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The Media Mirror Has Two Faces

By JAMES MCCARTHYNational Review

People line up for taxis across the street from the New York Times headquarters in 2013.  (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Two recent pieces in Vox and the New York Times say outright what many of us have long understood is an implicit belief among our elite media: that the media are motivated — and should be motivated — by ideology, not objectivity.

Of course, the ethics guidelines and mission statements of leading outlets have yet to acknowledge this reality, and many still read like paeans to the old gods.

“Our fundamental purpose,” the New York Times cautions its reporters, “is to protect the impartiality and neutrality [of our] reporting.” The Washington Post insists on strict “fairness” and that it “shall not be the ally of any special interest.” We are “unbiased, impartial, and balanced,” declares the Associated Press. “Non-ideological objectivity” is what the Los Angeles Times assures readers it maintains. “Professional impartiality . . . without our opinions,” is the standard declared by National Public Radio.

But if you look at what journalists actually say about each other and their racket behind closed doors, at the champagne-soaked galas where they hand each other prizes, you’re hard-pressed to find an acknowledgment that impartiality or balance are even virtues at all.

The most insider-y of these onanistic lovefests is the annual Mirror Awards, hosted by the prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications and focused on reporters who cover the journalism industry itself.

One of this year’s nominees for “Best Story on the Future of Journalism,” the Pacific Standard’s Brent Cunningham, perhaps captures the new media zeitgeist most starkly in an article  spotlighting reporters who hold the “belief that journalism’s highest calling [is] not some feckless notion of ‘objectivity,’ but rather to . . . expose the many ways the powerful exploit the powerless” and “f*** ’em . . . with the facts.” Indeed.

Reporter Jon Marcus was nominated for a piece in Harvard’s Nieman Reports about reporters who withhold certain facts — say, the name of a mass shooter — in a move that’s come to be called “strategic silence.” While Marcus says it’s a “fraught and complex debate” that “media organizations are struggling with,” he rehearses an Olympian leap of logic from a left-wing activist at Media Matters, who argues that reporters should apply this strategic silence to the leader of the free world, too: The idea is that they should refrain from reporting statements by President Trump that they determine are not “inherently newsworthy” or that they classify as “misinformation.” Say what you will about the man — he probably shouldn’t be covered like a gunman.

Forget about laying out the facts, or airing competing viewpoints, or writing “the first draft of history.” Americans are far too thickheaded for that. Marcus cites another sage who observes that “assuming media literacy . . . may be optimistic.” Yet another one of his sources bemoans journalists who assume that if you merely “throw facts at someone . . . that’s going to change their minds.”

The other nominees for the 2020 Mirrors (19 in all, across six categories) hardly need the encouragement to selectively slant their reportage. The list includes a host of liberal media darlings singing straight from the progressive hymnbook. In the eyes of the Newhouse School, apparently no conservative writers came up with any worthy media criticism in the last year.

Elsewhere The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, a writer whose leftism is more knee-jerk than a can-can dancer’s, was nominated for an essay called “Trump TV,” which explains that, gee whiz, Fox News tends to support the president. Move over, Bob Woodward.

The Mayer love gets meta, too. Nominated for “Best Profile” is a piece by Molly Langmuir that appeared in the glossy magazine Elle, titled “What’s Next for New Yorker Reporter Jane Mayer?” Here is what the awards committee regards as an exemplar of “hold[ing] a mirror to their own industry for the public’s benefit”: “In person, Mayer, who is petite with brown shoulder-length hair she usually wears down, the tips slightly flipped up, displays a confidence that has no visible fault lines. She also has a tendency toward self-deprecation. And while her mind often seems to whir with seamless elegance, this appears to fuel in her not impatience but curiosity.”

And here’s a detail that didn’t make it in alongside the flipped tips: Mayer was recently excoriated by critics across the ideological spectrum for a baseless and uncorroborated hit piece she co-wrote, the central claims of which were later disavowed by “several dozen” sources contacted by the New York Times.

In an Orwellian flourish, Langmuir explains that to Mayer, the “furor from both the left and right” over the piece was a consequence of her and co-author Ronan Farrow’s own “attempts at carefulness.” Mayer told Langmuir that she had focused on the “‘accountability portion, trying to be fair,’” you see. Plus, Mayer’s certainty on the unsubstantiated accusation she did get into print was “informed by [another] incident Mayer learned about, the one she didn’t get into print.” Got that? The reporting rejected by every other mainstream outlet except The New Yorker was backed up by reporting rejected by every mainstream outlet — including The New Yorker.

If Mayer was at all chastened by the denunciation of her work by her peers, it’s hard to tell. In her most recent piece, “Ivanka Trump and Charles Koch Fuel a Cancel-Culture Clash at Wichita State,” she returned to one of her pet obsessions. Riffing on original reporting in the Wichita Eagle, Mayer deceptively claimed that Koch Industries “threatened to withdraw its financial support for the university” after Ivanka Trump was disinvited from giving a commencement speech. But the source article makes clear that neither Koch Industries nor Charles Koch threatened any such thing. A company spokesperson said explicitly that the company was not pulling funding and in fact stressed its commitment to “academic freedom.”

Maybe Elle ought to hold off on the puff profiles, and Mirror on the awards, until Mayer can master faithfully representing all the facts she finds reported in regional newspapers?

