Joseph Epstein on our elites:
after teaching at a university for 30 years, I have come to distrust the type I think of as "the good student"--that is, the student who sails through school and is easily admitted into the top colleges and professional schools. The good student is the kid who works hard in high school, piles up lots of activities, and scores high on his SATs, and for his efforts gets into one of the 20 or so schools in the country that ring the gong of success. While there he gets a preponderance of A’s. This allows him to move on to the next good, or even slightly better, graduate, business, or professional school, where he will get more A’s still, and move onward and ever upward. His perfect résumé in hand, he runs only one risk--that of catching cold from the draft created by all the doors opening for him wherever he goes, as he piles up scads of money, honors, and finally ends up being offered a job at a high level of government. . . .
I did my teaching at Northwestern University, where most of the students had what I came to regard as "the habits of achievement." They did the reading, most of them could write a respectable paper, many of them talked decently in response to my questions. They made it difficult for me to give them less than a B for the course. But the only students who genuinely interested me went beyond being good students to become passionate ones. Their minds, I could tell, were engaged upon more than merely getting another high grade. The number of such students was remarkably small; if I had to pin it down, I should say they comprised well under 3 percent, and not all of them received A’s from me.
Meanwhile our good student, resembling no one so much as that Italian character in Catch-22 who claimed to have flourished under the fascists, then flourished under the Communists, and was confident he would also flourish under the Americans, treks on his merry way. From Yale to Harvard Law School, or Harvard to Yale Law School, or to one of the highly regarded (and content empty) business schools, he goes, as the Victorians had it, from strength to strength.
Epstein reminds me of David Brooks’ Organization Kid, except Epstein is more skeptical than Brooks about the merits of this meritocracy.
Geez, it seems like most of the NLT team is on the road right now. I’m presently in Munich, Germany, as a guest of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, studying German energy and climate policy for whatever lessons it may have for the U.S. At least I get a visit to BMW headquarters. I’m hoping for some test drives.
Arnhart’s thoughts are informed and serious, and I invite you to judge them for yourself. He’s surely right that Obama understands himself to share Lincoln’s great ambition, as well as his skepticism about some--if not all--of the tenets of Christianity. Larry leaves us with the thought that if Obama really does share at least some of Lincoln’s greatness, we should be worried. Presidential greatness, in Larry’s view, can’t help but subvert republican government.
I will be speaking at POMONA COLLEGE on "Autonomy, Productivity, and Our Biotechnological Future" on Monday, December 1 at 7 p.m in the Rose Hills Theatre. To get psyched for the lecture,
you might want to read this article I wrote on technology for THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CONSERVATISM a number of years ago.
Couldn’t help but notice a big difference between our president’s Thanksgiving message and our president-elect’s Thanksgiving message. There is no mistaking to Whom President Bush expresses gratitude for "all that we have been given, the freedoms we enjoy, and the loved ones who enrich our lives." They come "not from the hand of man but from Almighty God." Unclear what to make of Obama’s recurring de-emphasis upon God and Providence. I recall Obama’s Victory speech, where he bowdlerizes Martin Luther King’s "arc of the moral universe" quote, turning a clear reference to God’s moral ordering of the universe into a praise of human beings bending that arc themselves!
To be sure, a belief in a personal God who takes interest in His creation should not lead folks to sit on their hands and trust the Creator to do everything for them: this disrespects God’s will that those made in His image put head, heart, and hand to the work to which He calls them. Nevertheless, Obama’s reticence to ask humbly for God’s blessing upon the United States, coupled with his call for unity by Americans to "make a new beginning for our nation," suggests that he believes that what makes America great is that individuals can do whatever they put their minds to, and not so much that what they put their minds to should be informed by the fixed and eternal truths discerned in the created order. The fact that our president-elect chose to make no reference to God whatsoever, while placing himself squarely in the middle of a Thanksgiving Address (to wit, "why I’m committed to forging a new beginning from the moment I take office"), is strikingly at odds with an address that traditionally highlights our national humility before our Maker.
It’s this latter approach to celebrating Thanksgiving that has always struck me as a fitting complement to our July 4th celebration of the nation’s Independence Day. By celebrating our independence from England (July 4th) and dependence upon God (Thanksgiving Day), whose aid our greatest statesmen have always solicited and acknowledged, Americans call to mind great truths of human existence that can keep us on the straight and narrow path as a self-governing people. May God bless President-elect Obama with a better understanding of Lincoln’s greatness, a deeper insight into the principles of the American regime, and a more profound sense of the glory of the great Father of us all. For these things, may we all be truly grateful.
I’ve almost convinced myself that President-elect Obama shouldn’t campaign on behalf of Jim Martin, if he knows what’s good for himself and his administration. Indeed, if he could, he should film a commercial for Saxby Chambliss, the last barrier between him and an agenda driven by the demands of congressional Democrats.
And, tempted as I might be to vote for Jim Martin to bring out the worst in the Democratic Party, I’m going to support my new president and put country above party by marking my ballot for Saxby Chambliss.
If you want to see the tortured chain of reasoning that led me to this conclusion, read, as they say, the whole thing.
John G. West describes his disappointments and final vindication in his family trip to Plymouth Rock, as he defies revisionist history of the Pilgrims’ achievements. If you liked Andy Ferguson’s Land of Lincoln, including his discovery that Lincoln’s boyhood logcabin home was fake ("symbolic," a park ranger corrects him), you will enjoy West’s enlightening account of the importance of the Pilgrims to America.
Three data points to ponder:
1. If I recall correctly, roughly ten years ago President Clinton and our European allies had to work very hard behind the scenes to prevent a full scale war between Pakistan and India from breaking out.
2. A few months after 9/11, I recall seeing a startling international poll of attitudes toward the aggressive U.S. position in Afghanistan and elsewhere. As you might imagine, continental European opinion was fairly bad; Britain was decent, Israel was quite strong (something like 88 percent expressed support/agreement with the U.S.), and the next highest level of support came from--India. No real mystery why.
3. I know from some sources in the region that Indian military officers have been relentless since 9/11 in telling our diplomats and military attaches that Pakistan is a big part of the problem, why don’t you let us have a go at Pakistan, we’re ready when you are, etc.
Afghanistan may be the least of Obama’s problems when he arrives at the White House in two months.
Michelle Malkin on how to handle adversity:
Jen wrote me a letter this week about her own plight and triumph over adversity:
"I am writing to you to share my story of how one can survive hard times and land solidly on one’s feet . . . So here goes: My husband had an auto accident on Jan. 1, 2005, and our lives and finances changed dramatically. Our income was cut in half, as he has permanent injuries and went from being a field officer to a desk job in a less fast-paced career." . . .
"We sold our lovely home, bought a rundown, fixer-up place and converted it into a farm that could provide garden vegetables to can and an area to have some animals to provide eggs, chickens, ducks, turkey, geese, sheep and goats. . . . Freecycle and Craigslist turned out to be wonderful assets, as most of our animals came for free or for barter - and the children and I mucked out stalls on a ranch for sheep." . . .
"It also has been wonderful to know that we live in a nation that affords us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves from suburbanites to a country-dwelling farm family. I am ashamed to see the American spirit that made our nation so great now turned into nothing."
Ivan the K explains with eloquence why Thanksgiving is one way we have to keep Locke in his Locke box.
John Fund takes a look at the jockeying over the Minnesota Senate race recount, speculating that "Minnesota nice" will be replaced in January by "Washington mean." I’m hoping that next Tuesday’s Georgia vote will lower the stakes just a tad in Minnesota.
Progressives leftists are disappointed--some bitterly--that Obama seems to be establishing the Clinton third term with his Cabinet and staff picks. The Nation’s Chris Hayes, for example:
Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one. Remember this is the movement that was right about Iraq, right about wage stagnation and inequality, right about financial deregulation, right about global warming and right about health care. And I don’t just mean in that in a sectarian way. I mean to say that the emerging establishment consensus on all of these issues came from the left. There’s tons of things the left is right about that aren’t even close to mainstream (taking a hatchet to the national security state and ending the prison industrial complex to name just two), but hopefully we’re moving there.
And yet, no one who comes from the part of American political and intellectual life that has given birth to all of these ideas is anywhere to be found within miles of the Obama cabinet thus far. WTF?
Ideologues are always disappointed to see how government actually works. (They should see sausage made sometime--Ed. Yeah, I know; look how they freaked when Our Sarah stood near a turkey killing machine last week.) Anyway, this got me to reminiscing about the Reagan transition, where similar complaints were heard from Movement Conservatives. From chapter 1 of my next Reagan book:
Human Events newspaper—one of Reagan’s favorite periodicals— wrote that “less than three weeks after the election, the euphoria in the conservative community is already dissipating somewhat. . . [C]onservatives have a right to feel somewhat distraught.” Direct mail wizard Richard Viguerie complained to the Washington Post that “the names we’re seeing now do make us nervous. It looks like it might be old home week for the Nixon-Ford administration.” Columnist Kevin Phillips echoed Viguerie: “The President-elect seems to be leaning to a cabinet full of the same proven don’t-rock-the-vote experts who bored the nation to death during the Gerald Ford Administration.” James Reston noted in the New York Times: “It is a paradox that those who were most determined to elect Mr. Reagan now seem more worried about what he will do as President than those who opposed him.”
Oh. and happy Thanksgiving everybody. I am, as usual, going to rotisserie a headless 18 lb turkey on my Weber Performer grill.
Regarding the Gates appointment/retention:
Unlike the stubborn W, Obama recognizes necessity and deals with it. Like Bush’s prudent policy on stem cells, Obama accepts the Iraq damage that has been done and wants to move on, taking Republicans (and Hillary Dems) with him. Republicans must now defend the Obama foreign policy, at least in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Whether Gates will keep some of his key people, especially some who go back to Rumsfeld, is yet to be determined.)
The retention gives Obama more room for maneuver on the financial crisis. As I have noted before on this blogsite, there are multiple Obamas--the pragmatist, the radical community organizer, the dreamy post-modern rhetor, and cunning tactician. He hasn’t showed all sides yet.
It’s certainly possible that he is in fact clueless; that he is assembling a cabinet like some kid who collects baseball cards and builds imaginary teams; that he has a bodyguard of experts who surround a naked emperor. Of course that’s what a person without any experience would do. But I prefer to see a clever Prince behind these maneuverings.
Obama’s decision to keep Gates on, combined with his other national security appointments, is change that conservative bloggers can believe in. How is Gates a change? It’s something new that a president stick with his predecessor’s guy in defense. Lieberman, who’s been treated with impressively calcualated maganimity, is gushing (not in this linked article) that Obama has been about perfect so far. I wouldn’t go that far, but I have to admit I would go pretty far.
That’s MY controversial suggestion. They didn’t give us everything, but they did give us something, as Tocqueville and Marilynne Robinson remember.
This year’s Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving makes no mention of our current economic circumstances, which distinguishes it from its Depression-era counterparts. Consider this from Herbert Hoover in 1930:
Now, therefore, I, Herbert Hoover, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, November 27, 1930, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and do enjoin the people of the United States so to observe it, calling upon them to remember that many of our people are in need and suffering from causes beyond their control, and suggesting that a proper celebration of the day should include that we make sure that every person in the community, young and old, shall have cause to give thanks for our institutions and for the neighborly sentiment of our people.
Or this, a year later:
The measure of passing adversity which has come upon us should deepen the spiritual life of the people, quicken their sympathies and spirit of sacrifice for others, and strengthen their courage. Many of our neighbors are in need from causes beyond their control and the compassion over this winter that they too may have full cause to participate in this day of gratitude to the Almighty.
"Got hope?" was already a theme in FDR’s proclamations, as in this from 1933:
May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all peoples to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the common bettering of mankind.
Or this, from 1934:
During the past year we have been given courage and fortitude to meet the problems which have confronted us in our national life. Our sense of social justice has deepened. We have been given vision to make new provisions for human welfare and happiness, and in a spirit of mutual helpfulness we have cooperated to translate vision into reality.
More greatly have we turned our hearts and minds to things spiritual. We can truly say, "What profiteth it a nation if it gain the whole world and lose its own soul."
With gratitude in our hearts for what has already been achieved, may we, with the help of God, dedicate ourselves anew to work for the betterment of mankind.
I doubt that President Obama’s proclamations will share the robust sense of American exceptionalism evident in those of his predecessor, but I have no doubt that they will offer something of his "Social Gospel."
Princeton professor Danielle Allen—see Peter Schramm’s post below--fears that the Founders’ achievement can more readily be overthrown today than at any time in our history: majority faction, Madison’s great enemy in Federalist 10, is more readily attainable now than before, with the Internet “enabling much more effective factional organization than the Founders could have imagined.” But the Internet makes possible the contrary possibility, a kind of best regime. We need to appreciate Allen’s point by noting her reliance on Madison that underlies her speculation about the Internet. Her bold proposal suggests restoring features of the ancient polis and thus give logos, reasoned speech, a greater force in politics than has ever existed.
Even before the Internet a factionalized Congress was behaving in the way Allen fears. Congress has rejected its primary Madisonian role as reconciler (and therefore destroyer) of factions and instead becomes the conduit for each faction getting its own way. If former Speaker Gingrich had been smarter, this is what he would have made his primary object of reform. But he and his predecessors merely attempted to game this system and use it to extend their own majority while using pro-Founding and anti-faction rhetoric. The scheme worked remarkably well for three elections but stalled in 2006 and crashed in 2008.
With Obama’s success in using the Internet (one she contributed to, it should be added), Allen would like “to remake the tools of factional organization as instruments of broad, cross-partisan and respectful public engagement.” However, “the Obama team’s digital network could well become nothing more than an outsized, 21st-century version of a ward machine. If it can be done, it could restore a richer experience of citizenship."
But “ward machine” and patriotic citizen politics are not incompatible (see Plunkitt of Tammany Hall). Whether “team” Obama acts to link both aims is an open question. Like the Republicans in Congress they may well decide to run up the score against hapless Republicans by using their expanded power, thus confirming Madison in his fears.
As many of us who have taught before the Internet age have noted, students today may read a lot of news, but it is news they choose, thus building their own caves around them rather than acquiring means of recognizing their caves for what they are. Human ingenuity turns out to be the basis of a profounder human bondage. Instead of the best of the polis we get a smothering soft despotism, which may be the prelude to a harsher one.
