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THE DEMOCRAT FIELD NARROWS. SHOULD THE GOP WORRY? | OPINION

By Peter RoffNewsweek

And then there were two.

Thanks to South Carolina and Super Tuesday, the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is between a candidate of the left and a candidate of the far left. The moderate, market-friendly, free-trade wing of the party has collapsed into nothingness. Clintonism is dead, long live the new left.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, whose come-from-behind and back-from-the dead win in South Carolina drove Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar out of the race, is widely considered to have been the big winner on Super Tuesday. True, he got more votes in 10 of the 14 states holding primaries that day but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who took a third of the vote in California, also did exceptionally well.

The count as it now stands has Biden ahead but by only about 60 delegates. This is not, even given the way the remaining primaries and caucuses in the remaining states line up on the way to Milwaukee, so substantial a lead that it cannot be overcome.

This should give Biden pause. The combined vote for Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was bigger—outside the South anyway—than what Biden was able to draw. With Warren out and her vote presumably up for grabs, the calculations of future outcomes must be altered. The former vice president can no longer presume he’ll benefit from a split among primary voters who consider him part of the problem because he’s part of the party establishment.

One would think this would give the GOP pause as well, leading party leaders to think carefully about what President Donald J. Trump must do to secure a second term. Instead, they still seem to be counting on the vicious divisions among the opposition party to prevent the kind of unity needed to prevail in November.

This, to employ a shopworn but appropriate adage, is whistling past the graveyard. The turnout among Democrats participating in the 2020 nominating process is up considerably from 2016, suggesting the enthusiasm gap, which the Republicans hoped to benefit from, may not exist. Trump may have to fight to win.

To do that, he needs to have the kind of positive message that thus far seems to be eluding him. It will not be enough for him to define his opponent as so far outside the mainstream as to be unelectable—a strategy they are sure to use on Sanders and will try on Biden to see if it works. Trump is going to have to explain, to use his term, what he intends to do to “keep America great” in his second term. And, right now, with potential disaster seemingly around every corner, he’s not getting the job done. The fears connected to the spread of coronavirus are taking the markets and are poised to kick off a business contraction that could lead to a recession. If that happens, the president loses his principle talking point in favor of his re-election.

This may be why the scramble to respond to this entirely unexpected global crisis is being hyped by the mainstream, Trump-hating media as well as the Democrats but the epidemic is a reality the president and his campaign advisers must prepare to deal with. The fact he’s been right on many of the key points regarding ways to prevent the spread of the virus—by blocking incoming flights from China, by urging people to wash their hands repeatedly throughout the day, and his efforts to mobilize the free-market healthcare industry to get to work on a vaccine and a curative—isn’t helping calm people’s fears.

If you then add to all that the fact some people seem to have decided that since Trump appears to distort the truth its oaky for them to distort the truth in response and you have a recipe for disaster in the making, the kind that kills a re-election campaign in the cradle.

That the Democrats have moved so far away from the center in their drive to the left gives Trump and the other Republicans on the ballot in 2020 time to seize what historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., used to refer to as the “vital center” of American politics. Sanders and Biden will duke it out over whether real healthcare reform means ending private insurance and private health care in America—as some versions of the Medicare-for-All plan would do. The GOP, meanwhile, can step in with a reassuring message: not only will they preserve both, but also that what they’re prepared to defend what is, in fact, the best guarantor that the spread of a disease like the Coronavirus can be stopped before it becomes as lethal as the Spanish Flu, which killed so many Americans just over 100 years ago.

Despite what many analysts suggest, we’re a long way from clarity in this election. Sanders and Biden both have viable paths to their party’s nomination—and we still cannot discount the possibility a third candidate will emerge from a convention deadlock that could make for a whole new ballgame. The problem for Trump is that he must prepare for all these eventualities, while still performing the duties of his office which, to be candid, is a bigger challenge for him than the Mueller investigation or impeachment. The reason for this is simple: from here on out he’s at the mercy of “events” which, as former British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan once observed, are the thing most likely to take a government off the course chosen by its leader.


The Unpopular Populist

Joe Biden’s improbable resurrection suggests that Bernie Sanders and the ideas he champions are more appealing in theory than in practice.

By JOHN HIRSCHAUERNational Review

The public’s support for Medicare for All varies wildly depending upon the language pollsters use when asking voters about it. When the Kaiser Family Foundation informed respondents in a recent poll that Medicare for All would “guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans,” 71 percent of them supported the plan; when they were told that the plan would “lead to delays in people getting some medical tests and treatments,” 70 percent opposed it.

In short, single-payer health care is more appealing in its blurriest outlines than it is when it comes into focus — much like its most prominent proponent, Bernie Sanders.

Sanders enjoys significant personal popularity and has for most of his career. He has become the most popular senator in America by sticking to the same operative philosophy for most if not all of his professional life. (Joe Rogan called him “insanely consistent.”) His policy positions — free collegeuniversal health care, and other expensive giveaways — poll fairly well among voters when framed in abstract terms that elide the costs involved in implementing them. As he frequently reminds the American people with a sense of conviction and moral urgency that stirs up an almost religious fervor among his supporters, he “happens to believe” health care is a yoo-man right.

At some point, though, utopian platitudes have to become concrete policy proposals. Once Elizabeth Warren released her “plan” to upend the American health-care system, she forced voters to confront the actual tradeoffs involved in the sort of “big, systemic change” that she was selling. It’s one thing to tell a pollster you’re for Medicare for All, but it’s quite another to support the same policy after being confronted with the tax hikes and private-insurance ban it would necessitate. Idealism is fine, National Review’s founder famously quipped, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.

To be sure, idealism has still gotten Sanders pretty far in his quixotic effort to execute a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party. The apparent popularity of his progressive agenda before its downsides are made clear to voters has helped to fuel his diehard supporters’ intense consternation and anti-establishment sentiment. The obvious antipathy that the Democratic establishment holds for Sanders and his supporters has only furthered their sense that the entire political ecosystem is working in concert to prevent the sort of “political revolution” that they claim, with at least superficial plausibility, has the mandate of the popular will.

All of this — the support for Sanders’s agenda when sketched in its vaguest terms, the real and perceived grievances against the party establishment — has in turn allowed Sanders and his supporters to craft a compelling story: Their movement is a People’s revolution, militating against the forces of dark money and corporate interests, waging a heroic war on the Wall Street tycoons who wield outsize influence on our political process and both political parties. Since public polling shows popular support for the Sanders platform, the narrative goes, any suggestion that Bernie is a “radical” is little more than wishcasting by a bourgeois, neoliberal press, a group of capitalist bootlickers desperate to uphold an indefensible economic order.

This narrative worked better than anyone had a right to expect against Hillary Clinton four years ago, and until last Tuesday, it appeared on track to deliver Sanders the nomination in 2020. With a horde of “moderates” in the race splitting the centrist vote and clear possession of the party’s “progressive” lane, Sanders had been able to finish in a virtual tie in Iowa and command a plurality of support in the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucus. While he failed to capture an outright majority in any of the three opening states, his performance was sufficiently strong that his exponents in the press saw fit to take a victory lap. “Why do they never learn?” asked Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept. “The only way to test ‘electability’ is through actual elections, and so far Sanders is two for two.”

Unfortunately for Sanders, after those electoral victories, he became the race’s clear front-runner. Once that happened, Democratic voters were no longer weighing Bernie in the abstract — the jovial, if curmudgeonly, senator whom Paul Krugman strained to depict as a Scandinavian social democrat — but Bernie as a committed ideologue, happy to defend Fidel Castro’s literacy program and the poverty-reduction efforts of Communist China.

For all of the Bernie Bros’ indignation with a Democratic establishment that richly deserves their scorn, it was still the voters who handed Joe Biden — a doddering old warhorse who had seemed a dead man walking for months — a resounding victory on Super Tuesday. He won ten of 14 states, captured 573 delegates to Sanders’s 491, and now leads Sanders in the popular vote by over 900,000 votes. Sanders is still alive in the race, to be sure, but his chances of a comeback are getting slimmer by the minute.

If the origin myth of Sanders’s movement were true — if scheming “ah-li-garchs” were really to blame for keeping his broadly popular agenda at bay — then one would think his campaign could have convinced actual voters that he was a superior candidate to Biden, who often struggles just to put together a coherent sentence on the stump. Perhaps Sanders, and the philosophy he champions, are more appealing in theory than in practice.


Joe Biden: The Comeback Gramps

Column: How a flight to safety helped the former vice president

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

On the day before the South Carolina primary, the stock market finished its worst week since the global financial crisis of 2008. Fear of Bernie Sanders and of coronavirus had investors panicked. They wanted safe returns. Bond yields fell to record lows.

The flight to safety was not just economic. It was also political. When the future looks grim, you turn to the familiar. And there aren’t many politicians more recognizable than a man first elected to the Senate when Richard Nixon was president.