And that isn’t even the biggest coffee-spitter Mirror Awards nominee. That honor would go to David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, saluted for his opinion piece applauding MSNBC host and serial prevaricator Brian Williams. “At this moment when journalism and a free flow of reliable information are under continual attack from the Trump administration and its many media allies,” Zurawik proclaimed, “our democracy is made stronger by having Williams . . . at the end of each weeknight to offer perspective on the political and cultural warfare” in our “nation’s civic life.”

But that’s tame stuff compared to the outright agitprop of the nomination for a multipart series jointly published by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, “The Media Are Complacent While the World Burns,” which argued that the press doesn’t spend enough time talking about climate change. Right, and the New York Post ought to devote more ink to a plucky ballclub from the South Bronx called the Yankees. A recent report found that in 2019 the top five U.S. newspapers combined ran between 400 and 800 articles per month that mentioned climate issues. The top seven TV news outlets (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, PBS) combined covered climate issues between 200 and 400 times a month.

For the authors of that series, Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope, the sheer volume of this reporting isn’t good enough if it doesn’t send readers to the ramparts. “Instead of sleepwalking us toward disaster,” they insist, “the US news media need to remember their Paul Revere responsibilities — to awaken, inform, and rouse the people to action.”

Let me suggest a different historical analog for Hertsgaard and Pope. It was a former newspaper editor, Vladimir Lenin, who once wrote, “A newspaper is what we most of all need . . . [in] the pressing task of the moment. . . . Never has the need been felt so acutely as today for reinforcing dispersed agitation . . . that can only be conducted with the aid of a periodical press. . . . A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organizer.” That’s why, to turn the sleepwalkers into the fully woke, Lenin created the infamous Department of Agitation and Propaganda, or “agitprop” for short.

For all that they say the quiet parts out loud, most journalists still want to have it both ways. They want the satisfaction of slanting coverage to suit their ideological commitments but without giving up the authoritative veneer of neutral objectivity. This duplicity helps explain why surveys from leading media groups like Pew Research show a fast-growing majority of Americans no longer trust the news.

The Mirror Awards, at least, seem to have sensed which way the winds are blowing and are sailing in that direction. They’ve moved away from their promise that the prizes should “recognize reliable reporters who criticize the media and put their own views aside [to] be transparent and objective” and toward the consensus that the problem is “the media’s reliance on objectivity and what some see as false equivalency,” as Newhouse professor Joel Kaplan puts it.

Objectivity is for suckers. A reporter’s own subjective assessment is what counts, and the public is depending on the media to tell them what to think and how to vote.14

Fine. But treat readers like grownups. Polemic masquerading as unbiased reporting demeans everyone involved, making liars out of the press and treating the public like idiots. So why not end every article with a shirttail stating plainly the reporter’s point of view? The author of this piece is a committed progressive and would like [insert desired political result] to come from the issues raised here.

The Newhouse School could even give the first New York Times or Washington Post reporter to adopt the practice an award for bravery.


CA Dems Want $20 Million to Enforce Anti-Gig Law Amid Budget Crisis

Critics say law will exacerbate $54 billion deficit, economic downturn

By Collin AndersonThe Washington Free Beacon

California Democrats allocated $20 million in a recently passed budget to enforce a controversial labor law that some experts say has hampered the state’s economy and pandemic response.

The budget, which passed the Democrat-controlled state legislature on a party-line vote, provides $20 million to enforce Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), a law that limits employers’ ability to classify workers as independent contractors. The money is divvied up between three state agencies—the Department of Justice, Department of Industrial Relations, and Employment Development Department—to conduct audits, carry out prosecutions, and levy fines and penalties on employers. Republican assemblyman Kevin Kiley said that ramped up enforcement will only hurt businesses struggling in the wake of statewide shutdown orders tied to the coronavirus.

“That’s what the money is for, specifically—to go after small businesses and independent contractors at a time when they’re struggling more than they ever have before,” Kiley told the Washington Free Beacon.

The budget provision comes as the state faces an impending $54 billion fiscal deficit. Democratic governor Gavin Newsom revised his initial $222 billion budget proposal in May, saying that he would fund only the “most essential priorities.” The $20 million allocated to enforce AB5 survived the chopping block in the $143 billion budget passed by the assembly and state senate. Newsom, who did not respond to a request for comment, slashed education funding and said that first responders would be “the first ones to be laid off.”

The budget proposal sparked criticism from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), who said that the proposal will hurt his constituents. He called the multimillion-dollar allocation for enforcement “disappointing, but not at all surprising.” He criticized state leaders for misplacing their priorities and refusing to adapt to the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“Gig economy workers have felt the ramifications of this legislation for months now, and the coronavirus pandemic has only made securing work that much more difficult,” he told the Free Beacon. “California’s independent contractors deserve a government that can adapt to unanticipated challenges, not one that exacerbates problems by continuing to pursue a half-baked idea.”

Democratic leadership in the state assembly and senate did not respond to requests for comment.

Newsom in April rebuffed calls from state and federal legislators, small business owners, and more than 150 economists to suspend AB5, touting the law as an example of the state’s national leadership. Under AB5, employers must meet strict requirements in order to classify their workers as independent contractors. Its 2019 passage led to widespread layoffs as businesses struggled to afford the increase in legally imposed labor costs. Experts argue that the law has made it nearly impossible for unemployed workers to take on temporary jobs from home, further exacerbating the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. More than 5.4 million Californians have filed for unemployment—more than the population of 28 states.

