They didn’t call Ronald Reagan “The Great Communicator” just because he knew how to deliver a speech. The fact is, he—more than any president in recent memory—knew how to bring a complex idea to life in ways the public wouldn’t just understand but would embrace.
Sometimes this required some simplifications the media—which continually tried to prove Reagan a dunce—used to distort what he was saying. That’s not to say he didn’t get a few things wrong; every president does. On the big things, however, like the importance of economic growth and how to get it, he was very, very right.
Growth matters. The Republicans who followed Reagan into the White House either didn’t get it or couldn’t explain it. That left the door open for the media and progressives to slander and then dismiss pro-growth measures as deficit-enhancing tax cuts for the wealthy that produced greater income inequality.
The Republicans who tried but failed to follow Reagan into the White House—Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney—didn’t make it in part because they didn’t understand the need to explain how growth happens. They never communicated how the right kinds of tax cuts and deregulatory measures would cause economic expansion, leading to rising wages, more jobs and new businesses, making everyone better off while eventually bringing into the U.S. treasury as much revenue or more as the liberals claimed the tax cuts “cost.”
Reagan honed his ability to explain the politics and economics of growth to working Americans over years. As a spokesman for General Electric, he went around the country to the company’s various plants and facilities to talk to employees about the virtues of the free market system. More recent Republicans’ comparative inarticulateness may in part explain why the country appears to be embracing the soft socialism Joe Biden and his congressional colleagues are offering.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen just released a national survey of 1,200 registered voters that found 35 percent of them saying economic fairness was more important than economic growth. The fact that just over a third of the country thinks equality of outcomes deserves more focus than equality of opportunity—a key component of any pro-growth policy—should alarm Republican leaders and growth hawks.
Even when the numbers are broken down by party, the results are disheartening. According to Rasmussen, a third of Republicans now believe fairness is more important than growth. In the Reagan years and throughout the Gingrich era, which saw the first balanced budget in decades alongside a period of continued growth, a number that high would have been inconceivable.
It’s not that the GOP doesn’t believe in fairness. The free market is the fairest system ever conceived for the exchange of goods and services between willing sellers and willing buyers. It’s that they reject—or ought to, anyway—the idea that no matter where anyone starts, we all need to end up in the same place.
It’s really that kind of outcome that’s the most unfair. It presumes that no matter how creative a person is, how hard they work, how good their innovation might be or even how lucky they are, no one should do any better than their neighbor. Identical per capita income for every family—that’s the ticket.
Except it’s not. The progressive politicians’ response to the COVID crisis—shutting down the marketplace state by state while the federal government borrows trillions, inflating the debt while doing nothing to stimulate the economy—leads to disaster. It won’t take too much more of this before the United States starts to resemble Greece, and not in a good way. We’ll be comparatively lucky if it stops there, without the U.S. sliding all the way down into the same space as Venezuela.
There is a bright spot in Rasmussen’s data. “Those respondents who believe focusing on economic growth is the most important rated cutting spending and taxes as the best prescriptions” for doing so, as did those “who would rather focus on economic fairness.” Both sides agree on what needs to be done and, at least by implication, reject the Biden White House’s tax-and-spend plans. This means the growth wing of the GOP has a chance to carry the day—if it’s smart and can find leaders who can explain what is going on in ways the public can understand, even through the filter of the elite media and the opposition’s critique.
Now that she’s a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren plans to give the progressive agenda a boost by introducing a bill that would create the nation’s first-ever tax on total assets.
This so-called “wealth tax” would consider anything and everything owned by a taxpayer in computing the taxes owed. More than double taxation – which is taxing the same income twice as happened with the Death Tax – the taxes the former Democratic presidential candidate wants to put on the books would essentially tax savings, investments, and real property over and over and over again.
According to some early static estimates, Warren’s proposal could generate as much as $2.75 trillion per year – but that does not take into account any change in behavior that might occur on the part of the taxpayers on whom it would be assessed.
A study recently released by the non-partisan American Action Forum found a wealth tax would lead to a decrease in innovation and investment, drive down wages and cause unemployment and produce a $1.1 trillion shrinking in U.S. gross domestic product over the first ten years of its existence. In subsequent decades, GDP would be smaller by about $283 billion, a 1 percent annual decrease from current projections.
The Warren plan would impose this new tax, published reports indicate, on taxpayers with assets above $50 million at a top rate of 6 percent per year while giving the U.S. Internal Revenue Service far greater power than it currently enjoys. With a wealth tax on the books, the IRS would have to hire thousands of new agents and auditors to keep track of all the assets held by those of whom the tax falls, to account for them, and assign them proper valuation at tax time.
Also included in the draft of Warren’s plan circulating through the nation’s capital is a 40 percent “exit tax” to be imposed on anyone who seeks to leave the United States permanently and is reminiscent of the so-called “tax” forced upon Jewish individuals and families seeking to emigrate from Nazi Germany in the years prior to the onset of World War II.
There are some, even in Warren’s own party, who doubt the plan is legitimate.
“We are tax law professors who identify as liberal Democrats, donate to Democratic candidates, publicly opposed the Trump tax cuts, and strongly support higher taxes on the affluent,” Daniel Hemel and Rebecca Kysar recently wrote in the New York Times. “We are worried, though, that leading figures in our party are coalescing around an idea whose constitutionality is doubtful at best.”
Warren’s plan is one of several under consideration on Capitol Hill that, on paper, raise tremendous amounts of money for the U.S. government. Unlike tax changes that achieve such ends by stimulating economic growth, however, her plan would simply redistribute income already earned, long a progressive objective.
To date, there has been no comment from the Biden Administration on the Warren wealth tax or any of the similar proposals under consideration. For his part, President Joe Biden remains committed to his promised repeal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in its entirety. If he’s successful, that would violate his repeated campaign pledge in which he vowed no American family making less than $400,000 per year would see their taxes go up “by one thin dime.”
Progressive efforts to staff the nascent administration backfire
On Nov. 2, before the first votes in the presidential election had even been tallied, the foreign policy “experts” from the Blame America wing of the Democratic Party laid out their demands. Foreign Policy described their “wish list,” which included above all else their pick of jobs in the expected Biden administration.
They’d kept their mouths shut for six months and now they wanted their reward. Or, as Foreign Policy put it, they were preparing to “take off the gloves, setting the stage for a public brawl for the party’s soul over policy and political appointments to the most senior positions.”
But Biden’s victory was less sweeping than expected, and as early as Nov. 6, Foreign Policy was reporting that progressives were panicking that the election results would “ease pressure on Biden to offer progressives key positions in the new administration.”
