Saturday, May 31, 2014

Minorities (including unmarried women): Obama’s Unshakable Base

In the concluding third part of my late 2012 summary of why Barack Obama whipped Mitt Romney that Fall, I wrote:
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."
If you are a minority and/or unmarried woman living in a nation historically dominated by white men, you can’t help but see minority leader Obama’s re-election in the terms that have defined your life--overcoming a barrier handed you at birth, a barrier you fight against daily.   You probably view “lack of performance” as a code word put-down white males use against those they believe get an unfair break. Vote against Obama because of what they call “poor job performance?” Not on your life.

I find it hard to watch the number of white male Republicans who miss the importance race holds for minorities, including the unmarried female minority. So I applaud conservative scholar Victor Davis Hanson, a white man living in majority-minority California, for understanding why nonwhites vote along racial lines.

Of the upcoming 2014 elections, Hanson writes that Obama’s
record support among minorities will not change since 70-90% of various hyphenated groups see the Obama tenure as long-overdue representation of their own interests — economic, ethnic, and symbolic. It does no good to cite rising unemployment rates among African-Americans or a deterioration in household income among Latinos. The point is that Obama feels their pain, even if his policies helped cause it. In this view, expecting blacks, to take one example, to defect from Obama would be as if right-wing rural Texans would have abandoned Bush in 2006, or the Malibu set would have given up on Clinton during Monicagate. In short — unlikely.
Women living without the male partner society once expected them to have, these women feel the connection between the civil rights struggle and the feminine fight for equal rights.  They share the visceral animosity toward a civilization long dominated by “the man,” even though, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics findings, single women who have never married earn 96% of men's earnings. No matter. It isn't about the money, it’s about an historical lack of standing that still burns today.

Mollie Hemingway, the conservative Federalist senior editor, has jumped on findings from last November’s Virginia gubernatorial election. Hemingway wrote the big Virginia story wasn’t Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s 8-point winning margin among female voters, it was that he carried unmarried women by 42%! Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli, in fact, actually did better with married women (51-42%) than he did with married men (50-44%).

Unmarried women, like their racial minority brethren, seem to want government’s large protective arms around them--and Obama knows it.  Hemingway concludes, “The more we move away from a marriage culture, the more we move to a government culture.”

Monday, May 26, 2014

American Democracy: Challenged, Still Alive

“the dark truth of Cultural Marxism [is that w]hile it claims to stand for equality and against elite privilege, its method has always been to become the elite, not to destroy it. [R]adicals can win. . . through the growth of . . . elite, unaccountable institutions[--]the university system, for example, has been adding administrators at a much faster rate than it’s been adding professors. And the federal government has seen a steady abdication of power by its most accountable institution—Congress—to its least accountable institution—the bureaucracy. Vague laws give broad power to those who write the regulations. Trends like these . . . create fertile soil for radical power.”

--John Allen Gay, National Interest

Gay’s comment is on the money. Of course, “Cultural Marxism” is but a piece of Marxism, a religious-like world view that in its Communist totalitarianism form, engulfed culture along with every other aspect of human life. Gay singles out “Cultural Marxism” because he is writing about culture, but he himself broadens Marxism’s reach to all knowledge by describing academia as one of our “unaccountable institutions,” and to all government by naming bureaucracy another “unaccountable institution.”

As America allows academia and the bureaucracy to move beyond democratic control, we risk placing our fate in the hands of an increasingly extremist elite. Fortunately, the latest Heartland Monitor Poll, an annual in-depth effort of the liberal National Journal to determine American political and social attitudes toward change, offers reassurance democracy still lives.

Summarizing the poll, the National Journal’s editorial director Ronald Brownstein writes that people seem unhappy with how our country is evolving, with 70% of those polled saying the U.S. "needs major changes," while only 25% opted for "minor changes." Significantly in the 6th year of Obama’s presidency, nonwhites were about as likely as whites to support major change.

Democrats trumpet continued failure to ensure equality, yet the poll reports that on "ensuring equal rights for all Americans," 51% said the country was moving on a positive path, compared with only 42% who thought it was on the wrong track. And while the Democratic left noisily pushes its anti-fossil fuel agenda, on the subject of "producing more domestic sources of energy," presumably meaning oil and natural gas along with green energy (“drill, baby drill”; “fracking”), poll respondents were 51% positive and 40% negative.

On all 12 of the other issues, those responding to the poll similarly landed on the other side of our current leadership, believing on all 12, the country is moving in the wrong direction. On expanding the economy and creating jobs, for instance, while two-thirds of Democrats said they see the country moving in the right direction, just 16% of Republicans agreed, and independents tilted alongside Republicans, with just 34% perceiving progress.

