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Reagan Legacy

That Sense That Democrats Don’t See Trump as a Unique Problem

By JIM GERAGHTYNational Review

Over at The Bulwark, Tim Miller more or less pleads for Democrats to start acting like they mean it when they claim President Trump is a unique danger to American values.

He writes: “I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of Democrats don’t actually view Trump as a unique crisis. Or rather: They don’t view him as being more than a difference in degree from the “emergency-crisis” Republicans always represent. For these Democrats, all of Republican/conservatism has been inevitably leading to Trump and the only difference between Trump and, say, George H.W. Bush, is that Trump says the quiet part out loud.”

If we want a better politics and more effective government, political leaders and activists will need to rediscover the ability to differentiate among their opponents on the other side of the aisle. From the perspective of conservatives, American politics was better when the Democratic Leadership Council was pushing for ideas like welfare reform, charter schools, public school choice, and middle-class tax cuts in that party. From the perspective of liberals, American politics was better when the Republican Main Street Partnership was a more significant force in the GOP, pushing for the most pragmatic options and trying to find policy solutions that wouldn’t freak out soccer moms. While you may want to defeat as many of the opposing party’s candidates as possible in November, you’re probably going to have to work with some of them after the elections. If the Trump presidency offers any lesson for the country, it’s that once everybody’s considered to be as bad as the devil, then nobody is treated like they’re as bad as the devil.

HBO host Bill Maher realized the mistake on the eve of the 2016 election: “I know liberals made a big mistake because we attacked your boy [George W.] Bush like he was the end of the world. And he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way. I gave Obama a million dollars because I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much or yours. Or John McCain. They were honorable men who we disagreed with and we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf and that was wrong. But this is real. This is going to be way different.”

This Democratic presidential primary has been fascinating to watch from the perspective of the Right, because every once in a while, one of the trailing candidates makes a point that leaves conservatives nodding their heads. Tulsi Gabbard acknowledges some moral complexity on the issue of abortion and vents frustration with American overseas military operations that never seem to end satisfactorily, Marianne Williamson warns of an intangible but real crisis in the country’s spiritual health, and Andrew Yang seems like a bright guy who’s thought long and hard about the ramifications of growing automation in our economy. Conservatives are extremely unlikely to vote for those candidates, but you can see room for a productive dialogue. A Republican president who had to work with a Democratic House of Representatives full of Gabbards, Williamsons, and Yangs could probably reach a lot of compromises and productive agreements.

Meanwhile, much more prominent and influential Democratic figures keep acting like once a Democrat is in the White House again, they’ll never need to compromise with Republicans. They keep offering magic wand solutions that ignore every likely obstacle — wrangling a diverse House caucus, getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, injunctions from federal courts, a Supreme Court decision that the idea violates the Constitution.


Medicare For All: Progressive Campaign Killer

Column: Harris and Warren fell for the fool's gold of socialized medicine

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Pundits have a ready explanation when one of their favorites loses or ends a campaign: The voters just didn’t get to know the candidate the way media do. He or she was too wonky, or eager to please, or insular, or revealing, or uncertain for the masses. The electoral process made it impossible for him or her to connect with voters. The classic example is Hillary Clinton, who has reintroduced herself to the public umpteen times over the decades. A friend who knows her once told me I would like Clinton if only I got to meet her informally. I had a good laugh at that one.

A similar lament greeted the news that Kamala Harris had dropped out of the Democratic primary. Last year CNN ranked Harris first among the contenders. Now it’s back to the Senate. The Washington Free Beacon compiled a short video of media types saddened by Harris’s departure. A New York Times op-ed asked, “Did We Ever Know the Real Kamala Harris?” Writers for the Washington Post said that Harris failed because she lacked “a theory of the case” and wasn’t able “to explain why she was running for president.” Yes, it helps to have a reason for your candidacy beyond media reports that you check all the right boxes. But the argument that Harris flopped because of a failure to communicate lets her off easy.

The Times piece didn’t mention the policy initiative upon which Harris launched her campaign: Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All legislation that would eliminate private and employer-based health insurance. Harris signed on as a cosponsor to the bill last April. It’s haunted her ever since. Medicare for All might look like the sort of “big, structural change” that sets progressive hearts aflutter. For most voters it causes arrhythmia.

The proposal is liberals’ fool’s gold. It appears valuable but is actually worthless. It gets the progressive politician coming and going: Not only do voters recoil at the notion of having their insurance canceled, but candidates look awkward and inauthentic when they begin to move away from the unpopular idea they mistakenly embraced. That’s what happened to Harris earlier this year, and is happening to Elizabeth Warren today.

Harris moved into second place nationwide after her ambush of Joe Biden over busing during the first Democratic debate. But her position soon began to erode. Her wavering position on eliminating private insurance dissatisfied voters. She had raised her hand in support of the policy during the debate, but the next day she walked it back. Then she walked back the walk back. Then, ahead of the second debate, she released an intermediary plan that allowed for certain forms of private insurance. She stumbled again when Biden called her to account for the cost of the bill. Tulsi Gabbard’s pincer move on incarceration, using data first reported by the Free Beacon, made matters worse. By September, Harris had fallen to fifth place.

This was around the time that Warren, bolstered by adoring press coverage and strong retail politics, began her ascent. For a moment in early October, she pulled slightly ahead of Biden in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls. Her rivals sensed an opportunity in her refusal to admit that middle-class taxes would have to increase to pay for Medicare for All. The attacks took their toll. Support for Warren fell. She then released an eye-popping payment scheme that failed to satisfy her critics. In early November, she released a “first term” plan that would “transition” the country to Medicare for All. In so doing, she conceded the unreality of her initial proposal. She came across as sophistical and conniving. Her descent continues.

The national frontrunner, Joe Biden, and the early state leader, Pete Buttigieg, both reject Medicare for All in favor of a public option that would allow people to buy into Medicare. They reflect the polls. Democrats support a public option at higher levels than they do Medicare for All. A November Des Moines Register poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers found that only 36 percent supported a Medicare for All plan that would cancel private health insurance. More than half supported some other alternative to a one-size-fits-all universal government program. The November Quinnipiac survey found that 71 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners were for a Medicare buy-in. That is 12 points higher than the support for Medicare for All.

One reason for Bernie Sanders’s polling stability is that Democrats remain open to the idea of Medicare for All. They just want a candidate to be direct about the costs and tradeoffs associated with the program. Voters in general are not as credulous. When told that Medicare for All would mean additional taxes and the end of private insurance, voters reject it.

A Global Strategy Group poll of 1,113 registered voters in June concluded that support for Medicare for All depends on the way the question is phrased. While the survey found that 51 percent of respondents supported a Medicare for All program in the abstract, support fell to 47 percent when respondents were told that it “would provide the Medicare program to all Americans and eventually eliminate all private health insurance.” Opposition spiked to 53 percent.

The mid-November Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll of adults found that 53 percent favored a version of Medicare for All “in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan.” A 65 percent majority, however, favored a public option “that would compete with private health insurance plans and be available to all Americans.” That’s music to Biden and Buttigieg’s ears.

When Kaiser asked adults if they favored a Medicare for All plan that would “require many employers and some individuals to pay more in taxes, but eliminate health insurance premiums and deductibles for all Americans,” support fell to 48 percent. And when Kaiser asked if they favored Medicare for All that would “increase the taxes that you personally pay, but decrease your overall costs for health care,” support fell to 47 percent. Forty-eight percent were opposed.

