Friday, January 31, 2014

Progressivism’s One Hundred Years (III)

On to Hillary in 2016

Yesterday was Franklin Roosevelt’s birthday (January 30, 1882). We earlier wrote that Roosevelt’s was the first of five successful presidencies over the last 100 years, followed by Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, and potentially Clinton, each strong enough to send a successor to the White House. The first four successors were all vice presidents (Truman, Nixon, Johnson, Bush). Clinton is the fifth, and his successor-to-be is Hillary, the inevitable Democratic nominee.

Hillary is aging. She will be 69 on election day 2016, only 9 months younger than Reagan, our oldest president, was on his election day. But does that really matter? Hillary is a “Baby Boomer”! Boomers (and they include Obama) made up 36% of the 2012 voters, and Boomers, as you know, don’t think they are old!

House Judiciary Staff Member
What matters for Hillary, though, isn’t her age anyway, it’s her sex. She's the presumptive first woman president. Hillary was Wellesley’s first student commencement speaker, entered Yale Law School when women first broke through the national glass ceiling in 1969 (both Yale and Princeton went coed that year), worked on the House Judiciary Committee staff during the Watergate hearings, married the future Arkansas attorney general and governor (at 32, the youngest governor in the country), developed a successful legal career, serving in a top Arkansas law firm and as the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, maintaining a strong interest in women’s and children’s legal rights.

Hillary served as President Clinton’s first lady, the first female senator from New York, then the first major female candidate for president in 2008, losing the Democratic nomination to our first nonwhite president, but receiving 18.2 million total primary and caucus votes to Obama’s 18.0 million. Obama made Hillary his secretary of state, the third female appointed to the U.S.’s ranking cabinet position.

Hillary’s rise has paralleled the growing national power of women. Parity in the Senate would be 50 women. They are at 20, or 40% of the way, but female Democrats, at 16, are within 9 of having half the 50 Democrats need for control of the Senate, and that female half of 25 could theoretically control the Democratic caucus. In the House, Democrats are led by Nancy Pelosi, have 59 female members, and need 41 more to reach half the Democratic caucus.

We earlier wrote about the rise of women over Hillary’s last half-century. The Feminine Mystique in 1963-4 lead to women pouring into the workforce. Women followed the civil rights movement's morally uplifting struggle for equality by similarly demanding equality in all corners of American life, and have very nearly achieved it. Women under 30 earn more than men of their age. Women are 40% of the breadwinners in families with children, are 50+% of the workforce since 2009, and are receiving 60% of college degrees. Men slide downward with the manufacturing sector, women rise with service occupations. Primary schools are feminized, and proving hostile to active boys.

Women who both raise children and manage careers--alpha women--are an important part of our national elite, shaping a Democratic Party that serves special interests (unmarried women, minorities, civil servants, youth). Women bend national policy toward a sheltering, caring government and away from competitive free enterprise, national security concerns, and the military. Their major unfinished objective is electing Hillary president.

There is a simple reason Hillary may not succeed. Crafty parties nominate candidates who add to their base--Carter and Clinton from the South, Obama fueling a vast expansion of minority support. But career and unmarried women are already basic to the Democratic coalition.

And of course Hillary will have to follow a failed Democratic presidency, at a time when progressivism seems to be running out of gas. Or so the conservative Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger suggests:
Gallup [says,] "Obama is on course to have the most politically polarized approval ratings of any president." Segments of the U.S. population see themselves [targeted by] the Obama administration. . . the famous 1%, but also the upper-middle class, Southern states, charter schools, politically active conservatives, private businesses, the Catholic church, electric utilities, doctors driven out of ObamaCare's health networks and those famous partisans, the Little Sisters of the Poor.
All have been vilified, investigated, audited or sued by the president himself, Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the National Labor Relations Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and, not least, the Internal Revenue Service. . .Gallup said in December that 72% of Americans regard big government as the greatest threat to the U.S.
Progressives justify coerced public policy with their belief that what they are doing is good. [But] a glitch always occurs in the U.S.: because the Founding Fathers designed an arduous system for producing progress, the far left has never been able to put its most purebred ideas consistently across the legislative goal line. Too many citizens resist[, so i]n frustration. . . the left [defaults] to direct executive action.
Hillary has a great deal going for her, but she is a progressive, and the pendulum may be swinging away from progressivism with a force she's powerless to stop.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Progressivism’s One Hundred Years (II)

1964: “One brief shining moment”--the Camelot Aftermath

It was Jackie Kennedy, in an interview carried in the December 3, 1963 issue of LIFE, whose vision of a lost “Camelot” set the tone for the historic year that followed--1964.

Our nation hung in the balance in 1964. Throwback President Lyndon Johnson, milking the emotion generated by Kennedy’s assassination, passed the first meaningful civil rights law since reconstruction, launched the war on poverty, kicked off years of unbroken economic growth by passing Kennedy’s tax reform measure, and defeated extremist Berry Goldwater in a historic Democratic Party sweep that reduced the GOP to rump status.