South Carolina was Joe Biden’s last defense. It held. Credit congressman Jim Clyburn with the assist. His February 26 endorsement was powerful—and more decisive than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s backing of Sanders last October. Biden trounced the field in the Palmetto State, winning 48 percent to Sanders’s 20 percent.

The first signs of a Biden coalition of black voters, suburban women, and moderates became visible. These are the same people who returned the speaker’s gavel to Nancy Pelosi in 2018. After South Carolina, the non-Sanders vote consolidated behind Biden. And on Super Tuesday he pulled ahead in the delegate count.

Biden is too old to be called “the comeback kid.” He needs another moniker. Let’s call him “the comeback gramps.”

His achievement is something to behold. Not since 1992 has a candidate vaulted into frontrunner status after losing the first contests by such stunning margins. And circumstances were different 28 years ago. Back then, Iowa went to local hero Senator Tom Harkin. New Hampshire chose neighboring Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts. Both men enjoyed homefield advantage.

Bill Clinton didn’t have a victory until Georgia and South Carolina. Whereupon his spin room went into action, persuading the media that the Arkansas governor was the “comeback kid.” Clinton was 45 years old at the time.

The bloom of youth left Biden long ago. And, for a while it seemed, so did any chance of becoming president. He placed fourth in Iowa. He came in fifth in New Hampshire. He finished a distant—light-years distant—second in Nevada.

Bernie Sanders and his red brigades threatened to sweep all before them. What saved Biden and the Democratic Party was panic. Worries over socialism, over handing the election to President Trump, but also over the invisible contagion whose global spread appears to be unstoppable.

Biden is not unstoppable. He’s had a great week. But it is not a straight line from here to the White House. For one thing, Sanders is still in the race. The slim possibility remains that he could deny Biden a majority of the 1,991 delegates necessary to win on the first ballot of the convention. That would complicate matters. And widen the Democratic divide.

Biden’s resuscitation was contingent on discrete events. Who knows what the situation would look like today absent Bernie’s striking momentum, Bloomberg’s flameout, Clyburn’s endorsement, South Carolina’s place on the electoral calendar, and the appearance of coronavirus? There is plenty of time for further developments. Not all of them will play to his advantage.

Biden is not a strong candidate. His brain and his mouth never seem to be in the same place at the same time. He hasn’t given a satisfactory answer to the question of what his son Hunter was doing on the board of a Ukrainian gas giant. He suffers from the brand confusion of a septuagenarian Washington insider calling for change. He has a habit of making bizarre and rude comments—to his own supporters. His agenda is vague at best and regressive at worst.

He promises a return to the status quo ante Trump. For many people, that’s enough. For how many? In which states? Biden is the secure choice, the comforting presence, the genial (if slightly out of it) grandpa you like to have around. You turn to him in threatening times not because of what he has done, but because of who he is. That is why Barack Obama put him on the ticket after Russia invaded Georgia. It is why so many Democrats chose him on Tuesday.

Threats recede. Panic fades. Good times return. And you are left with grinning, affable, ordinary, unexciting, flawed Joe Biden. Who might not be a safe bet after all.


I Went to a Socialism Conference Last Year. Consider Me Scared.

Socialism is having its moment on the left.

By Jarrett StepmanNational Review

Key point: There wasn’t a wide gap between what was being discussed at Socialism 2019 and the ideas emerging from a growing segment of the American left.

While you were enjoying your Fourth of July weekend, I was attending a national conference on socialism.

Why? Because socialism is having its moment on the left.

Since there’s often confusion as to what socialism really is, I decided to attend the Socialism 2019 conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend last year.

The conference, which had the tag line “No Borders, No Bosses, No Binaries,” contained a cross-section of the most pertinent hard-left thought in America. Among the sponsors were the Democratic Socialists of America and Jacobin, a quarterly socialist magazine.

The walls of the various conference rooms were adorned with posters of Karl Marx and various depictions of socialist thinkers and causes. 

Most of the conference attendees appeared to be white, but identity politics were a major theme throughout—especially in regard to gender.

At the registration desk, attendees were given the option of attaching a “preferred pronoun” sticker on their name tags.

In addition, the multiple-occupancy men’s and women’s restrooms were relabeled as “gender neutral,” and men and women were using both. Interestingly enough, the signs above the doors were still labeled with the traditional “men’s” and “women’s” signs until they were covered over with home-made labels.

One of the paper labels read: “This bathroom has been liberated from the gender binary!”

While the panelists and attendees were certainly radical, and often expressed contempt for the Democratic Party establishment, it was nevertheless clear how seamlessly they blended traditional Marxist thought with the agenda of what’s becoming the mainstream left.

They did so by weaving their views with the identity politics that now dominate on college campuses and in the media and popular entertainment. The culture war is being used as a launching point for genuinely socialist ideas, many of which are re-emerging in the 21st century.

Here are six takeaways from the conference:

1. Serious About Socialism

A common line from those on the modern left is that they embrace “democratic socialism,” rather than the brutal, totalitarian socialism of the former Soviet Union or modern North Korea and Venezuela. Sweden is usually cited as their guide for what it means in practice, though the reality is that these best-case situations show the limits of socialism, not its success.

It’s odd, too, for those who insist that “diversity is our strength” to point to the culturally homogenous Nordic countries as ideal models anyway.

It’s clear, however, that while many socialists insist that their ideas don’t align with or condone authoritarian societies, their actual ideology—certainly that of those speaking at the conference—is in no sense distinct.

Of the panels I attended, all featured speakers who made paeans to traditional communist theories quoted Marx, and bought into the ideology that formed the basis of those regimes.

Mainstream politicians may dance around the meaning of the word “socialist,” but the intellectuals and activists who attended Socialism 2019 could have few doubts about the fact that Marxism formed the core of their beliefs.

Some sought to dodge the issue. One was David Duhalde, the former political director of Our Revolution, an activist group that supports Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and that was an offshoot of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

Duhalde said that Sanders is a creation of the socialist movement—having had direct ties to the Socialist Party of America in his youth—but hasn’t maintained an official connection to socialist political organizations throughout his political career.

Sanders’ position, according to Duhalde, is “anti-totalitarian” and that he favors a model based on “neither Moscow, nor the United States, at least in this formation.”

It’s a convenient way of condemning capitalist-oriented societies while avoiding connections to obviously tyrannical ones.

It was also difficult to mistake the sea of red shirts and posters of Marx that adorned the walls at the conference—or the occasional use of the word “comrades”—as anything other than an embrace of genuine socialism, but with a uniquely modern twist.

2. Gender and Identity Politics Are Ascendant

Transgenderism, gender nonconformity, and abolishing traditional family structures were huge issues at Socialism 2019.

One panel, “Social Reproduction Theory and Gender Liberation,” addressed how the traditional family structure reinforced capitalism and contended that the answer was to simply abolish families.

Corrie Westing, a self-described “queer socialist feminist activist based in Chicago working as a home-birth midwife,” argued that traditional family structures propped up oppression and that the modern transgender movement plays a critical part in achieving true “reproductive justice.”

Society is in a moment of “tremendous political crisis,” one that “really demands a Marxism that’s up to the par of explaining why our socialist project is leading to ending oppression,” she said, “and we need a Marxism that can win generations of folks that can be radicalized by this moment.”

That has broad implications for feminism, according to Westing, who said that it’s important to fight for transgender rights as essential to the whole feminist project—seemingly in a direct shot at transgender-exclusionary radical feminists, who at a Heritage Foundation event in January argued that sex is biological, not a societal construct, and that transgenderism is at odds with a genuine feminism.

She contended that economics is the basis of what she called “heteronormativity.”

Pregnancy becomes a tool of oppression, she said, as women who get pregnant and then engage in child rearing are taken out of the workforce at prime productive ages and then are taken care of by an economic provider.

Thus, the gender binary is reinforced, Westing said.

She insisted that the answer to such problems is to “abolish the family.” The way to get to that point, she said, is by “getting rid of capitalism” and reorganizing society around what she called “queer social reproduction.”

“When we’re talking about revolution, we’re really connecting the issues of gender justice as integral to economic and social justice,” Westing said.

She then quoted a writer, Sophie Lewis, who in a new book, “Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family,” embraced “open-sourced, fully collaborative gestation.”

3. Open Borders Is Becoming a Litmus Test

It’s perhaps not surprising that socialists embrace open borders. After all, that’s becoming a much more mainstream position on the left in general.

The AFL-CIO used to support immigration restrictions until it flipped in 2000 and called for illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship.

As recently as 2015, Sanders rejected the idea of open borders as a ploy to impoverish Americans.

But Justin Akers-Chacon, a socialist activist, argued on a panel, “A Socialist Case for Open Borders,” that open borders are not only a socialist idea, but vital to the movement. 

