We learned that much of the increase in political polarization was unavoidable. It was the natural result of the political realignment that took place after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The conservative southern states, which had been solidly Democratic since the Civil War (since Lincoln was a Republican) then began to leave the Democratic Party, and by the 1990s the South was solidly Republican. Before this realignment there had been liberals and conservatives in both parties, which made it easy to form bipartisan teams who could work together.
But we also learned about factors that might possibly be reversed. The most poignant moment of the conference came when Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa, described the changes that began in 1995. Newt Gingrich, the new speaker of the House of Representatives, encouraged the large group of incoming Republicans to leave their families in their home districts rather than moving their spouse and children to Washington. Before 1995, Congressmen from both parties attended many of the same social events on weekends; their spouses became friends; their children played on the same sports teams. But nowadays most Congressmen fly to Washington on Monday night, huddle with their teammates and do battle for three days, and then fly home on Thursday night. Cross-party friendships are disappearing; Manichaeism and scorched Earth politics are increasing.
Jonathan Haidt, quoted by Scott Alexander in “List Of The Passages I Highlighted In My Copy Of Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind“, Slate Star Codex, 2014-06-12.
January 17, 2016
December 9, 2015
Katherine Ernst on the odd match of Bernie Sanders and his
Millennial Snake People supporters:
A friend, who like me straddles the demarcation line between Millennial and Gen-Xer, was being bombarded at her Millennial-filled office with endless pro-Bernie Sanders “memes.” Things had reached a comic nadir (or zenith, depending on your perspective) with the non-ironic electronic dissemination of a doctored image of Sanders — framed by a heavenly rainbow — with a kitten under each arm: “I FIGHT FOR THE 99 ‘PURR-CENT,’” the bold white letters proclaimed. Quipped my friend: “I eat lunch by myself most days now.”
I commiserated. The same stuff was spamming my social media feeds; Bernie-fever sometimes seemed more intense, more omnipresent than the Obama-gasms of seven years ago. “Feel the Bern” jokes abounded, as did links to left-wing philippics on how Bernie was going to right all capitalist and racist wrongs. Most common were pics of the candidate in heroic, Soviet-worker-like pose — made by his campaign for the express purpose of “grassroots” reposting — next to quotations such as, “I have opposed Keystone from day one.”
My friend and I were not imagining things: the millennial love affair with Sanders is real. A recent NBC News-Survey Monkey poll found that “Millennials … are more than twice as likely to vote for Sanders than Clinton, leading her 54 percent to 26 percent.” The Guardian notes that “On Facebook 1.8 million people like Sanders’s page, 0.6 million more than the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and 1.6 million more than Republican Jeb Bush.” The New Yorker concurs: “Today’s Millennials, who will make up thirty-six percent of eligible voters in 2016, have no such candidate to call their own, except for Sanders. If they were to vote at their capacity, they’d be the country’s largest voting bloc.”
None of this is lost on Sanders. Indeed, his whole campaign is about getting college kids frothed up on “revolution.” As he told Bill Maher: “[W]e’re being very aggressive in reaching out to young people … what we want to do is tap, Bill, the idealism of the kids. And what the kids are saying, for example, is that this country should lead the world in transforming our energy system and dealing with climate change.” Indeed, in successive debates — including one held 24 hours after the Isis attacks in Paris — Sanders identified climate change as our “greatest national security threat.”
November 30, 2015
Megan McArdle talks about the plight of Pennsylvania’s two NFL teams during World War Two … oh, and some boring stuff about financial regulation:
Fun fact: During the 1943 professional football season, the World War II draft had so depleted the ranks of football players that the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles were forced to unite their teams into a joint production that became colloquially known as “the Steagles.” In a heartwarming turn, this plucky band of men went on to one of the winningest seasons in the history of Pennsylvania football. That was, alas, their only season; the next year each city fielded its own team, and the proud name of the Steagles retreated into history.
