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J.D. Vance and the American Dream

Some questions for the national populists

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance / Via Wikimedia commons

The author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance was a prominent voice on the national-populist right even before July 1, when he entered the crowded primary to replace GOP senator Rob Portman of Ohio. In a speech to the 2019 National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., in appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight, and in his active Twitter feed, Vance has promoted a “realignment” of conservatism away from libertarianism and toward an agenda that uses government to defend traditional values and improve living conditions for the non-college educated voters at the base of the GOP.

Vance is a leader within that faction of the right which says the conservative movement’s emphasis on individual freedom, and its commitment to the classical liberal procedures and “norms” of constitutional government, is responsible for its apparent failure to preserve the nuclear family, and for its exclusion from mainstream institutions. He is a pacesetter for this trend, which drew energy from Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. And because Vance represents one possible future for the American right, I was eager to read the transcript of a speech he gave last weekend to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s “Future of American Political Economy” conference in Alexandria, Va. There is no doubting Vance’s smarts—he graduated from Yale Law School in 2013—or his communication skills. But his text left me with questions.

Vance’s subject was the “American dream.” This is an infamously nebulous concept. Does the American dream refer to a process—the social mobility that allows the adopted son of an immigrant to fly into space on his own rocket? Or does it signify an end-state—the single-family home with a white picket fence in the cul-de-sac occupied by 2 parents, 2.5 children, and a dog and cat? No one really knows. For Vance, the American dream “is about a good life in your own country.” But it is also about being “a good husband and a good father,” who is “able to provide my kids the things that I didn’t have when I was growing up.” It’s a dream that Vance has achieved.

Then Vance contrasts his dream with another dream, a bad dream, the “dream of Mitt Romney.” This American dream, apparently espoused by “establishment Republican politicians,” is a dream of “private jets,” “fancy businesses,” and “a lot of money.” Such an emphasis on material wealth, Vance says, makes most people’s “eyes sort of glaze over.” After all, most people aren’t rich. Most people just “want to live a good life in their own country,” with their spouse and children.

Vance must not be on Mitt Romney’s Christmas card list. Last I checked, the former Republican presidential nominee and current GOP senator from Utah has been married to his wife Ann for over half a century, and has five sons and a countless number of grandchildren. Whatever your disagreements with him—and I have a few—Mitt Romney is a decent, patriotic, and accomplished gentleman who unquestionably has lived “a good life” in his “own country.” Yes, he is quite wealthy. He owns a number of homes. One of them had a car elevator. But it’s not as though Romney made his affluence the basis of his claim to high office.

On the contrary: It was former president Trump who grounded his appeal in 2016 on his “private jets,” “fancy businesses,” television celebrity, and considerable fortune. It was former president Trump who took kids for rides on his helicopter during the 2015 Iowa State Fair, who turned a campaign press conference at Mar-a-Lago into an infomercial for various Trump-branded products, and whose personal life, let us say, could not be more unlike Mitt Romney’s. Yet Vance casts Romney as the bogeyman in this contest of American dreams, and says he regrets voting for someone other than Trump in 2016. What gives? Not only did I end this section of the speech without a clear idea of what the American dream is or who best represents it, I was left wondering what factor other than his opposition to Trump actually prevents Romney from meeting the criteria that Vance sets out.

Vance says that “to live a good life in your own country, you have to actually feel respected. And you have to be able to teach your children to honor and love the things that you were taught to love.” No problem there; I couldn’t agree more. The danger of the culture wars, he goes on, is that the left will force Americans into a posture of regret and shame over their history. The left imposes costs on individuals—de-platforming, ostracization, cancellation—to police retrograde thought and behavior. “That is what the culture war is about.” And he’s right.

Then Vance says that because the only institution conservatives control, on occasion, is government, we ought to use political power to impose costs of our own on “woke capital,” “woke corporations,” and academia. Vance neglects to mention the various counter-institutions that the conservative movement built since World War II to address the problem he describes. Nor does he explain, exactly, how “breaking up the big technology oligarchy” would help men and women like his Mamaw. Even so, the idea that conservatives should use policy to further their conception of the public good is something of a truism. Everybody thinks they are furthering the good. The question, as always, is the means we employ to that end, and whether those means actually work. Government bureaucracy and regulation, for example, are not known for their contribution to human wellbeing (see: Centers for Disease Control). No matter who’s in charge.

At this point, however, Vance makes another statement that left me befuddled. “I’m going to get in trouble for this,” he says, but he goes ahead anyway and asks, “Why have we let the Democrat Party become controlled by people who don’t have children?” Now, he acknowledges, somewhat, that what he is saying is not strictly true: Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi all have kids, and Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi control the Democratic Party and, at present, the national political agenda. Nevertheless, Vance name-checks Kamala Harris (who has two stepchildren), Pete Buttigieg (who, according to the Washington Post, is trying to adopt), Cory Booker, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who’s 31 years old). Vance understands, he says, that “there have always been people” who, “even though they would like to have kids, are unable to have them.” He has no problem with this population, he hastens to add, though he never stops to ask whether any of the four Democrats he singled out fall into it.

What bothers Vance is “a political movement, invested theoretically in the future of this country, when not a single one of them actually has any physical commitment to the future of this country.” He says, without supplying any evidence, that the reason the media are “so miserable and unhappy” is that “they don’t have any kids.” The collapse in American fertility, he goes on, is a crisis “because it doesn’t give our leaders enough of an investment in the future of their country.”

I agree that the decline in American birth rates is troubling, that “babies are good,” and that raising children is an indescribably worthwhile, utterly exhausting, and often infuriating experience (I have two). Children join us in that intergenerational compact which Edmund Burke described as the essence of traditionalist conservatism. No kids, no future.

But you know who else doesn’t have children? A lot of conservatives and Republicans. Maybe they can’t have them, maybe they’ll adopt, or maybe life just brought them to a different place. That doesn’t in one iota reduce their dignity as human beings, or their potential to contribute to America’s public life. And that goes for Democrats and independents, too.

William Rusher, the longtime publisher of National Review, never had children. Does his contribution to American politics count for less? Condoleezza Rice doesn’t have kids. Did that stop her from serving her country for eight years as national security adviser and secretary of state? Lindsey Graham has no children. Has that prevented him from unswerving loyalty to President Trump? Pat Buchanan is childless—yet he formulated the arguments that define so much of national populism today.

Indeed, until a few years ago, the 53-year-old billionaire who donated $10 million to Vance’s super PAC had no kids. Should his contributions to political candidates and philanthropic causes during that time be retroactively judged suspect? The assertion that parenthood is somehow a prerequisite for effective statesmanship is nonsensical. It’s also insulting. Great parents can make terrible leaders—and great leaders are often terrible parents.

Vance says that the “civilizational crisis” of declining fertility requires providing additional “resources to parents who tell us the only reason they’re not having kids is because they can’t afford it.” How should we do this? “We can debate the policy details.” But the only specific proposals Vance mentions are Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s subsidized loans to married couples who promise to have kids, and the completely fantastical idea of demeny voting, whereby parents vote on behalf of their children. What he doesn’t mention, as one of those sullen, devious, childless journalists pointed out, was either the child tax credit the Biden administration is sending to families as we speak, or the various other child credit plans advanced by Senate Republicans, including—wait for it—Mitt Romney.

How can it be that the same “establishment Republican” who represents such an unattractive version of the American dream also wants to make life easier for the working families in whose name Vance speaks? And while I am asking questions, What evidence is there that government spending can arrest, not to say reverse, a demographic process hundreds of years in the making? What special clarity and insight into the workings of politics do parents possess, and on what basis shall we implement the radical ideas that a Hungarian demographer came up with 35 years ago? What does the substance of Vance’s remarks actually have to do with the everyday concerns of Ohio Republicans? I found it noteworthy, for example, that immigration, crime, and “election integrity” don’t come up until the final paragraphs of Vance’s remarks. The word “inflation” does not appear at all.

Such is the confusion that arises when a movement anchors itself to the personality of one former president, when a movement neglects the principles of political and economic freedom that guided it for so many years. It seems to me that for national populism to have a viable future, it needs to avoid straw men, see its political antagonists not as alien enemies but as fellow Americans, concentrate on the issues voters care about, and clarify its thinking on the relation of economics and culture. Can J.D. Vance accomplish this formidable task? He has until primary day—May 3—to try.


The Parable Of The Hungarian Spider And The Ill-Suited American Fly

By Dr. Miklos K. RadvanyiFrontiers of Freedom

On August 1, 2021, Viktor Orban the long-serving Prime Minister of Hungary posted a photo on Viktor Orban/Facebook with Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson chatting amicably at the Prime Minister’s official residence situated in the Buda Castle’s historical Carmelite Monastery.  To clarify the situation, Tucker Carlson tweeted:  “We’re in Budapest all this week for Tucker CarlsonTonight and a documentary for Tucker Carlson Originals.  Don’t miss our first show here starting tonight at 8 pm ET on #Fox News.”  

Tucker Carlson’s interest primarily in Viktor Orban personally and secondarily in Hungary harks back to early 2019, when he rightly praised Viktor Orban’s opposition to Angela Merkel’s lax immigration policies.  Yet, Viktor Orban’s resolute opposition to Angela Merkel’s and the European Union’s permissive immigration drive would have been more credible if he would not have granted either the equivalent of green cards or even citizenship to countless well-paying individuals as well as their families from Asia.  His “humanitarian” largesses that mostly favored rich Chinese and Russian citizens have been performed in total secrecy, raising all kinds of rumors about his, his families’ and his close collaborators’ private dealings with tens of thousands of those individuals with overwhelmingly questionable background.

Artificially linking Viktor Orban’s anti-immigration stand to Europe’s declining birth rate in general and Hungary’s abysmal record of steady population decline, he extolled the prime minister thus:  “Hungary’s Leaders actually care about making sure their own people thrive.  Instead of promising the nation’s wealth to every illegal immigrant from the Third World, they’re using tax dollars to uplift their own people, imagine that.”  Again, Tucker Carlson grossly embellished the Hungarian demographic situation.  According to the Central Statistical Office (Hungarian acronyms:  KSH), just in the first two months of 2021, the rate of population decline increased by a steep five percent.  In the same period, the death rate increased by a whopping six-and-a-half percent.  Meanwhile, the number of marriages decreased to 6,877 in the same period.  These trends are nothing new in Hungary.  Since Viktor Orban’s allegedly pro-Hungarian and pro-family policies, close to one million Hungarians left the country either permanently or temporarily.  To add insult to injury, young people declare in unison all over the social media that they do not see their future secured in Hungary and leaving the country permanently.  

Furthermore, in the same vein, Tucker Carlson opined: “Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has a different idea.  Instead of abandoning Hungary’s young people to the hard-edge libertarianism of Soros and the Clinton Foundation, Orban has decided to affirmatively help Hungarian families grow.”  In this manner, in addition to not reflecting reality, his praise of Viktor Orban’s stand on illegal immigration spookily mirrored Hungarian government propaganda.  As a follow-up to his flattering comments, he invited in February 2019, the Orban-puppet political non-entity Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto to reinforce this narrative on his show.   

To crown his sojourn to Hungary, Tucker Carlson sat down on August 5, 2021, for an interview with Viktor Orban and on August 7, 2021, addressed as the featured speaker the Mathias Corvinus Collegium Symposium, held between August 5th and 7th in the town of Esztergom at the bend of the Danube river.  According to the Director-General of the Collegium, “the biggest name at the Mathias Corvinus Fest will undoubtedly be Tucker Carlson.”  Both his interview and his speech were unmitigated disasters and made him permanently a laughing stock in Hungary.  Except for their utter idiocy, neither highlight of his stay deserves detailed analysis.  However, his senseless and unjustified denigration of the United States of America abroad merits a more comprehensive scrutiny.  

