Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Refine & Enlarge

Paul Rahe on the Tea Party

Paul Rahe offers some thoughts on How to Think About the Tea Party in Commentary. A taste:
The Tea Party movement is, however, testimony to the fact that all is not lost. When confronted in a brazen fashion with the tyrannical impulse underpinning the administrative state, ordinary Americans from all walks of life are still capable of fighting back. ... In 1776, when George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, he included a provision reflecting what the revolutionaries had learned from the long period of struggle between Court and Country in England and in America: "that no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." What we are witnessing with the Tea Party movement is one of the periodic recurrences to fundamental principles that typify and revivify the American experiment in self-government.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Saving Social Security?

Michael Boskin in yesterday's Wall Street Journal: "Gradually move from wage to price indexing of initial Social Security benefits. This would eliminate the entire projected Social Security deficit without cutting anyone's benefits or raising anyone's taxes."
Categories > Economy


After all, it is a new government we hope to form, a government we will ask our fellow citizens to trust to make huge changes.

I liked Mitch Daniels' CPAC speech.  I'm not sold that he will win (though I like him far more than any of the candidates doing better in the polls), but just having him there fighting for a principled and responsible economic conservatism will be good for the Republican Party and the country.

Run Mitch Run.

Categories > Politics

The Civil War & Lincoln

The Long Recall

Herman Melville's beautiful poem The Conflict of Convictions is the inspiration for the title of Walter Russell Mead's project at the American Interest to create a Sesquicentennial blog about the Civil War:

On starry heights
A bugle wails the long recall;
Derision stirs the deep abyss,
Heaven's ominous silence over all.
Return, return, O eager Hope,
And face man's latter fall.

How long it is that America has been set about the project of recalling the great events and the wretched horrors of our Civil War!  There is no shortage of books about or interest in the thing.  Indeed, Civil War mania in some quarters is too big even to be called a cottage industry.  But is there understanding in measure equal to the interest?  As 150 years have passed, time sets a great fog of distance combined with lore and confusion upon those events.  And generations of American schoolchildren have had but a surface treatment offered up classes and in texts aimed mainly at satisfying some mere antiquarian curiosity.  The lessons of that war mainly go untaught as the trivia abides.  Yet, as Mead notes, "Nobody can hope to understand the United States without understanding the Civil War and its legacy."

To aide in correcting this problem, The Long Recall serves as a daily aggregator of the news, events and commentary, in real time, as it appeared throughout the conflict.  It will come to readers as it would have come to intelligent and curious citizens of the Civil War era, had they had access to the internet.  Think of it as the "Real Clear Politics" of the Civil War generation, brought to the readers of today.

In noting The Long Recall on this day, however, I would be remiss if did not also recall that yesterday was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's farewell to Springfield and the day he set off on his long, though far from triumphant, journey to Washington to assume the duties of the Presidency.  Once there he would find himself immediately thrust into the midst of the beginning of this long and bloody conflict; a conflict that, for him, could have no assurance of a satisfactory result.  The only certainty then was that there could be no happy ending. 

I would also be remiss if I did not note that today is Lincoln's 202nd birthday.  There probably is not a better way to recall that great man's birthday than to recall the great burden that must have beset his mind as he began his journey 150 years ago and The Long Recall is a wonderful tool to help us in approximating some understanding of that.

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

Since this has come up in a comments section, I thought it would be worth quoting John Quincy Adams' comments, on moving some resolutions on the Louisiana Purchase.  

By the treaty with France we have  acquired all the rights of sovereignty over the inhabitants of Louisiana which France could impart; but as, to use the language of our declaration of independence, the just powers of a govern­ ment can be derived only from the consent of the governed, the French Republic could not give us the right to make laws for the people of Louisiana, without their acquiescence in the transfer. I never considered this as an objection against the ratification of the treaty, because I did not deem it indispensable that this con­sent of the ceded people should precede the conclusion of the com­pact. That would indeed have been the most natural and most eligible course of proceeding, had it been practicable, and such was the opinion of our own executive before the negotiation of the treaty. But theoretic principles of government can never be carried into practice to their full extent. They must be modified and accommodated to the situations and circumstances of human events and human concerns. But between those allowances necessary to reconcile the rigor of principle with the resistance of practice, and the total sacrifice of all principle, there is a wide difference. If in the Louisiana negotiation our government had insisted on obtaining the consent of the people before the con­clusion of the treaty, in all probability the treaty itself never could have been concluded. A momentary departure from the inflexible rigor of theory was, therefore, perfectly justifiable, and in con­cluding the treaty we acquired a power over the territory and over the inhabitants which requires, so far as relates to the latter, one thing more to make it a just and lawful power. I mean their own consent. For although the necessity of the case right excuse us for not having obtained this consent beforehand, it could not absolve us from the obligation to acquire it afterwards.