Quinnipiac found that support for Medicare for All among all voters has fallen from a high of 51 percent who said it was a good idea in August 2017 to 36 percent today. The picture looks even worse for progressives in the swing states. The most recent Blue Wall Voices project of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cook Political Report found that a 62 percent majority of swing voters in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin called Medicare for All a “bad idea.” The top health care priority for voters was lowering prescription drug costs. Medicare for All was last.

Once thought to be the fulfillment of the age-old dream of universal health care, Medicare for All is more like one of those ingenious Acme devices Wile E. Coyote uses to catch the Road Runner. It’s a catapult that launches you into the stratosphere. And right into a wall.


Navy Needs Leaders to Keep Eye to the Future

December 7 is a solemn day for the U.S. Navy and in our nation’s history. This year marked the 78th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, when our nation entered a World War with a devastated naval fleet. After Pearl Harbor, and facing a grave threat, our country came together to rebuild the fleet, which ultimately helped win the war. And just as it has throughout history, the Navy continues to defy the odds and innovate in order to remain the most powerful force on the world’s seas.

More than ever, we need to build for the future and invest in new technologies that will support our warfighters, maximize value for taxpayer dollars, and maintain our nation’s global competitive edge. Equipping our troops and sailors with the best, most advanced capabilities to defend our national interests should always be our objective.

It is in this spirit that the second Ford-class aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), was christened on December 7. This is a huge step forward for naval aviation technology and for moving the Navy into the 21st century. Following tradition, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the ship’s namesake and its sponsor, will break a bottle of American sparkling wine on the carrier’s hull. The ship is a testament to ingenuity and a symbol of American force, but it’s what lies under the hull that truly sets it apart.

The Ford-class carriers are both the most efficient and technologically advanced aircraft carriers ever developed. The Ford-class will save the Navy billions over its lifetime thanks to new technologies and efficiencies. One such technology is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is replacing steam catapults on carriers. EMALS is a critical technology leap in modernizing the Fleet to address evolving threats while also meeting the needs of the Navy of the future. 

Currently, decades-old steam technology limits the capabilities of our Fleet in terms of which types of aircraft it can launch, and with respect to the integration of future weapons systems. EMALS allows the launch of the full range of aircraft in current and future air wings. Critically, this also includes the ability to launch drones – something our current carriers cannot do, and which could make a life or death difference to troops in harm’s way.

In addition to expanding the types of aircraft that can be launched, EMALS significantly improves the launch rate. With EMALS integrated, the Kennedy and other Ford-class carriers will have a sortie generation rate (the number of aircraft able to be launched per day) improved by a full 33 percent over our existing carriers. In other words, EMALS allows our Navy to launch more aircraft more efficiently.

The new technology on Ford-class carriers isn’t just theoretical. It works. These and other critical new technologies on the Ford-class will help the Navy stay ahead of our competition. As China and Russia continue to invest in their militaries, naval technology is at the forefront of their development. In fact, China is currently in the process of building a carrier using its own electromagnetic aircraft launch technology. We cannot afford to fall behind.

India and France have also shown an interest in these technologies. Adoption of EMALS by our allies will provide greater opportunity for coordination and interoperability between our navies in training exercises, disaster relief, humanitarian aid and military missions.

As we wrap up 2019 by remembering Pearl Harbor and celebrating the christening of the Kennedy, we must also ensure our nation’s leaders remain focused on equipping our military forces with the best technologies and capabilities possible for the years and decades ahead. The costs of not doing so are too great. Instead of trying to keep pace with our adversaries, the focus should be on remaining ahead of the curve and the envy of militaries across the world. Let’s put the future in the hands of the men and women who fight for our freedom every day.


Exhausted by their hearings, the House now takes a 10-day vacation

By Dr. Larry Fedewadrlarryonline.com

Amid apparently lagging interest in the whole impeachment drama on Capitol Hill, the Democrats leave Washington for the Thanksgiving recess with a serious question to ponder. They have to decide whether to pursue their impeachment strategy toward what looks like a bitter end, or to construct an alternate strategy. It looks increasingly like the practical politicians versus the true believers. 

As this column has pointed out, the stakes are very high: almost certainly the control of the House in 2020 and probably the presidency as well. The House is currently split with 233 Democrat seats versus 197 Republican seats (+4 vacancies). 

The Republicans need to gain a net 18 seats to resume control. Their prospects seem to depend on re-gaining the 31 so-called “Trump districts”, i.e. seats that Democrats won in 2018 that had voted for Trump in 2016. Historical trends are against the Republicans, since control of the House has flipped during a presidential election only twice (1948 and 1952) since 1900.

The Republicans’ best hope of regaining the House thus focuses on the Trump districts. The trends reported by the current polls seem to indicate that the more the public learns about the Dems’ impeachment efforts, the less popular it is becoming. 

This is, of course, contrary to the assumptions made by the leadership that the country, especially the independent voters on whom electoral success depends, would welcome this action and believe the ruinous assaults on the President’s reputation. The desired result was to so discredit him as to render him unelectable in 2020. Success of this strategy would defeat his election with the by-product of guaranteeing the election of the Trump district Democrats.

Instead, it appears that this strategy is turning those critical independents against the Dems. And that leaves the House leadership with a fateful decision to make. But what are their alternatives? 

They can’t simply drop the whole idea; they have come too far for that. The only way they can back off with some credibility would seem to be an announcement that their “inquiry” was truly honest and concluded that the offense revealed did not prove any “high crimes or misdemeanors” and then come up with a censure motion instead. (Talk about “a silk purse from a sow’s ear”!) Such a solution sounds like an admission that they were victims of bad judgement from the beginning – even worse than the original approach. 

So, there does not seems to be any way to gracefully retreat from the current strategy. Therefore, an impeachment vote seems inevitable. But how will the 31 vote? Remember, they were elected on the promise to work with the President and the Republicans to do great things including international trade deals with Mexico, Canada, China, Britain and Europe, as well as FY2021 budget, infrastructure, prescription drugs, increase manufacturing jobs, etc. 

Instead, they will face their constituents with their failure to get Republican support for their agenda because they were spending their time trying to overthrow the President and adding immeasurably to the political division which they promised to try to reduce.In the shadow of that story to the voters, it is possible that the Dems might lose the vote to impeach – or at least more seriously cloud their integrity even further. Not a good choice either. 
So stay tuned.


FROM BREXIT TO TRUMP, THE PEOPLE DESERVE TO GET WHAT THEY VOTED FOR

By Peter RoffNewsweek

It is a puzzlement whether the cottage industry of international election observers populating the American commentariat really understand what is at stake in the upcoming British parliamentary election. It should be more widely discussed than it is. And analyses should focus on what is motivating voters, rather than whether the Tories or Labor are more likely, according to the polls, to come out ahead.

In reality, the future of representative democracy may be on the line, at least as far as the idea the people deserve to get what they voted for. It has been more than three years since 51.9 percent of those participating in a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union took the position it should not. Yet, after three different prime ministers and one general election, the U.K. is still in the EU.

The why is easy to understand. The elites, including what has proved to be a majority of Parliament, think the people made the wrong decision and have done all they can to block Brexit from moving forward. But is that really appropriate?

