Friday, December 31, 2010

American Conservativism: Intellectual, Cohesive, Anti-establishment, Exceptional (Part II)

James Piereson is president of the William E. Simon Foundation and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He has written an important essay that proclaims American conservativism to be the country’s most vibrant political philosophy; the very essence of American exceptionalism.

Piereson’s argument continues, in his own words, in Part II:

conservatives will have to craft a new governing consensus out of the loose strands of their movement—but . . . conservatism will continue to operate as a political force in the years and decades ahead because it has turned itself into a popular, even a populist, movement—something few thought possible when conservatism first took shape. . . Yet in a democratic polity such as exists in the United States, conservatism could not have thrived . . . without also channeling its ideas into a popular force.

Critics, from Richard Hofstadter in the 1950s to Sam Tanenhaus more recently, have denied that a popular conservatism can exist because, in their view, conservatism must sacrifice its distinctive elements in the process of winning a mass following. . . Edmund Burke’s ever-famous writings on the French Revolution [endorsed] governance by the talented, supported the status quo, and preferred prudence and realism as guides to political action over abstract theories and principles. American conservatism, on the other hand. . . has exploited popular appeals, attacked the status quo and “the establishment,” used terms like “the conservative revolution,” and, especially in foreign policy, proposed an “idealistic” rather than a “realistic” approach to dealing with foreign threats.

American conservatism [is anti-establishment] because it originated outside the political mainstream and. . . has never really functioned comfortably within it. . . As an opposition movement in a democratic system, American conservatives can only gain power by taking their case to the public in order to win converts to their cause and, incidentally, to discredit the . . . status quo.

Because it developed as a challenge to . . . the New Deal and its successive iterations, American conservatism embodies many of the features of an insurgent or oppositional group. Conservatives [describe] their enterprise as a “movement,” . . . an active and dedicated membership moving toward some definite destination. . . most conservatives still think of themselves as an embattled minority fighting a proud and insulated establishment.

Shut out of liberal institutions, such as elite-college faculties and the national press, along with mainline churches and even government itself, conservatives have set up their own . . . think tanks, radio and television networks, magazines, book publishers, citizen associations, charitable foundations, newspapers, and even a few colleges . . . conservatives attend meetings and conferences, form friendships and associations, and develop and exchange ideas without ever having to [contact] liberals. From these redoubts, they rally the public against the liberal establishment, often with impressive success and much to the alarm of liberal critics who . . . view them as dangerous radicals.

Conservatives have in this way created their own “nation” within the nation, replete with its own culture, institutions and prominent personalities. . . As a political insurgency, American conservatives also have naturally adopted the language of opposition, speaking of “revolution” . . . and attacking “elites,” “the establishment” and an “out-of-control government.”

The movement is distinguishable from a political party by its emphasis on principles and philosophy, its interest in recruiting only like-minded members and its focus upon large goals rather than incremental changes in policy. Because of this character, the conservative movement is not much interested in “the politics of compromise” or in accommodations with liberalism and liberal politics. Conservatism thus remains even now a movement of ideas and philosophy rather than . . . a collection or coalition of interests.

movements can continue intact in the face of persistent defeats until their goals have been reached or they have been absorbed into the mainstream operations of government. In fact. . . in opposition. . . principles can be advocated in pure form, [while] in power. . . those principles are inevitably adulterated by compromise.

Several years ago, [the Economist’s] John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. . . pointed out that the influence of the American conservative movement . . . provides the nation with its unique and exceptional identity in the world. . . it is American conservatism that has opened up the chasm between the politics of the United States and that found in other industrial nations of the world. . . the American Left, with its industrial unions, government workers and liberal intellectuals, has its obvious counterparts in Great Britain, France, Germany and much of the rest of Europe. The Democratic Party [isn’t] out of place within the European context. It [isn’t] the American Left that makes the United States an exceptional nation.

American conservatism, on the other hand, is a unique and unusual movement in the modern world. Its various affiliated groups promoting liberty and free markets, lower taxes, religion and traditional morality, or patriotism and national strength, are largely unknown elsewhere. There exists no political institution in Europe that resembles the various components of the conservative movement, such as . . . the various tax-limitation and patriotic groups now active, or the Tea Party movement. And conservatism’s . . . Sarah Palin [or] Newt Gingrich would make little headway in other countries. [Thus,] the conservative movement increasingly defines American exceptionalism in the contemporary world.

American Conservativism: Intellectual, Cohesive, Anti-establishment, Exceptional (Part I)

James Piereson is president of the William E. Simon Foundation and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He has written an important essay that proclaims American conservativism to be the country’s most vibrant political philosophy; the very essence of American exceptionalism.

Here Piereson’s argument, in his words, Part I:

one of the more significant political developments in the United States over the last half of the twentieth century was the rise of conservatism from a marginal intellectual movement in 1950 to its position by the end of the 1990s as a rival to liberalism as the nation’s most influential public doctrine. It fought its way to that position. . . because it solved a series of public challenges—from crime to the Cold War—that liberals could not, or at least did not, address.

there are now more conservatives in America than there are liberals[; they] make up a highly significant minority of American voters. . . liberals in power, if they are to survive, must tack to the center while conservatives can govern more from the right—and, indeed, [are] why Obama’s attempt to reprise FDR and LBJ was bound to fail.

American conservatism began . . . as a movement of ideas and. . .has managed to maintain its original character. Thus David Brooks has observed that conservatives differ from other political sets in their apparent preoccupation with books, ideas and a handful of influential authors. One rarely hears of liberal groups discussing major works written by the intellectual architects of the welfare state, such as John Dewey, Herbert Croly or John Rawls, or sponsoring programs in honor of leading figures like John Maynard Keynes or John Kenneth Galbraith. One would be hard-pressed to identify an influential book or essay that sets forth the principles of contemporary liberalism as they relate to feminism, multiculturalism, diversity or economic planning.

Conservative groups, on the other hand, regularly pay tribute in their programs to the founding fathers of conservative thought . . .The texts that energize conservatives . . .are: (1) The Road to Serfdom, published by F. A. Hayek in London and in the United States in 1944, which developed the enduring case for classical liberalism; (2) Witness, published by Whittaker Chambers in 1952, and The Conservative Mind, by Russell Kirk in 1953, which provoked a renewal of Burkean conservatism, which in turn led to the founding in 1954 of National Review by William F. Buckley Jr.; and (3) the Public Interest, a quarterly journal founded in 1965 by Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell which was the original forum for neoconservatism, a set of ideas that quickly found expression in other influential venues, such as Commentary magazine and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal.

traditional conservatives, led by Buckley, Kirk and Chambers. . . argued [the Cold War] was not solely about preserving liberty but also about the conservation of the religious and moral tradition of the West. . . The neoconservatives, for their part, developed their own synthesis in response to the unraveling of the American welfare state in the 1960s and a parallel rise in anti-American sentiment. . . the problem with the expanding social safety net was . . . that it increasingly promoted disorder, crime, broken or unformed families, poor schools and a general loss of authority in society[, undermining] the middle-class values upon which a successful commercial civilization must be based. . . neoconservatives were not in principle opposed to the welfare state but only to a liberal welfare state that did not uphold the ideals of family, order and community.