(My text is from elsewhere, but the only online link I can find is here.  Goto p. 25 for the full thing.)

Categories > Quote of the Day


Stop the Hate!

Amusing video from Andrew Klavan, via Instapundit.
Categories > Progressivism

Foreign Affairs

Promising Revolutions and the Harsh Realities of Re-emerging Tyranny

Jeff Sikkenga writes nicely and concisely in USA Today about the situation in Egypt.  As he puts it:  "A free society is within the capacity of any country, including Egypt."  So there is always good cause for hope.  Human beings are meant to govern themselves.  But the stark realities in the wake of nearly every modern revolution, following ours, ought to give us pause.  Our democratic republic "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" is absolutely the exception, and not the rule in the history of all political life.  Those seeking to discredit the notion that America is an exceptional nation should brush up on the history of modern revolutions and, I fear, pay close attention to the events unfolding in Egypt. 

We can hope that things in Egypt may get better than they have been in recent history.  And we should certainly pray that they do.  But to imagine that cries for "freedom" and the establishment of a "democracy" alone can sustain a society in justice and prosperity is to imagine that scaffolding is the same thing as a sound and beautiful structure.  It is not. Without a grounding in the habits of virtue or the principles of equality, similar to those that sustain (but are constantly under assault from within) the United States, Egyptian democrats may find themselves less than satisfied with the new boss. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Beware the Semantic Infiltration of "Values"

The late Pat Moynihan, during his glory days as UN ambassador in the mid-1970s, highlighted the useful phrase "semantic infiltration" (he credited its origin to Fred Ikle), which he described as "the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality." Moynihan noted especially how totalitarian regimes would advertise themselves as "liberation movements," and warned further that "we pay for small concessions at the level of language with large setbacks at the level of practical politics."

Moynihan's observation came back to me as I read through Harvey Mansfield's splendidessay on The Federalist in the latest issue of The New Criterion (subscription required). Writing with his usual subtle clarity, Mansfield notes the problem with the term "values" -- a very popular term with social conservatives:

The Constitution is intended to make and maintain a free people, so it consists mostly of powers and procedures of institutions rather than goals that would tell a free people what it must do. That might seem to allow a people free to live by its "values." I put the word in quotation marks to indicate disdain for a term that Publius, the shared pseudonym of the authors of The Federalist, never used and would have rejected. "Values" is a recent verbal noun indicating that your goals are yours or your group's and exist by virtue of your valuing. They are particular to you and changeable when you change--for no reason you can cite. Having no reason behind them, values make no claim on the attention or agreement of others; one must either bow to them or get out of the way.

Allan Bloom made a similar point vividly in The Closing of the American Mind, noting the contrast between the uproar when Reagan called the Soviet Union the "evil empire" and the lack of any such objection when in a later speech he described the U.S. and the U.S.S.R as two nations with "different values." The point is, "values" is a term derived from philosophical subjectivism (specifically from Nietzschean nihilism), and as such makes a huge rhetorical concession to moral relativism. Conservatives shouldn't use it. (This means, among other things, that the Traditional Values Coalition is wrongly and indeed even unhelpfully named, as is the Values Voters Summit.) 

I know this is an uphill fight that won't get anywhere (ditto for my crusade against the similarly subversive and overused term "paradigm shift" -- some other time perhaps), but "principles" is a better term to use. Mansfield succinctly hints at why in the sequel to the passage above:

The Federalist, however, is avowedly based on political science that has a solid foundation in a permanent and fixed conception of human nature.

(Crossposted at The Corner.)

Ashbrook Center

John Ashbrook Award at CPAC

Speaker John Boehner received the John Ashbrook Award at CPAC tonight. He will also be speaking at the Ashbrook Center on April 8 at our annual fund raising dinner for our Ashbrook Scholar program. I hope you will join us.
Categories > Ashbrook Center


Fresh Faces?