The Collegium itself has been under the auspices of the Maecenas Universitatis Corvini Foundation, as does the University too, that was established under  Law No. XXX of 2019.  The Foundation has been endowed by Law No. XXVI of 2020, with many billions of Hungarian Forints (HUF), such as 82 million shares from the government-owned oil company (Hungarian acronyms: MOL), each share worth almost 2000 HUF, 19 million shares of the government-owned pharmaceutical company Richter, at about 7000 HUF each, and a variety of other government-controlled foundations as well as institutions that indirectly channeled government-endowed largesses in the tens of billions to the university.  This Foundation is run by a Board of Directors (Kuratorium in Hungarian) selected exclusively by Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party with the absolute monopoly of power in Hungary.  Nominally, the Collegium’s mission has been “talent development” of gifted Hungarian youth from all over the Carpathian Basin, meaning mainly ethnic Hungarian youth from the Ukraine, Romania and Slovakia.    

For those who are not familiar with Hungarian history and geography, King Mathias, adoringly called Corvinus, ruled the Hungarian Kingdom from 1458 to 1490, and was dubbed the Renaissance King on the account of his progressive reforms and his marriage to an Anjou princess by the name Beatrice from Naples.  The town of Esztergom has been the seat of the only Hungarian Catholic Cardinal, starting with Bishop Domonkos the First in 1001.  For final historical accuracy, the Corvinus University of Budapest was named under the Communists the Marx Karoly (Karl Marx) Economics Scientific University.

To add intellectual cover to Tucker Carlson’s adventure to Hungary, Rod Dreher, a Senior Editor at the American Conservative, authored on August 4, 2021, a long article in the same publication under the title “Tucker To Hungary, Nixon To China.”  Claiming “a personal intellectual investment in the Hungary story” and trying to justify his grandiose title as a conservative breakthrough toward a more sane and effective Republican policy against both the Democrat as well as Republican Establishments and their misguided supporters, he suggests that “Tucker to Hungary is a kind of Nixon to China for conservative American intellectuals and thought leaders.”  Then follows an equally idiotic and confusingly discombobulated, grossly superficial and totally useless snippet of quotations from various writers, in which Rod Dreher attempts to show the difference between the allegedly uberliberal and unfree United States of America and the ideally much freer conservative Hungary. 

With due respect for Rod Dreher’s “personal intellectual investment,” whatever it is, I would like to present my objective intellectual analysis as well as my learned opinion to his and to Tucker Carlson’s unprofessional as well as extremely irresponsible flirtation with Viktor Orban and his equally unserious creed.  

For starters, some personal background.  I was born and mostly educated in Hungary.  After I took the Hungarian Bar for Judges and Prosecutors with distinction and oversaw all kinds of crimes in Hungary’s Communist society, I escaped to the Federal Republic of Germany.  Following a stint with Radio Free Europe, I worked in Academia in Germany.  Subsequently, I got an invitation from the United States Congress to join one of its research departments.  When Ronald Reagan was elected, I was on loan first to the Supreme Court, then to Senator Orin Hatch’s office and later to the White House.  I ended my government career as Congressman Christopher (Chris) Cox’s foreign affairs adviser.  I published hundreds of articles as well as opinion pieces and authored several books.  Already in 2005, I wrote an article about the real Viktor Orban under the title “Viktor Orban the Hungarian Chavez.”  Very recently, I published three major analyses on the current situation in Hungary at www.ff.org.  My aim with presenting my professional background is not to boast but to establish my credentials as knowing the United States of America and Hungary too, as opposed to the Monday Morning Quarterbacks of international relations like Rod Dreher and Tucker Carlson.  So-called intellectuals should not lecture others for being ignorant of the world when they are guilty of the same offense.

Moreover, throughout my professional career, I have been a staunch conservative and a Republican.  I wrote articles against George Soros and those who supported him either intellectually or politically.  Until his commentaries about Hungary, I mostly have agreed with Tucker Carlson’s opinions, especially with regard to the overall situation in the United States of America.  However, his lying about Hungary has turned him into an idiot.  As a result, his reporting about Viktor Orban and the Hungarian situation has only shown glaring ignorance and shameful fakery.  More dangerously, Tucker Carlson has positioned himself outside the intellectually objective and honest political debate in the United States of America, thus embarking on a zigzag course seeking to mix order and reform.  Seeing himself as becoming the media-equivalent of the “Reagan conservative,” he is running into political as well as intellectual headwinds, because of his deficient intellect and compensatory arrogance.

Both of these qualities have been in full display during his short stay in Hungary.  Limiting Viktor Orban’s policies to his justifiably firm response to illegal immigration and his “illiberal” responses to Brussels’ liberal value system are short-sighted and misleading.  It would be more helpful to put the Viktor Orban phenomenon in the context of the post-Communist developments in the formerly Soviet Union-occupied region’s general and specific situations.  Generally, all the countries that constituted the so-called Soviet Empire in Central and Eastern Europe have been in difficult transitions since 1990 from their original ubiquitously abnormal state to a more normal Western political, economic, cultural and ethical system.  In this quest, some have been more successful than others.  The Czech Republic and Slovenia have made the most progress.  Behind these two states are Slovakia and Croatia.  Romania and Bulgaria have been struggling to overcome corruption, poverty and political instability.  Poland and Hungary have been the most complex and contradictory examples of the post-Communist parochial as well as global challenges.  As far as Hungary is concerned, Balint Magyar published a thought-provoking article in Magyar Hirlap on February 22, 2001, in which he opined:  “With the appointment of Lajos Simicska (a former close friend of Viktor Orban’s) as the head of APEH(acronyms for the Hungarian IRS) a new chapter begins. What has happened since means the introduction of the state employing mafia methods within the democratic institutional framework to systematically build up an “organized uberworld” [in Hungarian felvilag as opposed to alvilag that means underworld].  Later, the same author with the assistance of Balint Mladovics published a book titled The Anatomy of Post- Communist Regimes, in which they argue that the so-called linear transition theory cannot be applied for those regimes, because of their “moral inhibition” to consequently adopt liberal democracy.  In conclusion, the authors coined the term “hibridology,” according to which those regimes are an inconsistent mixture of liberal and illiberal constructs.

Although I tend to agree in general with Balint Magyar, I think that the term “Mafia state” for Hungary is erroneous.  In a Mafia state the government is transformed because the Mafia that develops parallel to the state gradually overtakes the local and central positions of political, economic and financial organizations.  What has happened in Hungary since 1990 is exactly the opposite.  First, politicians gained absolute political power through using and then abusing the democratic processes.  After that, they turned the government into the instrument of their extreme lust for power and money. Therefore, I would rather use the term “Kleptocratic Absolutism” to describe the political regime of today’s Hungary.  

The post-Communist so-called “Democratic Politicians” were either members of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (Hungarian acronyms: MSZMP) or non-party persons who elected to stay in the country and conform superficially to the norms as well as the abnormal values of the Communist dictatorship.  The latter led a schizophrenic existence that made them hover between collusion with the regime or merger with the political and economic power holders.  Clearly, neither the former members of the Communist elite nor the passive sympathizers espoused democracy or free market capitalism.  

To add insult to injury, both groups unconditionally believed in the redeeming value of government institutions and their bureaucracies.  Thus, instead of changing society by promoting new ideas, they tried to modify, but not reform, the existing government organizations, in order to transpose society and its mentality to their own bureaucratic image.  Predictably, the results were devastating.  The first democratically elected Antall government in 1990 was on a futile search for a new Hungarian business elite that would, in turn, finance the new-old bureaucracy forever.  No wonder that corruption on the scale unimaginable even under the Communists has taken roots in the society.  This government of supreme amateurs only lasted a single term.  In 1994, the former Communists, their party rechristened to the “Hungarian Socialist Party” (Hungarian acronyms: MSZP) returned to power with an absolute parliamentary majority.  Yet, to avoid being reminded of their one-party dictatorship, they allied themselves with the Free Democrats (Hungarian acronyms:  SZDSZ) in an absolutely unworkable political alliance.  In 1998, came Viktor Orban and his Young Democrats (Hungarian acronyms:  FIDESZ) in alliance with the Smallholder Party (Hungarian acronyms: KGNP).  First, Viktor Orban destroyed his coalition partners and then started to take over the political as well as business heights of powers.  The first signs of Viktor Orban’s corrupt dictatorial mentality and his lust for money emerged.  Suspicion of corruption and conspiracy theories were abound across Hungary.  In 2002, his government was sent packing into opposition by the voters for eight long years.  The former Communists were back in the saddle with their unloved Free Democrats.

In opposition, Viktor Orban behaved in a most undemocratic and disgusting manner.  In addition to barely showing his face in the Parliament, he tirelessly incited his loyal Antifa-like mob to disrupt, threaten and destroy everything in their way.  As a result, the years between 2002 and 2010 were the eight lost years for Hungary.  Tired of the former Communists and the politically impotent Liberals, the Hungarian voters, in their desperate stupidity, gave Viktor Orban and his party an absolute parliamentary majority.

Viktor Orban’s second chance at absolute powers from 2010 would enter the annals of Hungarian political history as the rapid return to the one-party rule combined with the resurrected self-defeating “Magyar” (Hungarian) semi-Feudal mentality. Domestically, Viktor Orban has been convinced that he is the Messiah the Hungarians have waited for since the humiliating Trianon peace treaty in 1920.  Better still, he has believed that he is infallible and possesses God-like qualities to decide by himself what is good for the nation and what is not.  For these reasons, he has zero tolerance for any other opinion that happens not to be his.  Therefore, he is convinced that he has every right to tyrannize the entire nation whose citizens he looks upon as his subjects.                               

To this end, his and his party’s first major political/legal act was in 2011 to pass a new constitution, which with its nine amendments thus far, has become a highly politicized instrument for political, economic and moral corruption.  Naturally, more laws, decrees, regulations and an avalanche of government decisions have followed that have perpetuated his hold on the media, prescribed the limitations of free speech, the conduct of elections, the financing of political parties, and the obtrusive acquisition as well as shameless expropriation of the national wealth to his family and his chosen elementary, high school and university buddies.  

To complete the creation of his absolutism, Viktor Orban and his pliant Parliament appointed a bunch of Yes-men to key and lesser important central and local government positions.  In this manner, Janos Ader, the President of Hungary, has become the “signing automat” of every law having been passed by the Parliament without any regard to its constitutionality; Laszlo Kover, the Speaker of the Parliament, who rules with iron hand over the opposition and metes out insane amounts of fines exclusively against their members; Peter Polt, the Prosecutor General of Hungary, who sees his role to protect the Prime Minister and his close associates from domestic and foreign criminal prosecution; Sandor Pinter, the Minister of Interior, who does the same on the police investigation level; and Judit Varga, the Minister of Justice, who tries to explain why the frequent violations of the rule of law are more democratic than any legislation passed by the European Union, etc.

