Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


A George Wallace for the 21st Century

The ever-insightful Jonathan Rauch has some intelligent things to say about Sarah Palin in the National Journal.  While some have compared her to Barry Goldwater, the more useful analogy might be George Wallace.  Although, unlike Wallace, Palin is no racist ("Nothing in this article," Rauch is careful to add, "implies that the GOP is a racist party."), the nationalism, anti-intellectualism, and provincialism of her rhetoric bear striking similarity to that of the Alabama governor.  As Rauch points out, her brand of populism isn't really conservatism, let alone any sort of libertarianism.  Moreover, it's incapable of winning at the national level.
Categories > Politics


Prognosticator of the Milennium

The award goes to Clifford Stoll of Newsweek, who in 1995 confidently predicted that the internet was merely a passing fad.  His best line:

...Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

Or how about this?

We're promised instant catalog shopping-just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet-which there isn't-the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

Today, Stoll is a stay-at-home dad who, in his spare time, makes bottles.

Categories > Technology


"TR the Socialist?"

With this head in the print edition of the WaPo, Michael Gerson's column scorns Glenn Beck's attack on Theodore Roosevelt for his Progressive policies.  The former Bush 43 speechwriter should have followed the lead of our Roger Beckett

In his "New Nationalism" speech at John Brown's home in Bloody Kansas, Roosevelt sees progress in history as arising from "this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess."  

Gerson objects that conservatives should no more go after TR than they should denounce Lincoln.  TR claims the legacy of Lincoln.  But Lincoln viewed human history as strangers becoming friends, not one of class conflict.  Moreover, TR pushed centralizartion of power far further than circumstances justified:  "The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good."  Even Gerson has to allow that TR's "progressivism could sound a bit like socialism." 

In claiming TR as a forefather of "reform conservatism" Gerson simply shows his allegiance to big-government conservatism and his lack of understanding of founding principles.  His speeches for "W" cited the Declaration of Independence often but without understanding the limited government principles within his founding document.

Glenn Beck's mentor on Progressivism, RJ Pestritto, has written these books so you can decide.

Categories > Conservatism

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Go Ahead, Make Obama's Day

After his Health Care Seminar (brief astute comments), Professor Obama awarded the National Medals of Health Arts and of Humanities to 20 honorees, among them Clint Eastwood, Bob Dylan, and former Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorensen.  Like Dirty Harry, Dylan was a no-show.  Is he still a Barry Goldwater fan?

Pop Culture

Scouting the Future

Today in the Wall Street Journal, Tony Woodlief  (who writes this excellent blog and many good things about fatherhood) examines the Boy Scouts of America through the lens of their own manual and that book's continued "evolution."  He begins with a bit of healthy skepticism about whether the organization can be as worthy as it used to be given these changes--some of which, no doubt, are more deserving of contempt than simple skepticism.  But the thing I always admire in Woodlief's writing is his gallant striving toward the point of good common-sense.  He takes stock of the deteriorating situation, admits the problems, and in good conservative form, he laments the passing of a more rational era and the coming into being of an age that appears to have lost its sense . . . but he stands back again in the distance and reconsiders his initial inclinations.  And, as he does that, Woodlief invariably comes up with little gems of paragraphs like this one:

I suppose a handbook won't determine whether my sons have an enriching Scout experience. Their troop's leaders will. And I will. "Troops," says an Eagle Scout friend, "are like churches." You get some good and some bad; it depends on who's doing the work. This reliance on local community is, more than stances on gays or the environment, what makes the Boy Scouts of America conservative in the most wise and American sense of that term.

Those Woodlief kids are some very lucky little boys.   Whatever their troop turns out to be like, they've already got what's more important:  a father who is teaching them the proper way to scout the future.
Categories > Pop Culture

Foreign Affairs

Can We Run This Guy Somewhere?