Virginia Senator Jim Webb is retiring.  The Atlantic has the bloggy rundown.  The speculation seems to be pointing to a George Allen-Tim Kaine showdown of former governors.  I'm not sold on either candidate without looking at alternatives.

I though Allen was overrated as a candidate even before 2006.  It isn't that he is a bad candidate exactly.  The Republicans have, in the last decade run plenty of candidates who were less principled, less competent or both.  Macaca comment aside, there is just something about Allen that feels out of sync with the moment.  He was a classic three-legs-of -the-stool conservative (economic conservative, social conservative, national security conservative) back when just securing voters with preexisting center-right commitments was enough to win in Virginia.  I don't think that is the case anymore.  That doesn't mean conservative Republicans can't win high profile races, but it does mean the game has changed.  Virginia Republicans would probably be better off with a solidly conservative but wonky and persuadable voter-oriented candidate like Bob McDonnell who is able to reassemble the older conservative coalition and win over suburban voters who shift between the parties.  Then again, Virginia Republicans might not have another McDonnell in their ranks.

I also think Kaine is weaker than he looks. The Virginia Democratic governors of the aughts built their brand partly by differentiating themselves from the national Democratic Party.  Kaine might poll well now, but his role as Democratic National Committee Chairman means that he won't be able to put any daylight between himself and the Obama agenda.  Good luck explaining Medicare cuts, cap-and-trade, public funding of abortion (yeah, I know it is complicated but I would love to see him try to talk his way out of it), and trillion dollar annual deficits. I also don't think Kaine is all that great a candidate.  He was succeeding a very popular Democratic governor, the Virginia Republican Party was a mess and the 2005 environment was brutal for Republicans (Bush had a 40%  RCP average job approval rating for November 2005.)  I really doubt that Kaine will have so favorable an environment next year or that he will be as appealing a candidate to moderates.

Both parties might be better off with currently less well known candidates.  Assuming of course that those candidates don't have even bigger weaknesses than the former governors that people are currently talking about. 

Categories > Politics


Governor Herbert on State Powers and Healthcare

The Honorable Gary Herbert of Utah spoke at the Heritage Foundation this afternoon on healthcare, entitlement reform (including the issue with Medicaid I mention in my previous post), and the fight of the states against the growing powers, mandates, and intrusions of the federal government. Here is the video, just under an hour long. He's very thoughtful of federalism in his approach to governing and addressing the nation's problems; from his State of the State address-- "If we as a state fail to vigorously fight to protect and defend our rights under the Constitution, those rights will invariably be seized and usurped by the federal government. I remind Washington, we are a state, not a colony."
Categories > Conservatism

Shameless Self-Promotion

Conceding Good Faith

The fine folks at First Things have published an article of mine entitled, Conceding Good Faith. It's was fun to write, as it reflects on my time in D.C. among a group of hard-left, Peace Corps liberals (who happened to include my girlfriend - hence my inclusion).

The article touches upon the need, in most cases, for a mutual concession on good intentions in political debate. As Charles Krauthammer once observed:

To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.

At most, Krauthammer doesn't go far enough (maybe he doesn't have any Peace Corps friends). I suggest a sort of truce - if liberals truly want an end to toxic, impoverished political discourse, they must allow that conservatives also seek good ends, but simply disagree as to the most effective means.

I would wager most RONLT (Readers of NLT) have experienced similar trials. I hope you'll RTWT.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Reaganpalooza Comes to Southern California

Just a heads up for any NLT peeps in the San Gabriel Valley--I'll be lecturing today on "Reagan at 100: Why the Gipper Matters for the 21st Century" at Azusa Pacific University at 4 pm (part of my centennial Reaganpalooza tour, or "Ronaroo" if you like).  I don't have a web link for the site, but it's at the LAPC Room on University Way just across from the football stadium.

Quotation du Jour

Since the scope of federal power is a hot topic now, it might be worth pondering this bit from Hamilton's Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States (emphasis added):

It is conceded that implied powers are to be considered as delegated equally with express ones. Then it follows, that as a power of erecting a corporation may as well be implied as any other thing, it may as well be employed as an instrument or mean of carrying into execution any of the specified powers, as any other instrument or mean whatever. The only question must be in this, as in every other case, whether the mean to be employed or in this instance, the corporation to be erected, has a natural relation to any of the acknowledged objects or lawful ends of the government. Thus a corporation may not be erected by Congress for superintending the police of the city of Philadelphia, because they are not authorized to regulate the police of that city. But one may be erected in relation to the collection of taxes, or to the trade with foreign countries, or to the trade between the States, or with the Indian tribes; because it is the province of the federal government to regulate those objects, and because it is incident to a general sovereign or legislative power to regulate a thing, to employ all the means which relate to its regulation to the best and greatest advantage.

