Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Hope

people cling to selected “facts” as a way to justify their beliefs about how the world works. [Samuel Arbesman, author of the new book The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date,] notes, “We persist in only adding facts to our personal store of knowledge that jibe with what we already know, rather than assimilate new facts irrespective of how they fit into our worldview.” All too true; confirmation bias is everywhere. 

--Ronald Bailey, Reason

America is seriously divided. We live under a president who openly disdains the large minority of his countrymen who live outside his well-defined coalition of government workers, minorities, unmarried women, and youth; his coalition topped by a progressive national elite that dominates the media, nonprofits, academia, and the entertainment industry.

I believe that in a democracy, sharp divisions make sense. It’s how parties organize, after all, to win elections. I worry, however, that the two sides are so far apart that they no longer learn from each other. They--as Ronald Bailey suggests (above)--each watch their own cable channels, go to their own internet sites, and increasingly talk only to those who think alike.

We used to have conference committees to hash out differences between the two houses of congress. Now though, with one house controlled by Republicans and the other by Democrats--a time when conference committee compromises would seem more useful than ever--the conference committee has disappeared. And that has to be a bad development.

Can we hope for more comity in 2013?

Surprise: Religion Alive in the Academy.

Douglas and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, authors of No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education, write in the liberal “Daily Beast” about the state of religion on college campuses today. After pointing out that one-third of Americans under 30 lack any religious affiliation, the professors present findings about the others who do connect to religion in some fashion.

According to the Jacobsens, it’s difficult:
to draw any neat line of separation between “religion” and the wide variety of “secular” life stances that are also present on campuses. Whether people refer to the values and commitments that shape their lives as religion, spirituality, humanism, secularism, or agnosticism, they are referring to values and commitments that function socially and psychologically in much the same way. On many campuses, the definition of religious life has expanded to encompass all the religious, spiritual, moral, and ethical concerns of students.
The Jacobsens add these points:
  •  younger professors are more interested in religion than are their more senior colleagues trained in the 1980s-1990s secular heyday. It’s not that younger faculty members are more favorably disposed to religion, just that they are more comfortable discussing it. 
  • elite schools are less open to reengaging religion than non-elite schools. At community colleges, faculty often welcome discussion of religion, in part because they serve students still living at home, still in local faith communities, and bringing religious questions into the classroom. 
  • evangelical proselytizing actually helps others to articulate their own values and commitments. Princeton’s religion department asks students to examine divisive public issues in light of their own religious particularities, allowing students to practice the “obsolete political art” of talking respectfully with ideological opponents. 
  • reengaging religion prepares students for the real world where religion is part of politics, community and international affairs, interpersonal relations, and quests for meaning and purpose.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hollywood Gone Bad

“your television . . . is mainly transmitting an ethos in which greed is not only bad but the main wellspring of evil, authority figures of all kinds are often untrustworthy, sexual freedom is absolute, and social equality of all kinds is paramount. Within the moral universe of this culture, the merits of these values are self-evident.”

 --Jonathan Chait, New York

“Hollywood,” the term, also includes the major television networks and their programming, as well as independent movie and TV studios. “Hollywood” propagates a unified cultural alternative to the traditional, Judeo-Christian ethic favored by conservatives.

How did this happen? As Johathan Chait noted, “Hollywood was founded by Jewish immigrants who lived in terror that their Jewishness would make conservative America suspect them of abusing their cultural power.” That “Hollywood” gave up on traditional values around the time of Kennedy’s 1963 assassination--the early Mad Men years.

In truth, Hollywood smoldered through the 1950s. Many in the older generation were unhappy about friends taken down in late ‘40s early ‘50s anti-Communist witch hunts. Younger Hollywood writers were fed up with the clamps their elders had placed on sex and violence, along with forced traditional religious piety and patriotic themes. Inherit the Wind, a direct attack on Christian conservatives and starring respected one-time Boys Town (1938) priest Spencer Tracy, came out as a movie in 1960, five long years after the Broadway play, but in time to usher in Hollywood’s new decade.

