A Lakeland, Colorado citizen’s group filed suit Thursday in federal court challenging the constitutionality of a city law regulating the organization’s reporting on candidates in its newsletter.
Attorneys with the Institute for Free Speech who are representing the Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group said the city’s requirement for the newsletter to identify donors and to include campaign disclaimers in its articles because the cost of publishing and distributing it crossed a $500 threshold violate the First Amendment.
“If the council can redefine reporting and commentary as campaigning, it can punish news outlets that criticize candidates in the months leading up to an election. Congress and the state of Colorado both exempt the media from their campaign finance laws to avoid this precise outcome,” said Institute for Free Speech Senior Attorney and Deputy Vice President for Litigation Owen Yeates said in a release.
The suit asks the court to find the newsletter, The Whole Story, is protected by the constitutional guarantees of free speech and a free press and that the $3,000 fine it was assessed for violating a local ordinance is unconstitutional.
From 2015 to 2018, the Watchdog published The Whole Story without encountering any problems. In 2019 the city council passed an ordinance imposing regulations on any entity spending more than $500 on communications that mentioned a candidate for office within 60 days of a municipal election. As the new rule made no exemption for the media, it became impossible for the group to report on local elections without potentially being forced to register with the city, publish disclaimers on articles, and expose their supporters, its attorneys said.
The Watchdog’s fall 2019 issue, which covered that November’s elections for mayor and city council, was found by a city adjudicator to be guilty of making “unambiguous references to current candidates” in The Whole Story and ordered to pay $3,000 in fines. To cover future local elections, the group would have to file invasive reports about its supporters with city officials and print campaign-style disclaimers in its newsletter.
While Lakewood’s laws pose a threat to any media outlet, the people behind The Watchdog are not surprised they were targeted first. “We report stories other media outlets won’t, and we aren’t afraid to blow the whistle on the city government. The council may not like it, but that’s what the First Amendment is for,” Dan Smith, president of the Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group said.
“By failing to exempt news gathering and reporting from its campaign finance laws, Lakewood has unconstitutionally infringed on the freedom of the press,” the group’s brief says. “That freedom is essential to a functioning democracy, even more so in the context of elections. Politicians may wish to control who can speak about them, but they can’t regulate The Whole Story.”
The Watchdog is an independent publication mailed to Lakewood residents two to three times per year, with a circulation of approximately 22,000. The case is Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group v. City of Lakewood.
In Washington, there are two kinds of Republicans: those who care what The New York Times writes and those who don’t. As hard as it is to believe, there are still some in the GOP who care deeply about what the liberal media establishment says, though it’s not clear why.
The Times has been losing readership for years, along with its power to set the national agenda. It still has influence in the Acela corridor—that swath of urban liberalism between Washington, D.C., and Boston—and among the people who select the stories the major networks will cover. But most Americans get their news from the internet, where, as far as information about politics is concerned, it’s still the wild, wild west.
Among folks who use the internet as their primary source of information, the Times has about as much impact as a fly on an elephant’s back. To these people, what the so-called paper of record says about the GOP, conservatives in general and Donald Trumpspecifically doesn’t matter a swivel-eyed tinker’s damn.
To the elites, Wyoming representative Liz Cheney’s ouster from the No. 3 position in the House GOP leadership is a big deal. To them, it’s all about Trump—a person whose influence, Cheney and her newfound brethren seem to believe, must be cleansed from the party. To those who follow the House closely and understand how these things work, it’s not such a big deal.
Regarding Trump, Cheney is at odds with most of her Republican colleagues. Most of them, it seems clear, either continue to embrace the former president or would rather avoid talking about him, and instead prefer to spend their time and political capital opposing the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris vision for America.
This is not an unreasonable position to take. Nor is Rep. Cheney’s—as an individual member of Congress. If she wants to spend her time crusading against Trumpian elements within the Republican Party, she has every right to do so. However, as a member of House GOP leadership, she has obligations that go beyond the dictates of her own conscience. She is responsible to the colleagues who put her in office and who—earlier this term—voted to keep her there. That means she should be on the Sunday shows and out in the hustings helping GOP candidates take control of the House back from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. She can’t do that if all she wants to talk about, as she’s made clear, is Trump.
The Republicans should be favored to win back the majority in 2022, based on reapportionment and redistricting alone. For all the Democrats’ protestations about gerrymandering—which they used to extend their own congressional majority for at least an additional 10 years beginning in 1982 without a word from elite media save for the Wall Street Journal editorial page—a fair map drawn without any demographic trickery should easily add the number of seats needed for the GOP to reach and exceed the magic number of 218. But, because nothing in politics is certain, unfocused GOP leadership could throw a wrench into the works and prevent it from happening.
The list of things that could go wrong for Republicans’ House prospects is long and largely speculative. High atop it, though, is a campaign in which Democrats and major media outlets force GOP congressional candidates to defend Trump day in and day out instead of taking the attack to Biden and the Democrats. In that environment, Cheney’s repeated condemnations of the former president and his influence on the party would not have been helpful to winning the House Republican Conference a majority for the two years before the next presidential election. And it would have been fatal to the Republican Party’s attempt to regain control of the Senate.
Members of the congressional leadership are expected to be team players. Leaders, even in the minority, must balance the interests of all members of their conference against their own. It is not easy and not a job for the faint of heart. But the number one priority, former House speaker Newt Gingrich once told me, is “Don’t do anything that will start a civil war inside your own party.” Cheney broke that rule and received the appropriate consequence. She has not been thrown out of office or stripped of her committee assignments. She’s now free to pursue what she thinks best for herself and the GOP without diminishing the prospects the other Republicans serving with her will be reelected.
In Washington, that matters. Out in America, where real life exists, not so much.
As a political issue, crime is back.
Between the uproar over police shootings in Minneapolis and other cities, the demands by activists to “defund the police,” and a spreading “blue flu” pandemic that seeing veteran police officers walk off the job – in some cases not to return – crime in America is on the rise. Even if the national political media hasn’t yet caught on.
But they will. It’s inevitable because few issues hit home as closely as personal safety does. What drives many BLM adherents into the streets to protest police shootings is not just the sense, amplified by the media coverage, that they aren’t safe in their neighborhoods but that the biggest threat comes from the very people who are supposed to protect them.
It turns out, a new poll says, that your sentiments on the issue are influenced considerably by which television news network you watch. “Fewer than 50 unarmed black suspects were killed by police last year and more people were killed with knives than with so-called ‘assault weapons,’,” the polling firm Rasmussen Reports said Friday, “but viewers of MSNBC and CNN are far more likely than Fox News viewers to get those facts wrong.”
The firm found 50 percent of likely U.S. voters who identified CNN or MSNBC as “their favorite cable news outlet” believed the number of unarmed African Americans who were fatally shot by police in 2020 exceeded 100. “By contrast, only 22 percent of Fox News viewers believe police shot more than 100 unarmed black people last year.”
The poll, found just about one in four of CNN viewers and one-in-five MSNBC viewers thought cops “fatally shot more than 500 unarmed black suspects last year” while only one in ten Fox viewers thought the same thing.
“Fox News viewers (60 percent) were about three times more likely than viewers of MSNBC (19 percent) or CNN (23 percent) to correctly estimate the number of unarmed black people shot and killed by police in 2020 as less than 50. Sixty percent (60 percent) of talk radio listeners also estimated the number correctly,” the firm said the data collected showed.
Each year about 1,500 U.S. homicides annually are committed with knives and fewer than 500 are committed with rifles. However, 30 percent of likely voters thought the number of annual homicides involving rifles was more than 500, including 18 percent who said they believed it was more than 1,000 homicides, Rasmussen Reports said.
“Thirty percent of MSNBC viewers correctly estimated the number of homicides committed with rifles as between 100 and 500, as did 22 percent of CNN viewers and 19 percent of Fox News viewers. However, while 63 percent of Fox viewers underestimated the number of killings with rifles as less than 100, viewers of CNN and MSNBC were more likely to overestimate the number of homicides committed with rifles. Forty-three percent of CNN viewers and 40 percent of MSNBC viewers believe rifles are used in more than 500 homicides annually, compared to just 19 percent of Fox News viewers. Only 26 percent of talk radio listeners overestimated the number of homicides committed with rifles.”
The survey of 2,000 U.S. likely voters was conducted on April 29-May 3, 2021 by the Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. To see survey question wording, click here.)
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced an unprecedented amount of uncertainty into transportation infrastructure planning. Travel fell significantly across all modes and remains depressed, particularly for shared transportation modes such as commercial air travel and mass transit. Changes in travel behavior may persist long after the coronavirus pandemic finally ends, particularly for commuting trips given that a large share of employees may continue working from home. Given this uncertainty, investments in new infrastructure meant to provide service for decades into the future are incredibly risky. As Congress considers surface transportation reauthorization in this low-confidence era, it should adopt a preference for the lowest-risk class of projects: maintaining and modernizing existing infrastructure under a “fix it first” strategy.