In the founding era, the debate was between strict and loose construction. Nowadays, we might say that it's between construction and deconstruction.


Turnabout is Fair Play

The Living constitution vs. the New Deal:

What Tribe forgets is that the constitution is a living document. The constitution's meaning is not fixed by the New Deal. The constitution evolves to meet the needs of the people in the here and now. Tribe's interpretation of the commerce clause, which may have been appropriate for the age of steel and iron, is not necessarily right for the age of genes and bytes. We are fortunate, the constitution lives.

It's time for Professor Tribe to stop clinging to his horse and buggy constitution, and get with the times.

Categories > Courts


HuffPost Goes Corporate

Arianna Huffington has sold the Huffington Post (and herself) to AOL for $315 million. Arianna will control all of AOL's on-line material. AOL spent 40% of its cash reserves in the acquisition, which it hopes will reverse last year's 26% revenue loss.

AOL is following the MSNBC model, driving to the left in hopes that a liberal niche or name recognition, however infamous or notorious, will save them from insolvency. The most amusing coverage of the merger has been questions of whether HuffPost will abandon its far left ideology now that it is part of the "MSM." The obvious answer is that it doesn't need to move right - the MSM has already moved far enough leftward to meet HuffPost just where it is.

I previously worked for AOL's politics blog Political Machine (now Politics Daily). PM's producers, Coates Bateman and Michael Kraskin, as well as lead editors such as David Knowles, strove to keep the site above mere partisan ranting and struggled to retain ideological balance. All of the fine bloggers with whom I wrote (with the exception of the odious Cenk Uyger) delightfully played their parts in the agreed upon larger drama. But reports indicate that the blog may soon be folded into HuffPost - and with it, I fear, any semblance of ideological balance or journalistic integrity.

Watch AOL follow in the footsteps of MSNBC toward the echo-chamber of liberal lunacy.

Then again, if anyone is looking to buy up No Left Turns for a 9-digit sum . . .

Categories > Journalism


Multiculturalism and Birthright

Reacting to David Cameron's recent comment that "multiculturalism has failed," Peter Kirsanow notes that the U.S. "hasn't traveled as far down the road of multiculturalism as Britain," but he also notes that we've gone further than many think.

One area that might be worth highlighting is in the area of citizenship.  The day someone becomes a U.S. citizen, he becomes an American in the most important respect.  His character as an American is whole, perfect, and complete.  By contrast, familes can be citizens of France or Britain for generations, but still not be thought of as British or French.  The same is true in most countries.  What sets the U.S. apart is that citizenship in America has been, in principle, primarily political.  It has not been based on soild or blood, but, instead, it has been based upon being party to the compact built on the principles of 1776 and confirmed when we the people ratified the compact in 1787-88. 

By making citizenship depend primarily on soil, and also, to a degree, on blood, birthright citnzenship changes that.

The efforts we have seen in the past few decades to make it easier to be a citizen of the U.S. and another nation fit in here too.  (Dual citizenship makes no sense if citizenship is primarily political, but which is possile when citizenship is cultural--Once we're talking culture, however, citizenship probably is no longer the best word. Race or ethnicity would probably be better). The efforts to weaken our citizenship oath in the same line.  These efforts are all, ultimately, of a piece with a reading of the constitution which separates citizenship from the principles of 1776.

Categories > Race

Foreign Affairs

If Bill Clinton Were Italian...

WSJ reports that Italian prosecutors want Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to "stand trial on charges of patronizing an underage prostitute and abusing his powers in an attempt to cover up the relationship." The minor is a 17 year-old Moroccan dancer who goes by the nickname "Ruby." Berlusconi, by my count, is 74, and allegedly committed the infraction during a "bunga-bunga" party.

I previously mentioned this incident while introducing "Berlesconism" to the political lexicon, meaning the condition of acting in the most egregiously juvenile manner while in a position of utmost authority without ever suffering the slightest consequences. I suspect the good fortune of il caveliere has not yet run dry and Berlesconi will survive this latest siege with a wink and a smile.