Thus, it beggars belief to hear Tucker Carlson claim incessantly that in Viktor Orban’s Hungary the people enjoy more freedom than in the United States of America and that in Hungary people fear less of the government than in the United States of America.  As opposed to Tucker Carlson’s tendentious and misleading narrative, Hungary under Viktor Orban’s absolutism has turned into a closed stock company for the exploitation of the national wealth with profits shared exclusively among members of the government, parliamentarians and their privileged adherents, called in Hungarian slang the “Knights of the NER.”  Most of them, including Viktor Orban, have entered government poor as Job, but in politics they have been elevated to millionaires and even billionaires.  The Orban absolutism functions like a private business, in which each shareholder thinks of public affairs only insofar as he or she could turn his or her position into private profit.  Money reigns supreme for a small minority, while the overwhelming majority of the population either lives in poverty or struggles to make ends meet on a monthly basis. 

Meanwhile, the building of soccer stadiums, organizing international sport events, exhibitions, politically motivated financing of ethnic Hungarians across the neighboring countries, etc. have been in full swing for a decade.  Unnecessary mega projects, such as the Budapest Belgrade railroad, the extension of Hungary’s only nuclear power plant in Paks, the construction of hotels that would never be filled with tourists, and the elevation of Viktor Orban’s birth place in Felcsut have been objects of nationwide derigion.  On the other side of the coin, the once excellent Hungarian education system and the health industry have been run to the ground.  

In this economically insane situation, a set of scandals has tarnished the so-called elite.  Without going into the well-publicized details of those scandals, it should be sufficient to mention the fact that between 2015 and 2019, Hungary has headed the European Union’s anti-fraud investigation list.  During this four year period, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) concluded forty three probes into misuse of funds where it found irregularities and recommended to the European Union Commission to recover some four percent of payments made to Hungary under the organization’s structural and independent funds and agriculture funds.  In comparison, in all other member states the recommended rate of recovery of European Union money was below one percent.  At the same period, the European Union average was 0.36 percent.  Hypocritically, the Hungarian government defended itself by claiming that all the irregularities took place under the previous government.  Just a humble note:  Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party has enjoyed absolute power since 2010.  

The most recent chaotic controversy again touches upon the suspicion of corruption in Hungary.  At the center of this new scandal is the Norwegian government’s financial contribution to the NGOs operating in Hungary.  The sum was 77 billion HUF, the equivalent of about 217.5 million Euros.  The saga of the Norway project has had its origin in an agreement concluded in December 2020.  Accordingly, the above quoted sum was designed to be distributed by an organization totally independent of the Hungarian government.  The latter had seven months to designate such an organization.  The Hungarian government missed the deadline and still demanded that the Norwegian Fund wire the money to Hungary.  The Norwegian Foreign Ministry informed the Hungarian government in early August 2021, that it considers the agreement null and void, because of the Hungarian government’s breach of the agreement.  Demonstrating that the word chutzpah has entered the vocabulary of the Hungarian government too, it first criticized Norway claiming that “Norway owes us this money,” since Oslo has benefited from its participation in the common market, despite not being a European Union member state.  To show the seriousness, better defined as irrational greed, of the Hungarian government, Gergely Gulyas, the government’s spokesman, stated that Hungary is looking into the legal possibilities to obtain the Norwegian money.  To support such a claim, the Hungarian government passed on August 6, 2021, Decision (in Hungarian:  Kormany hatarozat) 1564/2021, in which the government instructs the competent ministries to launch a complaint against the “Nowegian Kingdom” concerning the latter’s failure to provide the said amount of money to Hungary.   

In this single episode the entire mentality of the Viktor Orban-led regime is present.  For Viktor Orban and his clique, politics, including international affairs, is not the art of settling controversies but of trying to intimidate and to shut up those who disagree with them.  No wonder that the Viktor Orban regime is losing credibility at home as well as abroad.          

With respect to the Viktor Orban-led regime’s international shenanigans, the most important facts have been its anti-American, anti-European and pro-Chinese, pro-Russian and to a lesser extent pro-Turkish policies.  The gulf among the former and the close coordination among the latter are alarming, because the feeling of alienation on the one side and the hostile elation on the other are mutual.  Increasingly, Viktor Orban is asking what NATO and the European Union would do for Hungary.  Clearly, he is trying to use his allies to blackmail them into accepting his “illiberal democracy,” while offering Russia and China access to NATO and the European Union for personal favors.  In this dangerous game, in which he could easily be eliminated as prime minister, Viktor Orban has turned Hungary into a state of lies, fear, intimidation and vicious rumors.

As this analysis demonstrates, occasionally small countries must struggle with great challenges too.  Clearly, Hungary is at a crossroads.  The upcoming national elections next spring will be crucial for the future of the country.  Either Hungary will sink further into the swamp of Viktor Orban’s “Kleptocratic Absolutism,” or it will have a chance to rejoin as a democratic nation to the European Union and NATO.  The opposition parties have forged a united front, but barely.  Currently, their programs lack maturity.  In order to succeed, they will have to come up with a more homogeneous set of political and economic messages.  Yet, another election victory for Viktor Orban and his party would be unacceptable for Hungary and the West, including the United States of America, regardless of whether the Democrat or the Republican party controls the White House and Congress.  For this reason alone, objective information about the situation in Hungary would have been in America’s national interest.  Regrettably, Tucker Carlson’s week-long visit to the country did not serve this purpose.

Most importantly, Tucker Carlson appears to be in denial of Viktor Orban’s burgeoning authoritarian tendencies and endemic corruption both at home and abroad.  He says nothing or very little about strengthening the ruthless manifestations of glaringly anti-democratic values, such as censorship and other restrictive measures that have become daily occurrences in Hungary.  Even more alarmingly, Tucker Carlson is totally silent about the illegal spying on citizens, mainly opposition politicians and journalists.  Finally, it is never a positive professional sign about the strength of one’s case when a journalist compares Viktor Orban’s dictatorial regime favorably to the current state of affairs in the United States of America.  Thus, instead of presenting an explanation for his fallacious reporting, Tucker Carlson simply suppresses all the unpleasant and negative issues.  To a real and knowledgeable journalist, the difference between fraudulent government propaganda and the reality must be self-evident.  But not for Tucker Carlson who appears to be on a phony ideological mission.  Recommending Viktor Orban’s Hungary worthy to be followed by the United States of America is inexcusably idiotic.  In the end, Viktor Orban’s war on the Hungarian people and the West is not about politics.  It is about culture and mentality.  And in the long run, Western civilization carries far more weight than Viktor Orban’s and Tucker Carlson’s corrupt as well as bastard illiberal democracy.      


OPINION To Win in 2022, The GOP Should Focus on Its State Success

By Peter RoffNewsweek

National Republicans have spent much of the last few months confounded by a challenge. Their opponents are attempting to compel them to choose between embracing Donald Trump and rejecting him. The former president’s shadow looms over everything—and will, until he announces his intentions for 2024.

A lot can happen between now and then. GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) need to go to the American people now with alternatives to what the Democrats are offering. Waiting on Trump to make up his mind or worrying about what he will say is a big mistake.

The Republicans came out of the last election in a much stronger position than many commentators are willing to acknowledge. They gained seats in the U.S. House and, were it not for Trump’s post-election temper tantrum, would have maintained their majority in the U.S. Senate instead of losing two seats in Georgia they should have easily won.

Trump’s campaign autopsy put the blame for the president’s defeat on a failure to manage the COVID crisis effectively. That may have been more perception than reality—since his inauguration, Biden has done little more than stick to the plan already in place regarding what to do after a vaccine was developed. Yet, having voted for the “moderate” Democrat who would “fix” the pandemic, many Republicans and Independents now find themselves incredulous at the speed with which he’s moved to the hard left.

Biden hasn’t been able to get his agenda through, but not because the GOP has pushed back persuasively. The GOP is benefitting from an ideological split among their Democratic opponents who, with the narrowest of majorities in both chambers, are led by two spectacularly unimaginative leaders. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are intent on getting everything passed in one or two bills. With the slim majority they have, that’s a bad strategy.

Mitch McConnell
WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 20: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2nd L) arrives at a weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon with former Sen. David Perdue (L) at the U.S. Capitol July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans held a weekly policy luncheon to discuss the GOP agenda.ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

The GOP leadership needs to reflect on how long it can go before it must posit substantive alternatives to the Democrats’ radicalism. It needs to pivot and refocus the conversation on the most important issue: jobs and the economy.

While the economy is adding jobs, it’s not as many as most economists predict it should be. Republicans should find it galling that Biden claims the credit when his initiatives are job killers. The jobs we’re seeing the economy add were created under Trump after the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act but eliminated because of the lockdowns that governors—most of them Democrats—kept in place far too long.

Instead of focusing on Washington, McConnell, McCarthy, RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel and the rest of the GOP leadership should direct the American people’s attention to the states. That’s where the contrast between the two parties really shows.

It’s the Republican states where jobs are coming back the fastest. The five states with the lowest unemployment rates in June 2021 have Republican governors and at least nominal GOP legislative majorities. The eight with the highest unemployment rate are led by Democrats. Republican leadership in the states is succeeding first because their economic fundamentals were sound to begin with. And second because the governors of those states, unlike their Democratic counterparts, had the good sense to suspend the unemployment bonus payments that allowed people to stay at home drawing checks rather than look for work.

In Arizona and Ohio, for example, GOP governors Doug Ducey and Mike DeWine just signed off on tax cuts that will improve the business climate and the outlook for family budgets already being squeezed by “Bidenflation,” with consumer prices already up by more than 5 percent over last year. In Mississippi, GOP leaders like House Speaker Philip Gunn are pulling together a plan to increase competitiveness and attract jobs by phasing out the state income tax. All this is happening at the same time that Joe Bidenand his administration are trying to raise taxes through the roof in the U.S. while getting the industrialized nations of the world to agree to adopt a growth-killing minimum global corporate tax.

The GOP has a compelling tale to tell. It’s a story of how one political party will, if given the chance, take the American people down a path leading to limited government, more personal choice in key areas of life like health care and education, lower taxes, incentives to grow the economy and new jobs while the other party is primarily concerned with making government bigger and then feeding its unending hunger through higher taxes. The choice could not be clearer, so why not talk about it?


The Cheney Conundrum and What It Means for the GOP

By Peter RoffNewsweek

In Washington, there are two kinds of Republicans: those who care what The New York Times writes and those who don’t. As hard as it is to believe, there are still some in the GOP who care deeply about what the liberal media establishment says, though it’s not clear why.

The Times has been losing readership for years, along with its power to set the national agenda. It still has influence in the Acela corridor—that swath of urban liberalism between Washington, D.C., and Boston—and among the people who select the stories the major networks will cover. But most Americans get their news from the internet, where, as far as information about politics is concerned, it’s still the wild, wild west.

Among folks who use the internet as their primary source of information, the Times has about as much impact as a fly on an elephant’s back. To these people, what the so-called paper of record says about the GOP, conservatives in general and Donald Trumpspecifically doesn’t matter a swivel-eyed tinker’s damn.

To the elites, Wyoming representative Liz Cheney’s ouster from the No. 3 position in the House GOP leadership is a big deal. To them, it’s all about Trump—a person whose influence, Cheney and her newfound brethren seem to believe, must be cleansed from the party. To those who follow the House closely and understand how these things work, it’s not such a big deal.

Regarding Trump, Cheney is at odds with most of her Republican colleagues. Most of them, it seems clear, either continue to embrace the former president or would rather avoid talking about him, and instead prefer to spend their time and political capital opposing the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris vision for America.

liz cheney after vote to oust her
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) talks to reporters after House Republicans voted to remove her as conference chair in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on May 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

This is not an unreasonable position to take. Nor is Rep. Cheney’s—as an individual member of Congress. If she wants to spend her time crusading against Trumpian elements within the Republican Party, she has every right to do so. However, as a member of House GOP leadership, she has obligations that go beyond the dictates of her own conscience. She is responsible to the colleagues who put her in office and who—earlier this term—voted to keep her there. That means she should be on the Sunday shows and out in the hustings helping GOP candidates take control of the House back from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. She can’t do that if all she wants to talk about, as she’s made clear, is Trump.