COVID-19 led to dramatic changes in travel behavior. By April 2020, when much of the country was under stay-at-home orders, road traffic fell 40%, mass transit ridership fell 95%, and air travel fell by 96%. Since then, road travel has largely recovered, with vehicle-miles traveled back to within 10% of the pre-pandemic baseline.
However, travel by shared transportation modes, such as commercial aviation and mass transit, was still down by approximately two-thirds year-over-year by the end of 2020, according to data collected by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Travel is expected to continue its rebound as the number of people vaccinated grows and the pandemic wanes, but changes in travel behavior driven by factors such as the rise of remote work are likely to persist. To what degree pandemic-spurred changes in travel demand are permanent is unknown at this time, and this uncertainty has rendered pre-pandemic infrastructure planning and investment models nearly useless as accurate guides to the future.
While the drop in transportation demand and the fixed nature of transportation infrastructure supply has significantly reduced the productivity of existing transportation infrastructure, some are calling for large new investments by claiming that the nation’s infrastructure networks are crumbling. However, a review of the available evidence suggests a different and more complicated picture of infrastructure asset quality.
For example, Reason Foundation’s most recent Annual Highway Reportfound, “Of the Annual Highway Report’s nine categories focused on performance, including structurally deficient bridges and traffic congestion, the country made incremental progress in seven of them.”
Similarly, a June 2020 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper on transportation infrastructure concluded, “Not only is this infrastructure, for the most part, not deteriorating, much of it is in good condition or improving.”
However, Reason’s Annual Highway Report shows large variation across states and the NBER analysis is limited in that it fails to account for transit infrastructure beyond rolling stock. Rail guideway assets such as tracks and signals have deteriorated in many cities. To be sure, there are sizeable transportation infrastructure needs in the United States. Reconstructing the Interstate Highway System alone has been estimated by the National Academy of Sciences to cost at least $1 trillion over two decades and mass transit’s maintenance backlog likely exceeds $100 billion.
Given all we know about existing transportation infrastructure needs and the uncertainty surrounding future travel activity, Congress should adopt a risk-minimizing “fix it first” strategy to restore our existing transportation assets to a durable state of good repair. This approach has been endorsed by organizations and think tanks across the political spectrum, from the progressive Transportation for America to the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Building new infrastructure that will last three to five decades based on pre-pandemic travel modeling is fundamentally imprudent at this time. Physical capacity expansions such as highway widening and new rail lines should at the very least face heightened scrutiny from policymakers until there is more confidence in post-pandemic travel behavior that can be used in transportation infrastructure planning and investment decisions.
Democrats won the White House and a (tenuous) Senate majority thanks to runoff victories in Georgia. In both cases, it would probably be more accurate to say Donald Trump singlehandedly lost the White House and the GOP majority in the Senate. Beyond that, the Democratic Party’s performance in 2020 was almost shockingly poor.
Another shockingly poor aspect of the Democratic Party’s performance of late is leadership at the state level. The Democratic governors of the biggest, most reliably blue states are an especially sordid cast of characters. Nevertheless, they are an appropriate reflection of the party’s character.
The following five white dudes have received more votes than almost any other Democratic politician over the past four years. They represent almost 90 million Americans and are significantly more consequential than their grandstanding colleagues in Congress. They are the Democratic Party in 2021, and they’re doing a heckuva job.
California: Gavin Newsom
The governor is likely to face a recall after Newsom’s opponents appeared to gather the more than 1.4 million signatures required to place the measure on the ballot. Proponents of the recall point to the governor’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which involved some of the most onerous lockdown restrictions in the country, and widespread dysfunction in the early stages of the vaccine rollout.
Earlier this week, Newsom attempted to identify with California parents enduring the “brutal” difficulties of virtual learning as many of the state’s schools remain closed. Newsom told CNN’s Jake Tapper he has been “living through Zoom school,” even though his own children returned to in-person learning at their Sacramento private school nearly five months ago.
Newsom has repeatedly come under fire for flouting his own COVID-related guidelines. In November, the governor attended a maskless birthday bash for a longtime lobbyist friend at a posh Napa Valley restaurant. Around the same time, he blamed the state’s rising caseload on residents “letting their guard down” by “taking their masks off” and gathering “outside of their household cohorts.”
Last month, Newsom did not wear a mask while taking part in an indoor bill-singing ceremony at a Sacramento restaurant still banned from serving patrons indoors. He is, perhaps most notably, the ex-husband of Kimberly Guilfoyle, paramour of Donald Trump Jr.
New York: Andrew Cuomo
Where to start? Democrats love political dynasties. The Cuomo family has governed New York for 22 of the last 38 years. Andrew Cuomo would like to do what his father couldn’t by winning a fourth term as governor, but first he’ll have to stay in office long enough to stand for reelection in 2022.
Cuomo is under fire on multiple fronts. State officials are investigating his administration’s deliberate undercounting of COVID-related nursing home deaths in the state, as well as its controversial policy directing nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients into their care.
Cuomo, aka the “Luv Guv,” is also being investigated for sexual harassment after multiple women accused him of inappropriate behavior. He hired Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer to lead his legal defense. He has a longstanding reputation for fostering a toxic workplace environment and for bullying just about everyone who crosses his path. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) are among those calling on Cuomo to resign.
All of this is taking place just months after mainstream journalists (and other Democrats) elevated Cuomo to celebrity status based on his PowerPoint presentations in the early days of the pandemic. He published a book on leadership, won an Emmy Award, and at one point was considered the frontrunner to secure the Democratic nomination for president in the event of a Biden brain malfunction.
Nevertheless, nearly two-thirds of New York Democrats continue to support him, according to a recent poll.
Illinois: J.B. Pritzker
Who better to lead the nation’s third-largest reliably blue state than a multibillionaire scion of a Big Hotel? Before becoming governor in 2019, Pritzker (net worth: $3.5 billion) served as national co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s first failed presidential campaign in 2008 and led a special innovation council at the behest of Rahm Emanuel, the controversial former mayor of Chicago.
During his campaign for governor, Pritzker was excoriated for removing all the toilets from his second Chicago mansion to avoid hefty property taxes by having the residence declared “uninhabitable.” Federal investigators are currently looking into whether his actions constituted tax fraud. He is at risk of becoming the seventh Illinois governor to be charged with a crime during or after his time in office.
Pritzker’s Democratic colleague, Mike Madigan, recently ended his 36-year tenure as Illinois speaker of the house amid allegations he accepted bribes and favors from ComEd, the state’s largest utility.
New Jersey: Phil Murphy
Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who previously served as finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, has presided over the worst COVID-related death rate in the country. (Cuomo is a close second.) His controversial immigration policies—establishing New Jersey as a “sanctuary” state, providing college tuition and legal support to undocumented immigrants—sparked a recall effort that ultimately failed in 2020.
Murphy led the Goldman Sachs Asia office in the late 1990s, when the firm was raking in profits from a shoe manufacturer notorious for inhumane labor practices. He compared his role at the “elite” firm to that of a Marine serving in combat. Most damningly of all, Murphy has served on the board of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Virginia: Ralph Northam
It’s been more than a year since Northam apologized for appearing in a medical school yearbook photo wearing either a blackface costume or a Ku Klux Klan robe—he did not specify which. During the first press conference after the photo surfaced, Northam also acknowledged darkening his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume at a dance competition. His poor wife had to stop him from showcasing his “moonwalk” in response to a reporter’s question.
Nevertheless, he’s still the governor. That is mostly due to the fact that the person who would have succeeded him, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D., Va.), has been credibly accused of sexual assault. Fairfax didn’t lose his job, either. In fact, he’s running for governor. It’s no wonder Cuomo thinks he can simply run out the clock and avoid facing consequences for his actions.
Like the French royals of the late 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries, Joe Biden, former Senator, Vice President, and presently the President of the United States of America, seems to have learned nothing during his long, yet unremarkable political career. Seventy eight years young when he ascended the highest elected office of the country, Joe Biden has been all over the political landscape, always following the fashionable ideological winds of his party. Without a clear vision of his own, pathetic and narrow-minded Joe has always put his frequently changing faith in plagiarizing other people’s ideas and in his convoluted religious-moral convictions.
A slim as well as a well-dressed widower in his late 20s and being a great charmer, the freshly minted Senator from Delaware believed that his folksy demeanor could be an effective replacement for his intellectual poverty. In this manner, throughout his long political career, he has surrounded himself with a cotery of yes men, whose intellectual qualities have always remained below his own. Yet, for all his pretentiousness, Joe Biden has remained a weak character with an unremarkable intelligence.