Boris Johnson, the current prime minister, is a confirmed Brexiteer. He joined and later resigned from the government of his immediate predecessor when it became clear she had bollixed up the whole business. And he has pushed for this election in order to replace the anti-Brexit members of his own party with those who support his position and will vote with him to withdraw from Europe.

This is not a new issue. It has perplexed governments going back to Margaret Thatcher’s. Indeed, there are those who still believe her opposition to Britain joining the EU was the principal reason members of her Cabinet eventually plotted her overthrow. But the British elites—leaders in the permanent government, as well as the financial community, media, academia and foreign policy establishment—wanted in and, for their sins, they got their way.

The people were a different matter. Until the June 2016 referendum, it was conventional wisdom that it was only the cranky, fringe elements in U.K. politics who objected to EU membership on the grounds that British sovereignty was being impinged upon and for other reasons, those who populate the corridors of power found silly or unworthy of attention.

The referendum smashed that conception. To the shock of all the elites, a majority of the country ratified the “U.K. out the EU” position, believing they were setting out on a course to regain the nation’s independence. Yet the people’s choice has been thwarted, time and again.

First came the effort to discredit the vote, blaming it on anti-immigrant racism and fears of job loss in areas already economically depressed. That proved to be untrue. A survey of 12,369 voters in the United Kingdom conducted the day of the referendum found the No. 1 issue propelling people to vote to leave was their belief that the U.K. should remain a self-governing entity not responsible to some supranational body writing rules and regulations about the economy and other matters. Once that failed, the machinations began in Parliament and elsewhere to prevent the withdrawal agreement from ever being approved, which brings things to where they are now.

The election analysts who are part of America’s own elites have been strangely silent about all this. It may they are distracted by the ongoing congressional foofaraw over President Donald Trump’s interaction with the president of Ukraine to notice the global significance of events in the U.K. It’s not wrong to point out the similarities between Johnson’s effort to get a deal done and Trump’s effort to bring the American government to heel. Here, too, there seems to be considerable confusion, as Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman inadvertently confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee considering the impeachment of the president, about who makes policy and just who’s in charge.

In the end, if it is affirmed the people are in charge and that they exercise their authority by delegating it to their elected representatives, up to and including the president of the United States, then things will work out fine. The American writer H.L. Mencken, a friend reminds, once described democracy as being “the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Here in the U.S. and in Britain, there are those with power who believe it’s their job to keep the people from making what they regard as a mistake. If the battle over Brexit, which is one of those “mistakes,” goes the way they want, then all the small “d” democrats around the world have some serious soul-searching to do before we can regain the power we’ve apparently lost.


CONSERVATIVE LAWMAKERS RECEIVE REMINDER THAT PRICE FIXING IS A “BAD IDEA”

By David AlmasiNational Center for Public Policy Research

Raising concern “about the direction the health care policy debate is moving” – particularly among conservative lawmakers – the National Center for Public Policy Research has joined with more than 70 other conservative and free-market organizations to warn Congress about the dangers of price fixing.

In trying to remedy the issue of surprise medical bills for out-of-network emergency treatment, and insurers balking at covering all of such costs, some typically conservative politicians are favoring proposals to essentially enact price controls on these health care services. This would prohibit doctors and hospitals from setting their own rates and potentially make them operate at a loss.

Senator Rand Paul has explained that this could compromise the quality of American health care by driving people out of the medical field. “If you fix the price that ER doctors work at,” he said, “you will get a shortage.” He suggested that what has happened to the economy in Venezuela could happen in the United States as a result of such changes to the marketplace.

In a letter to conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the National Center and others note:

[W]hat is troubling is how often otherwise right-of-center policymakers are resorting to one of the key pillars of the Medicare for All playbook – government imposed price controls. Whether it is called price fixing, rate setting, subsidy capping or inflation capping, government price controls have wormed their way into the healthcare reform plans of too many of our friends in Washington.

The National Center is joined on the letter by organizations including Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, the Discovery Institute, the Institute for Policy Innovation and Eagle Forum.

The coalition letter concludes:

This was a bad idea a half century ago with gasoline line rationing, and it’s a bad idea today in health care. Something can only be affordable if it’s available to buy in the first place.

To read the entire letter and see all of its signers, click here.


The Trump Justice Department Probes Hollywood

By George LandrithRed State

Will the Trump administration ensure Hollywood remains driven by market principles?

Past harsh, critical comments from both President Trump and William Barr, his attorney general, demonstrate that the White House accepts the entertainment industry for what it is: a leftist, anti-capitalist blob that seeks not only to distort the culture war and remove Republicans from office, but also to rig the competitive market system to artificially increase its power and influence.

However, the question becomes how does the White House address its abuse in a free market way?

It’s a delicate balancing act, to be sure. While Hollywood often acts anti-competitively for personal gain – see: Steven Spielberg’s attempt to kill Netflix films’ ability to compete for Oscars – like every other industry, it also suffers from big-government edicts that unfairly harm their businesses. And, for all of the donating to Hillary Clinton they just made a few years ago, the movie and music industries have sounded alarm bells with the administration that the latter is a major concern to them.

Despite all the flack that the current White House gets for being rash and careless, the Trump administration is working tirelessly to ensure it treats its Hollywood detractors fairly and in line with the conservative principles it preaches.

Through a sweeping antitrust consent decree review, the Department of Justice is trying to successfully achieve this balance. Since April of last year, it has been examining the antitrust judgements that have been on DoJ’s books for generations. Its objective is to determine which are still needed to protect consumers against anti-competitive behavior, and which, at this point, act more as pointless red tape than anything else.

Seemingly as a result of multiple advocacy pushes, the clear focus of this effort quickly became those governing the entertainment industry. Namely, the Paramount consent decrees, which restrain the movie industry, and the ASCAP/BMI decrees, which created guidelines for the Big Music monopolies to follow.

On Nov. 18, the DoJ came to terms with its first major decision, announcing that it will ask the court to phase out the Paramount movie consent decrees. They prohibit the big five movie studios of the 1940s from harming small theaters by making exclusive deals with regional theaters (“circuit dealing”) and mandating that small theaters purchase their films in bundles (“block booking”).

DoJ made the right move. While at the time these decrees were necessary, modern-day innovation has made them obsolete and harmful to market competition.

Today, the Big Five studios from the 1940s are still far from angels, but there are plenty of new distributors that have taken their power away. Just look at Netflix, which plans to release over 50 films this year – more than Paramount, Disney, and Warner Bros. combined. Unlike in the 1940s, there are plenty of other studios with which theaters can do business should MGM, Warner Bros., RKO, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox – the five companies restrained by the decrees – provide terms to small theaters that are not agreeable. In fact, only two of those companies are still even in the Top 5 for market share.

If the DoJ let the decrees continue to restrict these studios while leaving their major competitors that have risen over the last 70 years unchecked, it would distort the marketplace by picking winners and losers. That would work to the detriment of, not the benefit to, consumer choice.

While the DOJ’s decision on Paramount was the right one for the free market, Barr’s department needs to be extra cautious on its next entertainment industry review – the ASCAP/BMI music consent decrees.

ASCAP and BMI – monopolies that control the rights to music licenses for public performance – are pushing for the DoJ to terminate or modify these antitrust guardrails. In an open letter to DOJ, they claimed that doing so would open the free market, which “would create a more productive, efficient and level playing field for everyone involved.” However, a dozen free market groups, including Frontiers of Freedom, have cautioned the DoJ that, contrary to what those monopolies are saying, doing so would run the free marketplace in the music industry to the ground.