The Republicans should be favored to win back the majority in 2022, based on reapportionment and redistricting alone. For all the Democrats’ protestations about gerrymandering—which they used to extend their own congressional majority for at least an additional 10 years beginning in 1982 without a word from elite media save for the Wall Street Journal editorial page—a fair map drawn without any demographic trickery should easily add the number of seats needed for the GOP to reach and exceed the magic number of 218. But, because nothing in politics is certain, unfocused GOP leadership could throw a wrench into the works and prevent it from happening.

The list of things that could go wrong for Republicans’ House prospects is long and largely speculative. High atop it, though, is a campaign in which Democrats and major media outlets force GOP congressional candidates to defend Trump day in and day out instead of taking the attack to Biden and the Democrats. In that environment, Cheney’s repeated condemnations of the former president and his influence on the party would not have been helpful to winning the House Republican Conference a majority for the two years before the next presidential election. And it would have been fatal to the Republican Party’s attempt to regain control of the Senate.

Members of the congressional leadership are expected to be team players. Leaders, even in the minority, must balance the interests of all members of their conference against their own. It is not easy and not a job for the faint of heart. But the number one priority, former House speaker Newt Gingrich once told me, is “Don’t do anything that will start a civil war inside your own party.” Cheney broke that rule and received the appropriate consequence. She has not been thrown out of office or stripped of her committee assignments. She’s now free to pursue what she thinks best for herself and the GOP without diminishing the prospects the other Republicans serving with her will be reelected.

In Washington, that matters. Out in America, where real life exists, not so much.


Senator Tim Scott and the Silent Democrats

By Peter RoffNewsweek

The “woke” fancy themselves crusaders engaged in a battle against injustice, racism, inequality and other societal ills they believe have held certain people back since before this country was founded. They may look askance these days at the author of the Declaration of Independence but are passionately committed to his thesis that all men and women are not only created equal but, by virtue of their humanity, possess certain rights which the state cannot legitimately take from them.

Don’t be fooled. It’s all part of an immense power grab by those seeking to remake the nation according to the ideas of certain 19th-century European white males who believed the highest, best use of power was to assure that goods and services—as well as the capital needed to produce them—are not allocated through the free market but “From each according to their ability, to each according to his needs.”

The decision to wrap those ideas up in a contemporary campaign against racism—one that depends on people not seeing their peers as equals regardless of color and on affirmative denunciations of anything remotely “racist”—is a neat trick designed to keep the well-intentioned from becoming suspicious. The United States is probably the single place where, considering our size, population and multi-ethnic character, race matters least. America is a place where anyone can succeed and where success is still considered something to be emulated rather than envied, progressive rhetoric aside. If racism still formed a kind of communal chain holding certain people down, it would have been foolhardy for the GOP leadership to choose Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to deliver Wednesday’s televised response to President Joe Biden‘s address to a joint session of Congress.

Sen. Scott’s success in business and politics, to which he himself alludes repeatedly, is a matter of character. Not just his own but his mother’s, her parents’ and that of several mentors he encountered along the path of life. His experience is quintessentially American—in the best of all possible ways.

So why did the woke remain silent when, moments after the speech ended, Scott began to trend on Twitter as “Uncle Tim”—an ugly phrase, meant to convey the stereotypical image of a black man happily subservient to white people?

Sen. Tim Scott
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) at the U.S. Capitol before he delivers the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s address to Congress April 28, 2021. Sen. Kevin McCarthy has touted Scott as a presidential contender.DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

It’s a slur all right, grounded in race. It suggests Sen. Scott is somehow a pawn of white men and women rather than a person of strength and independent mind who can judge for himself the best way to go through life.

Why have so few denounced the racist pillorying of a black, Republican United States senator? Why hasn’t the White House press corps asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki if President Joe Biden condemns those referring to Sen. Scott as “Uncle Tim?” Why haven’t Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi been asked whether they consider it an appropriate way to characterize one of their congressional colleagues? It’s not as though questions like these would break new ground. The Washington press corps hounded Donald Trump with them throughout his four years in office. Why is it silent now?

The same is true of the talking heads, whose nightly virtue signals to America about what is and is not racist dictate how the public should feel about every event, politician or piece of legislation. They too have had little to say about the “Uncle Tim” smear—just as they and their predecessors remained silent when similar slurs were hurled at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and other prominent black conservatives. Some of my fellow political reporters and columnists still deny that a notorious incident from the days before camera phones when someone tossed Oreos—black on the outside, white on the inside—at former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele even happened.

If the woke were as anti-racist as they claim, they’d be rushing to Sen. Scott’s defense. “A disagreement with him over ideas is not an excuse to pejoratively invoke the color of his skin,” they might say if they were honest. They haven’t, which is legitimate grounds to wonder about their integrity—on race and everything else. Are their sentiments genuine or are we just being played?


For 2024, Pence Is In. Can He Make it?

By Peter RoffNewsweek

Former vice president Mike Pence announced Thursday the formation of Advancing American Freedom to promote “the pro-freedom policies of the last four years that created unprecedented prosperity at home and restored respect for America abroad.”

To lead the group, he’s chosen Dr. Paul Teller, a highly regarded former congressional staffer and member of his vice-presidential staff. Teller’s policy chops and conservative contacts are hard to match. Pence has also attracted other conservative heavyweights—like former Heritage Foundation presidents Dr. Ed Feulner and Kay Coles James, Arizona governor Doug Ducey, Ambassador Calista and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former senior Trump advisers Larry Kudlow and Kellyanne Conway and important organizational leaders like Lisa Nelson, Penny Nance and Marjorie Dannenfelser—to serve on AAF’s advisory board.

If you think this looks like a presidential campaign in all but name, you’re not wrong. Pence says he wants AAF to blend “traditional conservative values with the Make America Great Again policy agenda that propelled the nation to new economic heights, and unprecedented strength and prosperity.” That’s a fancy way of saying “take the best of Trump, jettison the baggage and create an agenda the American people—especially the formerly reliable Republican suburban voters who helped put Joe Biden in office—can embrace.”

It’s a smart formula that relies on addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. As GOP political consultant Roger Stone used to advise, anything a campaign does that isn’t focused on growing its share of the vote is a waste of time.

The question is whether Pence can pull it off. As a House member, he was a GOP star, perhaps in line to be speaker someday. As Indiana’s governor he was a solid, if not exactly inspiring, chief executive who on the ideas front could never quite outshine his immediate predecessor, Republican Mitch Daniels—who is now president of Purdue University.

US Vice President Mike Pence
US Vice President Mike Pence on Air Force Two in Milwaukee on October 13, 2020. After President Joe Biden tripped on Air Force One, social media users shared video of Pence’s stumble before a flight in June 2020.KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/GETTY IMAGES

Pence has a chance to shine now, to step into the spotlight and show America what he’d do and how he’d inspire voters to embrace conservatism redefined. He could bring back the sunny optimism and hope that defined Reaganism—strong and not defensive but also not obnoxious.

On paper that sounds easy. In real life, it will be hard. The media elite already have their guns out for Biden’s potential 2024 challengers. Look at the hatchet job CBS‘s 60 Minutes just tried to do on Florida GOP governor Ron DeSantis, another possible presidential candidate, by alleging that in exchange for campaign contributions he let the Publix supermarket chain dispense the COVID-19 vaccine. The story landed with a thud—but it’s likely just the first of many drive-bys the media will try.

Let’s face it; the elite media helped put Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in office and have a vested interest in seeing them stay there. That means the knives are out for Pence, DeSantis, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and any other Republican who wants the nomination. This will make it especially tough for the former vice president as The New York TimesCNN and others try to tie him to the former president.

The challenges Pence faces on his way to the White House are threefold. First, he must separate himself from Trump enough to allow the Never-Trumpers to consider voting for him while not alienating the MAGA movement. Second, he has to come up with a bold agenda for growth and reform that will get the country moving again to counter what the Democrats offer during Biden’s term. Third, Trump has to decide not to run.

Since the third point is out of his control, Pence would do best to concentrate on the other two. The team he’s assembled so far represents a top-tier mix of MAGA conservatives and Reaganites, meaning that when he runs, Pence will be a force to be reckoned with.


The Working-Class GOP: A Muddled Concept

A favorite Republican catchphrase deserves higher scrutiny

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

“We are now the party supported by most working-class voters,” congressman Jim Banks of Indiana wrote to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy in a six-page memo this week. Banks, head of the Republican Study Committee, said the lesson is clear: It’s time to act like a working-class party. “Our electoral success in the 2022 midterm election,” he concluded, “will be determined by our willingness to embrace our new coalition.”

The Banks memo, first reported by Axios, is part of a trend. Influential Republicans have embraced the notion that Donald Trump transformed the GOP into the vehicle of the proletariat. “We are a working-class party now,” Josh Hawley tweeted on election night. “The future of the party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial, working class coalition,” Marco Rubio said a week later. “The future of the Republican Party is as a party that defends the social, economic, and cultural interests and values of working American families of every race, color, and creed,” Trump toldCPAC in February. Last month, Rubio announced his support for Amazon employees in Alabama who want to form a union.

Banks doesn’t go that far. The word union appears nowhere in his memo. He mentions “labor” only once, in a derisive reference to a Democratic special interest group. The lacuna is a reminder: Despite the emerging consensus that the GOP is a working-class party, there is little agreement on what such a party should stand for. Industrial policy? Trust busting? Family subsidies and financial transaction taxes? Banks sidesteps these trendy measures on the intellectual right. He suggests instead that Republican candidates adopt Trump’s posture of opposition to illegal immigration, offshoring of manufacturing jobs, COVID-19 lockdowns, Big Tech censorship, and political correctness.

It might take a second—or longer—to see how the issues Banks highlights relate to the material interests of Republican voters. What they have in common is an adversarial attitude toward the votaries of managerial liberalism. Indeed, Banks’s dichotomy isn’t between working class and capital, but between populism and elitism. Republicans, Banks writes, must “highlight the cultural and economic elitism that animates the Democrat Party.” It’s “Democrat elitism” that has driven working-class voters to the GOP. And “nothing better encapsulates Democrats’ elitism and classism than their turn towards ‘wokeness.'” Taxes, spending, welfare, and entitlements do not come up.

For all of the “working class” rhetoric in conservative discourse, few Republican politicians have adopted the economic measures put forth by Oren Cass at American Compass, Samuel Hammond at the Niskanen Center, and Julius Krein at American Affairs. Rubio and Hawley are political entrepreneurs willing to push the boundary of conventional GOP policymaking. But they are outliers. A figure like Banks, who has to win reelection every two years, is more cautious. He perceives that Republican voters are more interested in aggressive prosecution of the culture war than in technocratic manipulation of the economy.

The “class war” mentioned so often in conservative discourse is in fact the continuation of the half-century-long war over which values and social roles should be authoritative in American culture. Imposing a class framework on this struggle leads to confusion. After all, according to the 2020 exit poll, President Biden won voters making less than $100,000, while then-president Trump won voters who earn more than $100,000 by 12 points. And Biden won union members by 16 points. The AP Votecast results were more closely divided, but just as muddled: Trump lost voters who earned less than $50,000, barely won voters who made $50,000-$99,999, and narrowly lost voters who earned more than $100,000.