“You’d think at a time when we shut down small businesses for months, we’d be doing everything we can to help them out,” Kiley said. “It’s a failure to understand the need of the moment, which is to propel economic recovery, to help small businesses get back on their feet, to promote workers.”

Reallocating the $20 million set aside to enforce AB5 would hardly alleviate the state’s budget shortage—the Los Angeles Police Department alone has spent $40 million in overtime pay for officers handling ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. But according to Pacific Research Institute fellow Kerry Jackson, Newsom’s refusal to suspend AB5 has contributed greatly to the fiscal crisis, and stricter enforcement will only exacerbate the problem.

“The pandemic lockdown dried up tax revenues because so many jobs were lost. Some of the lost revenues could have been made up if those who’d been laid off had been able to work as independent contractors,” Jackson told the Free Beacon. “But the law made it illegal for them to work. So no work, no income tax revenues.”

While Monday’s budget is unlikely to be signed by Newsom in its current form, the governor’s own budget proposal also includes $20 million to enforce AB5, meaning the money is unlikely to be cut. Kiley said that Democrats’ unwillingness to budge on the law reflected the power of special interest groups in the state—AB5 was written by the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of labor unions.

“Unfortunately, so far there hasn’t been any movement towards doing away with the $20 million or redirecting it somewhere else,” Kiley said. “It shows how influential these special interests are, that the governor and the legislature will not budge, no matter how strong the arguments are for doing things differently.”

Newsom has until June 30 to sign the budget into law.


Why Conservatives and Liberals Are Responding to COVID-19 in Such Different Ways

Liberals and conservatives are approaching the COVID-19 pandemic through very different moral frameworks.

By Jon MiltimoreFoundation for Economic Education

In a 2008 TED Talk, psychologist Jonathan Haidt said the worst idea in psychology is the notion that humans are born as a “blank slate.”

Like the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, Haidt was rejecting the notion that the human mind is a blank slate at birth, an idea that can be traced to thinkers from Aristotle, to John Locke, to B.F. Skinner and beyond.

“Developmental psychology has shown that kids come into the world already knowing so much about the physical and social worlds and programmed to make it really easy for them to learn certain things and hard to learn others,” explained Haidt, a Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business.

Citing research from the brain scientist Gary Marcus, Haidt said the initial organization of the brain essentially comes with a “first draft.” Studying the anthropological and historical records, Haidt found that five pillars of morality exist across disciplines, cultures, and even species:

  1. care/harm
  2. fairness/reciprocity
  3. loyalty/betrayal
  4. authority/subversion
  5. sanctity/degradation

What’s interesting is that these moral pillars differ sharply across ideological lines in America today. Haidt found that both conservatives and liberals recognize the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity values (though liberals value these a little more than conservatives). Things change, however, when examining the three remaining foundational values—loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. While conservatives accept these moral values, liberal-minded people tend to reject them.

The difference is extraordinary, and it helps explain the different ways Republicans and Democrats are experiencing the coronavirus. In May, a CNBC/Change Research survey found that while only 39 percent of Republicans said they had serious concerns about COVID-19, 97 percent of Democrats said they had serious concerns.

While some of the divergence could stem from the fact that blue states have been hit harder by COVID-19 than red states, Haidt’s research would suggest that another reason Democrats are more concerned is because liberals have an intense appreciation of the care/harm moral pillar.

Indeed, the preeminence of the care/harm moral can be found in the rhetoric of many progressives.

“I want to be able to say to the people of New York, ‘I did everything we could do,’” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in March. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”

The care/harm moral is even found in the latest social media emojis. Last month, as USA Today reported in an exclusive story, Facebook rolled out its new “care” emoji.

“The new Facebook reaction—an emoji hugging a heart—is intended as shorthand to show caring and solidarity when commenting on a status update, message, photo or video during the coronavirus crisis that allow users to express how much they care about others,” the paper reported.

Cuomo’s language (and to a lesser extent Facebook’s emojis) suggests that, for many, care for others is the preeminent virtue. As such, efforts to protect people must be taken above lesser social considerations.

Understanding the different moral framework conservatives and liberals are using helps us understand why blue states have taken a much more aggressive approach in efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

As The Atlantic explains, with a few exceptions, such as Ohio, Republican governors have been much more reluctant to impose sweeping restrictions on their residents than states led by Democratic governors. While governors in these states no doubt value care/harm, their moral framework likely gives them a heightened concern of other social considerations, particularly civil liberties.

The lockdowns, the Constitution Center explains, have threatened many of America’s most cherished civil liberties—the freedom to assemble, the right to purchase a firearm, the ability to freely travel, the freedom to attend church or visit a reproductive health facility. They’ve also put thousands of companies on a path toward bankruptcy by prohibiting them from engaging in commerce.

These infringements tend to be viewed as reasonable to liberals, who emphasize the care/harm moral but are less likely to recognize the sanctity/degradation moral. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, for example, said he never even considered the US Constitution—a document considered sacrosanct by many Americans—when he issued his lockdown order.

“That’s above my pay grade,” Murphy told Tucker Carlson in April. “I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this. We went to all—first of all—we went to the scientists who said people have to stay away from each other.”