Akers-Chacon said that while capital has moved freely between the United States and Central and South America, labor has been contained and restricted.

He said that while working-class people have difficulty moving across borders, high-skilled labor and “the 1%” are able to move freely to other countries.

South of the border, especially in Mexico and Honduras, Akers-Chacon said, there’s a stronger “class-consciousness, as part of cultural and historical memory exists in the working class.”

“My experiences in Mexico and my experiences working with immigrant workers, and my experiences with people from different parts of this region, socialist politics are much more deeply rooted,” he said.

That has implications for the labor movement.

Despite past attempts to exclude immigrants, Akers-Chacon said, it’s important for organized labor to embrace them. He didn’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. 

For instance, he said one of the biggest benefits of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was that there was a brief boost in union membership amid a more general decline in unionism.

Besides simply boosting unions, the influx “changed the whole AFL-CIO position on immigrants, [which was] still backwards, restrictive, anti-immigrant,” Akers-Chacon said.

“So, there’s a correlation between expanding rights for immigrants and the growth, and confidence, and militancy of the labor movement as a whole,” he said.

4. ‘Clickbait’ Communism Is Being Used to Propagandize Young Americans

The magazine Teen Vogue has come under fire recently for flattering profiles of Karl Marx and promoting prostitution as a career choice, among other controversial pieces.

It would be easy to write these articles off as mere “clickbait,” but it’s clear that the far-left nature of its editorials—and its attempt to reach young people with these views—is genuine.

Teen Vogue hosted a panel at Socialism 2019, “System Change, Not Climate Change: Youth Climate Activists in Conversation with Teen Vogue.”

The panel moderator was Lucy Diavolo, news and politics editor at the publication, who is transgender.

“I know there’s maybe a contradiction in inviting Teen Vogue to a socialism conference … especially because the youth spinoff brand is a magazine so associated with capitalist excess,” Diavolo said. “If you’re not familiar with our work, I encourage you to read Teen Vogue’s coverage of social justice issues, capitalism, revolutionary theory, and Karl Marx, or you can check out the right-wing op-eds that accuse me of ‘clickbait communism’ and teaching your daughters Marxism and revolution.”

The panel attendees responded enthusiastically.

“Suffice to say, the barbarians are beyond the gates. We are in the tower,” Diavolo boasted.

5. The Green Movement Is Red

It’s perhaps no surprise that an openly socialist member of Congress is pushing for the Green New Deal—which would essentially turn the U.S. into a command-and-control economy reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti recently said, according to The Washington Post: “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.”

“Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti asked Sam Ricketts, climate director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for president in the Democratic primary. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

Economic transformation barely disguised as a way to address environmental concerns appears to be the main point.

One of the speakers on the Teen Vogue climate panel, Sally Taylor, is a member of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-oriented environmental activist group that made headlines in February when several elementary school-age members of the group confronted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., about her lack of support for the Green New Deal.

The other speaker on the Teen Vogue climate panel was Haven Coleman, a 13-year-old environmental activist who has received favorable coverage for leading the U.S. Youth Climate Strike in March. She was open about the system change she was aiming for to address climate change.

She noted during her remarks that she was receiving cues from her mother, who she said was in attendance.

Haven said the answer to the climate change problem was moving on from our “capitalistic society” to something “other than capitalism.”

Interestingly, none of the glowing media profiles of Haven or the Climate Strike mentioned a link to socialism or abolishing capitalism.

6. Socialism Can’t Be Ignored as a Rising Ethos on the Left

According to a recent Gallup survey, 4 in 10 Americans have a positive view of socialism. Support among Democrats is even higher than among the general population, with a majority of Democrats saying they prefer socialism to capitalism.

But many who say they want socialism rather than capitalism struggle to define what those terms mean and change their views once asked about specific policies.

As another Gallup poll from 2018 indicated, many associate socialism with vague notions of “equality,” rather than as government control over the means of production in the economy.

What’s clear from my observations at Socialism 2019 is that traditional Marxists have successfully melded their ideology with the identity politics and culture war issues that animate modern liberalism—despite still being quite far from the beliefs of the average citizen.

Socialists at the conference focused more on social change, rather than electoral politics, but there were still many core public policy issues that animated them; notably, “Medicare for All” and government run-health care, some kind of Green New Deal to stop global warming (and more importantly, abolish capitalism), open borders to increase class consciousness and promote transnational solidarity, removing all restrictions on—and publicly funding—abortion, and breaking down social and legal distinctions between the sexes.

They were particularly able to weave their issues together through the thread of “oppressor versus oppressed” class conflict—for instance, supporting government-run health care meant also unquestioningly supporting unfettered abortion and transgender rights.

Though their analyses typically leaned more heavily on economic class struggle and determinism than what one would expect from more mainstream progressives, there wasn’t a wide gap between what was being discussed at Socialism 2019 and the ideas emerging from a growing segment of the American left.


AG Barr: ‘Remarkably Monolithic Press’ Aids Progressives In Making Us All ‘25-Year-Olds Living In The Government’s Basement’

By Kylee ZempelThe Federalist

Attorney General William Barr noted America’s slide toward despotism during remarks at the National Religious Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday. He highlighted changes in three institutional “bulwarks” that have long preserved liberty: “religion, the decentralization of government power, and the free press.”

Most notable was Barr’s calling out of the “remarkably monolithic” press as a vehicle for pushing Americans toward a secular progressive program and a “soft despotism,” wherein everyone is converted “into 25-year-olds living in the government’s basement, focusing our energies on obtaining a larger allowance rather than getting a job and moving out.” Barr described this progressive dream as a use of the “public purse to … build a permanent constituency of supporters who are also dependents.”

Barr noted the press, having become less like objective journalists and more like political activists, maintains massive influence in directing public opinion to “mobilize a majority” toward progressive goals.

When the media becomes a viewpoint monolith, “Not only does it become easier for the press to mobilize a majority, but the mobilized majority becomes more powerful and overweening with the press as its ally,” Barr said. “This is not a positive cycle, and I think it is fair to say that it puts the press’ role as a breakwater for the tyranny of the majority in jeopardy.”

The relationship among journalists, politicians, and the American people has shifted since 2016 and the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidential election. The president has repeatedly referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” producing “fake news,” for which he has received much criticism. A September 2019 Gallup poll revealed only 41 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “fair amount” of faith in the mass media. Public mistrust in the press cannot be attributed wholly to Trump, however. The media’s track record speaks for itself: blatant lies over the Russia collusion hoaxTrump’s impeachment, the Jussie Smollett hoaxthe Covington Catholic high school students story, and grossly mischaracterized pro-life legislation, among countless other errors. The media has even mocked Trump supporters as “credulous boomer rube[s].”

The press wielding its power in such a way is consistent with the attorney general’s assessment of progressives, however. According to Barr, progressives prop up politics as religion, taking a no-holds-barred approach — including weaponization of the press — to achieve their desired goals, which are “earthly and urgent.”

Totalitarian democracy, says Barr, “requires an all-knowing elite to guide the masses toward their determined end, and that elite relies on whipping up mass enthusiasm to preserve its power and achieve its goals. … [It] is almost always secular and materialistic, and its adherents tend to treat politics as a substitute for religion. Their sacred mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society according to an abstract ideal of perfection. The virtue of any individual is defined by whether they are aligned with the program. Whatever means used are justified because, by definition, they will quicken the pace of mankind’s progress toward perfection.”

Barr’s Wednesday remarks are reminiscent of his November 2019 speechto the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, where he said, “[S]o-called progressives treat politics as their religion. … [T]here is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.”


Bernie’s Plan to Pay for Proposals Only Covers Fraction of Costs

By Charles Fain LehmanThe Washington Free Beacon

Facing mounting pressure to explain how he will raise enough revenue to cover the largest peacetime budget in American history, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) in advance of Tuesday evening’s debate released a plan outlining how he will pay for his proposals.

The plan, which debuted Monday evening, projects additional revenue of more than $37 trillion over the next 10 years, the product of a cross-section of aggressive new taxes on everyday Americans as well as the top percentile of earners. That figure pales in comparison to the tens of trillions Sanders expects to spend over the next 10 years, leaving a substantial budget shortfall even under the rosiest of assumptions.

Sanders, the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, released his plan the day before the South Carolina Democratic debate amid increasing scrutiny. Although the plan partially addresses critics’ charges that Sanders has been evasive on how he will pay for his proposals, it also opens up new lines of attack, allowing moderate opponents to charge him not only with excessive spending but also financial irresponsibility.

In total, the plan covers seven major components of Sanders’s agenda: Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, universal college and canceling student debt, universal pre-k, universal public housing, expanding Social Security, and eliminating medical debt. Its $37 trillion of added tax revenue reflects a bevy of old proposals—especially Sanders’s wealth tax—as well as new details on, for example, Sanders’s projected revenue from Green New Deal jobs.

