Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Republicans, Black Voters, and the Definition of Insanity

The old cliché about insanity is that it can be recognized in those who continue to do the same thing over and over again, all the while expecting a different result. If that’s indeed the case, then Thomas Sowell makes a very good case for the insanity of the Republican Party. In electoral politics, nothing could be more clear than the fact that a 90% lock on black votes for the Democrat Party is just about the largest stumbling block to GOP success. As Sowell points out, even a 10% gain for the GOP among black voters would be devastating to the Democrats. A good number of Republicans refuse to acknowledge this because they think courting that vote means giving ground on principles. It’s likely that they think this because most Republicans who have had sense enough to attempt to make inroads with black voters have, in fact, worked to make such a pathetic bargain. But Sowell quite rightly and quite manfully makes the case that this is not only insane (Democrats, by definition, will always be better Democrats!) but it is also condescending, off-putting, and weaselly. Do Republicans really imagine that the "black leadership" and representatives of so-called civil rights groups represent the whole universe of opinion among black voters? Sowell says it better than I can and he is absolutely right. It is time for Republicans to make an honest case to black voters and stop looking like they are ashamed of their principles. They are either defensible or they’re not. That cannot change with the winds or with the audience.

The Chuck Stops Here

Over at Contentions, Terry Teachout notes a post-modern assault on the hamburger.

He quotes Josh Ozersky’s The Hamburger: A History:

Even before the hamburger became a universal signifier of imperialism abroad and unwholesomeness at home, it had a special semiotic power—a quality not shared even by other great American sandwiches like the hot dog, the patty melt, the Dagwood, the Reuben, the po’boy, or even such totemic standards as fried chicken and apple pie. At the end of the day, nothing says America like a hamburger… Is it a sizzling disc of goodness, served in a roadside restaurant dense with local lore, or the grim end product of a secret, sinister empire of tormented animals and unspeakable slaughtering practices? Is it cooking or commodity? An icon of freedom or the quintessence of conformity?

Something to chew on, I suppose.

How to Get Kids to Vote Republican, Part II

In response to Peter Lawler’s post above, I don’t think it’s anything new that young people tend to be less socially conservative than older people. What would be new is if there were evidence to suggest that they will remain so as they age and begin to accept more responsibilities (jobs, families, taxes). If that evidence exists, I have not seen it.

I think Peter is right to suggest that McCain has an advantage with (most) young people in that he does not seem to be overtly religious or conservative merely because of his relative Christianity. You don’t have to be in his club, in other words, to get what he’s saying. I have often thought that what really offends young people about the overtly religious is less their reliance on or belief in God and more the appearance of "clubiness" and exclusivity—the exasperation that comes through in too many of their arguments with the uninitiated. You need patience and good humor to persuade young people—unless, like Obama—you’re just a demagogue. McCain has demonstrated quite a bit of patience (how long has he been working at trying to become President?) but it remains to be seen whether he will have either the good humor or the strength of the arguments to back him up. I think he could get enough of the youth vote to make a difference if he worked for it. And I also think it is an important and worthwhile effort. But it won’t be easy. He will NOT get any traction if he tries to out-cool Obama, for example. Young people hate phonies when it’s obvious that they are phony. That’s probably why they don’t like Hillary.

Also, I’m too lazy to look it up right now but I came across an article earlier in the week (and I heard Dennis Prager talking about it too) that said Obama’s youth voters are having an effect on older voters. In other words, THEY are persuading their parents and older associates to switch over to Obama and away from Hillary. If that’s true, it’s very important. And, of course, it says a lot about the generation that calls itself our "elders" these days. They’re listening to their kids? I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. Why not?!… they try to dress like their kids, be their "friends" and act like them in most other respects. Voting for Obama is "hip." And there’s nothing more important for many people nowadays than to be thought to be "hip."

Perhaps the real hope for the GOP (and this brings with it a whole other set of problems) is that a good number of young people will begin to rebel against this generation of "elders" and develop contempt for the baby boomers. That is likely to happen, it seems to me, when the young people realize that their paychecks are dwindling because of massive government spending on behalf aging boomers. This will cause them to search for answers that Obama and his ilk cannot provide. I expect a real backlash to come about in another 10 to 15 years. This will not, of course, be an entirely good development. I’m glad I won’t yet be old (or, at least, not too old) when it comes. It will be a very good thing, for example, if we can do serious work now on life issues (and in the clever way that Peter suggests).