Wow.  Some Brit dude named Nigel Farage delivers a beatdown to the incoming president of the EU, who is naturally another no-name Belgian.  I don't really know what the European Parliament does except provide an excuse for expense-paid gabfests in Strasbourg.  Expect Farage at next year's CPAC.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

The Family

Soul-Deadening Sex Ed

Three decades of prophylactic-centered sex-ed were supposed to have produced a healthier and happier population of young people.  Our new acceptance of the fact that "they're going to do it anyway" we were assured, would facilitate the dawn of a new age that was relatively free of STDs, witnessed reduced rates of teen pregnancies (either through prevention or abortion) and, above all, produced a generation of young people with unprecedented self-awareness especially as it relates to their sexual natures.  Moreover, we were promised a more liberating, more mature, and more open public attitude toward sexual activity.  What has been the result?  Well . . . how's one for four?  And can we give that "one" back, please? 

This article suggests that we'd do better all around if we could give it back.

Written by a concerned pediatrician, Michelle Cretella, in The Providence Journal, it comes in response to the news of a disturbing uptick in teen pregnancy rates, and argues that, besides teen pregnancy, there are additional serious consequences resulting from increased sexual activity among adolescents and young people that are too often ignored.  Some key points from the article: 

1. "Sexually active adolescents and young adults under age 25 account for 50 percent of the 19 million new cases of STIs annually." [Sexually Transmitted Infection]

2.  "
One in five Americans over age 12 is infected with genital herpes, and one in four sexually active girls over age 13 is infected with at least one STI."

"America has failed to achieve levels of condom use among teens high enough to eliminate those STIs for which condoms are most preventive, (chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV), let alone those for which condoms are least preventive (herpes and human papillomavirus, or HPV)."  I'd add that this last type of sexual infection, HPV, is the kind most likely to infect young girls and that its consequences for them are quite serious.  It is the virus that leads to cervical cancer.

4. "
Sexually active girls are three times as likely to report being depressed and three times as likely to have attempted suicide as compared with sexually abstinent girls."

"Sexually active boys are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression and seven times as likely to have attempted suicide as compared with sexually abstinent boys."

What I like best about this article, however, is not that there is anything especially new or surprising in it.  It is, rather, that in addition to actually brokering the question of mental or "soul" health, it also has a common sense physician's approach to the question of abstinence education.  I think this question is too often polarized and, as a result, even the best of the opinions on both sides are caricatured and used as a cudgel in debates between right and left. 

My problem with both sides in the often fiery debate between conventional sex-ed advocates and abstinence-only advocates is that in their extremes they both tend to insult the intelligence and capacities of young people.  One side wants to assume that self-control is an impossible goal completely beyond young people with raging hormones and, sometimes (one suspects), they appear to suggest that self-control is something akin to cheating oneself out of a rockin' good time, (i.e., something only for the brain-washed or "dorky" kids not likely to have the opportunity for sex anyway).   The other side, for all of their lamentations over the sexualization of the culture and the detrimental effects this has had on morality, appear at times to present simple-minded and stubborn solutions.  The whole, "It is wrong; just say no" argument has much to be said for it, but it fails by itself (and on the whole, miserably, I'd suggest) to appeal when put up against the siren song of the opposite view--appealing as that alternative does to very natural--and, yes, legitimate--urges.  Also missed, too often, by abstinence advocates is the extent to which the culture (including many abstinence advocates) has accepted delaying marriage until late in the 20s and even 30s.  Most people are not designed to have the fortitude of a nun or a monk . . . and there are good and natural reasons for this that ought to be addressed before an appeal to "abstinence-only" can be taken with as much seriousness as it deserves.

H/T:  Anchor Rising 

Categories > The Family

Health Care

Ramirez's Latest Offering on Health Care Reform

Michael Ramirez in today's Investor's Business Daily.
Categories > Health Care

Foreign Affairs

Europe ... to Hell in a Handbasket

I previously mentioned the woeful plight of Greece's economy, which will require a European bail-out if Greece isn't to default into utter bankruptcy. I suggested that, despite aggravation and reticence, Europe (read: Germany) would furnish the loan in order to avoid a collapsed economy in the Euro-zone.