But 1964 was also crucial for what Johnson didn’t do. Though he won approval for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that gave him a free hand, Johnson postponed action in Vietnam until after the election. Unfortunately Johnson wasted precious time in 1964, time he could have used to master Vietnam, to understand the consequences of bombing and, especially, to realize the error of sending U.S. draftees to fight Vietnam’s civil war. Big mistake. Johnson’s Vietnam catastrophe not only terminated his administration, it also wiped out Democrat cold war liberals and damaged party moderates, yielding up a left-wing party takeover and George McGovern’s disastrous 1972 presidential campaign.

To me, the 1965-68 Camelot aftermath were years of Vietnam escalation, race riots, profound student unrest, more assassinations, death, high draft calls, death, Richard Nixon’s election--“the worst of times.” I was completely shocked, therefore, to hear two weeks ago--on PBS’s “American Experience: 1964” (at 1:52)--Carter administration official Hodding Carter III call the period “the best of times.” Hodding said:
I would pay money to go back, and to live through that whole era again. I would make all the same mistakes, but I would know, as I knew then, that I could never ask for a better time to be involved in the affairs of the nation. ’64 was the propulsion from the past into the future.
Unbelievable. But while progressives were initially whacked, that lasted only until Richard Nixon’s Watergate led to Jimmy Carter’s presidency (1977-81), and Washington jobs for the likes of Hodding Carter. And 1964 did unleash the forces that carried Democrats “into the future”--the loss of Southern conservatives (and much of “middle America”) true, but big gains from growing numbers of environmentalists plus youth, and from the Eastern Establishment, minorities, unmarried women, wrapped around the baby-boomer-led anti-war cause. A more purely progressive party.

Jimmy Carter failed as president, so from 1980 to 2008, Democrats won the White House only when Southern moderate Bill Clinton ran, and even he twice failed to garner a majority.

Now, however, progressives are in full flower. Conservative Charles Krauthammer, in the Washington Post, outlines how under Obama anti-war Democrats have thoroughly triumphed:
If he wasn’t committed to the [Afghanistan] mission, if he didn’t care about winning, why did Obama throw these soldiers into battle in the first place?
Because for years the Democrats had used Afghanistan as a talking point to rail against the Iraq War — while avoiding the politically suicidal appearance of McGovernite pacifism. As consultant Bob Shrum later admitted, “I was part of the 2004 Kerry campaign, which elevated the idea of Afghanistan as ‘the right war’ to conventional Democratic wisdom. This was accurate as criticism of the Bush Administration, but it was also reflexive and perhaps by now even misleading as policy.”
Translation: They were never really serious about Afghanistan. (Nor apparently about Iraq either. [former Defense secretary Bob] Gates recounts with some shock that Hillary Clinton admitted she opposed the Iraq surge for political reasons, and Obama conceded that much of the opposition had indeed been political.) The Democratic mantra — Iraq War, bad; Afghan War, good — was simply a partisan device to ride anti-Bush, anti-Iraq War feeling without appearing squishy.
Look, they could say: We’re just being tough and discriminating. Iraq is a dumb war, said Obama repeatedly. It’s a war of choice. Afghanistan is a war of necessity, the central front in the war on terror. Having run on that, Obama had a need to at least make a show of trying to win the good war, the smart war.
A progressive, phony “national defense” effort that produced all-too-real deaths.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Progressivism’s One Hundred Years (I)

1913: Professor in the White House

Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive. But the progressive era truly got underway when in 1912, ex-professor and Princeton president Woodrow Wilson won a three-way presidential contest with 42% of the (all-male) vote. Progressive Wilson didn’t disappoint--vastly expanding federal executive power, moving government toward his vision of “expert,” intellectual rule. Wilson’s presidency marked the arrival in Washington of our now-dominant meritocratic elite.

Conservative Noemie Emory, writing in the Washington Examiner, draws from Manhattan Institute scholar Fred Siegel’s book, The Revolt Against The Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class. Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson all wanted the middle class to thrive and enjoy prosperity, but a dissident strain of progressives developed a “contempt for the middle class, for commerce, and thus for most of the American culture.”

Siegel says the “road to perdition” was paved around 1920 when intellectuals
depressed by the Great War and the funk that came after, decided all was not well in the world and the nation, and the great middle class was to blame. In rant after rant, book after book, play after play, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Sinclair Lewis, and the editors of Nation and the New Republic heaped scorn on the bourgeoisie and on business as peasants unworthy of those who would lead them and who always knew better than they.
According to Siegel, “In the 1920s ... what looked like freedom and progress to most white Americans was an affront to liberals and intellectuals." Siegel quotes one of the intellectuals, Malcolm Cowley, later saying, "It wasn’t the depression that got me. It was the boom." These progressives believed that the leader’s role was not to shape public opinion but to govern against it, “fighting the crassness that governs the herd”--the “Babbitry” of the Roaring ‘20s.

Siegel believes this anti-bourgeois strain of progressivism now dominates under Barack Obama.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Case for democracy: if “knowledge” is dangerous, people should rule.