This Sunday I had CNN on (circa Noon) and there were a few talking heads that included Tom Friedman (NY Times). I distinctly heard Friedman say that--because of the "economic crisis" and the so-called "power vacuum"--President Bush should just resign immediately so Mr. Obama could become president asap. The other interlocutors didnï¿½t say anything on this, so I thought maybe I didnï¿½t hear it correctly. Later that day I confirmed it. Well, it turns out that Chris Mathews said the same thing. Iï¿½m not impressed.
Niall Ferguson has a new book out, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, and he discusses some themes raised by it here. Example:
"How are the developing countries going to fare given the current economic conditions?
Niall Ferguson: Not well. Despite being "Made in America" this crisis has the potential to hurt countries like Pakistan more than America itself. Unfairly, the U.S. continues to be regarded as a "safe haven" for investors, which is why the dollar has rallied in recent months. Meanwhile, economic trouble tends to lead to political instability in emerging markets, which scares investors off."
The article partially answers my question regarding why we haven't had a visit from the President-elect. It's not that he doesn't love us or love Jim Martin, but he doesn't want to risk a very high-profile (and reasonably predictable) defeat before his Inauguration. If Jim Martin loses, it's his personal loss. If Martin loses after an Obama visit, we could ask what happened to the Obama electoral magic.
But there's another possible explanation as well, one that's just a little Barackiavellian. If the Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, then the President has less leverage to move them away from their preferred position. If he "needs" a Republican vote or two (Sens. Snowe and Collins come to mind almost immediately), then he can press for the kind of compromise he wants. If the Senate leadership has less power, he has more. Whether he realizes it or not, he doesn't really want Jim Martin to win in Georgia.
Danielle Allen has a thought regarding the political (not only partisan) use of the internet. I would like more clarity on this, if any one can supply it, I would be delighted. Last three paragraphs:
"Now, however, we are at a turning point. We’ve finally reached something of a left-right equilibrium in the dramatic restructuring of the public sphere that has been underway for the past decade. Against this background, on Nov. 4 the Obama campaign sent an e-mail to supporters from the president-elect signaling aspirations to convert the campaign’s success with social networking technologies into a tool not merely for winning but for good governance.
Such a conversion would require transcending the factional patterns that currently define Internet-based political communication. It would demand a category shift: to remake the tools of factional organization as instruments of broad, cross-partisan and respectful public engagement.
Can this be done? If not, the Obama team’s digital network could well become nothing more than an outsized, 21st-century version of a ward machine. If it can be done, it could restore a richer experience of citizenship."
Now here’s an interesting question: The "emoluments" clause of Article I of the Constitution would seem to prohibit the appointment of Hillary Clinton to Obama’s cabinet because she is a sitting senator. Eugene Volokh explains.
Yes, it has been done before (Lloyd Bentsen under Clinton, William Saxbe under Ford), but it was probably unconstitutional then as now. Could this all be a ruse by Obama to flatter Hillary before having, reluctantly, to deny her the job?
A colleague called attention to this ante-post-mortem of the Bush presidency, which does a pretty good--one might even say "fair and balanced"--job surveying the terrain. But my colleague added this in a letter to the editor of the National Post:
Dear Mr. Libin,
I found your article, "Bush Legacy Remains to be Written," in today’s National Post to be very thought-provoking as it provides a number of helpful guideposts against which history is likely to measure the legacy of President Bush.
I’d like to offer an additional thought on this matter. I have come to the conclusion that many years from now, when history looks back at the Bush presidency, issues that now seem monumental, such as the war in Iraq and the economy will not play nearly as large a role in history’s judgment as we now think. Rather, if Iran obtains nuclear weapons, a prospect which is becoming increasingly likely, I believe that in the final analysis President Bush will be judged primarily on his failure to prevent this. The world has yet to fully comprehend the nightmare which will unfold the day that Iran first detonates a nuclear weapon. Bush himself has likened the current time to 1938 and has squarely placed himself in the dock of history by noting that if we don’t act to prevent this development, then history will judge us in the same way that we currently judge Chamberlain and Europe for their failure to act when action was still possible. It appears that Bush is prepared to leave office with the almost certain knowledge that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons. It is for this reason, and not Iraq, the economy, Katrina, or the whole host of other current hot-button issues, that President Bush will likely go down in history as not just a failed President, but as one who, with full knowledge of the consequences of his inaction, allowed the unthinkable to happen.
He’s got a point.
A progress report. Conservatives just now are busy fighting each other over how to move forward. Suggesting that government should trust we citizens with the management of our own affairs, might be a fruitful direction. A query: has anyone made a list of things that are illegal to do in one’s own home?
What caused it? Human nature, in business and politics, says John Steele Gordon in the latest issue of Commentary. When a particular way of doing business dies, politicins often make it worse by trying to save it, after being lobbied by businesses. And when a need is being underserved, politicians often push things in an unfruitful direction, often with the best of intentions.
...according to the WASHINGTON POST. The list doesn’t include Palin or Huckabee, not to mention Gingrich. I agree it probably shouldn’t, at least when looking toward 2012. I tend to think that Jindal, Thune, Daniels, and Romney are the leading lights at the moment, with all those mentioned having promise. With the exception, of Jindal, I’m not sure any of them bring something new, different, and better to the table, and that seems pretty important, of course, for a party that’s been thumped twice in a row. None of them might satisfy the fans of Palin, Huckabee, and Gingrich. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)
A day or two ago incoming WH COS Rahm Emanuel told a group of executives that we should "never let a serious crisis go to waste," which reminded me of a headline in the Washington Post from earlier in the week. While commercial real estate values and occupancy rates are plummeting nationwide, the Post headline said: "Bailout Raises Demand for Square Feet in DC."
Text: "Between 2 million and 4 million square feet of office space could be gobbled up over the next three years as new regulatory agencies take shape and as lobby shops, accounting firms, consultants and asset managers position themselves to take advantage of government intervention efforts."
This sounds like a "sell" signal for the American economy if I ever heard one. But nice that Washington will prosper.
the Messiah’s Pres-elect Obama’s good ideas is updating and expanding the nation’s electricity grid, which will make possible the practical use of wind power, concentrated solar, engineered geo-thermal, etc. It would be the energy equivalent of what the interstate highway system did for surface transportation, and requires, like Eisenhower’s push for the Interstates in the 1950s, a high level presidential commitment; a few lines in a state of the union speech won’t do.
Last month I was on a panel at the National Press Club on this subject, reflecting on Peter Huber’s proposal for how to do this. A representative from the Natural Resources Defense Council was on hand to pay lip service to the idea, but when I pressed him about the caveats of the environmental community, he admitted that they were "not yet on board" with the idea. Translation: Get ready for lots of lawsuits if the NRDC doesn’t get to plan the nation’s new energy grid. Great.
This morning’s New York Times has a splendid story of how red tape prevents the development of eco-friendly energy projects right now in NYC. An Episcopal Seminary (which means money is no object if the cause is the Green God) wants to drill some geothermal wells, which will reduce their annual carbon footprint by 1,400 tons. You’d think the government would encourage this. You’d be wrong:
“We had to answer to 10 agencies,” Ms. Burnley said. “It took three times as long as it should have. The left and the right hand did not know what the other was doing. . ." This is the future that virtually everyone in the city wants. But the people at the seminary are, in Ms. Burnley’s phrase, “institutionally exhausted” by the four-year siege of red tape, and after spending 50 percent more money than they had expected. “At a certain point we became angry, and determined, and wouldn’t give up,” she said. “But you can’t create public policy that depends on having obsessed, hardheaded people to get these projects done."
At one point, the seminary waited three months for the city Department of Transportation’s permission to drill into the sidewalk, Ms. Burnley said. “The conversation went like this: ‘What is the status?’ ‘It has no status.’ ‘Do you need more information?’ ‘No, we have what we need.’ ‘Then how can we get it moving?’ ‘You can’t get it moving.’
Now imagine the roadblocks that could be placed in the way of modernizing the nation’s electricity grid. Oh well, I guess we can just keep burning more coal.
I had lunch today with a smart young Intercollegiate Studies Institute staffer. As we talked about the mortgage credit crisis, he challenged me to go beyond identifying the problem and the threat it poses to "family values" and not just family home values.
I started thinking aloud. The talk has thus far all been about helping distressed homeowners...and using government money to do it. That, I take it, is the point of departure for any Democratic discussion of the subject. But why not adapt something churches, faith-based organizations, and other non-profits have been doing (with varying degrees of success) for years? I have in mind the Community Development Corporation, the mainstay of faith-based and non-profit urban neighborhood redevelopment efforts. Why can’t we take this model, tested in urban neighborhoods, into the suburbs where declining home values and job losses have threatened the capacity of families to stay in their homes? Successful CDCs find a pool of capital to purchase and rehabilitate distressed properties, rebuilding a neighborhood to the point that it becomes attractive to private investors and purchasers. They try to establish long-term relationships with the people they help, and often ask that they provide "sweat equity" (if nothing else) as their stake in a new house.
So here’s my thought for a suburban CDC: a big church or group of churches creates a CDC to raise capital from its members and from local foundations. It uses the capital to help community members restructure mortgages that imperil their homeownership. In exchange, those who are thus assisted give a certain number of hours of service to the CDC. (I’m sure that church members who were once or are still in the financial industry would also be willing to provide assistance.) Those who are assisted still have to repay a loan, but the terms are set by people who wish to save a neighborhood and its inhabitants, rather than by those who have a responsibility to shareholders--wherever they are--to make a profit. Since the CDC would have lower overhead and employment costs than a for-profit lender or a government agency, the terms of the loans it makes or facilitates could be more generous. Those who are assisted do not become dependent upon government but rather are integrated into a community.
If this can work in neighborhoods where "social capital" is relatively scarce, it ought to be very promising in neighborhoods where one might reasonably expect to find more people with stakes in the area, contacts in the community, and job (and other coping) skills. Rather than government handouts, we have communal self-help, orchestrated by churches, faith-based organizations, and other non-profits.
What doyou think?
It is being reported that Hillary Clinton will accept the offer to be Secretary of State, and Timothy J. Geithner is said to be Obamaï¿½s choice for Treasury, to be announced formally on Monday. Ret. Marine Gen. Jim Jones will become the national security advisor. Arguably, all three choices, are much better than some would have thought possible just a few weeks ago. Interesting.
From media accounts, you wouldn’t know that Barack Obama is not president quite yet. There’s another guy holding down the office until 20 January, 2009. I suggest here that the current president should continue to pursue victory against our adversaries until that date. I argue that President Bush can learn a lesson from Lincoln, who in the dark days of summer, 1864, believed he would not be re-elected but nonetheless continued to pursue his goal without concerning himself with "tying the hands" of his successor.
Of course the electoral landscape was changed with Sherman’s capture of Atlanta in September and Sheridan’s rout of Jubal Early at Cedar Creek in October.
I know folks are starting to talk (including here at NLT) about both the makeup of the new administration and how Obama is going about it and I am willing to note, along with Hayward, that the far left is getting antsy, but before anything else is said on the subject, this David Brooks column is a must-read. I started laughing at the end of the third paragraph and couldn’t stop.
Headline: Anti-War Groups Fear Barack Obama May Create Hawkish Cabinet. The lede:
Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama’s national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.
UPDATE: The honeymoon is over.
So, the semi-crazed Henry Waxman has ousted the legendary John Dingell as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee by the close vote of 137-122 in the Dem House caucus. It’s the House Class of 1974 all over again. This was partly a vote against the Detroit auto makers, who have few friends these days, and partly it reflects the leftward tilt of the new Democratic Congress. Waxman is an idiot socialist (I can tell my own Waxman story), and is an Old Man in a Hurry. I suspect he is going to turn out to be one of WH COS Rahm Emanuel’s chief headaches, because Waxman will not want to take marching orders from 1600 Penn. Ave. The close vote shows the Dems are divided already! Fun times!
My answer was to point to the article to which I linked above: the federal-level executive experience in the Democratic Party is all linked to the Clintons. No one with any "experience" in politics would have expected anything any different. This is of course compounded by the fact that, not having served in any sort of executive office, President-elect Obama doesn't have any trusted statehouse aides to bring with him. Our bridge to the future is built with ten-year old parts.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as I pointed out to another class where we were discussing Bk I, ch. 3 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, where Aristotle says that the young are inapt students of politics. They lack experience, he says, and tend to be ruled by their impulses (which actually characterizes most of us, including a very prominent ex-President, who spoke in Atlanta yeserday). The Obama campaign's emphasis on change--as against those who would say that "you can't do that" because "we've always done it this way" (a reflection either of tradition or nature or both)--was certainly pitched to the young. But, as I pointed out to my class--a mixture of what I've called politikids and what my politikids and I have dubbed apathetikids--Barack Obama and I are much closer in age than he is to them. Aside from a habit much less nasty than that of his Democratic predecessor, he doesn't seem to be a creature of impulse. And his choices so far seem to indicate an appropriate respect for experience. "He's one of us," I told them, pointing to myself, "not one of you."
But there is at least one reason to continue to have one's doubts about Barack Obama's judgment. The cabinet choices he has actually announced have been pretty good--though he has set Hillary Clinton up for a major embarrassment if in the end he doesn't or can't offer her the State Department portfolio--but why, in the face of this pressing economic crisis, hasn't he named a Treasury Secretary yet? Shouldn't that announcement have been among the first ones made, certainly before naming Tom Daschle Secretary of Health and Human Services? And shouldn't the Treasury Secretary in waiting be involved in all the allegedly pressing conversations that are now going on? What's going on here?
Is the problem we see today the collapse of the New Deal and its successors?
The real story is the frightening extent to which Detroit is just the New Deal U.S. in microcosm...the Big 3 became essentially private versions of the middle class welfare state...social agencies for providing non-market validated income, health and retirement benefits, with a sideline of making cars....and now the model is unsustainable. In part it is because of the burden of the retired UAW workforce, which now vastly outnumbers the actual working members. As of 2007, the UAW represented 180,681 members at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors; it also represented 419,621 retired members and 120,723 surviving spouses.
This is not dissimilar to Social Security and Medicare for the U.S. economy as a whole. Both of these entitlement programs are unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government, politically, if not legally, and, on a current basis, consume almost 50% of the $3 trillion federal budget. They were viable on a pay-as-you-go basis only at inception and as long as the ratio of workers to beneficiaries is high. Neither condition obtains today. So it becomes an interesting question and rather soon I think: when the U.S. government becomes like Detroit...who does the bailing out?