An essential aspect of conservatism is the conviction that . . . republics follow a cycle of rise and inevitable decline as the people or their leaders gradually sacrifice their principles in the pursuit of money, security or power. Conservatives. . . are thus skeptical of liberal notions of inevitable historical progress that do not take into account . . . corruption and decline. This is one of the key reasons conservatives have always looked for external supports for representative institutions, whether in nationalism and patriotism, religion, family and community. . . which provide direction and discipline for liberty and self-interest. Conservatives [fear eroding of] those private associations and loyalties which sustain and support representative institutions.

. . . conservatives look to . . . Alexis de Tocqueville, James Madison, Joseph Schumpeter and [Edmund] Burke as important sources for their ideas. . . The seminal conservative thinkers of our era . . . have identified these external supports . . .—Hayek in the founders’ Constitution, Buckley and his colleagues in religion, family and tradition, and Kristol and the neoconservatives in bourgeois virtues and patriotism.

These authors, books and publications are still read by conservatives [and none], to the surprise of critics, has been discredited among conservatives by recent events—not the classical liberals by the financial crash, not the traditional conservatives by the libertarian cultural politics of our day and not the neoconservatives by the war in Iraq.

At the same time, little that is new or fundamental has been added to the conservative movement since the neoconservatives arrived on the scene. It still runs by and large on that set of ideas developed in the postwar period in response to totalitarianism, socialism, and an expanding and self-confident welfare state. . .

The critique of Obama’s agenda is increasingly framed in popular circles in terms of “big government” as a threat to liberty and the constitutional order. [Hayek’s] Road to Serfdom recently rose to the top of best-seller lists after [FOX’s Glenn Beck] urged his viewers to read it as the clearest diagnosis of the challenges posed by liberal policies. [Hayek’s conservativism] is increasingly being presented as an alternative to the Democratic agenda. Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, has similarly framed the debate as one of “free enterprise” versus “big government.” The Road to Serfdom, however, while a penetrating diagnosis of the corruptions of the welfare state, offers few prescriptions for unwinding it in its mature phase.

(Part II continues here.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Surprise! Minority Candidates Have a Choice.

Democrats are strong in minority districts, but minorities do better in white districts running as Republicans. From Josh Kraushaar, writing in the National Journal:

It’s clear Democrats are a much more inclusive party—just look at the fact that nearly one-third of House Democrats are non-white. [But o]f the 75 black, Hispanic, and Asian-American Democrats in Congress and governorships, only nine represent majority-white constituencies—and that declines to six in 2011. . . And when you only look at members of Congress or governors elected by majority-white constituencies (in other words, most of the governorships [picture: Nikki Haley of South Carolina] and Senate seats, and 337 out of 435 House seats), Democrats trail Republicans in minority representation.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

At Christmastime, thoughts about moral authority (Part II).

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

--Benjamin Franklin (1789)

We need government, and we probably even need big government. But the current Federal government is too large and inefficient for our own good (proof: record sustained high unemployment under total Democratic rule, 2009-10). Yet Democrats continue to defend big government. It’s impossible in fact to tell where Democrats end and government begins. They are a virtual identity.

The goodness, the moral virtue, within which government wrapped itself in the Great Depression has frayed over time. Government is now the establishment, supported by the Democratic Party, the media, academia, arts and entertainment, the non-profit sector, liberal churches, and much of big business. Becoming increasingly brittle in their effort to hang on, and acting increasingly out of fear, our elite sincerely hold to their moral authority, which makes dislodging them from power even more difficult.

At base, the elite believe some elite has to be in charge, and that our American meritocracy is the last, best hope for a good elite. They reject rule by money, opposing the capitalists who flourish when government is absent from the picture. You can say government exists to tax; to redirect resources from money through government to the worthy and needy (government of course retains money for itself as the funds pass through it—see kleptocracy).

One may wonder why our wealthy elite denounce America’s concentration of wealth, and why they favor progressive taxation. One answer: doing so underpins their moral authority to rule, and doing so offsets their guilt at having so much. But also, doing so may reflect genuine revulsion at others who inherit or acquire wealth without earning it, yet seemingly fight to keep it all. Such persons are the elite’s inferiors—by another name, Republicans.

The elite’s ideology, their moral authority, rests on three additional principles:

Knowledge is power. Government and its people must defer to superior knowledge, to expertise, to brains. It’s “what you know.” Remember “who you are” is based on “what you know.” New facts displace old facts; speed wins.

2. ACT. Rule based on science. We must honor our modern versions of the Greek gods, superior humans who act on our behalf, and who practice “relativism”—breaking the rules—based on science that always moves forward. Scientific rule inevitably overrides fixed moral values tied to ancient, outdated texts.

3. LOVE. Helping victims. That means feeding the major components of the Democratic coalition—those benefiting from government transfer payments, as well as blacks, other minorities, and unmarried women. Love your core supporters as well—government workers and other union members, liberals, and young people. All together, the elite and their victims make up a potential majority of voters.

At Christmastime, thoughts about moral authority (Part I).

moral busybodies [who] torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

--C.S. Lewis

Politics is about power. Ideology justifies grabbing and holding onto power. We fight for power in the name of some greater good. Without moral authority, it becomes difficult to impossible for any elite to impose its will on the population.

Republicans are a shadow elite, a leadership group out of power. The party has a bad name as a result of past corruption, troubles in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, deficits and debt, and the Great Recession that began on its watch. Today Republicans prefer to call themselves conservatives and speak of lower taxes, less government spending, less regulation of the private sector, and opposition to government-run health care.

Republicans believe a strong economy lifts all ships, that it’s better to grow the pie than to fight over how to cut it, and that individuals make wiser decisions affecting their own lives than do bureaucrats in Washington. Republicans believe in freedom, the modern word for the Declaration of Independence’s “liberty,” as in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Because Republicans seek to decentralize power to each individual, they are opponents of today’s elite. According to Democrats who are today’s elite, Republican ideology sets up a situation leaving the rich free to lord it over the masses of unrich. We need government to correct capitalism’s imbalance.

The French Revolution, which followed ours by six years, paid lip service to “liberty,” but also honored “equality” (re-cutting the pie into more equal pieces) and “fraternity” (governing for the collective good)—two words that can override “liberty.” Isaiah Berlin in the mid-20th Century modernized the contradiction between freedom on the one hand, and equality and collective good on the other, in his seminal essay on “Two Concepts of Liberty”—positive and negative liberty.

Karl Marx was a scholar of the rise of capitalism who called for transferring power over the economy from the capitalist class to the people. While Marx believed history’s law made the transformation inevitable, as workers conscious of their rising power seized the means of production, decades later Vladimir Lenin believed that for revolution to take place, an intellectual elite, a “vanguard of the proletariat” must act on behalf of the people. The resulting bloodstained, tumultuous, and ultimately failed history of Lenin’s experiment, the Soviet Union (1917-1991), discredited the elite Leninist road to a better world.