I’m beginning to think that we should revive it, however, not for football players, but for those intrepid souls who continue to fiercely agitate for the return of the Glass-Steagall financial regulations. Like the Steagles, these people are not daunted by the many obstacles in their path. Like the Steagles, they are passionate in their determination. Probably also like the Steagles, they mostly don’t know much about Glass-Steagall.
And we desperately need a name for Team Steagles, because they seem to have become a powerful force in the Democratic Party. Last night’s Democratic debate, like the first one, featured lengthy paeans to the joys, and urgency, of a modern Glass-Steagall act. Somehow, an obscure Depression-era banking regulation has turned into a banal political talking point. Or worse — a distraction.
You, like the Steagles, may not know much about Glass-Steagall. That’s all right. There is no particular reason that most of us should know about Glass-Steagall, and many people manage to live perfectly happy and fulfilling lives anyway.
November 27, 2015
Many Republicans seem confident that last week’s performance in the mid-term elections bodes the end of the Obama era, and the dawn of the bright Republican future. Many Democrats seem confident that last week’s performance in the midterms was a mere blip on the way to the Emerging Democratic Majority. Both sides would do well to read Sean Trende’s 2012 book, The Lost Majority, which I made my way through this weekend.
To state Trende’s thesis simply: There is no such thing as a permanent majority. Parties are coalitions of disparate groups of voters, and they win by strapping enough different groups together to push themselves across the electoral finish line. Unfortunately, the broader your coalition, the harder it is to hold together. Those different groups may have radically different values and interests; satisfying one may end up alienating the other. Trende suggests that the longest-lived coalition was not, in fact Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famed “realignment,” which showed large cracks as early as 1937, but the Eisenhower coalition that lasted roughly from 1952 to 1988. As the dates suggest, the reason for unity was the external threat from the Soviet Union. That’s a pretty stiff price to pay for internal unity.
I took two major things away from the book: First, you can’t count on demographics to hand you a victory in such a vast and diverse country, because today’s coalition members may end up as a large and growing pillar of the opposition. And second, although both parties are constantly hunting for a mandate for radical change, the voters almost never deliver one. The party stalwarts may want to tear down the current edifice and start over, but the less ideological coalition partners are usually looking for some light redecorating, perhaps along with a specific personal interest like freedom of conscience in business operations, or less restrictive immigration policy. The harder the parties push on their ideological platforms, the faster the “coalition of everyone” starts leaking supporters to the opposition.
Megan McArdle, “No Party Will Get a Permanent Majority”, Bloomberg View, 2014-11-10.
October 25, 2015
“All that dangerous, dastardly outside money that people have been worrying about since the Citizens United decision? Stunningly irrelevant.”
Megan McArdle on the remarkable lack of impact of “outside money” on US election campaign financing:
“Money can’t buy you everything.”
“The best things in life are free.”
“I don’t care too much for money. … Money can’t buy me love.”
Turns out timeless clichés and the Beatles understood the 2016 election season before the rest of us did. All that dangerous, dastardly outside money that people have been worrying about since the Citizens United decision? Stunningly irrelevant.
The New York Times has a nice summary of campaign fundraising and spending to date.
Hillary Clinton has done well in both traditional and PAC fundraising, but that might be effect as much as cause: The obvious front-runner and already-crowned establishment candidate is going to do well in fundraising, even if the money isn’t needed. So let’s look at the Republican race.
By June, Jeb Bush was the GOP PACman; he had raised more than $100 million, and spent over $10 million of it. Second in such fundraising is Ted Cruz, who raised $38.4 million in outside money. The two of them together have 60 percent more cash than all the other candidates combined. They are currently tied for fourth place in polling.
Meanwhile, Scott Walker, who used to be running third in the PAC race, has already dropped out, as have Rick Perry and his $13.8 million worth of outside funds. Marco Rubio, with a comparatively dainty $17.3 million, is doing better than the three early leaders in outside fundraising — and yet he’s still being blown away in polling by Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who have raised, to a first approximation, zero in outside funds.