Bill Clinton was a prude by way of comparison.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Lot's of Catching Up To Do

Some time over the last week my NLT blogging software got buggy on my computer and I couldn't post, but NLT's outsourced computer specialists in India in-house webmasters finally got me sorted out.  

I've had my arm twisted out of its socket to do some long form posts for our friends at Powerline, and also at NRO's Corner, so I'll be cross-posting more than a migratory egret.  This morning I deliver a rather long smack-down of Eugene Robinson's WaPo column on Reagan the big government liberal, while at the Corner I note a dog-bites-man story out of Hollywood.  (Teaser: It features Sarah Palin!)


The Coming Crisis

Generations have been scarred by war and disease in the past. Lives have been destroyed by tremendous disasters-- hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, plagues. Often times these crises come with little warning and are not understood until it is too late to stop them. The crisis facing the current youth of this nation, though, is entirely foreseeable-- and entirely avoidable. We actually know that it is going to happen, why it is going to happen, when it is going to happen, and how bad it is going to be. We have all the tools and knowledge at our disposal to avert this doomed future. Yet, despite this tremendous foresight, we do nothing. We lack the will to meet this challenge and slay this beast before it devours a generation of people.

The issue I speak of is our massive debt. The scope of this danger is generally misunderstood by the public, and often spoken of in vague terms by our politicians. It is not very romantic or seemingly heroic to want to tackle it, but at times our leaders pretend to. It has become common of late to entertain arguments over the defense budget, foreign aid, funding the National Endowment for the Humanities, whether or not Smithsonian museums should start charging for admission, and shrinking the federal bureaucracy. Democrats and Republicans argue over these issues as if they will have any impact on the coming crisis. Noble as it may be to tackle the government's discretionary funding, it will do nothing. The government can shut down every branch of the Armed Forces and pull the salaries of every bureaucrat in Washington and this nation's fiscal future will still be doomed. If we are to avert this disaster, then our leaders must become statesmen willing to go after the programs that are usually sacrosanct in the minds of politicians-- entitlements. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will force this nation to its knees and bring about the economic ruin of the greatest economic force the world has ever known. Imagine the chaos we have seen in Greece amplified a hundred-fold. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if something is not done, then by the year 2050 the tax rate will be 47% for the middle tax bracket and 66% on the highest earners; in 2082, it will be 88% on the highest earners.

Congress must turn to the entitlement programs within the next four or five years if we are to avert this crisis. We can see it; we can do something about it. Unfortunately, the people that these programs are most important to are also the ones who politicians are most beholden to, because they tend to be the ones who vote. Young people need to start speaking up more about this if Congress is to really be held accountable on this issue. This is why programs like the Heritage Foundation's Slay the Beast are useful and should be spread and replicated. And, for those of you who (like me) sort of get a glazed look in your eyes when economists bring out graphs and start talking about numbers, videos like this are of huge help (as are this one and this one).
Categories > Economy

Pop Culture

Another Reagan Moment?

When recalling Reagan, how can we not remember Lady Thatcher--now the subject of a movie starring none other than Meryl Streep.  I'm skeptical about this.

TreppenwitzSteve Hayward has a better movie idea:  An enviro film crossing "Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth ... with Mel Brooks's The Producers."  I can visualize that opening scene now....

Categories > Pop Culture

Health Care

Obama Administration Lawlessness

A prime example of the Obama Administration's lawless behavior is its exemption of entities from the legislation Congress passed and he signed into law--waivers.  The sober Columbia University law professor Philip Hamburger (see his Separation of Church and State) has pointed out how the Obama Administration has undermined the rule of law and the separation of powers, and led us back into the Middle Ages with its practices:

The Department of Health and Human Services has granted 733 waivers from one of the statute's key requirements. The recipients of the waivers include insurers such as Oxford Health Insurance, labor organizations such as the Service Employees International Union, and employers such as PepsiCo. This is disturbing for many reasons. At the very least, it suggests the impracticability of the health-care law; HHS gave the waivers because it fears the law will cost many Americans their jobs and insurance.

More seriously, it raises questions about whether we live under a government of laws. Congress can pass statutes that apply to some businesses and not others, but once a law has passed -- and therefore is binding -- how can the executive branch relieve some Americans of their obligation to obey it? ....

As it happens, waivers have a history. In the Middle Ages, the pope granted waivers, known as dispensations, and English kings soon followed suit....