Democrats are not Leninists. But they share a Socialist concern about capitalist concentration of wealth and power at the expense of the people, and believe government exists in part to correct wealth’s misdistribution. Democrats scorn Republicans as defenders of the rich. In the 20th Century, under Woodrow Wilson and every subsequent Democratic president, the party set about to rebalance the country away from business and toward the people. That drive provides Democrats their ideology, their moral authority.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Economy v. Culture

“It’s the economy, stupid.” Except when it isn’t. If the economy hums, the people running the country are happy to talk about it. But when the economy’s in trouble, people want to change the subject. They want to talk about enduring values instead, what I call protecting our culture. Here are blog entries, some of my earliest, discussing the tension between economic progress and culture:

Computers v. Culture (Part I)

Computers v. Culture (Part II)

Culture + Computers (Part I)

Cuture + Computers (Part II)

In a more recent blog post, I quoted Washington Post commentator Robert Samuelson’s thoughts about how describing issues in moral terms dodges the need, when money is scarce, to pay for solving a problem:
politicians prefer framing issues in moral terms. Global warming is about "saving the planet." Both sides of the abortion and gay marriage debates believe they hold the high ground.

Obama pitches his health care plan in moral terms: health care is a "right;” its opponents less moral. Why not use this tactic? On a simple calculus of benefits, Obama’s proposal would have failed. Perhaps 32 million Americans will receive insurance coverage -- about 10% of the population. But for most Americans, the bill imposes costs, including higher taxes, fees, and/or longer waits for service.

Supporters instead back expanded health care as "the right thing"; it makes them feel good about themselves. They get "psychic benefits." Economic benefits make people richer, but cost money. Psychic benefits make them feel morally upright and superior at no monetary cost to politicians! The magic solution.
Neither the right nor left has a monopoly on using moral values to deflect policy away from hard economic choices. Today, though, the left is in charge, and the economy isn’t working. So the left is deflecting.

Here, from Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, writing in the Washington Post, is a present-day example of a progressive shifting the discussion to culture. Kennedy Townsend does so with a spirited defense of the left's high moral standing:
[Sarah] Palin. . . argues that "morality itself cannot be sustained without the support of religious beliefs." That statement amounts to a wholesale attack on countless Americans, and no study or reasonable argument I have seen or heard would support such a blanket condemnation. . . Somehow Palin misses this. . . she may be appealing to a religious right that really seeks secular power. . . no American political leader should cavalierly - or out of political calculation - dismiss the hard-won ideal of religious freedom that is among our country's greatest gifts to the world.
A contrasting example of a conservative focusing on the economy is Walter Russell Mead’s American Interest article advocating growth through free enterprise not through big government:
For America to move forward, power is going to have to shift from bureaucrats to entrepreneurs, from the state to society and from qualified experts and licensed professionals to the population at large. . . we must drastically raise productivity by re-imagining the way our society makes and distributes the services that, currently, the. . . learned professions provide.

The world is moving in ways so opposed to [intellectuals’] most hallowed assumptions that they simply cannot make sense of it. They resist blindly and uncreatively and, unable to appreciate the extraordinary prospects for human liberation that this change can bring, they are incapable of creative and innovative response. . . [they] try to turn this [transformation] into a left/right debate rather than one about the past and the future.
Tom Friedman of the New York Times seems to be one of those Mead describes as “unable to appreciate the extraordinary prospects for human liberation.” Friedman instead wants even bigger, better government with its long-range planning:
given where we need to go, [the Obama-GOP tax] deal is just another shot of morphine to a country that needs to do things that are big and hard and still only wants to do things that are easy and small. . . in the politics of sports, the G.O.P. just scored a goal on Obama. We don’t seem to realize: We’re in a hole and still digging. Our educational attainment levels are stagnating; our infrastructure is fraying. . . We need a plan.
Friedman writes as if he advocates change. But look, he’s defending giving more resources to planners who make big, hard decisions, and we already have the biggest, planningest government in our history. Really Friedman in his own way is endorsing the very status quo Kennedy Townsend seeks to protect when she changes the subject to culture.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My “Healthy Market” Stock Index at All-time High

My FOX Index measures the gap between the current market and a healthy close for the three major indexes: 12,000 for the Dow, 1,300 for the S&P 500, and 2,500 for the NASDAQ, or a total of 15,800.

November 5, just after the Republicans’ midterm election victory, the Index reached its highest point (-551) since the 2008 financial crash. It’s now even higher, at -311 (see chart) with the Dow Wednesday hitting 11,559, the S&P 500 at 1,259, and the NASDAQ at 2,671, the highest the NASDAQ’s been since late 2007. The FOX Index has now passed its previous pre-crash high of -336, reached on August 7, 2008 (I created the Index in July 2008). Stocks are up because Republicans should begin bringing the federal budget under control next year, and because the President and Congress have reached agreement not to raise taxes January 1.

The economy, however, continues marked by high unemployment, and Mark J. Perry and Robert Dell think they know why our housing and finance-based Great Recession has been so severe. Writing in the American Enterprise Institute’s American, Perry and Dell explain how our banking crisis should be “understood more fundamentally as a government failure than as a market or business failure.” Greedy top executives at the government's Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, backed by friends in Congress, employed government-guaranteed credit to generate a sub-prime based housing bubble that private banks would never have undertaken on their own.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving not for America, but for Harvard?

David Ignatius is a fully-certified member of our national elite. He’s a columnist for the Washington Post, the son of Paul Ignatius, Navy Secretary under Lyndon Johnson, and a graduate of Harvard.

On Thanksgiving, Ignatius presented his ruling class perspective on where we stand at Thanksgiving 2010.
Maybe not in such a good spot:
you'll hear revelers worrying about national decline. Certainly I've heard it a lot lately, from departing Obama administration officials, global leaders and my family and friends [all pretty much the same crowd, eh David?—GF]. There's a sense that something is torn in the national quilt.
But Ignatius then offers “some hope that the American essentials are still in place:”

➢ Harvard. It was founded in 1636, just 15 years after that desperate first Thanksgiving. It said something about the people who created our nation [oh, the Pilgrims “created our nation”? What about Virginians, colonizing America 13 years ahead of the Pilgrims?] that they gave education such a prominent role: Even in the wilderness of the new nation, knowledge and reason were to be the guides. [emphasis added]

➢ [While] the Sarah Palin set [attacks] Harvard and treat[s] its graduates as elitists. . .if you spend any time on campus you see students drawn from all over the world . . . whose chief assets are brainpower and hard work. You can't "fix" a Harvard degree the way you can most things in life. The reality of the place is brute meritocracy. [emphasis added]

➢ [The] universal human dream [is] that brains, not brawn, will rule -- and the fact that America has the world's finest institutions of higher education may be our greatest single national asset. So be careful, Sarah Palin, when you trash the Ivy League. This is a national-security issue. [emphasis added]

➢ the triumph of the '60s [is] that they loosed . . . movements for the liberation of women, gays, blacks and Hispanics. We all benefit from the new freedoms that were embraced in those years. The president of Harvard. . . said of the [‘60s] turbulence we saw all around us that it should give us "a restraining awareness of the dubiety of all human ends."

➢ history tells us that -- if we keep our wits and hold tight to sweet reason, freedom and creativity -- we always seem to prove the naysayers wrong.

Harvard + the ‘60s movements Harvard helped produce have given America the ruling class it needs, as long as Sarah Palin doesn’t take it away.

You can't make this stuff up.

Here’s the difficulty with Igantius’ perspective. For two years, our Harvard law review president president, the “smartest man in the room,“ has had all the power, with much of that period even with a filibuster-proof 60-vote Senate majority. His job: get the economy moving. He failed, and the midterm election results awarded him his deserved “F.” We tried the “knowledge and reason” way, the “brute meritocracy,” the “brains will rule,” top-down government (Obamacare whether we wanted it or not) of Plato’s philosopher kings, and it didn’t work.