August 24, 2015
Megan McArdle on the difference between what voters indicate they want from their elected representatives and what they actually get:
Now, you won’t learn much about how politics happens. Politics doesn’t have clear villains or decisive, powerful action. Politics muddles along on a heavily adulterated biofuel composed of interpersonal favor-trading, compromised ideology, soul-sucking proceduralism, and ponderous interest-group mobilization.
But elections — that’s where your back issues of Action Comics will come in handy. They tell you a lot about what voters think.
Voters rally to get a candidate elected, then call on the politician to stop technological change from tanking the local economy, to give them much more generous health care at half the cost of whatever they’ve currently got, to cut their taxes without touching Social Security or Medicare because they earned those benefits, to provide large new entitlements paid for entirely by taxing hedge fund managers, to reform the education system so that all the students will be above average, to defuse conflict in the Middle East and maybe leap some tall buildings in a single bound. You know, the usual.
Time passes. These voters notice that these things have not been done. Obviously, they have elected the wrong superhero. It is time to stop messing around with Squirrel Girl and Jack of Hearts and elect Superman, already. So the story starts all over again.
The tendency of American voters to treat political problems as if they were occurring in an alternate universe was first noted by Matthew Yglesias during the Iraq war debate, when he coined the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics, in which the US military has unlimited powers if only it is wielded by someone with sufficient will; Julian Sanchez expanded this to the home front with the Care Bear Stare Theory of Domestic Politics: “They’d line up together and emit a glowing manifestation of their boundless caring, which seemed capable of solving just about any problem.” Sound familiar? If only people cared enough.
August 19, 2015
Jonah Goldberg from last week’s “news”letter:
Bill and Hillary Clinton are like that Third World driver who takes a hairpin curve at high speed and survives. Everything worked out, so why change your behavior?
Now, Bill is a famous case. In many respects he’s lived a Caligulan lifestyle. No, he’s never tried to make his horse a senator, nor did he order the army to declare war on Neptune, but for him the highest law is whatever he can get away with.
Bill’s entire life has been about cutting corners, shaving the truth — often down to the bone — and conflating his priapism with his sense of entitlement. This has worked out for him because he has superhuman powers of duplicity and cozenage. There are legends in Little Rock of how a young Billy Clinton was on a school field trip to a laboratory when, through an unlikely series of events, a radioactive hustler bit him on the hand, giving him unearthly powers of flim-flammery and deception. The earnest lad was suddenly transformed.
I have no doubt Bill believes that he uses his powers for good, but with the pimpish midichlorians coursing through his veins, he can’t help himself. Over time, as he continually escapes the snares reality and morality typically set for mortal men, he has come to have a sense of entitlement and immunity about it all. Like the hazardous driver who’s never had a crash or the lucky investor who’s never lost money, he just thinks: This is the way reality works. Even when a black swan hits him in the grill, he talks his way out of it.
The tragedy for Hillary Clinton is that she is all too human. As Bill’s mortal sidekick, she’s had a good ride. But whereas Bill has an almost Jedi-like ability to lie convincingly — “these aren’t the interns you’re looking for” — Hillary has no superpowers to fall back on. She just has to grind it out. Like Syndrome in The Incredibles or the entire cast of Kick-Ass, she has to compensate for a lack of raw superpowers through guile and technology — and minions, lots and lots of minions. They do her dirty work for her. They burrow into the bureaucracy and cover for her. They get appointed to commissions and erect firewalls against accountability. They tell her what she wants to hear and explain how all bad news is someone else’s fault. They scrub the paper trail. They even shove classified evidence in their pants, if that is what is required. As Renfield to her huband’s Dracula, Otis to his Lex Luthor, Gogo Yubari to his O-Ren Ishii , Alistair Smythe to his Kingpin, Tom Hagen to his Don Corleone, Bizarro World Radar O’Reilly to his evil Colonel Potter, she has amassed considerable resources and abilities of her own. There’s now an entire Clinton-Industrial Complex that fuels and funds the vast interconnected network of minions. They are like agents of Hydra, embedded in the media, in government, and in academia. Places like Media Matters are like huge industrial farms for breeding Clintonian hacks where the larvae are grown in vats.
