Wed, 16 April 2014
Richard Nixon yelled to his audience and they roared back, furious at those disloyal enough to oppose him. It was a ferocious performance. He ended with a shout. "Nobody is going to tear this country down as long as you are ready to cast your vote to build this country up."
And that was it. Americans were told that those who opposed the war, or were insufficiently angry at those who did, that they were willing to see the country torn down. And he was talking about me and those like me.
Historians tell us it was a continuation of the Nixon Southern Strategy, devised with the help of former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.
When Edmond Muskie spoke next, it was from an armchair in front of a fireplace. He spoke calmly, as if to each individual voter. He asked those about to cast their ballots not to vote against themselves. He characterized the tactics of the Republican campaign.
There has been name-calling and deception of almost unprecedented volume. Honorable men have been slandered. Faithful servants of the country have had their motive questioned and their patriotism doubted.
I still remember a sense of youthful relief. Even though the forces of angry intolerance were about to prevail, a calm voice had spoken against the tide. The case had been made. We could lose with some bit of honor. Someone had fought back with plain truth and crystal clarity.
One small hope flickered in Florida. Out-moneyed, outshouted, a mostly unknown state Senator had conducted an unusual, almost bizarre, public effort. He went hiking.
Sun, 13 April 2014
Most analysts have looked at the statement from a political perspective, grading Jeb Bush's strategy and his calculation of its effect on the Presidential race of 2016. One or two mention a family tradition of tactically including Hispanic voters in political appeals.
I have yet to hear anyone, anyone at all, speculate that he may simply have been saying what he believes is right.
Tue, 8 April 2014
When the vote came, news outlets were ready for a train wreck. For one thing, the vote for the Doc Fix would require suspending the rules. So it would need a two thirds vote. No way could that happen in the Republican House of Representatives. A majority, yes. But two thirds? Keep dreaming.
But Republicans kept meeting all day long. