Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Modern Technology

Making age-old marital problems go away.
Categories > Technology


The Grand Old Coalition?

Mickey Kaus notes that the Affrican-American community has no particular liking for high levels of immigration, adding, "if that's true, why doesn't the GOP at least try to win over a piece of this most loyal Democratic group? It's a potentially deep fissure that could pry apart the Dems' coalition."  The same is true on moral issues.  Had Barack Obama not been on the ticket, Prop 8 might not have passed in California.  The black community is more pro-life than are many other parts of the Democratic coalition.

Kaus also notes that "It's not clear to me that African-Americans have all that much at stake in the Democrats' obsession with promoting more unionization, in the private sector at least."  The key question, it seems to me, in addion to the cultural/ historical issues Lucas noted yesterday, is the percentage of the black middle class that is tied to, or supports the Unions, particularly in the public sector.   Public sector jobs used to be disproportionately important to the black community.  If that's still the case, I don't think that there's much chance of returning a large percentage of black voters to the party of Lincoln in the near future.  In the near future, with more and more people noting that the average pay in government jobs is higher than private sector jobs (at least at the federal level--if one includes benefits, the numbers are higher), the issue of public sector unions is going to be increasingly important.

Categories > Politics


Peggy Noonan on Aliens and Alienation

If there is a better way to say what Peggy Noonan says here about the current struggles over illegal immigration and their connection to the larger questions of people and their sense of alienation from a government that will not do obvious and needed things, I don't know what it is and I don't imagine that a lifetime of writing and trying would help me get any closer to it.  Do take the time to read it and digest it and, in so doing, especially consider these words: 

In the past four years, I have argued in this space that nothing can or should be done, no new federal law passed, until the border itself is secure. That is the predicate, the commonsense first step. Once existing laws are enforced and the border made peaceful, everyone in the country will be able to breathe easier and consider, without an air of clamor and crisis, what should be done next. What might that be? How about relax, see where we are, and absorb. Pass a small, clear law--say, one granting citizenship to all who serve two years in the armed forces--and then go have a Coke. Not everything has to be settled right away. Only controlling the border has to be settled right away.

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Redrawing Europe

The Economist at its best: "The European map is outdated and illogical. Here's how it should look." (Do read the article's explanations.)


Among my favorites, for personal reasons: "The rest of Italy, from Rome downwards, would separate and join with Sicily to form a new country, officially called the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (but nicknamed Bordello). It could form a currency union with Greece, but nobody else."

Categories > Foreign Affairs



The Federalist Society has launched website "to collect in one place the key news and documents, as well as commentary from across the legal, political and philosophical spectrum, regarding the upcoming Supreme Court nomination."

It's a useful accumulation of information on the topic - the blog roll, news feeds and potential nominee profiles will keep you busy for some time.

Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

Iran Elected to UN's Women's Rights Body

"How could a country that stones women to death for adultery possibly be chosen to serve in a leadership role on the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women?"

So asks Anne Beyefsky, reporting Iran's selection to the UN's Commission on the Status of Women - the UN's "principal global policy-making body" on women's rights. Iran ascended to the body alongside the Dem. Rep. of Congo, Liberia and Zimbabwe, and will join current members including Belarus, China, Cuba, and Libya.

Beyefsky asks when America, which foots 22% of the UN's budget, will finally turn off the tap.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Political Philosophy

How the Other Side Thinks

In a condescending article riddled with contempt, Newsweek decisively concludes that tea-partiers are racists. The evidence relied upon is instructive - not with regard to the tea-party, but liberal ideologues intent on disparaging political opponents. 

Newsweek cites a survey which proves "racial hostility" and "resentment" by the tea-party. A sample (but read the 9-question survey and learn of your inner racism):

Irish, Italians, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without special favors. Agree? You're a racist.

It is likely that recent immigration levels will take jobs away from people already here? Agree? You're a racist.