Still, the nomenklatura have pressed on, presenting the Biden transition team with a list of 100 names they must consider for senior jobs in the new administration.
The list’s existence was first reported by Politico, but the Washington Free Beacon obtained the document and published it in full. It includes a rogue’s gallery of fringe figures—anti-Semites, operatives with deep ties to unsavory regimes, and the merely unserious and unqualified.
And it quickly became clear that the organizers did not want the list to see the light of day. The Free Beacon’s publication of the dossier elicited recriminations and finger pointing. List organizers accused the mainstream reporters with whom they’d shared the list—presumably, an accurate one—of leaking the document to their enemies (us). At the same time, they told us we’d obtained an inaccurate copy, representative only of “research materials.” False, unless they were bamboozling us all.
The contretemps is revealing of how quickly the Democratic Party’s progressive wing went from demanding to begging, and of the disorganization and unseriousness of its efforts. Turns out, one mainstream reporter said, that list organizers hadn’t even consulted with several of those named on the list before including their names and résumés without their permission.
Vanquished in the primaries and now at risk of exclusion from the new administration, they are in disarray. A compelling story, if anybody cared to cover it.
If news writers had any integrity, the headlines following the 2020 election would have read like the one on this column. Instead, the media gods who helped put Joe Biden over the top expound on why Donald Trump‘s protests are without merit and just another example of Republican sore-loserism.
The former vice president’s apparent margin of victory is not all that large. At the time this was written it was about 6 million votes out of about 150 million cast. That works out to about 4 percent and could, depending on recounts, slip lower.
In the states that appear to be making the difference—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin—Biden’s lead is extremely narrow, much as Trump’s was when he defeated former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the White House in the first place. It’s hard to argue the man most of the media anointed the new American chief executive before all the votes were cast has a mandate to do much of anything.
Nonetheless, if he eventually becomes president, the calls for him to act swiftly and decisively will be frequent, loud, and—from his point of view—problematic. In the Thursday, November 19 edition of The Wall Street Journal author and political cartoonist Ted Rall argues forcefully that, without the support of progressives who held their nose and voted for him anyway, Biden wouldn’t be going back to Washington and instead would be headed back to Delaware.
Progressives who would have preferred Vermont senator Bernie Sanders may have pushed Biden past Trump in the popular vote and in the states that will determine the outcome in the electoral college, but on almost every other measure they were defeated. By a small majority, the nation indicated it may not want four more years of Trump, but it’s clearly repudiated the progressive agenda.
The GOP may have lost seats in the U.S. Senate but it’s most likely maintained control. The outcome hangs on two runoffs in Georgia—both of which the Republicans are favored to win—unless an audit of the votes pushes incumbent GOP senator David Perdue back up over 50 percent of the vote, where he was for most of election night. Right now, he’s at 49.71 percent, and the 0.3 percent he needs to avoid a runoff might be overcome just by the uncounted votes being discovered across the state.
The Republicans were also projected to lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Instead, they won all the top targeted races, lost no incumbents seeking reelection, and gained enough seats not only to get above 200—a crucial barrier in the battle for the majority—but to put Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s ability to control events on the floor in doubt. Enough moderate Democrats are saying privately (and thanks to some propitious leaks, publicly) that they’re not willing to walk the plank for her and the “The Squad” is in for a rough going.
Looking around the country, the Republicans picked up one governorship in 2020 (Montana) and the New Hampshire state legislature. This gives the GOP the prized “trifecta” in each state which, when added to the dozens they already had, means that while Washington is gridlocked the GOP can use states to pass the reforms they’ll take national the next time they have the White House.
At the same time the Democrats, who enlisted the substantial fundraising support of former president Barack Obama and former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder in an attempt to flip legislative chambers to Democratic control, failed everywhere they tried. They may have spent tens of millions or more in pursuit of this goal with nothing to show for it. Contrary to late predictions, the GOP held on to state legislatures in Texas and Arizona comfortably when the battle for control was expected to be a close-run thing. And they held the legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and enough other key states that predictions are already being made that, based solely on the upcoming reapportionment of U.S. House seats among the states, the Republicans are headed to a decade-long majority. No wonder Mrs. Pelosi is saying this is her last term as speaker.
Even at the lawmaking level, progressivism was crushed. Voters in California, who went for Biden over Trump by about two to one, rejected an effort to repeal the 1996 Proposition 209 that prohibits the state from considering race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education and contracting. At the same, in progressive Colorado, voters said “Yes” to a cut in the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent. In Illinois, voters rejected a measure to establish a graduated income tax and in Montana voters limited the ability of local governments to interfere with issuing of “concealed carry” firearms permits.
If there’s one takeaway from the 2020 election, it’s that, despite the aggressive support it received from donors, elected officials, candidates for office and the mainstream media, progressivism is on the decline. Heck, Joe “I am the Democratic Party” Biden even rejected it while debating Donald Trump. The course is set and if the new president—whoever it is—is smart enough to follow it then the sailing should be smooth. If not, it’s stormy weather ahead.
Progressive Democrats have dominated San Francisco’s city government for the last 20 years, a time during which homelessness, drug abuse, the cost of living, and the city budget have skyrocketed. San Francisco is becoming an increasingly obvious problem for the national Democratic party, with vice president-elect Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Dianne Feinstein all from the Bay Area.
As a succession of city governments have tacitly tolerated drug abuse and the crimes that go with that, a de facto thriving drug-based economy tragically plays out in the open on city streets every day. The city spends a small fortune each year collecting millions of used hypodermic needles from city streets and pays city workers about $185,000 annually to clean up feces from the sidewalks.
This is why $8 million in campaign money was poured into local elections earlier this month to convince San Francisco voters to replace progressive Democrats with more moderate Democrats on the city’s Board of Supervisors, and to vote down a number of local tax initiatives that would make San Francisco even more expensive and less desirable as a business location than it presently is.
The party strongly backed more moderate candidates with the view that San Francisco could make progress if a moderate majority board was elected who would in turn work productively with San Francisco mayor London Breed, who has a much better understanding of the city’s problems than the current board.
The party’s investment in bringing about more responsible governance and policies didn’t work. It wasn’t even close. The most progressive Board of Supervisors candidates won, which means that the board’s majority remains highly progressive, and thus likely will continue to block many housing proposals. Why? Because most developments would gentrify neighborhoods by replacing very old, low-density housing with new, high-density housing. And for progressives, gentrification is not an option.
Blocking new development means constraining supply, which in turn means San Francisco housing costs remain ridiculously high. How high? How about $1.1 million for about 1,000 square feet in the city’s Mission District, San Francisco’s highest crime neighborhood? For comparison, a similarly sized home in in a low-crime Atlanta neighborhood is yours for $174,900. In rapidly growing Denver, a similar home costs about $250,000.