Clearly, Joe Biden has never been a quintessential American. Throughout their history, the American people have been the people of great and novel ideas. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Reagan, the many Nobel Prize worthy inventions, are just some examples. However, with the election of Joe Biden America really underperformed itself.
Selected by former President Obama, a community organizer and a junior Senator from Illinois without any foreign policy experience, Joe Biden was hailed by the former as a highly valued expert in international relations. To add insult to injury, Joe Biden himself has pointed to his repeated chairmanships of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to prove his vast international credentials. Of course, a deeper analysis of his activities showed that his foreign policy decisions have unfailingly landed on the wrong side of history. As Vice President, Joe Biden was the prototype of a Don Quixote type fighter for narrow and greedy tactical ends. The wars he supported have not turned out as expected. The “reset” with Russia became the object of ridicule across the globe. Their “diplomacy first” commitment toward the Islamic Republic of Iran was an unmitigated disaster. Equally, their two states solution in the Middle East was a nonstarter. His and his former boss’s persistent refusal to face reality in Central and South America, Africa and Asia has brought American foreign policy to the brink of total irrelevance.
Domestically, the reign of reason was undone by the emerging Democrat campaign of ubiquitous charge of racism against their political opponents, the ruthless campaigning against the so-called enemies of minorities, the concomitant promotion of multiculturalism, the idiocy of open borders, enthusiastically headed by Barack and Michelle Obama and slavishly followed by the Bidens. No wonder that their administration did not pay any attention to the inherent conflicts rooted in the failed Democrat policies of the last seventy years. As a result, the Obama/Biden administration willfully and criminally failed to rally the nation around a vision which could have established a solid foundation for the United States of America to live up to the political principles of the Republic and to the moral imperatives of itself.
During the presidential campaign, his rhetoric was highly divisive, polarizing – and disgustingly stomach-churning. However, his garbage talk has not stopped. Calling the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, “soulless killer” and inventing a confidential conversation between him as Vice President and the latter as then Prime Minister, which is obviously the invention of his sick mind, are childish and idiotic. Domestically, blaming his predecessor for everything that went wrong between 2017 and 2021, while not addressing the relentless hate campaign laced with a constant flow of blatant misinformation and lies, are proof of the worst attributes politicians have to offer the citizens of the United Nations of America. Thus, while sanctimoniously preaching against divisions and calling for unity, Joe Biden accomplishes the exact opposite. He deepens the divisions in society. Yet, pathetic and narrow-minded Joe Biden thrives on division. He always did. It is what gave him and his party power. In this context, the word “politician” is becoming a curse rather than an honor. His and his family’s shadowy dealings across the globe have illustrated a complete lack of shame by him and the entire Democrat Party.
The elementary question at this point of inflection in American history is whether the two parties and the politicians on the federal and state levels are holding up their ends of a national consensus? Are they doing what they have promised? Are they working for the goals that they have espoused? Do they really care about their primary responsibilities of trying to at least mitigate the divisions in society? Are they striving to restore unity? These questions are still open to future developments. Yet, what pains most Americans is that presently the political discourse has nothing to do with ideas, vision, or policy. They are all about power and money. The American people will have another chance in 2022 to change the current misery of the country. By voting intelligently, they could decide the direction this exceptionally talented country can take in the future to come.
Even though America is still within the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency, most voters are telling pollsters they approve of his performance on the job. According to a poll conducted recently by the AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the president gets high marks from 60 percent of those surveyed.
Along party lines, Biden’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic is viewed favorably by 70 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans. Some analysts would say the latter figure lines up nicely with pollster Tony Fabrizio’s post-election autopsy for the 2020 Trump campaign that concluded it was the former president’s mishandling of the COVID crisis that did the most to alienate GOP voters and drive them into the Democratic camp, at least at the presidential level.
Importantly for the GOP, which is still trying to figure out how best to proceed in the post-Trump era, a
new Rasmussen Reports survey found that 51 percent of Republicans considered likely to vote in 2022 thought congressional Republicans had “lost touch” with them over the past several years.
While 41 percent of the likely GOP voters surveyed said their individual representatives “have done a good job representing the party’s values,” their criticism of the congressional party is an ominous sign. It’s true, Rasmussen Reports said, that the numbers were a marked improvement “over previous surveys dating back to 2008” but with well over a third still dissatisfied with what the party in Congress is doing it will likely be difficult to bring the pro and anti-Trump forces together on any affirmative plan to win back the majority in both chambers.
“Democrats are far more satisfied with their representation in Congress,” the polling firm said as, “62 percent of Democratic voters say Democrats in Congress have done a good job of representing Democratic values, while 32 percent say their party’s Congress members have lost touch with Democratic voters from throughout the nation.”
Other findings revealing in the survey include:
–Sixty-five percent (65 percent) of voters not affiliated with either major political party think Republicans in Congress have lost touch with voters, while 51 percent of unaffiliated voters say Democrats in Congress are out of touch.
–Voters under 40 are more likely than their elders to say Democrats in Congress have done a good job representing their party’s values. Voters with incomes over $200,000 a year say Democrats in Congress have done a better job than Republicans of representing their party’s values.
–Among all likely U.S. Voters, just 29 percent think Republicans in Congress have done a good job representing Republican values over the past several years. Most (59 percent) think congressional Republicans have lost touch with GOP voters from throughout the nation, down from 63 percent in 2018, but 12 percent are not sure.
–Forty percent (40 percent) of all voters believe congressional Democrats have done a good job representing their party’s values over the past several years. Forty-nine percent (49 percent) disagree and say they’ve lost touch with Democratic voters, but 10 percent are not sure,” the polling firm said in a release.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. likely voters was conducted on February 28 and March 1, prior to the passage by the United States Senate of the COVID 19 federal stimulus bill adopted without Republican support and has a +/- 3 sampling error. The bill now heads back to the House where Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to call it up quickly rather than go to a conference committee to iron out the differences between the new bill and what the House passed last week.
In the weeks since Donald Trump departed the White House — and during the four years he resided there – we were constantly told that conservatism is in crisis. Then again, crisis seems to be a recurring condition for conservatism, or, more precisely, for the American conservative movement. By and large, these crises have proved fertile. American conservatism’s resilience over the last seven decades — its ability to shift weight and adjust focus to achieve a suitable balance — suggests that what appears as calamitous disarray involves salutary adaptation, sometimes painful and awkward, to changing circumstances.
The post-World War II conservative movement was born in crisis. Communist totalitarianism abroad and rapid expansion of the welfare state at home provoked incisive responses from two camps: those determined to conserve individual freedom and limited government and those dedicated to conserving traditional morality. Both classical liberalism and traditionalism had populist appeal, espousing principles that political and intellectual elites rejected but which significant swaths of ordinary voters embraced.
In 1955, a sense of crisis surrounded William F. Buckley’s launch of National Review. The upstart magazine quickly established itself as American conservatism’s preeminent publication, serving as a home for classical liberals and traditionalists, who were often at loggerheads even as polite society ostracized both. The conservative movement’s first national standard-bearer, Barry Goldwater, suffered a landslide defeat in the 1964 presidential election to Lyndon Johnson. In the mid-1970s, the fallout from Watergate roiled conservatism as well as the nation. George H.W. Bush’s loss to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election sent shock waves through the conservative movement as did Barack Obama’s defeat of John McCain in 2009 and Mitt Romney in 2012.
In each instance, the movement regrouped, recalibrating the balance between classical liberal and traditionalist imperatives, while appealing to the people against the elites. National Review laid the groundwork for Goldwater’s candidacy. His defeat and Watergate’s tumult served as preludes to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. President Clinton’s failed effort (which effectively excluded Republican participation) to pass health-care reform energized Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution. President Obama’s successful passage of health-care reform (which also effectively excluded Republican input) galvanized the Tea Party movement. Eventually, the Obama administration’s permissive immigration policy and inattentiveness to the distress that globalization wrought in working-class households fueled the populist backlash that Donald Trump rode to the White House.
In “A New Conservatism: Freeing the Right From Free-Market Orthodoxy,” published this month in Foreign Affairs, Oren Cass addresses conservatism’s current crisis. He sensibly contends that, in light of Trump’s achievements and implosion, conservatism must rebalance its priorities. For good reason, Cass urges conservatives to develop better policies to deal with inequality, labor, and public education. However, his tendentious critique of those whom he disparages as promulgators of “market fundamentalism” — from whom he would strip the title conservative – echoes old errors that marked internecine conservative strife dating back to the 1950s. It also warps today’s political realities and subverts Cass’s aspiration to form a right-leaning governing coalition.