Huerta                       Jobs
“Change comes from the bottom up.”

--Dolores Huerta, Boom! (p. 425)

“there's something much bigger than any of us here.”

--Steve Jobs

The Bible tells us, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The more we learn, the better our life-coping skills. But we face a “too much truth” problem that comes when adding knowledge means losing the balance of humility. Check out The Experts Speak, which documents how bright people are so consistently wrong because they so firmly think they’re right.

“Experts” are more likely to hold extreme positions. As Washington Post conservative George Will writes:
people, says [Ilya] Somin [of George Mason University law school in Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter], acquire political knowledge for the reason people acquire sports knowledge — because it interests them, not because it will alter the outcome of any contest. And with “confirmation bias,” many people use political information to reinforce their preexisting views. Committed partisans are generally the most knowledgeable voters, independents the least.
That shocked me. I’m a “committed partisan” who considers myself well-informed. But I do agree with Will’s remedy (below). We should back away from rule by “philosopher kings,” and toward bottom-up rule by the “one person, one vote” democracy that seems to work best.

Somin says, and Will agrees, that an engaged judiciary enforcing our founders’ idea of government’s “few and defined” enumerated powers (Madison, Federalist 45), thereby leaving decisions to markets and civil society, would make the “will of the people” work better by reducing voters’ knowledge burdens.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has spent most of the century worrying about Islamic extremism’s threat to world peace. He is deeply concerned about how “knowledge” furthers extremism:
extremism . . . is taught sometimes in the formal education system; sometimes in the informal religious schools; sometimes in places of worship and it is promoted by a vast network of internet communications. Technology [is] used by those who want to disseminate lessons of hate and division. Today's world is connected as never before. . . it comes with the inevitable ability for those who want to get across a message that is extreme to do so. This has to be countered.
[Peace] will never work while either a minority religious group rules the country whose majority has a different adherence, or where. . . powerful elements . . . want to rule on the basis of religious difference – and are prepared to use terrorism . .
Put more generally, peace doesn’t come where (1) a frightened minority rules over a de-selected majority, or (2) at least one side, minority or not, draws upon knowledge-based truth to justify its opposition’s elimination.

Blair’s solution is to have governments treat religious extremism as a major issue affecting both religion and politics, to go anywhere a false view of religion is being promulgated, and to unite world leaders to combat it.

The more difficult, but more lasting, solution: build democracy from the bottom up--a freedom-protecting democracy, where losers live to fight another day. It’s one of the three great ideas of our time, along with capitalism (free markets) and the peace that results from combining democracy and capitalism.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fox News #1: Why all the fuss?

Fox News' Roger Ailes
There’s a reason liberals denounce “cable news.” “Cable News” in effect means Fox News. From “TVNewser”:
Fox News remained on top in 2013, capping off its 12th consecutive year as the most-watched cable news network among both total viewers and [coveted] A25-54 viewers. The channel, which finishes the year fourth among all cable networks, beat MSNBC and CNN combined in total viewers.
[All cable news traffic is down in 2013, a post-election year, but] since [Fox News] debuted its new primetime lineup in October, all four programs — On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File and Hannity are up in total viewers and [among A25-54 viewers] compared to their respective year-to-date averages.
The Washington Examiner’s Charles Hoskinson provided additional data: CNN shedded 48% of total viewers in the post-election 12 months and MSNBC dropped 45%, with even worse numbers among the key A25-54 age group, where CNN lost 59% and MSNBC 52%.  By contrast, Fox News was second in all of cable in prime time this past November, averaging over 2 million viewers.

And there’s further evidence Fox has already won the cable news race. Capital New York reported recently that CNN President Jeff Zucker had concluded his cable channel "cannot subsist on news alone" and that his new goal is "more shows and less newscasts." Zucker's move could mean delinking CNN from any rivalry with Fox and MSNBC, following two months in which his network fell to third in the ratings, led by a loss of viewers in the key 25-54 age group.

Finally in a story that should be especially upsetting to liberals, the Hollywood Reporter found that Fox News' subscription revenue continues to climb, rising to 94 cents a month per customer in 2013 for an estimated $1.1 billion -- making Fox News No. 6 in revenue among all cable networks.

Some perspective is in order. Seth Mandel, writing in the conservative Commentary, thinks he knows why Fox’s rise hits liberals so hard:
The American left became spoiled by its dominance of major media before Fox. Liberals reveled in their belief that they had ownership of a high-minded consensus. In order to own that consensus, however, the liberal media elite had to be speaking for the country.
Fox wrecked that consensus.