In a reassuring endorsement of democracy over elite rule, 74% of those surveyed said that "major social changes … in this country" such as civil rights and women's rights have happened because of "average Americans leading on the issue and pushing government" to respond. And in more bad news for our progressive national elite, just two of 16 organizations received a "mostly helping" rating from those polled: “community groups” (66%)--the so-called “civil society” that stands outside government--and small business organizations (64%), the heart of the Republican grassroots base.

This blog believes in democracy. In spite of all elite efforts to maintain otherwise, people are not only unhappy with the country’s current elite, they are looking for a new direction. And that new direction seems more in line with a conservative agenda--expand the economy, create jobs, boost energy production, and achieve major change by relying on the people, on small business, and on civil society at the local level.

Democratic political guru Joe Napolitan once taught us, “Never underestimate the intelligence of the voters, nor overestimate the amount of of knowledge at their disposal.” I would emphasize the “intelligence” half of Napolitan’s quote--voter instincts seem sound.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Want capitalism? It thrives in the world formerly known as “Third”.

India's Modi
When I was a young man, the West was strong, the East its rival, and the poverty-stricken Third World the battlefield. I’ve lived to see today’s remarkable transformation beyond the Asian tigers, beyond the China miracle, to the rise now of India’s 1.26 billion people, 17.5% of the world, so big it has the population of two continents--Europe and North America--combined (1.27 billion).

India’s new leader, Narendra Modi, according to Shikha Dalmia in TIME, just utterly defeated the ruling Congress Party in part by deflating Congress’s “vote-bank politics”: welfare subsidies to special constituencies to win votes, which Modi said was “ruining the country without improving living standards.”

Modi moves India forward by denouncing the very vote buying that America’s ruling party employs as a substitute for jobs and economic growth--the real goal both the Indian and American people seek. Our national elite, as described by William Tucker in the conservative American Spectator, suffers
the kind of stagnation Thorstein Veblen warned against in The Theory of the Leisure Class. When you couple an aristocratic upper crust that has lost interest in economic progress with a lumpenproletariat that doesn’t understand growth and only wants handouts from the government, you have a prescription for long economic decline.
New York Times columnist David Brooks writes that Nigeria, Africa’s largest nation, is like Modi’s India surging forward by moving away from government. Says Brooks:
80% of Africa’s workers labor in the informal sector. That’s because the formal governmental and regulatory structures are biased toward the connected and the rich, not based on impersonal rule of law. . . Individual and social creativity is zooming ahead. Governing institutions are failing to perform the basic, elementary tasks.
Capitalism works better--in India, in Nigeria, in the U.S.--when government stays out of the way. Yet America’s ruling elite demands more government. It’s done in the name of economic redistribution (see previous post). But ironically, we find America’s most pronounced inequality in regions where Democrats are in charge.  

Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle, after noting Democrats represent 70 of the 100 wealthiest congressional districts, explains:
The rich of America’s affluent urban areas tend to be the beneficiaries, one way or another, of a global tournament economy in which markets are often close to “winner take all,” and vast sums can flow to people who are just a little bit better than their competitors. The wealthy in Republican districts, on the other hand, are more likely to be competing in [lesser] local or national markets. . . where sales are ground out one at a time. Because the sums involved are smaller, the wealth gap is also smaller -- and business owners are less likely to be sympathetic to the idea that their success has a huge luck component.
In urban areas at the nexus of those global industries, where the rich are bidding up the prices of real estate (and, by extension, of everything else that is bought or sold on that real estate), inequality qua inequality is an issue with huge political salience. But in the rest of the country, structural changes in those local and national industries are much more likely to worry people. When a big local employer closes down because of competition from China or Inc., the gap between rich and poor may collapse dramatically.
McArdle helps us understand--in terms used in this piece--that the Third World is gone, or, rather, that the Third World (China) is now a part of our everyday lives. We live in a single world where wealth and power are concentrated at the top, where the upper class, having arrived, is focused on protecting its position and so uses government to prevent revolution partly by buying off the poor. It’s the Rome of bread and circuses. It’s the Congress Party in India, socialist governments in Africa, social democrats in Europe, and it’s progressive Democrats in Manhattan, San Francisco, West L.A., Boston, and Washington.

Big winners and big losers in the global economy share the sharp income gap of a large city. And they congregate in the world cities, including America’s but also London, Paris (and its Swiss suburb), Dubai, Hong Kong, Tokyo where they have more in common with each other than with their poor at home. The global product cycle favors first the bright inventors, entrepreneurs, financiers, the lucky, big winners who launch ventures and live in world cities. But product development then moves down the food chain to mass manufacturing in the Third World by former peasants, uplifting these billions in a raw “survival of the fittest” competition that can and does slam Middle America and other former First and Second World working classes.