The blocked housing developments in San Francisco would be so valuable that those residents who might be displaced could be substantially compensated. The devil is always in the details, but the status quo of keeping the economic pie much smaller than it could be is never the solution.
For decades, San Francisco’s politicians have blocked new housing to prevent highly aid tech and finance workers from moving in and changing old-school neighborhoods. Yes, the 1950s-era Italian American diner serving spaghetti with red sauce and sausage, as delicious as it is, would be gone, and would be replaced by a higher-priced restaurant with a menu tailored to serve new residents. But times and people change, and so will neighborhoods.
It is grossly expensive to prevent new development, because new development helps everyone by expanding the city’s housing stock. Build it, no matter what it is, and supply expands. As more housing opportunities open, people move, freeing up existing homes for others to move into. California grew from about 7 million people in 1940 to about 20 million by 1970, but home prices, adjusted for inflation, did not skyrocket, because new construction kept up with demand. Prices did not enter the stratosphere until local government began to block development.
Local progressives have drawn a line in the sand: no new housing unless it is new housing that they personally find acceptable. Meanwhile, about 17,000 homeless people live in the streets, according to the National Homeless Information Project, roughly twice as many as the official count. And there are now more drug users within the city than there are high school students.
San Francisco’s failure to effectively govern is a growing problem for the national Democratic party, and for reasons that go beyond the human tragedies that unfold every day in plain view, and which remind everyone that the Democrats own this.
Former San Francisco mayor and old-school Democratic politician Willie Brown knows this as well as anyone. Brown recently was interviewed and argued very candidly that the Democratic party has lost its way, and that it provides little of interest to voters outside of Sunday morning political talk shows. He openly worries about the fate of San Francisco and his party, a political party that is increasingly being dominated by wealthy elites and one that is moving far from the ideas that he represented.
Brown knows that San Francisco and, more broadly, California have run the experiment of very liberal governance, and that experiment has clearly failed. He also knows that California voters made a right turn two weeks ago by voting down tax increases and the restoration of affirmative action, and by voting to restore the right of gig workers to work as independent contractors by passing Proposition 22. By passing this proposition, voters told elite Democratic lawmakers they didn’t approve of the legislature stealing economic freedom and making it illegal for many to work as independent contractors.
California’s failure to effectively govern is a teaching moment for the rest of the Democratic party. The progressive agenda failed in California, and it will fail nationally. Without the perfect foil of Trump to hide behind, Democrats must now deliver without the benefit of simply saying that they are working 24/7 to fight against everything Trump.
Willie Brown and other old-school Democrats know that if Biden and Harris are to succeed, the party must move against its progressive wing that includes Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, all of whom favor policies that would sharply reduce economic freedom, economic growth, and our quality of life.
The national Democratic party has plenty of problems to address. The global pandemic remains. China is China. Iran is Iran. Russia is Russia. And 70 million voters remain skeptical that the party even knows they exist. What has happened in San Francisco scares the national party, because they understand San Francisco’s fate can happen anywhere if the old guard can’t find a way to take control of the party and implement moderate policies.
It is good that the national party is worried about what has happened in San Francisco. Sadly, San Francisco’s plight will continue for the time being. But we can hope that its lessons will help promote better national policies in the Biden-Harris administration.
The 2020 election was a referendum on the progressive elite, and they were soundly defeated
In a week of surprises, California’s rejection of a ballot measure that would have allowed the state to resume its affirmative action program was among the most significant.
The measure, known as Proposition 16, wasn’t defeated by shy Trump voters. Polling showed Hispanic and other minority voters evenly split on the measure, and on Tuesday it was defeated in California’s most Latino counties.
California’s result is just one piece of the mounting evidence that voters on Tuesday threw a wrench in the progressive plan to leverage a “coalition of the ascendant” and an “emerging Democratic majority” to turn the country into a woke utopia.
The 2020 election was in large part a referendum on Democrats’ race baiting and pandering, starting with the party’s own elevation of Biden to the top of the ticket. Democrats’ rejection of Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris was a leading indicator that the media missed.
Millions of voters of all races made clear that they instead prefer the old ideals: equality of opportunity, economic freedom, and a society that judges its citizens not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character.
Beyond that, the president whom Democrats have lambasted for four years as a racist and a xenophobe turned out more minority voters than any Republican candidate in decades. It’s not just that right-wing Cubans handed Trump a surprise victory in south Florida; he clinched some of the nation’s most Latino counties, improved his margins with black men and women, and even earned commanding majorities in some Native American counties. And that exit poll data does not account for the shy Trump voters, an effect we presume may well be exaggerated among black and Hispanic voters.
Senate races yielded more bad news for the progressive left. Even if Joe Biden wins the White House, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who easily overcame an $80 million challenge, will serve as a check on the ascendance of socialists such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) to the Biden cabinet. Voters may have wanted Biden, but there’s a whole wing of his party they’d prefer to do without.
Some House Democrats can see the writing on the wall. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.) reportedly told her caucus that the progressive push to defund the police and embrace “socialism” almost cost them the majority. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) advised Democrats to drop the woke speak, starting with the bizarre “Latinx.”ADVERTISING
Tuesday’s results should shatter the Democratic presumption that their party is destined to command the overwhelming and eternal support of minority voters—but it won’t. The politics fueled by racial grievance and personified by the “squad” of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib is a cancer on the Democratic Party that it indulges at its own peril.
America's polarized and divided politics aren't going anywhere.
The polls were wrong. The blue wave was no tsunami. The Democratic majority did not fully emerge. Parts of the “coalition of the ascendant” drifted to the right. For a generation, American politics has been closely and bitterly divided between the parties. There has been high turnover in office, and frequent shifts in power. Majorities are unstable. No victory is permanent, no realignment durable. The stalemate goes on.
If Joe Biden becomes president, he is more likely than not to take office with Republicans in control of the Senate. That hasn’t happened in 116 years. He will certainly take office with a reduced House majority—the Democrats have a net loss of six seats at the time of writing. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices are Republican appointees. The partisan breakdown of state legislatures and governor’s mansions will resemble, almost precisely, the pre-election status quo. It’s a good thing Biden campaigned as someone willing to work across the aisle. He’ll have no other choice.
If Trump wins a second term, practically nothing will have changed in American politics, except that both Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell will have fewer votes to work with.
The country remains split. The New York Times exit poll says 37 percent of voters were Democrats and 35 percent Republicans, with 28 percent identifying as independents “or something else.” The Fox News/AP voter analysis pushed “leaners” toward one party over another. It says that 47 percent of voters were Republican or lean Republican, and 48 percent were Democrats or lean Democrat.
