What we're watching is the death of the Democratic Party. Or, at least the Democratic Party as most of us have known it. The one that has taken its identity in the modern era from FDR and the New Deal, from Keynesianism and the social safety net. Despite any of its other shortcomings (and they are myriad), the Democratic Party has stood as a symbol for commitment to these principles. As recently as 2006, Democrats retook the House in a surprise wave election because the public feared that George Bush would destroy Social Security, and they trusted the Democrats over Republicans to secure it. Just like George Bush, Obama now wants to "save" Social Security....by giving those who want to burn it to the ground the the very thing they've wanted for decades.
Any member of any party who participates in this effort does not deserve, and should not get, the support of anyone who values Social Security and cares about its preservation. The amount of damage that the Democrats under Obama have been able to do has been immeasurable, by virtue of the fact that they are less awful [than] George Bush. But where George Bush failed, Obama will probably succeed....
Barack Obama, a state senator running for an open seat in the U.S. Senate, became an overnight sensation and a national political figure with a speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, which proclaimed "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America - there is the United States of America." Liberals and conservatives remain disunited in many ways, but Barack Obama has helped more and more of them agree on at least one thing: he can't do the job during the daytime after a good night's sleep any better than he can at three in the morning.
We'll fight this, because it's the right thing to do. We will probably lose. But we will make it as painful as possible for any politician from any party to participate in this wholesale looting of the public sphere, this "shock doctrine" for America. And maybe along the way we'll get a vision of what comes next. Because what we believe in as Americans, and what we stand for, is not something the Democratic party represents any more.
So I was listening to the audio feed of FOX NEWS in the car and they did a story about how the Pawlenty campaign was failing to gain traction. They circled around to the explanation that Pawlenty was too "Minnesota nice." I really hate that meme.
Pawlenty isn't nice is the sense of being weak. As governor of Minnesota, he took on the spending interests in a Democratic-leaning state over and over again. He won more times than he lost.
He isn't even nice in the sense of being nice. In his first post-2008 election CPAC speech, he suggested that conservatives take inspiration from Elin Nordegren's alleged golf club wielding attack on spouse Tiger Woods. Aside from being buffoonish, that wasn't very nice. Pawlenty's next CPAC speech was less overtly hostile. It featured the (pseudo) emotional high point of Pawlenty saying "And, Mr. President, stop apologizing for our country." like he was auditioning for the WWE.
Pawlenty went on a Sunday talk show and talked about "Obamneycare" and then flinched from repeating the term to Romney's face at a debate later that week while failing to articulate a coherent critique of either Romneycare or Obamacare. I can think of several things to call that behavior, but "nice" doesn't come to mind.
The thing is, Pawlenty isn't failing to gain ground because he is being to nice and he can't gain ground by trying to seem ruff and tuff. Where is there to go? Is he going to tell conservatives to imitate cannibals and then rip off his own shirt? Is he going to compare Romneycare to some genocide?
I think back to Pawlenty in the first Republican presidential debate (the one where Bachmann and Romney weren't there to outshine him.) He gave an answer on the Bin Laden killing that vaguely implied he was in favor of enhanced interrogation and maybe waterboarding. Then the moderator asked directly about waterboarding. Pawlenty danced around and didn't give a definitive answer. Then the moderator asked for a show of hands for who would authorize waterboarding. Pawlenty raised his hand. After that debate, the evasive Herman Cain got credit from a Frank Luntz focus group for giving real answers. Compared to Pawlenty, he was. Pawlenty's problem is that he hasn't got a compelling message, hasn't got a compelling critique of his rivals and hasn't demonstrated an authentic-seeming personality.
But despite all of Pawlenty's missteps, I still think he has significant political upside given the current state of the Republican field.
Run Bobby Run.
So I guess most people interested in politics have read David Brooks' freakout that the GOP won't move on increasing revenues in the debt ceiling negotiations. I can't say that I blame the GOP on this one. I can very easily see where the GOP moves on some kind of tax increase, the Democrats use that to erode the Republican brand as the party of lower taxes and then sandbags them on spending cuts.