The reason the ASCAP and BMI decrees went into place in the first place was to prevent ASCAP and BMI from enacting predatory pricing on small businesses. After all, the two monopolies’ very existence is emblematic of everything that Washington created antitrust law to prevent.

Both ASCAP and BMI are comprised of otherwise competing songwriters and publishers that banded together into these two groups to set prices for a joint product at a joint price. Both institutions were created with the explicit purpose of working together to increase prices. Put simply, there is nothing competitive or free market about them.

For the relaxation or removal of its decrees, ASCAP and BMI would have to prove that price-fixing is no longer a fundamental concern. As alluded to already, that is going to be hard to do when considering that the whole reason for their creation was to price-fix. It is going to be especially be hard to prove when considering how, unlike in the movie industry, their combined market share has barely moved at all since the 1940s – remaining at 90-percent of all performing rights. The fact that ASCAP had to settle a civil contempt charge with the DoJ for violating its decree just three years ago for nearly $2 million shouldn’t help its case either.

By giving everyone – including its political opponents, like the major entertainment industry conglomerates – the benefit of the doubt and the courtesy of a thorough review of present-day regulations, the Trump administration is yet again proving how serious it is about its deregulatory agenda. It is not governing on partisan or electoral grounds, but rather out of a desire to see fairness and accountability restored for everyone – even its enemies.

The White House is off to a good start, but for the sake of the free market and the consumers who depend on the fair playing field it creates, here’s hoping that it finishes strong.


The Broken China Model

Column: A weak and unstable China is also more dangerous

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

You see it in the maps. In 2015, 1.4 million Hong Kongers voted in elections in which pro-Beijing candidates swept the city’s 18 district councils. Last week, 2.9 million Hong Kongers voted and pro-democracy candidates won every district but one. That is an increase in turnout of more than 100 percent and a stunning rebuke both of Beijing and of chief executive Carrie Lam, who has failed to respond adequately to the demands of the pro-democracy movement that has disrupted Hong Kong for the past six months. Maps of the city once shaded pro-mainland blue are now pro-liberty yellow.

Yes, the vote was symbolic. The councils have little say in the operations of government. But symbols matter. For Hong Kongers to express discontent with their rulers through one of the last vehicles for accountability is no trifle. Beijing was surprised. It had counted on a supposed “silent majority” of voters tired of the upheaval and violence to legitimize the mainland’s authority. That was a mistake. The prefabricated copy that Communist propagandists had been ready to spread was abandoned. “The problem is that under the increasingly paranoid regime of Xi Jinping, even these internal reports have become much more geared toward what the leadership wants to hear,” writes James Palmer, who a decade ago worked for the pro-China Global Times.

Hong Kong is the most visible reminder of the tenuous nature of Communist rule. The city has become a postmodern battleground where masked protesters wield social media and lasers to avoid armor-clad police and facial recognition technology powered by artificial intelligence. When one looks at Hong Kong one sees a possible future where champions of freedom the world over employ desperate measures against the overwhelming resources of a mechanized Leviathan. One also sees the brittleness, confusion, and embarrassment of despotism when challenged by subjects assumed to be grateful for growth and security and immune to the will to freedom.

What is happening in Hong Kong is not isolated. The China model of authoritarian development is damaged and scarred. What seemed as sturdy and invulnerable as a Borg Cube looks more like a fragile and wobbly mobile by Alexander Calder. The regime of Xi Jinping is under economic and political and diplomatic pressure that it is not handling well. This beleaguered combatant in an era of great power competition is more dangerous to the United States than before.

What legitimacy the Communist Party possessed was based on the decades of economic growth inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. But growth has slowed to its lowest level in decades as the Chinese workforce ages, low-hanging investment opportunities disappear, and the trade war with the United States reduces manufacturing output and sends supply lines to Vietnam and Mexico. Capital is fleeing China at a record pace as the bourgeoisie hedge against stagnation and turmoil.

For all of the Chinese government’s much publicized investments in research and development and defense, and despite the size of its economy, per capita gross domestic product is $10,000, slightly less than that of the Russia Federation ($11,000) and a fraction of that of the United States ($65,000). Recent weeks have brought an uptick in bank runs. The government’s response to slowdown has been to tighten state control. “Between 2012 and 2018, assets of state companies grew at more than 15 percent annually, well over twice the pace of expansion of China’s GDP and double the pace of growth of gross domestic capital formation,” writesNicholas R. Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. This is not state capitalism. It’s statism.

The Chinese authorities use mechanisms of repression to maintain control over what can only be described as an internal empire. The New York Times recently published a horrifying and damning trove of documents relating the extent of Beijing’s efforts to detain, imprison, intimidate, and reeducate Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other minorities in western Xinjiang Province. China wants to override the Dalai Lama’s choice of successor in its continuing efforts to police Tibetan Buddhism and aspirations to sovereignty. China leads the world in the number of political prisoners, its Great Firewall has become more difficult to penetrate, and its influence operations in Taiwan, Australia, and other democracies more sophisticated. Defector Wang Liqiang has told Australian officials of his personal involvement in the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers who had the temerity to advocate democracy.

These are not the moves of a regime confident in its ability to win the allegiance of a multi-ethnic population of 1.4 billion people. They are the policies of an insular and jittery faction whose uncertainty toward a changing economic and demographic landscape has made it suspicious of and opposed to even the slightest hints of liberal democracy. The ambitions of Chairman Xi for a Eurasia integrated under the Belt and Road Initiative, where the preponderance of the latest equipment in key sectors is manufactured, are both grand and mismatched for a nation whose leaders are concerned most with the operation of the surveillance state that keeps them in power.

The resistance to Beijing is both domestic and foreign. Lost in all the predictions of Chinese dominance were the voices of China’s neighbors in the Pacific. Neither Japan, nor Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, nor Australia want to live in a Chinese lake. Most extraordinary has been the response of the United States. Within four years, the American elite has swapped its belief in China’s “peaceful rise” for the recognition that it may be in the opening phase of a Second Cold War whose outcome will determine the ideological character of the 21st century. While Tariff Man wages his trade war, opposing Chinese theft of intellectual property and arguing for structural changes to China’s state owned enterprises, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speak of the political and security challenges presented by Chinese authoritarians who become more willing to lash out as they lose their grip.

Senator Josh Hawley spoke for the emerging consensus when he wrote in the November 24 Wall Street Journal: “And everywhere, in every region, we must ask whether our actions are contributing to the great task of this era, resisting hegemony in the Asia-Pacific.” A few days before Hawley’s op-ed, Congress passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. Though the president already may possess the authorities to sanction Chinese officials granted him by Congress, the bill remains both a powerful statement of American support for the principles of liberty and democracy and a sign of American resolution before the specter of autocracy.

Good for President Trump to have signed the Democracy Act—and better still if he would link human rights to trade and refrain from speaking of his “friend,” the “incredible guy” who seeks nothing less than the defeat and displacement of the United States.