Let’s be clear. We need our brains. We need our Harvards. But what a mistake to think that the American economy works best if Harvard runs it! If “the vanguard of the proletariat” is in charge. Better by far to spread the decisionmaking around, to use all our brainpower and experience, to go bottom up, as recommended here. America, the America for which we are genuinely thankful, is the anti-aristocracy, freedom for everyone to succeed and fail America created in 1776 (not 1620), not the America of the new elite constructed in Harvard’s admissions office.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Korea: Up to China

There is going to be a conflict [between North Korea and] South Korea and the US, I would say, in the near future. And North Korea is going to lose and collapse. China is going to have a unified Korea on its border anyway. China needs to realize the fact and needs to allow North Korea to collapse sooner, rather than later. Because the later North Korea collapses the greater the conflict is going to be, the greater the damage is going to be in the entire region. So, China really needs to be turning off the aid to North Korea.

--Brian Myers, Prof. International Studies, Dongseo University, Busan, South Korea

Myers is quoted in an article by Sunny Lee, a South Korean reporting from Beijing on the Chinese-Korean relationship. Myers provides a blunt look at the future. Who, however, would take issue with his prediction that sooner or later, North Korea will collapse, and Korea will emerge a unified nation? And if that is the future, isn’t China better off as part of the solution, rather than the problem?

Seems to me South Korea should be working with China now, reassuring China a unified Korea can be neutral, foreign base-free, and nuclear free, if China will cooperate by—essentially—forcing the pace of reunification. One would call this the Austrian solution, modeled on the 1955 treaty between Austria and the “Big Four” of the U.S., U.S.S.R., Britain, and France that made Austria free, united, but neutral.

This time, (South) Korea and the “Big One,” China, make it work. The U.S., Japan, and Russia could join in.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

U.S. Dominates Fat Country List

Here are the world’s fattest countries, as determined by the U.N.’s World Health Organization:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Marco Rubio

If no candidate emerges as a front-runner by summer of 2011, Rubio might go from dark horse to pole position.

--Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

Marco Rubio is a natural leader and is likely to be a leader of our party. In five years, no one will remember Jim DeMint, and Marco will be president.

--Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)

Rubio president within five years? That would mean winning in 2012, right?

Here are three reasons why sane people beyond DeMint are talking about Rubio as our next president:

1. Obama did it.

Barack Obama set the “none to one” pattern by going from Illinois state senator to president in four years. Marco Rubio would be “none to one” in two years, topping Obama’s rapid rise, if Rubio won in 2012.

Rubio will be 41 years old next presidential election, and if he won, the youngest president ever. The newly elected senator from Florida is a lawyer, graduating cum laude from Miami U (Obama was law review president at Harvard). Rubio served in the Florida legislature for nine years (Obama served eight years in the Illinois State Senate), and was Speaker of the House for two (Obama chaired a committee for two). Rubio wrote a book in 2007, in advance of his Senate run (as did Obama in advance of his Senate run), but probably hasn’t time to write another (as Obama did) before any 2012 presidential run. Rubio represents the fourth largest state, with 28 electoral votes (Obama’s Illinois has just 21). Florida is the largest and most important swing state, having decided the 2000 election (Illinois is predictably Democratic).

If Obama was qualified to be president, than so too would be Rubio. Right now, Rubio’s challenge is that Republicans think Obama wasn’t qualified, and believe Obama proved it in his first two years. Many Republicans instead are looking for the anti-Obama, literally an experienced, competent, even colorless leader who can skillfully turn our economy around while repealing Obamacare. Someone like Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana.

But then, that really isn’t the whole picture, is it? Republicans haven’t been truly excited about a candidate for president since Ronald Reagan. Maybe they don’t need any more excitement in 2012 than the joy of beating Obama. Maybe a Mitch Daniels-like white male will do. But if not, if the Republican faithful grow enthusiastic about Sarah Palin they way they did in 2008 because she’s heartland America’s “momma grizzly;” because she’s from their world and not the Washington elite, then the GOP may be looking for someone equally telegenic and even fresher to stop Palin.

Right now, Palin’s running second behind Mitt Romney in Gallup’s polling of Republicans for 2012 (Romney seems an unlikely nominee because he backed an expensive Massachusetts health care plan much like the Obamacare Republicans reject). Rubio’s chance to capture the GOP presidential nomination rises if Palin first catches fire, and he becomes the excitement alternative. Rubio’s stock also rises, however, if all the GOP frontrunners including Palin fall flat. So a “Marco Rubio for President” campaign could happen.

2. The new Ronald Reagan.

Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard has caught the quality that makes Rubio so special. He’s an optimist about America’s future the same way Reagan was, and shows a similar ability to share that optimism. Says Hays:
Rubio is underrated. Some Democrats seem to understand this. That fact, probably more than anything else, explains why the White House encouraged Bill Clinton as early as last spring to use his influence to get [Democrat Kendrick] Meek out of the [Florida senate] race and clear the way for [Republican Governor] Charlie Crist to run as a Democrat. No Republican in the country offers a more compelling defense of American exceptionalism and a more powerful indictment of the Obama administration than Marco Rubio. He has had lots of practice. He ran against Obama more than he ran against either of his two opponents.
Hays then quotes Rubio’s Reagan-like message:
people in Washington . . . have two things wrong: a fundamental misunderstanding of how our economy functions and a fundamental misunderstanding of America’s role in the world. And those two things are what led to [wrong] policies.

Number one—The economy functions like this: Jobs are not created by politicians, they are created by people that start businesses or expand existing businesses. And the job of government is to create the environment where doing that becomes easier, not harder. Number two—America’s role in the world is pretty straightforward. The world is safer and it is better when America is the strongest country in the world.

These are the two principles that are at stake in our country right now. And they are as important as any issues that any generation has faced before us. We are literally fighting for whether we are going to be exceptional or not.
Rubio understands how Reagan inspired an earlier generation of
Republicans and Americans to pull together to do better. Rubio wants us doing the same today.

3. Jeb Bush II

Many people feel the wrong Bush was elected president, George Bush instead of younger brother Jeb. More than Jeb’s Phi Beta Kappa background, what set the ex-Florida governor apart was his wife from Colombia, and his attractive, half-Hispanic family completely fluent in Spanish. Jeb Bush not only understands how important Hispanic America is to the Republican Party’s future, he is also a strong advocate for a new U.S. immigration policy, one that opens doors to talented and hard-working immigrants. Jeb Bush would move Republicans in a new, more pro-immigrant direction.

Jeb Bush is just what Republicans need to break the Democrats’ grip on America’s minorities, especially Hispanics. Unfortunately, brother George has wrung the remaining value out of the once-useful Bush name. Jeb knows he can’t run for president.

The person the 59-year-old Jeb supported for Florida senator, Marco Rubio, is 39, only five years older than Jeb’s eldest son. Perhaps it’s now time for the “son” to lead the party and country down the path upon which Jeb Bush set himself, but cannot himself complete. Moreover, as a Cuban-American, Rubio would out-Jeb Jeb. Rubio would be America’s first Hispanic president, and likely would attract Hispanics to the Republican Party the way Kennedy attracted Catholics, Carter Southern evangelicals, and Obama non-whites. Rubio as a Hispanic can move Republicans away from their seeming hostility toward Mexican-Americans, doing so as only an Hispanic leader can. Rubio would lead, Republicans would follow, and politics would never be the same.