If you read class through the lens of educational attainment, you see that the GOP leans ever more heavily on white voters without college degrees. But that trend long predates Trump. And the white voters without bachelor’s diplomas are a large and diverse group. They encompass a variety of ages, life experiences, occupations, and net worth. The successful contractor who attended college for a few years before starting his own business has a different set of economic concerns than the restaurant server or grocery store clerk. Does muscular labor define membership in the working class? Perhaps. But not every voter without a college degree works with his hands. And agriculture and industry constitute a narrow base for a political party in an economy where 79 percent of jobs are in the service sector. Conservatives like to position themselves as the representatives of the rural heartland against the cosmopolitan metropolis. True enough. But what about the majority of Americans that lives in the suburbs?

Ideology, partisan affiliation, and religiosity mark one’s place in the culture war far better than income or education. Liberals went for Biden 89-10 in the exit poll, and conservatives backed Trump 85-14. Both candidates won 95 percent of their respective parties. And the gaps between voters without a religious affiliation and all others, and between white evangelical voters and all others, were huge.

Ideology also explains the Republicans’ surprisingly good performance among minority voters. There’s evidence, for example, that black Protestants are moving toward the GOP. “What happened in 2020 is that nonwhite conservatives voted for Republicans at higher rates,” election analyst David Shor recently explained to New York magazine. “They started voting more like white conservatives.” Why? Revulsion at the far-left messaging of radical elites on immigration and policing.

When the pollsters at Echelon Insights asked Republicans what they want from a candidate, the answer was someone who would “fight” for the conservative cause, support the Trump agenda, and speak out against cancel culture. The most important issues for Republicans are illegal immigration, law and order, taxes, and liberal media bias. The Echelon data have been replicated elsewhere. My AEI colleague Ryan Streeter writes, “Large national surveys conducted by the American Enterprise Institute suggest Trump’s supporters are actually quite content with American economic life but highly reactive to elite dominance of American culture life.”

Calling Republicans “working-class” is a self-flattering way to put the party on the side of the “forgotten American.” But it risks reducing voters to factors of production. And it flirts with an economic program actual Republicans don’t seem to want. The new class consciousness is another example of the Europeanization of American politics: For decades, the two parties competed for the loyalties not of the working class but of the middle class, and public policy experts devoted themselves to improving the condition of the urban poor or “underclass.” Now, Republican communicators are beginning to sound like the leaders of European parties whose anti-bourgeois romanticism often manifests itself in ugly ways.

Maybe less has changed than people think. Remember that Barry Goldwater first identified himself with the “forgotten American” back in 1961. The GOP remains a populist conservative party whose voters are incensed at the values, directives, and rhetoric of the men and women who occupy the commanding heights of American culture. It’s the party of married parents, of the small business owner, of the journeyman who aspires for a better life for his family. It’s the party of peace through strength, low taxes, safe streets, legal immigration, national pride, and traditional pieties. And what it needs most in 2022 are strong candidates who inspire the grassroots without terrifying independents.


A New Cosby Show? Conservative Fav Rita Cosby Gets New Show on NYC’s WABC

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

Veteran Emmy-winning broadcaster Rita Cosby, it was announced Monday, is joining the primetime lineup on WABC 770 AM, the New York City-based station that at one time served as the flagship for the late Rush Limbaugh, whose three-hour daily program changed American radio forever. 

In an interview conducted before the launch, Cosby promised her show would be “a cancel free zone” and invited listeners and fans of all kinds to call in with questions and comments. 

“Rita Cosby is the best in the business, with a tremendous following and incredible background,” John Catsimatidis, CEO of the Red Apple Group and 77 WABC Radio, said. Her new show, which will air weeknights from 10 pm to 12 midnight “will bring a new and exciting dynamic to our important evening programming.”

“Rita’s top-notch interviewing skills, impeccable record in journalism, and deep ability to connect with our listeners,” he added, portends big things for both the show and the station, Catsimatidis continued. The program begins at a time when the future of terrestrial talk radio, at one time an incredibly economically robust industry platform, is undergoing major changes thanks to the proliferation of podcasts, satellite radio, and internet streaming service. 

None of that should pose any problems for Cosby, one of America’s most recognized broadcasters whose successes across various media platforms can be matched by few other journalists. Her work in journalism has taken her around the globe and includes live reporting from the war zone in Afghanistan, from Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia during the NATO bombing, and along the U.S. border with Mexico. Known for her engaging style and headline-making interviews, she has obtained exclusives with more than twenty world leaders, including seven U.S. Presidents and Pope Francis, as well as with entertainment icons Michael Jackson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and infamous inmates Dr. Jack Kevorkian and David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, a serial murdered who terrorized New York’s five boroughs beginning in the summer of 1976 through his arrest in August of 1977.

“We are thrilled to have Rita Cosby taking over this important timeslot. Beginning Monday, our evening listeners will get a great dose of the latest news along with powerful and compelling interviews, from one of the country’s most well-regarded broadcasters,” said Chad Lopez, the president of Red Apple Media/77 WABC Radio.

Cosby was named Radio Ink’s 2018 Most Influential Woman Legend of the Year and has won six Gracie Awards in radio, including for Outstanding Host and Outstanding Talk Show. She previously worked at 77 WABC radio, serving as the station’s political editor and as the anchor of weekend and midday talk shows, from 2014 to 2018.

“The Rita Cosby Show” begins at 10 pm on March 15, 2021, and be heard on 770 AM throughout the New York City greater metropolitan area and live on the internet at https://wabcradio.com/.


Crisis, Resilience, and American Conservatism

By Peter BerkowitzRealClear Politics

In the weeks since Donald Trump departed the White House — and during the four years he resided there – we were constantly told that conservatism is in crisis. Then again, crisis seems to be a recurring condition for conservatism, or, more precisely, for the American conservative movement. By and large, these crises have proved fertile. American conservatism’s resilience over the last seven decades — its ability to shift weight and adjust focus to achieve a suitable balance — suggests that what appears as calamitous disarray involves salutary adaptation, sometimes painful and awkward, to changing circumstances.

The post-World War II conservative movement was born in crisis. Communist totalitarianism abroad and rapid expansion of the welfare state at home provoked incisive responses from two camps: those determined to conserve individual freedom and limited government and those dedicated to conserving traditional morality. Both classical liberalism and traditionalism had populist appeal, espousing principles that political and intellectual elites rejected but which significant swaths of ordinary voters embraced.

In 1955, a sense of crisis surrounded William F. Buckley’s launch of National Review. The upstart magazine quickly established itself as American conservatism’s preeminent publication, serving as a home for classical liberals and traditionalists, who were often at loggerheads even as polite society ostracized both. The conservative movement’s first national standard-bearer, Barry Goldwater, suffered a landslide defeat in the 1964 presidential election to Lyndon Johnson. In the mid-1970s, the fallout from Watergate roiled conservatism as well as the nation. George H.W. Bush’s loss to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election sent shock waves through the conservative movement as did Barack Obama’s defeat of John McCain in 2009 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

In each instance, the movement regrouped, recalibrating the balance between classical liberal and traditionalist imperatives, while appealing to the people against the elites. National Review laid the groundwork for Goldwater’s candidacy. His defeat and Watergate’s tumult served as preludes to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. President Clinton’s failed effort (which effectively excluded Republican participation) to pass health-care reform energized Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution. President Obama’s successful passage of health-care reform (which also effectively excluded Republican input) galvanized the Tea Party movement. Eventually, the Obama administration’s permissive immigration policy and inattentiveness to the distress that globalization wrought in working-class households fueled the populist backlash that Donald Trump rode to the White House.

In “A New Conservatism: Freeing the Right From Free-Market Orthodoxy,” published this month in Foreign Affairs, Oren Cass addresses conservatism’s current crisis. He sensibly contends that, in light of Trump’s achievements and implosion, conservatism must rebalance its priorities. For good reason, Cass urges conservatives to develop better policies to deal with inequality, labor, and public education. However, his tendentious critique of those whom he disparages as promulgators of “market fundamentalism” — from whom he would strip the title conservative – echoes old errors that marked internecine conservative strife dating back to the 1950s. It also warps today’s political realities and subverts Cass’s aspiration to form a right-leaning governing coalition.

Cass is executive director of American Compass. Founded in 2020, the new organization’s mission is “[t]o restore an economic consensus that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nation’s liberty and prosperity.” At the time, Jack Butler gently observed in National Review that “some of Cass’s immediate claims are worth questioning.” That remains true.

Consider his mockery of conservatives’ response to the COVID-19 global pandemic: “Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House flipped frantically through their dog-eared playbooks from the 1980s to determine just the right tax cut for the moment.” In the pandemic’s wake and consistent with their principles, many conservatives did propose tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Cass, however, falsely accuses Republicans of having “hewed rigidly to an agenda of tax and spending cuts, deregulation, and free trade.”

Actually, the GOP adopted a hybrid agenda. On March 27, 2020, in the pandemic’s early days, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed by a Republican-led Senate and a Democratic-led House. The CARES Act provided one-time cash payments to individuals, temporarily supplemented unemployment benefits, authorized loans to small businesses and large corporations, and delivered hundreds of billions of dollars to state and local governments. In May 2020, the Trump administration announced Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership that in record time supplied the American people and nations around the world with responsibly tested and highly efficacious vaccines.

Cass’s narrow definition of conservatism further distorts his analysis. “The hallmark of conservativism,” he begins reasonably enough, “is not, as is often thought, opposition to change or the desire for a return to some earlier time.” A related mistake, he observes, is “that conservatives lack substantive preferences.” But instead of identifying American conservatism’s substantive preferences — along with its principles and understanding of human nature and government — Cass highlights conservatism’s supposedly defining concern: “What in fact distinguishes conservatives is their attention to the role that institutions and norms play in people’s lives and in the process of governing.”

Progressives, too, care about the moral and political impact of institutions and norms. Having wrested control of the K-12 school system and universities, mainstream media, Hollywood, and the federal bureaucracy, they seek from those commanding heights to remake popular and political culture. Moreover, the left — in the academy, the media, and government — stresses the use of law and public policy to transform family, society, and the organs of government in accordance with progressive norms. Left and right differ over which norms should be cultivated, how institutions should be structured, and the extent of government’s involvement.

Cass’s abstract definition of conservatism as attentiveness to norms and institutions, moreover, reflects the excess of abstraction that conservatives since Edmund Burke — whom Cass cites as a model — have criticized. While appreciating that conservatives in the mold of Burke must combine “a disposition to preserve” with “an ability to improve,” Cass does not adequately specify the norms and institutions central to the American experiment in ordered liberty. In contrast, we can look to “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” published in 1790. In that document, the first of the modern conservatives came to the defense of the venerable beliefs, practices, and associations that sustained British liberty against the radical dogmas about freedom emanating from Paris.

While the American conservative movement possesses substantive preferences and is dedicated to the preservation of specific institutions, Cass fails to identify the core ones. Well understood, the conservative movement in America seeks in the first place to preserve the constitutional order, which is grounded in unalienable rights, embodies the principles of limited government, and depends on a citizenry that is educated — at home, in the community, and at schools — for the rights and responsibilities of freedom. Cass rightly seeks policies that fortify families, sustain communities, and address the discontents of working-class Americans, who have been hit hard by globalization. But he tends to downplay or neglect the imperatives of individual freedom and limited government in the fashioning of such policies.