Cass is executive director of American Compass. Founded in 2020, the new organization’s mission is “[t]o restore an economic consensus that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nation’s liberty and prosperity.” At the time, Jack Butler gently observed in National Review that “some of Cass’s immediate claims are worth questioning.” That remains true.
Consider his mockery of conservatives’ response to the COVID-19 global pandemic: “Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House flipped frantically through their dog-eared playbooks from the 1980s to determine just the right tax cut for the moment.” In the pandemic’s wake and consistent with their principles, many conservatives did propose tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Cass, however, falsely accuses Republicans of having “hewed rigidly to an agenda of tax and spending cuts, deregulation, and free trade.”
Actually, the GOP adopted a hybrid agenda. On March 27, 2020, in the pandemic’s early days, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed by a Republican-led Senate and a Democratic-led House. The CARES Act provided one-time cash payments to individuals, temporarily supplemented unemployment benefits, authorized loans to small businesses and large corporations, and delivered hundreds of billions of dollars to state and local governments. In May 2020, the Trump administration announced Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership that in record time supplied the American people and nations around the world with responsibly tested and highly efficacious vaccines.
Cass’s narrow definition of conservatism further distorts his analysis. “The hallmark of conservativism,” he begins reasonably enough, “is not, as is often thought, opposition to change or the desire for a return to some earlier time.” A related mistake, he observes, is “that conservatives lack substantive preferences.” But instead of identifying American conservatism’s substantive preferences — along with its principles and understanding of human nature and government — Cass highlights conservatism’s supposedly defining concern: “What in fact distinguishes conservatives is their attention to the role that institutions and norms play in people’s lives and in the process of governing.”
Progressives, too, care about the moral and political impact of institutions and norms. Having wrested control of the K-12 school system and universities, mainstream media, Hollywood, and the federal bureaucracy, they seek from those commanding heights to remake popular and political culture. Moreover, the left — in the academy, the media, and government — stresses the use of law and public policy to transform family, society, and the organs of government in accordance with progressive norms. Left and right differ over which norms should be cultivated, how institutions should be structured, and the extent of government’s involvement.
Cass’s abstract definition of conservatism as attentiveness to norms and institutions, moreover, reflects the excess of abstraction that conservatives since Edmund Burke — whom Cass cites as a model — have criticized. While appreciating that conservatives in the mold of Burke must combine “a disposition to preserve” with “an ability to improve,” Cass does not adequately specify the norms and institutions central to the American experiment in ordered liberty. In contrast, we can look to “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” published in 1790. In that document, the first of the modern conservatives came to the defense of the venerable beliefs, practices, and associations that sustained British liberty against the radical dogmas about freedom emanating from Paris.
While the American conservative movement possesses substantive preferences and is dedicated to the preservation of specific institutions, Cass fails to identify the core ones. Well understood, the conservative movement in America seeks in the first place to preserve the constitutional order, which is grounded in unalienable rights, embodies the principles of limited government, and depends on a citizenry that is educated — at home, in the community, and at schools — for the rights and responsibilities of freedom. Cass rightly seeks policies that fortify families, sustain communities, and address the discontents of working-class Americans, who have been hit hard by globalization. But he tends to downplay or neglect the imperatives of individual freedom and limited government in the fashioning of such policies.
American conservatism must once again respond to crisis by striking a balance, appropriate to the circumstances and the demands of the moment, that gives both classically liberal convictions and the traditional morality that sustains freedom their due. We need not “a new conservatism” but rather a new blend of American conservatism’s enduring principles.
Joe Biden’s pursuit of the presidency relied heavily on a carefully cultivated image that emphasized his moderate credentials. It won him the White House but, a new poll says, a majority of voters may be suffering from buyer’s remorse.
According to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey, 54 percent of U.S. voters surveyed said Mr. Biden was governing like “a puppet of the left” and not the “moderate ‘nice guy’” he portrayed himself as being during much of the campaign.
If that were not bad enough for a White House whose legislative agenda anticipates a prolonged progressive shift in U.S. politics, 49 percent of likely voters (including 24 percent of Democrats) participating in the same survey said they believed the left-wing of the Democratic Party “had too much influence” on Mr. Biden.
The condemnation of the president’s apparent lack of independence and leftward drift was shared widely among cross-sections of the electorate. Majorities of male and female voters, as well as voters in every age category, agreed he was operating as a “puppet.” Black voters, Rasmussen reports said, were “less likely” than voters in any other category to agree.
“Remarkably, many who say the left-wing has too much influence” on the president “also believe big business has too much influence” on him. The survey revealed 49 percent likely voters including 66 percent of GOP voters, 29 percent of Democrats, and 52 percent of unaffiliated voters were wary of the level of sway corporations had on the new president.
Voters who “strongly approve” of Mr. Biden’s presidential job performance were most likely to applaud the left’s influence on the administration’s agenda while those who strongly disapproved were almost unanimous in their opinion he was not governing as he’d promised.
During the initial days of his administration, Mr. Biden’s White House advanced several proposals that prioritized the interests of the green movement over those of the blue-collar union members who formed the core of the Democratic electorate at the time the president first entered the United States Senate. Among them was the decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline – which even AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a close ally of Mr. Biden’s seemed to admit was a job-killing move – and a ban on new fracking on federal lands which, experts say, will ravage the budgets of states dependent on energy exploration issues to pay for education and other critical programs.
The shift has observers who are admittedly not fans of Mr. Biden wondering if he is in charge at the White House of if Vice President Kamala Harris, who campaigned briefly for president on a much more progressive agenda, is calling many of the important shots. Either way, the voters are showing early on they’re not happy about having been sold a bill of goods, apparently expecting a vote against the Trump presidency was not specifically as a vote against Trump policies that drove energy prices to record lows, sparked a prolonged stock market rally, and prior to the onset of the pandemic-driven lockdowns, brought unemployment to its lowest level in decades.
All that may abate if Mr. Biden changes direction again after he’s been in office for one hundred days. The idea of front-loading a legislative agenda with the heaviest political and ideological lifts that allow an incoming president to maximize accomplishments during the “Honeymoon Phase” of his presidency is not new. It’s been done before precisely because it gives controversial legislation its best chance to get through Congress and gives those who support it including the president the most time possible to recover lost political capital before the next election.
Whether Mr. Biden can do that will depend on his ability to get progressives like Bernie Sanders and AOC as well as house Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to agree that, once reconciliation passes, he’s given them enough — for now.
Why Rush Limbaugh matters
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Feb. 7, 2020. The Washington Free Beacon is reposting on the occasion of Rush Limbaugh’s death Feb. 17, 2021.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis spoke to Rush Limbaugh last fall at a gala dinner for the National Review Institute. The radio host was there to receive the William F. Buckley Jr. award. “He actually gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever had,” Limbaugh told his audience the next day. “He listed five great conservatives and put me in the list.” DeSantis’s pantheon: William F. Buckley Jr., Ronald Reagan, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Limbaugh.
Good list. No media figure since Buckley has had a more lasting influence on American conservatism than Limbaugh, whose cumulative weekly audience is more than 20 million people. Since national syndication in 1988, Limbaugh has been the voice of conservatism, his three-hour program blending news, politics, and entertainment in a powerful and polarizing cocktail. His shocking announcement this week that he has advanced lung cancer, and his appearance at the State of the Union, where President Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, are occasions to reflect on his impact.
It’s one thing to excel in your field. It’s another to create the field in which you excel. Conservative talk radio was local and niche before Limbaugh. He was the first to capitalize on regulatory and technological changes that allowed for national scale. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 freed affiliates to air controversial political opinions without inviting government scrutiny. As music programming migrated to the FM spectrum, AM bandwidth welcomed talk. Listener participation was also critical. “It was not until 1982,” writes Nicole Hemmer in Messengers of the Right, “that AT&T introduced the modern direct-dial toll-free calling system that national call-in shows use.”
Limbaugh made the most of these opportunities. And he contributed stylistic innovations of his own. He treated politics not only as a competition of ideas but also as a contest between liberal elites and the American public. He added the irreverent and sometimes scandalous humor and cultural commentary of the great DJs. He introduced catchphrases still in circulation: “dittohead,” “Drive-By media,” “feminazi,” “talent on loan from God.”
The template he created has been so successful that the list of his imitators on both the left and right is endless. Even Al Franken wanted in on the act. Dostoyevsky is attributed with the saying that the great Russian writers “all came out of Gogol’s ‘Overcoat.'” Political talk show hosts came out of Limbaugh’s microphone.