August 6, 2015
P.J. O’Rourke on the real motivation for politicians to interest themselves in you:
I would like to address myself to the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refugees teeming to America’s shore, the homeless, the economically, socially, and mentally tempest-tossed. Also, I’d like to address the young, the hip, the progressive, the compassionate, and the caring. I’d like a word with everyone who votes for Democrats.
Democrats hate your guts.
Democrats need your vote and they’ll do anything — no matter how low and degrading — to get it. They hate you the way a whore hates a john.
All politicians hate people. Politics is a way to gain power over people without justification for having that power. Nothing in the 11,000-year history of politics — going back to the governing elites of Mesopotamia — indicates that politicians are wiser, smarter, kinder, more moral, or better skilled at any craft (aside from politics) than we are.
But political rulers need the acquiescence of the ruled to slake the craving for power. Politicians hate you the way a junkie hates junk.
Politicians gain power by means of empty promises or threats, or both when they’re on their game. Should you vote for people who are good at politics? No. You should vote for Republicans. We’re lousy.
Believe me, I know why you don’t vote for Republicans. You see the Republican candidates and they look so … Bush-League, Dog Walker, Rubio Rube, Get-Outta-the-Carson, Hucka-Upchuck, Ap-Paul-ling, Cruz Control, Fat-Fried Christie Crispy, Son-of-a-Kasich, Dingleberry Perry, Flee the Fiorina, Sancta-Santorum, Graham Cracker, and Nervous 7/11 Night Shift Manager Jindal.
And never mind the busted flush Trump Card who should be spray-painted with Rust-Oleum primer, have a squirt gun super-glued to his hand, and kicked through the front door of the Ferguson, Mo., police station.
You think, “I don’t want to vote for these people.”
Just between you and me, we Republicans think the same thing.
Republican politicians stink. This is because real Republicans don’t go into politics. We have a life. We have families, jobs, responsibilities, and it takes all our time and energy to avoid them and go play golf. We leave politics to our halt, our lame, and our feeble-minded. Republican candidacies are sinecures for members of the GOP who are otherwise useless and/or retired.
Democrats, on the other hand, are brilliant politicians. And I mean that as a vicious slur. Think how we use the word “politics.” Are “office politics” ever a good thing? When somebody “plays politics” to get a promotion, does he or she deserve it? When we call a coworker “a real politician,” is that a compliment?
August 3, 2015
From the third and final part of the Camille Paglia interview in Salon:
First of all, when we look at the abundance of candidates who have put themselves forward on the GOP side, compared to the complete paralysis of the Democratic party by the Clinton machine, I think you have to be worried about the future of the Democratic party. Young feminists are asking why there hasn’t been a woman president and automatically blaming it on male sexism. But there are plenty of women Democratic politicians who are too scared to put themselves forward as candidates because of the Clinton machine. There’s something seriously wrong here with Democratic thinking. You either believe in the country, you believe in your party, or you don’t!
Given the problems facing the nation, this passive waiting for your turn is simply unacceptable. The Democrats have plenty of solid, capable women politicians who are just too timid to challenge the party establishment. Well, excuse me, that proves they don’t deserve to be president! You sure won’t be able to deal with ISIS if you can’t deal with Debbie Wasserman Schultz! The paucity of declared Democratic presidential candidates is a major embarrassment to the party. Look at that herd of eager-beaver competitive guys on the Republican side – overflowing with energy and ambition. There’s even a woman, Carly Fiorina, who has no political experience and therefore no chance of winning, but she is bravely putting herself forward and speaking out. And she has impressively informed herself about international politics, which is a No. 1 requirement for any woman presidential candidate. I said in a recent op-ed for Time that women must take responsibility for mastering more than the usual social welfare issues. Women politicians have to develop themselves beyond the caretaking side of the spectrum. All this talk about the lack of women engineers and how that’s somehow evidence of sexism – oh, really? It’s mostly a self-selecting process, as proved by the way that the overwhelming majority of women politicians around the world actually behave. What do they instantly gravitate towards? Social welfare, caretaking, the environment. They ignore military history and strategic geopolitics.