Liberal Michael Wolff has provided “Slate” a critical review of Gabriel Sherman’s book about Fox News chief Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News—and Divided a Country. Wolff believes Sherman suffers from
a conceit . . . that he is still writing about something at the center of American life and culture, something that has turned evil, rather than, in fact, marginal. Sherman, similarly to what Aaron Sorkin does in the reality-bending HBO show The Newsroom, treats his subject like an all-powerful network colossus—albeit, a network gone to the devil. But this is not network television, it is, in an altogether different context, culture, and effect, cable.
Fox’s prime-time audience averages 1.1 million [actually, 2.1 million on Thursday]. Network news audiences in the great old days reached 40 million. Sherman’s thesis that Ailes “divided a country” is quite absurd. What Ailes did do is to help turn politics into a special interest category. It is not just the Fox view that is a closed ecosystem—it is the liberal view of the Fox view that is as much a part of the bubble. Perfectly targeted co-dependents.
Wolff argues that the real story is “the fall of media as we know it and the rise of insurgencies, of which Ailes [and Fox News] is one, about the way to profitably redefine and speak to segmented audiences.”  

Conclusion: If you add the Daily Show to CNN and MSNBC (and why not?), the liberals on Thursday still beat the conservatives (Fox News + Fox Business) 2.7 million to 2.3 million in primetime in the co-dependent, closed-loop world of cable news. But if we allow individual shows into the ratings, The O’Reilly Factor’s two showings had a total audience 3.9 million, far outpacing the Daily Show’s 1.4 million.

Friday, January 17, 2014

2014: Still we ask, “Where are the jobs?”

“It is economic and political malpractice when the real jobless rate is at about 13%, when the labor participation rate is at three-decade lows and when another 370,000 workers dropped out of the workforce last month.”

--Brent Budowsky, Democratic pundit, in The Hill

The truth from a Democrat! But will we see any change?

Last month, the U.S. added just 74,000 jobs --the smallest gain in three years. Unemployment did drop to 6.7%, falling below 7% for the first time in 60 months. But as Bodowsky said, 347,000 Americans stopped looking for work, so for the second time in three months, the civilian-participation rate sagged to a 35-year low of 62.8% (see graphs from "Zero Hedge’s" Tyler Durden).

Americans not in the labor force exploded higher by 535,000 to a new all time high 91.8 million.
Shockingly, the labor force actually lost 535,000 workers in 2013 (Hedge’s graph), even as the economy added 2.2 million jobs. The U.S. has created at least 2 million jobs for three straight years, yet the unemployment rate by historical standards remains stubbornly high.

December’s minimal job gains were concentrated in the retail industry, where companies added 55,000 workers to handle the Christmas rush. But these jobs not only don’t offer pay or benefits, many are temporary. In fact, the December increase in temp jobs was the largest in 22 months.

December worker earnings hardly moved, with average hourly wages rising 2 cents to $24.17, making the the past 12 months’ increase just 1.8%, while the average workweek length actually fell one-tenth to 34.4 hours.

Meanwhile, Wall Street rolls along as if nothing’s wrong. The S&P 500 hit an all-time high Wednesday, closing at 1,848. Our New FOX Index of Wall Street health sailed back that day to an unbelievable +2,445 (see chart), just 57 points below the Index all-time high reached on a very slow December 31, 2013. The new Fox Index captures movement into stock market “outer space” first reached last May, the escape velocity attained by soaring past old-time market theoretical limits of a Dow of 15,000, an S&P 500 of 1,600, and a NASDAQ of 3,500, for a total of 20,100. (A Dow 16,482 + S&P 1,848 + NASDAQ 4,215 = 22,545 yielded Wednesday’s +2,445 “outer space” high.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014: Possible Better College Deal for Youth?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a University of Tennessee law professor and author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself.  

 Reynolds has summarized for the Wall Street Journal his book’s call for reduced college education expenses:
University of Michigan economics and finance professor Mark Perry has calculated [that] tuition for all universities, public and private, increased from 1978 to 2011 at an annual rate of 7.5%. By comparison, health-care costs increased by only 5.8%, and housing, notwithstanding the bubble, increased at 4.3%. Family incomes, on the other hand, barely kept up with the consumer-price index, which grew at an annual rate of 3.8%.
the gap between soaring tuition costs and stagnant incomes was filled by debt. Today's average student debt of $29,400 may not sound overwhelming, but many students, especially at private and out-of-state colleges, end up owing much more, often more than $100,000. At the same time, four in 10 college graduates, according to a recent Gallup study, wind up in jobs that don't require a college degree.
Students and parents have started to reject this unsustainable arrangement, and colleges and universities have felt the impact. According to a recent analysis by this newspaper, private schools are facing a long-term decline in enrollment. More than a quarter of private institutions have suffered a drop of 10% or more—in some cases, much more.
To remain viable, colleges and universities need to cut expenditures dramatically. For decades, they have ridden the student-loan gravy train, using the proceeds to build palatial buildings, reduce faculty teaching loads and, most notably, hire armies of administrators
Many colleges [offer] hidden discounts. [F]or the fall of 2013, the average "tuition discount rate" for incoming freshmen (that is, the reduction of the list price through grants and scholarships) hit an all-time high of 45%.
What's really needed [is] to cut expenditures dramatically. For decades, [colleges] have ridden the student-loan gravy train, using the proceeds to build palatial buildings, reduce faculty teaching loads and, most notably, hire armies of administrators . . . administrative bloat [means] administrative staff growing at more than twice the rate of instructional staff. At the University of Michigan, for example, there are 53% more administrators than faculty, and similar ratios can be found at other institutions.
there is no point in trying to preserve the old regime. Today's emphasis [is] on measuring college education in terms of future earnings and employability. . . When you could pay your way through college by waiting tables, the idea that you should "study what interests you" was more viable than it is today, when the cost of a four-year degree often runs to six figures. For an 18-year-old, investing such a sum in an education without a payoff makes no more sense than buying a Ferrari on credit.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