Describing her as a "scappy Midwesterner" at heart and soul, Noemie Emery has almost got me feeling some sympathy for the old girl. But, even Ms. Emery concedes that we’re not really sure who or what this woman is. She’s been so many things at so many different seasons, it’s hard (as it was with her husband) to tell. Is there really any core to this chameleon other than ambition and self-interest? Well . . . she is a Clinton. Even so, I believe that, in her way, she must be a great lover of America. She loves whatever it is that she thinks America is and, even if she differs in this with me and other conservatives, she would not want to see the America she loves harmed--least of all by outsiders. So characteristics that make her less than attractive as a human being (or as a domestic policy leader) might make her precisely the sort of person who would serve our interests well (or, at least, better than the other options on the table) as Sec. of State.
UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff at Powerline thinks Obama will go more with his Machiavellian instincts in this case and NOT choose an untrustworthy rival for such a key position in his cabinet. This gets back to my earlier post about the relative manliness of Obama in this pick. If he were to reject her now--after such prolonged and public foreplay (now even to the point of getting Bill to grovel a bit)--it would be something very interesting to contemplate and behold. Scott Johnson comments as well. Your thought?
Frustration and political passion can be a dangerous combination. It leads otherwise good and spirited people to do and say things that are not only imprudent but, sometimes, even contrary to their own considered judgment. Throw in a smidgen of female jealousy directed against a comely and well-appreciated governor of Alaska . . . and kaboom! You get hysterical columns like this one from Kathleen Parker. This is the kind of thing one writes, talks over with close friends, and then deletes. It is not the kind of thing a pro would publish. Perhaps it is the subject of an email sent to a wiser (or at least less irritated) friend who will instruct one about where she dangles too close to the edge and then, graciously, pull her back a bit. Whatever of truth there is in such a column is now forever obscured by its bile and pettiness ("Miss Alaska?").
Jonah answers it pretty fairly at the Corner. I’d add that the worst thing about this piece is that Parker attempts to take on the role of instructor to the GOP about political prudence! She’s giving counsel on how to approach the argument for the purpose of persuasion!? Great. Now we know who to call whenever we need a ready and grating insult for our friends. Thanks, Kathleen.
Last night, I spoke to the Yale Political Union on "Is Biotechnology a Threat to Our Humanity?" After a couple of hours of smart and lively debate, the experts from all the Yale parties decided, by a narrow margin, it wasn’t.
Today, I’m taking the train down to DC for what may well be the historic last meeting of THE PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL ON BIOETHICS. It’s at the Hotel Palomar in Roslyn, VA. Come by and be a part of history.
Here I was thinking how unmanly a Hillary Clinton appointment as Secretary of State would be . . . how mean and low and scraping it would seem . . . and then I go and read this. The appointment not only gets her out of his political way, it clears him of all obligation to help her out with her campaign debt. Hmmm. Not bad. A Hillary bailout that requires no work from a man with better fish to fry.
The UAW and its minions are claiming that Caterpillar is a UAW company and it is competing successfully against foreign competition. Hence, they argue, it is the management, not the UAW, that is the trouble at GM, Ford, and Chrysler.
But Caterpillar had its crisis 20 years ago, and took on the Unions then.
Cat began spreading its manufacturing base into nonunion regions of the southern U.S., building 20 smaller, more specialized factories, with lower wage rates, to feed components into the larger assembly plants. The United Auto Workers objected to Caterpillar’s demand to break the contract pattern set by the automakers in Detroit. Caterpillar dug in. "We said, ‘Well, we might as well get it over with now,’" recalled Owens, who was chief financial officer at the time.
The confrontation triggered seven years of labor unrest during the 1990s and two strikes while salaried managers and temporary employees did the work. Owens recalls: "In the 1990s we had two choices: We could either close all of our midwestern plants and gradually move out of this country. Or we could move some of our facilities out of harm’s way and into more competitive parts of the country. We chose to try to preserve our manufacturing base in the U.S."
The choice of Holder for AG is encouraging--far better than Deval Patrick or other names that were floated. Holder is a liberal, but with one conspicuous exception that almost no one is aware of--he is not friendly to the trial bar, thinks that trials lawyers have been a baleful influence on the Democratic Party, and has lent his support to some tort reform efforts. Perhaps he will keep the Justice Department from becoming an adjunct of the trial bar.
If President Obama nominates Senator Clinton to serve as Secretary of State, it presents an interesting problem for the Republicans. Unless I’m mistaken, this will be the first time they have had a chance to gather her testimony under oath. Some Republicans will probably suggest that they should let bygones be bygones. That might be wise, but it might also make sense to pull out the entire Clinton file and ask Mrs. Clinton about the Rose Law firm billing records, her insight into the cattle futures market, etc.? After all, Senator Obama promised to change the tone in Washington. That promise implied getting away from the Clintonian way. If the leaks about his cabinet and White House staff are correct, that’s not what he’s doing. In the case of Mrs. Clinton, the Republican party might be able to bring that up in a way they can’t in other cases. An interesting question, in my book.
Newsweek reports that Eric Holder, another Clintonista, will be Obama’s attorney general.
If it is true that we are "at Obama’s mercy," as Peter Lawler suggests in passing along the report that a famous teacher of political philosophy made this claim to him, then perhaps there is a bright side to dwelling in that "mercy." Bret Stephens suggests that after about a year’s time, American liberals will have no more excuses for their failures. Perhaps. But politics is always more complicated than either scenario--the mercy or the "no excuses"--suggests. So there certainly will be more to Obama’s "mercy" than good-natured good will and there will also be more to it than mere Machiavellian maneuvering. I do not believe that he can play pure offense for very long--though I suspect that he knows this. I expect, at some point, to see a serious push back from conservatives and also to see some bristling stemming from the dissatisfaction of liberals who believe to their core that this is "their time."
The danger for Obama will not be that these true believers could become disenchanted with their liberalism and grow ripe for conservative picking. They will find more excuses--even where there are none. But given the vast numbers of tangential Obama supporters, recent converts, sentimental hangers-on, and socially pressured supporters I think there is plenty of raw material within the Obama ranks with which clever conservatives can begin to build a case using the "no excuses" meme as a starting point. The bright side--if we can really call it a bright side (because there will be consequences to this that are far from bright)--is that Liberalism unbound will fail. The open question is whether Obama is smart enough to know this (I think he is) and then clever enough to be able to bind it up without seeming to do so. One year probably will tell.
David Brooks suggests that the moral effects of a recession are generally not good and that we might expect an angry political response from the formerly middle class folks who are losing their homes, not to mention from people in other parts of the world who will suffer substantial setbacks as a result of our current economic upheaval.
He may be onto something, but he seems to have forgotten that the Depression also was the time when our "Greatest Generation" came of age. He is of course correct that we’ve suffered a decline in social capital since then (some of it the product of our easy prosperity, not to mention a culture that elevates "choice" above almost every other consideration). And the admirable sacrifices that characterized that generation were called forth by an existential threat, not by the New Deal.
President-elect Obama likes to conjure visions of Lincoln, but Lincoln’s America also faced an existential threat. And Lincoln is much more subtle and thoughtful than Obama has yet proven himself to be.
On the other hand, Richard Cohen wants Obama to emulate FDR, though he confesses that he has no idea what the basis of his optimism should be. Perhaps there’s a clue in the other book Obama says he’s bringing with him to the White House. (I’ll note also that, whatever he actually believed, FDR was very willing to use religious language in public.)
I’ll leave it at that for now.
1. A very famous professor of political philosophy wrote me that "we’re at Obama’s mercy." Well, that’s true enough, which makes politics less than fascinating until he shows us what he’s going to do. That’s why there’s not so much for me to say right now. I will say that Mac Owens is right below. Most of Obama’s appointments seem serious and responsible so far, and that means he really does mean to hit the ground running. He remains brainy and self-disciplined.
In today’s LA Times Brian Gray, a law Professor in San Francisco, argues that the Supreme Court should overturn California’s ban on gay marriage. Gray argues that the prohibition unconstitutionally singles out a class of people and denies them a right.
But where does this right come from? Clearly, this right is not an ancient right, as marriage in just about every place in history, including throughout the US until very recently, required that marriages include at least one man and one women, and, quite often, only one man and one woman. That being the case, the argument for constitutionally mandating gay marriage must rest on the idea that the Constitution is a living document which ought to follow the evolving understanding idea of rights in our society. In recent years, prohibitions on gay marriage have passed repeatedly, often by large margins. Hence it is rather hard to argue that there is a new social consensus in favor of gay marriage. And such new consensus is the only thing that can justify the discovery of such rights. Or do the supporters of the living constitution think that the law ought to reflect the beliefs of law Professors?
The President recognized familiar names such as NR’s Rick Brookhiser, Lincoln scholars Gabor Borritt and Harold Holzer, Manhattan Institute’s Myron Magnet, the John Templeton Foundation, and cartoonist (and Spiderman creator) Stan Lee. The day will come when we can look forward to our colleagues Steven Hayward and Peter Lawler receiving such recognition, but that will require a conservative President (besides more books of theirs). Good health (with or without the aid of science), guys! In any event, as the instance of Harry Jaffa shows, the omissions are often more instructive and telling than the awardees.
As part of my gig as editor of Orbis, I am one of several FPRI fellows asked to contribute op-eds to the Philadelphia Bulletin. Here is something that appeared yesterday. In my piece I suggest that foreign and defense policy under Obama may not turn out as badly as conservative believe. The reason is that there are limits to what even the president can do. This doesn’t mean that an Obama administration can’t screw the pooch. Time will tell.
Of course, I may be completely wrong, but so far, with the exception of Chuck Hagel, the names I have beem hearing as possibilities for defense and foreign affairs cabinet positions seem reasonable. And I know a great many of likely lower level appointments in an Obama Pentagon and they are serious people.
Last week, I posted my tribute to John Ripley, a genuine American hero and Marine Corps legend. Here is a moving account of his recent funeral at the US Naval Academy.
If the effervescence of American euphoria at the election of Barack Obama has not been enough to cause you to question the chemistry of the water on our side of the Atlantic (or, I guess, this side of the Pacific), remind yourself of the reaction to it from overseas. Even an otherwise electorally satisfied Froma Harrop finds much to question in such overdone displays of madness and wonders aloud how much it really matters whether we are loved by those on foreign shores. Welcome to the conservative club of the skeptical, Ms. Harrop! The water here is fine. Come on in.
But Harrop cannot quite reject her philosophical and intellectual roots. In addition to taking a hard look at the bulk of obsequious pining for foreign approval that lives on the left, she also has to give us a cartoon characterization of conservative disregard for foreign opinion. We "carpet-bomb" because we’re "super-patriots," don’tcha know? She rejects both the bulk of left opinion and her straw-man of conservative opinion and in this believes that she has discovered a sensible middle ground. In a sense, she has, and I welcome her "discovery"--even if it is unoriginal. Harrop ends her sober reflections on the meaning of Obama to the world on this note:
The objective of multiracial, multi-ethnic societies shouldn’t be electing people of color, gender or ethnicity in proportion to their numbers in the general population. It should be fostering a civic culture in which someone of talent and discipline and good ideas can be elected regardless of those DNA.Again . . . the water is fine. Welcome. The more agreement about the essential things (like this) the better. The better for our country and the better for the advancement of the remaining points of contention between us.
. . .are always other women and Amanda Fortini of New York Magazine does not disappoint. To her mind, Hillary Clinton ran the campaign as a "*itch" and Sarah Palin, of course, was a ditz. This sets the cause of women back generations. But she reserves the harshest (though fewest) words for Michelle Obama:
Michelle Obama began the campaign as a bold, outspoken woman with a career of her own, and she was called a hard-ass. Now, as she prepares to move into the White House, she appears poised to recede into a fifties-era role of “mom-in-chief.” It will be heartbreaking if, in an effort to avoid the kind of criticism that followed Hillary Clinton, the First Lady is reduced to a lightweight.It looks to me like Ms. Fontini is fulfilling yet another of the negative female stereotypes: she’s never satisfied.
First, the Christian Science Monitor abandoned its print publication for web-only, followed by U.S. News and World Report. And the latest to drop the dead-tree version: Playgirl. Sure to be missed.
Howard Kurtz writes a decidedly sober article chronicling the madness surrounding much of the breathless reporting on the Obama transition. I mean, if you woke up from a Rip Van Winkle-style four-year slumber and were only going by the media coverage, you’d have to imagine that Americans had not just had an election but, rather, a Revelation from the Mothership and had been taken to the leader.
It is amusing to see how easily we slip into our own version of myth-making after all of these years of tearing down the myths of Americana. And interesting to see how some old myths will be resuscitated, altered, and used for different purposes.
We are informed that Obama is the best of FDR, Kennedy and, of course, Lincoln (he read that Doris Kearns Goodwin book, you know . . . and, like, he’s from Illinois and . . . well, tall). He is a man of ideas and of books and wondrous words. He is stylish, hip, cool, collected, determined, ambitious (but humble, of course), a great and kind dad, a perfect modern husband, a powerful speaker, and an elegant writer. I’m sure he has other powers too . . . but I’m only a mortal so my memory fails. If Obama were a woman, I guess he’d be a Barbie (post-feminism, of course). All of which is to say that this myth cannot be real and that the reporting is getting beyond giddy and partisan and is now little more than precious. Everyone on the Obama trail has got a tingle going up his leg these days. Enjoy the honeymoon, boys. I think the marriage is going to be just a bit more rocky than rockin’.
This review of Roy Blount’s Alphabet Juice is good, but it pales next to the book. Blount likes letters. He says that as long as he remembers he has made them "with my fingers and felt them in my bones." In the midst of a bunch of letters he feels like "a pig in mud." All language at some level is body language. Don’t minimize the connection between high-fiber words (squelch, wobble, sniffle) "and the bodily maneuvers from which they emanate and those they evoke." Keep baby talk in mind. Mmmm, yummy. Mama, mother, mammal, mammary gland. Pay attention to what your lips do when you say those words. Blount is looking for traction. Alphabet juice. While Blount doesn’t think that the sounds of our letters are thoroughly explicable ("Did you know that Hells Angels refer to themselves as ’AJ’ because it sounds so much like ’HA’?"). A tongue is what language is, and the sound is a wonder on the tongue. Under "Kinesthesia":
"From the Greek for ’to move’ and ’to feel.’ A dancer’s kinesthesia is a heightened and cultivated sense of his or her limbs and joints, motivated by a need for expression. A writer’s kinesthesia is an appreciation that words, spoken or written, catch and carry meaning most effectively when they capture the feeling of physical movement.