I have constantly said that Senator Dianne Feinstein should have been the leading woman presidential candidate for the Democratic party long ago. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is a very deft and clever behind-the-scenes legislator and dealmaker, a skill she acquired from her political family – her father and brother were mayors of Baltimore. Both of these women, to me, are far better politicians than Hillary Clinton. Hillary has accomplished nothing substantial in her life. She’s been pushed along, coasting on her husband’s coattails, and every job she’s been given fizzled out into time-serving or overt disaster. Hillary constantly strikes attitudes and claims she’s “passionate” about this or that, but there’s never any sustained follow-through. She’s just a classic, corporate exec or bureaucrat type who would prefer to be at her desk behind closed doors, imposing her power schemes on the proletariat. She has no discernible political skills of any kind, which is why she needs a big, shifting army of consultants, advisors, and toadies to whisper in her ear and write her policy statements. There’s this ridiculous new theme in the media about people needing to learn who the “real” Hillary Clinton is. What? Everything they’re saying about what a wonderful person Hillary is in private tells us that she’s not competent or credible as a public figure! A politician, particularly a president, must have a distinct skill or expertise in communicating with the masses. It’s the absolutely basic requirement for any career in politics.
If you don’t have an effective public persona, if you’re not a good speaker, if you don’t like to press the flesh, if you’re not nimble enough to deal with anything that comes along, then you are not a natural politician! And you sure aren’t going to learn it in your late 60s! Get off the stage, and let someone else truly electable on! All this silly talk about how wonderful Hillary is in private. Oh, sure, she’s nice to the important people and the people she wants or needs something from! Then she’s Pollyanna herself! There are just too many reports stretching all the way back to Arkansas about Hillary’s nasty outbursts toward underlings when things aren’t going well. The main point is that the ability to communicate with millions of people is a special talent, and Hillary pretty obviously lacks it.
June 18, 2015
If you’re looking for the Tsar of Tacky, the Baron of Bad Taste, the Grand Duke of Garishness, then you really will love Donald Trump for President, because he is America personified:
Has the office of the presidency diminished in stature until it attracts only the midgets of public life?
Or have our politicians shrunk until none of them can pass the carnival test “You Must Be Taller than the Clown to Ride the White House Tilt-A-Whirl”?
During this endless grim, foggy, electoral season with its constant drizzle of wannabes, I intend to make little prose pictures of each candidatural dwarf until we are down to two.
I tremble for my country when I reflect that the two may be “Clinton” and “Bush.” Members of the electorate in their right minds will go into the ballot booth, see the names, think to themselves, “I did this already.” And leave with the ballot unmarked. Voter turn-out will be 6 percent. The shuttle from the local extended care facility will send a few memory-impaired Republicans to the polls. A DNC bus will collect some derelicts from skid row. And we will have the first President of the United States elected by a franchise limited to sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and drunken bums.
Let us therefore begin at the bottom of the campaign barrel with the lees, the dross, and the dregs, by which I mean Donald Trump.
Or is Trump just using the garbage of his personality to chum for publicity again? If he isn’t really a candidate, I see no reason to take him at his word, any more than I’d take him at his word about anything else.
Besides, I, personally, support his candidacy. “Democracy,” said H. L. Mencken, “is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
The American government is of the people, by the people, for the people. And, these days, America is peopled by 320 million Donald Trumps. Donald Trump is representative of all that we hold dear: money. Or, rather, he is representative of greed for money. We common people may not be able to match Trump’s piggy bank, but we can match his piggishness.
April 7, 2015
In City Journal, Fred Siegel looks at some recent books about the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Monihan:
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the four-term senator from New York who died in 2003, was that rare soul who was both a political and intellectual giant. Stephen Hess, who worked in the early Nixon White House as an aide to Moynihan, was the rare individual friendly with both Moynihan and Richard Nixon. The Professor and the President is a short but revealing memoir-cum-narrative of Moynihan’s service in the executive branch.