Revealing tea-partiers as "whiter, older, wealthier, and more well-educated than the average American," Newsweek finds that they aren't themselves suffering from the economic conditions they protest. Hence, they must be lying to conceal their true motives, which Newsweek quickly reveals as fear of racial shifts away from an all-white America (no evidence is produced for this conclusion). Only liberals blindly devoted to identity-politics would assume that someone not suffering from social conditions necessarily lacks the personal integrity to demonstrate passionately and sincerely against such conditions.

Newsweek also helpfully informs readers that there is "no evidence" that Obama is "radical," opposes gun ownership, has abdicated border security or takes a dim view of states' rights. Questioning Obama's "patriotism" or likening his policies to "socialism" is also "coded language" for racism.

The article is a glimpse into the mind and prejudices of liberal zealots. Their slanders are reasonable from their self-reflective and elitist point of view: people generally don't help those unlike them (i.e., people are not driven by principles, but class interests) and only liberals break this trend - conservatives who seem to oppose Obama's economics because they hurt other people must really oppose Obama because he is black. The irony is that such a view is ridiculous, insulting and deeply racist (merely being white, remember, is a main indicator to liberals that tea-partiers are racists).

What Obama (Still) Does Well

Most Americans probably do not know who Dorothy Height is, but her patient activism in the civil rights movement--not to mention her signature hats--made her one of the iconic figures of the modern struggle on behalf of black Americans and women's rights (background-woman in hat):


The fact that she was one of the few remaining leaders of the Movement, and whose death represented the passing of an era, was manifested by the number of Administration officials (including the POTUS) who attended her funeral today:

30heightspan-cnd-articleLarge[1].jpgBut to my point: read Obama's eulogy to remind yourself of his greatest strength, and why, I hasten to add, the Republicans do not have not a mountain to climb but the entire Alps to traverse before they get more black Americans to take them seriously as a political party.

Foreign Affairs

So Hard to Say "I'm Sorry"

In the wake of the unprecedented tragedy endured by Poland, Russia has released documents concerning the World War II massacre of 20,000 Polish officers at Katyn in 1940. The act is significant, although the papers had already been published in 1992, because any admission of guilt or compromise on the part of Russia's is historic.

Of course, Russia is refusing to release the full cache of papers, including the names of those who ordered the massacre. Poland has graciously invited further forthcomingness. Europeans seem to be reacting with a mixture of gratitude at the gesture and fury that Russia is still withholding and acting ... well, as they've come to expect from the Evil Empire.

I would not advise high expectations that Russia has yet decided to join the Free World as a force for good - but each little step is commendable.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Hanson on "Obama's Nuclear Naivety"

Victor David Hanson reflects on the debacle of Obama's nuclear strategy - including a nuclear summit excluding the most dangerous nations and any meaningful conversation about them, a focus on eliminating nuclear weapons (an impossibility) rather than restricting who has them, the abandonment of a global push for democratization (the only non-military option we might have had in Iran), the abdication of methods of deterrence and defensive technologies, and "a bad habit of talking tough and bullying friendly constitutional states while reaching out to hostile and bad-acting dictatorships" - which Hanson deems, in "nuclear politics," as "dangerous beyond belief." 

UPDATE: Obama today opposed a bipartisan U.S. bill to sanction Iran by penalizing companies doing business with the rogue state, citing the need to exempt Chinese and Russian interests from the bill's scope.

Opposing sanctions to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, in order to appease Russia and China. Unbelievable from an American president.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Dying Languages in New York City

This front-page news story on Dying Languages in New York City ("the most linguistically diverse city in the world")  is worth a read, despite the bows toward political correctness.  Languages I have never heard of: Mandaic, Vlashki, Massalit, Garifuna, etc., exists here.  "It is the capital of language density in the world," said Daniel Kaufman, an adjunct professor of linguistics at the Graduate Center of the CUNY.  "We're sitting in an endangerment hot spot where we are surrounded by languages that are not going to be around even in 20 or 30 years."  Of course, endangered language programs are being organized at local universities.  Let's just assume that the city is like a museum....