Sphincter is tight; goulash is lusciously hodgepodgy. Swoon emerged from the Old English swogan, to suffocate, because the mind and the mouth conspired to replace og with oo in order to register a different motion-feeling...." He is looking for sprachgeful and mouth-feel. That’s why movie works better than cinema.
Blount advises writers: "Don’t murder your darlings."
So, I’m out in California at the moment (I got to run on the beach today with my shirt off--not to show off--heavens, no--but because it was that warm), where as everyone knows the place is burning up. Must be the wrath of God for approving gay marriage.
Oh, wait. . .
An address from the "Office of the President-elect"? Giving faux-Oval Office speeches already? This seems like an unforced error.
Someday a clever president will figure out that he (or she) will do better by talking less. Not This One.
What’s this? Charlie Wrangel saying he wants to cut the corporate income tax rate to 28 percent? When McCain proposed this, Obama called it a giveaway to ExxonMobil. It makes good sense, of course.
If this story has legs on Sunday and Monday morning, watch for the stock market to rally. Which Obama really needs.
So, there are calls from the homintern to boycott Utah because of Mormon support for Prop. 8. Except, um, that would mean boycotting the Sundance Film Festival. That would almost be as bad as flying first class on a commercial airline, instead of flying private, because of global warming.
Let me see if I have this straight: five Ohio state government agencies, including the attorney general’s office, passed along information about Joe the Plumber to the media, but it is President Bush’s intelligence gathering operations against terrorists that pose a threat to our privacy and individual rights.
Cue Jon Lovitz: Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Madison’s "multiplicity of sects" at work in securing passage of California’s defense of marriage constitutional amendment: the Mormons played the lead role in a coalition of religious groups. The prudence with which this was done is key to future successful efforts at defending morality. Review the NY Times reporting of these tactics, apply to other battles.
The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.
Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.
But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.
“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”
Some readers will get the reference, anyway.
Pardon the name dropping, but I asked George Will on Thursday whether he thought Newt would make a good chair of the RNC.
He visibly shuddered.
Courtesy of Evan Thomas on Charlie Rose. Bonus! Commentary from Rushbo.
In other words, what we’re facing now isn’t just an economic crisis; it may also become a crisis of the family, a crisis that could have significant political and moral consequences. I don’t have to explain what could happen to parental authority when parents can’t provide for their children. And I don’t think that it’s adequate to say, for example, that people who can’t keep their homes in the face of this downturn probably shouldn’t have been in them in the first place. It’s perhaps true enough: many of them were bad credit risks. But more than their credit score is now at stake. If Democrats ride to their rescue with a statist rescue package, they will have accomplished a morally and politically significant result. If they come to be seen as conservators of the family, it will be Republicans who will be writing books about what’s the matter with Kansas. And the Kansans, God bless ‘em, might be right to look to the Democrats to protect the family from the vagaries of an undisciplined and threatening marketplace.
So while I might take some comfort from the prospect that today’s Obamaniacal politikids might grow up to be Palindrones or Jindalists or to have a Huckabee in their bonnets, I’m also worried that our current credit crisis might recast the political scene altogether. Both parties have a large stake in addressing the current economic insecurity of our middle class and working class families. Republicans should remember that the market ought to be a servant of the family, rather than its master, and that the moral fabric of the republic depends upon its continuing integrity.
I also wrote another longish rumination on the election, which is set to appear in the forthcoming issue of
The City. (You can sign up for a free subscription on the page to which I’ve linked. There are plans to provide web access, but things haven’t yet proceeded to that point.)
This is thoughtful on the issue of Obama using so many Clinton folk in his transition (and administration), but it doesn’t mean that Hillary Clinton will take over the State Department. I think the Obama guys are floating this (and the Kerry baloon) for their own purposes. It is also in Hillary’s interest to be talked about in this way. If she has any sense she will want to have Reid’s job.
David Brooks writes against bailing out Detroit. From this good article I especially liked this: "It is all a reminder that the biggest threat to a healthy economy is not the socialists of campaign lore. It’s C.E.O.’s. It’s politically powerful crony capitalists who use their influence to create a stagnant corporate welfare state."
So, we’re thinking of bailing out the Detroit auto industry to the tune of something like $25 billion. Hmm. I notice at at present stock market values, GM--the whole thing--is now worth less than $2 billion, and Ford is worth less than $5 billion.
Why doesn’t the feddle guvmint just buy up GM and Ford lock, stock, and barrell (and union contracts), and save the taxpayers money (at least for a while). I’m sure the feddle guvmint can run the auto industry at least as well as Amtrak and the Post Office.
I had a twenty minute talk with Steve Hayward about the election. Given Steve’s mode, he packs forty minutes worth of reflections into half the time.
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter October’s drawing.
According to Ceaser, that’s what the Democrats got with their enhanced majorities in Congress. I’m just a little less baffled than Jim about why the Democrats picked up seats. Americans may have stopped clamoring for immediate withdrawal from Iraq because of the surge’s success, but the president’s popularity didn’t pick up at all. And the country is just more Democratic than it was two or four years ago, for a variety of reasons. I would bet that the upcoming Democratic Congress is going to be all too productive.
...not to mention prudence and the true place of political philosophy, from Lilla’s trendy conservative anti-populism.
Here’s MY view of why 2008 wasn’t a realigning election. And why we should have every reason to believe that Obama will work hard to make 2012 (like 1984 or 1936) one.
...is given by Mr. Continetti. The Republicans are increasingly old, white and male, and they herd together in the South, Appalachia, and the Great Plains. Meanwhile, Obama is poised to do better in places like NC, VA, MO, IN, and so forth next time, and it’s hard to see how the Republicans mount a comeback in the West. This article might be excessively sobering, because it sort of downplays temporary aberrations that were the result of the economic mess. But all exaggerations contain a lot of the truth. For people who like to speak of emerging majorities, the Democrats certainly have the upper hand right now.
. . . again! This time she takes on Obama and what will be his self-sabotaging tax policy . . . self-sabotaging, that is unless she, and others who agree with her, can figure out a way for him to gracefully get out of the foolish things he’s promised to do.
. . . false dichotomy? Democratic Strategist, Ed Kilgore sides with David Brooks in agreeing that the battle for the soul of the GOP and the Conservative movement is between so-called "Traditionalists" and so-called "Reformers" and that, unfortunately for Brooks (who thinks he’s in the "Reformer" camp) and fortunately for Kilgore (who wants nothing to do with either) the "Traditionalists" have won. I called this a false dichotomy but that’s not the same thing as saying that I don’t think there’s anything worth considering in both Kilgore’s and in Brooks’ pieces. There is. But, as usual, I think there is a mighty bit of confusion in all of this discussion (and not just on Brooks’ side of the argument) about the difference between securing principles and securing victory. It would be ever so nice to see more conservative commentators who were interested in securing both.
This Camille Paglia piece, commenting on everything from Obama, Palin, and the media, is worth the read. Just one paragraph, for the taste:
"I like Sarah Palin, and I’ve heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don’t see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn’t speak the King’s English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World."
I noticed this on CNN a few nights ago, but they just played the brief reference to Machiavelli’s Prince, but the whole seven minutes is very funny. It takes place in 2005 and is from YouTube. Very funny.
From a post by Megan McArdle on libertarians and the GOP. On abortion: "The belief that there is an explictly libertarian position is held, as far as I can tell, almost entirely among liberals furious at pro-lifers. Persons have a right to be protected against the initiation of force, and libertarianism has no basic principles that answer the question of when personhood begins."
This election was a lot like 1980 and 1932. The victories of Reagan and FDR were both repudiations of the clueless incumbent and affirmations of their personal qualities of leadership. 1936 and 1984 were ratifications of the CHANGE they were responsible for in the country's direction. Obama is clearly thinking BIG CHANGE that will be rewarded by a similarly positive reelection landslide.
Many thanks to Clint for pointing us to this angry (but it seems to me to be righteous anger) piece by P.J. O’Rourke. Of course, being of O’Rourke’s pen, it also comes with a healthy dose of humor and wit. It seems to me that somewhere in there, between the humor and the anger, are some healthy chunks of harsh truth. We should eat them no matter how hard they are to swallow.
It will be interesting to watch this drama play itself out. Michelle Obama is perfectly sensible in looking to the former First Lady for sound advice on rearing children with privacy and dignity within and without the walls of White House. I don’t think even the fiercest critics of Mrs. Clinton--at least as far as what the public record reveals about her capacities in this regard--could ever accuse Hillary of anything but careful and dutiful attention to Chelsea while they were residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And by all accounts and factoring in all considerations of scandal brought on by her father and pathos brought on by the complicated relationship of her parents, Chelsea Clinton appears to have grown into a healthy, happy and successful young woman.
But there is more to the story of motherly advice offered and motherly advice sought. There is also the story of the promised and not yet delivered assistance to Mrs. Clinton from the Obamas for her sizable campaign debt to vendors (and don’t even get me started on that topic!). This all adds yet another interesting dimension to the story and one wonders whether Mrs. Clinton would be equally eager to assist Mrs. Obama were such assistance not so desperately required. But one must assume that humanity would, in the end, prevail. Still . . . it makes for a different dynamic when one’s hand is outstretched.
Make no mistake about it: there must be something delicious for Mrs. Obama in seeking out this advice from Mrs. Clinton on the subject of being First Lady and raising kids in the White House when, according to every expectation of a year ago, it was to be her husband who would be coming to Mrs. Clinton (some time in the distant future) for advice about being President in the White House. How ironic (and also sad) that in the fullness of time, Hillary is to be regarded as expert in the one capacity for which she has demonstrated any real competence but for which she has voiced, on more than a few occasions, a not-so-veiled disdain. This one episode may illustrate the tragedy of Mrs. Clinton’s life: her burning ambition will serve to make her dissatisfied with the one thing that ought to be her glory and her epitaph: she has been a good mom.
As someone mentioned here yesterday, everyone should run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore to get a copy of Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man. One gushing reviewer called it "the finest history of the Great Depression ever written."
I answered the call for jury duty today, spending roughly eight hours in voir dire for a criminal trial. (In a 42-person pool, there were three professors, at least two attorneys, a professional actor, a professional musician, and a number of other interesting folks. I think the musician was empaneled; needless to say, I wasn’t, else I wouldn’t be writing this.)
To fill the time as the attorneys were putting together the jury at the end of the long day, the judge (recently reelected to his second term on the bench) felt compelled to lecture us about this great country of ours. You see, he grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia (in the shadow of Mr. Jefferson’s University). From his house, he told us, he could see the Rotunda and Monticello. I’ll let go for a moment the fact that he told us that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in Charlottesville, but I can’t let go his claim, from the bench, that America finally sealed its greatness as a nation last Tuesday. I wonder how he would have filled the time if John McCain had been elected.
I should add that the judge was unopposed for reelection, and I doubt he’ll ever have opposition. I typically don’t mark the ballot when I know nothing about the person running for office. I don’t know whether I did it in his case or not last week. Next time, you can be certain that he won’t get my vote.
Mickey Kaus suggests that Senator Obama would be unwise to being his Presidency by making immigration policy an early priority. Kaus thinks that an amnesty program would give the post-McCain GOP an issue wherewith to unify itself. On the other hand, it might also expand the Democratic party base in large battleground states, and, by uniting the GOP against amnesty, secure all those new voters for the Democratic party well into the future.
Amity Shlaes reminds us--and Democrats especially--why Barack Obama’s frequent invocations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt ought not to be looked upon with complete satisfaction. FDR’s successes as an electoral politician and war president notwithstanding, he left a good deal to be desired when it came to his approach to a faltering economy. Shlaes shows why FDR may be exactly the wrong guy to conjure up at this moment in our history and also why her book, The Forgotten Man, should be on all of our nightstands as we watch the first 100 days of an Obama administration.
Bill Kristol points to the softer side of Barack Obama and notes that seeing it (in Obama’s victory speech) caused him to gulp: "Competence plus warmth is a pretty potent combination," he argues. Indeed.
A bit further on in the article Kristol writes:
Obama was, naturally, asked about the promised-but-not-yet-purchased puppy at his press conference Friday. (If one were being churlish, one might say that it was typical of a liberal to promise the dog before delivering it. A results-oriented conservative would simply have shown up with the puppy without the advance hype.)Which leads me to this natural suggestion: Maybe that’s the problem with so-called "results-oriented" conservatives. In a country born out of poetry and drama, the problem with "results-oriented" conservatives is that their inability to inspire virtually guarantees that they get no results!
I don’t want to make too much out of the dog story . . . but I think it is illustrative of Obama’s ability and the GOP’s stunning lack of ability to connect with citizens (forget about voters) in a way that seeks to open up the path to friendship. Political friendships are built upon common interests and shared goals and political conflicts are begun because of a differences in one or the other or both. Obama will not be satisfied with merely coming out on top of this most recent political conflict. He wants to build a new and thoroughgoing political friendship that keeps him and his closest friends on top of that conflict for generations to come. Kristol suggests that leading GOP contenders consider bringing home puppies for their kids . . . Sure, fine. Bring home a dog if you want. But contrary to the old saw that "talk is cheap" I’d say that, in this case, that the result is cheap. Talking about it (and all things that open up the ties of friendship between themselves and those who don’t yet consider the GOP their home) is crucial. Talk in this instance is anything but cheap. It’s golden.
As if to punctuate their renowned bravery, some fine young Marines in Lakewood, California demonstrate that duty has nothing to do with simply being "on duty." Semper Fi to the Corps on their birthday today and may it (and we) continue to produce such men as these.
...should even be seriously considered for 2012. They both represent failed policies of the past.
Newt, as Pete pointed out in the thread, has character and temperament "issues." And under his watch Republicans in Congress managed to turn the impeachment of the president into a farce that actually ended up helping the Democrats. But most of all, he’s yesterday’s news. He has no appeal to the young voters that, as Julie has often said, the Republicans really need now. Old soldiers may never die, but old voters do. Of course Newt’s smart, and both Bush and McCain should have listened to him more.
Lilla’s article mainly shows that Lilla is a shameless intellectual herd animal. But it does remind us that the caricature of Palin pushed by the MSM and fashionable intellectuals and such has resonated with too much of the public for her to be back in 2012. She would be well served by getting herself in the Senate, where she’ll acquire the needed gravitas and public policy expertise to run in 2016. 2012 is probably for suckers anyway.
If we had to pick the 2012 candidate right now, it’d be, for me, between Jindal and Romney. Romney is especially plausible if our econmic woes become chronic and seemingly unfixable. Needless to say, I hope lots of new possibilities emerge.