American conservatism must once again respond to crisis by striking a balance, appropriate to the circumstances and the demands of the moment, that gives both classically liberal convictions and the traditional morality that sustains freedom their due. We need not “a new conservatism” but rather a new blend of American conservatism’s enduring principles.


Trump, Trumpism and the Future of the GOP

By Peter RoffNewsweek

Former President Donald J. Trump’s recent speech to the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) put him back in the spot he most enjoys: front and center of the national conversation. He’s been the topic, even as President Joe Biden suffered his first defeat on Capitol Hill and House Democrats passed a bill that suppresses our treasured right to freedom of speech.

Trump, always controversial, continued unhelpfully to assert the election was stolen from him even while effectively attacking the nascent Biden administration for undoing policies that “made America great again.”

The speech breathed new life into the discussion of a possible run in 2024 and whether he could win the Republican nomination.

Republicans and Democrats both know he could be a formidable presidential candidate in 2024, should he win the GOP nomination. He won 74 million votes in 2020—11 million more while losing than he did while winning in 2016. The GOP also picked up a governorship and flipped control of two state legislative chambers from Democrat to Republican (Democrats flipped none). Out of 227 defeated state legislators seeking re-election, only 52 belonged to the GOP.

Trump ran ahead of John McCain and Mitt Romney among blacks and Hispanics, and the GOP came within an eyelash of winning back control of the U.S. House of Representatives—when pre-election forecasts predicted they’d lose as many as two dozen seats.

Still, it’s not all gravy. The GOP lost control of the U.S. Senate and, as Karl Rove pointed out recently in The Wall Street Journal, almost all the Republicans running for the House ran ahead of Mr. Trump—”including eight in the 14 closest races that gave the GOP its pickups.” Down-ballot, the pattern was repeated, as many state legislative candidates ran ahead of the president.

Trump ran ahead of John McCain and Mitt Romney among blacks and Hispanics, and the GOP came within an eyelash of winning back control of the U.S. House of Representatives—when pre-election forecasts predicted they’d lose as many as two dozen seats.

Still, it’s not all gravy. The GOP lost control of the U.S. Senate and, as Karl Rove pointed out recently in The Wall Street Journal, almost all the Republicans running for the House ran ahead of Mr. Trump—”including eight in the 14 closest races that gave the GOP its pickups.” Down-ballot, the pattern was repeated, as many state legislative candidates ran ahead of the president.

President Donald Trump speaks at 2021 CPAC
President Donald Trump speaks at 2021 CPAC in Orlando, FloridaJOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

Others have encouraged the party to disavow Trump and what they refer to as “Trumpism”—which, until the former president’s speech at CPAC, was a phrase left either ill- or un-defined by those advocating for it.

This is where the danger lies—something that could plunge the GOP into a prolonged civil war that could cost the party greatly, and for a long time. Going forward, the party needs to decide what it’s for and what it’s against, and give the American people “an agenda worth voting for,” as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used to say.

What that in mind, it’s important to first define what “Trumpism” is in order to decide if it should be tossed aside. At CPAC the former president defined it as support for cutting marginal tax rates and deregulation to spur economic growth and job creation, traditional values and a strong military, secure borders and a merit-based immigration system, law enforcement, the rule of law, the Second Amendment, life, liberty and not letting China eat America for lunch (among other things).

Altogether, that sounds like an agenda most conservatives could, and should, support.

There may be other positions out there that people in positions of influence would like to see the GOP adopt. If there are, they should say so now, so that a discussion can be had. Simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as some suggest, would erase decades of progress by conservatives in defining the GOP as a coalition standing for free minds, free people and free markets.

That’s not to suggest everything about Trump should be swallowed whole. Like many of his predecessors, he refused to tackle entitlements, did nothing to address spending and approached important intergenerational issues and societal changes in a ham-handed, angry fashion. It’s one thing to push back against the Left—and it’s important he did—but it’s equally important to pursue consensus and to remember that compromise does not necessarily equal capitulation.

Right now, the GOP is stuck. To move forward and regain the majority in Congress as well as the presidency, the party must figure out how to take from Trump what was best while casting off things that were political or electoral liabilities. It’s not as hard as it sounds—and it’s been done before, as in 1994, when Republicans got past President George H.W. Bush’s betrayal of his promise to never raise taxes to win back Congress for the first time in 40 years.

The party’s mission, as the former president told CPAC, “must be to create a future of good jobs, strong families, safe communities, a vibrant culture and a great nation for all Americans.” If the GOP can come up with a plan to do that, its future electoral success is assured.


The Era of Limbaugh

Why Rush Limbaugh matters

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Rush Limbaugh
Getty Images

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Feb. 7, 2020. The Washington Free Beacon is reposting on the occasion of Rush Limbaugh’s death Feb. 17, 2021.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis spoke to Rush Limbaugh last fall at a gala dinner for the National Review Institute. The radio host was there to receive the William F. Buckley Jr. award. “He actually gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever had,” Limbaugh told his audience the next day. “He listed five great conservatives and put me in the list.” DeSantis’s pantheon: William F. Buckley Jr., Ronald Reagan, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Limbaugh.

Good list. No media figure since Buckley has had a more lasting influence on American conservatism than Limbaugh, whose cumulative weekly audience is more than 20 million people. Since national syndication in 1988, Limbaugh has been the voice of conservatism, his three-hour program blending news, politics, and entertainment in a powerful and polarizing cocktail. His shocking announcement this week that he has advanced lung cancer, and his appearance at the State of the Union, where President Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, are occasions to reflect on his impact.

It’s one thing to excel in your field. It’s another to create the field in which you excel. Conservative talk radio was local and niche before Limbaugh. He was the first to capitalize on regulatory and technological changes that allowed for national scale. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 freed affiliates to air controversial political opinions without inviting government scrutiny. As music programming migrated to the FM spectrum, AM bandwidth welcomed talk. Listener participation was also critical. “It was not until 1982,” writes Nicole Hemmer in Messengers of the Right, “that AT&T introduced the modern direct-dial toll-free calling system that national call-in shows use.”

Limbaugh made the most of these opportunities. And he contributed stylistic innovations of his own. He treated politics not only as a competition of ideas but also as a contest between liberal elites and the American public. He added the irreverent and sometimes scandalous humor and cultural commentary of the great DJs. He introduced catchphrases still in circulation: “dittohead,” “Drive-By media,” “feminazi,” “talent on loan from God.”

The template he created has been so successful that the list of his imitators on both the left and right is endless. Even Al Franken wanted in on the act. Dostoyevsky is attributed with the saying that the great Russian writers “all came out of Gogol’s ‘Overcoat.'” Political talk show hosts came out of Limbaugh’s microphone.

Limbaugh’s success prefigured more than the rise of conservative radio. His two bestsellers, The Way Things Ought to Be (1992) and See, I Told You So (1993), were the leading edge of the conservative publishing boom. And his television program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, produced in collaboration with Roger Ailes, was a forerunner of the opinion programming on Fox News Channel. “I had to learn how to take being hated as a measure of success,” he told a Boy Scouts awards dinner in 2009. “Nobody’s raised for that. And the person that taught me to deal with this and to remain psychologically healthy was Roger Ailes.”

Limbaugh is not fringe. His views fit in the conservative mainstream. He idolizes Buckley. “He was a fundamental individual in helping me to be able to explain what I believed instinctively, helping me to explain it to others,” Limbaugh saidlast year. The ideas are the same but the salesman is different. Limbaugh is Buckley without the accent, without the Yale credentials, without the sailboat and harpsichord. Limbaugh is a college dropout from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, who spends Sundays watching the NFL and speaks in plain language. His background connects him to the audience—and to the increasingly working-class Republican voter.

Limbaugh entered stage right just as Ronald Reagan made his exit. He took from Reagan the sense that America’s future is bright, that America isn’t broken, just its liberal political, media, and cultural elites. “He rejected Washington elitism and connected directly with the American people who adored him,” Limbaugh said after Reagan’s death. “He didn’t need the press. He didn’t need the press to spin what he was or what he said. He had the ability to connect individually with each American who saw him.” The two men never met.

Limbaugh assumed Reagan’s position as leader of the conservative movement. In a letter sent to Limbaugh after the 1992 election, Reagan wrote, “Now that I’ve retired from active politics, I don’t mind that you have become the Number One voice for conservatism in our Country. I know the liberals call you the most dangerous man in America, but don’t worry about it, they used to say the same thing about me. Keep up the good work. America needs to hear ‘the way things ought to be.'”

In a long and evenhanded cover story in 1993 by James Bowman, National Review pronounced Limbaugh “the leader of the opposition.” Bowman quoted R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., editor of The American Spectator. “We need to have people who can dramatize ideas,” Tyrrell said. “You need that literary spark. Luigi Barzini had it; Buckley has it. And, though he’s a great talker rather than a great writer, Rush has it too.”

More than a decade later, after the Republican defeat in 2008, Limbaugh once again stepped into the breach. The media likened Barack Obama to FDR. Republicans wavered. Should they cooperate with President Obama in building a “New Foundation” for America? Limbaugh gave his answer on January 16, 2009. “I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year and a half,” he said. “I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed.” Limbaugh said he hoped Obama failed. “Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it?” The monologue, and the speech he delivered to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., a month later, became a sensation. They set the tone for the Tea Party and Republican victories in 2010 and 2014.

Limbaugh did not mock Trump when the businessman announced his presidential campaign in June 2015. “This is going to resonate with a lot of people, I guarantee you, and the Drive-Bys are going to pooh-pooh it,” he said. He spent the primary reminding listeners of the importance of defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump was not an ideological candidate, he said. Trump was a missile aimed at the establishment. If ideology matters, then you should vote for Ted Cruz. “If conservatism is your bag, if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote,” Limbaugh said in February 2016, “there is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz, because you are exactly right: This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan.” But, Limbaugh added, the feeling in the country might be so anti-establishment that Trump’s unusual coalition could win the presidency. It did.

To say that Limbaugh supports the president would be an understatement. Last December he introduced the president at a Turning Point USA summit. He mentioned a recent encounter on a golf course. Someone told him it is hard to defend President Trump. “I said, ‘What? Hard to defend the president? It’s one of the easiest things in the world to do.’ President Trump does not need to be defended.” The crowd cheered. A few seconds later Limbaugh said, “How do you defend Donald Trump? You attack the people who are attempting to destroy him. They’re trying to destroy you. They’re trying to transform this country into something that it was not founded to be.”

Bold, brash, divisive, funny, and amped up, President Trump’s style is similar to a shock jockey’s. His presidency is another reminder of Limbaugh’s staying power. The American right has been molded in his anti-elitist, grassroots, demotic, irreverent, patriotic, hard-charging image. Rush Limbaugh is not just a broadcaster. He defines an era.


Hyper-Polarization, Executive Power, and the Constitution

By Peter BerkowitzRealClear Politics

Polarization, or a tendency toward the extremes, is a matter of degrees and frequently vexes free and democratic government. The hyper-polarization that disfigures American politics today — the determination to view fellow citizens who vote differently as mortal enemies — subverts free and democratic government.

A healthy liberal democracy thrives on a diversity of opinions. Hashing matters out in public frequently gets messy and often makes a hash of matters. But the gains that come from putting competing opinions to the test of open discussion with fellow citizens representing a range of perspectives and parties offset the inconveniences and unlovely aspects of democratic give-and-take. Free-flowing debate exposes errors to the light of day, refines evidence and argument, and develops the habit of listening and considering before dismissing or embracing.