Sanders vs. Warren

In the general election, Bernie would be more competitive

By LUKE THOMPSONNational Review

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick recently jumped into an already crowded race for the Democratic nomination. Politically, they hope to appeal to center-left voters rightly worried about Joe Biden’s flagging early-state poll numbers. Ideologically, they have cast their candidacies as efforts to save a fading breed of centrist Democrat. Neither Bloomberg nor Patrick is likely to win. Instead, for the first time in recent memory, two leftist candidates stand a good chance of seizing the party’s nomination: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. 

To many observers, Sanders and Warren closely resemble each other. They represent solidly blue New England states, advocate the nationalization of large parts of the economy, and believe that the ills afflicting society result from a political process hijacked by the wealthy few. Yet Sanders and Warren are hardly interchangeable. Despite shared policy goals, they differ in their coalitions, diagnoses of what ails America, theories of change, and, ultimately, prospects in the general election next November.

The Democratic primary electorate is sharply divided by race, age, and gender. The left wing of the party — younger, whiter, and more female — is overrepresented in the Iowa caucuses. Indeed, while national polling suggests that Sanders has a more racially diverse coalition, and that he does well among younger men, Warren is stronger among women of all ages and college-educated white liberals. 

Iowa is a do-or-die test for Warren and Sanders; should either win the Hawkeye State, he or she will be the odds-on favorite to win in New Hampshire, where both enjoy a home-field advantage as New England senators. Organizationally, the Iowa caucuses are a monster. Caucuses take place in the dead of Iowa’s notoriously severe winter and feature runoff voting at each of the state’s 1,681 precincts. A viable campaign needs representatives ready to speak at each caucus and trained to court supporters of candidates who fail to hit the 15 percent viability threshold in the first round. The state, and therefore the nomination, may hinge on whose caucus leaders are better trained. 

Warren has lately given Sanders a chance to highlight their ideological differences. On Medicare for All, Sanders has bluntly and repeatedly promised to raise taxes to pay for universal coverage. Taxes will go up, he contends, but costs will go down and Americans will no longer have to worry about losing coverage or wading through a morass of paperwork. Warren, by contrast, has promised to give free health care to every American without raising taxes on the middle class. 

Setting aside whether any Medicare for All plan is realistic, Warren’s no-tax promise suggests to many on the left that she lacks the resolve to force through a politically difficult reform and would cave to conventional wisdom. Indeed, leftists have reasons to doubt her commitment. She refuses the label “socialist,” was a Republican earlier in life, and has generally tacked closer to the Democratic mainstream than Sanders has. Some of her struggles with candor raise questions about her character. Warren has never satisfactorily accounted for her multi-decade deployment of imagined Native American heritage for personal and professional gain, for instance. Making an obviously false but politically expedient promise — free health care with no middle-class tax increases — reinforces the impression that Warren is not trustworthy. 

Warren’s no-tax plan also undermines her credibility with the press, which has heretofore dutifully relayed her self-presentation as a sophisticated thinker, policy wonk, and technocrat with a plethora of Ivy League–certified schemes. Many of her lower-profile plans will not hold up to scrutiny. If the press comes to see her as a phony, she might have to deal with a running series of bad stories about the unviability of her white papers. Sanders, whose messaging has always been high-level and simple (even simplistic), has not offered much in terms of specifics, but as a result he has a minimal paper trail to defend. 

Yet these differences go beyond taxes and messaging. They go to a fundamental tension on the American left. Warren comes from the progressive tradition of the Left, whereas Sanders is a legatee of its populist tendencies. Being a progressive first, Warren prefers the technocratic approach. For her, simmering left-wing populism can be used best to attack entrenched power, by electing a president who will fill the bureaucracy with like-minded experts and pass campaign-finance reform to limit corporate influence. In other words, personnel is policy.

Sanders believes that American government is fundamentally broken. In a divided constitutional system, elected officials and regulators alike will be corrupted by special interests and will default to the status quo unless compelled to act otherwise. Control of the bureaucracy is not enough. Rather, for his “political revolution” to succeed, Sanders needs a movement that will last beyond Election Day and exert political pressure on the elected officials and regulators. Absent a confluence of movement, party, and administration, special interests will prevent the passage of sweeping structural reforms. 

Put simply: Warren wants to regulate, Sanders wants to legislate.

Whether that distinction will matter electorally come November is unknowable today. However, we have some evidence on which to hazard a guess. First, the national demographic polls mentioned above, irrelevant in a staggered presidential-primary process, come to bear once the parties have picked their nominees. There are very few prospective Elizabeth Warren voters who did not pull the lever for Hillary Clinton in 2016. A replay of the last presidential election might be enough for Warren to win in 2020, especially given heightened Democratic turnout in elections since 2016. However, Democrats suffered from low minority and youth turnout in the Upper Midwest in 2016, and it cost them the presidency. 

Sanders does well with precisely the voters who stayed home when Hillary Clinton topped the Democratic ticket. Younger and more diverse voters were essential to his victory in the Michigan primary, for instance, and while primaries are not the same as general elections, they serve as decent indicators if Democrats need elevated turnout to win. Sanders would get more non-voters to the polls than Warren would, and there are few voters who would vote for Warren but not Sanders.

Sanders has overperformed the Democrats’ partisan vote-share in Vermont, whereas Warren has generally undershot other Democrats in Massachusetts in polling and at the ballot box. Admittedly, Warren represents a state many, many times the size of Vermont. Nonetheless, her underwhelming approval ratings at home suggest that she lacks crossover appeal to independent voters. This is especially true in western Massachusetts, which, like many parts of Vermont, resembles the rural and exurban parts of the Upper Midwest that turned out heavily for Trump and doomed Clinton’s candidacy. 

Neither Sanders nor Warren would enter a general election without baggage, and both would have to face a messaging onslaught from President Trump. Incumbent presidents tend to get reelected. Combine that with good economic performance, peace abroad, and wage growth, and Trump, despite his unpopularity, stands a good chance of winning a second term, provided there are no major changes in the next twelve months. However, 2016 was won on the narrowest of margins. When we look at only those states that were decisive, Sanders appears as a bigger threat to Trump than Warren does.


Media Propaganda About Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Health Is Irresponsible

The media has for decades been constructing a pretense that an elderly four-time cancer patient who falls asleep on the job and can barely walk is peppy, alert, and capable.

By Joy PullmannThe Federalist

On Sunday, CNN’s “Reliable Sources” did a segment about President Trump’s recent doctor visit that opened with host Brian Stelter questioning, “Trump says he went for a very routine physical because he had extra time, but does it all add up?” Stelter brought on medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta to question the official story of what the chyron called “Trump’s Mystery Hospital Visit.”

“Any time a 73-year-old man with clinical obesity and a history of heart disease goes to the hospital unannounced, obviously medical people are going to ask why, what prompted that?” Gupta said. “And keep in mind, the president going to the hospital is a big deal, no matter what.”

Gupta then tried to read the tea leaves into the hospital not being informed and prepped beforehand of the president’s visit and the fact that a week ago the White House doctor rode with Trump in the car, which he says is unusual. Gupta then worried about the possibility that the doctors were “beholden to the president” and might not tell Trump the truth about his health. Gupta reiterated these concerns in an accompanying 2,100-word CNN article the same day.

While CNN devoted all this to one news story about a top political figure’s unannounced doctor visit, corporate media outlets in general have been busy sending the opposite messaging about a litany of health difficulties for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The 86-year-old Ginsburg was admitted to the hospital on Friday with “chills and fever.” The Supreme Court’s oldest justice went home Sunday, according to CBS’s Jan Crawford.