In short, Rubio offers the current political landscape the possibility of tectonic-plate-shift proportions.

Is Rubio ready to lead such an effort? TIME, at least, thinks that in Rubio’s final Florida senate campaign ad, they have seen the opening of Rubio’s campaign for president:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Crossroads Nation

America has a great future. And it’s because of our people.

Let’s begin with one basic principle: the most important activity we perform as a nation is generating economic wealth. Wealth makes all good things possible. To generate economic development, we must organize to make maximum economic use of our national talent. That means pushing aside our top-down governing elite, and promoting job creation from the ground up. We need small business capitalism, not government-engineered social democracy.

I value Thomas Sowell of Stanford’s Hoover Institution for clarifying why decentralizing economic decision making helps our economy flourish:
How [is it] possible that transferring decisions from elites with more education, intellect, data and power to ordinary people [leads] consistently to demonstrably better results? One implication is that no one is smart enough to carry out social engineering. . .
We learn, not from our initial brilliance, but from trial and error adjustments to events as they unfold.
[E]xperience trumps brilliance. Elites may have more brilliance, but those who make decisions for society as a whole cannot possibly have as much experience as the millions of people whose decisions they pre-empt. The education and intellects of the elites may lead them to have more sweeping presumptions, but that just makes them more dangerous to the freedom, as well as the well-being, of the people as a whole.
And I value Arnold Kling of the Cato Institute’s pointing out that:
linking expertise to power . . . diminishes the diversity and competitive pressure faced by the experts. . . We should . . . resist the temptation to give power to government experts, and instead allow experts in business and nonprofit institutions to grope toward solutions to problems.
In our search for new ways to release expertise, Forbes’s Joel Kotkin reminds us that
immigrants are 60% more likely to start a new business than native-born Americas. . . the immigrant experience . . .encourages innovation—[they have] the advantage of non-acceptance.

the uniquely international cast of American business [means] leading American firms will not have to go to graduate school in international training; they will have received theirs at home, talking to [their] parents or grandparents[, tapping] the global market, and culture, in ways other countries . . . just can't match.
And right now, I like how David Brooks puts it all together. Brooks understands how America’s reliance on innovation and immigrants can benefit not just the U.S, but an entire peaceful and prosperous world:

creativity is not a solitary process. It happens . . . when talented people get together. . . imagine you are [a] creative person . . . living in some small town . . . foreign or domestic. You long [for] a place where people . . . think about the things you are thinking about, creating the things you want to create. . . you’ll want to be in America. . .because English has become the global language. . . because American universities lead the world in research and draw many of the best minds . . . because American institutions are relatively free from corruption[, because i]ntellectual property is protected [and h]uge venture capital funds already exist. . . the United States is a universal nation [with] people . . . with connections all over the world. A nation of immigrants.

America hosts the right kind of networks — . . . one of those societies with high social trust. Americans build large, efficient organizations [unbound] by the circles of kinship and clan. . . Americans are not hierarchical. American children are raised to challenge their parents. American underlings are relatively free to challenge their bosses. . .you’re less likely to have to submit to authority.

the U.S. is well situated to be the crossroads nation. . . Building that America means [to]: improve infrastructure to ease travel; fix immigration to funnel talent; reform taxes to attract superstars; make study abroad a rite of passage for college students.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

FOX News: Love or Hate It, Fox IS Cable News

In his “here’s the rope, now hang yourself!” interview with Roger Ailes, the 70 year old head of FOX News, the “Daily Beast’s” Howard Kurtz drops in this line, “Fox is averaging 1.1 million viewers this year.” Really? Just 1.1 million?

In fact, FOX News’ evening line-up currently averages 2.7 million viewers, as against 2.3 million for CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and Headline News (now called HLN) combined. Glenn Beck has 63% of the total cable news audience during his hour. Bret Baier has 59%, Shepard Smith 56%, Sean Hannity 52%, and Greta Van Susteren 49% of the total cable news audience during their hours.

Bill O'Reilly, the king of cable news, is on twice during primetime. The total “O'Reilly Factor” primetime audience is 5.3 million. The most recent audience for “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric” was 6.4 million. O’Reilly’s professed goal is to top at least one of the broadcast evening news shows in total viewership.

On election night, FOX shocked the entire TV news world by garnering a larger audience—over 7 million—than did ABC, NBC, or CBS (4th at 5.9 million).

By the way, the current readership of Kurtz’s “Daily Beast” is 1.6 million.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nation Split in Two. . .for Now.

It's impossible to predict a presidential election based on midterm results. . . considering that 131.2 million people voted in 2008, when Obama was elected, compared with 87 million this month.

--Liz Sidoti And Jennifer Agiesta, AP, 11.13.10

What will the 44 million who voted in 2008 but not in 2010 do in 2012?

We’ll get some idea from looking at the chart I made documenting the Democratic base’s potential size:

I’ve not seen these exact figures anywhere else. Along with white liberals, Democrats have identified youth, minorities, and unmarried women as their base (there’s an often overlooked real difference between white married and unmarried women).

The 2010 election provided additional data that bears out continued strength in the Democratic base. Dick Morris, going into the election, overestimated the size of the Republican victory, and was curious to find out afterwords where he went wrong, Focusing on John Zogby’s post-election polling, Morris concludes:

➢ Obama’s last-ditch attempt to turn out his voter base worked. . .voters who made up their minds . . . within the last week voted Democrat by 57-31 while those who made up their minds earlier backed the Republican candidate, 53-44.

➢ only 8% of the electorate were late . . . 46% [decided] early. . . Democratic late deciders [came] from the party’s base: 15% of single voters decided late, [voting] 64% Democrat.

➢ 20% of voters 18-29 [youth] decided late, and . . . backed Obama by 56-37. Obama’s appearances on “The Daily Show” and in youth-oriented media worked. But voters under 30 constituted only 11% of the vote[ Their] failure . . . to turn out . . . did much to doom [Democrats.]

blacks cast only 10% of the vote and Latinos only 8% . . . Obama[‘s] appeals based on immigration worked. Hispanics voted Democrat by 58-37. But, surprisingly, . . .black voters. . .backed the Democrat by only 72-24.

Comment: Without Obama on the ticket, many blacks felt free to vote against the Obama economy.

➢ Marital status continued to be . . . key . . . Married men voted Republican by 60-35. Married women . . . by 58-40. . . Unmarried women voted Democrat by 61-34.

➢ Obama’s last-minute appeal [worked] on demographics, not on union membership. . . Union members broke evenly, with 49% backing Democrats and 47% voting Republican.

Comment: Private sector union members care about the economy, and voted their (near empty) pocketbooks.

Bottom line: If Democrats in 2012 can turn out their base, the base that showed up late if at all in 2010, Obama can hang onto the White House.

The potential size of Obama’s minority base (already 33.3% and growing) has to concern Republicans. Zoltan Hajnal, political science professor at U.C. San Diego, sees the Republican problem—the one that doomed Meg Whitman’s and Carly Fiorina’s candidacies for California governor and senator respectively—more clearly than do observers in the South, Midwest or even the Northeast. Hajnal writes:

➢ the Republican Party has almost become a whites-only party. . .it will lose over the long run. Republicans won big in 2010 . . . among white voters. The 60% of the white vote that Republicans garnered last Tuesday is. . . the highest proportion of the white vote that the GOP has won in any national election since World War II.