The hyper-polarization that plagues the United States stifles the conversation among citizens that is democracy’s lifeblood. To benefit from the public exchange of opinion — indeed, to sustain it – citizens must respect others and trust that their views will be heard fairly and responded to in civil fashion. That can’t happen when a significant segment of the right despises the left and believes they are enemies of the state and a significant segment of the left despises the right and believes they are enemies of the state.

Hyper-polarization differs from the endless disagreements about policy and the normal opportunism and hypocrisy that mark democratic debate. Between 2001 and 2016, for example, views on executive power tended to reflect preferences in the most recent presidential election. As polarization intensified, the opportunism and hypocrisy got harder to swallow, but the controversies followed a familiar pattern.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, Republicans argued for far-reaching presidential powers, encompassing the authority to employ highly coercive interrogation techniques against enemy combatants, to detain them indefinitely, and to intercept a wide range of foreign and domestic communications. Democrats accused Bush of shredding the Constitution.

Subsequently, Democrats defended President Barack Obama’s still more expansive interpretation of presidential power. It included sending Americans into battle in Libya without congressional authorization, making new law through executive fiat to grant approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants the eligibility for temporary legal status, and promulgating a “dear colleague letter” that sidestepped the legally prescribed regulatory process in order to compel colleges and universities to deny the accused in campus sexual-misconduct cases elementary due-process protections. Republicans were aghast not only at Obama’s substantive policies but at the latitudinous view of executive power that informed them.

Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 Republican primaries changed the terms of the debate. While frequently speaking in characteristically grandiose and sweeping terms of the extent of his power as president, President Trump did not surpass Bush or Obama in expanding executive power. Nevertheless, the self-proclaimed “resistance” to Trump’s presidency — launched before he entered the White House and set in motion publicly and behind the scenes before he won the election — indefatigably challenged his very exercise of executive power.

With Trump’s presidency, polarization in America turned into hyper-polarization. The anger and bitterness that had been increasingly rearing their ugly heads metastasized into fury and hate engulfing the body politic.

To slow down the spread of these destructive passions and lower the temperature of American politics, it will be necessary to exercise virtues of evenhandedness, toleration, and civility while embracing shared principles that can frame political controversies, bridge disagreements, and yield accommodations and compromises — sometimes favoring the right, sometimes favoring the left — with which both sides can live. In “The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power Under the Constitution,” Michael McConnell exhibits those virtues and shows that those principles can be discovered in the Constitution.

A Stanford Law School professor and my colleague at the Hoover Institution, McConnell did not in the first place undertake to counter hyper-polarization. The work of an eminent scholar of constitutional law, his book authoritatively reconstructs the original understanding of Article II — which lays out the scope and character of the president’s powers, eligibility for the office and the manner in which the president is chosen, presidential duties, and the actions for which the president may be removed from office — and related constitutional provisions in order to illuminate contemporary controversies over executive power.

At the same time, McConnell’s study of the Constitution’s original design and his treatment of executive power furnish a nonpartisan standpoint for organizing partisan political disputes of all shapes and sizes. In addition, his unfailing judiciousness in considering evidence, sorting through claims, and reasonably interpreting and impartially applying constitutional principles provides a model of virtues that undergird free and robust discussion.

Among the leading questions at the Philadelphia convention of 1787, according to McConnell, was how to “achieve the independence, vigor, secrecy, and dispatch necessary for an effective executive without rendering him an elected monarch?” Taking advantage of executive power — which, as the president’s constitutional responsibility as commander-in-chief demonstrates, extends well beyond implementing the law made by the legislative branch — without opening the door to illiberal and anti-democratic government remains the central question for constitutional government concerning presidential power.

To understand the delegates’ answer, McConnell argues, we must become students of history. Only by grasping how the Constitution’s clauses would have been understood by Americans at the time of the document’s drafting and ratification by the states can we appreciate the Constitution’s legal meaning. That in turn requires detailed examination of British political and legal history in which the drafters were steeped as well as of the writings of Locke and Montesquieu among other seminal thinkers who shaped the era’s leading ideas and major intellectual currents.

Some will disparage — or praise — such an approach as conservative. In fact, it lies at the very heart of the judicial enterprise. If federal judges confronting cases and controversies about the supreme law of the land are not construing the Constitution as understood by those who composed it and expressly consented to it — the authority of which is tacitly affirmed in every generation by those who live under it and enjoy the rights it secures and the prosperity it promotes — then they depart from the specific grant of power the Constitution assigns to the judicial branch.

Because language is malleable, judges will encounter — in even the most carefully crafted charters of government — play in the joints and face the responsibility of filling in gaps, overcoming ambiguities, and reconciling conflicts. Whether they discharge that responsibility in light, or in defiance, of the Constitution’s text, structure, and history makes all the difference.

“Constitutional text and original meaning are the only hope we have for finding principles that could constrain modern assertions of presidential prerogative,” writes McConnell. And the principles of free and democratic government embedded in the Constitution are the only hope we have for establishing a common ground on which to conduct constructive public discourse; refine opinions about law, policy, and politics; and advance the public interest.

McConnell places on a sounder footing the jurisprudence of the presidency and the separation of powers. Legal scholars and experts in political ideas and constitutional government will derive great benefit from his meticulous and trenchant account of the work of the Philadelphia convention; of the distribution between Congress and the presidency of what were considered  “royal powers” in the British political tradition; of the internal logic of Article II; and, not least, of the application of constitutional text and original meaning to classic Supreme Court cases and contemporary controversies about executive power.

Amid the hyper-polarization racking the country, McConnell’s demonstration of the centrality and wisdom of the Constitution along with the spirit of his argument, at once rigorous and generous, also contribute to the still more urgent task of stabilizing liberal democracy in America.


Voters Say U.S. Is More Divided, Doubt Biden Can Unite Americans

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

Phil Roeder from Des Moines, IA, USA via Wikimedia Commons

In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden used the word “unity” 11 times to highlight his commitment to bringing the American people together. According to one new poll, it didn’t have much of an effect. His call for a new togetherness to fight what he called “common foes” including resentment, disease, hopelessness, anger, and lawlessness appears to have fallen on deaf ears. 

Whatever Biden may have said, most voters, a Rasmussen Reports telephone and online survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters “think the country has become more divided since Election Day.”

According to the poll, fewer than 1 out of every 5 are “very confident” Mr. Biden will be able to bring Americans together. A majority of those answering the survey – 56 percent – said divisions have increased since the November 2020 election while just 16 percent said they thought the country was “more united.”

Personally, Mr. Biden is doing better than his calls for national healing. His job approval, based on the averaging of six different national polls, stood at 56 percent – not exactly at traditional “Honeymoon” levels but higher than his immediate predecessor was ever able to achieve. 

One way in which Mr. Biden himself may have exacerbated existing divisions has been through his aggressive use of executive orders to repeal or make changes to policies enacted during the presidency of Donald J. Trump. 

While most of his predecessors – Republicans and Democrats – used this power sparingly during their initial days in office, Mr. Biden has been on something of a tear, issuing nearly two score and counting in his first weeks on the job. One of them, which rescinds the permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline at an estimated cost of more than 10,000 union jobs, has further inflamed the blue vs. green split in the Democratic Party between industrial workers and environmental activists. 

The data indicates Mr. Biden has a tough needle to thread moving forward. The coalition that elected him is held together by very thin wire despite his having won a record-shattering 80 million-plus votes in the last election. Without Mr. Trump to keep progressives and Democrats united against a common enemy, the new president’s need to satisfy the demands of the people who put him in office will repeatedly come into conflict over the remainder of his term. 

The Rasmussen Reports survey was conducted after Biden’s inauguration on January 25-26, 2021. The data has a reported sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level. 


8 Strategies For Exiting The Biden Years Stronger Than The Right Went In

Let's be honest: The right is making a forced retreat. Here's how we can make it a strategic one that sets our ideas up for better success in the long run.

By Joy PullmannThe Federalist

8 Strategies For Exiting The Biden Years Stronger Than The Right Went In
Photo U.S. Embassy Jerusalem / Flickr

Joe Biden’s inauguration is a sad day for those of us on the right, and it’s not just because — either through actual votes or through deliberate election confusion — we lost the Senate and presidency. It’s because so many of us are deeply aware of what Democrat reign means.

It means the acceleration of mass murder and forcing taxpayers to pay for it. It means, as my boss Ben Domenech puts it, “nuns are back on the menu.” It means, as I’ve pointed out, the increase of public schools destroying children’s innocence and facilitating minors’ access to drugs that enable HIV-positive sex. It means an entrenchment of the institutional racism of critical race theory in every institution possible, also pushed by taxpayer funds.

It means Democrats rig more structures of American life against those who disagree with them, possibly preventing us from ever having a meaningful voice in our own governance again. It means the proliferation of government spending that accelerates our nation’s likelihood of devastating economic collapse. It means frighteningly labeling half the country “domestic terrorists,” a label that prepares for stripping more of our rights. All this, in turn, makes us increasingly vulnerable to foreign enemies, propagandists, and demagogues.

This is a weight that is difficult for the perceptive to bear. Those of us who deeply treasure what makes America itself are again staring into the abyss of the genuine possibility that what we love about our country may be truly lost forever, as not just lambasted authors of Flight 93 essays but also highly studied, more tonally measured observers such as Charles Murray think is quite clear from the data.

While these losses do mean the increase of genuine moral evils and therefore deserve to be mourned, all is not lost. Yes, we’re forced to retreat, but let it be a strategic, orderly, cunning retreat, not a chaotic  retreat that breaks into a rout.

There are now numerous strategic advantages and strategies available to the people who love America, if we choose to employ and enlarge them. With them we may begin, if not to “save America,” at least to enlarge some space for living more closely to America’s founding principles than we inhabit now and to mitigate the evils that are to come.

1. Recognizing Corporate Media as a Propaganda Machine

Those of us who have been paying attention are now highly aware that corporate media and corporate tech are a bicephalic propaganda monster. We’ve learned through a 2020 of constant lies, information control, and gaslighting — from COVID to Hunter Biden — that the quickest way to guess the truth is, as in communist countries, to read what state media are saying and then assume the opposite.

While it’s frightful that corrupt, pedophile-enabling corporate media control our lives right down to the air we are allowed to breathe and whether we are allowed to honestly support our families, and that the majority of Americans either believe their outright lies or are heavily influenced by them, this knowledge is also highly useful. For it means that Americans are not necessarily supportive of socialism and baby murder and all the other things that Democrats do when in power. It means that our country still includes a lot of well-meaning people who love America but have been deeply deceived enough to turn it over to its worst enemies.

This means Democrats do not have, in any way, shape, or form, a mandate to perpetrate the policies upon which they are about to embark. Their empire is built on a throne of lies. And empires like that are weak and unstable, as Democrats’ fortification of the capitol and crazy accusations that U.S. soldiers who voted for Trump are traitors also projects.

This weakness means danger, but also opportunity. We must be ready to bind up the wounds and welcome to our ranks those the left’s culture war has devastated. We must do our utmost to dispel the lies that give the left power. Information warfare — in education and media contexts, primarily — should be a top priority.

Additionally, this means (metaphorical) war against corporate and tech media dominance is highly needed and will be effective. It has plenty of room and need for growth. It also means that citizens need to do more to combat media lies and provide the basic information Americans need and which big media takeovers have entirely hollowed out. Their lies need to not only be exposed, but replaced with truth.

I’d start with forming local blogs focused on local information-sharing about basic entities like the school board, city council, election laws and procedures, and district attorney. It’s not that hard to go to a meeting and write a 800-word summary of what happened. Get a dozen friends and divide up the job.