The 1960 Oscars proved a watershed for sex in Hollywood. The Apartment, with Jack Lemmon facilitating Shirley MacLaine’s affair with a married man, won best picture and best director, wayward evangelist Burt Lancaster won best actor for corrupting best supporting actress Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry, and Elizabeth Taylor won best actress for playing a prostitute in Butterfield 8.

These movies, however, were mild compared to what followed--Dr. Strangelove (1964, anti-authority), Darling (1965, free love), Alfie and Blow-Up (1966, free love), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, filthy language), The Graduate (1967, anti-authority, anti-marriage), Bonnie and Clyde (1967, extreme violence), Midnight Cowboy (1969, raw sex, violence, “X” rated Oscar winner), The Wild Bunch (1969, extreme violence), Easy Rider (1969, anti-authority).

The 1960s. As country club, white Protestant males lost national control to anti-Vietnam demonstrations and the civil rights movement, Hollywood’s previously suppressed resentment of the dominant culture exploded. Hollywood was a big part of the ensuing rebellion, emerging on the winning side in the 1970s, the decade women also claimed their rightful place in America. Hollywood’s counter culture in the process became the culture we know today--coarse, violent, committed to level equality (“justice”), anti-authority, anti-business (anti-“greed”), anti-church, anti-white male, anti-marriage-based family.

At Christmas, many long for a lost culture that encouraged sacrifice and hard work, faith, good teachers, homework, part-time jobs, graduation, employment, marriage and family, a culture that honored success. They resent the culture Hollywood has given us; they hope for something better.

Peace on earth, peace that begins with faith, hope, and love, family, work, community, and (yes) country, peace built upon equal opportunity, not forced equality.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mass Killing of Innocents in America

It’s gun control, plus. Listen to Melinda Henneberger, a thoughtful political reporter at the Washington Post. Henneberger, who comes from a background of experience reporting on the mentally ill, writes:
The left is correct that actually, guns do kill people. But the right has a point, too, about the “culture of death,” in the language of John Paul II’s “Gospel of Life.” And if we haven’t glorified even mass shootings and their perpetrators, then why does one shooter after another show up dressed all in black, like an anti-hero ready for his big finale?
Conservative Matt K. Lewis, in the liberal magazine The Week, made the same point as Henneberger, though more directly:
the media predictably assumes that the availability of guns is the problem, without considering how journalists themselves might be contributing to the coarsening of our already-violent society.  The entertainment-media complex promotes and glamorizes violence — for profit — in film and on TV. Meanwhile, the news media ensures that killers get the attention and fame they so desperately crave.
And David Kopel, in the conservative Wall Street Journal, documents the media’s place in mass murder of innocents:
Cable TV in the 1990s, and the Internet today, greatly magnify the instant celebrity that a mass killer can achieve. We know that many would-be mass killers obsessively study their predecessors. Loren Coleman's 2004 book The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines shows that the copycat effect is as old as the media itself. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 1774 classic The Sorrows of Young Werther triggered a spate of copycat suicides all over Europe. But today the velocity and pervasiveness of the media make the problem much worse.
Kopel is onto another contributing factor beyond gun availability: the deinstitutionalization of the violently mentally ill. Kopel points to a 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers that found that 47 were mentally ill. [Another study] reported that 16% of all convicted murders were mentally ill. As Kopel noted:
In the mid-1960s, many of the killings would have been prevented because the severely mentally ill would have been confined and cared for in a state institution. But today, while government at most every level has bloated over the past half-century, mental-health treatment has been decimated. . . the number of state hospital beds in America per capita has plummeted to 1850 levels, or 14.1 beds per 100,000 people. Moreover, a 2011 [study] found that a third of the state-to-state variation in homicide rates was attributable to the strength or weakness of involuntary civil-commitment laws.
The reasons behind America’s mass murder problem include wide availability of assault weapons and magazine clips, plus our wider culture of violence, specific media fixation on mass murderers, and insufficient legal and monetary resources devoted to the mentally ill.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Going Over the Fiscal Cliff

“the cliff’s consequences — huge tax increases and defense cuts — are progressivism’s agenda.”

--George Will, Washington Post  

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

--Thomas Jefferson

We said last April that if Barack Obama won re-election, he would raise taxes on all of us, doing so by simply allowing the Bush tax cuts expire. It’s happening.