Categories > Education

Pop Culture

And Now for Something Completely Different

The world's smallest horse was born last week in Barnstead, N.H. (video and slideshow here).


Categories > Pop Culture


A Passing Hope...

"I don't accept second place for America. I want us to be first...." Thus began President Obama, in a sincere and robust tone which actually stirred a bit of patriotic confraternity within my heart. I was surprised to hear Obama speaking so openly in favor of American exceptionalism. My ears perked and I smiled ... until I heard the rest of the sentence.

"... in wind power, first in solar power and I want us to be first when it comes to bio-diesel...."

If only Obama could find the same pro-American enthusiasm he has for global warming and environmentalism in the context of U.S. military conduct, foreign relations, historical legacy, moral tradition, economic power and cultural excellence.

Well, I suppose then he wouldn't be a Democrat.

Categories > Presidency

Shameless Self-Promotion

Propostion 13, 32 Years Later

I have an article in today's Los Angeles Times on California's Proposition 13, the Bunker Hill of a tax revolt that, after 32 years, is still striving for its Yorktown.  It is an abbreviated version of an essay in City Journal's Spring 2010 issue. I'll put up a link here when that becomes available, too.


Stick a Fork in Him. . .

Gordon Brown is done.  How does a supposedly experienced politician forget he is live-mic-ed?  Assignment for the class: Does this confirm standard stereotypes of presumptuous liberal elitism?
Categories > Elections

Political Parties

Infanticide Horrors

Adding to Julie's post below, it bears reminding that President Obama - along with many Democrats and the abortion industry - opposed the "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act," a law requiring physicians to provide medical care to infants born alive during an attempted abortion.

It is only human to express horror at Julie's story from Italy. So bear in mind that Obama repeatedly voted that such an abandonment of a newborn child for days to die of hunger and exposure would not constitute a crime. Perhaps he would have called it, "post-birth abortion."

I believe any dictionary and reasonable person would confirm the definition of intentionally leaving a living newborn child to die as infanticide. Thus, the President of the United States and Democratic Party have repeatedly voted to legalize infanticide. There are a number of objective standards by which to judge a person and society - surely this is one.

Categories > Political Parties


Abortion Horrors

I bring your attention to this awful story of a child in Italy who survived for two days after a botched abortion (though without any medical attention, he later died) as a reminder--not only of the poignant horror that is the reality of abortion--but also as a reminder of what is really lost in the often too political discussion of abortion.  What is really at stake in this debate is a question of hearts and minds.  One side is guilty of rationalizing the thing to the point where the heart is perverted by the false reasoning of the mind.  The other side is guilty of forgetting that in every appeal to right reason, there are competing interests of passion and heart.  However valuable or important they may be in and of themselves, I don't believe that the abortion issue is ever going to be resolved by rational arguments about a "right to life" or lengthy discussion of the relative merits of a Constitutional "right to privacy."  It will only be resolved (in a way satisfactory to friends of life) if and when the vast majority of the American people can look at a story like the one described above and see no excuse for it in a civilized country.
Categories > Bioethics


Crist on the Outside

Fox is "tweeting" (?) that Florida governor and Senate hopeful Charlie Crist will run as an independent. This will be remembered as another indicator of the political mood of the time - a mainstream, recently popular governor was swept aside in the primary by a "tea-party" Republican to his right.

It seems unlikely that a 3-way race would hand the election to a Democrat, as happened in New York's congressional race, as Democrat Kendrick Meek presently polls in the low 20's. But Crist is still a solid second behind Rubio in the general election polling.

Crist is rowing against the stream as a 3rd party candidate. The outsider has just claimed the high-ground after a successful siege of the establishment. The internal revolution is over, and Crist lost. Now the wider war begins - and Crist's odds don't seem much better.

Categories > Elections


UPDATED: This Will Screw Up Our Flag

UPDATED: Naomi Lopez Bauman provides a strong counter-agrument against Puerto Rican statehood.