The thing is I don't see much of a (positive) substantive endgame in this whole debt ceiling standoff. The best case scenario is that Obama and the GOP pull off some kind of spending cut deal that does little to address our long-term fiscal situation and who cuts are incomprehensible to, and quickly forgotten by, the American public.
If there is a debt ceiling-related train wreck in which Social Security benefits, military salaries, and reimbursements to Medicare providers are cut until a deal gets worked out, I don't see how the GOP doesn't get at least half the blame. The best that can be hoped for in that event is that the whole Washington atmosphere gets poisoned and people become more open to a pragmatic, detail-oriented businessman/technocrat - which just happens to be Mitt Romney's latest incarnation. It is at least as likely that Obama would emerge from such a confrontation with increased stature as protector of responsible governance against Republican irresponsibility.
The real Republican problem is that they haven't come up with a politically prudent plan that will bring the long-term budget down to a sustainable level. The Ryan Path To Prosperity is a worthy effort and does bring the deficit to a sustainable level without raising taxes. The problem is that it probably expects to save too much from Medicare and Medicaid too quickly to be either good politics or very wise policy. One can picture a Republican budget with a more realistic cost projections for Medicare spending, but I don't see how it gets there while being strictly revenue neutral. That doesn't mean tax rates have to go up, but if tax rates don't go up, then tax expenditures will have to be cut to find the money. There is a space (and even more a need) for a Republican who can make the case for moving the tax code in both a higher revenue and pro-growth direction, reforming health care in a consumer-driven direction, and bringing spending down to a sustainable level. The thing is I haven't seen any such Republican running for President.
In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down on Friday an amendment to the Michigan Constitution (Proposal 2, the "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative") which provided that the state may not "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting." The amendment was passed by a successful ballot initiative following the Gratz and Grutter decisions which allowed racial preferences in law school admissions.
Perversely, the majority opinion relied upon the Equal Protection Clause to conclude that Michigan's law prohibiting unequal treatment based on race was unconstitutional. According to the court, "Proposal 2 reorders the political process in Michigan to place special burdens on minority interests." Apparently, taking away an unconstitutional advantage is a special burden which trumps the Constitution.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he will appeal for a rehearing en banc. I expect the full court will overturn this decision. If they fail to do so, this would be a ripe issue for the Supreme Court.
Kirk Kolbo, who represented the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court's racial quota and preference cases, writes an essential article for Power Line criticizing Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Regents of the University of Michigan.
Hayward is on his game today with a Power Line post which asks, "Is There a Conservative Case for Higher Taxes?"
If you aren't compelled to read the whole thing yet, allow me to lift the curtain just a bit and reveal that his answer is, "yes."
My theory is simple: if the broad middle class of Americans are made to pay for all of the government they get, they may well start to demand less of it, quickly.
...if you want to limit government spending, instead of starving the beast, serve the check.
And only Hayward can formulate a strategy whereby "a debate on how to raise taxes might actually be fun to have with liberals."
The Washington Post has a good article on the divergence of "originalist" thought in Justices Scalia and Thomas' respective opinions in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (the violent video game case). (Opinion, briefs and coverage at SCOTUSblog.)
Of course, one could deride WaPo for failing to have previously discovered that all originalists are not alike and that the philosophy of originalism is profound and diverse. But the article is clear and blessedly free from snark and derision, so I'm thankful for the attention to a critical debate in Supreme Court jurisprudence.
On the other hand, I can't resist sharing the articles parting words:
Originalism is still a relatively young theory of constitutional interpretation....
That is a shame.
I hope this is a glimpse of the future.
As a post-script to my last post on anti-Semitism among liberals, a group of left-wing American activists (bios here) attempted to violate Israel's blockade of Gaza this weekend aboard a flotilla ship named, "The Audacity of Hope." CNN was able to scoop the story, since they had an activist/reporter on board the ship.
The CNN article never gets around to considering the meaning of the ship's coincidental name, or the reason these activists assumed it articulated their anti-Israel intent. I'm sure the name "Decision Points" had already been taken.