And conservatives aren’t really surprised. Washington Post columnist and Former Bush 43 speechwriter Michael Gerson writes about the real advantages Obama may accrue from smashing the economy and simultaneously doing in Republicans:
The Democratic left is perfectly comfortable with most consequences of the cliff -- large defense spending cuts, tax rates back to Bill Clinton levels for everyone, Republicans blamed for defending the rich. Obama may be calculating that his leverage with the House would be even greater in January. As the weeks of pain go by, political pressure might grow so heavy on the GOP that Obama could essentially dictate terms -- whatever mix of tax increases, tax cuts and spending he wishes. The risk of this strategy is serious -- market panic, credit downgrade and recession. The political reward for Democrats might also be considerable: marginalization of the GOP based on a three-point presidential victory.
And the Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone similarly discounts the pain a bad economy may inflict on Democrats:
doesn't this president, like his predecessors, want bounteous economic growth? Maybe not. First-term presidents want strong economic growth because they think they need it to be re-elected. But Obama has already been re-elected without it. And economic growth produces things Obama doesn't like. Some people. . . get very rich. Obama prefers a more equal income distribution. The Depression of the 1930s did a great job of increasing economic equality.
Earlier, I compared Obama to Herbert Hoover. Obama, like Hoover, is the president who presides over a four-year bad economy leading to a re-election defeat. I was wrong.

The American people treat Obama not as a Hoover-like incompetent, but rather as Franklin Roosevelt, the president re-elected twice (1936, 1940) in a bad economy. Roosevelt and Obama were re-elected not because they turned the economy around (they didn’t), but because enough parts of the Democratic coalition saw them as one of their own, and gave them a pass for trying.

In other words, the hidden re-election slogan turned out to be, “Stupid, it isn’t the economy!”

Barone even suggests Obama and Roosevelt found things to like about hard times:
Sluggish growth and recession. . . make things more predictable. Constituencies that enjoy political favor -- UAW members at General Motors or Chrysler, for example -- can be subsidized to remain in place. The cost of such subsidies can be extracted from disfavored constituencies. This is called, in Obama's words to Joe the Plumber, "spreading the wealth around." Remember when ABC's Charlie Gibson asked candidate Obama if he would raise capital gains tax rates even if it brought less revenue to the government. Yes, Obama said. "I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."
So we’re going over the cliff. George Will reminds us why it’s so wrong for the country to do so:
At the end of the Clinton administration, when the budget was balanced, annual federal spending was $1.94 trillion and revenue was $2.10 trillion. “Adjusting for inflation and population growth since the start of 2001,” [University of Georgia economics professorJeffrey] Dorfman writes, “today’s equivalents would be $2.77 trillion and $3.00 trillion,” and a $230 billion surplus.
Today federal revenue is $2.67 trillion [just $100 billion below “the Clinton equivalent,” yet] spending is $3.76 trillion, so we are spending $987 billion more than we would be if we had just increased Bill Clinton’s last budget for inflation and population growth.
Increased tax rates will hurt growth, enlarging the deficit, not shrinking it.  The only rational path to a balanced budget is through lower entitlement spending.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Conservatives shouldn’t abandon the (cultural) field.

"People don't care what you know until they know you care."

--Jack Kemp (1935-2009)

Some posts are more important than others. One of our most important posts quotes New York’s Jonathan Chait, a self-identified liberal, on how liberal domination of our culture is driving politics. And we know from conservative Charles Murray that Hollywood’s culture has truly negative consequences--it is destroying working class lifestyles, even lives.

In the face of liberal cultural domination, conservatives cannot simply roll over.  They not only have to communicate with America’s working class, they must also help uplift the values of honesty, hard work, faith, and love of family that build a future for America’s next generation. Dependency and victimization are not acceptable ways of living.  Honest work is good for the soul.  The easier path, the road most taken, isn’t the best path.