Categories > Health Care


No More Third Way

Having lost half their numbers in 2010, as moderates swung heavily for the GOP, the Democratic Leadership Council is boarding up their windows and closing their doors. The platform of Clinton's moderate "third way" agenda, DLC was the dwindling centrist coalition of the Democratic party.

Its collapse is symbolic of the ever-more liberal nature of the remaining Democratic party. One can't help but to recall Nancy Pelosi's famous assertion that Democrats were punished in November for not being liberal enough.

The media trumped up a faux scandal by claiming dissention in the GOP ranks during the rise of the Tea Party - but the effect of this dissention was a massive electoral victory. Perhaps the monolithically liberal Democratic party could use a little scandalous dissention of thier own. But DLC's demise makes that dissent a little less likely.

Categories > Progressivism


Ohio's Heartbeat Bill

Ohio is preparing to introduce the nation's most protective abortion law. The "Heartbeat Bill" would proscribe abortions after a child's heartbeat is detected - as early as 18 days after conception.

Pro-life advocates likely have the votes in the legislature, but even the executive director of Ohio Right to Life concedes the law is outside the allowance of judicial ruling on abortion rights and will not likely survive a constitutional challenge.

In light of renewed calls from the left for nearly unlimited congressional regulatory power in order to justify Obamacare, it is revealing that the left also believes Congress to be nearly without power to regulate abortion. Constitutional law is not intended as a results-oriented exercise in social engineering. Democracy is results-oriented - and hence separate judicial and legislative branches of government. Abortion continues to be a glaring hypocrisy in the pseudo-jurisprudence of the left.

Categories > Courts

Refine & Enlarge

America's Governing Electoral Majority: Who Are They and What do They Want?

Henry Olsen writes an indispensable examination of recent political history and polling for the purpose of asking the all important question of whether the governing electoral majority in America is--as the popular narrative of conservative optimists tells it--"center right" or if that majority is merely, "anti-left."  Olsen comes down closer to the latter interpretation but does not go so far as to throw a tall bucket of ice-water on the embers of the more optimistic "center right" narrative.  He seems, instead, to say that the "center right" narrative should be true and, if it isn't quite true yet, it could be true with a little patience, education and determination from would-be Republican statesmen. 

Olsen sees plenty of freedom-loving material to work with in the block of white working-class voters who have been the decisive voice in all recent elections and have tended (at least since the 60s) to fluctuate between the parties and confuse many observers of American politics.  Instead of assuming that these voters are merely ignorant or schizophrenic about their electoral decisions--as some frustrated pundits and, even, politicians have been inclined to do--Olsen looks for a central and unifying theme that explains their voting patterns.  Olsen wants to know who these voters are and what, in fact, they want from American politics.  It is the first question that every politician who understands the American concept of "consent" ought to be asking--and given the wild fluctuation between the parties in the last several decades that has characterized their voting, it is painfully obvious that very few would-be statesmen have bothered to ask it.  THIS, above all other sins, is the cardinal one afflicting all past Republican majorities.  It is also the sin that they must seek to avoid the near temptation of if they mean to avoid future electoral penance.

Olsen does not hold all previous Republican victors in equal contempt of the American commandment to know and understand the electorate.  He has a special fondness, for example, for Reagan and his ability to frame the argument for freedom in such a way as to not strike fear in the hearts of those whose notions of "rugged independence" and risk-taking included with it some reliance on the idea that society would provide a safety net to catch them if their best efforts failed.  He took these Americans at their word that they did not expect to be carried but neither could they afford to be dropped.  So Reagan sought to talk to Americans about the meaning and the purpose of freedom.  Freedom, properly understood, is our best means of security.  It means jobs and prosperity.  It means independence and a better way of life for future generations.  Security that comes at the expense of freedom is a meager and--ironically--insecure kind of security.  It makes us weaker--both as individuals and as a nation.

This line of argument was also very successful in the 1994 welfare reform debates.  Republicans then did not allow the opposition to paint a picture of them as being willing to pull the rug out from underneath people.  Instead, they framed the argument by arguing that the best way toward security for individuals was to eliminate programs that worked against their interests in liberty and in economic prosperity.  Welfare was reining in the unlimited potential of people and hurting them.  It did not work as it was intended to do.  Therefore it had to be changed--not merely because it was expensive--but because it was hurting the people WE seek to uplift. 

