yesterday, this passage from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah provoked an interesting discussion:

When people (who have a religious coloring) come to have the (right) insight into their affairs, nothing can withstand them, because their outlook is one and their object one of common accord. They are willing to die for (their objectives). (On the other hand,) the members of the dynasty they attack may be many times as numerous as they. But their purposes differ, in as much as they are false purposes, and (the people of the worldly dynasty) come to abandon each other, since they are afraid of death. Therefore, they do not offer resistance to (the people with a religious coloring), even if they themselves are more numerous. They are overpowered by them and quickly wiped out, as a result of the luxury and humbleness existing among them, as we have mentioned before.

This happened to the Arabs at the beginning of Islam during the Muslim conquests. The armies of the Muslims at al-Qadisiyah and at the Yarmuk numbered some 30,000 in each case, while the Persian troops at al-Qadisiyah numbered 120,000, and the troops of Heraclius, according to al­Waqidi, 400,000. Neither of the two parties was able to withstand the Arabs. (The Arabs) routed them and seized what they possessed.

Another illustration is the Lamtunah (Almoravid) and Almohad dynasties. In the Maghrib, there existed many tribes equaling or surpassing them in numbers and group feeling. However, their religious organization doubled the strength of their group feeling through (their) feeling of having (the right religious) insight and (their) willingness to die, as we have stated, and nothing could withstand them.

Without editorializing (that’s not my job in the classroom), I noted that true religion was also understood by Saint Augustine as the only basis of genuine community.

Enough said.

Hippies Plus Evangelicals Equals Libertarians

That’s REASON’s view of the accidental genealogy of the alleged great cultural convergence of our time.

Help Wanted

I just noticed this opening for an assistant editor at the Claremont Review of Books (see left column):

Help Wanted

Assistant Editor

Responsibilities include editing reviews and essays for the Claremont Review of Books, corresponding with authors during the
editing and production processes,proofreading the magazine, and acting as a deputy to the managing editor.

The assistant editor also serves as the magazine’s publicist, developing and executing strategies to increase the magazine’s exposure and subscriptions.

The assistant editor oversees the Claremont Institute’s website, editing articles for web publication, posting pieces from the magazine, and soliciting original website content. Candidates must have strong writing and editing skills and must be committed to the magazine’s mission. This is a full-time, salaried position with health benefits. Applicants should send a cover letter, CV, and writing samples to:

The Claremont Institute
Attn: John B. Kienker, Managing Editor
937 West Foothill Boulevard, Suite E
Claremont, CA 91711

Imagination Drain

Before I am accused of contracting the sickness of "Good Old Days-itis" let me say that I understand that fond recollections of one’s own childhood can be misleading. The grand adventures we recall now probably did not seem so wonderful and enchanting as they happened. I get that. But this pediatrician discusses what he views as a trend away from allowing children to develop their own games and imaginations and toward adult hovering and over-thinking (and, as he sometimes sees it, over-commercialization) of everything from classrooms to playgrounds. I have often thought that so much of what my kids experience today is just a bit too "scripted" compared with the fun we used to have as kids. But I think there is a long list of causes (commercialization being probably the least among them).

I will just throw out a couple for consideration: first, people are having kids much later in life. I wouldn’t say that older parents have more invested in their children than younger parents, but they probably have more invested in the decision to have them. It is possible, on occasion, that they may have over-thought the thing--thus the delay. Further, such parents may not have one foot in the grave . . . but they are more keenly aware of the graveyard. There is a pressure to do right in more urgently felt time constraints. Plus, they’re often wealthier than younger parents. They tend to be more indulgent materially. Birthday parties in the backyard with pin the tail on the donkey for a few friends won’t do. They can and do have marvelously and extravagantly scripted events at places created specifically for the purpose.

A second reason for this "scripting" may be that neighborhoods tend to empty out of children and mothers during the daytime. I remember wandering through the neighborhood as a young child (i.e., 5 or 6) and chasing the ice cream truck, riding tricycles, searching for treasure, pretending to build clubhouses, etc. My kids don’t really do that and, if they wanted to, they wouldn’t have anyone to join them. No one is ever home during the day. If the mothers aren’t working, they’re out with their children on scripted outings.