During my years of foreign domicile, I've been asked several times about the status of Puerto Rico. What is it, why do we have it and what are we doing with it? Sometimes it's proffered as evidence that America is secretly imperialistic, but more often it's an honest question born of confusion. If we are a nation divided into states ... what's with those "territories?" Europe gave (most of) those back years ago. Why do we still have them?

It's a rather profound question that Americans are rather happy to ignore. Puerto Ricans enjoy a strange division of Constitutional rights - they are "natural born citizens," but not residents of the U.S. and only possess only "fundamental rights," not full enfranchisement.

But all that may change soon. From NRO's Corner:

"We shall continue to encourage the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in its political growth and economic development in accordance with the wishes of its people and the fundamental principle of self-determination." So said the Republican party platform in August 20, 1956.

For over 50 years, every Republican president and every GOP platform has supported the right of self-determination for U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico. A bill that would turn that GOP commitment into law is currently moving through the House with 57 Republican co-sponsors. As soon as this Thursday, Congress could decide whether the 4 million citizens of Puerto Rico have the same right as other Americans to determine their own fate.

The short article divulges a few surprising statistics about the Republican-ness of the island, but also raises a very great question about America's conception of self-determination. Left unasked is whether there is a certain outer boundary of American-ness beyond which we are not presently willing to self-identify - and whether the borincano, like so many Italians, Irish, Germans, etc. before them, fall on the wrong side of that line. 

Categories > Politics


Why Liberals Flunk the Churchill Test

My peeps at AEI have breached the Weekly Hayward's Standard's subscriber firewall, so you can now read my review of Paul Johnson's new short biography of Churchill.
Categories > History

They Cried Racism

Andrew Breitbart is rightly furious at attempts to paint the Tea Partiers and Obamacare opponents as racists, but I think he misunderstands the purpose of the slurs.  Breitbart writes that "The Democratic Party and the political left cannot use the race card to shut up its opponents based on pure fabrication any longer."  That is very true, but also beside the point.  Those kinds of accusations of racism are much, much more likely to infuriate self-identified conservatives than intimidate them.  They also won't do much to win over white persuadables who haven't bought into the Paul Krugman theory of political history. Really, how is this supposed to work?

Persuadable Voter: Well I'm not sure if I support cuting Medicare to pay for a new entitlement, and I don't like the idea of a mandate.

Democrat Flack: The people who are out protesting the President's health care plan are racists. 

Persuadable Voter : Oh, well then I'm for it.

So why use this strategy at all?  Well we shouldn't totally discount an element of sincerity in some cases.  It isn't a stretch to believe that Janeane Garofalo and Keith Olbermann are shallow and insular enough to actually believe that protests against Obama's policies are driven primarily by racism.  A more cynical reason for this strategy is that the attempt to paint Republicans and Obama critics as racists is an attempt to consolidate the African American (and to a lesser extent Latino vote) around the Democratic Party. 

It is shrewd long-term strategy.  Democrats arn't going to win over many conservatives without major policy changes they don't want to make.  White persuadables have been trending Republican (as we saw in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts), and probably won't be won over by November unless the labor roars back to health far faster than anybody expects.  But the racist slurs will quickly be forgotten by persuadables (conservatives will nourish a bitter resentment, but they weren't voting for liberal Democrats anyway, so no loss.) Those  same white peruadables will still be there and still be persuadable in 2012.  They will be open to vote for either party depending on the arguments and conditions of the moment.  Not a lot of white persuadables are going to vote against President Obama or Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2012 because of what John Lewis or some liberal journalist said about the Tea Party protests in 2009 or 2010.  But reinforcing the identification of Republicans as racists among African Americans and maintaing the huge margins Democrats enjoy among African Americans (and hopefully keeping the 2 to 1 margins Obama won among Latinos) is crucial for the long term health of the Democratic Party.