Similarly, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer saw no problem in suspending the Freedom of Information Act to prevent outside groups from assessing the model state officials used to justify locking down the entire state.

Those who view civil liberties and constitutional rights as sacred, however, are less than comfortable with such an approach. They will be less inclined to sacrifice sacred principles to support sweeping state efforts to protect people (and are probably more likely to see such efforts as counter-productive).

To be sure, some progressives do see civil liberties as sacred, and some of them have expressed dismay and bewilderment that so many progressives, in their enthusiasm for the care/harm moral, have abandoned civil liberties.

“[The COVID-19 crisis is] raising serious civil liberties issues, from prisoners trapped in deadly conditions to profound questions about speech and assembly, the limits to surveillance and snitching, etc.,” the progressive journalist Matt Taibbi recently wrote in Rolling Stone. “If this disease is going to be in our lives for the foreseeable future, that makes it more urgent that we talk about what these rules will be, not less—yet the party I grew up supporting seems to have lost the ability to do so, and I don’t understand why.”

If Haidt’s theory is correct, the reason is liberals and conservatives are, generally speaking, approaching the COVID-19 pandemic through divergent moral frameworks.

After all, the argument isn’t whether we should protect people.

“In any country, the disagreement isn’t over harm and fairness,” Haidt says. “Everyone agrees that harm and fairness matter.”

The argument isn’t even over how to best balance the care/harm moral with other considerations.

The disagreement is over whether efforts to protect individuals from COVID-19 should be balanced against other considerations—including constitutional and economic ones—at all.


California Law Limiting Independent Contractors is Hindering Coronavirus Response, Experts Say

'It speaks to an absolute ignorance of expert opinion and defiance of common sense'

By Collin AndersonThe Washington Free Beacon

Democratic California governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday rebuffed calls to suspend a controversial labor law that experts say hinders the state’s pandemic response and hurts vulnerable workers.

State and federal legislators, small business owners, and more than 150 economists and political scientists have urged Newsom to suspend California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), the controversial 2019 bill that limited companies’ ability to classify workers as independent contractors. They argue that the law has impeded the state economy and burdened health care systems already strained by coronavirus. Many hospitals, particularly in rural communities, rely on independent contractors to provide health services, as they lack the resources to support full-time employees. And as thousands of Californians face unemployment due to the pandemic, AB5 makes it nearly impossible for workers to take on temporary jobs from home.

Despite these concerns, Newsom, who did not respond to a request for comment, praised AB5 during a Wednesday press conference. He touted the law as an example of the state’s national leadership.

“The state of California prides itself on being a national leader as it relates to protecting our workers from misclassification,” Newsom said. He added that the state is “advancing the cause in righting those wrongs and continuing to transition in the implementation of AB5,” indicating that the law will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

Though AB5 is unique to California, backlash over its enforcement could have national implications. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden endorsed the law in March, calling it “ground-breaking.” Biden’s support for the law—which was written by the AFL-CIO—could place the presumptive Democratic nominee at odds with disgruntled Californians as he woos the country’s largest labor union.

AB5 mandates stringent requirements employers must meet in order to classify workers as independent contractors, who do not receive benefits like unemployment and health insurance. The law caused many who had made a living as contractors to be reclassified as direct employees. Widespread layoffs followed, as companies struggled to meet the increase in legally imposed labor costs—putting thousands of freelancers out of work.

Now, as coronavirus increases the demand for flexible employment for food delivery drivers, online tutors, and even medical professionals, experts say AB5 is exacerbating the pandemic’s strain on California’s economy and health care system.

“If you want to minimize economic damage, AB5 makes no sense,” Pacific Research Institute senior fellow Wayne Winegarden told the Washington Free Beacon. “Whether it’s health care or the broader economy, AB5 is hurting our response to this virus,” he said.

AB5 is typically associated with “gig economy” jobs, including food delivery apps that connect consumers to independent service providers working on their own schedule. While these services are especially vital during the coronavirus crisis—they help at-risk populations stay at home, limiting the virus’s spread—independent contractors are also common in professions key to California’s health care system. Winegarden said that because California has large non-English-speaking populations, many residents rely on translators to communicate with their health providers. Before the Newsom administration implemented AB5, medical interpreters typically worked as independent contractors, and many were able to perform their jobs from home.

“Anything we can do to help people not just earn income for themselves, but provide services for at-risk populations, that’s important, and AB5 is restricting that,” Winegarden said. “I would never have thought of how important translators are to addressing the virus, how important food delivery people are to addressing the virus. The fact that AB5 interferes with that, in ways that aren’t particularly obvious, is a very important cost.”

Lawmakers at both the state and federal level have called on Newsom to suspend AB5 until at least the end of the pandemic. Republican state assemblyman Kevin Kiley introduced a bill to suspend the law in February. The spread of the coronavirus and resulting lockdown have added a sense of urgency to the repeal effort. Kiley said AB5 has left jobless Californians unable to gain the flexible employment they need to survive financially amid the state’s stay-at-home order.

“It speaks to an absolute ignorance of expert opinion and defiance of common sense and human decency,” Kiley told the Free Beacon. “We have people in their homes right now, at a time when 2.6 million unemployment claims have been filed, who have the skills and desire to work, yet applications to work remotely for different companies specifically say that if you work in California, you’re not eligible. We need all the economic opportunities we can get right now.”