Although prodigious, the total sum Sanders plans to raise would fall short of his full spending goals. A CNN analysispegged Sanders’s total spending at $60 trillion, substantially larger than any prior peacetime administration. An analysisfrom the left-leaning Progressive Policy Institute estimated the cost of Sanders’s plans at roughly $47.8 trillion—still well short of what he plans to raise. Sanders’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this and other disparities.

Even under Sanders’s most optimistic assumptions, massive shortfalls remain. For example, the campaign indicated that it expects to bring in $4.35 trillion per year from the wealth tax. But the right-leaning Tax Foundation estimates that it will only bring in $3.2 trillion per year, due to higher rates of tax avoidance. That would leave Sanders with $10 trillion less over a decade than he expects.

Much of the measurable shortfall is attributable to Sanders’s cost assumptions about Medicare for All. The campaign offers methods to raise $17.5 trillion, citing research from Yale epidemiologists arguing that that total is the amount of added government spending needed to cover Medicare for All. But that figure falls well short of standard projections of around $2.5 to $3.6 trillion in added costs per year—a figure Sanders himself has cited. In other words, only by lowballing the cost of the largest health care program in American history can Sanders credibly claim to have outlined a way to pay for his plan.

Sanders also outlines his plans to pay for a $16.3 trillion Green New Deal that would substantially overhaul American homes, vehicles, and communities without funding carbon capture and alternative energy technologies. To pay for the proposal, Sanders’s plan would not only tax fossil fuels and increase the corporate tax rate, but would also cut military spending $1.2 trillion “by scaling back military operations on protecting the global oil supply.”

Of the expected revenues, $10 trillion comes either from income taxes on wages from jobs Sanders expects the Green New Deal will create, lower safety net spending thanks to those jobs, or the sale of electricity by publicly owned power utilities. These benefits, however, might be outweighed by the economic costs of a Green New Deal.

“While there may be some gains from eliminating duplicate spending (e.g., safety net duplications under Medicare for All and the job guarantee), there would be an equal or greater than equal offsetting decrease in revenue from reductions in the tax base,” Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The same source of tax revenue is taxed multiple times in his plan, which has an interaction effect that lowers the revenue that can be gained from the entirety of his plan. Overall, the sum of each component tax is likely an upper bound for what can be raised realistically.”

Until this point, Sanders has been mum on how he would pay for many of his proposals. In so doing, he has avoided the fate of fellow 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who in November released a widely panned explanation of how she would pay for Medicare for All. That plan, alongside Warren’s eventual announcement that socialized health care would be phased in with a public option, likely contributed to the Warren campaign’s sinking fortunes.


Why Bernie Sanders’s Praise of Fidel Castro Matters

He’s defended virtually every Communist tyrant he’s ever been asked about over the past 50 years.

By DAVID HARSANYINational Review

Did you know that infamous Nazi Hermann Göring was a great lover of animals, a protector of birds, and head of the forestry service in Germany? Unless you’re a history buff, probably not. After all, almost no one feels the need to preface their comments about the Third Reich with “Sure, the authoritarianism was pretty bad, but, boy, that Göring was one hell of an environmentalist!”

Western elites, however, like to use this kind of absurd criterion whenever they talk about socialism, ignoring its vast failures and praising its piddling and alleged successes — you know, “Denmark,” but not Algeria, Albania, Angola, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burma, Cambodia, China, Congo, East Germany, Ethiopia, Hungary, Latvia, Mongolia, Romania, Somalia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, and so on and on.

And unlike many modern progressives, Bernie Sanders is old-school, still in the habit of praising old comrades. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?” Bernie told 60 Minutes this past weekend, reacting to criticism of his near-complete praise of the dictator back in the 1980s.

The answer is: Yes, massive literacy programs instituted using the machinery of a tyranny are, indeed, a bad thing. For one thing, you can institute massive literacy programs without authoritarianism, just as you can build impressive highways without fascism or alleviate most poverty without collectivism. Just ask the United States, or any other capitalistic nation with wealth and high literacy rates.

Even then, Sanders is regurgitating Communist propaganda. Cuba already had the highest literacy rate in Latin America before the revolution, and it basically kept trending in the same direction as every other nation in the region. When Castro triumphantly entered Havana in 1958, he didn’t bring truckloads of books; he ordered thousands of arrests and summary executions. When Castro “came into office,” he canceled elections, terminated the free press, and turned Cuba into the island prison that still exists today.

Cubans haven’t been able to freely read about their own oppression since Castro took power. (Cuba, though, has nearly eradicated the scourge of “inequality,” with most people making around 20 bucksa month.) And the only possible reason any American would feel the need to defend that dictator’s programs — Sanders once said Castro “educated the children, gave them health care” — is because they’re sympathetic to the cause.

What might be “helpful” in explaining “the nuances of [Sanders’s] views on the Soviet Union & the international left would be a degree of literacy about them from commentators,” CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski recently noted. Bernie, after all, “was always critical of authoritarianism in the Soviet Union.”

Can you imagine this kind of goodwill being extended to someone who had spent 50 years praising fascist regimes? It’s truly unfathomable. The Soviet Union was authoritarianism — it had no other way to exist. When Sanders was honeymooning in Moscow, refuseniks — fellow Jews he didn’t think enough about to mention once between the singing and drinking — were still begging to leave the place.

But okay, let’s concede for the sake of argument that Bernie was genuinely impressed by some of the commissars’ more liberal reform ideas. Sanders claimed that Americans could learn a lot from the Soviet Union. So which of these nuanced ideas did Bernie admire? Does he still admire them? It’s a shame there’s no one at CNN who has access to the candidate and can ask these questions.

When Vox’s Ezra Klein, joining the effort to reimagine Sanders as some innocuous idealist, argued that the now–Democratic Party favorite isn’t really running on socialist economic ideas (highly debatable) but rather on a “socialist ethic,” “a deep, animating belief that our political and economic system is unjust,” he inadvertently hit on an ugly truth.

There’s little doubt that Bernie believes collectivism — the discarding of property rights, for starters — offers a more equitable and decent option than capitalism. Bernie’s career has never been propelled by policy, most of them untenable here, but rather by class warfare.

And younger voters are, and often have been, more susceptible to the “ethics” of socialism. At this point in history, they’ve not seen the economic infeasibility of those ideas, many of the massive disasters spawned by them, or the coercion that’s inevitably required to make them “work.”

Or, maybe they don’t care.

A number of people – some on the right, who are increasingly comfortable with statist economic ideas — have told me that no one wants to relitigate the 1960s or Bernie’s old opinions. “Socialism” is not the pejorative it once was. Voters, they say, are uninterested in a candidate’s decades-old actions or positions.

I suspect there are a few thousand people in Florida who still care very much about Cuban totalitarianism and who might disagree. It’s also worth remembering that Bernie defended a Communist dictator this weekend — a dictator whose brother still holds millions of people hostage. Bernie has never walked back his positions.

No, Bernie isn’t Stalin, but he also isn’t some naïve college freshman high off of reading his first Chomsky screed. Bernie is a socialist. He’s been a lifelong defender of authoritarians. We’re debating his positions. If it were really about “Denmark,” Bernie wouldn’t have defended virtually every Communist tyrant he’s ever been asked about over the past 50 years. This is who he was, and more importantly, this is who he is right now.


A DISASTER OF A DEMOCRATIC DEBATE, WITH A TEMPORARY SIDE OF BLOOMBERG | OPINION

By Peter RoffNewsweek

According to many viewers, the presence of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the Democratic stage Wednesday night turned a debate between presidential wannabes into a dumpster fire.

That’s a colorful way to look at what transpired in Nevada, but it’s also wrong. The dumpster fire started weeks ago, when it became clear Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was going to be the man to beat on the way to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg’s appearance just added a lot more fuel.

While Bloomberg, a multibillionaire financial news executive and philanthropist funding liberal causes, may be the most electable candidate in the race, he’s also the one least likely to be nominated. He’s not surging so much as shimmering, a flash in the pan that for all practical purposes is likely soon to burn out.

His billions, even if he’s spending them on defeating Trump and other causes deemed worthy by the folks who write the editorials for The New York Times and like-minded publications, render him anathema to the party activists and allies who believe the wealth gap is an urgent crisis the nation must confront. He’s not a socialist. He believes in markets and defends the capitalist system, which, in the years since Barack Obama became president, has fallen into disfavor among many in the Democratic base.

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His policies regarding the need for people to take responsibility for their life choices runs into the victimization organization of the Democratic Party like a log into a buzz saw. He says things about the poor and minorities that make people uncomfortable or even angry. And he can’t win their votes while alienating them.