2014: The Democratic Edge

Katy Perry Twerking for Obama 2012
What I despise most about the legacy media isn’t just that they’re mindlessly liberal, though they are, but that they’re conventional and boring and unwilling to report unfashionable truths. That’s death.

--Tucker Carlson, conservative Daily Caller founder

Tucker Carlson is messing with us. He does run an unusually with-it--for the right--website, one he says had more than 9 million unique visitors in October, rivaling websites like “Slate” and Washington’s slightly-aging wonder toy, “Politico.” And while Carlson is circumspect about financials, he told one reporter, “in contrast to virtually everyone else in Washington, we aren’t a nonprofit.”

Still, hip remains the province of the left. Democrats dominate the media, and progressives expect politics, in the usual pattern, to work out better for their side, even with Obama’s current problems. Listen to old-shoe liberal Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times:
2014 is an election year, and Obama has always been better at campaigning than governing. The president and his allies will be trying to draw the sharpest contrasts they can — on the minimum wage, immigration, healthcare, climate change and everything else — to energize Democratic voters. So the year on Capitol Hill is likely to be dominated by high-decibel collisions, not bipartisan harmony. If tea party Republicans rise to Obama's bait as they have in the past, the GOP could suffer in the eyes of many voters. . . If he can survive Year 6 with . . . the Senate in Democratic hands and no new disasters, that will look like success.
“dominated by high-decibel collisions.” As we just suggested, that’s been the political story for an entire two decades. The Democrats, joined by media friends like McManus, don’t really care about change. Instead, they mercilessly pound away at Republican leaders for supposedly ruining any chance of progress, shifting blame away from where it belongs. Democrats are in truth the status quo party, and if nothing changes, that’s fine with them. Even if Democrats lose the Senate this year, they will still have the White House, enough to block progress.

Conservative Bill Frezza, writing in Forbes, explains how the national elite media+Democrats machine works:
Two fundamental techniques undergird progressives’ success at narrative spinning. The first is skillful framing of the debate through investing heavily in public opinion making machinery. This disarms critics while giving lawmakers cover to vote for bills they’ve neither read nor understood. Thus framed, policies are judged only by their stated intentions, never their actual results. This allows politicians to promote new pieces of legislation named for their lofty objectives, even if the thousands of pages of vague and contradictory content deliver just the opposite. The second is dodging all responsibility for failure. This is accomplished by blaming insufficient resources, the prior administration, the greedy 1 percent, sabotage by Republicans, or even the people’s obdurate failure to appreciate the progressive benefits conferred upon them. When the going gets tough, reality can be dismissed with a slogan.
A more clever insight into what’s really happening comes from Los Angeles Times’ house conservative Jonah Goldberg:
One of the most impressive achievements of liberalism is the perpetuation of the myth of liberal rebelliousness. One of my favorite things to do when speaking on college campuses is to point out to students how conformist they are. (College students are a lot like that mob in Monty Python’s Life of Brian who chant in unison, “We’re all individuals!”) I point out to the students that their professors are liberal. Their school administrators are liberal. Hollywood and the music and publishing industries are all overwhelmingly liberal. The mainstream media are liberal. “But,” I ask them, “you think you’re sticking it to the Man by agreeing with them?”
Matt Lewis, writing in Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller, has an even darker, overly Machiavellian, view of how liberal culture serves as liberal economics’ handmaiden:
liberal Hollywood helps celebrate a sort of bacchanalian existence which glamorizes consumerism and promiscuity — things which, when replicated by the poor and middle class — probably contribute more to creating long-term income disparity than any economic policy ever could. Culture is downstream from politics, and the left, it seems, profits from selling liberal economics as a means to solve problems largely created upstream by a liberal worldview.
In other words in Lewis’s view, liberal culture creates an American underclass dependent enough on liberal government hand outs to provide liberals with needed votes.

I think Goldberg has it right. We live in an amazing country dominated by a big government-big business/high tech- Hollywood/entertainment/arts-media-nonprofit/third sector-academic Democratic national elite that truly believe they are the rebellious left! Wha?