Olsen offers solid advice to Republican majorities seeking to do something worthwhile with (and, of course, to shore up) their new-found political prominence.  Olsen understands that a careful rhetoric that comprehends and re-directs the fears and misgivings of these voters without patronizing or pacifying them, is necessary.  Moreover, he understands that the stakes have never been higher.  Today's Republicans do not have the luxury of time or the hope that failure now will instruct them better in some future battle.  They have to fight this battle now and to win it now.  If they mean to do it, they had better understand the real character of the American electorate and what motivates them.  The left has constantly underestimated the drive in Americans toward freedom.  The right, conversely, has been too dismissive of the average American's desire for security.  The job, then, is to give an honest accounting not only of how freedom and security can be reconciled--but of how these goods are indispensable to each other.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Missile Defense

Friends and interested parties in the Washington, D.C. area may be interested to attend a panel this Thursday titled, "Rethinking Comprehensive Missile Defense" which is part of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration at the Heritage Foundation.  The panel will feature many prominent speakers and experts in the field, including Ashbrook graduate, Rebeccah Heinrichs.  The panel is also available for viewing live and on-line if you are unable to attend.    
Categories > Military


Movement On The Third Front

Terrific letter by Mitch Daniels in the Wall Street Journal today.  Good example of how states can help advance the argument against Obamacare.  Only two suggestions:

1.  It isn't enough to threaten to not cooperate with Obamacare.  It would be even better if states like Indiana (and other Republican-governed states) worked to establish facts on the ground as quickly as possible to make the implementation of Obamacare (or any kind of government-run health care) politically more difficult.

2.  There is a gap in conservative public rhetoric when it comes to health care.  There is a wonky policy-driven rhetoric that you find in magazines like National Affairs and a populist health care rhetoric you find in the broadcast right-leaning media. Neither rhetoric is sufficient to our situation.  The first relies on a reader's knowledge of terms and ideas that are unfamiliar to the vast majority of the public.  The second relies on the audience already sharing certain premises about socialized medicine, getting the government out of health care, tort reform, etc. We are lacking a public rhetoric that can explain the wonky ideas of the National Affairs gang (and the records of politicians like Mitch Daniels) in populist everyday language.   

Categories > Politics

Political Parties

The End of the Southern Democrats

The Deep South has a long history, stretching back to before the Civil War, of Democratic politics. Being a Democrat was not just a preference; it was tradition. In recent decades, beginning in the 1960s with Barry Goldwater, the South has shifted towards the Republican Party in presidential elections. Over time, congressional seats and governors mansions have also slowly moved over to the GOP. However, at the local and most of the state levels, most offices remained affiliated with the Democratic Party. They are considered "old-school" (or "Blue Dog") Democrats who embraced FDR (and, often, JFK and LBJ) as their standard-bearer, rejected Jimmy Carter, fell in love with Reagan, and warmed up a bit to Clinton.

Within the past decade--and particularly within the past couple of years--support for the Democratic Party in the Deep South has almost vanished. What few Democrats that actually managed to win in the mid-terms have started switching sides, claiming that the Democratic Party has strayed too far from them. In the party that has often touted itself for having a "big tent" of diverse people and opinions, "you really can't be a conservative" anymore. Since November, dozens of state legislators have left the Democratic Party, sometimes switching majorities in the legislatures--- Louisiana Republicans now have a state House majority for the first time since Reconstruction. Even last week, the final remaining Democrat holding a state office in Louisiana, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, defected. This near-total realignment of southern politics, fifty years in the making, will have tremendous ramifications as many of the states begin to combat the growing size of the federal government. 
Categories > Political Parties


Obama Does Something Right

The White House Super Bowl Sunday tail-gate party includes bratwurst, kielbasa, cheeseburgers, deep-dish pizza and Buffalo wings with sides of German potato salad, twice-baked potatoes and assorted chips and dips. Yuengling Lager and Light, as well as Hinterland Pale Ale and Amber Ale, are on tap to wash it all down.

This is especially commendable on the part of President Obama, who (like many men across the nation) is surely going to take one for the team when his wife, the First Lunch-Lady, tallies up all the calories consumed on game day.

So, here's to Obama being one of the guys!

Categories > Sports

Foreign Affairs

Uncontacted People

Power Line notes the amazing story of an indigenous tribe in the Amazon which has been untouched by outside influences. Survival International claims that 150 million "uncontacted" tribal people live in more than 60 countries around the world. "Isolated" is the politically-correct term, apparently - as many of these people have been contacted, but have sought to remain insular.