The people who believe that money is everything in American politics think that’s what makes Bloomberg a factor. They’re probably right. He couldn’t get as far as he has without spending something just south of $500 million in this election alone. But, as the song says, “money isn’t everything.” You have to have a compelling message to go with it, and Bloomberg showed on the stage Wednesday night that he does not. Sure, “Mike Gets It Done” is a great slogan, but there are a lot of folks asking themselves what the “it” he’ll get done as president is.

There are other problems with his candidacy that have been better described by writers more capable than I, so there’s no need to take him apart piece by piece. Suffice it to say, every problem he has on issues is encapsulated in one form or another in the difficulties he’s having on both sides of the issue of “stop-and-frisk.”

For many independents and people concerned with basic “kitchen table” issues like law and order, it was a crime prevention policy that made sense. And contrary to the misinformed opinion of critics, the practice itself is constitutional. The United States Supreme Court said so in 1968, which is the last time it had something to say on the matter.

The crime rate came way down once the political leadership in Manhattan decided that people who jump subway turnstiles just might be committing other crimes like rape, robbery and murder. New York became known as the safest big city in North America. By turning his back on “stop-and-frisk,” Bloomberg is in effect apologizing for effective law enforcement and keeping people safe.

That’s going to alienate many independents, whom he’d need to win the election, while liberal activists who think America’s police are out of control and, in a manner of speaking, at war with African-Americans and Latinos remain furious the policy ever existed. And that’s an issue for Bloomberg that won’t be going away anytime soon.

To put it another way, Bloomberg’s biggest problem is the things that make him electable also make him unelectable. He may continue to surge a bit in the national polls, but he’ll start in the back of the pack in the hunt for delegates and likely stay there. That is probably appropriate, since he isn’t really a Democrat. Then again, neither is the man most likely to win the party’s nomination, unless the superdelegates, the super PACs and the people who hold the real power in the Democratic Party can figure out a way to steal the nomination from him again.


Battle of the Boroughs

Column: And the fall of the political establishment

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

There are 329 million people in the United States of America. They are spread across 3.8 million square miles. The presidential race will be determined by the actions of three of them: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Michael Bloomberg. Each is a New Yorker. Each hails from a different borough. Trump was born in Queens, Sanders in Brooklyn, and Bloomberg, a native of Massachusetts, has worked and lived in Manhattan since 1973.

For a long time New York City politics stopped at the Hudson River. Now the nation faces the prospect of eight months of septuagenarian New Yorkers yelling at each other. The geographic, regional, ethnic, and racial diversity of America is nowhere visible. Religion is an exception: The first Jewish presidential nominee of a major party will also be, in all likelihood, the most hostile nominee toward Israel ever.

How did this happen?

Trump’s presence is the easiest to explain. For one thing, he’s the incumbent. He’s also the most significant political figure of the last 30 years. His appeal has never been limited to area code 212. The audience that bought his books and his board game, that visited his casinos and watched his television show, drew from all walks of life, all corners of the country. President Trump is from New York, he lived in a triplex in his black skyscraper on the most coveted piece of property in the city, but he isn’t really of New York.

The Manhattan crowd treated him like an oddity. He was an object of fun. Even today Bloomberg brags that he is wealthier than Trump. Rich and famous he may be, but Donald Trump never has been an insider. Since he first appeared on the scene in the late 1980s, his key constituents have been the type of men who build his hotels. He speaks their language, he shares their tastes, and he embodies their aspirations. That is why he connects with the coal miner in West Virginia, the farmer in Wisconsin, the factory worker in Ohio, the restaurant server in Pennsylvania.

The 2016 Republican primary was the first step in New York’s political takeover. Trump’s victory is instructive. He did it through savvy manipulation of media—his city’s stock and trade—and by identifying and winning over a growing pool of potential Republican voters whom GOP elites ignored. Disaffected Democrats, often without college degrees, alienated from a party defined by the values of liberal professionals and woke Millennials, are the most important element of the Trump coalition. They were up for grabs for a reason. The center left was hollowed out.

Plenty of center-left Democrats remain, of course. The Democrats would not have won the House in 2018 without them. The problem is the communications apparatus of the Democratic Party—the cable networks, social media, newspapers, and public radio—is to the left of the median voter. And media deliver the cues for national politicians. Media set the agenda. The headlines are filled with discussions of the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, the 1619 Project, trans rights, “Abolish I.C.E.,” Russian collusion, Mothers of the Movement, the March for Our Lives. This discourse titillates the left. It drives the rest of us away.

Four years ago Trump leveraged his committed supporters against a divided field. The institutional party couldn’t stop him, partly because it was unable and partly because it didn’t want to. Which institution in America today, after all, is willing to deny “the people” its choice? Trump won a plurality of votes and the nomination. When that happened, the GOP faced a decision: Trump or Clinton. You know the rest.

Bernie Sanders is following a similar path. He defeated the competition in Iowa and New Hampshire with around a quarter of the vote. His splintered opposition prevents the anti-Bernie Democrats from consolidating around a single candidate. Not since 1992 has a party nominated someone who failed to win either of the first two contests. Not in the modern era has a party denied the nomination to the winner of the most delegates. (Walter Mondale entered the 1984 convention with less than a majority of pledged delegates, but got the nomination.) That is why Sanders is in a commanding position.

And why the third New Yorker, Bloomberg, is lighting $400 million on fire trying to prevent the Democrats from nominating a democratic socialist. He may not be able to close the deal. It is telling that Trump, Sanders, and Bloomberg have flexible relationships with the political parties they seek to control. Trump has changed his party registration five times, most recently coming full circle to Republican in 2012. Bernie Sanders has never registered as a Democrat. Bloomberg has been a Democrat, a Republican, an independent, and, since 2018, a Democrat again.

The top two vote-getters in the 2016 Republican primary were Trump and Ted Cruz. Both men ran against the party establishment. The top two vote-getters in the 2020 Democratic primary are Sanders and Pete Buttigieg (so far). Try finding more concrete evidence that voters want outsiders than in the Democratic embrace of a man who praised the Moscow subway after a visit to the Soviet Union, and a 38-year-old who spent eight years as mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city.

The power of media, collapse of the center left, revolt against the political establishment, and a realignment of campaign finance that privileges small-dollar contributors on the one hand and self-funding billionaires on the other have elevated the Big Apple to preeminence. This election will be the equivalent of a Subway Series, a UFC fight at the Garden between Norman Thomas and Frank Costanza. In such an absurd situation Larry David becomes a contested symbol, imitating Sanders on Saturday Night Live as Trump tweets clips of him wearing a MAGA hat on Curb Your Enthusiasm. And the bartender from the Bronx waits in the wings.

Only in New York, kids. Only in New York.


Beware Of Faithless Electors

By Richard A. EpsteinHoover Institution

As part of their populist platforms, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have vowed to get rid of the Electoral College, so that the U.S. President is chosen by a direct popular vote. Likewise, Pete Buttigieghas also pledged support for the initiative, with Amy Klobuchar indicating her openness to the proposal. That structural change, if made, would profoundly impact all future political campaigns, as candidates would ignore former swing states in order to run up tallies in populous places like California, Florida, New York, and Texas. The consequences that would follow from such a dramatic realignment of voting power would greatly increase the risk of election fraud, such that the ensuing nationwide recounts would make Bush v. Gore look like a modest political skirmish.

Progressives are highly unlikely to gain sufficient support to implement this major reform through constitutional amendment. But right now, two major Supreme Court cases—Colorado Department of State v. Baca and Chiafalo v. Washington—pose the serious risk of undermining the integrity of the Electoral College by changing the long-established practice that all electors must vote as a bloc to support the presidential nominee of their party. In 48 states, the entire state follows that winner-take-all mandate. In Maine and Nebraska, the winner-take-all system is done by congressional district.

But in the aftermath of the November 2016 election, which Trump won by 306 to 232 electoral votes, both of the named electors in each aforementioned case were committed to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton but did not vote for her. In Colorado, Michael Baca, a Clinton elector, cast his ballot for then Ohio governor John Kasich; in Washington, Peter Bret Chiafalo voted for Republican Colin Powell. These two votes were not isolated events, as ten electors followed the same path in an attempt to block Donald Trump from becoming president by persuading enough Republican electors to defect so that Trump’s total would fall below 270 votes. Their acts of defiant independence brought forth prompt responses. Colorado replaced Baca with a new elector who voted for Clinton; Washington fined Chiafalo $1,000 for his action.

The intellectual leader of this movement to undo the Electoral College is Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, whose Equal Citizen’s initiative has spurred the campaign to transform the American electoral system. Taking a page from Lessig Equal Citizen’s playbook, Baca and Chiafalo describe themselves as Hamilton Electors, because they insist that their actions are meant to return the Electoral College to the initial prominence ascribed to it by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 68. Hamilton regarded popular democracy as a debased form of government, in contrast to the elitist republican form of government. The former relied heavily on direct elections; the latter used more complex indirect elections. He wrote: “And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place. . . . Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.”