I’m not saying that all of this is a bad change, but it is a change worth considering. On the up-side, I think my kids have seen much more of the world than I ever did at their ages. They’ve been to classical concerts; Broadway quality plays; first class museums, zoos and aquariums and; of course, to some really amazing birthday parties. But I do worry sometimes that there is such a thing as over-doing it. And sometimes, late at night, when I sneak into their rooms to give them one last kiss for the night, I wonder if they’ll ever know how much fun it is to build a fort in a tree and fight the battles of a mighty empire of princesses and pirates.

Teach your children well?

This NYT article describes the findings of this poll. We learn, shockingly, that young people lean liberal, as (apparently) they almost always have, at least for the past half century.

I doubt we can predict anything about their future political behavior from this. And I’m not even sure that, given their general participation rates and the difficulty of mobilizing them, their predilections will make a big difference in 2008.

What we don’t from the article is that, for the most part, there’s not an appreciable difference between the views of those folks and the general population. And we certainly don’t learn that they’re slightly less pro-abortion than is the population as a whole and that, however tolerant and supportive of same-sex marriage and civil unions they are, they’re overwhelmingly unlikely to vote for a gay or lesbian presidential candidate.

Hat tip: Acton’s Anthony Bradley.

Update: Hugh Hewitt’s alter ego has more here.

Diversity and social capital

Apparently, Robert Putnam, who used to worry only about bowling alone, has found that ethnic diversity reduces social capital. Our typical response to greater ethnic diversity in our communities is "to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.” In diverse communities (apparently almost a contradiction in terms), we tend "to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from [our] community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.”

Putnam thinks that there are long-run benefits, but, in the short and medium term, the costs seem pretty high.

I haven’t read the original research, but here’s an abstract and a reference, for those who have access to this journal.


Some of the contents of the latest Claremont Review of Books is now avaliable on-line. I recommend you read

Diana Schaub’s "The Greatness and Decline of American Oratory," as soon as you can get your hands on a good cup of coffee and a

Henry Clay. Then read Hadley Arkes’ "Building Democracy." And then, because you are on your third cigar and small things don’t matter, go buy Greenberg’s book, The Architecture of Democracy, it’s both true and beautiful, and therefore good. And then you might as well subscribe to the Claremont Review of Books because the good needs human support.

Gerson on the Democratic exit strategery

Michael Gerson’s column on the Democrats’ Iraq exit strategy contains some great lines. To wit

History seems to be settling on some criticisms of the early conduct of the Iraq war. On the theory that America could liberate and leave, force levels were reduced too early, security responsibilities were transferred to Iraqis before they were ready, and planning for future challenges was unrealistic. "Victory in Iraq," one official of the Coalition Provisional Authority told me a couple of years ago, "was defined as decapitating the regime. No one defined victory as creating a sustainable country six months down the road."

Now Democrats running for president have thought deeply and produced their own Iraq policy: They want to cut force levels too early and transfer responsibility to Iraqis before they are ready, and they offer no plan to deal with the chaos that would result six months down the road. In essential outline, they have chosen to duplicate the early mistakes of an administration they hold in contempt.

But nothing beats this for poignancy:

In 1974, a weary Congress cut off funds for Cambodia and South Vietnam, leading to the swift fall of both allies. In his memoir, "Years of Renewal," Henry Kissinger tells the story of former Cambodian prime minister Sirik Matak, who refused to leave his country.

"I thank you very sincerely," Matak wrote in response, "for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans]."

He was, as Gerson notes, killed three days later by the Khmer Rouge (remember those monsters?).

More on Cheney

The next Washington Post installment on Cheney is out. No comment, save this. I have been dropping in on the Early Republic seminar offered by Steve Knott and Rob McDonald and have overheard some conversation about what the Jeffersonians thought about Hamilton and I must say that the WaPo’s (and CNN, MSNBC, etc.) attacks on Cheney are really quite mild in comparison. About the only thing he hasn’t been accused of is being a "whale to virginity" and devouring all the fry. Not so with Hamilton, of course.