Of course, that was before Greece reacted to Europe's hesitation by spurning the Germans as NAZI thieves, condemning Italians as mutually corrupt and rolling up the entirety of Europe's "very poor quality" leadership as having botched the economic crisis and being "not up to the task" of "managing the fortunes of Europe." Greece...lecturing Germany...on fiscal management. In response, the NYT this morning writes that banks have begun to "bet" in favor of Greece's default (severely harming the chance of a recovery). Greek unionists are, of course, still rioting in the streets in opposition to any budget reform.

And now it seems that Socialist Spain is likewise circling the drain. Spain has posted 7 consecutive quarters of negative growth as Spanish GDP fell 3.6% in 2009, has the highest unemployment in the EU at 20% and an exploding deficit causing credit raters to degrade its standing. But as children will do, the socialists are blaming everyone but themselves. Particularly (you can't make this stuff up) they're blaming an "international conspiracy" by George W. Bush, Western newspapers and those pesky free-markets.

I wonder if this means Spain will soon be asking the U.S. for a bail-out? And I wonder if they would find a sympathetic ear in the Obama administration?

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Economy Hell in a Handbasket, Part 2: Nationalizing the 401(k)

Next in our cheery run-down of recent news, Obama has begun to think the unthinkable and suggest that the government nationalize private 401K accounts.

First, this plan is only half (if that) motivated by a sense of necessity to protect retirees. The true motivation is egregious spending and unsustainable entitlements - and the fear that China and foreign countries will abandon the dollar, stop buying treasury (junk) bonds and leave us too far in the red to sustain our indebted economy. One cannot but see the similarities to cash-strapped Argentina's recent banana-republic-style nationalization of retirement accounts. Have we sunk so far that socialist tyrants are our role-models?

Also, Obama's "option" seems to have all the fixings of a true hustler's scam. In return for 5% of your wages, the government offers a mere 3% interest return. Compared to the 7%-11% average enjoyed in the stock market, that seems a shabby deal. Of course, the government promises an assured dividend for life - but consider the plight of Social Security before buying into such a proposal.

Americans don't need more low-return options for investing their money - they need more money! This proposal reeks of the same government-entitlement, unfunded-mandate syndrome which presently plagues our economy. Just as was done with Social Security, Congress will immediately spend the accumulated wealth and press for higher taxes (or beg foreign buyers to bolster our exponential debt) in order to recover shortfalls down the road.  

The Social Security crisis has apparently taught the Euro-socialist Democrats nothing. I could quote him almost daily, but this issue truly deserves Einstein's observation: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Categories > Economy


The Powers of the Senate and the Filibuster

As the arguments about whether the legislature may pass major health care reform via the reconciliation process, rather than the regular legislative process, I keep hearing comparisions to this debate with that of 2005, when republicans conisdered ignoring Democratic filibuster threats aimed at blocking nominees to various courts.  Two points, for starters seem to be worth making.

It is lamentable, though not surprising how common this comparison is. As a short glance at the U.S. Constitution reminds us, we are talking about two different powers.  Health care is legislation, as such it has to do with the Senate's powers under Article I of the Constitution. By contrast, the power to advise and consent is under Article II, and is one of the cases where the Senate partakes of the execuive power that is, for the most part, loged in the President of the United States. Whether filibuster is proper for and Article II process is very much open to question. Invoking the filibuster over nominees was unprecedented in 2005.

The second point is that the current debates vindicate the "gang of 14" who "saved the filibuster" by negotiating a deal whereby the Bush administration withdrew some nominees, and the Democrats in the Senate agreed not to filibuster the rest.  Even though there is a very big difference between using the filibuster for Article I powers than for Article II powers, it would have made no difference. Unfortunately, our political debate is too ill-informed nowadays for such things to come into play.

Categories > Congress


Great News, Bad News

John Judis calls our attention to a Pennsylvania poll that shows Pat Toomey with an eleven point lead over Arlen Specter.  If Specter makes it out of the Democratic primary (which is no sure thing), it is tough to see how Specter makes this up.  Its not like people are going to learn to like him more.