Well, the national elite’s cultural domination is not total. There is “Duck Dynasty,” (no joke) which is “the most-watched unscripted telecast in cable TV history,” and which regularly beats the pants off its broadcast network rivals combined among the key 18-49 year-old viewers. Adrienne Royer, writing in the conservative Federalist, says the surprising A&E hit reality show has
figured out how right-wing politics and Evangelical Christianity can influence pop culture without being the punch line or the bad guy. While the left has spent decades making conservatives look like idiots and Christians look like bigots, “Duck Dynasty” reminds average Americans that [their own] views are mainstream.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

2014: Bridging The Republican Divide

This blog is eight years old. It has never known a time free of effective, coordinated media+Democratic attacks on Republican leaders.

In spite of Obamacare’s trials, Republicans are today on the wrong side of a successful national elite effort to define the GOP as the enemy of the people, the other side of the party that cares. Unfeeling (or crazy) Republican enemies over the past two decades include--1995-98: Newt Gingrich; 1999-2005: Tom DeLay; 2003-09: George Bush; 2008-10: Sarah Palin, 2011: John Boehner; 2012: Mitt Romney; 2013: Ted Cruz.  Democrats shared power from 1994 to 2002, from 2006 to 2008, held full power from 2008 to 2010, have shared power again since 2010, and in 20 years were only out of power from 2003 to 2006. Always, though, the national elite pounded away at symbolic Republican villains, constantly blaming the nation’s problems on the unfeeling or crazy Republican figures, never on Democrats. It was the other guy.

The assault has taken its toll on the GOP image, leaving Republicans divided about how to respond to the pounding. At least Republicans know they face a challenge. From former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson of the Washington Post:
The central problem for the GOP is a split political personality. For congressional Republicans, ideological timidity is a reasonable, short-term electoral strategy. For Republicans concerned about retaking the presidency in 2016, it is wholly insufficient. There is an urgent need to reposition the party with minorities, women and the young. Pointing and laughing at the failures of Obamacare will not be a sufficient governing vision.
Yet here is Bill Frezza, in Forbes taking aim at the Michael Gersons of the GOP, and thereby proving how split the party is:
Should a 2014 sweep be followed up by a 2016 return of a Republican to the White House, the Stupid Party will face a difficult choice. Will it allow the old guard to continue expanding government, seeking to make the most of its turn at the trough? Or will it finally make the painful political choices required to avoid the impending bankruptcy of our underfunded entitlement systems? Only the latter will prevent progressives from rising from the ashes of the Obama presidency, and only if pro-growth fiscal and regulatory policies start delivering visible results before the pendulum swings again. This will require the emergence of a Great Communicator who can articulate a positive vision of the future based on the proven principles of the past. Good luck with that.
The much maligned former GOP speaker Newt Gingrich instructs us that
every Republican should embrace [Pope Francis]’s core critique that you do not want to live on a planet with billionaires and people who do not have any food. I think the pope may, in fact, be starting a conversation at the exact moment the Republican Party itself needs to have that conversation.
But that Gingrich plea draws no water from the Washington Examiner’s conservative columnist Byron York, who would waste little time on the pope’s poor:
discussing poverty to soften their image and re-position the GOP as a more compassionate party. . . makes [little] sense. President Obama almost never talked about poverty in the last election. . . Instead, in speech after speech, rally after rally, commercial after commercial, Obama and his fellow Democrats targeted the great American middle class, wracked by economic anxieties and concerned about maintaining its style of life in a terrible economic downturn. For Democrats, the election was middle class, middle class, middle class.
In the neoconservative Commentary, Michael Medved and John Podhoretz plaintively ask in “A GOP Civil War: Who Benefits?”:
Republicans will win meaningful victories only when they lose their appetite for martyrdom and fratricide and concentrate on forcing the other side to pay a political price for its own incompetent performance and dysfunctional ideology. Most Republicans, as the history of the last 40 years demonstrates, want precisely that. The question now is whether this real majority will be overrun. If that happens, the truest beneficiary of the intra-Republican civil war will be the Democratic Party, and those who divided the right will deserve some share of the blame for the advancement of the very policies and principles they claim to abhor.
Conservative Jonah Goldberg, writing for the Los Angeles Times, seems more worried his side is simply clueless about Democratic influence:
the right often seem[s] to take it for granted that there’s a vast silent majority of Americans pitted against a small cabal of elitist pinheads and would-be social engineers. As a conservative, I believe there are a lot of pinhead social engineers. But I also understand — or at least try to — that there are millions of Americans who see these people as leaders who speak for them and address their needs. . . Conservatives have become far too insular, too often rejecting the need to persuade those who don’t already agree with them, arguing instead that ever bloodier doses of red meat will grow the coalition.
Speechwriter Gerson has enlisted another Bush administration veteran, Peter Wehner, now a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, to pen a lengthy National Affairs article that seeks to pull anti-government types over to their side. Gerson and Warner agree that “the Obama vision of Americans' appropriate relation to their government” appears to be “atomized, defenseless individuals sustained by the enfolding embrace of the state.”