Jan Crawford@JanCBS

BREAKING FROM SCOTUS: Justice Ginsburg was hospitalized overnight at Johns Hopkins with chills and fever. Symptoms have abated, expected to be released tomorrow.

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Jan Crawford@JanCBS

Justice Ginsburg released from Johns Hopkins. “She is home and doing well,” Court says in a statement. The justices return to the bench for arguments Dec 2.

The reports on her illness from CNNUSA TodayBloomberg, and The New York Times were routine writeups of the press statements Crawford posted. Instead of 2,000 words of probing about the “mystery” behind Ginsburg’s series of recent ailments, CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue pointed out evidence of Ginsburg’s vigor, such as her participation the same day she was hospitalized in an “important” Supreme Court conference.

“I have been watching her carefully since the beginning of this term, and she has been such an active participant. She’s often the first one asking questions, and she follows up,” de Vogue commented. De Vogue failed to point out that Ginsburg has been known for the past 13 years to fall asleep during oral arguments, although she did mention that the justice has had cancer four times.

“This is a very strong woman who has had frail health at times,” de Vogue concluded. “But, boy, she’s a strong woman.”

Ginsburg is clearly a strong woman in the personality sense. That is beside the point. If she were not a far-left political actor, Ginsburg’s health record would not be lipsticked. It’s also much worse than Trump’s. She’s 13 years older than Trump, who is 73. She’s been falling asleep in oral arguments since 2006. Ginsburg also fell asleep during two of President Obama’s State of the Union Addresses and Pope Francis’s speech to Congress in 2015.

Ginsburg can barely get herself off the Supreme Court dais, another long-time situation. She is typically extremely hard to hear when she speaks from the bench. Two weeks ago, she missed oral arguments due to a stomach bug. She also missed two weeks of oral arguments in January due to lung cancer surgery. The first two times she was treated for cancer, in 1999 and 2009, she didn’t miss a day of oral arguments.

In August, Ginsburg was treated with three weeks of radiation for a different cancer, pancreatic. Last November, she fell and broke three ribs. Ginsburg is simply and clearly not in good health. The divergence in treatment between her health history and Trump’s was replicated in media dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s fainting spell, the Washington Free Beacon noted.

The opposite-world media coverage is not shocking, because corporate media do free PR for the left, but it is unfair and impedes the American people’s business. The Supreme Court always considers significant cases, and those pending are no exception: whether Trump can undo President Obama’s executive order suspending immigration laws, whether laws against sex discrimination require employers to allow cross-dressing, whether religious schools may participate in state choice programs, to what extent states may regulate abortion, and more.

If Ginsburg is not capable of fully performing her duties in these cases, she should step down. If she is not capable of recognizing whether she should step down, others should guide her to do so.

Working furiously against this needed realization, the media has for decades been constructing a pretense that an elderly four-time cancer patient who falls asleep on the job and can barely walk is peppy, alert, and capable. Back in 2013, the Washington Post published a cutesy profile of Ginsburg’s personal trainer, who got her to peak performance of 20 pushups. That same year, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin claimed she was stronger than younger justices using the same workout equipment.

Stephanie Mencimer described in Mother Jones last year other media efforts in this absurd PR campaign to pep up an elderly justice with a long and serious history of health difficulties:

Details of [Ginsburg’s exercise routine] appear in Notorious RBG, and Ginsburg allowed the RBG documentary makers to film her doing pushups and tossing a medicine ball—proof, the film implies, that she is nowhere near death’s door.

Last year, personal trainer Johnson published The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong and You Can Too, for which Ginsburg wrote the foreword. In March, Ginsburg helped promote the book by going on TV to work out with Stephen Colbert …Only the most die-hard superfan could call Ginsburg’s Colbert performance anything but cringeworthy—those things she does with Johnson are most definitely not pushups. The episode felt like a desperate attempt to convince the world, and maybe Ginsburg herself, that she didn’t grievously miscalculate in refusing to retire before 2014.

Watch the Colbert clip here: https://youtu.be/0oBodJHX1Vg

If it were Trump who had been a four-time cancer survivor who could barely walk down three steps, we’d be enduring a media thunderstorm demanding he resign rather than watching sunny profiles of him lifting five pounds with help next to a comedian. We’d have the Supreme Court potentially ushering Ginsburg off the bench the same way they ushered out Associate Justice William O. Douglas in 1975 after he suffered a debilitating stroke but still refused to resign. (Read the link — his story is shocking.)

Why would a justice well into the twilight years and by all appearances having a rough time not retire gracefully so her succession could be well-planned for optimal benefit to the nation? Everyone knows the answer: Because the Supreme Court is not a strictly judicial force that applies the laws as they are written. It is a political institution that makes political decisions, not a legal institution that makes legal decisions.

Ginsburg is among the justices notorious for her manipulation of the law. That legal corruption does make her job easier for her age. She doesn’t need to actually analyze the law itself, she just needs to know what would be politically advantageous to the left and rule accordingly, as she has done her entire tenure.

Still, Ginsburg obviously doesn’t want to retire while a Republican has the power to appoint her successor. Along with the entire Democrat-Media Complex, Ginsburg badly miscalculated by assuming Hillary Clinton would win the presidency in 2016 and thus didn’t resign while Obama could appoint her replacement.

So Ginsburg is now stuck in political purgatory, having to sit on the bench as her already delicate health declines even further. For her sake, and the country’s, let’s pray her departure doesn’t look anything like Douglas’s — and that her successor helps undo the court’s overweening importance as an unelected superlegislature in which justices’ personal politics can subvert the law.


4 reasons gratitude is good for you

By Thanksgiving.comUSA Today

What are you thankful for? Taking time to think about the question can actually be good for your health.

“Research suggests that individuals who feel grateful experience lower blood pressure, improved immune functions, recover more quickly from illness, and can more effectively cope with stress,” explains Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, a health psychologist with UW Health (University of Wisconsin).

“Gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health, more so than even optimism.” And the benefits can be life-long. A sense of gratitude can reduce the lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and even substance abuse disorders.

But, what does it mean to experience gratitude?

“What we’re talking about is the appreciation for what is valuable and meaningful in life,” explains Mirgain. “And the first step is to begin creating an awareness of what you are grateful for in life.”

Cultivating gratitude

Mirgain explains that cultivating a sense of gratitude involves actively noticing the good things that are occurring in life.

“Feeling grateful allows us to connect to those things that make us feel glad to be alive,” she notes.

Some individuals may refer to the practice as “counting your blessings,” but it is essentially taking the time to acknowledge what is going right for you and your family.

Keep track of your gratitude

Whether you use a journal, share on Facebook, or write on a slip of paper you place in a special jar, Mirgain suggests taking time each day to write down three to five small things you are grateful for.

“Research shows that writing down what you are grateful for is more effective than just thinking the thoughts,” she says.

Mirgain recommends starting out with a daily practice because it is a powerful way to shift perspective. Once you get going, you can transition to at least once a week. The effects remain just as powerful. And, you don’t have to be grateful for significant things.

“It can be small things like your husband doing the dishes, or child picking up toys,” comments Mirgain. “Or, of course, major ones like getting a promotion or a child speaking her first words.”