I previously noted the perverse hostility bleeding-heart liberals have toward Jews, the perennial minority-victim of world history. Ron Rosenbaum writes well on this hostility within the Ivory Tower of liberal academia, noting the recent hypocrisy and (continuing) anti-Semitism in "Yale's New Jewish Quota":
Who killed YIISA? It's a kind of academic murder mystery. YIISA--for those who have not caught the scant coverage of this deeply disturbing development--stands for the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism. Or should I say stood for that, till Yale, in a cowardly, clumsily-executed maneuver, abolished the program in the first week in June.
Yale cited several reasons for killing YIISA, a program devoted to the cross-cultural examination of anti-Semitism that had been in operation since 2006. But many observers suspect the turning point was a YIISA conference last August called "Global Anti-Semitism: A Crisis of Modernity" which, while featuring 108 speakers from five continents, dared acknowledge the existence of anti-Semitism in some Islamic cultures. ...
But while the backlash against YIISA's conference included predictable protests from the official PLO representative and the group's supporters in America, the more subtle--and yet ludicrous--objection to YIISA's conference and YIISA's work came--as Ben Cohen pointed out in the Forward--in the charge of "advocacy," leveled by some YIISA opponents on campus. The charge that the program exhibited too much "advocacy" against anti-Semitism, as opposed to academic analysis of anti-Semitism. It seems unlikely that Yale tells its cancer researchers not to engage in advocacy against the malignancies they study, doesn't it?
David Greenberg also notes the Yale controversy as a starting point for a broader consideration of liberal and academic tolerance of anti-Semitism:
How did a concern with anti-Semitism, whether scholarly or political, come to be seen as the province of the right? How did liberalism--historically the philosophy of toleration and equal rights--come to be so squeamish about confronting Jew-hatred in its contemporary forms?
In the last decade or so, noxious attitudes toward Jews once voiced only on the far left and far right have gained a curious acceptance--indulged or explained away, if not actively promoted, by mainstream liberals. Remarks that can be charitably described as disturbing emanate from left-liberal icons ... doing no visible damage to their reputations.
Greenberg cites several causes for this shameful liberal legacy. First, liberals granted Islam - the grand perpetrators of anti-Semitism in the modern world - a "free pass" following 9-11.
Liberals (and many conservatives), anticipating an outbreak of nationalistic anti-Islamic feeling in an angry and wounded country, admirably took pains to fight negative depictions of Islam. But those laudable demonstrations of toleration sometimes became muddled, leading some liberals, as Leon Wieseltier put it, to start "granting Muslims a reprieve from the rigors of liberalism."
Greenberg also indicts the left for succumbing to their deranged "blame Bush" mantra.
The Bush administration's ideology-fueled agenda abroad made many liberals feel that either they were with the president or they were against him--and who would want to be with him? Clinton-era liberal internationalism fell from favor after several of its prominent adherents short-sightedly backed the Iraq War. As the Bush administration grew tight with the Likud governments in Jerusalem, sympathy for Israel came to be equated with a "neocon" position.
Finally, Greenberg notes that the great barrier to anti-Semitism over the past half century is beginning to fail.
As these developments opened the door to the frank expression and reflexive rationalization of anti-Semitic views, another, longer-term trend was eroding the cultural taboos against that expression: the vanishing memory of the Holocaust.
Stanley Fish ... wrote with self-awareness some time ago about his sensitivity to anti-Zionism. It was magnified, he said, by two factors: the time he spends on campuses, "where anti-Israel sentiment flourishes and is regarded more or less as a default position," and his age (now 73). Unlike friends just 10 years younger, Fish remembered World War II--as do his peers everywhere. For decades those memories chilled anti-Semitism and extended the world's concern and protection to the Jewish people. Now they are fading.
Rosenbaum and Greenberg write on serious matters with great thoughtfulness and clarity. Liberal anti-Semitism is an anomalous abomination, and its wide-spread presence within universities adds insult to injury. (I fully trust that Ashland University - or at least its Politics and History departments - does not descend into such barbarity.)