How to Get Kids to Vote Republican, Part I

David Frum observes that the Republicans have lost the youth vote and offers suggestions for getting it back.

There’s no use denying the facts, and they will become much more pronouced in the upcoming election. Obama really will get more young people to the polls, and he is being nominated by the young. McCain is old and being nominated by the old.

According to Frum, social conservatism is hurting Republicans among the young. Here I think the facts are more ambiguous than he says. Young people today are slighty more secular, much more accepting of homosexuality (including gay marriage), and somewhat less judgmental about unmarried women having children.

On the other hand, there are a lot of enthusiastic young evangelicals and "neo-orthodox" believers. Young religious Americans tend to be more serious or "conservative" theologically than their parents. There’s also a real rebellion against the embrace of unbounded sexual permissiveness of the Nineties. Most of all, young people are increasingly pro-life. So Frum does well to say that Republicans should campaign against Roe, while making it clear that the point of reversing Roe is to return real choice to the American people—acting through the states—about abortion.

A fair-and-balanced view of McCain and the youth vote: It’s probably an advantage that he’s manly and honorable. It may be an advantage in some ways that he doesn’t seem to be religiously conservative or even Christian. But he doesn’t appeal to those among the young who are animated by moral and "life" concerns, and so they may well remain unmobilized. Campaigning in a pointed and aggressive way against Roe is unlikely to be a centerpiece of McCain’s campaign. So the young most likely to vote this time are those attracted to the cool and charming appeal to (generational) change of Barack. Insofar as the young have become the most libertarian Americans, it’s going to be tough for McCain to win them over.

But the big concern may not be McCain’s strengths and weaknesses. Republicans in general seem old and incompetent, to some extent victims of their own successes and chained to their obvious failures. The talent pool really hasn’t been refreshed much on our team since 1994. Obama is something NEW, or at least seems like he is.

I may be overplaying this problem. Old people get to vote too, our society is rapidly aging, religiously observant Americans are having a disproportionate number of the children, and the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are the fastest growing religions in the country. Our future may well be a lot less secularist than Frum thinks.

McCain Shouldn’t Pick Condi

…says Jay Cost, or for that matter anyone who’s worked for President Bush, for VP. Nor should McCain pick any of his rivals for the nomination. The Republican talent pool hasn’t been refreshed since 1994, and so almost all the other options seem old and lame. Senior citizen McCain certainly needs someone young and vigorous. Why doesn’t he look to Louisiana…?

The High Cost of Raising Baby

Pamela Paul is a genius, as far as I’m concerned. Her article in the Washington Post takes on the two most common negative assertions people make today regarding people who have more than two children. Today it is assumed that parents of large broods are either a) irresponsible or b) showing off. Paul demonstrates, quite effectively I’d say, that people making these assertions suffer from flawed assumptions concerning the real needs of children.

Paul is the author of the newly released, Parenting, Inc., which is a look into the ways in which we have allowed ourselves to be deluded about what it takes to raise happy, intelligent, and good children. It’s not about the "stuff" or even the money that it takes to buy the "stuff"—and we all know that on some level. And yet, because there’s probably nothing about which we all have more neuroses or insecurities than our parenting abilities, we’re constantly on the lookout for things to massage that anxiety. Today we tend to fill that need with stuff instead of good sense or the assurances of an older generation. "If I buy the right stroller, my child will develop the proper posture and, therefore, he will grow up happy, healthy and successful!" "If I make my children watch Baby Einstein, they’ll grow up to be intelligent!" So people really think you can’t raise more than two children because it’s so difficult to check off all of these boxes. I think, they’re also jealous of people who don’t really seem to worry about the boxes. It makes them feel better to suggest that parents of more than two children are irresponsible. But when it turns out that kids in large families are turning out fine, then these folks comfort themselves with the thought that such families are rich. Of course, they are. But perhaps they’re not rich in the way their jealous critics suggest.


The title of this New York Times article, "Kosovo’s Actions Hearten Hungarian Enclave," give the point away. The Szeklers (Szekely, in Hungarian) are a minority group in Romania looking for more independence, if not outright independence. This is one reason why Romania has not recognized Kosovo’s independence, and is another example of thinking with your blood (paraphrasing Bismarck) and the "right" of the self-determination of "peoples." J.J. Rousseau, Hegel, and W. Wilson are amused by it all, but John Locke is not.