Listen to the words of conservative Matt K. Lewis, writing in the progressive magazine The Week. Lewis, born to a working-class family, has grasped that while folks on top can survive a decadent lifestyle, working class people can’t:
A lifestyle of addiction, promiscuity, and chaos comes with a hefty price tag. Sadly, our elites are exporting those values to the people least capable of sustaining them. Most will likely spend the rest of their lives paying for the sins of their youth. The rich kids, on the other hand — well, they will likely land on their feet.
Lewis believes that while modern culture mocks social conservatives for "family values" such as marry first, then have kids, people should remember the “practical reason these values caught on.”

Lewis describes those growing up in rural communities as having to face tremendous economic pressures armed with little to believe in. He says they “lack a purpose in life, and humans need a purpose.” They end up feeling you "gotta be bad just to have a good time."

Lewis doesn’t favor government forcing failing businesses to defy the laws of economics. But we have to recognize that failing businesses or even failing towns mean people fail. There are real-life consequences to "creative destruction." He offers a poignant story out of the New York Times about golfing great Ben Hogan. Hogan's father, "a blacksmith put out of work by the spread of the automobile, had committed suicide, shooting himself while 9-year-old Ben looked on in horror."

How do we help? It begins with caring. We need a culture that uplifts, offering faith in the future, guidance down the right path. We need schools that work. Most of all, we need jobs.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The U.S. and Mexican Prosperity

We now know that by 2043, just a generation from now, the U.S. will be majority nonwhite. Hispanics are the biggest part of our growing demographic change.

Conservative writer Michael Barone is currently focusing on Mexican immigration. And he has useful data drawn from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Pew reports that net migration from Mexico to this country had fallen to zero from 2005 to 2010, that 20,000 more people moved to Mexico from the United States than from there to here in those years, and that from 1995 to 2000, the net inflow from Mexico was 2.2 million people. Barone says that because there was net Mexican immigration until 2007, when the housing market collapsed and the Great Recession began, we must have had net outmigration to Mexico from 2007 to 2010, and that that outmigration likely continued in 2011 and 2012.

Barone, who is writing about American internal and immigrant migrations, finds that migration surges typically last just one or two generations, with the surges’ beginnings and ends mostly unpredicted. Barone nevertheless predicts the Mexican migration surge may be over.

Maybe, but maybe not. In building his case, Barone writes:
Life in Mexico is not a nightmare for many these days. Beneath the headlines about killings in the drug wars, Mexico has become a predominantly middle-class country [see picture], as Jorge Castaneda notes in his recent book, Mañana Forever? Its economy is growing faster than ours.
El norte life, of course, has gotten worse. In Barone’s words, “the dreams that many Mexican immigrants pursued have been shattered.” He points to mortgage foreclosure statistics that, beginning with the 2007 housing bust, in the majority of cases afflicted the four "sand states" of California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida--areas, Pew noted, with large numbers of Latino immigrants.

Many of these Latinos were among buyers unqualified by traditional credit standards for the subprime mortgages granted at that time, with encouragement from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Barone believes one-third of those foreclosed on in the Great Recession were Latinos, people whose “dreams turned into nightmares.”

Pew’s report on declining U.S. birthrates provides further evidence of recession impact on Latino families. The biggest drop was among Mexican-born women, from 455,000 births in 2007 to 346,000 in 2010--a 24% decline. That drop contrasts with only 6% for U.S.-born women, and is much more like the sharp decline in U.S. birthrates during the 1929 to 1933 Depression years.

Liberal Says They Do Control Culture

So you think conservatives overstate the influence the entertainment industry has on our culture, politics, and American youth? I have to thank Rod Dreher for uncovering this amazing article by Jonathan Chait that appeared last August in the progressive magazine, New York. Chait provides an insight into honest liberal thinking as valuable as Lenin’s What is to be Done? into Communism, or Hitler’s Mein Kampf into National Socialism. Read; it’s long, but worth it, and much abbreviated from the full article:

the culture war is an ongoing liberal rout. Hollywood is as liberal as ever, and conservatives have simply despaired of changing it. [One sees] a pervasive, if not total, liberalism. . . the modern family in Modern Family, not to mention the girls of Girls and the gays of Glee . . . The liberal analysis of the economic crisis—that unregulated finance took wild gambles—has been widely reflected, even blatantly so, in movies like Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and the Wall Street sequel. . . we have series like Homeland, which probes the moral complexities of a terrorist’s worldview, and action stars like Jason Bourne, whose enemies are not just foreign baddies but also paranoid Dick Cheney figures. . . cautionary end-times tales like Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and the tree-hugging mysticism of Avatar. . . political films and shows, from the Aaron Sorkin oeuvre through Veep and The Campaign, both of which cast oilmen as the heavies. Even The Muppets features an evil oil driller stereotypically named “Tex Richman.” 