It’s a chilling vision. But Gerson and Wehner remind Republicans that while our:
federalist founders were indeed wary of the concentration of power in the federal government. . .they did not . . . view government as an evil, or even as a necessary evil. Indeed, the most influential of the founders scorned such a view, referring to the "imbecility" of a weak central government compared to a relatively strong central government (the Constitution created). In their view, government. . . was essential to promoting what they referred to as the "public good." . . The case against the aggrandizement of federal power must be made in the context of the case in favor of appropriate federal power — not in the service of a theory that leaves far too little room for genuine self-government.
Republicans should recognize that:
economic mobility has stalled for many poorer Americans, resulting in persistent intergenerational inequality. This phenomenon is more complex than an income gap. It involves wide disparities in parental time and investment, in religious and community involvement, and in academic accomplishment. These are traceable to a number of factors, including the collapse of working-class families, the flight of blue-collar jobs, and the decay of neighborhoods that once offered stronger networks of mentorship outside the home. Dysfunctional institutions routinely betray children and young adults. Children raised in communities filled with chaos and disorder — where the schools are broken and the streets are violent and drug use is prevalent — face enormously difficult odds. The consequences for children who come from failing communities are all the more severe [in] an economy that favors skilled over unskilled labor.
Even on health care, and in spite of Obamacare’s faults, there is a role for government:
ensure broad access to modern health care [and create] an alternative health-care plan that doesn't centralize all power in Washington and that keeps costs down, [insures] those with pre-existing conditions, and reduces the number of uninsured.
Gerson and Wehner quote the late conservative social scientist James Q. Wilson’s admonition: "Telling people who want clean air, a safe environment, fewer drug dealers, a decent retirement, and protection against catastrophic medical bills that the government ought not to do these things is wishful or suicidal politics." And they quote American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks recently noting that the "government social safety net for the truly indigent is one of the greatest achievements of our society....We have to declare peace on the safety net."

The two make this final plea:
Conservatives are more likely to be trusted to run the affairs of the nation if they show the public that they grasp the purposes of government, that they fully appreciate it is in desperate need of renovation, and that they know what needs to be done. The American people are deeply practical; they are interested in what works. And they want their government to work.
Henry Olsen is a colleague of Wehner’s at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Olsen makes a pitch similar to Gerson and Wehner, writing more bluntly in National Affairs that national campaigns revolve around “one central question: How can we best give average people respect, dignity, and an opportunity to make their way in the world, tyrannized neither by government nor by private individuals?”

Olsen worries that conservatives
would like to dismiss their [2012] defeat as an aberration. They proffer many excuses: Governor Romney was a bad candidate who ran a bad campaign; President Obama's technology-driven ground game made the difference; Hurricane Sandy stopped Romney's momentum at the worst possible time. . . all miss the major point of the election results: The president made the campaign into a choice between two clear visions of America, and Americans preferred his vision to the Republicans'.
The Republican denial of this simple truth stands squarely in the way of their pursuit of the presidency. Republican renewal can start only when the party understands that it lost because its vision has slowly drifted away from the concerns of most Americans.
Olsen reminds government-hating conservatives that Ronald Reagan had
a profound respect for the aspirations of the common person [who was] not a stereotypical frontiersman seeking personal independence. He was merely "a simple soul," someone "who goes to work, bucks for a raise, takes out insurance, pays for his kids' schooling, contributes to his church and charity and knows just 'ain't no such thing as free lunch.'"
Reagan, Olsen tells fellow conservatives,
did not speak about government power; he spoke about justice. He spoke about how government could help average people do things that they could not be expected to do for themselves — and how it should expect average people to do those things that they could. The American government would neither keep its hands off nor heavily place its hands on; it would offer everyone a hand up.
Olsen believes Reagan was most noted for his Normandy 40th anniversary praise of the average people who stormed the cliffs under withering German fire, farmers from Kansas and bricklayers from Charleston and teachers from Brooklyn, who went up under orders and took the cliffs and saved Europe. Reagan called them "the boys of Pointe du Hoc."

Olsen writes that conservatives have strayed from Reagan, tending to follow Jack Kemp in seeing America as a land where anyone can make it big rather than as a place where anyone can live the life he seeks. To Olsen:
This small but crucial difference has thrown conservatism off course. Modern conservatives have tended to discount the moral value of the average person, focusing instead on extolling the moral superiority of the great. The sense that the average person has a moral life that is worth leading and pursuing — and that he sometimes needs government to help him on his way — is central to American political identity but is disconnected from much of today's conservative thought. The Obama campaign created its majority by exposing this disconnection relentlessly.
Finally, Olsen, as do many conservatives, feels Republicans ignore at their peril the strong role race played in drawing the growing nonwhite minority to Obama:
The empathy gap is made more crucial because [n]on-whites are particularly likely to believe they need a hand up to join the American mainstream, and their share of the electorate is expanding. The 2012 election was clearly decided by the non-white vote for the first time in American history. . . No presidential candidate in American history had ever carried 59% of the white vote and lost. Yet Romney lost the election by four points because he lost the non-white vote by 63%.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Boehner Won Government Shut-down (III)

Certainly in this one instance, our blog went to the head of the parade. We said on October 18, one day after the government shut-down ended, that House speaker John Boehner won a “big victory”; that “Boehner saved the country and his party.” Five days later, Tim Alberta in the National Journal made a similar claim.