The big, immediate problem facing Republicans is recruiting decent candidates for 2010--to do what they often failed to do in 2006 and 2008. It ain’t going to be easy, given the popularity of the new president and how discredited the Republican "brand" has become.
In response to a question about consulting ex-Presidents (the Nancy Reagan seance jibe) and his reading, the
prez-elect says : "I have reread some of Lincoln’s writings, who’s always an extraordinary inspiration." H/T
Some serious readers find Machiavelli in Shakespeare, others, at least equally serious, find a Catholic. What does Obama see in Lincoln? Recall Machiavelli’s letter, in which he describes his conversations with great men of the past, the background for The Prince.
"Despite lofty predictions by some academics, pundits, and practitioners that voter turnout would reach levels not seen since the turn of the last century, the percentage of eligible citizens casting ballots in the 2008 presidential election stayed at virtually the same relatively high level as it reached in the polarized election of 2004.
...[B]ased, in part, on nearly final but unofficial vote tabulations as compiled by the Associated Press as of 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 5, the percentage of Americans who cast ballots for president in this year’s presidential election will reach between 126.5 million and 128.5 million when all votes have been counted by early next month.
If this prediction proves accurate, turnout would be at either exactly the same level as in 2004 or, at most, one percentage point higher (or between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent)."
Now lookit, Peter, I know the arguments against Newt, but on the other hand, people need to get their story straight. Mark Lilla argues today in the Wall Street Journal that Palin represents a retrograde anti-intellectualism among conservatives. I disagree, but to the extent that conservative populism is problematic (the argument is not baseless), what could be more opposite than Newt?
Moreover, I recall that when the Republican Congress in the 1990s sported three Ph.Ds in leadership positions (Newt, Dick Armey, and Phil Gramm in the Senate), it never got the GOP any credit with the same media folks and observers who now decry the GOP’s "anti-intellectualism."
Now, maybe Palin can study up the next couple years and emerge on the stage somewhere by quoting the famous Monty Python line, "She turned me into a Newt!" (Okay, maybe not. . .)
Gingrich in 2012, according to one veteran observer, may be our best hope. I myself don’t think that’s change we can believe in, but you might think differently. I think any reasonable study would show that Clinton’s wiping the floor with Gingrich in 1995 started a long Republican decline that was only interrupted by the 9/11-induced upsurge in 2002.
Last weekend, Col. John Ripley, USMC passed away. He was a remarkable man, and I paid tribute to him today at National Review Online.
During the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive of spring, 1972, John, an advisor to the South Vietnamese Marines, performed a feat of extraordinary heroism that made him a legend in the Marine Corps. I’m sure that when Peter’s son was going through Marine Boot Camp, he heard about "Ripley at the Bridge."
As part of the offensive, a North Vietnamese division of 20,000 soldiers and 200 tanks was pushing south from the Demilitarized Zone intent on capturing the provincial capital of Quang Tri. To do so, the communists had to cross the Cua Viet River and the best place to do so was via a bridge at Dong Ha.
Repeatedly exposing himslef to enemy fire, John emplaced 500 pounds of explosives under the bridge, often swinging hand over hand under the bridge with heavy loads of explosives slung over his shoulders. The bridge went down, and the NVA offensive was slowed.
In recognition of his incredible feat, John received the Navy Cross. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a Navy Cross, but many believe it should have been a Medal of Honor.
The Marine Corps celebrates its 233 birthday on Monday, 10 November. In Newport, we will hold our birthday ball on Saturday, 8 November. That evening, I’ll be drinking a toast to John Ripley. Semper Fi.
As I continue to mull over the good, the bad, and the ugly in Obama’s victory speech, I realled Leo Strauss’s excellent reflections upon what he called "Progress or Return." A sophisticated argument that this blog will certainly not do justice to: nevertheless, given Obama’s constant reference to "defining moments," "our time," and most of all "CHANGE," here’s what Strauss said on the subject of progress:
When the prophets call their people to account, they do not limit themselves to accusing them of this or that particular crime or sin. They recognize the root of all particular crimes in the fact that the people have forsaken their God. They accuse their people of rebellion. Originally, in the past, they were faithful or loyal; now they are in a state of rebellion. In the future they will return, and God will restore them to their original place. The primary, the original or initial, is loyalty; unfaithfulness, infidelity, is secondary. The very notion of unfaithfulness or infidelity presupposes that fidelity or loyalty is primary. The perfect character of the origin is a condition of sin—of the thought of sin. Man who understands himself in this way longs for the perfection of the origin, or of the classic past. He suffers from the present; he hopes for the future.
Progressive man, on the other hand, looks back to a most imperfect beginning. The beginning is barbarism, stupidity, rudeness, extreme scarcity. Progressive man does not feel that he has lost something of great, not to say infinite, importance; he has lost only his chains. He does not suffer from the recollection of the past. Looking back to the past, he is proud of his achievements; he is certain of the superiority of the present to the past. He is not satisfied with the present; he looks to future progress. But he does not merely hope or pray for a better future; he thinks that he can bring it about by his own effort. Seeking perfection in a future which is in no sense the beginning or the restoration of the beginning, he lives unqualifiedly toward the future. The life which understands itself as a life of loyalty or faithfulness appears to him as backward, as being under the spell of old prejudices. What the others call rebellion, he calls revolution or liberation. To the polarity faithfulness—rebellion, he opposes the polarity prejudice—freedom.
An obviously faked photo of Kim Jong Il. The first thing you think is that the Norks are just incompetent at digital imaging, but then maybe the botch job is on purpose?? Is someone trying to tell us that maybe he really is an ex-Kim, or very close to it?
Senator Obama’s political experience is in community organizing and campaigning. And his other main experience is teaching law. He once said that his experiece running his campaign is his executive experience. Will he run the White House as a perpetual camaign?. Perhaps he means to appear professorial while leaving the dirty work to others. He is quite a politician.
According to our most brilliant columnist, Obama has the brains of Bill and the self-discipline of Vlad. And that points to great leadership on the model of Reagan. Contrary to his rhetorical lullabies, Obama (and "Rahmbo") probably isn’t going be as nice as the Gipper when it comes to getting things done. It’s a scary thing to think that when Barack looks into Putin’s eyes, he may well see himself. The upside might possibly be that Putin himself might be a little afraid.
Michael Lind thinks this: "The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States....As I see it, to date there have been three American republics, each lasting 72 years (give or take a few years). The First Republic of the United States, assembled following the American Revolution, lasted from 1788 to 1860. The Second Republic, assembled following the Civil War and Reconstruction (that is, the Second American Revolution) lasted from 1860 to 1932. And the Third American Republic, assembled during the New Deal and the civil rights eras (the Third American Revolution), lasted from 1932 until 2004." He explains the "2004" in the article and the he whole of it is worth filing for later contemplation and use.
I actually don’t find these remarks from Chris Matthews any more offensive than they are revealing. Really, Chris? It’s your job to do everything within your power to make the Obama presidency a success? I never would have guessed it! Just as long we’re clear about your being a tool, I have no problem at all with your being one. I am in favor of all of the tools coming out of the shed.
In his victory speech, Senator Obama made two claims: That a story like his can only happen in America, and that America needs fundamental change. It will be interesting to see how he reconciles those two things as his Presidency progresses. (Related thoughts here.)
Reflecting upon the past few elections, I wonder if we’re seeing a return to 19th Century politics, in the sense that we have two parties that are fairly competative and who can both win both the Presidency and the Congress. The Democrats held the House from roughly 1933 to 1994, with a two-year break or two early on. They held the Senate, for the most part, from 1933 to 1980. That changed in 1994. The Republicans then held both houses (with a brief break in the Senate from 2001-2003) from 1995-2007. Now the Democrats hold both houses and the President, something they have not done since 1994.
Might it be that the long era of Democratic dominance was an historical anamaly? Might we be seeing a return to a more traditional two-party politics?
I spent today looking at results and exit polls with my students, and I have some thoughts and questions.
First, in Ohio, Obama seems to have done no better than Kerry (both received 2.7 million votes, give or take), while McCain did significantly worse than Bush (approximately 300,000 votes less this time around). With the gold-plated Obama GOTV effort, how could this be? Does this represent the current Democratic ceiling in Ohio? Does Bush’s 2004 result represent the current Republican ceiling, with McCain’s 2008 result as the floor? If so, Republicans in the Buckeye state ought to take heart. There’s hope that, if all things are equal, the state can return to the GOP column. To be sure, it would require a competent campaign and competent governance. And it require that "nature" reasserts itself against "change," that is, that Pres. Obama can’t deliver on his implicit promises.
Florida is interesting for a different reason. A good chunk of the result there can, it seems, be chalked up to two "facts" (if anything from an exit poll can be called a "fact"). African-Americans were a slightly higher proportion of Florida’s electorate this time (1% larger), and, of course, went overwhelmingly for Obama. (In 2004, GWB won 13% of that vote, which, if memory serves, was 17% of the electorate.) Florida Latinos--especially younger ones--also fell for Obama. Changes in those two groups are pretty much enough to flip the state. I think. Does anyone out there know better?
One last point. Right now, Obama is (barely) outperforming Bush 2004 (64 to 62 million). His numbers will go a bit higher (65 to 67 million may be about right). He will have improved on the 2004 Democratic result by 10-15%. This pales in comparison to Bush’s move from 50 million in 2000 to 62 million in 2004. I’m less impressed than I was prepared to be by the Obama campaign...especially since they spent almost ten times as much as Bush in 2004 or McCain in 2008. I’m only half-joking when I say that the "inefficiency" of the Obama campaign (the cost per vote) is not a harbinger of good things from the Obama Administration.
The speech is an interesting one to see emerge at this time. Delivered on November 10, 1864 from the White House as Lincoln was serenaded by supporters upon winning re-election in the midst of the Civil War, it speaks to the importance of national elections and the significance of our ability to abide by them--even in the midst of terrible crises. Note, especially, his closing:
While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.
May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?
Simon Heffer’s editorial on what lies ahead for president-elect Obama, America, and therewith the world seems sensible enough. He asks, "Now we need to find out what ’change’ means." Do tell. Some snippets:
There has, though, been an act of faith by the US electorate on a gigantic scale, as it thrusts this unproven and untested man into the teeth of these challenges.
we may well be about to see the greatest era of radicalism in American politics since Roosevelt. If America really is no longer an instinctively conservative nation, Mr Obama can proceed with tax increases, the extension of public services such as healthcare, the introduction of environmental legislation, the legitimisation of many millions of illegal immigrants, and the provision of federal funds to pay for abortions. It is not beyond possibility that Mr Obama could even find himself taken prisoner by his own party, as Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, leads it through a radical programme that takes the new president at his word about "change".
Should Mr Obama proceed with healthcare reforms, the costs of those would be laid on employers. What all this would do to stimulate enterprise and recovery is far from clear.
Iran, Afghanistan and Russia, and irritating difficulties on Mr Obama’s own doorstep in Central and South America are sure to test him. Mr Obama has so far displayed a mixture of immaturity and naivety on such questions.
"Change" will therefore mean either something really big and IMHO devastating to Americans inthe not so long run, or something really mundane--to wit, the change any election produces when times are tough. Obama is clearly a Progressive politician who employs patriotic rhetoric as the spoonful of sugar to help a Democratic Congress and now President get the medicine to go down. When the details coem to light, I trust the American people to push back.
In the last two days, much has been made over the contents of (or was the cadence of?) this speech. It is a speech that bears study and it is only fair to say that there is much to be admired in it--even as one can be skeptical of the political sentiment and intentions behind it. That said, the speech was an attempt either at reconciliation or at consolidation (grown-ups know there’s rarely a difference and that "bi-partisanship" is a sweet delusion) and the next four years will test whether this attempt will succeed and his legacy as its architect will endure. If it fails, it will not be for lack of effort, lack of thought, lack of purpose and, certainly not, for lack of raw political power. It may suffer from a lack of capital--of both the tangible and the political sort--but we will have to wait and see how that plays out.
Turning to the speech itself, one notes that it is always a good thing to hear the words of Lincoln invoked in American public life. But the goodness of Lincoln’s words cannot be ripped from the context in which they were delivered if one wants to understand them in their fullness. Perhaps unwittingly, Obama’s speech invoked Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural wherein Lincoln pleaded that, ""We are not enemies, but friends ... though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." Yet, as we know, little more than a month after Lincoln delivered this beautiful plea to a nation torn apart by partisan and sectional differences, the rebels fired on Ft. Sumter and began the bloodiest and most perilous conflict in our cumulative national history.
Of course, Obama readily (and, I trust, happily) acknowledges that the America of the 1850s and 60s was a far more divided and troubled country than the America we now inhabit. (The civility and graciousness exhibited between him and John McCain on Tuesday evening is only one of many testaments to that.) But scarcely a paragraph below Obama’s invocation of Lincoln, he offers this understanding of the "true genius of America":
For that is the true genius of America--that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.In Lincoln’s first inaugural, Lincoln did talk of what made and what would continue to make us "a more perfect Union." In Lincoln’s understanding, our Union was perpetual and this meant that our fidelity to the Constitution and to the laws consistent with it, must always be paramount. Lincoln knew that this kind of fidelity would limit his power and he knew that it would mean he could not insist on "change"--however well-intentioned or however more consistent with America’s fundamental principles it might be--if said change could not be accomplished within the limits imposed by this Constitution as the solemn and sovereign will of the people. Fidelity to the Constitution would be a testament to our civility, our graciousness, our moderation and our greatness as a people.
Fidelity to the Constitution is, moreover, a testament to our humility; an acknowledgment that while we always can be "more perfect" than we actually are; we are unlikely, ever, to reach a point (or even look to a point in theory) where we can say with certitude that we are "perfected." Fidelity to our Constitution and laws is the primary requirement in our perpetual--as opposed to linear--movement toward a "more perfect Union" in that it imposes a kind of humility on citizens and, most especially, on their elected representatives. In this humility we recognize our limits and this is why we have a limited government. These limits are born of our natural equality--not just as men, but as mere men. No man has been born booted and spurred and ready to ride the mass of mankind (or history) as he will.
As Barack Obama begins his tenure as the 44th President of the United States, no small measure of his greatness will be the extent to which demonstrates humility as he approaches that great document to which he will take an oath to protect and defend.