➢ whites . . . are a declining demographic. The proportion of all voters who are white has already declined to 75% today from 94% in 1960. By 2050, whites [won’t] be a majority.

➢ Republicans are alienating racial and ethnic minorities—the voters . . . they need to stay in power. In every national election in the past few decades, Democrats have dominated the nonwhite vote.

➢ Even with Democrats presiding over the worst economy since the Great Depression, racial and ethnic minorities did not turn away from [Democrats.] Latinos favored Democrats over Republicans 64% to 34%, blacks voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, and [56%] of Asian- Americans supported Democrats.

➢ minorities . . . are unlikely to [leave Democrats] without dramatic changes in the platforms of the two parties. A growing and resolutely Democratic nonwhite population is clearly a serious threat to the Republican electoral calculus. . . any campaign that appeals primarily to whites will be doomed.

Bottom line: For Democrats, smile. Minorities already supply 2/3rds of the voter base needed to win. For Republicans, change or die.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our Modern Intellectual Aristocracy

I like Charles Kadiec’s article in Forbes because it states an argument frequently repeated in this space.

Kadiec writes:
the American Revolution’s defining premise [is] that a free people are capable of ruling themselves. The declaration that "all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," turned the known political world of monarchy, hierarchy and privilege in which subjects existed to serve the state upside down[, destroying] aristocracy as it had been understood in the Western world for at least two millennia[, bringing] respect to the dignity of the individual, and honor[ing] their work, no matter how menial.

In this context, the modern liberal and the progressive movements can be considered a counter-revolutionary force. The leaders of these movements have pursued the use of government power to protect individuals from poor decisions and to intermediate between them and businesses. . . The result has been to recreate the hierarchal order of old, but one in which the role of the ancient aristocrat is assumed by the modern intellectual.
Kadiec is the first I’ve known to brand the “modern intellectual” a descendant of the “ancient aristocrat.” The charge slanders the middle class products who dominate today’s elite—they know aristocracy, and it isn’t them. Yet the most successful enjoy material wealth any 18th Century English nobleman would envy.

And of course Kadiec is right about intellectuals being our “New Elite.” Those who founded America were anti-aristocrats who vested political power in the American people, whatever their faults. Progressives, however, believe some group is bound to rule over the majority, and it’s better for the American people if the ruling elite is based upon intellectual success not money, and particularly not inherited wealth, as was the case in much of post-Civil War America.

A bright, intellectual elite dedicated to governing on behalf of America’s less fortunate, holding power (theoretically) only as long as achievements justify doing so, is far better than a corrupt system controlled by ill-begotten gains. Given “A” (politics controlled by venal capitalists), we must have “B” (politics controlled by superior intellectuals).

But “C”, rule by the majority, the people, not some ruling class based upon wealth (ancient aristocracy) or supposed achievement (modern intellectuals) is America’s preferred system. We like democracy best because it releases the full talents of our entire population, encouraging everyone to reach their full potential. Decentralization of both economic and political decisionmaking has made America great, and will do so again.

Like the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, like me, and others, Kadiec deplores the “aristocratic arrogance” of Obama offered in his view that “our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning” because the people are “scared." Kadiec adds:
I am sure that kings, queens, dukes and earls down through the ages have shared the president's sentiments when, looking down on the unwashed masses from their respective castles, they felt misunderstood and unappreciated by their subjects.
And as I have suggested, Kadiec thinks separating the “New Elite” from their current positions of power is no easy task:
The progressive movement's successful efforts to breach the constitutional restraints on the federal government have been underway for a century. Restoration of the liberty the Founders sought to protect with the Constitution will not be realized in two years, or even two decades, and perhaps it will take 100 years.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get going.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From the Top (New York Times Building, 52 Stories Up)

The New York Times’ Peter Baker has tackled a subject rarely discussed within the “New Elite“ of which he is a part. Baker writes about “Elitism: The Charge Obama Can’t Shake.” Here are Baker’s key points affirming his elite does have a problem:

➢ For all the discussion of health care and spending and jobs, at the core of the nation’s debate this fall has been the battle of elitism.

➢ “elitist” has become one of the favorite attack lines of the surging Republican campaign effort this year. . . By elitist, politicians do not mean simply those with money. . . but those who control the state and the culture, including news media outfits like The New York Times.

➢ [The] perception promoted by his critics [is] that [Obama] is a Harvard-educated millionaire elitist who is sure that he knows best and thinks that those who disagree just aren’t in their right minds.

➢ Republican[s believe] Obama ha[s] not connected with popular discontent. [One] said. “When you’re unemployed and you’re sitting in your living room and you hear the president say, ‘You don’t understand what the problems really are — you’re just scared,’ that makes people really, really angry.”

Baker seems to acknowledge Democrats have supplied Republicans ammunition for their attacks on liberal elitism. He writes:

➢ in a time of economic distress. . . Michelle Obama’s summer vacation at a five-star Spanish resort . . . generate[s] quite the . . . heat. . . Obama managed to deflect [the elitism charge] in 2008, [but he’s] having more trouble this time as the leader of the party in power.

➢ Katie Couric of CBS News. . . probably did not help last week when she talked to the “Daily Beast” about visiting “the great unwashed middle of the country” in the Midwest.

➢ Former President Bill Clinton . . . mocks voters for knowing more about their local college football team statistics than they do about the issues that will determine the future of the country [when they say, in effect,] “Don’t bother us with facts; we’ve got our minds made up.”

➢ [Similarly,] Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. . . in his introduction of Mr. Obama [said,] “Facts, science, truth seem to be significantly absent from what we call our political dialogue.”

Like all “New Elite” members, Baker believes the real elite are the people with money, not those with brains:

➢ [Actually,] Obama was raised in less [than] exalted circumstances by a single mother who he said once needed food stamps. [And] although he went to private school, he took years to pay off his college loans. Something about Mr. Obama’s cerebral confidence has made him into a symbol of something he never used to be. [emphasis added]

➢ the president has fought back [hammering] away at the gusher of secret money poured in by special interests to influence the outcome of the elections, arguing in effect that the elites of Wall Street and corporate America were trying to hoodwink everyday voters into casting ballots against their own interests to benefit the powerful [by extending] tax cuts for the rich.

In the same vein, Baker quotes Anita Dunn, an ex-Obama White House strategist, who calls the elitism argument “false” because Obama “talks about people’s economic interests and middle-class families.” Dunn warns those supporting Republicans will be ”very surprised” by that party’s “corporate sponsorship,” and assures us, “The president I don’t think has an elitist bone in his body.”

Give credit to Baker and his New York Times editors. Providing readers a sense there’s an elite besides the moneyed, Republican elite the newspaper’s readers normally hear about represents a step toward “news fit to print” this reader is in fact surprised to see.