Ask DA and county sheriff’s candidates their positions on the crazy things Democrats are doing like springing rioters and enabling opioid spread, and publish what they do or don’t say. Stop railing on Facebook and start attending public meetings and writing about them on your own local group blog.

2. Crystal Clarity About the Left’s Real Goals

As a part of Democrats’ lack of awareness they lack a mandate other than “don’t be Trump,” they are going to overshoot, big time. They are going to enact many extremist ideas. Even the propaganda media won’t be able to entirely hide this from Americans. And there will be backlash.

This will heighten the contradictions between Democrat leadership and many current Democrat base voters who are staying with the party even though its priorities hurt them and the nation. The lack of Trump as an all-purpose leftist scapegoat will assist with this.

As has been widely noted, Trump was able to break through some of the racial stereotypes about what it means to be a Republican or Democrat and earn more nonwhite support. With him in retirement, those of us on the right have the opportunity to continue making his case without being saddled with his baggage.

This is a huge opportunity. Without Trump to use as an excuse for everything, Democrats are going to provide clarity to many more voters that they are actually the totalitarians they project onto the right. They are going to harass nuns, foster parents and agencies, Christian camps, and minorities who disagree with them. They are going to be more obviously the party of the rich and corrupt.

It’s a bad look. And it will turn voters away. Again, we need to be ready to welcome these voters even if they are not ideologically “pure.” I’d rather have a wasteful social welfare state that murders fewer babies, supports free speech, and doesn’t harass nuns than a corporate welfare state that harasses the poor and religious. If that is the tradeoff we get, I’ll take it.

3. Separation of the GOP from Big Business

In the wake of the capitol riots that weren’t perpetrated by Black Lives Matter, big corporations and chambers of commerce have pulled their high-dollar donations from many Republicans and Republican political funds. Good.

For years, elected Republicans offered lip service and placebos to their base voters and did what big corporate donors actually wanted, which hurt their voters and structurally undermined their long-term support, such as through mass illegal immigration. This has rightly fueled the public perception that Republicans care only about money and rich people, rather than an equal playing field for all and the common good. Now without those donations, they have no reason to offend and harm large numbers of voters to suck up to a small number of donors. This will make them more competitive and less corrupt.

Behavior like the below, for example, will erase the financial incentive for Republican officeholders to provide special breaks and bailouts for businesses that pay politicians big money to slant the legal playing field in their favor. Trump has made for a GOP that is far more competitive in the small-dollar online donor space. This will further help low-information voters see that Democrats are the party of the corrupt at the expense of the people, and make the GOP less so.

4. Accelerating the Corruption Cycle

COVID shutdowns with no end in sight are a violation of our natural, constitutional, and human rights. However, as with a Biden administration coming to power, this evil also will cause damage to those who attempt to wield it against their enemies.

It will mean a quicker downfall of many corrupted institutions, from “churches” that don’t proclaim orthodox theology losing parishioners who will never come back from “virtual church” to the death of higher education institutions that have been colluding with corrupt politicians to scam gullible young people out of their futures.

Our country is populated by people who fail to the top. But the more of them there are, the more enemies they make and the weaker their rigged systems become. And the more aware their opponents and the people caught in the middle become of their decay.

This will mean more cultural, theological, and philosophical refugees. Ready the lifeboats for them now.

5. Targeting the Close and Local

The Trump era has revealed the complete corruption of America’s ruling class to many more people. This stress test gives us an excellent template for what to target for fixing or elimination.

Let every locale where it is possible create the most secure voting systems in the world. Let every locale where it is possible elect and support sheriffs who will not allow a Biden administration to crush Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Let every Republican governor and member of Congress who has lost corporate support now make a ruthless plan to eliminate corporate favors from the entire legal code over which they have jurisdiction.

Let every single town board and town council put Comcast, Verizon, and all other ISPs and broadband providers on notice that if they do not adhere to First Amendment protections for all customers, these local governments will be finding another business to profit from the public infrastructure in their towns. Let every single legislature controlled by Republicans ban the institutional racism of critical race theory in every single public workplace in their state, including universities and public schools. If every elected Republican will not support this, they should be put on record explaining why not, by citizens and their local news blogs.

If the United States is to live under neo-feudalism, in which our rights are subject to the whim of whoever is in power and shift with every election instead of being protected forever equally for all under the Constitution, then let these neo-feudal lords begin to stake their territorial claims and protect their citizens as best they can, severing the levers the abusers of our rights deploy against us (such as federal funding).

Let sanctuary cities and states no longer be only for California. It will be a good thing for the federal government to have more difficulty forcing its schemes on states and local governments.

All this will only accelerate the migration from blue to red states that is already underway.

6. Forced Deep Thinking on First Principles

The sheer extent of the degradation of America’s founding principles and the citizenry who once had the character to live under them clarifies what is at stake. No longer can we pretend that identity group “antidiscrimination” rules are compatible with equal protection or the First Amendment. No longer can we pretend that a government that can dole out unfathomable amounts of money can do so without corrupting both those who give and those who receive this false charity.

We now live among the real-world results of implementing leftist ideology, and it’s not pretty. And no one can really deny it. This is why Democrats take refuge in the culture war, the cult at the core of their secular religion — they have nothing left to offer the masses but bread and circuses.

This is pushing people to make significant life changes towards a more meaningful and integrity-filled way of life, and to seek other people to join this journey. It is also pushing the truly awake people — and a few of our lawmakers — to reach down into the well of first principles to find water in a parched land. This well is an abundant source of life and renewal that many people would not seek if life stayed comfortable.

7. Engage in More Conversations, Not Less

This is precisely the time for we anti-wokesters to coalesce around principles on which we can all agree. This may be our only hope of survival, in fact. As in the Cold War era, to defeat our common foe we need a broader coalition that is necessarily going to include a lot of people who disagree on a lot of particulars.

To work out our strategies and points of agreement to fight not against each other but against our common foe in the ideology of the totalitarian left, we need to encourage more speech, not less. We need to engage more points of view and be willing to let more people speak, not fewer. We need to not be primarily attacking and tone-policing people of good will who love our country, but primarily facing outward at the barbarians who control the gates and want to destroy our country.

This doesn’t mean there are no morals, that people should be relieved of the burden of proving their assertions, or that we should elevate the voices of people who believe things that have been soundly proven to be wrong (such as Holocaust deniers). It means, however, that instead of banning them from the Internet or refusing to allow them to air their ideas, we should listen with empathy and try to understand their points of view. Our primary orientation should be persuasion, conversion, discussion, and openness, not eradication.

Instead of shutting people up because we disagree with their conclusions, we should ask them to prove their assertions and explain what led them to their stances, as James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian recommend in their excellent book. If it works with Ku Klux Klan members and people in divorce counseling, it can help our country too.

8. Persecution Purifies and Creates Solidarity

As regarding the capitol rioters, the propaganda narrative depicts us and Trump making a cacophonous, beaten-puppy exit. But in fact, as this week’s impeachment vote and more prove, we are highly unified. The outliers are given outsized voices by corporate media to deceive and demoralize us.

We are not like these rioters in any way, including in making an ignominious exit. Yes, we’re headed for the wilderness circuit that befalls a party out of power, but the truth is, we’ve been out of power this whole time. Trump was undermined and lied to continuously by every branch of the government he was elected to command. The past four years have made this and many other truths much plainer to see. Seeing clearly makes it possible and necessary for us to act prudently.

Being in the wilderness also has its advantages. They include loyalty — not sycophancy, but loyalty of the kind that only arises amid brothers and sisters in arms under constant attack. It teaches us to sacrifice, to become tougher, leaner, smarter, more agile. These are all great assets that may or may not give us a political advantage here in this temporal life, but absolutely make us better fit for eternal life. And the left can never truly command people whose souls are free, no matter how strong they appear to be.


In Virginia, the GOP May Find its Great New Hope

By Peter RoffNewsweek

Adapt or die.”

In business, it’s a well-known maxim but it surprisingly doesn’t carry much weight in politics. For some reason the consultants, donors and strategists driving candidate selection too often go with folks they know, thinking that a bit of tinkering with the message will be enough to carry them to victory.

They’re wrong—as many recent Virginia elections have demonstrated. Once a reliably red state at the federal level, the Old Dominion has turned blue. In Richmond, the Democrats who came roaring back into power in 2019 are of a radically different bent than the ones who made up the legislative majorities through most of the 20th century.

Being known as the party of limited government, standing for life, supporting Second Amendment rights and allowing people to keep more of what they earn still works. It’s in sync with what voters in most parts of Virginia and most parts of the nation generally believe.

To win going forward, Virginia party leaders and the folks at the grassroots level need to be bolder when choosing their messengers. It’s all well and good to talk about what policies mean for the working class, for the poor, for the communities of immigrants that have sprung up throughout Northern Virginia—all of whom, of late, have thrown in with the Democrats. To be convincing, the GOP is going to have to look beyond its traditional pool of candidates in the state legislature and in the county courthouses.

The party must expand its reach. It needs to nominate candidates who can talk convincingly about Virginia and America as places where hard work, luck and adherence to the rules and values of society should still make it possible for people to pursue, as one prominent Virginian put it, happiness.

Virginia flag
The Virginia State flag and the American flag fly near the Virginia State Capitol, February 9, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia.DREW ANGERER/GETTY

The best candidates are the ones who know this to be true because they’ve walked the walk. Standing out among the other potential 2021 gubernatorial candidates in this regard is Sergio de la Peña, a recently retired career Army officer who spent the last four years at the Pentagon dealing with serious national security issues.

He’s a modest man of modest means. Talking with him about his accomplishments, and there are many, is difficult. He likes to share credit where it is due and regards everything he’s done as the result of team efforts. That may be his military training talking, but it works. Of late, we’ve had our fill of braggadocious politicians on both sides of the aisle who think the people’s business is all about them.

“I came to America from Mexico in 1961. I immigrated legally, went to work, learned to speak English and eventually traded my Mexican citizenship for a uniform, olive drab,” Mr. de la Peña told me. “It was the best decision I ever made.”

“Now,” he continued, “I want to pay America and Virginia back for the opportunities it afforded me by doing what I can to create an environment in which others can achieve all that their potential allows. That’s why I’m running for governor, to bring hope and opportunity to all the people of the commonwealth.”

Mr. de la Peña has strong words for what he calls “the liberal elites” who presume immigrants like him are natural Democrats and support a hard turn to the left. “Just like everyone else, [immigrants] want the chance to make it in America. We don’t want handouts. We want to work hard and build a better life for ourselves and our children. I did and I know others can too, given the chance. What the liberals in Virginia now are offering are the kinds of proposals that took Venezuela from the most prosperous country in Latin American to just about the poorest.”

“Socialism always fails,” he said. “It hurts countries and it hurts most the people it’s supposed to help. The elites, meanwhile, continue as before, fat, happy and comfortable in the belief they’re helping. I’m not afraid to say that and I won’t be intimidated into not speaking my mind. I’ve seen it firsthand and I know what I’m talking about.”

Mr. de la Peña doesn’t fit the media caricature of a typical Republican. His policy positions are thoroughly Reaganite, which the traditional GOP vote outside Northern Virginia will find appealing. If the voters who live in the counties and communities connected to the region around the Capital Beltway—many of whom, like him, are immigrants to the United States who’ve been voting Democrat for many years—give him a fair hearing, he’s confident he can win many of them over. Enough, at least, to form a winning majority that will make him the commonwealth’s next governor.


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