Finding the positive

As Ella Fitzgerald sang, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” Everyone, at some point, is confronted with difficult and painful situations. And while we can’t always control what happens, we can control how we react.

“A sense of gratitude can actually help us cope with stress and trauma,” says Mirgain. “And from the challenges, we can truly learn a tremendous amount about ourselves.”

When dealing with a challenging situation, Mirgain recommends asking two basic questions, “Ask yourself what you have learned from the situation, and how have you become stronger as a result.”

Finding a sense of gratitude, even during tough times, can help you adjust, and even move on from the situation.

Expressing gratitude to another

Research has shown that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in life is how much gratitude you show. So in addition to counting the reasons why you are grateful, expressing it outwardly can also have a significant impact on your life.

Whether it is a friend, colleague, family member or acquaintance, we all have someone in our lives who has been a positive influence. Taking a moment to tell them whether in-person, or through a letter, email, text or phone call, will not only make them feel better, but it will benefit you, too. It can also help improve the quality of your relationships.

“Try telling your spouse or children why you are grateful for them,” Mirgain suggests. “You’ll be amazed at the positive influence it can have on the relationship.”

Expressing the things for which you are grateful can take many forms. Whether it is part of a mindfulness practice, or it is a topic of conversation with a friend, the important thing is to find a practice that works for you.

“Mix it up,” Mirgain suggests. “Through art or journaling, meditation or conversation, finding what you are grateful for is a discovery that can lead to profound changes in your life.”


Sparking A Minority Renaissance In The GOP

By Jeff CharlesRedState

The Republican Party has a choice to make about its future. It can either adapt to America’s societal and demographic changes or rely on its current strategy. One of these options leads to a party that reflects the United States; the other renders the party obsolete.

Many on the right have argued that the GOP must broaden its base by assertively courting minority voters if it wishes to remain relevant. So far, many in the party have ignored or even resisted such outreach. However, if a recent announcement from Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is any indication, a new approach is on the horizon.

Will Hurd

Hurd, who retires next year, is starting an organization that will support diverse candidates in primary races across the country. The group, known as Future Leaders Fund (FLF), will “go into primary races around the country where there are good, conservative, and diverse candidates to build the future of the Republican Party,” according to its website.

FLF’s objective is to help the GOP shed its “party of old white men” label by creating “a diverse crop of future elected officials to be ambassadors to our party,” who will “attract new voters disenfranchised by the socialist left to join our party.”

The group plans to spend millions of dollars next year to ensure that minority, female, and young candidates get on the ballot. During the announcement, Hurd explained his reasons for this new endeavor: “America is becoming more diverse, while the Republican Party is becoming less popular with minority voters,” he said, pointing out that the GOP “lost 76% of minority voters.”

The representative then issued a stark warning: “If the Republican Party doesn’t start looking like America and resonating with all Americans, then there won’t be a Republican Party in America.” Hurd, the only black Republican in the House, announced that he would not seek re-election next year. He endorsed Tony Gonzalez, a Hispanic American, to replace him. After announcing his retirement, he indicated that he was not finished with politics, and it appears this initiative will occupy his time in 2020.

Until the present, the Republican Party has focused the bulk of its campaigning and messaging efforts on white voters in rural and suburban areas. Since the 1960s, this strategy achieved varying levels of success. Nevertheless, this approach will likely become ineffective going forward because the nation’s demographics are changing. The solution is simple: The Republican Party must adopt a plan that will expand its base.

Hurd and other conservatives are correct in this assessment. Unless the GOP reforms into a party that looks like the rest of the country, it will become irrelevant. Some on the right are resistant, arguing that engaging with minorities constitutes the same type of pandering that Democrats love, but this argument misses the point. Interacting with minority voters is not pandering. It is stimulating dialogue and demonstrating the areas where conservative solutions can make a positive difference. To keep the GOP vital in the years to come, the party must enlarge and revitalize its base.


What If Michael Moore Really Is the Center of the Democratic Party Now?

By JIM GERAGHTYNational Review

A lot of people are dunking on Michael Moore for declaring that he now represents the center of the Democratic party, and they’re enjoying it, and they ought to. But he might not be completely wrong in that self-assessment, and it’s both a statement about him and a statement about the Democratic party.

Put aside everything you can’t stand about Michael Moore for a moment. (I know, it’s a lot.) But Moore’s political vision has always had a strong populist streak that aligns a lot with elements of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. His 1989 documentary, Roger and Me was all about Moore’s anger that General Motors was ending production of automotive parts in factories in Flint, Mich., while increasing production of parts in Mexico. Moore sees America’s corporate class as a bunch of selfish, greedy snobs who show little or no appreciation for the workers that enable their profits or the country that gave them their opportunities. That leftist view of 1989 feels pretty mainstream three decades later — and not just in the Democratic party.

In July 2016, Michael Moore shocked many of his allies by predicting that Donald Trump would win the presidential election. Moore’s assessment is eerily prescient, warning his political allies that working-class voters in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin felt “abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to [vulgar euphemism] with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who’ll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here.”

He also warned about Hillary, whom he said he personally believed had gotten a bad rap, but “nearly 70 percent of all voters think she is untrustworthy and dishonest. She represents the old way of politics, not really believing in anything other than what can get you elected. That’s why she fights against gays getting married one moment, and the next she’s officiating a gay marriage.” Finally, he reminded people about the unexpected victory of independent Jesse Ventura in 1998: “Minnesota is one of the smartest states in the country. It is also filled with people who have a dark sense of humor — and voting for Ventura was their version of a good practical joke on a sick political system. This is going to happen again with Trump.”

Moore’s a progressive through and through, but he periodically reveals a seething disdain for the hypocrisies and phoniness of the Democratic party’s elite leadership class. And you get the feeling that while Moore isn’t opposed to woke culture and the various crusades that rile up the Twitter Left, he would prefer a Democratic party much more focused on improving the quality of life for America’s working class. He’ll never make a film about how “Latinx” should replace the term “Latinos.”

Meanwhile, certain kinds of Democrats are nearly extinct — pro-life Democrats (other than Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards) pro-gun Democrats, the kinds of reformers who used to make up the old Democratic Leadership Council. Democrats to the right of Michael Moore are fewer, and Democrats to the Left of him are more numerous. He stood still; the party moved around him.


Why Candidates Matter Most

Column: Positions and personality trump party and region

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Next year you will enter the Twilight Zone where the governors of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maryland are Republicans and the governors of North Carolina, Kentucky, and Louisiana are Democrats. It is the middle ground between working-class realignment and the rising American electorate, between polarized parties and disaffected independents, and it lies between the pit of man’s ideology and the summit of his pragmatism. This is the dimension of American politics that reveals the overriding importance of a candidate’s personal qualities and issue positions. It cannot be ignored.

The coverage of recent Democratic victories in Kentucky and Louisiana has emphasized President Trump’s failure to drag Republicans past the finish line. Analysts have focused on Democratic strength in the suburban regions of these states, as well as in the suburbs of Mississippi where the Republican won by a surprisingly slim 5 points. Both of these storylines are important. But so is this one: Candidate attributes and positions matter more than a state or nation’s partisan tilt. President Trump and his 17 Democratic challengers might want to pay attention.