Only 24 percent of voters in the exit poll identified as liberal. The rest said they were moderate (40 percent) or conservative (37 percent). The Fox News voter analysis has similar results, with a slightly higher percentage of liberals (30 percent) and a lower percentage of moderates (33 percent). Conservatives were at 38 percent.
The sorting of parties by race, education, marital status, and religious practice has polarized our elites and made politics heated, noisy, and apocalyptic. Every election is billed as the most important in our lifetimes, the potential end of democracy and our ways of life. For all the fire and fury online and on cable news, however, elections continue to be decided in the middle.
Look at the suburbs, where a lot of those moderates and independents live. They backed Bush in 2004, then went for Obama in 2008. Two years later, repelled by Obamacare, Republicans won 56 percent of the suburbs and 56 percent of independents. Obama won reelection in 2012 by erasing those margins. The electorate in 2014, however, looked almost exactly like it did in 2010. And in 2016, Trump won the suburbs by 5 points and independents by 6 points. (He lost moderates by 11.)
According to the 2020 exit poll, Trump lost the suburbs by 3, independents by 14 (a 20-point swing), and moderates by 31. In the Fox voter analysis, Trump lost suburbs by 10 points, independents by 14 points, and moderates by 25 points. Both campaigns turned out their supporters. But the Trump campaign assumed its base would be enough to win. It looks like they were wrong.ADVERTISING
If Trump loses, it will be because voters in the middle grew tired of his antics. The public assessment of Trump’s actions was filtered through its distaste for his comportment, rhetoric, and behavior. And Trump’s personality often overshadowed or undermined the progress of his own administration.
These dramatic self-owns became most obvious, and most harmful, during the coronavirus pandemic. The elected officials who demonstrated steadiness, compassion, and concern these past eight months have seen their job approval numbers rise, no matter the actual status of their communities. Trump’s scattershot response prevented him from building on the slight uptick in support that he enjoyed last March. The voters who said the coronavirus was their most important issue went for Biden overwhelmingly.
This rejection of Trump was personal. It did not extend to the entire Republican Party. Several GOP senators ran ahead of him. The gains in the House speak for themselves. At the moment, the only governor’s mansion to flip is Montana’s. It’s a Republican pickup. Voters rejected a graduated income tax in Illinois and affirmative action in California. Even if Democrats sweep the two Georgia Senate runoffs, and Chuck Schumer gets to be majority leader thanks to Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, the chances now that he will abolish the filibuster, pack the Court, and grant statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., are nil. The Democrats dreamed of legislating the GOP out of existence. That’s not going to happen. It’s why they are so morose about these results.
The Republican challenge today is the mirror image of the party’s dilemma after 2012. Then, the GOP needed to retain its support in the suburbs while boosting support among whites without college degrees. Now, it needs to retain its support among whites without college degrees while boosting support in the suburbs. And it needs to solidify its gains among black males and Hispanic voters who responded to policies aimed at tight labor markets and economic empowerment.
It’s a tall order. But, as always, the Republicans’ best allies will be Democrats, who like all winners will interpret an electoral victory as an ideological mandate. Overreach is inevitable. And so is the backlash. The vote counting isn’t over, but the GOP comeback has already begun.
The left calls for racial quotas in the name of progress
The American dream is that any citizen, regardless of sex, race, creed, or color, can rise on his determination and merit. History is littered with examples of the reformers who worked to realize that dream, pushing the most influential institutions in the country to prize talent and hard work over wealth and connections.
The introduction of standardized testing, accessible to all American teens, was part of that push. Harvard University began administering a standardized test to all applicants in 1905. Its effect was profound and immediate: historically a landing spot for the Protestant upper crust, the school began admitting far more public school kids, Catholics, and Jews.
The increasing number of Jewish students was a major concern for Harvard president and committed progressive A. Lawrence Lowell. He tried to implement a quota on Jews, then pivoted to an admissions process that used intangible factors such as “character” and “manliness.” It worked: Jewish applicants consistently fell short.
These sorts of hazy, intangible assessments are now championed by the left. In the name of racial equality, the woke now seek to dismantle meritocratic norms and return to the quota systems that practices like standardized testing were designed to relegate to the trash heap of history.
In a lawsuit likely headed for the Supreme Court, hundreds of would-be Asian admittees allege that Harvard caps their numbers with quotas based on “personality”—an eerie echo of Lowell’s method for keeping out Jews.
The New York Times’s classical music critic, Anthony Tommasini, is calling for the end of the blind symphony audition, which drove a tripling of women’s representation in the field, so that conductors can make race-based selections. The University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where merit is literally a matter of life or death, recently suspended admissions to its honor society because the GPA-based admissions criterion did not produce an honor society that, as Bill Clinton said, “looked like America.”
The SAT—which measures intellect better and more fairly than do intangible heuristics—is under fire. University of California president and former Obama official Janet Napolitano has joined the chorus of administrators at elite universities who complain that race-blind admissions aren’t producing the desired results.
Those calling for “progress” usually want to forfeit someone else’s job. Tommasini is a white man, as are all his listed colleagues at the Times‘s “music” section. So is the L.A. Times’s Mark Swed, and Washington Post music critic Michael Brodeur, who recently penned a news report about classical music’s “long overdue reckoning with racism.”
All are curiously quiet on the “racism” of their clique. None seem ready to give up their own position for indigenous or trans critics, who surely exist! Surely they are waiting somewhere for the call from the New York Times that their turn has come, merit be damned!
As the Times‘s own Ross Douthat noted, those who stand to benefit most from this new attitude are the rich and powerful, who will be free to clear the way for their underachieving kids—the Varsity Blues scandal, legitimated by wokeness.
The new war on merit is the same as the old, and it marks regression rather than progress. It’s straight out of Lowell’s playbook: In the name of “equality,” tear down the only system we have that gives the talented a shot over the powerful.
Attorney General William Barr noted America’s slide toward despotism during remarks at the National Religious Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday. He highlighted changes in three institutional “bulwarks” that have long preserved liberty: “religion, the decentralization of government power, and the free press.”
Most notable was Barr’s calling out of the “remarkably monolithic” press as a vehicle for pushing Americans toward a secular progressive program and a “soft despotism,” wherein everyone is converted “into 25-year-olds living in the government’s basement, focusing our energies on obtaining a larger allowance rather than getting a job and moving out.” Barr described this progressive dream as a use of the “public purse to … build a permanent constituency of supporters who are also dependents.”