In essence, the original Electoral College required that each state would have its own mini-deliberative sessions until the electors made up their mind. This setup  is patterned on the Catholic College of Cardinals, which uses a similar voting method to pick the next pope. But there is a vast difference between the two devices. The Cardinals who vote are not the agents of anyone, so it is proper for them to be able to vote their own consciences. But the electors in a presidential election are the agents of the voters who selected them. Faithless electors could therefore betray the wish of the voters who selected them.

Hence the practice quickly arose for electors to “pledge” themselves to the candidate whose slate of electors they joined. As noted in McPherson v. Blacker (1892), “experience soon demonstrated” that these electors “were so chosen simply to register the will of the appointing power in respect of a particular candidate.” Sixty years later, Ray v Blair (1952) held that the Executive Committee of Alabama was within its rights when it refused to certify Blair as a primary elector because he refused to “pledge to aid and support ‘the nominees of the National Convention of the Democratic Party for President and Vice-President of the United States.’” In so doing, the Court rejected the view that the complex Twelfth Amendment, passed in 1804 and which called for electors to “meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President,” necessarily gave them the same discretion that Hamilton had contemplated in Federalist 68.

Ray might be distinguished from Baca and Chiafalo for two reasons: first, Ray involved a primary election contest, and second, it did not specify any sanctions that could be lodged against a certified elector who voted his own conscience. But neither of these points should make the slightest difference. The principles of electoral integrity that apply to primaries carry over to general elections, where the stakes are even higher.

In addition, Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” The words “shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” cannot be sensibly read to say that the only power of the state is to make the appointment, when it is certainly necessary and proper that it imposes restrictions that ensure that the appointed elector will follow the instructions of the state legislature.

Nonetheless, this Clause is given just that truncated meaning by Equal Citizens, which writes: “of ‘electors’—that is, choosers—to make their own free choice, as politicians of both parties have recognized.”

That argument should be emphatically rejected. It should never be the case that the potential elector who makes known his independence before selection can be rightly denied his place, but the savvy elector who conceals his intention before being chosen is entitled thereafter to vote his conscience and disregard his oath.

In this connection, Colorado therefore was fully within its rights to pull the errant Baca from his place and appoint a substitute. Full relief against this constitutional abuse cannot be obtained by any lesser means, so that removal and replacement is needed to stop the ex post defection. Washington state, in contrast, did not exercise its full constitutional power when it imposed a small fine to achieve that same end. But that small fine is little deterrent to future defections, so Washington should adopt the Colorado solution. Otherwise, the risk that mass defections could turn any election into a free-for-all becomes too great.

Ironically, these faithless electors purport to return to some originalist conception of the Constitution. But their unilateral actions do not get us to that place, given that they reserve the right to defect without participating in any collective deliberation, past or future. Moreover, if that constitutional transformation were accepted, then the entire system of selecting electors would become hopelessly politicized, with little chance that Hamilton’s elites would control.

Right now, the selection of electors is no big deal. But if their individual views were to count, then voters would want to know their electors’ (nonbinding) intentions to determine whether they would defect from the party’s nominee once chosen. At this point, the entire selection process would become far more complex and indeterminate. Just who would choose them? And once chosen, could these electors resist powerful interest group pressures to change their views? A new round of campaigns would begin before the vote took place, and continue nonstop in close elections until the votes were cast in December.

People might even insist that their electors actually deliberate, instead of just mouth-off, which could further postpone the final tally until those sessions were concluded. That delay could in turn postpone the transition between presidents, inviting yet further discord. Increased popular disaffection would undermine presidential legitimacy. And for what?

To be sure, today’s practices unmistakably deviate from the design of the Founders. But such transformations are common to our constitutional history. Judicial review, which gives the Supreme Court final say over the validity of all federal and state laws, forms no part of the original constitutional plan, but was instituted by judicial decision from an early date—most notably in Marbury v. Madison(1803), and Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (1816). As I argued in The Classical Liberal Constitution, these decisions have become embedded in our prescriptive constitution through long-use. That deliberative process protects the nation from imprudent convulsions, which would follow if Hamilton’s misguided elitism somehow became law.

The Supreme Court should reject emphatically this unwise invitation to rewrite our nation’s history. And when it does, calmer heads in the political arena will reconfirm the wisdom of its ways.


Wisconsin Parents Sue To Keep Schools From Hiding Their Kids’ Gender Dysphoria

Wisconsin's second-largest school district won't back off a policy of keeping minor students' transgender experimentation secret from their parents despite a new lawsuit filed Tuesday.

By Joy PullmannThe Federalist

Wisconsin’s second-largest school district so far won’t back off a policy of keeping minor students’ transgender experimentation secret from their parents despite a new lawsuit filed Tuesday.

A group of parents represented by Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty sued after the Madison Metropolitan School District refused to alter its policy of concealing childrens’ transgender behavior and related medical records from parents, no matter how young the child is. The district oversees children as young as preschoolers, and teaches gender identity politics to all ages, which research suggests may contribute to children identifying as transgender.

Among other things, the district’s policy at the heart of the lawsuit states: “School staff shall not disclose any information that may reveal a student’s gender identity to others, including parents or guardians and other school staff, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.” It also says school staff will “discuss with the student contingency plans in the event that their privacy is compromised.”

Fourteen parents of children who attend Madison schools sued on grounds the policy violates their parental rights and longstanding requirements for parent approval of much less affecting activities such as attending prom and taking Tylenol. One of their court filings notes the district’s deceptions include “to evade the state law that requires Wisconsin schools to give parents access to all education records, the [Gender Support Plan] form directs teachers to keep this paperwork ‘in your confidential files, not in student records.’”

“MMSD prioritizes working in collaboration with families to support our students and it is always our preferred method of support. MMSD must also prioritize the safety and wellbeing of every individual student who walks through its doors each day. It is with this focus, the district stands by its guidance document on transgender and non-binary students, and recognizes its tremendous responsibility to uphold the right of every child to be educated in a safe, all-inclusive and nondiscriminatory learning environment,” said a Tuesday statement from Public Information Officer Tim LeMonds in response to the lawsuit. LeMonds said the district wouldn’t discuss the lawsuit until its lawyers had reviewed it.

Madison schools oversee approximately 27,000 students and spend $15,000 per student per year, according to federal records. On the latest state tests, which are of lower quality than independent tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 61 percent of Madison’s students were not proficient in reading and 59 percent were not proficient in math. In both cases, Madison students scored below state averages.

What Madison Schools Do Teach Kids

Madison’s transgender policy document tells teachers and staff how to handle a variety of LGBT issues. It says gender dysphoric children may wear opposite-sex clothing and participate in opposite-sex locker and changing rooms. “Transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive students may request time to address their class about their gender identity and pronouns,” the guide says.

In 2017 at a California public school, a kindergartener did this sort of “gender reveal” to classmates, who went home afterwards with tears and confusion to parents who had not been informed of the event beforehand. Last year in a Madison elementary school, a male science teacher showed all the K-5 students a “gender reveal” video to come out to the children as transgender.

Madison’s policy document tells teachers explicitly to “Teach about gender! Include books and lessons that are inclusive of all identities and send messages of empowerment to students.” A district website guiding teachers how to do this provides book lists and lesson plans from a nationwide program called Welcoming Schools, run by the LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign.

The Madison schools’ “top picture books” list from HRC recommends titles for preschoolers through early elementary children, including the book by transgender celebrity teen Jazz Jennings “I Am Jazz,” which tells children they can have boy brains in girl bodies. HRC and the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, sponsors annual readings of “I Am Jazz” in public schools and libraries.

Madison’s recommended classroom list also includes a picture book for grades one to three about Harvey Milk, “Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag.” Milk repeatedly had sex with underage boys, according to his biographers.

Another Madison schools-recommended book, for grades preschool to two, is titled “Jacob’s New Dress.” For grades four to six — children ages nine through twelve — the district recommends the book “Queer Heroes: Meet 53 LGBTQ Heroes From Past and Present!” and one for grades five to nine the list summarizes this way: “Zenobia July is starting a new life in Maine with her aunts. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she’s able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was.”

A parent whose kindergartener attends a Madison elementary school sent The Federalist screenshots of a coloring book he says his daughter was sent home with for Black Lives Matter Week this February. Besides informing five-year-olds what transgender and queer mean, it also celebrates the Black Panthers and and the long-standing Communist Party goal of “Disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” The district’s transgender policy also pledges it to “model gender-inclusive language that…disrupts the gender binary.”