In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party. 

Joe Biden endorsed . . . Will & Grace as the single-most important driving force in transforming public opinion on [gay marriage, confirming] the long-standing fear of conservatives—that a coterie of Hollywood elites . . . had transmuted the cultural majority into a minority. . . from the conservative point of view. . . large chunks of your entertainment mocked your values and even transformed once-uncontroversial beliefs of yours into a kind of bigotry that might be greeted with revulsion. 

from the outset[,] Hollywood was founded by Jewish immigrants who lived in terror that their Jewishness would make conservative America suspect them of abusing their cultural power. . . Starting in the seventies, popular culture thoroughly shed its postwar timidity and presented an image of America unrecognizable to those weaned on the pristine idealism of the black-and-white years. The moral signifiers that had defined popular culture have not only disappeared but been completely inverted, the heroes turned into villains. A 1991 study found that 40% of all murders on television were committed by businessmen. In Hollywood’s golden age, wrote the conservative film critic Michael Medved, “if a character appeared on screen wearing a clerical collar it served as a sure sign that the audience was supposed to like him.” By the seventies, religion had come to signify hypocrisy, or darker sins. 

we now have a far more precise sense of [the entertainment industry’s] power. . . researchers working for the Inter-American Development Bank [asked why] Brazil had, over the course of four decades, experienced one of the largest drops in average family size in the world, from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 children in 2000. . . The researchers[’ answer]: television. Television spread through Brazil in the mid-sixties. But it . . . expanded slowly and unevenly. The researchers found that areas that gained access to [TV] saw larger drops in fertility than those that didn’t[. What] caused this fertility drop [was] exposure to the massively popular soap operas, or novelas, that most Brazilians watch every night[, each of which centered] around four or five families. . . usually small, so as to limit the number of characters the audience must track. Nearly three quarters of the main female characters of childbearing age in the prime-time novelas had no children, and a fifth had one child. . . a 2009 study. . . detected a similar pattern in India. 

Barack Obama attained such rapid acceptance and popularity in part because he represented the real-world version of an archetype that. . . has appeared in film and television for years: a sober, intelligent African-American as president, or in some other position of power. 

popular culture, in general, promotes liberal values and undercuts conservative values, especially sexual mores. . . If you ask Hollywood liberals [about their] social responsibility, they will happily boast about using their platform to raise their audience’s consciousness about racial tolerance or the environment or distrusting government officials. . . Making money is [the studios’] main goal, but they do blend profit with their artistic sensibility, which is heavily influenced by their ideological perspective.

The need to appeal to the widest possible audience generally drives film and television to avoid displays of overt partisanship, while still smuggling in a message. . . your television . . . is mainly transmitting an ethos in which greed is not only bad but the main wellspring of evil, authority figures of all kinds are often untrustworthy, sexual freedom is absolute, and social equality of all kinds is paramount. Within the moral universe of this culture, the merits of these values are self-evident. 

[In 2008, Obama] mobilized younger voters by tapping into fears incessantly expressed in movies and television: cultural retrogression (Mad Men), greedy businessmen (The Simpsons), misbegotten wars (Syriana), environmental neglect (Wall-E). The right has no broadcasting device of comparable scope. . . This year. . . the cultural landscape [was] the same, essentially congenial place. 

This capacity to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements. . . undoubtedly is a source of cultural (and hence political) power. . . We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Lessons from Obama’s Win (III)

Votes in the 2012 election are still coming in. But a month after the election, Obama’s vote stood at 64.9 million, Romney’s at 60.5 million, a margin for Obama of 4.4 million. Some of Romney’s potential votes bled to Libertarian Gary Johnson, who received 739,000 more votes in 2012 than did Libertarian Bob Barr in 2008.