Barr noted the press, having become less like objective journalists and more like political activists, maintains massive influence in directing public opinion to “mobilize a majority” toward progressive goals.
When the media becomes a viewpoint monolith, “Not only does it become easier for the press to mobilize a majority, but the mobilized majority becomes more powerful and overweening with the press as its ally,” Barr said. “This is not a positive cycle, and I think it is fair to say that it puts the press’ role as a breakwater for the tyranny of the majority in jeopardy.”
The relationship among journalists, politicians, and the American people has shifted since 2016 and the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidential election. The president has repeatedly referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” producing “fake news,” for which he has received much criticism. A September 2019 Gallup poll revealed only 41 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “fair amount” of faith in the mass media. Public mistrust in the press cannot be attributed wholly to Trump, however. The media’s track record speaks for itself: blatant lies over the Russia collusion hoax, Trump’s impeachment, the Jussie Smollett hoax, the Covington Catholic high school students story, and grossly mischaracterized pro-life legislation, among countless other errors. The media has even mocked Trump supporters as “credulous boomer rube[s].”
The press wielding its power in such a way is consistent with the attorney general’s assessment of progressives, however. According to Barr, progressives prop up politics as religion, taking a no-holds-barred approach — including weaponization of the press — to achieve their desired goals, which are “earthly and urgent.”
Totalitarian democracy, says Barr, “requires an all-knowing elite to guide the masses toward their determined end, and that elite relies on whipping up mass enthusiasm to preserve its power and achieve its goals. … [It] is almost always secular and materialistic, and its adherents tend to treat politics as a substitute for religion. Their sacred mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society according to an abstract ideal of perfection. The virtue of any individual is defined by whether they are aligned with the program. Whatever means used are justified because, by definition, they will quicken the pace of mankind’s progress toward perfection.”
Barr’s Wednesday remarks are reminiscent of his November 2019 speechto the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, where he said, “[S]o-called progressives treat politics as their religion. … [T]here is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.”
The progressive left demands cultural changes, putting conservatives on the defense. It's never conservatives throwing the first punch.
A recent Voxsplainer aimed at breaking down the “War Against Thanksgiving” to bespectacled urbanites referred, mostly in passing, to the “culture war-stoking conservative media.” This is adorable, and for two particular reasons.
First, because its matter-of-fact presentation demonstrates how deeply this notion is embedded as conventional wisdom on the center-left. Second, because it’s so obviously stupid.
Of course, it’s the Fox-guzzling conservative rubes stoking the culture war, those reactionary pitchfork wielders who burn Howard Zinn books and listen to Blake Shelton sing about trucks. Or perhaps it’s the fault of cynical Beltway operators who exploit the anxieties of Flyover simpletons for profit and power.
The “culture-war stoking conservative media” is a liberal trope because it neatly comports to basic elite stereotypes about conservatism as a misguided ideology of blind rage and ignorance. The culture war itself is seen as a lowbrow battleground for reactionaries and the Brooks-Brothers elites who mine their concerns for clicks.
This brings me to the second reason Vox’s descriptor is amusing. The progressive movement is waging this war on culture by its own admission. By the essence of their mission and the definition of their moniker, progressives are on offense. There would be no cultural battles were it not for changes demanded by the left. Those of us so-called “culture war-stoking” conservatives in media are on defense. Almost always.
We focus heavily on culture because it’s what our audience finds useful. It’s what our audience finds useful because they, too, are on defense—and that’s because the left is focused even more heavily on culture. This kind of coverage is entirely a response to the left’s broad and deliberate cultural offensive, which honest progressives should fully own. The left raises proposals (or demands, more often) for cultural change. In response, we stand athwart history yelling “Stop!” (Or we’re supposed to, at least.)
Of course, media conservatives are blamed for stoking the flames of a culture war because center-left elites wouldn’t dare admit their own hands have been dirtied by something so asinine and lowbrow. Yet, curiously, they own all of these politicized initiatives to alter the culture. But you can’t have it both ways.
For instance, are the conservatives who cover transgender bathrooms stoking the culture war by virtue of their coverage, or is it the folks who introduced the idea and are seeking aggressively to normalize it? Again, to an honest progressive, the answer should be easy: the culture is oppressive and they are waging a righteous war against it.
Consider awards season, which regularly produces a stream of contrived liberal broadsides. I love Meryl Streep, but it was her choice to pit popular sports against “the arts,” echoing the snobbishness that drove voters to Donald Trump. She did the stoking, conservative media simply responded. When Sean Spicer was cast on “Dancing with the Stars,” conservative media’s coverage was provoked entirely by the left’s complaints.
As for the “War on Christmas,” an admittedly dramatic designation, it isn’t exactly conservative Christians pushing to secularize the holiday, and the push to secularize the holiday absolutely exists. Is conservative media sometimes guilty of framing cultural conflict in hyperbolic terms? Of course. But, often, what looks like hyperbole to elites—who cheer many sweeping progressive initiatives—sounds pitch perfect to conservative bystanders watching their world get turned upside down. You can go down the line on these issues, from the national anthem to comedy to statues of Thomas Jefferson to Taylor Swift, it’s never conservatives throwing the first punch.
Even the aforementioned Vox article, headlined “Trump’s made-up war on Thanksgiving, explained,” gently undermines its own contention about the culture war. In a subheading titled “It’s not a bad idea to give Thanksgiving a think,” the author suggests using Thanksgiving as a time to “[consider]” the plight of the Native American community, which is perfectly reasonable idea, but certainly calls for change. It’s also perfectly reasonable for conservatives to counter that suggestion by arguing the holiday would be better spent focusing on our “social and domestic ties,” as Sarah Hale proposed so many years ago. Either way, the would-be change agents aren’t coming from the right.
Whatever is happening with Thanksgiving is nothing compared to wars being waged on other cultural fronts. And it’s not a war being “stoked” by conservative media, but by the left. To believe otherwise is to undermine the entire progressive project.
A lot of people are dunking on Michael Moore for declaring that he now represents the center of the Democratic party, and they’re enjoying it, and they ought to. But he might not be completely wrong in that self-assessment, and it’s both a statement about him and a statement about the Democratic party.
Put aside everything you can’t stand about Michael Moore for a moment. (I know, it’s a lot.) But Moore’s political vision has always had a strong populist streak that aligns a lot with elements of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. His 1989 documentary, Roger and Me was all about Moore’s anger that General Motors was ending production of automotive parts in factories in Flint, Mich., while increasing production of parts in Mexico. Moore sees America’s corporate class as a bunch of selfish, greedy snobs who show little or no appreciation for the workers that enable their profits or the country that gave them their opportunities. That leftist view of 1989 feels pretty mainstream three decades later — and not just in the Democratic party.