The crosstabs of the Franklin and Marshall poll that Judis cites are similar to the PPP polls before the Scott Brown race in Massachusetts.  Toomey beats Specter by more that 2 to 1 among whites, but Specter beats Toomey by over 20 to 1 (yes, you read that right) among nonwhites.  Specter also has a tiny lead over Toomey among young voters.  The last PPP poll of Massachusetts saw Scott Brown winning whites by 12 (thats alot anyway, but huge for Massachusetts) but losing nonwhites by large margins.  The good news is that there seems to have been a stampede of white persuadables towards Republicans in two Senate races and potentially in others where there is a credible Republican candidate.  The bad news is that this Republican surge seems based on winning whites by margins that I doubt are sustainable past the conditions of 2010.  The margins by which Republicans are losing nowhites are, I fear, all too sustainable if something does not change in Republican strategy.

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs Hell in a Handbasket, Part 1: Nanny States and Nuclear Iran

Glossing over the news of the past few days, I've noticed that everything is bad, it's all wrong, and I ought to have just stayed in bed.

First in this series of woe, Mark Steyn is unassailable in his recognition that Western nanny states are happy to regulate everything joyous in life - except actually keeping us alive. Point in case, Iran is openly, defiantly and aggressively charging ahead toward nuclear weapons. "When President Obama took office," Steyn notes, "the Islamic Republic had 400 centrifuges enriching up to 3.5%. A year later, it has 8,000 centrifuges enriching to 20%."

Running other people's lives is simple when it's as easy as passing a law or issuing a regulation, but dealing with foreign (especially rogue) nations who flaut international law and aren't much impressed by fancy rhetoric calls for qualities of statesmanship and leadership not particularly common among au pair politicians.

Steyn concludes: "It is now certain that Tehran will get its nukes, and very soon. This is the biggest abdication of responsibility by the western powers since the 1930s." Let us pray that the consequence is not so dear. All our hope may now rest on Israel's willingness to save the Western world.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Pop Culture

Operation Petticoat?

From screwball comedy to official policy in fifty years.
Categories > Pop Culture


Ambinder Spins

Mickey Kaus likes to call the Atlantic Monthly's Marc Ambinder the dreidel  because of how easily the Obama White House spins him.  Here is Ambinder doing some freelance Democratic spin. 

Ambinder argues that the tea party folks are mostly right-leaning independents and that this is a least as much a problem for the GOP as the Democrats.  Ambinder argues that these voters are unlikely to vote for a Democrat in any case so that if they are unsatisfied, they will either back splinter candidates or stay home.  So if you count the tea partiers as already Republican votes, the best that the GOP can hope is to not lose (if the tea partiers show up and vote Republican) or just plain lose (if they stay home or vote for splinter candidates.

This makes several, almost certainly alse assumptions.  It assumes that the tea party participants and their sympathizers were already in the Republican bag.  National Review did a survey of tea party sympathizers and found that 68% of them supported had McCain.  Thats alot, but that 32% shows room for growth over 2008 if those voters an be mobilized.  That would qualify as a potential gain for the GOP I think.

Ambinder also ignores how the upsurge of tea party activism has brought thousands of Americans into a form of spontaneous(ish), decentralized, right-of-center political activism and creates the potential for expansion of right-of-center GOTV, fundraising, candidate recruitment and other forms of political involvement beyond voting.  The tea parties are much to be preferred to the combination of apathy and despair that greeted that McCain campaign - Palin aside. 

There are ways that the tea parties could lead the Republicans into error, but not in the ways that Ambinder describes.  Where the Republicans nominate a credible candidate who is not an outright liberal, there is no evidence that the tea partiers will cause trouble.  They might even have inspired some people to vote, donate or volunteer.  Where Republicans nominate a Dede Scozzafava, they deserve what they get.  My worry is that Republicans will confuse the voice of the tea partiers with the voice of the median American voter, who, when he or she looks back on the last eight years of Republican presidential administration, might not look at increased domestic spending as the biggest or worst error of Republican-led government. 

Categories > Politics


Michael Burlingame on Lincoln

Here is Michael Burlingame's Colloquium on Lincoln from last Friday.  You should, if you don't already, know about his comprehensive two-volume bio of Lincoln, which you can also now get on Kindle for only $81.00 (per word, not a bad price!).

Categories > History

Lay off Scott Brown, already!