The status of these people is extremely interesting. One cannot avoid the paternalistic role demanded of states within whose borders these people live. Well-intended activists wish to create a legal mandate that nations recognize and enforce these people's isolation. But this seems, in itself, a somewhat egregious form of evolutionary control. It is a peculiar accident that these people have been excluded from the progress of the entire human species. Surely it is an authoritarian act to decide that they must remain in such a state until they sua sponte develop a social instinct to the contrary. One may suggest with equal validity that they should be contacted immediately with a reader's digest update on what they've missed over the last several millenia or so. Who knows, they might like football, pizza and the Beatles.

Whatever the answers, that these people must obviously be treated differently than others people in their respective countries is a notable commentary on the equal application of laws (they aren't paying taxes on their war paint and spears, after all, and I assume they are administering their own "cruel and unusual" forms of punishment). One cannot help but to draw back from this extreme example to more mundane social perplexities, such as religious and cultural minorities which might seek similar accomodations. Muslims might well ask: if them, why not us also?  

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Comeback Kids Come Up Short

It's only fitting to note with somber lamentation that the black and gold finally failed to surge ahead as the underdog champion to win the game in the end. Sometimes good does not immediately overcome evil....

There's always next year.

Categories > Sports

The Founding

Tocquevillean American Exceptionalism

We interrupt, or supplement, this Reagan moment for a review of two new works on Alexis Tocqueville, by Harvey Mansfield. Mansfield addresses Tocqueville's slighting of the Declaration of Independence:

Tocqueville was not friendly to philosophers or "theoreticians," as several letters confirm. In "Democracy in America," he ignored the political philosophy in the principles of America's founding, calling the Puritans and not, say, John Locke, America's "point of departure." He emphasized the practical work of the Constitution (based on theories, to be sure) and never even mentioned Jefferson's more theoretical and Lockean Declaration of Independence. Yet Tocqueville was interested in "theoretical consequences".... 

To this definition and endorsement of American Exceptionalism one might object, and doubters of that idea today do object, that a country maintaining slavery could not congratulate itself for being an example, let alone the exemplar, of political freedom or thoughtful choice to the rest of mankind. Tocqueville agreed, and in his letters on America after his visit he inveighed against the taint put by slavery on America's reputation around the world, particularly since other countries had already abolished it. After the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 he grew increasingly concerned; it was one thing not to abolish slavery where it was long established, quite another to extend it to new territories. This was a point made by Lincoln, but Tocqueville died in 1859 without learning of the man who would have shown him the greatness he most praised: great thought from the doer of great deeds.

But this begs the question:  Does Tocqueville's framework of aristocracy versus democracy, with equality as an historical force, provide us with the best means of understanding Lincoln?  Moreover, at least one of Tocqueville's letters testifies to his knowledge of Americans' passionate embrace of the Declaration (July 16, 1831).  Here Tocqueville recoiled at that "piece of humbug in some farce" by a lawyer making world history's "consummation in the United States, seated at the center of the universe."  Tocqueville left, "cursing the speechifier whose gab and famous national pride had dampened the vivid impressions the rest of the [Fourth of July] ceremony had made on me."  Might Tocqueville have been reminded of that lawyer and dismissed Lincoln as one of his ilk?  Did he not see the logos behind the passions?

Categories > The Founding


More Tributes to Reagan

Here are a couple more good pieces on Reagan: Peter in today's Columbus Dispatch and Steve Hayward over at Power Line. The best tribute is just reading Reagan's own words. Among the many good ones, I am particularly fond of his Farewell Address.
Categories > Conservatism


Cameron Displays British Backbone

Aside from the introductory blather differentiating peaceful Islam from militant Islamism, British Prime Minister Cameron gave a truly interesting, prudent and politically-incorrect speech before the Munich Security Conference. The Telegraph summed up the speech as:

British Muslims must subscribe to mainstream values of freedom and equality, David Cameron declared that the doctrine of multiculturalism has "failed" and will be abandoned.

Cameron is calling for an end to Britain's multicultural, "passive tolerance" of the segregated communities which breed Muslim terrorists. Rather, he seeks an "active, muscular liberalism" which promotes core British values at all levels of society. 

The relevant portion begins at 2:30.


How very lamentable that I must live vicariously through Britain for sensible, courageous leadership.

Categories > Conservatism