This PPP poll demonstrates the importance to Democrats of winning huge supermajorities among African Americans and broad majorities among Latinos.  Obama's approve/disapprove numbers are under water at 46% approve and 48% disapprove.  But the racial crosstabs tell a slightly different story.  Obama's disapprove among whites is 59% but his approval numbers are 17 to 1 favorable among African American and 3.5 to 1 favorable among Latinos.  And that is with a lousy labor market.  If anything, the numbers paint an even more depressing picture for 2012 when one looks at history.  As Henry Olsen pointed out in the Claremont Review of Books, Republicans have not won 59% of the white vote in a presidential election since 1988.  Based on experience, the huge current Republican margins among whites are probably unsustainable if conditions improve even a little - and that is with a demographic in relative decline.  But the Democratic margins among African Americans and perhaps Latinos are quite sustainable for the foreseeable future unless something changes.  

The demonization of Republicans and tying them to racial incidents has become a routine part of left-of-center politics in the last twelve years.  My first clear memory is of the the 1998 radio ad that slyly tied Republicans to church burnings. There was the James Byrd ad in 2000, the attempt to turn the Katrina into an example of Republican racism rather than incompetence (the incompetence of the Democratic state and local authorities not being racist of course), and now this feeding frenzy about Tea Party racism.  These are just the attempts to demonize Republicans as racist that have made their way into the mass media.

The strategy has worked so far, but the fact that Democrats feel that they have to take such loathsome efforts to maintain their huge margins indicates that their hold on those margins might be more fragile than one would think. 


Inroad for Conservatives with the Youth Vote?

First they came for the trans-fats . . . next it was salt.  Now they're coming after your Happy Meal toys . . . ?
Categories > Politics


The Powerpoint Presentation Has No Clothes

Why I am not surprised that it took a military man to point this out?  I can only hope we all take our cue from them and listen . . .

"PowerPoint makes us stupid," Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

Notable exceptions to the contrary notwithstanding . . . you all know, in your bones, that there is more truth than its opposite in this! 
Categories > Technology

Pop Culture

Go Spell it on the Mountain

Private donations save the Hollywood Sign.
Categories > Pop Culture


The Culture of Finance

Robert Samuelson notes that the most interesting thing about the charges against Goldman Sachs might not be the case, but rather what it tells us about how Wall Street has changed.

Once upon a time, Wall Street's leaders saw themselves as arbiters of capital, helping allocate society's savings to productive uses. By contrast, Wall Street's major firms now see themselves as captains of "the market," navigating it -- for themselves and sometimes their clients -- for maximum gain. This is a distinction with a difference. . . .

A court will presumably decide the legal issues. But the moral question is more insistent. Goldman abdicates some of Wall Street's role as arbiter of capital, deciding what should be financed and traded. It adopts a strict market standard: If buyers and sellers can be found, we'll create and trade almost anything, no matter how dubious. Precisely this mindset justified the packaging of reckless and fraudulent "subprime" mortgages into securities. Hardly anyone examined the worth of the underlying loans.

Samuelson notes that there were problems with the old way of doing business.  But what's most interesting to me is the change he describes.  It seems to apply to many other walks of life.  The idea of using liberty responsibly, an idea that always central to the argument for a free society, is less present now in the broader culture than it used to be. 

Categories > Economy


Obama Down On The Farm

The "White House to Main Street" tour is back on the road. Obama is in the Midwest, campaigning again (if he ever stopped) for middle-America's votes. But the president is not sharing the stage with vulnerable candidates - an indication that, while far more popular than the poor shmucks in Congress, the Obama brand has lost a bit of its sheen.

"President, heal thyself," may be the motto of this trip (from both voters and candidates). The greatest benefit for which Democrats can hope is a resurgence of Obama's popularity. Dissatisfaction with both Obama and the government in general predicts a perfect-storm scenario for congressional Democrats. They need a life-line, and none is yet visible.

Maybe Obama should try speaking at a Tea-Party rally ... or at least attending one.

Categories > Elections

Foreign Affairs

Iran & The UN: A Parody From Hell

"Iran has confirmed it will no longer run for a seat on the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council. Instead, it aims to become a member of an international women's rights body."

You simply can't make this stuff up.