Gingrich on WWIV

Newt Gingrich sums up this article on the current direction of the West in this new world war by paraphrasing Churchill: ". . . we are not even at the end of the beginning. However, we may be at the beginning of recognizing that this will be a real war." He also includes a list of items he sees a practical and necessary steps for improving our odds in the conflict.

This list includes steps such as: the current system of schools under both Fatah and Hamas control have to be replaced in their entirety with a system dedicated to genuine education and to teaching human rights rather than jihad and hatred. Each of the other suggestions is equally daunting--which, of course, does not mean that they are any less true.

Gingrich’s article is premised on the assumption that it is our leaders who are wavering in this struggle--not the spirit or character of the American people as a whole. He gives what may be some cheerful evidence to support this claim. But, if true, this welcome news offers another task that is no less daunting than those he proposes at the end of his piece: such "leadership" must be replaced. The article does not suggest means to achieve any of these goals but it is a useful starting place for a discussion both of the goals and of possible means for achieving them.


The last push is on to get the immigration bill moving again and I don’t think it will work. And the main reason it will fail is because it is perceived, as Matt Spalding makes clear, as an amnesty bill.

Putin as civics teacher

Putin continues to try to revise history. From the AP dispatch:

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday no one should try to make Russia feel guilty about the Great Purge of 1937, saying it may have been one of the most notorious episodes of the Stalin era but "in other countries even worse things happened."

Speaking at a televised meeting with social studies teachers, Putin noted that this is the 70th anniversary of a year many Russians regard as a synonym for state-sponsored terror. It is an anniversary that has, however, gotten relatively little attention in Russian media.

And then this: "No one must be allowed to impose the feeling of guilt on us," he said. "Let them think about themselves. But we must not and will not forget about the grim chapters in our history."

And a bit more: We have not used nuclear weapons against a civilian population," he said. "We have not sprayed thousands of kilometers (miles) with chemicals, (or) dropped on a small country seven times more bombs than in all the Great Patriotic (War)" -- Russia’s name for World War II.

Fred Gives the Queen Thumbs Up!

Thompson takes a strong stand againt the divine right of monarchs while making it clear that this particular monarch is impressive. Fred admires her honoring of the free speech of the terrorist-targeted novelist Rushdie. Fred himself has patriotic objections to Salman’s controversial books (which he seems to have read), but he is American enough to keep them under control and in perspective (as his fellow citizens are when offended by Monty Python or Mel Gibson). Am I wrong, or is Thompson a master in making lots of solid conservative points in remarkably few words? He also shows that he’s in a different league than Mitt when it comes to the appreciation of fine literature.

Standing still on standing

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, a case in which the latter organization was comprehensively challenging the Bush Administration’s promotion of the faith-based initiative. At issue here was FFRF’s standing to sue, which grew out of the exemption for taxpayer challenges carved out in Flast v. Cohen.

I haven’t read all the opinions yet (summer school gets in the way!), but you can read articles about the decision here, here, and here, and competent early commentary by scrolling down here, as well as by going here and here.

A couple of very preliminary notes: first, it’s a 5-4 decision, with three justices (Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy supporting a narrow reading of the Flast precedent that extends taxpayer standing only in cases where legislative (not executive, as in this instance) action is involved and two (Scalia and Thomas) calling for overturning the precedent. Draw your own conclusions about the differences between Roberts and Alito, on the one side, and Scalia and Thomas, on the other, but don’t forget that Kennedy is the crucial fifth vote.

Second, in his opinion for the plurality, Alito makes the point that permitting taxpayer challenges in this case would radically extend judicial supervision of the executive branch. If the FFRF had its way, one can imagine circumstances in which presidential proclamations of Thanksgiving would be subject to legal challenge by anyone who pays taxes. Is this what Justice Souter and his colleagues have in mind?