Selected coloring book pages that match what the father sent are below, obtained from BlackLivesMatteratSchool.com. That website also shows videos of elementary schoolers in Milwaukee public schools, Wisconsin’s largest school district, waving a “Pan-African” flag instead of an American flag. The man who inspired the flag says its red stripe represents communism (“the reds of the world”). Both the coloring book and the recommended LGBT books equate African-Americans’ equal rights with LGBT special rights, even though race is inborn and unchangeable while sexuality is a fluid behavior for which researchers still cannot find a genetic component.

LeMonds said the coloring book was likely a single teacher’s lesson decision and was not recommended by the school district like the LGBT books above.

As a result of the district’s social conditioning efforts with kids, “Now being an [LGBT] ally gains kids social capital, and now being an ally is cool,” says Kristi Nelson, a Madison school psychologist, in a video about the Welcoming Schools program. This is the kind of social environment a Brown University researcher found may contribute to a “social contagion” in which children who are often sad or distressed for other reasons find desperately needed positive attention in identifying as transgender.

This Sort of Thing Is Cropping Up Everywhere

This isn’t just happening in Madison, which has long been a far-left city. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instrution recommends similar resources from LGBT activist group GLSEN. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which oversees Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, in 2017 upheld a Wisconsin transgender student’s demand to use opposite-sex bathrooms and locker rooms.

“The decision makes the 7th Circuit the first appeals court to interpret both Title IX and the Constitution as protecting transgender students from discrimination — and requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity,” reported the Washington Post.

Luke Berg, an attorney representing parents through WILL, said in an interview, “I haven’t done an extensive survey in Wisconsin although I’ve heard that other districts have similar policies. Madison’s is probably the worst but I think a lot of these groups are telling schools that this is what they have to do, that this is legally required, that students have a legal right to exclude their parents.”

District Policy May Artificially Inflate Trans Identification

The suing parents seek a preliminary injunction to keep Madison’s transgender policy from affecting children as the lawsuit is worked out. That injunction, however, would not apply to the LGBT picture books, coloring books, and other materials Madison teachers are showing kids in class. It would only apply to the district’s policy of hiding children’s dysphoria from parents after the dysphoria has manifested.

In their court briefs, the parents’ lawyers note that 80-90 of children who identify as transgender ultimately choose to live as their sex — if they are not given transgender hormones. Only 20 percent of children whose bodies are mutilated with hormones and surgery before puberty ultimately choose to live as their sex.

“So, by enabling and encouraging children to transition at school without parental consent, the District may be pushing children down that path, causing gender dysphoria to persist when it otherwise would have desisted,” the parent’s injunction application says.

A hearing on the case is likely by April, with a court decision expected a month or two afterward, Berg said.


YES, TRUMP IS OBNOXIOUS. AND IF PELOSI WERE LESS SO, THE DEMOCRATS MIGHT NOT BE LOSING

By Peter RoffNewsweek

It’s been a week and people are still fretting over the president’s most recent address to Congress. That’s unusual. State of the Union addresses are usually forgotten as soon as they’re over, dismissed as a lot of hot air and bluster that will not affect events as they move forward.

Not the president’s latest. Democrats are still complaining. To be fair, they’re on the money when they say it seemed more like a political rally than an official state occasion, but what did they expect? Donald Trump is a promoter at heart and a reality TV star, and he used every rhetorical device at his disposal to take his message right to the American people.

It worked, and well. If you have any doubt, consider the number of people who don’t like Trump still whining about it. The louder and longer they complain, the better things went for the president, something his post-speech bump in his approval rating demonstrates. For the first time, Democrats may be having to face the possibility that they’ve been farther out on a limb than is safe.

Consider that the enduring image of the speech, the one firmly fixed in voters’ minds, has nothing to do with Trump or his presidency or any of the made-for-TV moments involving his guests in the gallery. The one thing people remember, the one thing they see in their heads when they think about the speech, is the look on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s face when she ripped her copy into pieces as soon as he was finished.Ads by scrollerads.com

The best thing the Democrats have going for them headed into the next election is how unlikable, how obnoxious the president can be. As I’ve written before, he’s a living, breathing reminder to the rest of the country why they dislike New Yorkers so much. All the opposition had to do was sit there and smile, and they’d be favored to win in 2020.

Thanks to Pelosi, that advantage has, at least for the moment, been lost. She gave it away because of her self-righteous belief, shared by far too many in her party’s leadership, that most of the country hates Trump like she does.

“Flyover Country,” as the coastal elites deride it, is not San Francisco, Chicago or New York. You don’t have to look at the 2016 electoral map to see which candidates won what counties to see that. And that, at least in the current system, matters because that’s how we elect presidents. You can’t win just by running the numbers up in the major cities controlled by one party. You must win in Utah and Iowa and Alabama too.

The Republicans are having a field day with the footage of Pelosi tearing up Trump’s address. She tore up, they say, the story of a reunited military family. Of a little girl given a chance for a better future by an opportunity scholarship that will get her out of a failing public school. Of a 100-year-old newly promoted Air Force veteran who served his country faithfully in three wars over 30 years—even while it was doing him disservice after disservice because of the color of his skin—and of his grandson who wants to soar into the stars.

The Democrats are complaining that’s unfair. It’s not. Those stories were just as much a part of the speech as Trump’s list of his administration’s accomplishments, which she and her fellow party members write off as “lies.” They’ve gotten away with that for so long they’ve forgotten they need to address the opposition rather than ignore it.

Pelosi and company thought they had the upper hand. They’re coming to realize they don’t—and they don’t know what to do about it. No less than Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor emeritus who used to be the go-to guy for the official liberal position, has defected to Trump and is calling for Pelosi’s head, along with that of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. This is neither incidental nor inconsequential. And, when coupled with top political consultant James Carville‘s recent comments about how silly (or a word to that effect) the presidential candidates’ platforms are, should be sending up red flags all over the place.

Republicans, meanwhile, need to prepare for the moment—which should happen right after New Hampshire—for the Pelosi and company to realize they just might lose, and lose big, in 2020. If they do, things could get ugly.


This must not stand! (continued)

The rules for impeachment must be changed to save the Republic

By Dr. Larry Fedewadrlarryonline.com

In my last column of this topic, I urged the President to sue the House of Representatives for malfeasance on the basis of two unconstitutional actions with regard to the recent articles of impeachment passed by the House:

1) denial of due process as protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in a procedure which, if upheld by the US Senate, would inflict irreparable harm on the plaintiff by depriving him of his livelihood, reputation and public office, and

2) by re-defining the Constitutional designation of “high crimes and misdemeanors” as the sole rationale for impeachment to include

  1. a) allegations based on hearsay evidence which are too broad to be provable (“abuse of power”) and
  2. b) designation of the time-honored practice of Executive Privilege as “obstruction of justice”.

I have since been advised that, while these arguments may have merit, the Roberts Supreme Court has shown itself too timid to adjudicate balance of power issues if there is any other option available. In this case, such an option exists in the ambiguity of the constitutional language concerning impeachment. It is therefore unlikely to accept this case.

While I am still an advocate of testing the strategy above, it seems wise to state the case in a broader context. What follows is a case for changing the rules of impeachment – by whatever means. This case stands even if the current impeachment reaches and is resolved by the Senate. The rules must be changed for all future adventures of this kind.

The facts: 

  • The impeachment actions of both 1999 (versus William Jefferson Clinton) and 2019 (versus Donald John Trump) have proven that both Republican and Democrat members of both Houses of Congress cast their votes primarily along party lines rather than on the merits of the case as envisioned by the Constitution.

The threats:

  • This fact can only be interpreted as leading to a change in the governmental structure of the United States of America from a republic to a parliamentary system, where the president serves at the pleasure of the Congress. The “will of the people” as currently implemented by the Electoral College – which follows the votes of respective states – will therefore become moot in the case where one party controls the presidency and the other the Congress. If the Congress does not agree with the President, they can impeach and convict him on any basis that is handy.
  • If the president in such a case were so inclined, he might resist being removed from office by exercising his authority as Commander-in-Chief, declaring martial law and calling up the military to enforce it. Presto! The USA is now a banana republic whose government is beholden to the military and one inch away from dictatorship.

The solution: 

  • The current rules for the impeachment process must change. Congress has again proven that it is not capable of providing a just and morally defensible procedure for impeaching a president.
  • Justification: When the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were passed in the eighteenth century, none of the institutions which are now integral to our government even existed. The United States itself barely existed. There were no political parties, no Supreme Court, no Senate, no House of Representatives, and the President was the hero of the Revolutionary War, a soldier and farmer, not a politician. They had no earthly idea what an impeachment should look like.
  • So, we need a new set of rules for the impeachment process. How do we get these new rules? The easiest way would be to have the Supreme Court rule AGAINST certain features of current practice – e.g. there must be proof of a crime, guilt must be established by the standard rules of evidence, disagreements about the exercise of Executive Privilege must be adjudicated by the Supreme Court (on an expedited basis), penalties for perjury must be enforced – in other words, the Clinton impeachment protocol could be established as standard.
  • The other means are more complicated (e.g. a constitutional convention), less reliable (e.g. a new law passed by Congress and signed by the president), or more protracted (e.g. a Constitutional Amendment).