Limbaugh’s success prefigured more than the rise of conservative radio. His two bestsellers, The Way Things Ought to Be (1992) and See, I Told You So (1993), were the leading edge of the conservative publishing boom. And his television program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, produced in collaboration with Roger Ailes, was a forerunner of the opinion programming on Fox News Channel. “I had to learn how to take being hated as a measure of success,” he told a Boy Scouts awards dinner in 2009. “Nobody’s raised for that. And the person that taught me to deal with this and to remain psychologically healthy was Roger Ailes.”
Limbaugh is not fringe. His views fit in the conservative mainstream. He idolizes Buckley. “He was a fundamental individual in helping me to be able to explain what I believed instinctively, helping me to explain it to others,” Limbaugh saidlast year. The ideas are the same but the salesman is different. Limbaugh is Buckley without the accent, without the Yale credentials, without the sailboat and harpsichord. Limbaugh is a college dropout from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, who spends Sundays watching the NFL and speaks in plain language. His background connects him to the audience—and to the increasingly working-class Republican voter.
Limbaugh entered stage right just as Ronald Reagan made his exit. He took from Reagan the sense that America’s future is bright, that America isn’t broken, just its liberal political, media, and cultural elites. “He rejected Washington elitism and connected directly with the American people who adored him,” Limbaugh said after Reagan’s death. “He didn’t need the press. He didn’t need the press to spin what he was or what he said. He had the ability to connect individually with each American who saw him.” The two men never met.
Limbaugh assumed Reagan’s position as leader of the conservative movement. In a letter sent to Limbaugh after the 1992 election, Reagan wrote, “Now that I’ve retired from active politics, I don’t mind that you have become the Number One voice for conservatism in our Country. I know the liberals call you the most dangerous man in America, but don’t worry about it, they used to say the same thing about me. Keep up the good work. America needs to hear ‘the way things ought to be.'”
In a long and evenhanded cover story in 1993 by James Bowman, National Review pronounced Limbaugh “the leader of the opposition.” Bowman quoted R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., editor of The American Spectator. “We need to have people who can dramatize ideas,” Tyrrell said. “You need that literary spark. Luigi Barzini had it; Buckley has it. And, though he’s a great talker rather than a great writer, Rush has it too.”
More than a decade later, after the Republican defeat in 2008, Limbaugh once again stepped into the breach. The media likened Barack Obama to FDR. Republicans wavered. Should they cooperate with President Obama in building a “New Foundation” for America? Limbaugh gave his answer on January 16, 2009. “I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year and a half,” he said. “I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed.” Limbaugh said he hoped Obama failed. “Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it?” The monologue, and the speech he delivered to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., a month later, became a sensation. They set the tone for the Tea Party and Republican victories in 2010 and 2014.
Limbaugh did not mock Trump when the businessman announced his presidential campaign in June 2015. “This is going to resonate with a lot of people, I guarantee you, and the Drive-Bys are going to pooh-pooh it,” he said. He spent the primary reminding listeners of the importance of defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump was not an ideological candidate, he said. Trump was a missile aimed at the establishment. If ideology matters, then you should vote for Ted Cruz. “If conservatism is your bag, if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote,” Limbaugh said in February 2016, “there is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz, because you are exactly right: This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan.” But, Limbaugh added, the feeling in the country might be so anti-establishment that Trump’s unusual coalition could win the presidency. It did.
To say that Limbaugh supports the president would be an understatement. Last December he introduced the president at a Turning Point USA summit. He mentioned a recent encounter on a golf course. Someone told him it is hard to defend President Trump. “I said, ‘What? Hard to defend the president? It’s one of the easiest things in the world to do.’ President Trump does not need to be defended.” The crowd cheered. A few seconds later Limbaugh said, “How do you defend Donald Trump? You attack the people who are attempting to destroy him. They’re trying to destroy you. They’re trying to transform this country into something that it was not founded to be.”
Bold, brash, divisive, funny, and amped up, President Trump’s style is similar to a shock jockey’s. His presidency is another reminder of Limbaugh’s staying power. The American right has been molded in his anti-elitist, grassroots, demotic, irreverent, patriotic, hard-charging image. Rush Limbaugh is not just a broadcaster. He defines an era.
Presidents sworn in during crises are popular at first. But unforeseen events can soon change that.
A president elected at a time of deep national crisis generally has an advantage over one elected when things are going fairly well. Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in shortly after the Great Depression reached its nadir. Harry Truman became president in the final, bloodiest phase of World War II. Richard Nixon inherited Vietnam and domestic turmoil from Lyndon B. Johnson. Barack Obama entered the White House in the depths of the global financial crisis.
All four had their ups and downs, but all were re-elected. If you take over at a dark time — especially if it’s just before the dawn — the chances are you’ll be able to play “Happy Days Are Here Again” when you run for a second term.
In a similar way, Joe Biden took the oath of office last Wednesday as the third and biggest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to be nearing its crest, a year after the Chinese government belatedly acknowledged the seriousness of the disaster that had begun in Wuhan. Like many new administrations since Roosevelt’s in 1933, the Biden administration now seeks to impress us with a hundred days of hyperactivity, beginning with 17 executive actions on Inauguration Day. Coming soon: a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.
In truth, the vaccination program already underway, combined with the naturally acquired immunity of people previously infected with the virus, would probably get the U.S. close to herd immunity by the summer, even if Joe Biden spent the next six months just riding his Peloton. And the economy would roar back to something like normal service as the pandemic ended even if Republicans had retained control of the Senate and blocked further fiscal support.
In short, Joe Biden, who starts out with a 68% approval rating, according to Gallup, ought to be even more popular by Memorial Day — not just twice as popular as Trump was throughout his term, but up there with the most popular presidents since polling began: Truman on VJ Day, John F. Kennedy in his first 100 days, George H.W. Bush after the Gulf War, George W. Bush after 9/11 — the exclusive 80%-plus Approval Club.
I suspect it won’t happen. Why? According to legend, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once replied to a journalist who had asked what his biggest problem was: “Events, dear boy, events.” (The phrase Macmillan really used, according to the historian David Dilks, was “the opposition of events.”) The Donald Rumsfeld equivalent was “stuff happens” — stuff like the chaos into which Iraq descended in 2003, dragging his boss’s popularity down with it.
Sometimes events are beyond a new president’s control. Sometimes they are unforced errors of his own making. But presidents don’t simply make history. Often, history comes at them fast.
So enthusiastic are most journalists about the new administration that much coverage of last week’s inauguration recalled late Soviet Pravda. Indeed, I have never been more persuaded by the historian Harold James’s mischievous suggestion last year that the U.S. has entered its “late Soviet”phase. (The young Oxford philosopher Jacob Reynolds nailed it.) Example:
Reporter: Will [Biden] keep Donald Trump’s Air Force One color scheme change?
Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki: This is such a good question!
In the hope that it won’t get me banned from Twitter and Facebook for sedition, I am going to suggest some of the events that could plausibly blow the Biden administration off course in the coming months.
First, a few past examples. No sooner had Truman achieved victory over Japan than the U.S. was gripped by a wave of strikes by everyone from oil workers to elevator operators, as the unions seized the opportunity of peacetime to flex their muscles. Workers at General Motors downed tools for three months. “The Congress are balking, labor has gone crazy and management isn’t far from insane in selfishness,” Truman complained to his mother. Speaking at a Gridiron Club dinner in December 1945, Truman half-joked that William Tecumseh Sherman had been wrong: “I’m telling you I find peace is hell.”
Not long after turning the White House into Camelot with one of the great inaugural addresses, Kennedy was persuaded by the director of central intelligence, Allen Dulles, to launch Operation Zapata, an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba. The venture ended in abject failure at the Bay of Pigs on April 20. “We really blew this one,” fumed Kennedy. “How could that crowd at CIA and the Pentagon be this wrong?” The administration had been “revealed as if no more than a continuation of the Eisenhower-Dulles Past,” lamented Kennedy’s court historian, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. “We not only look like imperialists, we look like ineffectual imperialists, which is worse; and we look like stupid, ineffectual imperialists, which is worst of all.”
Having succeeded to the presidency following Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson soon embarked on an escalation of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The authorization Johnson sought from Congress after the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” in August 1964 — to take “all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression” — was a crucial step down the path that would destroy his presidency.
Exaggerating the evidence that the Navy destroyer Maddox had come under attack, Johnson seized the opportunity to outflank his Republican rival Barry Goldwater. “I’ll tell you what I want,” he snapped at a breakfast with congressional leaders. “I not only want those patrol boats that attacked the Maddox destroyed, I want everything at that harbor destroyed; I want the whole works destroyed. I want to give them a real dose.”
Escalation in Vietnam was one the greatest unforced errors in American history. It might not have happened if Kennedy had lived. Conversely, think how different history might have been if Ronald Reagan had not survived the assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr., which occurred just over two months after Reagan’s inauguration. Events, dear boy.