Olympic Political Struggle

The odyssey of the Olympic torch toward Beijing is shaping up as the unanticipated big political story of the year, with even the French contemplating a boycott of the opening ceremonies. Check out this passage from a CNN report on the difficulties of the torch’s passage through Paris:

Paris police have conceived a security plan to keep the torch in a safe "bubble," during its 17-mile (28 km) journey, with a multi-layered protective force to surround the torch as it moves along the route. French torchbearers will be encircled by several hundred officers, some in riot police vehicles and on motorcycles, others on rollerblades and on foot. Chinese torch escorts will immediately surround the torchbearer, with Paris police on rollerblades moving around them. French firefighters in jogging shoes will encircle the officers on rollerblades while motorcycle police will form the outer layer of security.

Things could get interesting in Beijing this summer. My guess is at least one winning athlete will unfurl a "Free Tibet" banner during a medal awards ceremony, and there will be tug-of-wars between Chinese authorities and international media when the Chinese abruptly cut off the satellite connection.

Safe, Quasi-Legal, and Common?

This article on abortion politics in Spain and Italy in the Los Angeles Times notes that the anti-abortion movement is growing in Southern Europe, spurred on by the Catholic Church.

When it came to power four years ago, Spain’s socialist government made liberal social reform a hallmark of its administration and promised legislation to expand access to abortion.

But by the time it ran for reelection last month, it had dropped abortion from its platform as Spanish bishops all but directed citizens to vote against candidates who didn’t oppose it.

In the campaign for Italian elections next Sunday, abortion has emerged unexpectedly as a major issue.

An interesting development.

In passing, the article also reminds us that the U.S. has the most liberal (if that’s the right word for it) set of laws regarding abortion in the West:

Thirty years ago, Italy legalized abortion-on-demand for pregnancies up to 12 weeks, and up to 24 weeks when there are abnormalities in the fetus or the health of the woman is in danger.

Spain legalized abortion in 1985; women can terminate a pregnancy up to 12 weeks in case of rape, 22 weeks if the fetus is malformed and at any time if a doctor certifies grave risk to the woman’s physical or psychological health.

The next sentence is interesting: "The vast majority of abortions in Spain have been performed under this last category, and critics allege that the provision is abused."

The psychological health exemption is, by its nature, problematic. The problem might be that psychology, in these matters in particular, is rather far from an exact science. In principle, it is not unreasonable to argue that abortion might be the least bad option if bringing the child to term would likely cause serious physical harm to the mother. The same argument, again in principle, would apply to psychological health. The trouble is that it is rather easier for doctors to recognize the former case than the latter case. Is modern psychology really so good that it can predict how a mother will react to having a baby, even while the baby is still in utero? I have serious doubts.

I’ll close with an idea, or perhaps a question. As I understand things, our Supreme Court requires that the psychological health exemption be part of our laws with regard to late-term abortion. Might it be possible for States or Congress to make a finding about what kind of psychological danger a psychiatrist must think likely before a late-term abortion may go forward?

Jerry Pournelle

I have noticed over the past few weeks and months that Glenn Reynolds has mentioned the science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle more often. That may have to do with the fact that Jerry has been ill, I don’t know. But I am reminded to also bring him to your attention, since I have known Jerry for almost forty years.

This is his main site. Pournelle is the author of dozens of books, essays, etc. If you haven’t read anything from him, you might want to start with something straightforward, a sort of coming-of-age story, Higher Education. It is about a high school student who is trained, then becomes a secret agent, sent back to earth to set right the corrupt school system. Or, one of his first bestsellers, The Mote in God’s Eye. It is about the Second Empire of Man, in the year 3016, and the first contact with non-humans, or Moties. It is a terrific story—many serious folks think it is the best portrayal of aliens ever written—and easy to tell that Pournelle is a well educated man who knows something about politics. Note the allusions to Thucydides throughout. Jerry comments on the death of William Buckley and notes that it was due to Buckley that he started reading Russell Kirk, as I have noted to Jerry, it was due to Buckley that I started reading Jaffa. Pournelle was a professor of political science for decades, gave up tenure over thirty years just to write and make money. He has done both.