Literature, Poetry, and Books
In the Washington Post, Alexander Heffner suggests that John Adams should be honored with a monument on the Mall.
What's the case for Adams? Before the revolution, he was the nation's first attendant to the American legal tradition of due process, defending British soldiers who fired on colonists during the Boston Massacre. One of Massachusetts's representatives to the First and Second Continental Congresses, Adams was a champion of separation from England and the fiercest advocate of Jefferson's declaration. Without his persuasive speeches in the Philadelphia chamber, the document wouldn't have been signed. While Jefferson was silent during what he considered the convention's editorial debasement of his work, Adams defended every clause, including an excised call for the abolition of slavery. Jefferson called Adams "a colossus on the floor" of the Congress. . . .
Heffner goes on to note Adams' services in the American diplomatic corps during the revolution and his Presidency (noting the lamentable Sedition Act as a rare mistake). I'm not sure I'd put it quite that way. I would, however, stress Adams' constitutionalism.
As the principal author of the Massachusetts Constitution, and in other writings, Adams, more than any other single figure, is responsibe for the U.S. having a constitution featuring an executive with a qualified veto, a bicameral legislature, and separations among the legsilative, executive, and judicial branches (separations which were not full and complete, so that each branch had to defend its turf against the others). By paying tribuite to the author of the Massachusetts Constitution, we also, by implication, pay tribute to the people of Massachustts who are responsible for the idea that constitutions should be created by special conventions and ratified by the people. Not coincidentally, the Massachusetts Constitution has the best concise explanation of the reasoning behind that process of any document of the era:
The end of the institution, maintenance and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body-politic; to protect it; and to furnish the individuals who compose it, with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquility, their natural rights, and the blessings of life: And whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.
The body-politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: It is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a Constitution of Government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them.
I am not sure, however, that a neo-pagan temple in Washington would be the bests tribute to Adams. John Adams is more than a founder of the American republic, he is also the patriarch of one of the most extraordinary families in American politics and letters. Adams also dwelled upon the importance of education. He put a strange clause in the Massachusetts constitution on the subject:
Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates, in all future periods of this Commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humour, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.
That being Adams' view, I would say that the most fitting tribute to Adams would be to create an Adams library of American letters, dedicated to the study of American politics, with politics and literature both understood in the classic fashion. Such an institution, which I am not the first to recommend, would be a proper legacy for John Adams and his extraordinary family. What better tribute, and what better form of civic worship, than study. As Adams put it in the Massachusetts Constitution:
A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and a constant adherence to those of piety, justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality, are absolutely necessary to preserve the advantages of liberty, and to maintain a free government: The people ought, consequently, to have a particular attention to all those principles, in the choice of their officers and representatives: And they have a right to require of their law-givers and magistrates, an exact and constant observance of them, in the formation and execution of the laws necessary for the good administration of the Commonwealth.
A library, dedicated to the study of those principles, and their continuing relevance to our politics, would be the best way to honor this founding father.
At a Bar-b-que yesterday, I found my self talking with a family law expert. I asked him a question which has been troubling me for a while: what prevents two people who are otherwise unattached, and not closely related from marrying for tax purposes, and then divorcing. He said, nothing.
Transfers between husband and wife, or perhpas we should say between Partner A and Partner B are tax free. Hence it is possible for two businesspeople who wish to sell a business to marry, transfer cash for stock, and divorce. Voilla, a tax-free sale.
Such actions were, of course, always possible, but with the rise of gay marriage, they become much more possible, perhaps even more likely. There are many more people who are now eligible. In addition, now that the definition of marriage is now in play, the social pressure to view marriage as anything other than a status in positive law is reduced.
On what grounds would such marriages be illegal? We can't say that love is essential to marriage. In fact, marrying for money is an ancient tradition. (And how would we test it anyway?) We can't say that the desire to have children is essential, since that idea has already been rejected, at least in states where gay marriage is legal. Etc.
For the time being, the Defense of Marriage Act might mitigate the federal tax element, but I fear that law is not long for this world.