UPDATE: Ahmadinejad calls UN veto power "satanic tool."

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Pop Culture

South Park and the decline

Ross Douthat in today's NYT: "In a way, the muzzling of "South Park" is no more disquieting than any other example of Western institutions' cowering before the threat of Islamist violence. It's no worse than the German opera house that temporarily suspended performances of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" because it included a scene featuring Muhammad's severed head. Or Random House's decision to cancel the publication of a novel about the prophet's third wife. Or Yale University Press's refusal to publish the controversial Danish cartoons ... in a book about the Danish cartoon crisis.....
But there's still a sense in which the "South Park" case is particularly illuminating. Not because it tells us anything new about the lines that writers and entertainers suddenly aren't allowed to cross. But because it's a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all.....
Our culture has few taboos that can't be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.

Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a mix of self-preservation and self-loathing.This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that "bravely" trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force"

Categories > Pop Culture

Foreign Affairs

China's "far sea defense" and the "signal drama of the age"

This New York Times story from a couple of days ago is worth noting.  The discussion about China and its navy, is becoming a bit more public and a lot more interesting.  Despite China's continentalist past, it looks like China has embarked on a genuine maritime transformation. NYT:  "Now, Chinese admirals say they want warships to escort commercial vessels that are crucial to the country's economy, from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca, in Southeast Asia, and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas.  In late March, two Chinese warships docked in Abu Dhabi, the first time the modern Chinese Navy made a port visit in the Middle East"  Also note this article, "China Sets Sail,"  by Ericson, Goldstein, and Lord, in the current issue of The American Interest (subscription required), as well as Robert Kaplan's "The Geography of Chinese Power" in the current issue of Foreign Affairs (Subscription required).
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

On Aliens - And Not The Mexican Variety

Stephen Hawking, in his paternal way, warns us not to talk to aliens. He thinks they're likely out there, and expects they may be of the Independence Day sort that you wouldn't want to meet on a bad day. And, they'll likely all live together on massive ships - a sure sign that they're probably a bunch of socialists! We've got enough of that sort of thing already - no need to encourage the Democrats further.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Palin Brand

New York has a lengthy piece on Sarah Palin, stressing the commercially lucrative brand she has managed of her persona. The article casts most of Palin's decisions, particularly following the 2008 election, as having been motivated by fiscal considerations (which is understandable, given her $500,000 "trooper-gate" legal defense debts).

The story provides a rather balanced (or, admittedly slightly-left-of-center) portrait of the political star. It's worth-while to keep up with Palin, as she'll likely continue as a dominant presence in America's political life for the foreseeable future. And the public's reaction to her recent activities - eschewing political responsibilities in favor of, well, making an incredible amount of money - should provide an interesting lesson in America's democratic sensibilities.

Categories > Politics


My Favorite Political Theme

What links Barack Obama and Clarence Thomas.  From James Chen, who served under Obama at Harvard Law Review and clerked for Justice Thomas:  "It's just weird; I think we ought to acknowledge that."  Chen maintains that "The defining trait for both would not be race, but religion. Chen said he does not know two more 'profoundly religious people' than Barack Obama, a Protestant, and Clarence Thomas, a Catholic."
Categories > Religion


How to Balance the Budget

The conventional wisdom about balancing the federal budget is that it will require both tax increases and speding cuts. 

That's simply not true.  The 1992 Clinton campaign argued that the budget could not be balanced.  They put the budget on Compuserve or one of those old-time online services, and, to demonstrate the truth of their assertion, challenged perspective voters to balance the budget.  I had it balanced in 2 or 3 years, and the computer program wouldn't let me cut many things I wanted to cut.

In short, the question is not what is possible in theory, but what we have the political will to do.  The more readily we accept the conventional wisdom, the harder it will be to cut back the size and scope of government.