Opposition to the law is not limited to Republican lawmakers and local think tanks. More than 150 Ph.D. economists and political scientists, including Nobel laureate Vernon Smith, sent Newsom a letter calling on the governor to suspend AB5. The group of experts wrote that the law is causing “substantial, and avoidable, harm to the very people who now have the fewest resources and the worst alternatives available to them.”

“You have people telling me they lost half their business because of AB5, and now they lost the other half because of the virus,” Kiley said. “When it comes to economic policy, Newsom continues to outsource to the state’s most powerful special interest groups.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) echoed calls to suspend AB5 after urging Newsom and the state legislature to repeal the law.

“With California’s shelter in place order in effect for nearly a month, it’s clearer than ever that the state’s AB5 policy continues to hurt gig-economy workers,” McCarthy told the Free Beacon. “Though I am encouraged to see that Governor Newsom has begun to implement the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program created under the CARES Act, gig economy workers deserve to maintain their livelihoods throughout the duration of this pandemic and afterwards.”


BIDEN’S RUNNING MATE NEEDS TO WIN HIM AN ENTIRE STATE, NOT JUST A CONSTITUENCY | OPINION

By Peter RoffNewsweek

The last Democratic debate was a snooze fest. Aside from the pro forma Trump-bashing, this time over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the only memorable moments were former Vice President Joe Biden’s promise to pick a woman as his running mate and appoint a black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court nomination is blatant pandering to a key Democratic constituency. One might prefer he commit to considering candidates on their merits and legal experience rather than gender or skin color, but that would go against what it means to be a member of his party these days.

Of much greater interest is his plan for the vice presidency, an office he held for eight years under former President Barack Obama. Even though some will say otherwise, it’s not at all ghoulish to point out how, to put it subtly, the former vice president is bumping up against the upper ranges of the actuarial tables. If victorious, Biden’s ticket mate may end up occupying the Oval Office sooner than anyone voting Democrat in November might think.

The vice presidential candidate always comes under scrutiny, especially when the media starts probing for weaknesses that could hurt the top of the ticket. George McGovern’s chances in 1972, which were already slim to none, weren’t helped when the public learned his original running mate, Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, had at one time undergone electroshock therapy. Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign against Ronald Reagan was hurt by ethical issues concerning the business affairs of his running mate’s spouse. And it’s generally agreed former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin did more to drag John McCain’s 2008 campaign down than she ever did to boost it up.Ads by scrollerads.com

Vice presidential choices matter, even if running against them is a nonstarter. Michael Dukakis found that out in 1988, when he warned about the possibility of “President Quayle” instead of focusing on George H.W. Bush’s vulnerabilities. Picking Al Gore helped Bill Clinton “pick the GOP lock” on the Electoral College in 1992, and eight years later, Gore was almost lifted into the White House by Florida voters who backed his selection of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman for the No. 2 slot on his ticket.

Many political analysts are predicting that Biden’s pick will come from among the women who ran against him in the primary, most likely Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren or Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Both, after all, were endorsed by The New York Times, and neither hit him too hard during any of the debates. They haven’t said anything particularly damaging that the media and GOP could exploit, and both have won office on their own.

Nevertheless, these analysts are wrong. Neither Warren nor Klobuchar helps Biden get any closer to the White House than he is now. The most important thing a running mate can do is deliver a state to the ticket that may be out of reach. Providing an ideological balance is nice but not usually helpful. Winning in a state you’re not expected to, as both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton found out in 2016, can be everything.

The Democrats have Massachusetts. And the progressives who bow to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on every issue aren’t going to be any more persuaded to vote for Biden with Warren on the ticket. The one thing that unites most Democratic primary voters is the desire, some might call it an aching wish, to see Trump kicked out of office.

If the Biden campaign’s main theme is the need for a change at the top, ideology doesn’t matter. He’ll have the Democrats he needs. This is why Klobuchar, while she makes more sense than Warren, isn’t the right pick either.

Trump almost won Minnesota in 2016, but it hasn’t gone Republican since Richard Nixon’s re-election in 1972. It may be on the bubble; indeed, many GOP election experts think it is, but Klobuchar on the bottom of the ticket isn’t enough to guarantee it stays in the Democratic column. It’s a high risk–low reward pick that’s probably not persuasive enough, especially since African Americans, a key Biden constituency, have a problem with her that the GOP can exploit.

The Democrats also have California and, as Biden all but promised the next Supreme Court seat to Senator Kamala Harris, she won’t be the pick. Neither will Tulsi Gabbard, who endorsed him when she quit the race last week. He’s got Hawaii in his pocket.

Who does that leave? The smart pick, the one that helps Biden most and causes the most trouble for Trump is Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whom most Americans met when she gave one of the more impressive responses to the president’s State of the Union address in recent memory.

Whitmer is a former prosecutor and former state legislator and, as a state chief executive, has vital leadership experience Biden lacks.

Biden has never been in charge of anything larger than a committee of the U.S. Senate. He can tout his experience with Obama all he wants, but he can’t get past the fact he worked for him, that the ultimate authority was always vested with someone else. Moreover, as someone who defeated her opponent in the general election, the statewide elected GOP attorney general, by 10 points she’s a proven vote winner in a state Trump needs to win re-election. And, as a bonus, her presence on the ticket would probably help keep Democrat Gary Peters, who is facing a stiff challenge from Republican John James that many expect him to lose, in the U.S. Senate.