Had Romney held Johnson down to Barr’s 2008 total and added the extra votes for Johnson in 2012 to his column, Romney would have received 61.2 million votes, still 3.7 million short of Obama’s total (Bush received 62 million votes in 2004).  Obama dropped 4.6 million votes between 2008 and 2012, but Romney plus Johnson’s margin over Barr’s 2008 total added up to only 1.3 million votes more than McCain received in 2008. Most of those who left Obama avoided supporting the Republican and Libertarian candidates.

Conservatives were surprised by the “RealClearPolitics” (RCP) average of polls failure to predict the election margin, though the average did show Obama winning. The final RCP average had Obama up by just 0.7%. Obama won by 3.5%, a difference of 2.8%.

The RCP averages for the “toss up” states--North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio, Romney’s “must win” states, plus New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada--showed Obama winning 8 of the 10. He won 9. Obama’s average victory margin in these 10 “toss up” states, according to the RCP poll average, was 1.7%. Obama won the 10 by an overall average of 4.0%, a difference of 2.4%. No single state average was off by more than 3.9%.  Missing by 2.4% on the 10 “toss up” state average, and 2.8% on the national total overall, represents a consistent underestimation of the Obama campaign's actual strength.

The New York Times’ polling guru Nate Silver nailed Obama's 51% winning total.  He also won praise for getting 50 of 50 states right, though the “RealClearPolitics” average of state polls called 49 of 50 right, missing only on Florida, which Obama carried by just 75,000 votes out of 8.5 million cast. And Silver, as a “Slate” article noted, did incorrectly predict some U.S. senate races, a slightly less than full-genius performance.

Comment:  Obama overperformend because he was a minority candidate running against a rich, white guy.  Caring for "minorities"--including unmarried women, liberals, and young people--overcame as an issue criticism of Obama's poor job performance.  "He's one of us and we forgive him for trying and coming up short."  Obama's campaign also followed the book on Bush's 2004 triumph over Kerry: forget the middle, bring out your own base in remarkable numbers, and destroy your opponent, thus driving down his base support.

The Obama campaign reached new levels of success in finding its base voters and getting them to vote--a good reason polls underestimated the end result.  Finally, Obama out-spent Romney.  It's devastating for a Republican, already at a disadvantage in the media wars, to have less advertising money.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Lessons from Obama’s Win (II)

Ben Domenech is a conservative blogger at “Ricochet.” In the aftermath of Romney’s 4.5 million vote loss to Obama, Domenech sought to bury the type of professional GOP political consultants Romney used by going after Mike Murphy, who did work for both John McCain and Romney:
Uber-consultant Mike Murphy. . . is a millionaire thanks in large part to the ad sale commissions from countless campaigns. He represents a way of campaigning based on massive air wars, top down direction driven by ad men consultants, the time when you dominated the three television channels and controlled the narrative from on high … all methods which have proven particularly irrelevant to electoral results in the internet era. . . What’s really [needed] – conservative ideas and ground-up grassroots activism.
I agree with the need for bottom-up activism. Though TV advertising is still vital, it won’t dominate as it once did. Obama’s victory importantly involved a solid ground attack, along with its massive TV bombing campaign.

Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, however, warns against over-interpreting Obama’s win. He writes our:
American subconscious assumes that the voice of the people really is the voice of God, and that being part of a winning coalition must be a sign that you’re His chosen one as well. [So] the losing coalition must be doomed to wander east of Eden. . . Republicans are now Radio Shack to [Democrats’] Apple store. . .
Douthat instead offers some “unpleasant truths” about liberalism’s gained future; it represents a coalition “created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear:”
  • winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.
  • unmarried women[:] single life is generally more insecure and chaotic than married life, and single life with children — which is now commonplace for women under 30 — is almost impossible to navigate without the support the welfare state provides.
  • the typical unchurched American is just as often an underemployed working-class man, whose secularism is less an intellectual choice than a symptom of his disconnection from community in general. 
  • What unites all of these. . . is the growing failure of America’s local associations — civic, familial, religious — to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible. 
Douthat doubts renewal is on the horizon that justifies “blithe liberal optimism, and the confidence with which many Democrats assume their newly emerged majority is a sign of progress rather than decline.”