Categories > Economy

On Not Getting Started

On an earlier thread discussing how conservatives might make gains among African Americans, Ken Thomas mentioned several Reagan speeches in which Reagan spoke out against racism and bigotry and explained that his politics was based on the inalienable rights of all individuals.  Those were the right things to say, they were important to say, and Reagan had been saying similar things since the mid-1960s.  They were especially important because the destruction of Jim Crow, inflation, rising crime, riots, the Vietnam War and other events had blasted tens of millions of loose from the Democratic Party.  There was an active competition for those voters and some were fighting for those votes on racialist grounds.  Reagan was making it clear that his brand of conservative politics would be based on antiracism and equal justice under the law.  It was the right thing to do, but sadly it was no start to healing the breach between conservatives (or Republicans) and the African American community.  I don't hold that against Reagan.  Nothing since then has been a start either.

A big part of it is the depth of the breach between conservatives and African Americans.  The best introduction is problem is our William Voegeli's essay on movement conservatism and the African American community.  It isn't the whole story because that would take a book (or two) but you get a sense of the roots of the suspicion that so many African Americans have for conservatives.  The relationship of the Republican Party with African Americans was damaged as a result of this breach between conservatives and African Americans.  As the Republican Part came to be seen as the political vehicle for movement conservatism, many (if not the vast majority) of African Americans identified the Republican Party as indifferent or hostile to the rights and interests of the African American community.  The links between the perception of movement conservatism as hostile or indifferent to African American interests and the identification of the Republican Party with movement conservatism are the keys to understanding the huge margins by which the Democrats have won African Americans since 1964.  As Voegeli pointed out, the Republicans won 40% of the African American vote in 1956, but only 6% in 1964 and have only made the occasional marginal and temporary gains since then. 

It is 2010 and, after forty-six years later and Republicans are still at square zero among African Americans.  Which is not to say that there have not been attempted "starts."  There was Ken Mehlman talking to the NAACP.  There was George W. Bush meeting with African American preachers and appearing in mostly African American schools and calling education the new civil rights issue.  There was Jack Kemp and enterprise zones.  There was picking Michael Steele as RNC chairman and his promise to try to win over African Americans, young voters and Latinos. Part of the problem is that these gestures were not followed up on, but a bigger problem is that those making them misunderstood what making a "start" at making large, sustained gains among African Americans meant.

All of those gestures seemed to be based on the assumption that if you showed up (once in a while) apologized, for past misdeed, talked about a few select, urban-oriented issues,  and integrated some African Americans into Republican Party elites, the road to substantial gains would be opened.  Even if the above gestures had been followed up on, even if they had not been scattered across decades, they would still not have yielded better results.  Even if those gestures had been an integrated strategy, the strategy would still suffer from being soft, narrow and cheap.

It would be soft because it overestimates the gains to be made from easy gestures like showing up from time to time, making the occasional apology, and such.  It isn't that those gestures are worthless, just that they don't mean much by themselves.  When a community is suspicious because of long historical experience, those gestures are easily discounted unless they are, among other things grounded in a rhetoric that can authentically integrate conservative principles and policies within the African American and broader American historical experience.  And I don't mean bootstrap, self-help bromides.  Constructing such a rhetoric will be a brain frying task.

It would be narrow because it would not treat the African American community as a group with a full spectrum of interests.  Improving inner-city schools is a terrific idea, but there are alot of things to worry about in life, and anyway, millions of African Americans aren't sending their kids to failing schools.  Talking about how pro-family tax reforms and market-oriented health care reform will help the average African American family alongside education is just a start of what a broader issue agenda will look like.  Talking about abortion and eminent domain abuse and how each tie into deep  concerns about the government's requirement to protect people's basic human rights and the need to restrain government from dispossessing the weak at the hands of the connected (anyone remember urban renewal?) could be a beginning of creating an agenda of shared principle.  The list is not exhaustive.

It would be cheap because it would not commit to the hundreds of often unpleasant conversations in front of suspicious audiences, to rebutting attacks speedily, powerfully and in detail, to the tens of millions of dollars that will have to be spent on media with largely African American audiences who don't consume much of the alternative conservative media.  Until conservatives and Republicans come up with and commit to a realistic strategy for making substantial gains among African Americans, there has been no start no matter what else they do.  There is only wasted time, and enough has already been wasted.  And what is worse than not starting is the comforting illusion of starting, which only encourages the wasting of more time, even as gains are expected. 