Biden’s choice of running mate is the first major decision he’ll make. If he makes the right one, he may get to live in the White House. If he makes the wrong one, he hands his opponent an unexpected advantage that might lead to defeat.


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

By Peter RoffNewsweek

And then there were two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Joe Biden: The Comeback Gramps

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

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Socialism is having its moment on the left.

By Jarrett StepmanNational Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are six takeaways from the conference:

1. Serious About Socialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Gender and Identity Politics Are Ascendant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, the gender binary is reinforced, Westing said.

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

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

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

3. Open Borders Is Becoming a Litmus Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That has implications for the labor movement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The panel attendees responded enthusiastically.

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

5. The Green Movement Is Red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Battle of the Boroughs

Column: And the fall of the political establishment

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

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

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

How did this happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

By Peter RoffNewsweek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


State of the Union: A Shakespearean drama

The President answers his white-shirted enemies

By Dr. Larry Fedewadrlarryonline.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Them the People

The problem with ‘democratic socialism’ is that it is both.

By KEVIN D. WILLIAMSONNational Review

Iain Murray grew up reading and writing by candlelight, not because he lived in premodern times but because he lived under democratic socialism.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and other contemporary American advocates of democratic socialism lean heavily on the democratic part, which is at least in part a matter of marketing. To take their talk of democratic principle seriously requires forgetfulness and credulousness: During the last great uprising of democratic socialism in the English-speaking world — in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, where young Iain Murray, now a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, was doing his homework by the light of coals and candles — the so-called democratic socialists embraced democracy when it suited them and anti-democratic, illiberal, and at times murderous modes of government when those suited their political agenda better, with left-wing activists such as young Jeremy Corbyn acting as tireless apologists for the Soviet Union, its purges and its gulags. In the United States, Noam Chomsky dismissed reports of Pol Pot’s genocide as right-wing propaganda; later, young Bernie Sanders and his new bride would honeymoon in the Soviet Union even as the Communist Party bosses were creating a new and more modern gestapo to put down democrats and dissidents. History counsels us to consider the first adjective in “democratic socialist” with some skepticism.

But the socialism that reduced the United Kingdom from world power to intermittently pre-industrial backwater in the post-war era was thoroughly democratic. The policies that turned the lights out in London were not imposed on the British people by a repressive junta. And that is part of the problem with democratic socialism even as notionally presented by Sanders et al.: It is both of those things. In the United States, we use the word “democratic” as though it were a synonym for “decent” or “accountable,” but 51 percent of the people can wreck a country just as easily and as thoroughly as 10 percent of them. That is why the United States has a Bill of Rights and other limitations on democratic power.

The United Kingdom, having a parliamentary form of government, does not enjoy such formal protections. A British government with an electoral mandate can run wild, as it did under the democratic-socialist governments of the post-war era, climaxing in the “Winter of Discontent” in 1978–79.

“I grew up in the north of England,” Murray says. “It gets dark very early in the winters there.” A series of strikes by government unions left the United Kingdom without trash collectors, and garbage piled up in the streets; there were shortages of food and fuel as strikes crippled the transportation system; medical workers in the country’s monopoly national health-care system went on strike, with nurses, orderlies, and hospital staff abandoning their posts and leaving sick Britons with nowhere to turn for medical attention; the bodies of those who died piled up for months, because the gravediggers’ union was on strike, too; eventually, the interruptions of fuel and labor caused the electrical system to fail. Hence the candles.

This wasn’t the first time: In 1970, a similar labor action had forced Britain’s hospitals to operate by candlelight. Think about that: A year after Americans had landed on the moon, Englishmen were undergoing medical procedures under neo-medieval conditions, in a medical world lit only by fire.

This did not happen in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, in Kim Jong-il’s North Korea, in Chairman Mao’s China, or in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. This happened in England, within living memory, only 41 years ago. Bernie Sanders was pushing 40 — old enough to remember, just as he is today old enough to know better.

The problems of socialism are problems of socialism — problems related to the absence of markets, innovation, and free enterprise and, principally, problems related to the epistemic impossibility of the socialist promise: rational central planning of economic activity. The problems of socialism are not the problems of authoritarianism and will not be cured by democracy. Socialism and authoritarianism often go hand in hand (almost always, in fact), but socialism on its own, even when it is the result of democratic elections and genuinely democratic processes, is a bottomless well of misery. The Soviet gulags and hunger-genocide, the Chinese prison camps, and the psychosis of Pyongyang are not the only exhibits in the case against socialism, and the case against socialism is also the case against democratic socialism, as the experience of the United Kingdom attests.

Murray, talking about his forthcoming book The Socialist Temptation at a CEI event in New Orleans, describes the inherent tension within democratic socialism. “The tyranny of the majority means you have no rights,” he says. “Early democratic societies realized that you had to have rights; how extensive those rights are is normally determined by how powerful the democracy is — one reason why the United States had such an extensive bill of rights so early is because the democracy was quite powerful. Socialists coopt the language of rights by introducing positive rights rather than negative rights — they will speak of the right to a job or the right to housing — but not the right to be left alone, which inherently contradicts democratic socialism.”