In July 2016, Michael Moore shocked many of his allies by predicting that Donald Trump would win the presidential election. Moore’s assessment is eerily prescient, warning his political allies that working-class voters in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin felt “abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to [vulgar euphemism] with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who’ll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here.”
He also warned about Hillary, whom he said he personally believed had gotten a bad rap, but “nearly 70 percent of all voters think she is untrustworthy and dishonest. She represents the old way of politics, not really believing in anything other than what can get you elected. That’s why she fights against gays getting married one moment, and the next she’s officiating a gay marriage.” Finally, he reminded people about the unexpected victory of independent Jesse Ventura in 1998: “Minnesota is one of the smartest states in the country. It is also filled with people who have a dark sense of humor — and voting for Ventura was their version of a good practical joke on a sick political system. This is going to happen again with Trump.”
Moore’s a progressive through and through, but he periodically reveals a seething disdain for the hypocrisies and phoniness of the Democratic party’s elite leadership class. And you get the feeling that while Moore isn’t opposed to woke culture and the various crusades that rile up the Twitter Left, he would prefer a Democratic party much more focused on improving the quality of life for America’s working class. He’ll never make a film about how “Latinx” should replace the term “Latinos.”
Meanwhile, certain kinds of Democrats are nearly extinct — pro-life Democrats (other than Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards) pro-gun Democrats, the kinds of reformers who used to make up the old Democratic Leadership Council. Democrats to the right of Michael Moore are fewer, and Democrats to the Left of him are more numerous. He stood still; the party moved around him.
Column: The political contradictions of progressivism
“The fact is there is no more money. Period,” says Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.
She’s talking about the teachers’ strike that has paralyzed her city’s public schools—enrollment 360,000—for the past week. The public employee union is demanding more: more money for salaries (only eight states pay teachers more than Illinois), more support staff (Illinois ranks first in spending on administrators), more teachers per student. Their cause has attracted national attention. Elizabeth Warren joined the picket line.
Which is ironic. Lightfoot is not some stingy Republican. Nor is she a centrist Democrat like her predecessor Rahm Emanuel. She’s as progressive as you can get. But she now finds herself in the same position as many of her political brethren: facing criticism for failing to reconcile the contradictions in the left’s agenda.
Lightfoot has discovered that there is no limit to the appetite of the constituencies generated by government spending. She has learned that the special interests bargaining for higher benefits also desire policies that make such benefits unattainable. I hope she’s taking notes.
Chicago Public Schools has run a deficit for the past seven years. Why? Pensions granted to earlier generations of teachers are expensive. And the cost is growing. A quarter of the school budget is devoted to benefits—money that can’t be spent on classrooms, facilities, and instruction. Expect that number to rise as America goes gray and the bill comes due for the promises we made to ourselves.
The federal government can put Social Security and Medicare on the credit card for as long as demand for U.S. Treasuries is high. States and municipalities don’t have that luxury. There is an upper bound to what even the most progressive mayors and governors can grant the lobbies that mobilize voters for their campaigns. But it’s a glass ceiling. Public sector unions are eager to break it.
Nor does being woke protect you. It’s impossible to appease fully the groups fighting to claim resources and honor. They often won’t take yes for an answer. GM might tout to investors the fact that it is “leading in gender equality.” That didn’t stop the UAW from striking.
Public policy inspired by the ethic of social justice inflames the tension between progressive leaders and the voting public. Andrew Cuomo might sympathize with Mayor Lightfoot. His fealty to environmental groups has backed him into a corner. Banning fracking and canceling pipelines hasn’t just denied New York revenues, jobs, and lower energy bills. It also led energy supplier National Grid to cancel gas hookups in Long Island. Cuomo had to retaliate before the company restored service. Want to be a progressive? Claim credit for resolving a crisis of your own making after threatening to unleash state power on private actors responding to price signals. Cuomo makes it look easy.
Gavin Newsom also has been struggling to reduce the conflict between the imperatives of the new progressivism and the quality of life of everyday people. He has his hands full. Rising numbers of homeless have led to a breakdown of public order in areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Land-use regulations have restricted the supply of housing, leading to high prices and shortages, and Newsom’s answer is statewide rent control that will make things worse. California’s budget depends so heavily on revenues from the wealthy that it might not recover from another out-migration like the one the state experienced after a 2012 tax hike.
Pacific Gas & Electric is a case study in the progressive self-own. The state-regulated utility spent years deferring maintenance while it invested in renewable energy and promoted the ideology of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Among the consequences of its neglect were terrible wildfires that devastated communities. The ensuing legal bills drove PG&E into bankruptcy. It says it’s been forced to engage in “de-energization”: purposeful mass blackouts to prevent further damage and legal action. In early October more than two million people were left in the dark. No house, no power, no prospects—welcome to the California Republic.
The contradictions of progressivism generate crises of affordability and governance. But the political class suffers few consequences. Chicago, New York, and California remain Democratic strongholds. What scattered opposition exists is internal to the political machine. On rare occasions parts of the coalition splinter from the whole and are able to defeat radical measures. Think of Bill de Blasio’s stalled plans to cancel entrance exams for New York City’s magnet schools. For the most part, though, the Democrats’ hold on power continues. It’s one monopoly progressives don’t seem to mind.
Are the voters in these communities merely complacent? Are they so content with the patchwork of benefits and status the jerry-rigged welfare state provides that they tolerate dysfunction? Or is the partisan alternative so appalling they won’t even consider it?
Questions worth pondering as progressives prepare to scale up their model nationwide. Who knows? One day, President Warren might be on the other side of that picket line.
A recently released transcript shows just how biased the New York Times really is and how little they want to do to fix it.
This week, Slate released a transcript of a meeting held by New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and his staff. The meeting was apparently called because of reaction to a headline about Donald Trump’s speech in the wake of the El Paso shooting. But much of the meeting was concerned with something else: when and how the paper of record should use the term “racist.”
Before getting to that subject specifically, though, a few general thoughts about the meeting. As a conservative, what leaps off the page is the fact that the staffers actually seem to think the paper skews right, and they want it to skew more progressive. One staffer seemed to call on Baquet to hire radically and aggressively progressive scribe Roxanne Gay as the public editor.
This reminds me of Yankees fans who call into sports radio to say Yanks general manager Brian Cashman is bad at his job because he failed to acquire a middle reliever at the trade deadline. Forget the fact that he’s won championships and has put together a juggernaut this season, he stinks. The overwhelming majority of everything the Times prints skews left. It’s amazing that the staff doesn’t understand this. Even rare examples of conservative ideas are too much for them.