1. Let me echo the Voegeli comment below: The Republican party has suffered from an IQ and competence gap since Clinton’s humiliating defeat of Gingrich in 1995. Although there are a lot of reasons McCain lost, a big one is that he gave us no confidence that he wouldn’t perpetuate the Republican "culture of incompetence." Let me repeat we’re not talking about high conservative principle--or whether Russell Kirk or Strauss or Reagan or Gerson should be our guide--but ordinary getting the bleeping job done. That "culture of incompetence" showed itself in so many ways in McCain’s "seat of the pants" disorganized and random (especially in terms of message) campaign. I like McCain as a person, but God knows he didn’t convince enough people that he could be a capable chief executive.
2. I’m very immnune to Obama’s seductive charms and so have a lot trouble sitting through TV right now. But I gotta say I really admire the choice of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. It was a very partisan choice; that guy is admired for his ruthless effectiveness for Democrats and their issues but not particularly liked. More than anyone else he was responsible for the Democratic 2006 landslide, which set the stage for everything that happened this year. The appointment is a clear sign tht Obama wants to get things done fast, and even that he wants to use this really tough and smart guy to make sure they get done his-as opposed to, say, Barney Frank’s--way. I don’t know what that means in terms of actual policy agenda. Republicans will be mostly stuck with sitting back and watching.
3. I still think McCain might have won the election without the meltdown and the bailout. In retrospect, it’s clear that his genuine maverick move would have been to oppose the bailout. He didn’t do that, of course, because, in his mind, it would have been dishonorably irreponsible and demagogic. But in order to do it, he would have to have demonstrated his maverick mastery of economic issues. So it wouldn’t have worked anyway. The stats supported whoever it was who posted that the election in the battleground states was lost in the suburbs--the land of foreclosures and rapid deterioration of 401 (k) and home values.
In the spirit of counter-intuitive thinking (and to give liberals indigestion), it is worth pointing out that Obama scored two victories for conservatism in his election contest. First, given that the California exit polls showed that minorities supported the ban in gay marriage (Prop. 8)--by a 70-30 margin among black voters--it seems plausible to say that Prop. 8 passed on Obama’s coattails. Assume a normal turnout of minority voters and perhaps Prop. 8 is defeated. Heh.
Second, Obama’s campaign killed the public financing scheme for presidential elections. I doubt it is coming back. Obama certainly will want to exploit his incumbent status in 2012 to raise a billion dollars for re-election, and no Republican is going to handcuff herself the way McCain did. Good riddance, too, though one must note an important irony here: one of the motivations for public financing after Watergate was that it leveled the playing field for Democrats, whose presidential candidates in 1968 and 1972 had been badly outspent by Nixon. Now the shoe is on the other party’s (club) foot.
Election Day 2008 was a defeat for conservatism, but not the massacre that seemed in the offing two weeks ago. Considering everything that was working against the Republicans this year, for Sen. Obama to receive 52.4% of the popular vote to John McCain’s 46.3% is not underwhelming, but certainly a liberal victory no better than merely whelming. If Pres. Obama and the congressional Democrats find the right mixture of audacity and caution, they may succeed over the next four, and possibly eight, years in moving the country significantly closer to embracing the European social democratic ideal of governments that hector capitalists while accommodating terrorists. But this will be a process, not an event. The 2008 election revealed that America is more liberal than it has been since 1992, maybe even more than it has been since 1964. The election also showed, however, that the American and Swedish electorates remain readily distinguishable.
Come January, Democrats will control the House, Senate and presidency, something that has been true for only six of the past 40 years. This will be bad for the country but good, or at any rate necessary, for conservatism. It’s hard to rebuild the plane’s engines and instrument panels while you’re flying it. Conservatives need to consider fundamental changes in what they aspire to accomplish, and how they explain their aspirations, which will require a searching internal debate that is impossible to undertake while governing a nation. While they figure out destinations for the new tracks they want to lay, conservatives will, once more, be standing athwart history crying Stop.
The perception that the Democrats’ victory was quite a few boulders short of a landslide will lead some conservatives to believe that nothing more basic than better luck, better candidates and better circumstances is necessary for happy days to be here again. That would be a mistake. Compassionate conservatism, unveiled by George W. Bush when he was a presidential candidate nine years ago, didn’t turn out to be a very good answer, but it was an attempt to answer a good, and still pressing question: What is to be done when conservative conservatism is no longer a sufficient basis on which to campaign or govern successfully? It has been 13 years since Newt Gingrich lost the government shutdown battle to Bill Clinton. That’s a long time to be without a Plan B after it has become excruciatingly clear that Plan A cannot be made to work.
President Reagan’s Farewell Address might be a good place to start. A sample:
Finally, there is a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells, and I’ve got one that’s been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I’m proudest of in the past eight years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.
An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over thirty-five or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea of the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the midsixties.
But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rate. It’s fragile; it needs protection.
From Michael Kinsley: "People who want divided government are afraid of politics." To Kinsley, it seems, politics is fundamentally about the exercise of power, a point of view which demonstrates, once again, the difference between the Progressive/ liberal mind and that of the founders. They understood that politics is fundamentally an argument about justice. We have a system of checks and balances precisely because we believe in having that argument over, and over, and over again. In that sense, divided government is an embrace of politics, not a rejection of it. The kicker is that in America today the argument is, to a great degree, between these two understandings of politics.
Here’s what’s up in my front yard this morning:
No one has commented yet on the symbolic importance of Obama holding his victory celebration last night in Grant Park in Chicago, which was, 40 years ago at the riots of the 1968 convention, the location where the Democratic Party might be said to have been shattered almost irretrievably. Now, 40 years later, Obama returns to scene in triumph, with a renewed Democratic Party spearheading a resurgent liberalism.
Of course, Lyndon Johnson thought his path was clear following 1964. He never foresaw that his chief difficulty would come from the left of his own party. I keep wondering what will happen to Obama’s standing on the left if he doesn’t get our troops out of Iraq quickly, or if he has to order a strong military effort somewhere that won’t go down well with the left.
Senator Obama’s victor seems to show that the America in 2008 is not the America of 1968. We have come a long way. Racism is all but dead. That means we should be free to judge people by the content of their character, or their talents, and not the color of their skin. In other words, it means the government no longer has to force us to count by race in our businesses and in our schools. To bring the country together, and to help us to move forward, President Obama should end affirmative action. (Update: Related thoughts here from John McWhorter.)
The likely victory of Prop 8 in California and of similar proposals elsewhere seems to prove that the underlying American consensus is in favor of traditional marriage. No one seriously maintains that the right of men to marry men is an ancient right. Its discovery by the Courts can only be justified by claiming that we have progressed to a point where it is necessary. The numbers seem to indicate that the American consensus is not there. The supporters of a living constitution can’t honestly claim that gay marriage reflects the new American consensus. Hence there is no legitimate reason even for Progressives to claim that gay marriage is a right.
Most Americans want a tax cut. (Update two: Mickey Kaus parses Obama.)
Most Americans are worried that they could be overwhelmed by their health care bills, but don’t particuarly want to change their own health care program.
Look at the results in Florida and Ohio, two key McCain losses. I’m genuinely impressed by Obama’s result in Florida: he improved on Kerry’s result by around 500,000 votes, while McCain underperformed Bush 2004 by 100,000 or so.
In Ohio, with 96% of the precincts reporting, Obama underperforms Kerry by 200,000, while McCain falls 500,000 short of Bush’s 2004 total. If those numbers stand, there would seem to be room for future GOP success in Ohio and an apparent upper limit on what Democrats can expect.
And then there’s the Electoral College, which (characteristically) overstates the result because it focuses on states rather than individuals. I have defended (and will continue to defend) the E.C. Will my students now begin to listen, as their guy profited more from his E.C. mandate than from the popular vote totals?
Obama only got 52% with all his advantages. I have to admit that confirms the hypothesis that McCain would have won absent the economic meltdown and bailout, which is not something I would have said prior to reviewing the result this morning. And the Senate results are better than we deserve--It looks like Coleman hung on, Kennedy almost won in LA, Oregon is up in the air, McConnell won with some room to spare, and the CONVICTED CRIMINAL won in Alaska! Chambliss may still have a runoff in GA, contrary to the initial computer projections.
I have secluded myself today to finish grading freshmen papers on why Xenophon thinks human beings are so hard to rule, or not.
The TV is on as I plod on, and CNN just interviewed a black soldier in Iraq who said this to about the outcome of election: "Now I believe that everyone is created equal."
Looks like Prop 8 has passed. One thing to note in the state map of county-by-county votes on Prop. 8 is that it passed in Los Angeles County, where Obama swamped McCain with nearly 70 percent of the vote. This can only mean that the Hispanic vote came out in favor of Prop. 8.
Run your mouse up to San Francisco on the map, where 23 percent voted in favor of Prop. 8. I would have thought you’d have a hard time finding 23 people, let alone 23 percent, in favor of Prop. 8 in Baghdad-by-the-Bay.
UPDATE: Byron York has looked at the CA exit polls, and it turns out that the margin of victory apparently came from black voters (by a 70-30 margin), most of whom resent or disagree with the comparison of gay marriage to the civil rights movement. White voters actually rejected Prop. 8 by a narrow margin, and Hispanics supported it narrowly.
Here’s CNN’s main presidential results page, together with its 2004 counterpart. I note in passing that, at the moment, Obama isn’t doing all that much better than Bush 2004. How many more votes remain to be counted? There had been estimates of more than 130 million voters. If so, then there are up to another 10 million votes out there. (I’m not sure I believe that there are that many.) I’m prepared to be impressed by the Obama campaign’s ground game, but the numbers don’t yet support that. (Recall that from 2000 to 2004, Bush went from 50 million to 62 million votes. Obama will not show that kind of improvement over Kerry. At best, he’s likely to have garnered 6 or 7 million more.)
Here’s CNN’s presidential exit poll, together, once again, with its 2004 counterpart. Note that 18-29 year olds are only 1% more of the electorate this time (18% - 17%), but that Obama did more than 10% better than Kerry in that group. If I’m doing my arithmetic correctly. that amounts to an almost 3 point improvement from Kerry to Obama, enough (in other words) to make Obama the winner.
In 2004, Bush won Protestants 59-40 and Catholics 52-47, evangelicals 78-21, and weekly church attenders 61-39. McCain won Protestants 54-45, but lost Catholics 45-54 (a result that can be accounted for by the non-white Catholic vote, as white Catholics supported him 52-47). He won weekly attenders 55-43 and evangelicals 74-24. That’s roughly a 5 point shift across the board in key Republican constituencies. How to explain it is another question: just a bad Republican year, more outreach from Obama, or both? (I’d have to say that effective outreach in a bad Republican year should probably have produced more of a shift, though Obama’s position on abortion (and his party’s) still remains a liability.)
I’ll likely have more later, but I encourage you, gentle (and not so gentle) readers, to do some comparing yourselves.
. . . to be kinda happy that Alaska appears to have elected a convicted felon?
. . . in Minnesota. Well . . . it’s something!
UPDATE: At 10:37 Pacific Time, Coleman is still up but the race is too close to call.
. . . in California. At this point it’s about 54% in favor of it. A small bit of good news, perhaps.
UPDATE: At 10:38 Pacific Time, Prop 8 still ahead . . . but tightening.
It reminded me of Jefferson’s First Inaugural--on the surface conciliatory, in fact a threat to his opposition: We will read you out of America if you resist me.
What I like best about Obama’s election: the sight of his two daughters growing up in the White House. And aren’t daughters the best means of forcing a father to be more conservative?
On mother Obama, Michelle: I read her senior thesis --it was not the worst Princeton thesis I’ve read. That said, the thesis spekas of "a distinctive Black culture very different from White culture" (p. 54) and "Blacks and other Third World students" (p. 58), among other expressions. What saves it from racial demagoguery is social science tediousness. Let no one in the maturity of one’s life be judged by a college paper. But let us keep such expressions in mind, as we observe the First Lady.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is the most serious voice of conservative thinking and practice in the national government. Two black Americans will debate the future of America over the next few years. And this will be a debate over the meaning of our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which the two understand in profoundly different ways.
Will Obama, who called out Thomas in his presentation at Saddleback Church, try to knock out the most serious opposition to his coming hegemony?
is good, and just, and gracious. He is still speaking and, so far, well said, John McCain. Congratulations to Barack Obama and to the country that can keep the revolutions of 1776 and 1800 always in its mind’s eye. Some election, some country. Let this remind us, and the broader world, why we have a right to proper pride.
The election is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The popular vote may well be something like what Peter and Rove said. Most of the states that should have been close really were. The Obama ground game didn’t seem to inflate his numbers much, although enough to carry VA, OH, and FL. The biggest reason reason VA and FL were lost is all sorts of Republican stupidity. GA was a completely unexpected blowout, even with a fairly low tournout on the actual election day. And Chambliss won without a runoff. My county gave McCain exactly the same 70% to McCain as it did to Bush in 2004. I now tend to agree with who say that without the economic meltdown and bailout this would have been a very close election.
I’ll start looking a little more closely at numbers and exit polls tomorrow, but a few things stand out right away.
There seem to be two kinds of relatively affluent suburban voters. "Professionals," together with what was once called "the New Class" (people who talk for a living), are increasingly voting Democratic. Case in point: the Northern Virginia suburbs (going into Prince William and Loudon Coounties), which went for Obama. The more traditional relatively affluent suburbanites are in sales, marketing, and management--in business, in other words. They’re probably still relatively reliable Republican voters, but their proportion of the suburban electorate is declining. Case in point: the county immediately north of Indianapolis, which (as Michael Barone pointed out) gave McCain a substantially smaller margin than it gave Bush four years ago.
Is there a strategy for reestablishing the Republican advantage in the suburbs? Can such a strategy be reconciled with efforts to reach out to lower middle class exurban voters ("The Party of Sam’s Club"), let alone maintain a relationship with socially conservative evangelicals and Catholics?
Talking about tax cuts isn’t going to do it...at least not until the Democrats raise taxes in a way that’s genuinely painful to a wide swath of the electorate. But perhaps talking about the safety and security of the family, and upholding the authority of parents, could appeal (in slightly different ways) to all these constituencies.
With a little tweaking, Sarah Palin might actually be able to pull off a kind of crossover appeal. She’d have to emphasize more her connections with a family of teachers and less her moose hunting.
But enough for now....
With Ohio and Virginia called by CNN and Fox for Obama, it is in fact all over. Obama’s narrow victory in Virginia is the only surprise; I thought he would win Virginia by a wider margin. If McCain holds on to North Carolina, Missouri, and Montana, then I think it will end, as Rove predicted, with Obama at 372 electoral votes. And, it looks as though Obama will get about 52% of the vote, to McCain’s 47%, as I predicted.