Often the first year of an administration is marred by turf wars and infighting. In Bill Clinton’s case, there was a turbulent contest for influence between those, such as the Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who had been close to Clinton on the campaign trail the previous year, and those, such as the former Republican David Gergen, who were brought in to provide some administrative experience midway through the first year in office.
The great unforced error of Clinton’s first year, vividly described by Bob Woodward in “The Agenda,” was the decision to let First Lady Hillary Clinton drive health-care reform, which she proceeded to do — into a brick wall of congressional opposition. Barack Obama arguably made a similar mistake in his first term when he opted to prioritize health-care reform instead of focusing exclusively on economic recovery.
Joe Biden has one advantage over all his predecessors: No one has come to the highest office in the land with more experience than the man who was first elected to the Senate in 1972, at the age of 29. Re-elected six times to represent Delaware, Biden also served two terms as vice president.
It therefore seems reasonable to assume that he will know to avoid at least some of these pitfalls — especially as he must be keenly aware of how historically slim his party’s control of Congress is. Naive analogies between Biden and Roosevelt or Johnson overlook the stark reality that the Democrats had 59 Senate seats and 313 House seats in 1933, and 68 Senate seats and 295 House seats in 1965 — compared with just 50 Senate seats and 222 House seats today.
Given these narrow majorities, and after an inaugural address that featured the words “unity” or “uniting” no fewer than 11 times, you may be looking forward to a glad, confident morning of bipartisan cooperation. I am sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not going to happen, either. Not only do the Republican Senate and House minority leaders, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, almost certainly intend to rerun the successful Obama-era strategy of opposing every move the Democratic administration makes. Team Biden has also lost no time in providing them with ammunition.
Some of Biden’s executive actions on Day 1 were unobjectionable, but the fact that six out of 17 were essentially measures to liberalize the immigration system was telling, as were the remarks on that subject made last week by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Announcing a plan to give all illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship seems like one easy way to reunite an opposition party that Donald Trump seemed to have divided irreparably by his reckless rabble-rousing just two weeks ago.
Two steps in the same direction are the “woke” executive orders announced last Wednesday. The one “On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” tells all federal institutions and agencies “affirmatively [to] advance equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity … [by] embedding fairness in decision-making processes.” The other, “On Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” will (according to some conservative commentary) require federally funded schools to allow transgender athletes who were born male but identify as female to compete in women’s sports and for women’s scholarships.
For the people who hate Trumpism and wokeism in equal measure, last Wednesday was pure whiplash.
These are not so much forced errors as conscious choices born of the Biden administration’s central policy dilemma. The fiscal and monetary policies favored by its economics team — deficits and quantitative easing as far as the eye can see — will widen the country’s already wide inequalities by cranking up further the prices of real estate and financial assets. Conveniently for Biden, the left wing of the Democratic Party cares more about identity politics than working-class living standards, so they will be fed a steady diet of green new dealing, critical race theory and transgender rights. Welcome to the ESG administration, where environmental and social virtue-signaling will provide a smokescreen for the inexorable growth of shareholder value.
That Republicans will oppose all this is a predictable “gray rhino,”something Team Biden must see coming. The same applies to another impending Harold Macmillan event, namely the deterioration of the public-health crisis in the coming weeks as new strains of SARS-CoV-2 spread across the U.S. The B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in England late last year, has already been found in 12 states. It is between 50% and 70% more infectious as earlier strains of the virus. On Friday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested it may also be more deadly.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and a member of the Biden transition team, spoke last week of “a perfect storm,” telling Bloomberg: “When this B.1.1.7 takes off, it’s going to be hell. That’s what they’re walking into right now. I hope I’m wrong. God, I hope I’m wrong.”
Biden’s public health team will be scanning anxiously the data from the U.K. and from Israel, where races are currently underway between high-speed vaccination programs and the rapidly spreading new strain of the virus. They will be watching even more nervously the news from South Africa, where another new strain has been re-infecting people who had previously had Covid.
According to a sobering report published on Jan. 18 by the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases: “People who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection are usually protected from being infected a second time … because they develop neutralizing antibodies that remain in their blood for at least 5-6 months … These antibodies bind to specific parts of the spike protein that have mutated in the new variant (K417N and E484K). We now know that these mutations have allowed the virus to become resistant to antibody neutralization. The blood samples from half the people we tested showed that all neutralizing activity was lost.”
It is too early to tell just how bad this news is. What is clear, however, is that SARS-CoV-2 is evolving in ways that threaten our current strategy of vaccination, and that it will continue to do so for as long as the southern hemisphere countries lag behind the developed northern countries in the quantity and quality of vaccines available.
One president, Trump, has already caught Covid-19. Even under normal circumstances, Joe Biden’s health would be a concern. At 78, he is older than Ronald Reagan was at the end of his presidency. The most recent Social Security Actuarial Life Table (for 2017) states that a man Biden’s age has a 4.8% probability of dying within a year. Around two-fifths of his contemporaries are dead already. Now add Covid into the mix. Thus far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 59% of U.S. deaths from the pandemic have been of people older than 74.
Events, dear boy, events. What happens when you announce your plan to relax immigration restrictions and give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship? The answer is that the flow of would-be migrants increases. The number of detentions on the Arizona-Mexico border was already rising last fall. A “caravan” of 9,000 Hondurans is currently making its way northward through Guatemala.
What happens when you come to power after a wave of protest in support of Black Lives Matters that was marred by violence, vandalism and looting, and when at least some members of your party expressed sympathy with slogans such as “Defund the Police”? The answer is that you inherit a wave of violent crime that has seen homicide numbers jump by more than 50% in six major cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, Portland and Seattle.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what happens when, despite your obvious contempt for your predecessor, you largely adopt the single most important part of his foreign policy? For all his manifest defects of character, Trump was right to change the direction of U.S. policy toward China — to abandon the fantasy that integration into the global economy was going to liberalize the Chinese Communist Party, and to mount a multifaceted challenge to Xi Jinping’s bid for world power.
On this issue, the Biden administration intends to continue where Trump left off. Incoming secretary of state Antony Blinken told senators at his confirmation hearing last week, “There is no doubt that [China] poses the most significant challenge of any nation-state in the world to the United States.”
Asked if he agreed with his predecessor Mike Pompeo that China was committing genocide against its Uighur population, Blinken replied: “That would be my judgment as well. I think we’re very much in agreement.” Was he open to imposing trade sanctions in connection with that genocidal policy? Yes. Did he support the move by Pompeo to relax restrictions on official dealings with Taiwan? “I want to see that process through to conclusion if it hasn’t been completed,” replied Blinken.
Even more remarkable was the article published by Kurt Campbell in Foreign Affairs on the eve of the announcement that he would be the “Asia czar” on the National Security Council. “The United States needs to make a conscious effort to deter Chinese adventurism,” wrote Campbell and his co-author, Rush Doshi, who is also contending for an NSC job:
This means investing in long-range conventional cruise and ballistic missiles, unmanned carrier-based strike aircraft and underwater vehicles, guided-missile submarines, and high-speed strike weapons. … [The U.S.] also needs to work with other states to disperse U.S. forces across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean … [and] to reshore sensitive industries and pursue a “managed decoupling” from China. … Washington will have to work with others to … collectively design penalties if China decides to take steps that threaten the larger order.
The first Cold War was not the stable equilibrium of mutually assured destruction it now appears with the benefit of hindsight. It was one damned crisis after another, with the worst over Korea in 1950, Berlin in 1961 and Cuba in 1962. Something similar will be true of Cold War II. Even when Chinese-American relations were good — back in the days of “win-win” economic interdependence — there were crises.
On April 1, 2001, when George W. Bush was just 10 weeks into his presidency, a U.S. Navy signals intelligence aircraft collided with a Chinese fighter jet about 70 miles off the island of Hainan, where the American spy-plane was forced to land. The 24 crew members were detained for 10 days, during which they were interrogated. The Chinese fighter pilot was killed in the collision.
Twenty years ago, both sides had strong incentives to defuse the crisis, and American expressions of “sorrow,” interpreted by Beijing as “sorry,” sufficed. But would the same be true today in the event of a comparable collision in the air or at sea? I think not. In 2001, the Chinese economy was 13% the size of the American in current dollar terms, compared with 75% today. And unlike Cold War I, which was fundamentally a transatlantic conflict, with Europe as its major battleground and the Caribbean as a sideshow, Cold War II is transpacific, with East Asia as the major battleground.
At some point in the Biden presidency, I expect, there will be a crisis over Taiwan, North Korea or the South China Sea. And that will be the main event — the moment when we discover if the strange pageant we saw last week was morning in Joe Biden’s America, or the twilight of the late-Soviet United States.