Update: Let me add two more very general considerations. First, whatever its other vices, the Flast exception has at least this virtue: it honors the language of the First Amendment, which says that "Congress shall make no law...." By requiring there to be a law to which the taxpayer can object, it provides a bit of discipline to our litigious fellow citizens. Second, those who object to this ruling often put out a parade of horribles that the executive can accomplish on its own steam without legal authorization, as if the only barrier between us and theocracy is the FFRF (and the judges who agree with it). This is surely foreign to the original understanding of the Bill of Rights (see, for example, here, as well as my contribution to this out-of-print volume). The principal defense of our rights was to come from our vigilance (expressed above all through our voting) and from the decency and ambition of our representatives, who would resist the unreasonable and unconstitutional encroachments of their colleagues in government. There is absolutely no evidence that such a mechanism would work to deal with substantial First Amendment abuses coming out of the executive branch. And the alternative proposed by FFRF (and at least implicitly by the dissenters in this case) is to make the judiciary the comprehensive censor of all executive action, which surely upsets the constitutional order.

Update #2: Walter Dellinger and Dahlia Litwick disagree about the decision, Dellinger channeling John Marshall and Litwick, James Madison. Litwick’s Madison is the "not three pence" JM, not the BoR as mere parchment barriers JM.

The press’ politics

Howard Kurtz comments on political contribution by the press and notes this shocking and surprising fact: "The scorecard -- 125 of 144 donations to Democrats -- provides fresh ammunition to those who say the press has a liberal tilt. It’s hard to argue you don’t favor one party when you’ve just coughed up cash for that party."

The New Mod (esty) Squad?

A new book by Wendy Shalit (ably reviewed here by Pia Catton) argues that there is burgeoning movement of young women who are repulsed by the crude feminism of their mothers and (now!) grandmothers that implies there is something wrong with being . . . well, good. According to Shalit, girls are getting tired of the hyper-sexualized culture that, ironically, strips them of power as well as of their clothing. They see their so-called "betters" as dupes and wish to revisit an older, perhaps wiser, form of feminine power that embraces rather than rejects modesty.

I certainly hope this is true and I agree entirely with Shalit’s understanding about the real and slavish direction in which the "everything goes" sexual liberation religion is pointing us. But I share Catton’s concern, (from the end of her review), that the advice Shalit offers is a bit unimpressive. First, from where I sit, I don’t see as much movement away from smut/slut culture as Shalit claims to see. And second, in order to promote that movement I think it has to be something more than and even better than a hearkening back to our great-grandmother’s ways. We have to begin to parse out what was eternally good from their ways and separate it out from the things that may not have been so good and, thus, keep it unappealing to today’s young women. Instead of a simple appeal to tradition, in other words, we have to make a deeper and truer case for the good and useful properties of modesty. It must be an appeal not only to judgment but also to interest.

Suggestions about "baking apple pies" rather than undressing to impress may be cute and even contain a glimpse at the true. But metaphorically speaking, what is apple pie? I love apple pie, don’t get me wrong. And I bake a mean one with apples that we grow ourselves. It is sweet, delicious, and wholesome. But it’s also old-fashioned and, we now know, loaded with cholesterol and other things that may weigh you down or even--when overdone--harm you. The problem with a simple appeal to apple pie may be that it subtracts intellect and judgment from the equation. Another way to say it may be that it does not build up the prudence and flexibility of the young woman hearing the advice--it doesn’t give her enough credit. The problem young women still have with the ancient wisdom of their great-grandmothers is that though it is proven to be rather mighty and impressive in its absence--there are still lingering doubts about an unthinking and reflexive commitment to it. They have grown used to and appreciate the sentiment that vocally claims--even if it actually works against it in practice--that our judgment and our thinking is every bit as worthy as that of the vast majority of men. The problem with the feminists who preceded these young women is that they demonstrated (nearly unequivocally) that the judgment and thinking of women is every bit as stupid as that of the vast majority of men’s can be. There needs to be an appeal to reason as well as sentiment, in other words. There needs to be an appeal that flatters the reason at the same time that it starkly confronts its limitations. We need a feminist Federalist in defense of great-grandma’s constitution.

The Latest Word on Rat Choice Theory

Benedict/Ratzinger urges universities to undertake a comprehensive study of the crisis of modernity and broaden our understanding of rationality.

The Marine and the bear

This proves there are no ex-Marines, just Marines. A father and his three sons are camping. A three hundred pound bear starts running off with their cooler. The six year old boy (and future Marine!) hurles a shovel at it as it is moving away from them back into the woods (with the cooler). Bear turns back menacing the boy. The Marine picks up a log--the closest weapon at hand--throws it at the bear and kills it, saving son’s life. The Marine is then given a ticket for not securing the camp site. It was federal property.


Some (long) Washington Post deep-thinking, opining, and interpreting--in the form of a front-page news story--on bad executive power and on the cruel and clever and manipulative vice-president of the United States. Probably Pulitzer material.

Barone on the Polls

Well, the facts at this point are amazingly simple. The Republican base wants someone who both has conservative views (while successfully distancing himself from the president on incompetence and immigration) and can win in November. For now, it looks like Fred. Rudy doesn’t have the views, and nobody else can get elected. Hillary’s support been stable for a while, and she’s even starting to pull away from Edwards in Iowa. Democrats turn out to be happy enough with her, and there’s no indication of a coming Obama surge.

Obama’s liberal and Democratic faith

Yesterday, Barack Obama delivered a speech on religion and politics, versions of which I’ve read before. (For my previous discussions of his views, go here, here, and, above all, here.)

In the speech, he acknowledges the role faith has come to play in his own life, in his approach to politics, and in our national life and politics. Here are some snippets:

It wasn’t until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma. In a sense, what brought me to Chicago in the first place was a hunger for some sort of meaning in my life. I wanted to be part of something larger. I’d been inspired by the civil rights movement – by all the clear-eyed, straight-backed, courageous young people who’d boarded buses and traveled down South to march and sit at lunch counters, and lay down their lives in some cases for freedom. I was too young to be involved in that movement, but I felt I could play a small part in the continuing battle for justice by helping rebuild some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods.
So it’s 1985, and I’m in Chicago, and I’m working with these churches, and with lots of laypeople who are much older than I am. And I found that I recognized in these folks a part of myself. I learned that everyone’s got a sacred story when you take the time to listen.


So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called “The Audacity of Hope.” And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.


But my journey is part of a larger journey – one shared by all who’ve ever sought to apply the values of their faith to our society. It’s a journey that takes us back to our nation’s founding, when none other than a UCC church inspired the Boston Tea Party and helped bring an Empire to its knees. In the following century, men and women of faith waded into the battles over prison reform and temperance, public education and women’s rights – and above all, abolition. And when the Civil War was fought and our country dedicated itself to a new birth of freedom, they took on the problems of an industrializing nation – fighting the crimes against society and the sins against God that they felt were being committed in our factories and in our slums.


So doing the Lord’s work is a thread that’s run through our politics since the very beginning. And it puts the lie to the notion that the separation of church and state in America means faith should have no role in public life. Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural without its reference to “the judgments of the Lord.” Or King’s “I Have a Dream” speech without its reference to “all of God’s children.” Or President Kennedy’s Inaugural without the words, “here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” At each of these junctures, by summoning a higher truth and embracing a universal faith, our leaders inspired ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.

No one who says these kinds of things can be a simple-minded separationist after the model of Americans United or the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Obama has too much awareness of the role religion plays in his own life--tying his personal narrative to something bigger than himself, lifting him up and, at the same time, humbling him. And he has too much awareness of the role that religion has played in the life of the nation, calling us, as Lincoln once said, to the better angels of our nature.

It’s nonetheless disappointing, as Claremont’s John J. Pitney, Jr. notes, that Obama can’t find room in his speech (or in his heart or in his mind) to acknowledge that men and women of faith and good will might disagree with the practical conclusions he draws from his faith. He has two things to say about abortion and other issues emphasized by religious conservatives:

But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us. At every opportunity, they’ve told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.


[God is] still speaking to our Catholic friends – who are holding up a consistent ethic of life that goes beyond abortion – one that includes a respect for life and dignity whether it’s in Iraq, in poor neighborhoods, in African villages or even on death row. They’re telling me that their conversation about what it means to be Catholic continues. God is still speaking.