The destructive nature of socialism comes not from its tendency to trample on democracy (though socialism often does trample on democracy) but from its total disregard for rights — rights that are, in the context of the United States and other liberal-democratic systems, beyond the reach of mere majorities. We have the Bill of Rights to protect freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the free exercise of religion, etc., not because we expect that majorities will reliably support and protect these rights but because we expect that majorities will be hostile to them.

Hence the stupidity of complaints about our commitment to free speech protecting speech that is offensive, divisive, extreme, etc.: That’s precisely the point of the First Amendment — the other kind of speech doesn’t need protecting, because it is unobjectionable. Other rights — property rights and the right to trade prominent among them — also find themselves on the wrong side of majorities, constantly and predictably. But they are no less fundamental than the right to free speech, and they are no less necessary for a thriving and prosperous society. Socialism destroys societies by gutting or diminishing those rights. Doing so with the blessing of 50 percent plus one of the population does not make that any less immoral or any less corrosive.

Conservatives understand the case against socialism. But in a moment of ascendant populism, making the case for keeping democracy in a very small box — recognizing the difference between useful democratic procedures and a more general majoritarian democratic ethos — can be difficult. Those who have made a cult of “We the People” have left themselves without a very plausible moral or political basis for telling Them the People to go jump in a lake when they demand immoral and destructive policies.

But it was the people who ruined the United Kingdom with socialism in the 1970s, and it is the people who threaten to do the same thing to these United States today.


The Coming Biden and Bernie Show

If and when the race narrows to the strongest candidate in each ‘lane,’ Democrats will be forced to focus on the only questions that really matter to them.

By MICHAEL BRENDAN DOUGHERTYNational Review

Sure, anything can happen, and pundit predictions are hardly worth the pixels that deliver them. But if I were phoning my bets overseas to PaddyPower, I’d buy Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and short Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. The four-person race looks set to become a two-person race in the near future, and I think the dynamic will be self-reinforcing. Biden vs. Bernie: a race for the ages — and the aged.

Biden has basically stayed at the top of the heap since he entered this race. He’s done so despite substandard fundraising and no cheering section in the media. Many Democrats detest the fact that he is leading. They worry about his verbal slip-ups and his politically incorrect statements. They don’t want the Democratic standard-bearer in 2020 to be a man old enough to remember doing deals with segregationists, much less one who seems proud of that history. They fear that he would become the party’s Bob Dole, a past-his-prime senator who got the nod through sheer seniority, unable to take on the energetic, if sleazy, incumbent. Yet while he’s been attacked by younger, hungrier, more diverse candidates, Biden has maintained his dominant position among African-American voters and kept a healthy plurality of the older Democrats who turn out in primary elections. And front-runners have a tendency to sweep through divided fields.

Standing in his way is Bernie, who is surging two weeks before Iowa, in striking distance of the lead there and, according to one reliable poll, holding a decent lead in New Hampshire. Part of his national surge is his increased performance among non-white voters.

I’d bet on the field to narrow to these two for two reasons.

First, there’s a tendency for the top-polling candidates going into Iowa to overperform in the final results, because the caucusing process ultimately forces supporters of low-performing candidates to cast their votes for stronger ones. Second, the possibility of Bernie’s winning may drive a stampede toward Biden or vice versa.

The emergence of a head-to-head race between Biden and Sanders would immediately clarify the choices for Democrats.

One septuagenarian — Sanders — has recently suffered a heart attack. The other septuagenarian — Biden — frequently seems to have senior moments in the middle of his sentences. A race between these two could eliminate age as a relevant dynamic, leaving clear questions of electability and ideology on the table.

And what then? On one side there is Biden, the more moderate Democrat who scares nobody by design — he’s framed his entire campaign as a return to normalcy — but doesn’t excite progressive activists. On the other side there is Sanders, whose has argued in recent debates that he is electable because he has the backing of a large, young, grassroots movement whose enthusiasm will become contagious. The viability of one could drive the viability of the other.

After many pointless hours debating the ins and outs of Platonic health-care reforms that will never be implemented and many pointless minutes worrying about personality, a Biden–Sanders clash would focus the race on the only questions that really matter to Democrats: Should the party move to the left or to the center? Do the necessary voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin want a major revision to the American economic model, or do they merely want a Democratic candidate who connects with them on the gut level, who won’t call them deplorable?

Those are debates worth having, and Democrats may have them sooner than you’d think.


The Philadelphia City Council Moves Further Left; What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

By DANA PICORedState

It is arguable that foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia is already so messed up that it can’t be made much worse, but some new City Councilmen are going to try. From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

A new Philadelphia City Council is taking office. Here are the top issues to watch.

by Laura McCrystal | Updated: January 6, 2020 | 5:00 AM

younger, more liberal City Council is coming to Philadelphia.

Council members will take their oaths of office Monday at the Met Philadelphia, where Mayor Jim Kenney also will be inaugurated for a second term.

Poverty, gentrification, gun violence, education funding, and cleaning up environmental hazards in city schools are among the issues likely to take center stage in 2020. That’s according to interviews last week with several of the 17 new and returning members. Although Council members did not offer many specifics on bills they plan to introduce, they said there’s new energy and political will to focus on those issues.

“Council seems to be coalescing around those critical needs,” said Councilmember-elect Jamie Gauthier, who upset longtime incumbent Jannie L. Blackwell to represent the Third Council District in West Philadelphia. “And I think that’s because of what we’re hearing from people in neighborhoods and because we’re looking at the hard numbers.”