Michael Barone guesses--how many times is he mistaken?--that Florida will go into the Obama column, even though Fox hasn’t yet called it.
Many of the states are relatively close, but this isn’t horseshoes.
Obama takes Ohio. He’s Prez-Elect.
Okay, so Observation #1 is: Memo to GOP National Committee: Nominating crotchety Arizona Senators doesn’t work very well.
Fox just called Ohio for Obama.
Now, it’s just a matter of watching to see how many more House and Senate seats the Democrats can pick up.
Probably not a late night for me.
It could be much worse than it’s looking right now. Mitch McConnell and Saxby Chambliss look like they’re going to hold on, and Wicker in Mississippi looks pretty good too. If those results stand, there is always the prospect of a filibuster, and a bit of leverage to test the talk about bipartisanship.
McCain seems to have been closing the gap, but Obama seems to have been able to run out the clock on him, having built up a substantial lead (in the polls and, as is likely, in early voting). The E.C. result will probably be more pronounced than the popular vote. (Will that make folks fall back in love with the Electoral College? I doubt it.) Right now, McCain is actually ahead in the popular vote, but that won’t last, as cities are typically counted later and as the west coast returns come in.
Elizabeth Dole is getting crushed in North Carolina. Good riddance! She’s a mediocrity, who succeeded only on the name of her (slightly) more worthy husband. (Bob Dole is the only GOP presidential nominee for whom I did not cast my vote. I voted Libertarian instead.) Clear out the deadwood, and get someone ready in the bullpen for six years from now.
What makes a blowout? Some history:
So the exit poll crosstabs have been dribbling out on the networks for the last hour and a half (it is 6:45 pm eastern time right now), and there is an art form to decoding these before the polls close. The networks won’t tell you who’s going to win where, but they’ll tell you how certain issues and voting groups are unfolding, such that--wink, wink, nudge, nudge--if you are a political junkie you can decode them to tell what is going to happen.
That said, the early exit polls point to an Obama victory as expected, but with some weirdness and post-election openings for Republicans. It looks to be closer than the last polls thought (don’t count out the Mac just yet!), and on some issues it seems many voters are going with Obama the Image rather than the substance. 43% say the government tries to do too much. That looks to me like a solid base on which to build, and is likely higher than the number of people who would have said that in 1964 had there been exit polls back then. And there are other odd results of the exit polls I’ve seen so far that testify to the cognitive dissonance (and hence volatility) of the American electorate.
Now, I’m going to crack open a bottle of Palin Syrah to watch the real returns roll in.
It is starting to rain fairly hard here in northern Virginia at 4:15 pm. Will it depress late turnout by voters Obama needs in large proportion to carry the state?
In California, Proposition 8 is on the ballot to reverse the reversing of Proposition 22 by the California Supreme Court. If that left you confused, don’t worry. You’re not alone. In essence, Prop. 8 is trying to re-establish the status-quo ante of state sanctioned marriage existing only between a man and a woman in California. Right now it is polling about even or slightly down--which is not good news.
But this ad against Prop. 8 and captured by Hedgehog Blog is really something else. It shows two Mormon
missionaries storm troopers raiding a lesbian couple’s home, stealing their wedding rings, performing an illegal search of the premises and tearing up their marriage certificate. I count it as just another example of the growing hubris on that side of the political aisle. Feeling ever more confident of the victory of their guy and the victory of their issues--especially in California--their mask is slipping and their true bigotry is shining through like a beacon. They are now talking in public the way they once would only talk to each other. Catholics have denounced the ad--and well they should as any person with any sense knows that the Catholic Church will be next on the political chopping block. (As if this is an unfamiliar spot for us anyway!)
What remains a mystery to me (though not really) is how an ad like this could be made and aired by people who consider themselves well-meaning and serious when the truth of what happened out here is exactly the reverse of what the ad implies. The truth is that if there was any metaphorical storming of homes, it was the judges of California’s Supreme Court who stormed the homes of all Californians when they told them that they must accept state sanctioned opinions about homosexual marriage--even if those opinions are contrary to their own consciences and even though there is no record of popular sentiment in support of it.
H/T: Hugh Hewitt
I have been discussing C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man with my students. The context is a "Great Books"-oriented core class in which other authors are Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, and Locke.
On one level, they seem to "get" Lewis’s argument concerning the conquest of nature, but they explain it to themselves in "ecological" terms. They seem to profess to respect nature when it comes to cutting down trees or drilling for oil.
Why can’t they extend this line of reasoning to themselves and the question of, say, abortion?
...have the election pretty close. And if you click on the link, you’ll see that these guys have been pretty close to exactly right in recent elections. So go to RCP and be edified that the very last studies aren’t so terrible.
I have no cute voting story. I walked right into my precinct at about 845am, chatted with the nice ladies, voted electronically, and left by 9am. No wait for me. My precinct--basically working-class white--will go heavily for McCain, as far as I know. So what’s convenient for me may not be such great news overall. But of course I’m not sure.
Last night I had a terrifying and unusually lucid dream. I was cornered in a train car that was speeding out of control and was headed toward a bridge that had been blown up. I was trying to tell the people who were gathered around and barking at me that the train had to stop and someone had to pull the emergency brake--but they screamed that they would not listen to me because I had called in the wrong vote . . . for American Idol. Because I had done this horrible thing, they said, they were now going to make sure that the winner of American Idol became our next president. "But the bridge . . .!" I shouted. Then I woke up . . . only to read Andrew Breitbart’s column today in which he argues that we are headed toward an American Idol presidency and in which he practically begs Republicans to eschew the model of their Democrat brethren, keep their heads in the coming years, and remember--first and foremost--that the bridge is broken. We need to figure a way to get those guys to pull the brake.
Oh, yeah. He also engages in some political heresy and I am happy to endorse it. He notes that even with all the tumult of the Bush years, he still likes the guy and thinks that, basically, he did a decent job. Did he have failed policies? You bet. Was he, on some level, fundamentally naive about the nastiness in Washington and his ability to prevail there with a "new tone?" Absolutely. Did he approach the situation in Iraq with an overly optimistic understanding of human nature and animating principle in "every human heart" to be free? Certainly. Did he underestimate the power of evil? I think so. But all of these failures were encouraged and drawn out by an opposition party working in concert with (if not in agreement with--and I wouldn’t go that far) the forces around the world that wish to see the power and majesty of the American republic diminished. They were encouraged by people who either do not understand the nature of the threat or who, in any case, are not persuaded that we deserve to prevail. In short, Bush had to fight enemies at home and abroad. He never could do the former effectively, I think, because he did not understand--or, quite possibly--he did not want to understand them. Instead he focused on the bridge ahead that was out and spent his presidency looking for the brake. Maybe, in retrospect, we’ll all come to see that this was the best that could be expected given the circumstances. The surge abroad seems to be working. We still need an intellectual one here at home. It is very hard to blame Bush for not being able to marshal those forces . . . particularly when so many of them were marshaled against him. I wish him peace of mind and of soul as he exits the stage and I thank him for his efforts to keep our country safe during these troubled last eight years.
I arrived relatively early and waited for about an hour at my precinct, the longest I’ve ever had to wait to vote. The retirees who staff the precinct were very well organized and had things running oh so smoothly. Kudos to them. My wife went right after I got home, and it took her less than 30 minutes. I assume that she didn’t cancel my vote, so to speak.
On my way into work, I’m going to stop off at my local Starbucks, to take the free cup of coffee they’re offering to voters. Perhaps some people were encouraged to vote by this offer. My motivation is simply to do my part of cutting into the profit margins of a company whose owners and most of whose employees likely support the wrong guy today.
I interrupt the expected election anguish to register dismay about something else: My fourth-grader is learning Powerpoint in her public school. Another sign of the ruin of public education. Don’t they know that power corrupts, and Powerpoint corrupts absolutely? I’ve practically given up using Powerpoint, even for data-intensive presentations. (I tried to join Powerpointers Anonymous to kick the habit, but the 12-step program was a Powerpoint presentation, so. . .)
Meanwhile, I found out yesterday that my first book, Churchill on Leadership, is now available in Croatian. Maybe I should move there after today??
Stock market futures are up sharply before the opening this morning. Does it tell us anything about the election? Probably not, but I thought yesterday’s flat-as-a-board market was a sign Wall Street was waiting the result before moving again.
Those two villages in Vermont that always vote Republican at midnight were swept by Obama. The final polls show Obama by 8-10%.
Stanley Kurtz sums up well the primary case against Obama:
Obama is clever and pragmatic, it’s true. But his pragmatism is deployed on behalf of radical goals. Obama’s heart is, and will remain, with the Far Left. Yet he will surely be cautious about grasping for more, at any given moment, than the political traffic will bear. That should not be mistaken for genuine moderation. It will merely be the beginning stages of a habitually incremental radicalism. In his heart and soul, Barack Obama was and remains a radical-stealthy, organizationally sophisticated, and — when necessary — tactically ruthless. The real Obama — the man beyond the feel-good symbol — is no mystery. He’s there for anyone willing to look. Sad to say, few are.
I would add that Obama seeks a return to the revolutionary meaning of the Declaration of Independence. This is not--especially not--Harry Jaffa’s Lincoln’s Declaration or some sentimental historical document. Obama’s revolutionary Declaration is an imperative of audacious hope; this lies behind Reverend Wright’s thunderous sermons, this inspires terrorist Bill Ayers, this moves minorities in Chicago; this fuels Barack Obama’s soul. His Audacity of Hope is a brilliant example of how to argue as a radical while appearing to be a moderate. Charles Kesler has opened this window on Obama’s soul.
Any post-mortems on the election, whatever its result, must indict leading Republican politicians for failure to have read and understood Obama’s books. It is a sign of the intellectual corruption that infects Republican politics.
As in all watershed elections, the interpretation of the Declaration of Independence will play the central role, as it did in 1800, 1860, 1932, and (to a lesser extent) 1980. The true Republican Party reform begins by its rearticulating the meaning of the Declaration of Independence for the 21st century. That interpretation must not lack in audacity or hope, not to speak of defenses of the rule of law and natural rights.
I just looked at the polls for a last time. Most of the battleground states are within the margin of error. In fact, most of them are just about a tie. with McCain, if anything, making very slight gains here at the end That final state that could conceivably put McCain over the top isn’t there, as far as I can see. McCain could also easily lose every battleground state, and in a surge year, we have to tell the truth, all the close results tend to go one way. But the polls themselves suggest some kind of split, with PA reasonably close but no cigar for McCain and the tireless Palin, who did excellent work in the Virtuous State. I still tend to think the early voting will give Obama GA, although nobody can be sure. A huge turnout tomorrow could prove my guess wrong.
In any genuinely scientific prediction, we have to take into account Obama’s big advantages in organization and enthusiasm, the close to doubling of the African-American turnout, the semi-collapse of Republican support among Hispanics, and McCain’s failure to close (or conduct) the camapaign with a coherent message. So I have to say that Peter’s and Karl Rove’s predictions are pretty optimistic. Most states will be blowouts, which means the Republicans will have a lot of work to do just to regain a serious presence in a dozen or more states.
In the House, it appears the Democrats will pick up 30 seats or more. This election is a continuation of the disaster of 2006; most of the losses can be accounted for by one Republican error after another. In the Senate, things are just as bad, but our standards have gotten so low if the Democrats finish under 60 seats we think we’ve done well. My guess is that the Chambliss victory in the runoff will keep the Democrats at 59. If Coleman holds on, 58. The bad outcomes here aren’t the result of a "crisis in conservatism," but campaign cluelessness, incompetence, and corruption. The only way the Republicans could have lost the Alaska Senate race, for example, is to have a convicted felon for its nominee. And I don’t have time to begin to list all the obvious ways--beginning with early voting and campaign finance--that the Republicans have failed to adapt to a changing political environment. Pete has written well in the threads about how lost the Republicans are this time without the Bush/Rove personal organization doing what should be the party’s work.
Over at The Corner they are arguing the future of conservatism (for more, go here and keep scrolling and follow the links to others). In the mean time, Instapundit notes: "if the federal government were properly limited to its constitutional powers, there would be much less to fear, and elections would be less stressful for all concerned." And he notes that .Big Government "does wonders for politicians, bureaucrats, and the well-connected." Big government just might have something to do with the feeling that the government is against the average citizen
This Karl Rove prediction shouldn’t surprise anyone. Obama comes in with 338 electoral votes to John McCain’s 200. See his map, but in his words:
"The final Rove & Co. electoral map of the 2008 election cycle points to a 338-200 Barack Obama electoral vote victory over John McCain tomorrow, the largest electoral margin since 1996. All remaining toss-up states have been allocated to the candidate leading in them, with Florida (27 EV) going to Obama, and Indiana (11 EV), Missouri (11 EV), North Carolina (15 EV), and North Dakota (3 EV) going to McCain. The two candidates are in a dead heat in Missouri and North Carolina, but they go to McCain because the most recent polls conducted over this past weekend show him narrowly ahead. Florida, too, could end up in McCain’s column since he’s benefited from recent movement in the state."
I think this is sensible and I don’t think McCain will get more than 47% of the popular vote, hence it is likely that Obama will get above 51%.
That was the title of an email that a colleague sent out to the faculty loop. Here’s the text:
A conversation in the hallway:
Student: I can’t come to class; I have to go and vote.
Prof: Who’re you voting for?
Student: Don’t hate me, but McCain.
Prof: Why would you do such a thing?
Student: Because I like McCain.
Student: Because I really don’t like Obama.
My wife saw the email before I did and immediately called him out about it in public. I did so in private (not having thought to do so before all my colleagues).
So far, the only responses have been those applauding my wife (even from folks who give no evidence of any willingness to vote the same way as the student).
Let’s hope that my colleague finally learns a lesson he should have learned a long time ago.
Let me deal with the least likely (but not, I stress, impossible) outcome first: John McCain wins, defying the polls and the odds. I can’t imagine a plausible scenario under which Obama supporters would readily regard such a result as legitimate. A margin large enough under other circumstances to confer legitimacy and perhaps even a mandate would be explained in terms of reprehensible voter racism. (Having consistently lied to the pollsters, we’re actually unworthy of Obama and probably don’t deserve the right to vote.) A narrow margin--or, heaven forfend, a mere Electoral College victory--would produce some combination of charges of Republican vote fraud and a constitutional crisis. One would hope that cooler heads would prevail, but the last two mornings after don’t offer much hope that a McCain victory would be greeted with equanimity on the Left.