While he speaks frequently about human dignity, all he has to say about abortion is that Catholic efforts to go beyond it are praiseworthy (so long as they agree with the rest of his agenda) and that religious conservatives use it to divide us, as if they don’t take the issue seriously. He has, in the past (before he was a presidential candidate), had somewhat more nuanced things to say about abortion. He has, in the past (before he was a presidential candidate), been more willing to emphasize the spiritual dimensions of our problems, problems that can be addressed by churches and faith-based organizations, but not necessarily or exclusively by government.

I once thought he might be willing to test the limit of faithful witness in the Democratic Party, to say "hey, we’re all brothers and sisters; let’s respect our differences and find a way to take seriously the concerns of folk who care about the unborn, who worry that we’re playing God when we give carte blanche to the stem cell researchers, and who have honest moral scruples about same-sex marriage." He might not agree with any of these positions, as they’re expressed by religious conservatives, but to hold him to the same standard that he holds those he criticizes, he shouldn’t demonize and dismiss them.

In the end, however, Obama isn’t willing to push the envelope. He wants the support of secular Democrats and religious liberals, and if he has to caricature religious conservatives to do so, so be it. For his current political purposes, which clearly trump his "conscientious" religious views (which makes him no different from those on the faith-based right he criticizes), the only religious witness that can have a seat at the national table is that of the religious Left. I’m disappointed, but not at all surprised.

Update: Our friend Jon Schaff has smart and sharp observations abour religious witness and "divisiveness," the latter often serving to try to silence those who have moral objections to the status quo. Here’s his conclusion:

All sides have their demagogues, those who exploit division and fear for political gain, but the mere fact of division is not proof of demagoguery. If Obama disagrees with his some of Christian brothers on this or that issue, pray let him discuss like a brother. Instead he has chosen the route of the politician, playing on the worries and fears of the secularist liberals in his party for his own political gain. How divisive of him.

Graduate classes begin

The first session in our graduate program begins this afternoon. There are about ninety students in the three classes, taught by the six worthies: Owens, Moreno, Knott, McDonald, Morel and Schaub.

It so happens that today is the 24th of June, and Jefferson’s last letter is dated this day in 1826. He would die a few days later, on the Fourth to be followed by John Adams five hours later, just as a thunderstorm rolled through Quincy (someone said itsounded like "the artillery of Heaven"). The letter is to Roger Weightman, the mayor of Washington, and is justly famous:

"The kind invitation I receive from you on the part of the citizens of the city of Washington, to be present with them at their celebration of the 50th anniversary of American independence, as one of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world, is most flattering to myself, and heightened by the honorable accompaniment proposed for the comfort of such a journey. It adds sensibly to the sufferings of sickness, to be deprived by it of a personal participation in the rejoicings of that day. But acquiescence is a duty, under circumstances not placed among those we are permitted to controul. I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there, congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us, on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make, for our country, between submission, or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self government. That form which we have substituted restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born ,with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them. ..."

Fred Stills Charms Ex-Girlfriends

Yes, they’ll still vote for him, and they blame themselves for the break-ups. Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan is saying that Hillary is going to have to seem more like a woman to be likable enough to be president. But her witty SOPRANOS commercial with her own Tony reminded us that she was once seduced by a male authority/sex figure even more charming than Fred, and like Carmella lived to regret it. Those who think that lurking attachment to traditional gender roles (or, more exactly, the sexual dimension of human nature) is going either to elect Fred or sink Hillary are probably mistaken.
Thompson certainly won’t be perceived as a champion of family values exactly, and he may not be able to charm the anger out of the women the senator from New York will mobilize. A Fred-Hillary race would probably be dramatic and tension-filled and end up as the basis of an HBO mini-series in which Fred plays himself. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Political (?) animals

This fellow, a clinical psychologist and consultant to Democrats, whose research is summarized here, here, and here (with a new book coming out as well) would seem to have a hard time explaining his own activity (or should I say credibility?) as a researcher, not to mention defending why on earth we let people whose minds work the way he suggests vote.