Polarization, or a tendency toward the extremes, is a matter of degrees and frequently vexes free and democratic government. The hyper-polarization that disfigures American politics today — the determination to view fellow citizens who vote differently as mortal enemies — subverts free and democratic government.
A healthy liberal democracy thrives on a diversity of opinions. Hashing matters out in public frequently gets messy and often makes a hash of matters. But the gains that come from putting competing opinions to the test of open discussion with fellow citizens representing a range of perspectives and parties offset the inconveniences and unlovely aspects of democratic give-and-take. Free-flowing debate exposes errors to the light of day, refines evidence and argument, and develops the habit of listening and considering before dismissing or embracing.
The hyper-polarization that plagues the United States stifles the conversation among citizens that is democracy’s lifeblood. To benefit from the public exchange of opinion — indeed, to sustain it – citizens must respect others and trust that their views will be heard fairly and responded to in civil fashion. That can’t happen when a significant segment of the right despises the left and believes they are enemies of the state and a significant segment of the left despises the right and believes they are enemies of the state.
Hyper-polarization differs from the endless disagreements about policy and the normal opportunism and hypocrisy that mark democratic debate. Between 2001 and 2016, for example, views on executive power tended to reflect preferences in the most recent presidential election. As polarization intensified, the opportunism and hypocrisy got harder to swallow, but the controversies followed a familiar pattern.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, Republicans argued for far-reaching presidential powers, encompassing the authority to employ highly coercive interrogation techniques against enemy combatants, to detain them indefinitely, and to intercept a wide range of foreign and domestic communications. Democrats accused Bush of shredding the Constitution.
Subsequently, Democrats defended President Barack Obama’s still more expansive interpretation of presidential power. It included sending Americans into battle in Libya without congressional authorization, making new law through executive fiat to grant approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants the eligibility for temporary legal status, and promulgating a “dear colleague letter” that sidestepped the legally prescribed regulatory process in order to compel colleges and universities to deny the accused in campus sexual-misconduct cases elementary due-process protections. Republicans were aghast not only at Obama’s substantive policies but at the latitudinous view of executive power that informed them.
Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 Republican primaries changed the terms of the debate. While frequently speaking in characteristically grandiose and sweeping terms of the extent of his power as president, President Trump did not surpass Bush or Obama in expanding executive power. Nevertheless, the self-proclaimed “resistance” to Trump’s presidency — launched before he entered the White House and set in motion publicly and behind the scenes before he won the election — indefatigably challenged his very exercise of executive power.
With Trump’s presidency, polarization in America turned into hyper-polarization. The anger and bitterness that had been increasingly rearing their ugly heads metastasized into fury and hate engulfing the body politic.
To slow down the spread of these destructive passions and lower the temperature of American politics, it will be necessary to exercise virtues of evenhandedness, toleration, and civility while embracing shared principles that can frame political controversies, bridge disagreements, and yield accommodations and compromises — sometimes favoring the right, sometimes favoring the left — with which both sides can live. In “The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power Under the Constitution,” Michael McConnell exhibits those virtues and shows that those principles can be discovered in the Constitution.
A Stanford Law School professor and my colleague at the Hoover Institution, McConnell did not in the first place undertake to counter hyper-polarization. The work of an eminent scholar of constitutional law, his book authoritatively reconstructs the original understanding of Article II — which lays out the scope and character of the president’s powers, eligibility for the office and the manner in which the president is chosen, presidential duties, and the actions for which the president may be removed from office — and related constitutional provisions in order to illuminate contemporary controversies over executive power.
At the same time, McConnell’s study of the Constitution’s original design and his treatment of executive power furnish a nonpartisan standpoint for organizing partisan political disputes of all shapes and sizes. In addition, his unfailing judiciousness in considering evidence, sorting through claims, and reasonably interpreting and impartially applying constitutional principles provides a model of virtues that undergird free and robust discussion.
Among the leading questions at the Philadelphia convention of 1787, according to McConnell, was how to “achieve the independence, vigor, secrecy, and dispatch necessary for an effective executive without rendering him an elected monarch?” Taking advantage of executive power — which, as the president’s constitutional responsibility as commander-in-chief demonstrates, extends well beyond implementing the law made by the legislative branch — without opening the door to illiberal and anti-democratic government remains the central question for constitutional government concerning presidential power.
To understand the delegates’ answer, McConnell argues, we must become students of history. Only by grasping how the Constitution’s clauses would have been understood by Americans at the time of the document’s drafting and ratification by the states can we appreciate the Constitution’s legal meaning. That in turn requires detailed examination of British political and legal history in which the drafters were steeped as well as of the writings of Locke and Montesquieu among other seminal thinkers who shaped the era’s leading ideas and major intellectual currents.
Some will disparage — or praise — such an approach as conservative. In fact, it lies at the very heart of the judicial enterprise. If federal judges confronting cases and controversies about the supreme law of the land are not construing the Constitution as understood by those who composed it and expressly consented to it — the authority of which is tacitly affirmed in every generation by those who live under it and enjoy the rights it secures and the prosperity it promotes — then they depart from the specific grant of power the Constitution assigns to the judicial branch.
Because language is malleable, judges will encounter — in even the most carefully crafted charters of government — play in the joints and face the responsibility of filling in gaps, overcoming ambiguities, and reconciling conflicts. Whether they discharge that responsibility in light, or in defiance, of the Constitution’s text, structure, and history makes all the difference.
“Constitutional text and original meaning are the only hope we have for finding principles that could constrain modern assertions of presidential prerogative,” writes McConnell. And the principles of free and democratic government embedded in the Constitution are the only hope we have for establishing a common ground on which to conduct constructive public discourse; refine opinions about law, policy, and politics; and advance the public interest.
McConnell places on a sounder footing the jurisprudence of the presidency and the separation of powers. Legal scholars and experts in political ideas and constitutional government will derive great benefit from his meticulous and trenchant account of the work of the Philadelphia convention; of the distribution between Congress and the presidency of what were considered “royal powers” in the British political tradition; of the internal logic of Article II; and, not least, of the application of constitutional text and original meaning to classic Supreme Court cases and contemporary controversies about executive power.
Amid the hyper-polarization racking the country, McConnell’s demonstration of the centrality and wisdom of the Constitution along with the spirit of his argument, at once rigorous and generous, also contribute to the still more urgent task of stabilizing liberal democracy in America.
Historically, ubiquitous political and cultural hatred, be it individual or multitudinous, is the combination of the person’s warlike self-loathing and his or her violent rejection of all forms of otherness. Such an antithetical twin moral corruption of the mind gives rise to a hybrid persona, which leads to desperate self-liquidation and to the ultimate destruction of each and every civilized society. Thus, hatred in its infinite manifestations is confined to an existence that is without even the slightest redeeming value for both the person or the society at large. In addition, hatred lacks solid human roots and intellectual foundations, because it forces the person into a pathological spiritual myopia. Moreover, hatred conditions the person to view others uncompromisingly as menacing enemies who must be annihilated rather than tolerated. Finally, hatred is quintessentially a narcissistic adventure of the individual and thus a personal quest to define himself or herself against everyone who dares to think differently.
In this manner, hatred is always an aggressive drive toward existential absolutism. In the end, individual hatred coalesces into the most convenient herd mentality when the person realizes that alone he or she cannot change his or her surroundings and needs the like minded others’ participation for fundamental transformation. Presently, in the United States of America, under the guise of fighting the putative existence of white supremacy and the ostensibly systemic or institutional racism, a miniscule minority, possessed by an all consuming hatred toward the vast majority, have endeavored to seize power by terrorizing physically and morally the entire population. Consequently, it is in such a hateful political and cultural environment that the unabashed deceptions of identity politics, perverted social justice theory, tell tale myths of political correctness, the idiotic idea of Great Awokening, the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci’s Marxist “ideological hegemony”, the German Rudi Dutschke’s “long march through the institutions to dictatorial power”, Antifa’s racist Marxism, and Black Lives Matter’s “original sin of white America” preposterous lies, have gained political virtue within the Democrat Party in justifying the stealthy process of total delegitimization of the United States of America’s constitutional democracy and its entire two-and-a-half centuries history. The shared trait of all these political and ideological falsehoods is the notion of We against Them in an irreconcilable conflict, in which We must defeat Them decisively.