So Massachusetts' newest senator has taken office, and has cast a procedural vote in favor of the $15 billion "jobs" bill backed by the administration and the Democrat leadership.  Now he's getting bashed as a "turncoat" for breaking ranks with the Republican leadership (along with four other GOP senators, including, needless to say, Ohio's own George Voinovich).  I say give the guy a break.  After all, he's a Republican from Massachusetts, a state with twice as many Democrats as Republicans.  Assuming he'd like to be reelected in 2012, he's going to have to show that he doesn't march in lockstep with the rest of his party.  Obviously the "jobs" bill is silly legislation, and it isn't going to create any jobs; it's predicated on the idea that a break on Social Security taxes is all it will take to make employers start hiring again (although, it must be said, it's hardly sillier than the notion that another cut in the marginal income tax rate will cause employers to do likewise).  But it's only $15 billion, which is chump change compared to the equally futile stimulus bill, not to mention the health care abomination.  So if Brown wants to use this as an opportunity to prove to Massachusetts voters that he's his own man, then I say let him.  As long as he opposes Obamacare, and cap and tax, I'm willing to forgive a great deal.

Pop Culture

Those Hitler Videos

The WSJ gives some background on their rise. The coarsening of our culture is seen in SNL's 1982 firing of the writer who composed a Hitler in the Bunker sketch parodying the head of NBC.  Of course the current videos (e.g., this one on Scott Brown) are intentionally over-the-top.  Three-Penny Opera (Pirate Jenny) shocked German audiences as well, even as the 1928 Bertold Brecht play (and 1931 film) delighted them.  Here are Acts 1 and 2 from a Northwestern University production, with George Grosz sketches as a prelude.

The principle underlying Machiavellianism is playing itself out, in more vulger form.  The author of the Prince wrote comedies

Categories > Pop Culture

Political Parties

Glenn Beck at CPAC

I had the pleasure of hearing Glenn Beck's speech at CPAC last Saturday. (A transcript is here, but I would recommend watching the video, as the delivery is as good as the speech itself.) It was a great speech and well worth listening to. Beck is a really smart, self-educated fellow, so there is a certain clarity to what he says that all of us as citizens can understand. In the speech, he talks about the principles of the American founding as well as the progressive movement's efforts to critique and transform those principles, and he talks about these things in ways that are clear and effective. One part of the speech, however, seems to have created a small stir:

Dick Cheney, a couple of days ago was here, and he says it's going to be a good year for conservative ideas. That's true. That's very true. ... It's going to be a very good year. But it's not enough just to not suck as much as the other side. ... I have not heard people in the Republican Party yet admit that they have a problem. And when they do say they have a problem I don't know if I believe them. I haven't seen the come-to-Jesus moment of the Republican Party yet. I've voted Republicans almost every time in - every time I've gone. I - I don't know what they even stand for any more. And they've got to recognize that they have a problem. Hello! My name is the Republican Party and I've got a problem. I'm addicted to spending and big government.

Bill Bennett, writing over at NRO, says Beck's rhetoric is "dangerous":

[F]or him to continue to say that he does not hear the Republican party admit its failings or problems is to ignore some of the loudest and brightest lights in the party. ... [T]o say the GOP needs to hit a recovery-program-type bottom and hang its head in remorse, is to delay our own country's recovery from the problems the Democratic left is inflicting. The stakes are too important to go through that kind of exercise, which will ultimately go nowhere anyway -- because it's already happened.

I generally find myself agreeing with Bill Bennett, and he makes some valid points about Beck's message. I would have thrown in Beck's comment about the purpose of government, where Beck says, "As I read the Constitution -- as I read the words of the founders, really, the only job of the United States government is to save us from bad guys." Of course, that is only partly true, and founders nicely summed up the pupose of government in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: to secure our natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But this is getting nit-picky, but so is Bennett. He is beating up Beck around the edges and on some minor points, and he is missing the big ones.  

The Republican party has a couple problems: (1) making sure the Tea Party movement doesn't fracture the party and (2) preparing to not only win elections this fall but also after the elections, preparing to lead in a way that helps build a stronger Republican majority (or as Beck might put it, to do more than just sucking less than the other guys). These two things are very closely related. The Tea Party movement's fast growth is a clear message that there is something lacking in the rhetoric or actions of many in the Republican Party. Whether or not you support the Tea Party movement, it is something to pay attention to, and for Republicans, it requires some action. 

Writing today over at the WSJ, John Fund suggests that Members of Congress should be mindful of Beck's message. I agree. Nothing in Beck's speech suggested splintering the Republican party. His speech was clearly friendly advice for those in the party for what to do and how to talk about it. Giving Bill Bennett the benefit of the doubt that the "loudest and brightest lights" of the Republican Party are already practising what Beck is calling for, the Tea Party movement proves that Republicans are not getting their message across. Beck offered up some good and effective ways for Republicans to talk about themselves and what they believe, and more importantly, advice for how to teach and talk about the principles upon which our country was founded. Republicans shouldn't view Beck's speech as an attack. If they want to avoid a third party being created and work to build a larger Republican majority, they should listen to what Beck is saying and learn from the rhetoric in his speech.
Categories > Political Parties


Choirs or Guitars?

The National Council of Churches' 2010 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches reports the continuing trends of growth in traditional, conservative churches and decline in mainline, liberalizing churches. Catholicism, the largest church in America several times over, grew 1.5%, while mainline Protestantism - Methodists, Baptists, and particularly Presbyterians (down 3.3%) - heavily declined.

The reasons for membership flux are diverse - including immigration, birth-rates, conversions / newcomers and disaffection - yet the aggregate of such factors has long favored faiths which do not sail smoothly with the drift of society.

Of interest, Catholicism is accompanied by relatively unorthodox faiths (Mormons, Assemblies of God) in boasting growth. These denominations share comparatively strict moral standards and demand a great deal from parishioners. That is, they are far more burdensome than mainstream alternatives. And yet they flourish while others fail. To wit, Jack Haberer, editor of Presbyterian Outlook magazine, lamented:

Baby boomers who are also Christians, in general, have been drawn more to churches that are more informal, less institutional and more rock 'n' roll-ish. Presbyterians and other mainline denominations have been very slow in reading those trends and thinking through a way to accommodate without compromising the theological integrity.

They've mastered the first prong - accommodation - though maintaining integrity may be a feat which no amount of thinking will accomplish, if the first prong is inviolable.

Perhaps it is that the very lure of religion is the mysticism and trial involved. In the immortal words of Jimmy Dugan: "It's supposed to be hard. ... The hard... is what makes it great." Further, the spiritual rewards of a profound faith are more likely to retain practitioners than one offering mere regurgitations of Sesame Street, feel-good lullabies. Religion requires leadership, and while pandering to modern mores may pacify lukewarm C&E (Christmas and Easter) Christians, it rather offends the principled convictions of the passionate believer.

Categories > Religion


Partisanship and Political Competition

Byron York's post about Evan Bayh's retirement is spot on, and gives us much to ponder.  Bayh, York notes, complains that:

The Senate just ain't what it used to be. "While romanticizing the Senate of yore would be a mistake, it was certainly better in my father's time," Bayh writes.

My father, Birch Bayh, represented Indiana in the Senate from 1963 to 1981. A progressive, he nonetheless enjoyed many friendships with moderate Republicans and Southern Democrats.

One incident from his career vividly demonstrates how times have changed. In 1968, when my father was running for re-election, Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, approached him on the Senate floor, put his arm around my dad's shoulder, and asked what he could do to help. This is unimaginable today.

One reason that scene is unimaginable today is that in the 1960s Washington was a one-party capital in ways that it is not now. When Dirksen put his arm around the elder Bayh's shoulder, there were 64 Democrats in the Senate. The session before, from 1965 to 1967, there were 68 Democrats. In fact, for the decade from 1959 to 1969, there were never fewer than 64 Democrats in the Senate. The party controlled the House by similarly huge margins (in 1966, there were 295 Democrats in the House), and of course occupied the White House from 1961 to 1969. Beyond that, media coverage of politics was controlled by the Washington Post, New York Times, CBS and NBC -- outlets mostly friendly to the party in power, with no talk radio, no Internet, and no Fox News. There wasn't just one-party rule in Dirksen's and Bayh's time; there was one-party domination. Republicans mostly went along, not making a lot of trouble.