My concern is not to protect the current president. Rather, I am looking for a means to protect the nation from partisan usurpation of ultimate power, which this case portends if allowed to stand.

Partisanship has proven to be an effective means for limiting the power of one group or view of specific issues from dominating our government. It is not, however, a useful basis for taking over the government, and the last two impeachment cases have shown that partisan loyalty, not pursuit of justice, has governed the votes of the members of both Houses of Congress.

Our democratic elections are thus based on this very fragile foundation. A new set of rules has to be developed and adopted in order to preserve our democracy — whether by the Supreme Court, a Constitutional Convention, legislation, or a constitutional amendment. Otherwise, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end of checks and balances.

We cannot let this happen. But, if the current House impeachment process is allowed to stand as the prevailing precedent, our democratic elections are doomed to fall.


FOR RIGHT REASONS AND WRONG, REPUBLICAN SENATORS SHOULD STICK WITH TRUMP | OPINION

By Peter RoffNewsweek

Last Thursday, after considerable delay, the United States Senate began to organize itself for the trial of the President of the United States. Things might have moved faster—28 days elapsed between the Democrats in Congress voting to impeach the president and the two articles being sent to the upper chamber—but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi apparently had to wait for gold-tipped pens embossed with her name to arrive so she could give them away as souvenirs to committee chairs and impeachment managers.

Kidding aside, it’s hard to tell just who is serious about the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, or if this is all about politics by other means. Some have argued, with some justification, that the effort to see him removed from office began even before he was sworn in, and that we’ve experienced two and more years of charges in search of an underlying crime.

The upcoming trial seems Kafkaesque. The president stands accused of no crime. As the White House put it Saturday, “The Articles of Impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their President.” Going further, the president called the entire affair “a “brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election—now just months away. The highly partisan and reckless obsession with impeaching the President began the day he was inaugurated and continues to this day.”

Be that as it may, the constitutional responsibilities and oaths taken last week by members of the Senate require the formalities of a trial to be observed. One hopes they will all—Democrats and Republicans alike—adhere to the oaths they have sworn to be fair and impartial in their consideration of the evidence compiled by the House and that their primary concern will be to see justice prevail. Some will say that means the president will be convicted as charged. Others say it means he will be acquitted. Some, including sources close to the President’s legal team, have suggested the very question is moot, arguing the articles as approved by the House are, on their face, constitutionally invalid, since they fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatsoever—let alone the “High Crimes or Misdemeanors” identified as impeachable offenses in the U.S. Constitution.

That argument may be persuasive to those senators genuinely undecided – especially if they observe the oaths they’ve taken. This seems certainly true where the allegation Trump engaged in obstruction of Congress by refusing to allow senior aides under subpoena to appear and testify. Disputes of this nature, when they arise, are typically resolved by negotiation between the executive and legislative branch or, in the extreme, by the federal courts. This time congressional Democrats, citing a need for urgency— belied by their 28-day wait before sending the articles to the Senate—preferred to act on their own. When one target of a subpoena tried to go to court, the Democrats withdrew them, choosing instead to criminalize what most constitutional scholars would see as an all-too-typical disagreement between two constitutionally co-equal branches of government. Based on the record on such issues, it’s easy to see how but hard to believe possible the Senate could vote 100 to 0 for acquittal on the obstruction charge.

Unfortunately, this is not a time in the political life of the nation when “the better angels of our nature”, govern the actions of our elected leaders. Instead, the Senate’s 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 independents who caucus with them are highly polarized along ideological lines. The pressure, in particular, is on seven Republicans who are either in cycle or retiring to join with the Democrats in calling for witnesses and to consider issues and affidavits that are not part of the record compiled at the direction of committee chairmen Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and Speaker Pelosi.

Just four need to break ranks to effectively put Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in charge. What they will do depends on whether they are guided by politics or principle.

“This impeachment trial is not going to convince anyone about how they are going to vote in the next election,” Ron Bonjean—a well-respected former GOP congressional leadership senior staffer—told me. “It’s not going to change anyone’s mind.”

He’s probably right, oaths of impartiality on both sides of the aisle be damned. “Sticking by the president is an affirmation that this is largely a political exercise by the House Democratic leadership, who know the president will be acquitted,” Bonjean, who is now a partner at ROKK Strategies, said. “Republicans should stick with the president because he’s likely going to win re-election. Those in cycle may have problems with their base if they get on the other side of this.”

Bonjean’s right on this too. Numerous polls show Trump’s approval rating above 90 percent among Republicans. The appearance of perception that any Republican senator seeking re-election is being disloyal to the president during his trial almost certainly guarantees a primary challenge. Sticking with Trump is the right thing to do politically, which is how these decisions are generally made by those actually in the arena.

A second—and, regrettably, secondary consideration—is that the president and his attorneys appear to be right on the legal issues involved. But raising this flag would, of course, imply Trump, even if he showed bad judgment in how the whole business involving aid to Ukraine was handled, has been right more than he has been wrong. And we know how loath chattering classes on both sides of the aisle are to do that.


State of the Union: A Shakespearean drama

The President answers his white-shirted enemies

By Dr. Larry Fedewadrlarryonline.com

The 2020 State of the Union address had all the elements of a Shakespearean drama. The setting was filled with tension and made for television. The primary picture showed the hero flanked on his right by his loyal acolyte, Vice President Mike Pence, and on the left by his archenemy, the little old lady of the Left, Nancy Pelosi, as he eloquently, at times even poetically, told America what he had accomplished with the responsibility the voters had given him while his enemies had been trying to destroy his presidency.

And it was quite a list! He has enhanced every facet of America’s welfare – from repatriating American manufacturing for both economic and national security reasons, to job creation, trade treaties, rebuilding the military, upgrading veterans’ health care, protecting our borders, to encouraging respect for the law enforcement community, protection of the right to bear arms, to the right to life of the unborn, the rights of parents to choose the education of their own children, to the fight against opioid addiction, human trafficking, and many more  issues.

Half the room went wild – while the other half sat stoically on their hands, grim-faced and cold-hearted. They were represented symbolically by the action of the little old lady of the Left, as she sat in full view of the audience and the camera. Watching her was fascinating. Most of the time, she sat there with a slight scowl on her face, occasionally shaking her head at some statement by the speaker. Her torture had started when the President ignored her out-stretched hand after he handed her a copy of the speech. (One could hardly blame him for refusing to shake the hand which has tried to kill his office, his reputation, the rest of his life.)  He was not going to forgive and forget this sworn enemy.

After that, she steadfastly avoided standing to applaud each remarkable achievement being noted, frequently squirming, sometimes trying to get Mr. Pence’s attention – which was also ignored.

Then came the salutes by Mr. Trump to a series of individuals. First, she hesitated; then she realized that she was not against these heroic people; so, she jumped up and applauded. Thereafter, she could be seen each time trying to decide whether to join the room or not.

One “not” was the President’s attention to a two-year-old child who had been the first survivor of a premature birth at 21 weeks. A poignant moment not shared by Grandmother Pelosi.

In the end, she stood and ceremoniously tore her copy of the speech in half in full view of the camera — and the nation. A fitting end by a hateful woman toward this hated man.

Indeed, the most impressive feature of the entire Democrat party in that hall last night was the tangible hatred demonstrated toward the President and all he stands for — and, by extension, all those people who stand with him.

This attitude was crystalized by the President’s attention to Rush Limbaugh, who was sitting in the gallery next to First Lady, Melanie Trump. Limbaugh announced last Monday that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

When Mr. Trump announced the presentation to Mr. Limbaugh of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the popular, but visibly astonished, 69-year-old broadcast pioneer, some of the Democrats started shouting, “No! No!” Their hatred might be understood since the younger ones were raised by liberal parents who considered Rush Limbaugh the archenemy of all that was sacred to them. But there is no denying that he is the most listened-to radio host of all time and the “father” of a whole new genre called “conservative talk show hosts” (of which this writer is one). It was not the time or place to demonstrate against this stricken giant.

In all, the 2020 State of the Union speech by President Donald John Trump was perhaps the most riveting, dramatic and exciting speech of its kind in recent memory, if not in American history.

Postscript: In the ultimate irony, the first Democrat response featured the Governor of Michigan, whose theme was that the Dems get things done, while the Republicans just talk. After 75 minutes of listening to the President give us a list of “promises kept” which may be the longest and most comprehensive list of actions by any president in American history in contrast to the “Do-Nothing” Democrats. She exemplified the fact that the Dems simply cannot seem to hear anything this President says.


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