Now more than two months after the October calls, in the latest Atlantic, Molly Ball arrives at the same, remarkably still-considered-newsworthy conclusion, writing:
it’s worth revisiting who actually won the shutdown. Not only do Republicans lead the congressional ballot for the first time in more than a year, they rallied behind the year-end budget deal that funds the government into 2015, and they’ve finally decided to call an end to the pointless repeal-Obamacare votes. Boehner, who spent the year trying and failing to bring his caucus to heel, has finally solidified some measure of control.
In the end, after all the dust settled, did Boehner win the shutdown?
The shutdown took a terrible short-term toll on Republicans, and Boehner took plenty of blame. But it's hard to imagine any of these good outcomes—a yearlong budget agreement, a less unruly House GOP, the possibility of immigration reform—had Boehner not allowed the shutdown to play out the way it did. At the time, it seemed crazy. But in retrospect, it looks like John Boehner won. [emphasis added]
How about that?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

2014: Marking The Rise of Women

Cathy Young, a libertarian contributor to Reason and “RealClearPolitics,” reminds us that it’s been fifty years since 1963‘s publication of Betty Friedan’s best-seller The Feminine Mystique, which Young says “offered a bracingly positive vision of embracing female achievement and strength without demonizing men or sacrificing family.”  Young says it's time to reflect the remarkable progress women have made in the decades since, including in the past year when:
Women claimed leadership at General Motors and Lloyd’s of London, the world’s top insurance market; Angela Merkel was reelected to a third term as German chancellor while widely recognized as Europe’s leader.  The Pew Research Center reported that women made up 40% of America’s breadwinners in families with children—and nearly 40% of those were married mothers with median household incomes of about $80,000 a year.
Hanna Rosin is author of The End of Men. She in a similar vein writes in TIME about the comparative fall men have taken over the same decades, noting that:

1. men are failing in the workplace.
men’s incomes have been slowly declining and women’s have been rising. Last year one in five men were not working, something economists call the biggest social crisis we will face. Party this is because the economy is changing quickly, but men aren’t. As the manufacturing economy gets replaced by a service and information economy, men are failing to adjust or get the skill they need to succeed.
Meanwhile, women are moving in the opposite direction: In 2009 they became the majority of the American workforce for the first time ever. Now in every part of America young single women under 30 have a higher median income than young men. . . men are failing in schools and women are succeeding. In nearly every country, on all but one continent, women are getting 60% of college degrees. . . boys start falling behind as early as first grade, and they fail to catch up.
2. the traditional household, propped up by the male breadwinner, is vanishing.
For the first time in history women all over the world are marrying down, meaning marrying men with worse prospects than they have. . . The working class feels the end of men the most, as men lose their jobs and lose their will to be fathers, and women do everything alone, creating a virtual matriarchy in the parts of the country that used to be bastions of good old macho country music style values. Why don’t these women marry or live with the fathers of their children? As many a woman told me, “He’d be just another mouth to feed.”
Camille Paglia is a self-described "notorious Amazon feminist" and author of five books including Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, which proclaims, "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts."

Paglia strides the opposite side from Rosin of the “rise of women” debate. But in a recent Wall Street Journal interview with associate editorial features editor Bari Weiss, Paglia argued from a perspective much in line with Rosin’s, while providing some welcome depth.

Paglia first pointed to the diminished status of military service:
The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster. These people don't think in military ways, so there's this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we're just nice and benevolent to everyone they'll be nice too. They literally don't have any sense of evil or criminality.
As does Rosin, Paglia highlights socialization as early as kindergarten where the “softening of modern American society” begins:
“Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It's oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys," she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess. "They're making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters." She is not the first to make this argument, as Paglia readily notes. Fellow feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has written about the "war against boys" for more than a decade.
The notion was once met with derision, but now data back it up: Almost one in five high-school-age boys has been diagnosed with ADHD, boys get worse grades than girls and are less likely to go to college.  [Boys suffer] the tacit elevation of "female values"—such as sensitivity, socialization and cooperation—as the main aim of teachers, rather than fostering creative energy and teaching hard geographical and historical facts.
Paglia says things only get worse in higher education:
"This PC gender politics thing—the way gender is being taught in the universities—in a very anti-male way, it's all about neutralization of maleness." The result: Upper-middle-class men who are "intimidated" and "can't say anything. . . . They understand the agenda [all too well.]"
Paglia believes “The only place you can hear what men really feel these days. . . is on sports radio,” saying the energy and enthusiasm she hears "inspires me as a writer. If we had to go to war, [these] are the men that would save the nation."

Paglia’s immediate remedy for men is a "revalorization" of traditional male trades:
the ones that allow women's studies professors to drive to work (roads), take the elevator to their office (construction), read in the library (electricity), and go to gender-neutral restrooms (plumbing).