Ivory Tower View

Thank you George Will. He explains the contradiction I see between the Democrats’ confidence they remain on the right(eous) path, and Republican confidence our ruling class is too detached to continue in power:

[A]s the distilled essence of progressivism, [Obama] should feel ratified by Tuesday's repudiation. The point of progressivism is that the people must progress up from their backwardness. They cannot do so unless they are pulled toward the light by a government composed of the enlightened - experts coolly devoted to facts and science. The progressive agenda is actually legitimated by the incomprehension and anger it elicits: If the people do not resent and resist what is being done on their behalf, what is being done is not properly ambitious. If it is comprehensible to its intended beneficiaries, it is the work of insufficiently advanced thinkers.
Will sarcastically makes a serious point. He believes, along with George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux, that Obama has replaced interest-group liberalism (the politics of Democrats from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson) with idea-driven liberalism (the politics of intellectuals like progressive Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D.).

Intellectuals, today’s liberal elite, believe they are right to act on our behalf because they know better. Yet ironically, making one’s ideas paramount narrows sharply the number of ideas in play from which the people can choose. As Boudreaux writes:
[Liberal elite] ideas are almost exclusively about how other people should live their lives. These are ideas about how one group of people (the politically successful) should engineer everyone else's contracts, social relations, diets, habits, and even moral sentiments. . . replacing an unimaginably large multitude of diverse and competing ideas. . . with a relatively paltry set of “Big Ideas” that are politically selected, centrally imposed, and enforced by government, not by the natural give, take and compromise of the everyday interactions of millions of people.
Under our current liberal elite, Will and Boudreaux believe, political power - government commands and controls – is superseding and suffocating the market society's spontaneous order.

This is ironic, since the academy supposedly encourages the free competition of ideas. Give intellectuals the political power, however, and authoritarianism will begin to supplant democracy. It’s Plato’s Republic.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Cocky Democrats

Much will change before the next general election. But with Nancy Pelosi’s decision to remain as leader of House Democrats, it seems the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team that should have been staggered by their midterm election losses will intact again lead the party in 2012. What’s with that?

Insider Mark Halperin in TIME gives a reason for Pelosi’s return:
In the aftermath of the midterm elections, [many] Democrats . . . believe that the answer to the party's problems isn't to abandon their message and bend to Republican demands but to stand up and fight whenever they feel that the new House majority is acting against the interests of middle-class families and in favor of corporate special interests. Pelosi's supporters maintain . . . she can capably challenge the GOP and protect her party's core principles. She has beaten Republicans twice before, suggesting she can beat them again.
Democrats specifically have no plans to give up on Obamacare, especially when they feel the real election issue was the economy, and are certain the economy will be better in 2012. Democrats determined to keep their historic healthcare reform are pointing to exit polls showing 48% for repealing health care reform, but 31% wanting it expanded and 16% favoring leaving it as is—a total of 47% for a virtually even split against repeal.

There’s a problem with the question, though. Voters weren’t offered what may be the most popular option: amend the law, stripping out the bad parts but keeping the best. Leaving out the choice to amend but not repeal skews the results in the direction Democrats favor, enabling them to proclaim half the country favors Obamacare.

I have wrestled with why Obama is so confident he represents America even as he makes little effort to connect with its white, moderate to conservative majority. Our nation is 68% non-Hispanic white, and only 20% liberal. These percentages explain why Republicans are so confident Obama and the American majority live in two different worlds. The percentages are even more white for those registered to vote, and still higher than that for those voting in midterm, non-presidential elections.

I’m now convinced Obama truly believes he represents a majority of the country, as he manifestly did when he won in 2008. So Obama feels no need to reach beyond his base. He and knowledgeable Democratic politicos understand their base will show up in higher percentages during the 2012 presidential year when Obama is back on the ballot and, as said above, the economy is clicking again.

The Democrats' key to victory isn’t to expand their share of the white moderate-conservative vote, the job everybody talks about. No, their challenge is to get Obama’s base back to the polls. If an equal share of Obama’s base and the Republican base both show up, Obama wins, because his base is larger.

It's larger because Obama’s base consists of minorities, unmarried women, young people, liberal white males, and liberal married white females. As the chart below shows, that base adds up to 64% of the American voting-age population (though this count includes non-citizens). Republicans can have the rest; Obama doesn’t need to woo the remaining 36%.Now you know why Pelosi, Obama, and Reid are so cocky.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

South and Midwest: Reagan Democrats

[W]hat began as a problem for Obama in his primary battle against Hillary Clinton in 2008 — the lack of support among working-class white voters — has only grown worse. A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that white voters without four-year college degrees now support Republicans by 22%, twice the margin they did in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

--A.B. Stoddard, “The Hill,” 11.3.10

Looking at Tuesday’s election returns, Stoddard concludes, “Democrats have now vacated the South and the Midwest.” Many Reagan Democrats, white, working-class, worried about the new economy, did vote Democratic in 2006 and especially 2008. On Tuesday, upset about high unemployment, they returned to Reagan’s party. Many descend from the union workers who helped form the Democratic base before Reagan pried them away in 1980. Democrats no longer seem the party of working class whites, a fact that seriously complicates Democratic plans to hang onto power.

Democrats remain strong in the West and in the Northeast, where their base of government-related workers, unmarried women, young people, and ethnic minorities is relatively more significant. I’ve noted the power of Tuesday’s Hispanic vote in California and Nevada, two of America’s most Hispanic/non-white states. Exit polls show Hispanics turned out in large numbers to vote Democratic in California, Nevada, and other Western states, and in fact Republicans didn't net a single House seat gain in the West, in contrast to their Midwest-South triumphs.

Minorities are a growing source of Democratic strength. Republicans will find it increasingly necessary to fight for the minority vote. For now though, the big story is Democrats again losing the working class white vote they temporarily gained back in Bush’s last two years.

Nevada: Hispanic Vote; Knife-fight Politics

Tom Bevan at “RealClearPolitics” election night quoted a pollster who said they have to do a better job polling the Hispanic vote. That’s after Sen. Harry Reid won by 6%, after trailing Sharron Angle in the last (Mason-Dixon) poll by 4%. Nevada’s Hispanic population is 26% of that state’s total. Nevada is the fifth least “non-Hispanic white” state in the country.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos mentioned to Bill O’Reilly yesterday that Reid won re-election when he helped make Sharron Angle his Republican opponent. What was that about? Turns out, according to the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza last June, Harry Reid engineered a barrage of attacks against then-leading Republican candidate Sue Lowden before the Republican primary, attacks designed to knock her out of the race in favor of Angle.

Such a Reid tactic would have been similar to ex-California governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, running TV ads during the 2002 Republican primary against Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, in order to help Republicans nominate a weaker opponent Davis could more easily defeat. It worked for Davis, it apparently worked for Reid.

California: Ladies Unelected

Last June, I ran an item reporting that liberal Washington Post columnist Howard Meyerson had called Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina “unelectable,” just after Republicans nominated the two for California governor and senator respectively. I didn’t predict their win, and I don’t think Meyerson was right about their unelectability—both spent time in the polls close or ahead of their respective opponents while Democrats raised a ton of money to defeat them. Meyerson's claim nevertheless looked good Tuesday when both lost, in part because of opposition from California’s large Hispanic population, the reason Meyerson said they would lose.

California is only 42% non-Hispanic white, a big reason why Republicans are a minority of registered voters in every single California congressional, state Senate, and state Assembly district.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Republicans win, stocks up.