At the end of the last Council session, lawmakers enacted the first changes to the controversial 10-year tax abatement for new construction in almost two decades. And Council President Darrell L. Clarke has convened a special committee to address poverty, with an ambitious goal of reducing the number of Philadelphians living in poverty by one-quarter, from about 400,000 to 300,000, in the next four years.

Let’s get real here: the City of Brotherly Love has been governed by the Democrats for decades upon decades. Bernard Samuel, who left office on January 7, 1952, was the last Republican Mayor of Philadelphia. Put another way, George VI was still King of England the last time Philly had a Republican leadership.

The new Council will be younger and more progressive, as four newcomers take office. Councilmember-elect Kendra Brooks of the Working Families Party won an at-large seat long held by Republicans, one of two effectively set aside for candidates outside the Democratic Party. She will be joined by three new Democratic colleagues: Gauthier and at-large members-elect Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Isaiah Thomas.

Now, what do these new members want to do? Kendra Brooks wants to impose rent control, because, naturally, cutting the profits of landlords is going to make them invest more money into their properties. Helen Gym wants to reduce the 10-year developmental tax abatement to produce additional tax revenue to go into ‘affordable housing,’ because of course developers will want to build more affordable housing if it makes them less money. Jamie Gauthier wants to change zoning laws to ‘require affordable housing’ in new developments, because it just goes without saying that reducing the values of higher end housing by building lower-end housing next to them will generate increased profits and encourage developers.

Philly is a city in which the unions have a stranglehold over construction: while it’s possible to try to build with non-union labor, pickets and other union harassment impose all sorts of additional costs. Thus, the price of construction is higher than it might otherwise be, and the ‘progressive’ councilmembers want to lower profit margins even more.

Misses Gym and Brooks have made statements that they’d like to impose a local version of the ‘Green New Deal’ on the city, which can only increase costs on everybody, a kind of silly way to combat poverty.

Liberals have held almost total control in Philadelphia for decades, but liberal policies haven’t helped much, and the city has “lost 600,000 population since 1950, 70,000 in the last decade alone,” according to a Wharton School paper from 2017. People have been fleeing the city, because the Democrats’ policies haven’t worked. The city has a consistently high crime rate, which the City Council is attempting to solve by hiring the aptly-named Danielle Outlaw, formerly the top cop in Portland, Oregon and a Deputy Police Chief in Oakland, California — which has the Pyrite State’s highest crime rate — as Police Commissioner. Under Commissioner Outlaw’s tenure in Portland, that city had a crime rate significantly above the national average.  Combine that with District Attorney Larry Krasner, who hates the police and doesn’t pursue supposedly petty offenses, and it’s a prescription for even more disaster.

Well, let’s just call it an experiment.  The voters took a liberal local government, and pushed it even further to the left. Only time will tell whether Philadelphia gets better or gets worse.  But it makes me glad that I no longer pay taxes in Pennsylvania.


No protests as Democrats whitewash their presidential debate

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

By Charles HurtThe Washington Times

It’s official. Black Lives really don’t Matter. At least not inside the Democratic Party.

For a party so thoroughly obsessed with race, it is amazing just how white they are.

If you were one of the Americans who declined to tune into last week’s Democratic debate, you missed just how thoroughly white the party of Barack Obama has become.

There was one candidate white as the snow drifts of Minnesota, two white socialists from the Northeast, a bumbling white former vice president and a white billionaire. And then a white mayor of a university town in Indiana.

The only drop of pigmentation on the stage came in the form of businessman Andrew Yang, who also happens to be the least insufferable of the bunch. Actually, Mr. Yang can be downright interesting at times and seems like he is at least trying to be honest when he speaks — something you cannot say about anybody else presently running for the Democratic nomination.

Obviously, the vast, vast majority of normal Americans have long ago moved on from paying any mind to such irrelevant nonsense. But the Democratic Party remains obsessed with race and making everything about race. So, if we are going to judge anyone by those standards, we should start with the Democratic Party.

Adding actual injury to insult, one of the dazzlingly white Democrats on the stage last week actually spent her entire white-privileged adult life pretending to be a woman of “color” to take advantage of programs designed to help actual people of color overcome past inequalities.

Part of me really hopes that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wins the nomination so that political opposition researchers can dig up all the deserving people who were denied opportunities at Harvard so that Ms. Warren could play cowboys and Indians.

Nowhere do Democrats’ pandering claims about Black Lives Matter ring more hollow than in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam remains in office despite his sordid history of wearing blackface, dressing up as — or alongside — a Ku Klux Klan member and calling himself “Coonman,” which many perceived as a racially motivated pejorative. Such a scandal would sink any politician.

But Ralph Northam? The leader of the Virginia Democratic Party? Nope.

Turns out, if you really don’t give a rip about all your party’s platitudes about racial sensitivity and how Black Lives Matter, you can do whatever you want and never pay a price. Also, it helps to be utterly shameless.

Nobody is prouder of this than Mr. Northam himself.

“I am the leader of this party,” he bragged in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch as the anniversary of his blackface scandal drew near.

“Virginians have stuck with me and I am proud that they have,” he said, modestly, without providing evidence for such a claim.

“If you look at my life, at least my adult life, it’s been one of service,” he said. By “adult life,” Mr. Northam presumably meant his post-blackface life.


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