In the U.S., it means Democrats at the top and bottom on one hand, and on the other, Republicans in the middle struggling together between the two extremes, sharing common difficulties. For those in the U.S. middle, as for the raw Third World masses, the private sector promises more than government power and largesse.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Choose “equality,” or choose freedom.

“We have a situation in this country where the people at the very top have moved away from everyone else in terms of how they live, how much money they make and in some cases the amount of taxes that they pay.”

--James Webb (D), ex-Virginia Senator

Inequality. It comes with a free economy. To fix it, you need the power to redistribute wealth. In the name of adjusting economic distribution, you surrender some freedom. And in the end, you’ll be left with Animal Farm’s “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The price of “equality” is the downside of “positive liberty.”

Those in power who presume to act in your behalf are in truth following the model of Plato’s Republic and the Catholic Church. It’s the path that at 19th century elite universities brought meritocracy to the fore, the path of Lenin’s “vanguard of the proletariat,” of Progressives, social democrats, and big government + big business corporate welfare. It’s the top-down, “government knows best,” “blue model” power structure favored by today’s Democrats.  

“This is a call to action for Republicans and conservatives today to reject the Washington insider economy. Let the Democrats embrace it. Let’s embrace the Main Street competitive economy — its fairness, its empowerment, its morality. And when we do, America’s future will be one of unparalleled freedom, opportunity and growth.”

--Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)

Economic growth. It needs a free economy. You allow entrepreneurs to succeed or fail in a free market, with the winners creating jobs and prosperity. Some will do better--that’s the downside of “negative liberty”--but all deserve an equal opportunity to pursue happiness. Government should help ensure equal opportunity through education and the rule of law, which is not the same as presuming to deliver equality.

We need freedom from church or royal rule, freedom to be educated yet succeed without being credentialed, the capitalism of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations that led to the rise of the middle class and business-led prosperity aided by limited government. It’s what’s working in much of Asia today, the classic, bottom up “liberalism” ironically now advocated at home by today’s “conservative” Republicans.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Liberals Undermine Middle Class

Eric Hoffer
Tom Bethell used to be with the progressive Washington Monthly, and now edits the conservative American Spectator. Bethell recently reviewed Fred Siegel’s 2012 book How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, which as we earlier pointed out, targets a progressive elite alienated from the Democratic Franklin Roosevelt-to-Lyndon Johnson  emphasis on uplifting America’s working class.  Bethell quotes Siegel’s attack on “gentry liberals. . . every bit as class-conscious” as British Tories, elitists who in the 1960s took up “the priestly task of de-democratizing America in the name of administering newly developed rights.” [emphasis added]

Bethell draws on other conservatives who share the Siegel perspective on gentry liberals, including Michael Barone, who wrote that “the roots of American liberalism are not compassion but snobbery,” and Joel Kotkin who said the anti-democratic character of modern liberalism
undermines much of the reason we became progressives in the first place, which was to help the middle and working classes. The gentry’s stridency and hypocrisy—what’s OK for them is not for everyone else—is utterly transforming liberalism today.  
Bethell’s hero is Eric Hoffer, the self-taught longshoreman-philosopher whom Bethell honored with a book. Hoffer disdained liberals as “intellectuals,” and believed intellectuals fear the masses, even as they retain their votes, because
In a democracy the intellectual is without an unquestioned sense of superiority and a sense of social usefulness. He is not listened to and not taken seriously. The truth is that intellectuals never found a democratic society acceptable. Bagehot himself was convinced: “If you once permit the ignorant class to rule you may bid farewell to deference forever.”
Hoffer also taught us: 
It is incredible how few foresaw that the coming of affluence would cause a shift from the pursuit of wealth to the pursuit of power, and that such a shift would be the origin of great evils. Where there is widespread plenty, common people will no longer be regulated and disciplined by the invisible hand of scarcity. Order and stability will have to be deliberately imposed by despotic power. At the same time, the well-off will no longer be able to derive a sense of uniqueness from riches.
Intellectuals raised to rule must protect their meritocracy--in theory (not in practice) built upon an equal opportunity to advance through education. Meritocracy preaches the virtues of pursuing learning over wealth (even as the power learning's winners acquire routinely produces affluence), and in the name of democratic socialism, intellectuals seek to undermine the capitalist system that offers all an equal opportunity to gather riches; the miracle economy that has uplifted masses by the billions worldwide.