I don’t think that those last two days (or in 2000, weeks) after provide much of a clue to the conservative and Republican response. Republicans and conservatives (they’re not the same) with whom I’ve spoken are dispirited, but they’re not threatening to move to Canada. (More likely, of course, is that the U.S. would become "Canada," with Barack Obama as our very own Pierre Trudeau, convincing us of our moral and intellectual superiority--we voted for him, after all--even as we diminished in economic and political stature vis-a-vis the rest of the world.)
Some might check out in other ways, disengaging from politics and/or (as my dad has threatened to do) voting (gasp!) Libertarian in future elections.
But I would have us remember a few things. First, while John McCain’s defeat would certainly reflect the tarnished character of the Republican brand, it would not be a repudiation of any particular "brand" or wing of Republicanism (McCain isn’t that consistent), nor would it be a repudiation of conservatism. Though surely more "conservative" than Obama, McCain isn’t "really" a conservative. The character of Republicanism will (and ought to be) up for grabs after the election, and the playing field ought to be pretty level, having been flattened by the Nukebama. This is a conversation in which conservatives and their Republican friends ought eagerly to participate. But if they check out, so to speak, they can’t.
Second, an Obama Administration, combined with large Democratic majorities in Congress, is surely going to produce lots of stuff (a technical term, I realize) to which conservatives of all stripes (and their Republican friends) can object. We should not indulge in Obama hatred (look what Clinton hatred got us), but we should join the argument on the level of ideas. If we can do so seriously, but not bitterly, with clarity rather than anger and dyspepsia, it will be good for us and for the country. We might actually find our ground again.
Third, we have lots to learn from and about the Obama campaign. I’ve already suggested that Obama’s fund-raising successes have forever destroyed the public financing regime (an unintendedly "conservative" consequence of his campaign). There are some lessons there. But certainly there’s also a story there. How did he--well, they--do it? How did he raise over $500 million in increments of no more than $2,300? How much of it came on the internet via relatively untraceable giftcards? Did the Obama campaign exercise the kind of diligence about the identities of its donors that’s consistent with reasonable expectations regarding transparency in a private funding regime? Will it give an investigative reporter or research team access to its donor lists so that they can examine a sample of giftcard donors to see whether they in fact exist or in fact gave what they’re said to have given? Or will that take a subpoena from a prosecutor? (I assume that no Congressional committee will examine the collapse of the McCain-Feingold regime in a way that might embarrass the Obama Administration.)
And then there’s the Obama campaign’s ground game, which looks like it’s going to be even better than Karl Rove’s 2004 effort. Republicans will have to figure out how to run a campaign in which 30% or more of the voters go to the polls early.
There’s a lot to think about and a lot to discuss. But not if you’re just crying in your beer with Joe Sixpack.
Here’s a pithy article, based on an interview with a real plumber, that McCain should have read. It’s about the many features of O’s policies that will cost Americans jobs.
Interesting factoid from Greg Mankiw. Tracks with Michael Barone’s analysis of the 1992 election, where declining home values were especially telling in suburban counties that Clinton flipped from GOP strongholds.
Because social science is not an exact science. Hence the dream of taking politics out of government and replacing it with dissinterested expertise is misguided.
Sad pop culture news: Fox is cancelling "King of the Hill." We’ll miss you, Hank Hill, especially your valuable aphorism: "If Ronald Reagan dyed his hair--and I’m not saying he did--it was just to show his toughness to the Communists."
Churchill liked to say that. Today Bill Kristol taunts liberals with the prospect of a slim McCain victory, showing that we can be jaunty and cheerful even in the face of prospective defeat. I have no doubt that if McCain upsets Obama tomorrow, the sound of liberal heads exploding will be deafening.
One important aspect of understanding this election (assuming Obama wins) is whether the Democrats run the table in the Senate races and get to a filibuster-proof 60. If it’s a genuine 1980-change/wave election, they probably will. Not entirely a bad thing--they will be fully in charge, and can’t blame Republican obstructionism for their inability to govern. And then they will overreach.
I’m guessing they won’t. I predict Chambliss will hold on in Georgia, Wicker in Mississippi, Coleman in Minnesota, and McConnell in Kentucky. I’m afraid Gordon Smith in Oregon and John Sununu in New Hampshire will lose. The Democrats will also gain open seats in New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia. This will leave them short of 60.
Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist historian (he is over 90 years old, but lucid) is interviewed by the BBC, and this is notable: "It is certainly greatest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s. As Marx and Schumpeter foresaw, globalization not only destroys heritage, but is incredibly unstable. It operates through a series of crises.
There’ll be a much greater role for the state, one way or another. We’ve already got the state as lender of last resort, we might well return to idea of the state as employer of last resort, which is what it was under FDR. It’ll be something which orients, and even directs the private economy." Also see this article in BBC, "Marx popular amid credit crunch". And then Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s note on all of it.
Obama supposedly is against reviving the "fairness doctrine" (better known as the "Hush Rush Rule"). He’d better tell that to Pelosi and Thin Reid. Meanwhile, one observer says blacks and liberals better be prepared to be disappointed:
African Americans -- and a lot of other people -- better hunker down for some disappointment. Their hero is already getting fitted for the economic and political straitjacket he’ll wear for the next four years. The Middle East wars will rage on and that shiny piggy bank known as the U.S. Treasury will be busted. As black folks always say, when they let us take over, you know things are pretty dire.
I’m not making any predictions. McCain has to flip Pennsylvania--period. Obama was crushed in PA in the primary, but the general is a different matter. His recently revealed comment about "bankrupting the coal industry" might help, except the coal belt of PA is out west, where McCain is already strong. Philadelphia probably doesn’t care, but should, given the continuing slow decline of the Pennsylvania economy.
The polls are all pretty close and have Obama up about 8. The battleground state polls have room for hope. Those of you who know me know I said in August that the most natural result would be Obama by 8. This just ain’t a Republican year. Obama has campaign well, his weaknesses and secrets haven’t been effectively exploited, and the economic crisis forced McCain to do battle on his weakest front. Then there’s early voting and Obama’s amazing ground game. Still, I’m not kidding about a ghost of chance remaining.
In hasty response to Richard’s post below, I posit at least four Obamas: one, the gifted writer of Dreams from My Father, the intellectual that attracts youth, media, and those disillusioned by the lack of ideas in our politicians; two, the cunning and bold politician who defeated the Clintons; three, a marvelous rhetorician; and, four, I would add, the activist who absorbed lessons from the streets of New York and Chicago and the brutality of Third World politics. He is comfortable as a writer, a moving orator, a cunning pol, or a street thug. An Obama Administration would exploit all four resources. His purpose would be to revolutionize American politics in a way that would overshadow Reagan and FDR. Obama is certainly not going to be like any of those guys on our currency.
Politically, we know that Senator Obama knows how to play hardball. In his first race he sued to get everyone else off the balott. And in 2004, his minions pushed to have the divorce proceedings of his opponent revealed to the public. A few years ago, he did not assist a bipartisan efforts to defeat a Chicago machine apparachik in a race for the Cook County Board President. Perhaps Obama judged that the machine candidate would win anyway, and, therefore, there was no reason to oppose the machine. Or perhaps he is comfortable working with the machine (perhaps because he wished to move it to serve his own ends). When a campaign aid told the Canadian government not to take Senator Obama's anti-Nafta remarks too seriously. Was that his real policy? Or was that aid fired for mis-stating Obama's real position? This year, he cleverly hit the smaller states hard in the primaries, and was therefore able to defeat Hillary Clinton. He pledged to take public financing for the general election when it was his interest to do so. And he switched to private financing when it was his interest to do so. He keeps saying that Senator McCain is replacing $12,000 worth of health benefits with $5,000 of tax breaks. (It is not his fault that Senator McCain did not respond by asking "does anyone think I would design a plan that would leave workers $7,000 in the hole? That $5,000 is to pay taxed on precisely that $12,000 Senator Obama keeps talking about. And he says he wants to change the tone of Washington . . .) By talking about it that way, Senator Obama avoids talking about the philosophical issues that divide him from Senator McCain on health care. In 2004 he said that he preferred a single payer health care system for the U.S. Is that still his thinking? Does he wish to move us in that direction? Assuming his proposed plan will be renegotiated with Congress, in what direction would he like to see it move?
The Obama campaign kicked the reporters for papers that endoresed Senator McCain off the campaign's plane, and the campaign has refused to give another interview ever again to a TV station that asked Senator Biden tough questions in an interview. The campaign and its friends has sued or threatened to sue its critics. Senator Obama has not held a press conference in ages, or even given reporters significant access. When Jack Tapper caught up with Obama on an airport tarmac just today, and asked the Senator how he would spend the $700 billion in funds now allocated to backstop the financial system, Obama refused to respond, saying it was not the time or place. When Tapper suggested that he hold a press conference. Obama said he would do so on Wednesday. Senator Obama has sat back and allowed his campaign to make it relatively easy to contribute illegally. (As I understand it, the default settings of credit card receiving software check the credit card number against the name and address. If that's the case, the people raising money for Senator Obama, unlike those doing so for Senator McCain, turned that part of the software off.) In all these cases, Obama is being an effective politician. He is doing everything he can within the law to further his own cause. Moreover, he is good at working the system. He is, in other words, a clever lawyer and will probably be an effective bureaucrat. He is a good politician who knows how to get the nasty parts of the business done, even as he seems to be above the fray.
But how will Obama legislate? And how will he deal with questions that can't be handled in that manner? Does he have real backbone? Has he ever dealt with a situation where the tools of organization, litigation, protest, and legislation don't provide the answer? How will he act when that case comes up? Senator Obama recently declared that "Power concedes nothing without a fight." When our system of freewheeling debate and checks and balances opposes him, will he see it as part of the constitutional system he is sworn to "preserve, protect, and defende" or as a power to be opposed? Is that rhetoric that a master politician is using to fire up his base, or a declaration of principles? (In short, what rules of the game will a President Obama observe? Does anyone know for sure?)
Regarding legislation, is his comment about using the tax system to make coal power impossible a sign? It would be a good way to kill the industry without seeming to. Is that what he really wants to do, or was that what he said to please the audience of a liberals? In foreign policy, recall this bit from the debates, discussing sitting down with Ahmadinejad without preconditions: "So we sit down with Iran and they say they'll wipe Israel off the face of the map and we say 'No you won't'?" How would a President Obama respond to such a situation? McCain gave a fair summary of what Obama seemed to be saying. Presumably there is more to Obama's position, but what is it? We don't know. And, given Obama's professed hope to bring us all together, will he regard those who oppose his plans with the good will he has often displayed in his manner? Or will he try to shut them up as his campaign has tried to do? (An extension of his litigation against his political opponants in the past?) (Does he agree with his friend Cass Sunstein that the government must regulate speech and the press in order to re-unify our culture in the age of talk radio and the internet.) All these questions remain unanswered as we go to the polls.
The Mason-Dixon poll has McCain up two in Ohio. And McCain’s performance on SNL was excellent. He played himself a lot better than Obama could ever play himself. (Imagine Barack being ironically self-deprecating while staying in character.) The idea of buying time of QVC--because that’s all he could afford--allowed for a lot of gentle, pointed shots at Obama, and Tina Fey was sort of subdued and almost ashamed in his presence. Her moment as the rogue Sarah was funny, though. So was the set of three "Joe dolls"--Joe the Plumber, Joe Six-Pack, and Joe Biden.
If you think you’re not psyched up enough to bother voting on the real election day, let the Sowell man speak to you.
UPDATE: There are now seven national polls up today, and McCain is down 6.4. If that is all the information we had, we’d have to say he still has a very outside chance of winning. Like Lucas in the thread, I can’t help but think in terms of Obama’s superior ground game, but it’s a McCain election-day surge is not inonceivable.
Anyone who looks at the stats from the early voting in Georgia can doubt that Obama will likely carry the state. About half of those who’ll actually vote voted early. The turnout is disproportionally African American. Overall, black turnout will about double this year. The Obama people employed about 4800 captains statewide to get people to the polls. And it’s been touching to see people patiently waiting for hours to make sure their voice is heard. Part of this is the real pride and hope that come with finally having one of your own competing so well for the highest office. But admirable human emotion has to be mobilized with "community organization." Obama’s organization has got the job done. The best poll I’ve seen has Obama up 10 or more among early voters.
MEANWHILE, the Republicans haven’t taken early voting seriously and even SAVED a lot of their money for the last few days of the campaign. So NOW McCain is outspending OBAMA, but now is surely too late. It should be an elementary principle of political science to encourage early voting, because, by providing multiple days and opportunites for voting, it takes a lot of the CHANCE out of it. You’re bound to lose some voters for all sorts of reasons when you focus on a single twelve-hour period.
REPUBLICANS should not take any solace in what’s most obviously different about this election--the first African-American nominee of a major party. The habits developed this time will likely persist to some extent. And, as pete has told us time and again, the Republicans aren’t going to be able to win with no effective appeal to black and Hispanic voters at all.
Well, like everyone else I’m watching the weekend unfold, and grasping at straws showing McCain supposedly surging. I can’t tell. But there are two things to keep your eyes on as the votes are counted Tuesday night. The prospective election of Obama is touted as a sign of the end of the Age of Reagan (Patent Pending), and the beginning of the Europeanization of America. Maybe. But watch Massachusetts, where a ballot measure to repeal the state income tax might pass, and California where Proposition 8 would repeal gay marriage. Polls show both are going to be close calls.
If these two measures pass--in the two most liberal states in the nation--it will be a sign that the country is still a cognitively dissonant, center-right nation. And that will be a problem for Obama.
I still doubt it, which is different from not wanting it. Evidence: McCain’s only down 4 in PA according Rasmussen, and he’s even closed to 8 in the ALLENTOWN MORNING CALL poll. And of course there’s the really good day on Zogby. A convoluted theory is that the early voters are disproportionally those who would have voted for Obama no matter what. The doubtful and axious have hung back and may be breaking toward Mac, at least some. We’ll see. Other good news: The half-hour network Obama show did no good, and commercials at this point are clearly are waste of (his huge amount of) of money. Realistic news: It’s hard to see how the really huge turnout--given the enthusiasm gap--benefits McCain. But as I said before, I really have nothing new to say about the election, except that Mac should have kept the focus on the evildoing of the all-Democratic government (that is, kept the focus on what’s most obviously true).