What brought Nixon and Moynihan together was a tectonic shift of the political plates. Nixon won the presidency in 1968 thanks to the backlash against the riots that had ripped through America’s cities. What made Moynihan a Democrat of extraordinary insight, willing to serve a Republican president, were his reactions to those riots — and to the excesses and wrong turns of American liberalism.
Today, 50 years after its issuance, some liberals “bravely” acknowledge that 1965’s so-called Moynihan Report, in which the future senator warned about the dire future consequences of the collapse of the black family, was a fire bell in the night. But at the time, and for decades to come, Moynihan was branded as a racist by civil rights leaders, black activists, and run-of-the-mill liberals. “One began to sense,” Moynihan wrote, that “a price was to be paid even for such a mild dissent from conventional liberalism.”
His capacity for irony notwithstanding, Moynihan came close to a nervous breakdown and “emerged changed” from the experience. He came to feel “that American liberalism had created its own version of a politique du pire (i.e., the worse the better) … in which evidence had been displaced by ideology.” His fear that the empirically oriented liberalism of his youth was under assault from racial and cultural nihilists intensified after the 1967 riots that burned through Cleveland, Newark, and Detroit, where 43 died. “The summer of 1967,” Moynihan wrote at the time, “came in the aftermath of one of the most extraordinary periods of liberal legislation, liberal electoral victories and the liberal dominance of the media … that we have ever experienced. The period was, moreover, accompanied by the greatest economic expansion in human history. And to top it all, some of the worst violence occurred in Detroit, a city with one of the most liberal and successful administrations in the nation; a city in which the social and economic position of the Negro was generally agreed to be far and away the best in the nation.”
March 28, 2015
Here’s some high praise for the outgoing democratic senator Harry Reid, who announced yesterday he won’t be seeking re-election in 2016:
Today we will hear a lot about Reid’s “service” to the Senate and to the American people. Ha! “Service” indeed. The truth of the matter is that Harry Reid is a stone-cold killer who has damaged Washington considerably, who has elevated his own political preferences above the institution he was elected to protect, and who has made worse the partisan rancor that our self-described enlightened class claims to abhor. The greatest service he can do America is to go away.
From a purely Machiavellian perspective, there is a strong case to be made that Reid has been the most effective federal politician in the United States over the last decade or so. In order to protect the president and to advance his movements’ goals, Reid has been willing to diminish the influence, power, and effectiveness of his own institution; in order to thwart his opponents, he has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to play dirty — a capacity that sets him apart even from other harsh players such as Chuck Schumer, Ted Cruz, and Dick Durbin; and, in order to satisfy his own need to feel powerful, he has perfected the scorched earth approach that has kept Obama’s presidency on life support since November of 2010 (in my estimation, the Democratic party’s success during the 2013 shutdown was the product of Reid’s obstinacy and resolve, not Obama’s).
National Review also reposted Kevin Williamson’s appreciation for Reid from 2014:
There are 53 Democrats in the Senate, plus two nominal independents who associate with them, and this clown caucus has chosen, since 2007, to place itself under the malignant leadership of Harry Reid, Washington’s answer to Frankenstein’s monster — stitched together out of the worst bits of Roger Chillingworth, Joe McCarthy, and Droopy — a teacup tyrant who has filled his own pockets to the tune of $10 million while decrying the allegedly baleful influence of the wealthy on politics, a man who has done violence to ethical standards left and right, using campaign funds for personal expenditures and trying to hide payments channeled to his granddaughter, who takes to the Senate floor to make patently false, malicious, and increasingly loopy claims about his political rivals, and who is leading a partisan assault on the Bill of Rights. If America needs a(nother) good reason to hand Democrats their heads come November, then they would do well to study the career of Harry Reid (D., Ritz-Carlton), the Sheriff of Nottingham to Barack Obama’s Prince John.