The relationship between individual characteristics and party allegiance was clearest in the Bluegrass State. Republicans won every statewide office but governor. Incumbent Matt Bevin had the unhappy distinction of being the least popularstate executive up for reelection in 2019. It showed. His abrasive personality hurt him in negotiations with teachers’ unions and in the implementation of work requirements for Medicaid recipients. The memory of his 2014 primary challenge against Mitch McConnell still stung. Bevin fought the Republican-controlled legislature, blocked people on Twitter, and made up nicknames for his opponents. Stop me if this is sounding familiar.

Bevin’s Democratic opponent, Andy Beshear, was the son of the previous governor. Beshear attacked where Bevin was weakest, on education and health care, and did his best to avoid cultural issues such as gun control (he supports red-flag laws) and abortion (he’s pro-choice). He campaigned as if President Trump and impeachment did not exist. “This race is about nothing going on in Washington, D.C.,” he said on the trail. His localization of the race worked. Beshear attracted a high crossover vote—16 percent of Republicans. A Libertarian spoiler candidate also helped.

If Bevin strayed too far from the political golden mean, John Bel Edwards never wavered. When he was elected in 2015, Bel Edwards recognized the tenuous nature of his position as the Democratic governor of a deep-red state. He opposes gun control and abortion and worked with the Trump administration on criminal justice reform. He signed a pro-life heartbeat bill that alienated him from abortion rights groups but cemented his identity as an independent-minded Democrat. His Medicaid expansion enrolled half a million people who are wary of Republican cuts. He ran for reelection as the defender of the cultural and political status quo against businessman Eddie Rispone, who despite having an inspiring personal story lacked stage presence and was unable to tie Bel Edwards to the progressives in charge of the national Democratic Party. The incumbent won 51 percent to 49 percent.

Likability and empathy matter more than wonkiness and purity. In 2004, more voters held a favorable opinion of President Bush than of John Kerry, and Bush enjoyed whopping margins among voters who cared most about strong leadership, having clear positions, and telling the truth. In 2012, more voters held a favorable opinion of President Obama than of Mitt Romney, and voters said Obama was more in touch with the people. He also won among voters who said caring for others was a priority. In 2016 the electorate held unfavorable opinions of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but Clinton lost to Trump by 17 points among voters who disliked them equally. Trump narrowed the “cares about me” gap to 23 points from 63 points. And he won by an incredible 68 points on the most desired candidate quality: the ability to bring change.

Democrats have candidate attributes in mind as they evaluate potential 2020 nominees. A November 19 Gallup pollshowed that 60 percent of Democrats would rather have a nominee who has the best chance of defeating President Trump than one who agrees with them on the issues. A majority of Democrats surveyed said that Joe Biden is the most electable, with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren far behind at 16 percent and 15 percent. Half of Democrats would rather have a moderate as the nominee than a liberal or a conservative.

Biden’s strength among moderate Democrats and lead over Trump nationwide and in swing states are responsible for his frontrunner status. But the first caucus is more than two months away, and the rules of the Democratic primary give the party opportunities to choose an unlikable and extreme nominee. They have plenty of options.

Nor is President Trump out of the game. The New York Times/Siena poll of the battlegrounds found him within the margin of error against Biden. A November 20 poll of Wisconsin registered voters from Marquette University Law School has Trump leading Biden, also within the margin of error. Trump’s debut reelection ad acknowledges that “he’s no Mr. Nice Guy,” but touts a record of accomplishment that even Democrats recognize as impressive. And he will have plenty of time and resources to define his opponent negatively.

How ironic if Democrats so concerned with electability in the primary find themselves backing a flawed and uninspiring candidate in the general. Because, you see, fate can work that way in the Twilight Zone.


How A Russian’s Grocery Store Trip In 1989 Exposed The Lie Of Socialism

The fall of the Berlin Wall was indeed a watershed in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet one could argue the true death knell came two months before at a small grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.

By Jon MiltimoreThe Federalist

The fall of the Soviet Union is sometimes remembered as Nov. 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall symbolically collapsed. While the physical barrier endured for some two more years, on that day, East German Communist Party officials announced they would no longer stop citizens of the German Democratic Republic from crossing the border.

The fall of the barrier that scarred Germany was indeed a watershed in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet one could argue the true death knell came two months before at a small grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.

An Unexpected Trip

On Sept. 16, 1989, Boris Yeltsin was a newly elected member of the Soviet Parliament visiting the United States. Following a scheduled visit to Johnson Space Center, Yeltsin and a small entourage made an unscheduled stop at a Randalls grocery store in Clear Lake, a suburb of Houston. He was amazed by the aisles of food and stocked shelves, a sharp contrast to the breadlines and empty columns he was accustomed to in Russia.

Yeltsin, who had a reputation as a reformer and populist, “roamed the aisles of Randall’s nodding his head in amazement,” wrote Stefanie Asin, a Houston Chronicle reporter. He marveled at free cheese samples, fresh fish and produce, and freezers packed full of pudding pops. Along the way, Yeltsin chatted up customers and store workers: “How much does this cost? Do you need special education to manage a supermarket? Are all American stores like this?”

Yeltsin was a member of the Politburo and Russia’s upper political crust, yet he’d never seen anything like the offerings of this little American grocery store. “Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev,” Yeltsin said.

A Sickening Revelation

It’s difficult for Americans to grasp Yeltsin’s astonishment. Our market economy has evolved from grocery stores to companies such as Walmart and Amazon that compete to deliver food right to our homes.

Yeltsin’s reaction can be understood, however, by looking back on the conditions in the Soviet Union’s economy. Russia grocery stores at the time looked like this and this:

Now compare that footage to the images of Yeltsin shopping at a U.S. supermarket. The contrast is undeniable. Yeltsin’s experience that day ran contrary to everything he knew. A longtime member of the Communist Party who had lived his entire life in a one-party system that punisheddissent harshly, Yeltsin had been taught over and over that socialism wasn’t just more equitable, but more efficient.

His eyes were opened that day, and the revelation left the future Russian president feeling sick.

“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people,” Yeltsin later wrote in his autobiography, “Against the Grain.” “That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.”

Yeltsin was not the only person fooled, of course. There is copious documentation of Western intellectuals beguiled by the Soviet system. These individuals, who unlike Yeltsin did not live in a state-controlled media environment, saw the Soviet system as both economically and morally superior to American capitalism despite the brutal methods employed in the workers’ paradise.

“I have seen the future, and it works,” the Progressive Era journalist Lincoln Steffens famously said.

Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in economics and one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, was a longtime enthusiast of Soviet central planning and predicted it would lead to a higher standard of living. “Who could know that [the data] was all fake?” Samuelson is said to have asked a fellow economist following the empire’s collapse.

The Truth About Socialism Revealed

Despite decades of propaganda and obfuscation, the great fiction of socialism was eventually fully exposed with the fall of the Soviet Union and the publication of its archives in the 1990s. No longer could academics deny the truth that the people of the Soviet Union endured a painfully low standard of living despite the vast wealth of its empire.

“Their standard of living was low, not only by comparison with that in the United States, but also compared to the standard of living in countries with far fewer natural resources, such as Japan and Switzerland,” the economist Thomas Sowell observed in “Basic Economics.”

Yeltsin deserves credit for laying bare the lie of socialism that so many others had refused to see. “[T]here would be a revolution,” Yeltsin told his entourage that fateful September day in 1989, if the people in the Soviet Union ever saw the prosperity in American grocery stores. Yeltsin was more right than he knew.


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