Populist Politics - In Living Color

Why can't the RNC put together anything with the impact of this? I'd pay to see the movie - if I weren't paying for it already.... 

The RNC should be asking these guys how much dough they need to get 12 more clips just like this one on the air at prime time? From now until November . . . 2012.

Categories > Elections


Don't believe the hype

Ed Whitacre, chairman of General Motors, is patting himself on the back for paying back $5.8 billion in loans extended by the U.S. and Canadian governments.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration is claiming that this vindicates the decision to throw a "lifeline" to the struggling automobile industry.

But, as Shikha Dalmia points out in Forbes, things are not as they seem.  The government actually pumped in nearly $50 billion to help finance GM's bankruptcy, although for political reasons the administration extended only $6.7 billion of this in the form of an actual loan.  The rest involved purchase of GM stock, so that the government owns a 60 percent share in the corporation.  This has not been repaid, and unlikely never will. 

However, even Whitacre's claim to have paid back the direct loan is misleading.  The funds did not come from GM's profits.  Those are nonexistent; indeed, the corporation has yet to break even.  The $5.8 billion came out of an escrow account containing $13.4 billion of--wait for it--government bailout money. 

Why is GM playing this shell game?  Because what the corporation has applied for a $10 billion low-interest (5 percent, as opposed to the 7 percent interest that was being charged on the $6.7 billion) loan from the Department of Energy.  What better way to show its worthiness of another bailout than by ostentatiously "paying back" what had previously been owned?

In other words, General Motors will remain Government Motors for the foreseeable future.  As the General Accountability Office concluded last December, "The Treasury is unlikely to recover the entirety of its investment in Chrysler or GM, given that the companies' values would have to grow substantially more than they have in the past."

Categories > Economy


What do GM and California have in Common?

Both are still being killed by pension obligations to unionized workers.  As Kaus notes, GM's claim to have repaid its bailout is bogus, as there's still the $50 billion that the U.S. and Canadian governments put into the companies to save it from being sold for scrap.  He comments, "If Sarah Palin told a propagandistic whopper this big she'd be doing run back up to Wasilla by the press."  Meanwhile, he notes that because unions refuse to renegotiate pension obligations, we the taxpayers might be on the hook for another $10 billion.

As for the state of California, it's total due to its workers is staggering.  The NY Times reports that "an independent analysis of California's three big pension funds has found a hidden shortfall of more than half a trillion dollars."

Unions have their place, but the laws we have regarding unions are an anachronism. There's no reason to think that the model of union law created in the 1930s is proper today.  Unions, working the system that exists today, combined with inept management, bankrupted GM and Chrysler.  They are doing the same to California.  To save both governments and industrial companies, we might need to change the underlying rules of the game.

Categories > Economy

Foreign Affairs

Lessons In Campaign Pledges And Actual Governance, Part 583

"As a candidate, Barack Obama repeatedly promised to refer to the almost century-old massacre of Armenians in Turkey as a genocide. But since becoming president, Obama has twice passed up opportunities to do so."

My purpose is not merely to castigate the President for failing to uphold another campaign promise, but to question his purpose in so doing. Has he learned the foreign diplomacy implication for America's international military and civil interests? In this case, good for him - but was he truly unaware of Turkey's strategic importance months prior to being sworn into office?

Does this indicate a newfound realism, or is it just another example of throwing friendly countries under the bus in favor of those with a more turbulent relationship with the U.S.? Does negotiating with Turkey (as with Russia, Iran, Palestine, etc.) simply inspire the only form of trust-building known to Obama: the betrayal of Armenia (as with Poland and Czech, Iranian protestors, Israel, etc.)? 

And, of course, where is the outrage on the left over Obama's truth-deficit and refusal to speak truth to power?

Categories > Foreign Affairs