Last week, we wrote stocks had risen close to the high they reached last April. Stocks rose partly in anticipation of a Republican mid-term election victory. Now, the day after Republicans delivered Wall Street a divided government, stocks have passed their April high, and are higher then they have been anytime since the 2008 financial crash. The Fox Index measures the gap between the current market and a healthy close for the three major indexes: 12,000 for the Dow, 1,300 for the S&P 500, and 2,500 for the NASDAQ, or a total of 15,800. The Index, which reached -927 April 15, is now at -847 (see chart)—with the NASDAQ at 2,540, actually above its minimum healthy level.

While it’s uncertain the Republican political victory can deliver the economic gains Wall Street hopes for, the GOP will be able to block Democrats from enacting further anti-business initiatives.

Divided Again

The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states: red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. … Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?

--Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention, 7.27.04

I won. I will trump you on that.

--President Obama to Republican congressional leaders, 1.24.09

There was a misunderstanding of the kind of change people wanted. Democrats wanted policy change. Independents and Republicans wanted to change the way business was done in Washington, and that really hasn't happened.

--Howard Dean, ex-Democratic Party chairman, 11.1.10

[M]ajorities are loaned the power every two years. Voters now reassess every two years. You’re not going to get [the majority] for 40 years.

--Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), 11.3.10

Democrats are still very much alive. The Democratic ruling class is still on top. But the Republican 60+ seat reclaiming of “the People’s Chamber,” as well as winning 6 more Senate seats and at least 7 statehouses including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin (while holding Florida), represents a sharp shift away from full Democratic control. America is back to the divided rule that has prevailed for all but 12 of the 44 years since Nixon’s first election (exceptions: 1976-80, 1992-94, 2002-06, 2008-10). Divided rule, 73% of the time. It’s the new normal.

Republican-friendly pollster Scott Rasmussen rightly cautions the GOP that “voters in 2010 are doing the same thing they did in 2006 and 2008: They are voting against the party in power.” Obama’s the third president in a row to hold then lose the House, what Rasmussen calls “a fundamental rejection” of “a bipartisan political elite that's lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve.” His polls show voters see Democrats as the party of big government and Republicans as the party of big business, with nobody representing the people. Folks want “hope and change,” but think if they have to rely on politicians for change, there’s “no hope.”

Rasmussen himself believes “voters don't want to be governed from the left, the right, or even the center.” They want Washington to understand the people “want to govern themselves.”

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

One Nation

History, by appraising. ..[the students] of the past, will enable them to judge of the future.

--Thomas Jefferson

Jay Cost in the Weekly Standard suggests two models for how Obama will react to today’s political rebuke. One is the response of Bill Clinton to the loss of Congress in 1994, where he shifted back to the center, “triangulating” between liberal Democratic orthodoxy and Republican conservativism, agreeing to cut taxes and spending, reform welfare, implement a line-item veto provision, and move toward a balanced budget. By claiming the middle ground, Clinton won re-election in 1996, but did little to help Democrats win back Congress.

Cost contrasts Clinton’s compromising with the tough stand Harry Truman took in 1947-48 against the “do nothing” Republican Congress he found confronting him. Truman believed he could hold or win back the big city labor and Catholic vote, most of the South, and the progressive West by continuing Roosevelt’s New Deal policies (later repackaged as the “Fair Deal”). Against much skepticism, “Give ‘em Hell Harry” won re-election in 1948, and brought a Democratic Congress with him.

Cost mentions, but does not dwell upon, the second part of Truman’s “two-pronged strategy” to recapture power—his tough, anti-Communist foreign policy. Truman’s “two prongs” followed Roosevelt, who from 1940 on, stood for an internationalist American foreign policy, then led America to victory in World War II. By taking on the U.S.S.R. and Communism in 1947, Truman made himself commander-in-chief of an America united against a common enemy, leaving Republicans little choice but to fall in line behind. From 1940 to 1965, therefore, the principle that “Politics stops at the water’s edge” meant presidents could dampen down their political opposition by uniting the country against a common enemy abroad.

So will Obama follow Clinton by moving to the center, will he follow Truman’s “two-pronged strategy” by going hard against Republicans domestically, but as president uniting the country against Islamic extremism, or will he focus on domestic issues as the Democratic left wants him to do, and downplay any overseas Islamic threat?

Since Vietnam, Democrats have abdicated a strong U.S. foreign policy, leaving leadership in national security to Republicans—Nixon’s China initiative and SALT treaty with the U.S.S.R., Reagan’s Cold War victory over the U.S.S.R., George H.W. Bush’s “Desert Storm” liberation of Kuwait opposed by a majority of Democratic senators, and George W. Bush’s willingness to take on Islamic terrorists where they live and plot.

I don't think Obama will move to the center, à la Clinton.

In peaceful times, such as the 1990s, total focus on domestic affairs may work out for Democrats. In 2010, we face terrorists in nuclear-armed Pakistan, and in a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran, we confront a fully-engaged Islamic extremist power. Obama might do well to follow Truman’s example, and lead a country united at “at the water’s edge” against our common enemy, even as he takes on Republicans at home.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Counterculture Child

Comes Shelby Steele, of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford, to tell us what makes President Obama tick:
There is an "otherness" about Mr. Obama, the sense that he is somehow not truly American. . . But Barack Obama is not an "other" so much as he is a child of the 1960s.

His coming of age paralleled exactly the unfolding of a new "counterculture" American identity. And this new American identity—and the post-1960s liberalism it spawned—is grounded in a remarkable irony: bad faith in America as virtue itself, bad faith in the classic American identity of constitutional freedom and capitalism as the way to a better America.

Obama . . . is simply the first president we have seen grounded in this counterculture American identity. When he bows to foreign leaders, he [displays] the counterculture Americanism of honorable self-effacement in which America acknowledges its own capacity for evil as prelude to engagement.

Bad faith in America became virtuous in the '60s when America finally acknowledged so many of its flagrant hypocrisies: the segregation of blacks, the suppression of women, the exploitation of other minorities, the "imperialism" of the Vietnam War, the indifference to the environment, the hypocrisy of puritanical sexual mores . . . [A]ll these hypocrisies added up to the crowning idea of the '60s: that America was characterologically evil.
Steele believes that among today's “liberal elite,” bad faith in America is “a sophistication, a kind of hipness.” But he also understands low faith in our country “is the perfect formula” for “governmental power,” because it “rationalizes power in the name of intervening against evil—[against] economic inequality, structural racism and sexism, corporate greed, neglect of the environment.”

"Hope and Change," Steele bluntly says, actually “is an expression of bad faith in America,” but turned into “political motivation” and “votes.”

Nevertheless, Steele senses it's a mistake to capitalize on bad faith, because doing so:
disallows American exceptionalism as a rationale for power. It puts Mr. Obama and the Democrats in the position of forever redeeming a fallen nation, rather than leading a great nation. They bet on America's characterological evil and not on her sense of fairness, generosity or ingenuity. [Take this approach, and] you become more a national scold than a real leader. You lead out of a feeling that your opposition is really only the latest incarnation of that old characterological evil that you always knew was there.
Steele is especially concerned that Obama functions more as a redeemer than a steward:
A redeemer can't just tweak and guide a faltering economy; he will need a trillion- dollar stimulus package. He can't take on health care a step at a time; he must do it all at once, finally mandating that every citizen buy in. . . We have a president so determined to transform and redeem us from what we are that, by his own words, he is willing to risk being a one-term president.
Steele, in other words, worries that Obama the redeemer cannot shift back to the center—as Bill Clinton did—after his expected mid-term election defeat.