Democrats still long for the days when the Republicans were like the Washington Generals, the team whose job it is to lose to the Harlem Globetrotters every day.  Since 1980, when the GOP took the Senate back for the first time in decades, and, even moreso since 1994, when the GOP took both houses of Congress for the first time since the 1950s, that has ceased to be the case.  The Democratic leadership is, I fear, still lost in the sixties.  As a new generation arises, that was raised after 1994, that might, finally, start to change. Until then, things will remain nasty in Congress. 

Categories > Politics


George Washington

Today is George Wahington's birthday!  Here is his Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, to remind us the things for which we stand: civil and religious liberty.  Allow me to bring this good book on Washington to your attention, A Sacred Union of Citizens.
Categories > Presidency

Political Parties

Two Be, or Not Two Be

Frank Fleming's flamboyant rant on third (and fourth) political parties at Pajamas Media is both fun and instructive:

The problem with third parties is that they always take from the extreme ends, weakening just one of the parties and leaving the party with the opposite views of the third party the strongest. Just listen to liberals whine about Ralph Nader for his part in the 2000 election. Also, third parties attract all the crazies -- all the people who give up on the social niceties (read: "sanity") -- needed to be a member of one of the major parties. For instance, libertarians have seemingly rational stances of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism, but who does the Libertarian Party nominate? Candidates who dye themselves blue and like to have their promotional pictures taken with ferrets. The only real way a third party could be viable would be to steal the moderates out of both parties, which would basically be a repeat of Obama promising some ephemeral hope and change and no specifics (specifics and principled stances scare moderates).

Naturally, I have a certain sympathy for multi-party systems - as I've been thoroughly indoctrinated during my years abroad and daily eye the cool-aid with mounting thirst. However, the paramount problem with a third party in America is our presidential, rather than parliamentary, emphasis. Dividing a consequential, winner-takes-all, one-shot election is suicide. The Tea Party, for example, could command serious reform (on the right, at least) if they controlled a dozen votes in the House and a couple Senate seats. That's the foundation of coalition government, and it lobbies well for compromise from the establishment.

Everyone would know that Tea Partiers were simply schismatic Republicans - and that would be fine. If seen as a sensible, mainstream alternative, they'd give the GOP an interesting diversity, allow unrest to flow somewhere other than the Democratic party and give the right a bi-partisan, open-to-compromise-and-new-ideas gloss. But, unlike the Green and Libertarian parties, the Tea Party and GOP would need to be seen as embracing one another as worthy allies and adversaries.

Of course, the better idea would be for the GOP to usurp the Tea Parties main themes. But the GOP has been giving lip-service to those ideas for decades - and no one believes them any longer! 

Categories > Political Parties

Literature, Poetry, and Books

"O for a Muse of fire"

Hie thee to Washington, DC and delight in the Shakespeare Theatre's Richard II and Henry V (both playing until April 10). The two contrasting kings are played by the same actor, Michael Hayden (No, not the former CIA Director!).  The staging is in the more traditional mode (quite in contrast to the Theatre's As You Like It) but with considerable ingenuity in the Harfleur siege, the execution of Bardolph, and the slaying of the Fench hostages (lamentably omitted in the Kenneth Branaugh movie), among other scenes.  Some of the directors' decisions are disputable (Agincourt battle--more arrows, please), but the actors do justice to the Bard's portrayal of this "mirror of all Christian kings." 
The parallels of the English monarchy with Israel's kings in Samuel and Kings becomes abundantly clear:  Just as Israel's fulfillment was to be found in the New Testament, so England's would be found in Abraham Lincoln.

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Psychoanlyzing Gollum

The Volokh Conspiracy on Smeagol/Gollum's character, via "Pass the Biscuits" at WheatandWeeds.  (By the way, the reader of the Books on Tape versions of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Rob Inglis, brings out his repulsiveness.)