The conversation about the use of the term “racist” was telling in this respect. The underlying subtext was, “Is Donald Trump a racist?” “Are his supporters racist?” On this, all parties seemed to agree that the answer is yes — at least, nobody said no. Baquet’s objection to using the term, for which he was grilled, had less to do with whether the application is accurate than what outcome using the word would have. He worried it could make the term less powerful or turn off certain readers.
When asked specifically what standard the New York Times uses in deciding to use the term racist, Baquet said this:
You know, we actually should have a written standard. I wasn’t expecting two weeks ago — and [associate managing editor for standards] Phil [Corbett] is working with me and the masthead to come up with it. I can think of examples, like, you know, the governor — was it the governor of Virginia with the costume? I mean, it’s hard for me to answer, but yes, I do think there are instances when we would use it. It’s hard for me to articulate an example of it.
To call this vague would be generous, and it’s Ralph Northam, by the way. I recently wrote about how racism is now defined by the old Potter Stewart axiom: I know it when I see it. Well, this is what that looks like. But worse, given his remarks about how the word affects readers, it is clear Baquet is less interested in establishing a clear standard for what racism is than in bringing the paper’s readership in line with his left-leaning worldview.
As it turns out, I have a little personal experience with the New York Times and the issue of racism. Several months ago, after twice having run columns there, I pitched a piece to them about how Americans have two very different and often contradictory views of what constitutes racism. The pitch was accepted, I wrote to it, and I tried, at least, to be fair to both the conservative and progressive definitions. Generally speaking, the former being based in belief and intent, the latter on systems of oppression.
A few days later, the Times rejected the piece — which, pieces get rejected. I just ran it here at The Federalist, instead. But reading this transcript, it is absolutely clear to me that even analysis of the conservative definition would have been seen as unacceptable to at least some on the staff. Take this comment from a staffer:
I’m wondering to what extent you think that the fact of racism and white supremacy being sort of the foundation of this country should play into our reporting. Just because it feels to me like it should be a starting point, you know? Like these conversations about what is racist, what isn’t racist. I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting. And so, to me, it’s less about the individual instances of racism, and sort of how we’re thinking about racism and white supremacy as the foundation of all of the systems in the country.
What this staffer is suggesting is that in a country where a recent poll showed 51% of Americans think Trump is a racist and 45% don’t, the paper of record should simply ignore the conservative viewpoint and actually do reporting based on the opinion of the 51%.
I’ve had two conversations with high-level people at the Times about conservatism and how they cover it. On both occasions, I heard a sincere desire to do so. But I also heard a woeful lack of understanding about why conservatives are so wary of their coverage. When I brought up the hiring of Sarah Jeong, who had a history of anti-white tweets, and said that obviously such tweets about any other group would bar someone from being hired, I was told “the double standard is hard to defend.”
That’s just not good enough, and though, as I say, I think they were sincere in their desire to present conservative viewpoints, not only do they not seem to grasp them, but their staff seems to be in control of the paper’s politics.
I don’t know that there is any solution to this problem, or that even if there were, most people at the Times would want to fix it. More likely, it is simply time to accept that the New York Times is a progressive newspaper, not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, the entire concept of objective news is a rather suspect one.
I read the New York Times, I enjoy it, sometimes I do the crossword, but to the extent I ever did, I can no longer see it as a straight paper with limited bias. This transcript makes that blatantly obvious. So, by all means, read the Times. But make sure you go in with your eyes wide open.
Leftists love to spend other people’s money to advance their visions for a transformed society. One of the many places where they manage to do that is on college campuses where there are lots of friendly administrators and not much accountability.
In today’s Martin Center article, UNC graduate Magdalene Horzempa writes about Chapel Hill’s “Campus Y.” It has a long history (founded in 1860) and over the last few decades it has become, she writes, “a hub for social justice.”
Although a substantial portion of its revenues come from gifts and the University Foundation, the Campus Y benefits from its status as an official part of the university as well as generous university funding. Its primary purpose is to push progressive politics to all students on campus, from freshman orientation through graduation.
UNC’s Campus Y is basically a training ground for “progressive” activists. It starts right off the bat, importuning new students with “Carolina Kickoff” which introduces them to social-justice activism.
The existence of the Campus Y, as a publicly funded and official university institution, is a clear violation of UNC-Chapel Hill’s legal responsibility to uphold institutional neutrality. It’s a misuse of public funds and an insult to students who pay tuition to pursue truth, not politics.
Donald Trump is many things. But one thing he is not is a defender of the 2009-2016 status quo and accepted progressive convention. Since 2017, everything has been in flux. Lots of past conventional assumptions of the Obama-Clinton-Romney-Bush generation were as unquestioned as they were suspect. No longer.
Everyone knew the Iran deal was a way for the mullahs to buy time and hoard their oil profits, to purchase or steal nuclear technology, to feign moderation, and to trade some hostages for millions in terrorist-seeding cash, and then in a few years spring an announcement that it had the bomb.
No one wished to say that. Trump did. He canceled the flawed deal without a second thought.
Iran is furious, but in a far weaker—and eroding—strategic position with no serious means of escaping devastating sanctions, general impoverishment, and social unrest. So a desperate Tehran knows that it must make some show of defiance. Yet it accepts that if it were to launch a missile at a U.S. ship, hijack an American boat, or shoot down an American plane, the ensuing tit-for-tat retaliation might target the point of Iranian origin (the port that launched the ship, the airbase from which the plane took off, the silo from which the missile was launched) rather than the mere point of contact—and signal a serial stand-off 10-1 disproportionate response to every Iranian attack without ever causing a Persian Gulf war.
Everyone realized the Paris Climate Accord was a way for elites to virtue signal their green bona fides while making no adjustments in their global managerial lifestyles—at best. At worst, it was a shake-down both to transfer assets from the industrialized West to the “developing world” and to dull Western competitiveness with ascending rivals like India and China. Not now. Trump withdrew from the agreement, met or exceeded the carbon emissions reductions of the deal anyway, and has never looked back at the flawed convention. The remaining signatories have little response to the U.S. departure, and none at all to de facto American compliance to their own targeted goals.
Rich NATO allies either could not or would not pay their promised defense commitments to the alliance. To embarrass them into doing so was seen as heretical. No more.
Trump jawboned and ranted about the asymmetries. And more nations are increasing rather than decreasing their defense budgets. The private consensus is that the NATO allies knew all along that they were exactly what Barack Obama once called “free riders” and justified that subsidization by ankle-biting the foreign policies of the United States—as if an uncouth America was lucky to underwrite such principled members. Again, no more fantasies.