Harry Reid is in some ways a laughable figure, and one of his few charms is that he is known to make self-deprecating observations about his own unprepossessing nature. His obsession with Koch Industries and the intimations of venality that surround him might be grounds for annoyed eye-rolling if they were not of a piece with his audacious war on the most important of our fundamental constitutional liberties. The cheap histrionics, the gross hypocrisy, the outright lies, misusing campaign funds to tip his staff at the Ritz $3,300 — all of that would be just about bearable, but the shocking fact is that Harry Reid and his Senate Democrats are quietly attempting to repeal the First Amendment. And that elevates Senator Reid’s shenanigans from buffoonery to villainy.
January 16, 2015
In a column explaining why he’s terrified that the “Modern Monetary Theory” folks might get anywhere near the levers of power, Tim Worstall fits in the best reason to cut taxes:
Given that we are discussing monetary policy it seems appropriate to bring Milton Friedman in here. And he pointed out that if you ever have a chance to cut taxes just do so. On the basis that politicians, any group of politicians, will spend the bottom out of the Treasury and more however much there is. So, the only way to stop ever increasing amounts of the the entire economy flowing through government is simply to constrain the resources they can get their sticky little mits on. We could, for example, possibly imagine a Republican from the Neanderthal wing of the party arguing that what the US really needs is another 7 carrier battle groups. And one from the even more confused than usual Progressive end of the Democratic Party arguing that each college student needs her own personal carrier battle group to protect her from the microaggressions of being asked out for a coffee. You know. Sometime. Maybe. If you want to?
December 1, 2014
Nicholas Frankovich on how at least some liberals view their conservative foes:
In the liberal imagination, the conservative plays many parts, all of them villainous, the most flamboyant being that of the crank who combines political activism with mental instability: a dangerous combination. Earlier this week Ian Tuttle documented a few random but typical reports from those who have recently sighted this menacing character. I especially liked Ian’s excerpt from a column by Charles Blow, who sees “the fear that makes the face flush when people stare into a future in which traditional power — their power — is eroded.”
Blow means status anxiety. The idea is that conservatives are either downwardly mobile or fearful of becoming so. Conservatism is reduced to the image of people blustering and raging as they tumble down the social ladder, either in fact or in their fevered delusions. The term “status anxiety” has fallen out of fashion, but obviously the concept has not. As an explanation for conservatism and for anti-Communism particularly, it came into vogue in the mid 20th century, popularized by the sociologists Daniel Bell and Seymour Martin Lipset but especially by the Columbia historian Richard Hofstadter, who in the run-up to the 1964 presidential election published “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (Harper’s, November 1964), the classic essay on conservatism as mental illness.
Hofstadter began with a reference to the “angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority.” This was less a news hook for a groundbreaking psychoanalysis of American history than the psychoanalysis of American history was a context in which Hofstadter could situate Barry Goldwater and his supporters.
Meanwhile, “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater” appeared as the October–November issue of the newly founded (and short-lived, as it would turn out) Fact magazine. “1,189 psychiatrists say Goldwater is psychologically unfit to be president!” the cover read. (The American Psychiatric Association later established the “Goldwater rule”: “It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer [to media] a professional opinion [of a public figure’s mental health] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”)
November 6, 2014
The one thing that is apparent from the results of the US federal mid-term elections is that — despite what voters tell pollsters and reporters — they’re absolutely in love with their current federal representatives:
I see that Americans are well satisfied with their politicians: over 95 percent of incumbents re-elected. Perhaps I should be more gentle in my criticism of a system that can bring such torpor and contentment, and is not so unlike monarchy after all.
For note, that in this fast-changing world, some things do not change; that some jobs stay safe, from year to year and decade to decade.
One wonders why politicians go to the trouble of awarding themselves such extravagant pensions, when they could just leave their names on the ballot, indefinitely. Retirements cost the taxpayer money: for now, instead of the one politician, we must in effect pay for two. With term limits, who knows how many we must keep, in the style to which they have become accustomed?