Having turned into an uncontrollable monster in the wake of the hardened criminal George Floyd’s death, the rampaging mob have rapidly devastated many large cities across the nation with the active criminal participation of elected Democrat politicians. To wit, the overwhelming majority of the written and electronic media as well as all the social media platforms have joined giddily into this macabre orgie of the cult of unpatriotic believers in violent despotism. Offensive hate speech and boundless racist attacks have been defined as acceptable and peaceful expressions of justifiable anger against the oppressors by the oppressed. Mayhem and destruction have been ignored and facts have been turned into bold faced lies by both sympathetic politicians and journalists. As in the French and later in the Bolshevik Revolutions, a small minority have declared a ruthless war of annihilation on everything that existed in the past and exist in the present.
The United States of America is at a crossroads. A crossroads between good and evil. Unless the majority of the Americans are willing to accept their own as well as their Republic’s demise, they must rise up and decisively defeat these enemies of the United States of America. Defeating them will be an act of self-defense. Established on the respect for the rule of law and Judeo-Christian tolerance ingrained into the Constitution by the founding fathers, those who break the law and practice criminal intolerance must be arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced. Accordingly, when individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion, who have committed criminal acts against the United States of America or the laws of the fifty states, bringinging them to justice is not racist but lawful by any standard. The laws, whether federal or state laws, are designed to protect society against criminal elements. Bringing them to justice is society’s self-defense against those who want to destroy it. Also, when foreign actors or foreign governments do harm to the United States of America or its citizens, the American government is within its lawful rights to defend itself. Doing so is not immoral. On the contrary. It is ethical and imperative. It is called administering justice in the name of a multitude of positive values that the majority accept and share. This is the reason that only nations that live under the rule of law can exist, endure, and prosper. Today, the living have a sacred duty to future generations together to preserve the nation’s heritage, to protect the Republic, and to develop the foundations upon which a stable and peaceful future can safely rest.
If summertime polls were reliable, or even predictive, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis would have a presidential library and the Bush family wouldn’t be an American political dynasty. But they’re not, so he doesn’t and they are.
People forget, but Dukakis opened up a 14-point lead over then–Vice President George H.W. Bush by the time the national party conventions rolled around in 1988. The pundit class interpreted that as America rejecting limited-government Reaganism and an ideological approach to governing in favor of a non-ideological, technocratic approach that focused on what worked, à la the so-called Massachusetts Miracle.
That was before the Bush campaign got going. By the time his team, led by the legendary Lee Atwater, got finished, Dukakis’ miracle turned into a mirage, just like the idea of him in the White House. Bush won the election with almost 49 million votes, 53.4 percent to 45.6 percent, and carried 40 states. Remember that the next time folks try to tell you Donald Trump is finished.
Admittedly, Trump has a tough row to hoe, but that was true in 2016 too. Trump never led in the polls. The debates were a sloppy mess. And he had more than one “setback” during the general election that led most forecasters to conclude he was over and done, fully baked, had bought the T-shirt, worn it out and sent it to Goodwill, and was certain to lose.0:29/2:09
He lost the popular vote—but that matters little. Americans don’t decide presidential contests based solely on who gets more votes. It’s where those votes come from that matters.
Had it been a popular vote contest, both campaigns would have approached the contest differently. But instead, they focused on swing states and largely abandoned voters in states they were sure to lose. That’s why Trump went for Wisconsin, which Hillary Clinton never once visited, but didn’t focus on New Jersey, which Clinton was certain to win but is a big state with many Trump voters.
The bottom line is both parties can make the math work for them regardless of which style of campaign is conducted and whether or not the popular vote determines who wins. The national polls that show former Vice President Joe Biden with a commanding lead, at least at this point, are almost meaningless.
The trends are important, and with as many polls showing Trump behind nationally and in key states, it’s no surprise there’s been a change at the top of the president’s campaign team. And there will probably be more to come, but the outcome of the race is not at all certain.
Consider a survey released Wednesday by Rasmussen Reports, a firm with a reputation for leaning to the right but also for more often being right than the media polls. It showed Trump and Biden neck-and-neck, with the former vice president at 47 percent and the president at 45 percent among the likely voters surveyed with a plus/minus 2 percent error margin.
Statistically, according to Rasmussen, the race is tied. Considering the pollster had Biden starting the season with a 10-point advantage over the president, one can argue his lead is shrinking even if the other polls don’t show it.
There are a lot of reasons polls differ, including sample size, the types of voters surveyed and the weights applied to the breakdown of the participants, so the sample in the view of the pollster resembles the likely makeup of turnout in the fall. One could almost say there’s as much opinion going into how the polls are done as they measure.
One major finding in all the surveys is Biden’s continuing lead among non-affiliated voters. Independents matter since, in every presidential election since 2000, the number of ticket-splitters has been in continual decline. It’s no secret that self-described independents have a particular dislike for Trump’s tweets, his rough edges and his approach to the presidency.
Trump’s running against that right now, not Biden. He’s running against his own image, something that’s impossible for almost everyone to do. That changes once the Republicans start defining the former vice president as something more than “Sleepy Joe” and “Basement Biden” and start talking about what he’d do as president. The list of things they have to work with is fertile indeed.
The GOP’s mission is to make independents especially but all voters worry more about what Biden might do as president than they care about what Trump does. If they can convince those voters to believe Biden is the tax hike guy, the one who wants to abolish the suburbs and resume the bad trade deals that send America jobs overseas, then Trump’s not out of the race at all. In fact, he probably wins.
Dear Fellow Americans,
Please allow me, a naturalized American, to share with you my deep concerns about the current state of affairs in the country in which I am humbled to be a citizen.
Today, a small minority has embarked upon an irresponsible adventure to terrorize the overwhelming majority of Americans. This small minority mostly consists of a heap of confused and insufficiently educated youth, who have been force-fed by their ideologically biased teachers, from kindergarten to graduate school, a visceral hatred for America as well as a discombobulated version of Marxism. Combined with a peculiar kind of sub-mediocrity, self-aggrandizing vanity, and outright disdain, they convinced themselves that they have nothing more to learn, and that they are the utopian perfection itself.
None of these pseudo-political, quasi-philosophical, or deceptively ascetic groups are neither intelligent nor earnest. Hastily conceived of by individuals who have had a great deal of ambition but very little of real life experience, their overwhelming passion has been to acquire wealth by taking it away from people who legitimately earned it. Equipped with the slogans of white supremacy, racism, political correctness, and the myth in victimhood, this small minority wants to set the nation ablazed by fabricating a homicidal revolution. During the present misery of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a precipitous rush. Every protester or rioter has opinions that are rather fickle, impulsive, superficial, and arrogant to the point of absolute hatred toward the United States of America, its constitution, its institutions, its elected officials, its morality, and its traditions. To add insult to injury, none of these great dividers has any genuine empathy for the poor and the weak, or a real understanding for the greatness and the future of this beautiful country.
Now, the majority is gripped by momentary cluelessness mixed with irrational fear. Cowed by sheer intimidation and burgeoning violence, this majority has failed to realize the gigantic hoax inherent in the minority’s fraudulent revolution. Those of the Democrat Party and a visible number of its office holders assist the minority to weaken and destroy the constitutional order of the Republic. Even some Republican elected officials have joined those who short-sightedly kowtow to a mob-like small minority. This heterogeneous minority thus far have failed to comprehend that as soon as the political and legal systems of a nation are destroyed, even if such destruction may be reasonably justified by past vices and misguided actions, chaos and anarchy would take over and reign, unchecked.
The United States of America has risen to become the greatest nation on earth because for 240 some years it has been able to unite all the living and also the dead. Humiliating the dead by murdering the past would only lead to irreparable divisions and surely not a more perfect union. Destroying monuments and denigrating the notable ancestors would merely result in self-debasement of the nation. Disrespecting the flag, kneeling down to the national anthem, defacing painting, torching historic structures are gestures of humiliation and not symbols of unity.
The single true legacy that the Founding Fathers bequeathed on all the successive generations is that democracy is a system of government in which the majority elects the President and everybody who gains his or her legitimacy through properly executed elections. Shamefully, since 2016, when the Democrats lost a presidential election that they believed they should have won, the opposition have consisted of politicians who know that they are bereft of a vision that would attract the majority of the voters. Therefore, they have come to the destructive conclusion that their only chance to claim power is to overthrow the elected President and his administration by defamation of character and fake-legal manipulations. Hence, the spectacles of the “Russia Collusion” and the pointless impeachment charade.My fellow Americans! It is time to wake up and reassert the majority’s rule by restoring the Constitution and the Judeo-Christian-guided democratic character and sustainable future of the United States of America. Simultaneously, policies and ideas fundamentally hostile to the historic traditions, the rule of law and the spiritual realm of the nation must be fought decisively without undue apologies and prostrations. We, as free and proud citizens, have a responsibility to uphold and steadily improve the foundational realms of this great nation. Otherwise, a small and unelected mob would destroy our inheritance forever.