China was fated to rule the world. Period. Whining about its systematic commercial cheating was supposedly merely delaying the inevitable or would have bad repercussions later on. Progressives knew the Communists put tens of thousands of people in camps, rounded up Muslims, and destroyed civil liberties, and yet in “woke” fashion tip-toed around criticizing the Other. Trump then destroyed the mirage of China as a Westernizing aspirant to the family of nations. In a protracted tariff struggle, there are lots of countries in Asia that could produce cheap goods as readily as China, but far fewer countries like the United States that have money to be siphoned off in mercantilist trade deals, or the technology to steal, or the preferred homes and universities in which to invest.
The Palestinians were canonized as permanent refugees. The U.S. embassy could never safely move to the Israeli capital in Jerusalem. The Golan Heights were Syrian. Only a two-state solution requiring Israel to give back all the strategic border land it inherited when its defeated enemies sought to destroy it in five prior losing wars would bring peace. Not now.
The Palestinians for the last 50 years were always about as much refugees as the East Prussian Germans or the Egyptian Jews and Greeks that were cleansed from their ancestral homelands in the Middle East in the same period of turbulence as the birth of Israel. “Occupied” land more likely conjures up Tibet and Cyprus not the West Bank, and persecuted Muslims are not found in Israel, but in China.
An aging population, the veritable end to U.S. manufacturing and heavy industry, and an opioid epidemic meant that America needed to get used to stagnant 1 percent growth, a declining standard of living, a permanent large pool of the unemployed, an annual increasing labor non-participation rate, and a lasting rust belt of deplorables, irredeemables, clingers and “crazies” who needed to be analyzed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. At best, a middle-aged deplorable was supposed to learn to code or relocate to the Texas fracking fields. Perhaps not now.
In the last 30 months, the question of the Rust Belt has been reframed to why, with a great workforce, cheap energy, good administrative talent, and a business-friendly administration, cannot the United States make more of what it needs? Why, if trade deficits are irrelevant, do Germany, China, Japan, and Mexico find them so unpleasant? If unfettered trade is so essential, why do so many of our enemies and friends insist that we almost alone trade “fairly,” while they trade freely and unfairly? Why do not Germany and China argue that their vast global account surpluses are largely irrelevant?
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) assured us that the world would be suffocating under greenhouse gases within 12 years. Doom-and-gloom prophecies of “peak” oil warned us that our oil reserves would dry up by the early 21st century. Former Vice President Al Gore warned us that our port cities would soon be underwater. Economists claimed Saudi Arabia or Russia would one day control the world by opening and closing their oil spigots. Not now.
Three million more barrels of American oil are being produced per day just since Trump took office. New pipelines will ensure that the United States is not just the world’s greatest producer of natural gas but perhaps its largest exporter as well.
Trump blew up those prognostications and replaced them with an optimistic agenda that the working- and middle classes deserve affordable energy, that the United States could produce fossil fuels more cleanly, wisely, and efficiently than the Middle East, and that ensuring increased energy could revive places in the United States that were supposedly fossilized and irrelevant. Normal is utilizing to the fullest extent a resource that can discourage military adventurism in the Middle East, provide jobs to the unemployed, and reduce the cost of living for the middle class; abnormal is listening to the progressive elite for whom spiking gasoline and power bills were a very minor nuisance.
Open borders were our unspoken future. The best of the Chamber of Commerce Republicans felt that millions of illegal aliens might eventually break faith with the progressive party of entitlements; the worst of the open borders lot argued that cheap labor was more important than sovereignty and certainly more in their interests than any worry over the poor working classes of their own country. And so Republicans for the last 40 years joined progressives in ensuring that illegal immigration was mostly not measured, meritocratic, diverse, or lawful, but instead a means to serve a number of political agendas.
Most Americans demurred, but kept silent given the barrage of “racist,” “xenophobe,” and “nativist” cries that met any measured objection. Not so much now. Few any longer claim that the southern border is not being overrun, much less that allowing a non-diverse million illegal aliens in six months to flood into the United States without audit is proof that “diversity is our strength.”
The Republican Party’s prior role was to slow down the inevitable trajectory to European socialism, the end of American exceptionalism, and homogenized globalized culture. Losing nobly in national elections was one way of keeping one’s dignity, weepy wounded-fawn style, while the progressive historical arc kept bending to our collective future. Rolling one’s eyes on Sunday talk shows as a progressive outlined the next unhinged agenda was proof of tough resistance.
Like it or not, now lines are drawn. Trump so unhinged the Left that it finally tore off its occasional veneer of moderation, and showed us what progressives had in store for America.
On one side in 2020 is socialism, “Medicare for All,” wealth taxes, top income tax rates of 70 or 80 or 90 percent, a desire for a Supreme Court of full of “wise Latinas” like Sonia Sotomayor, insidious curtailment of the First and Second Amendments, open borders, blanket amnesties, reparations, judges as progressive legislators, permissible infanticide, abolition of student debt, elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau and the Electoral College, voting rights for 16-year-olds and felons, and free college tuition.
On the other side is free-market capitalism but within a framework of fair rather than unfettered international trade, a smaller administrative state, less taxation and regulation, constitutionalist judges, more gas and oil, record low unemployment, 3-4 percent economic growth, and pressure on colleges to honor the Bill of Rights.
The New, New Normal
The choices are at least starker now. The strategy is not, as in 2008 and 2012, to offer a moderate slow-down of progressivism, but rather a complete repudiation of it.
One way is to see this as a collision between Trump, the proverbial bull, and the administrative state as a targeted precious china shop—with all the inevitable nihilistic mix-up of horns, hooves, and flying porcelain shards. But quite another is to conclude that what we recently used to think was abjectly abnormal twenty years ago had become not just “normal,” but so orthodoxly normal that even suggesting it was not was judged to be heretical and deserving of censure and worse.
The current normal correctives were denounced as abnormal—as if living in a sovereign state with secure borders, assuming that the law was enforced equally among all Americans, demanding that citizenship was something more than mere residence, and remembering that successful Americans, not their government, built their own businesses and lives is now somehow aberrant or perverse.
Trump’s political problem, then, may be that the accelerating aberration of 2009-2016 was of such magnitude that normalcy is now seen as sacrilege.
Weaponizing the IRS, unleashing the FBI to spy on political enemies and to plot the removal of an elected president, politicizing the CIA to help to warp U.S. politics, allying the Justice Department with the Democratic National Committee, and reducing FISA courts to rubber stamps for pursuing administration enemies became the new normal. Calling all that a near coup was abnormal.
Let us hope that most Americans still prefer the abnormal remedy to the normal pathology.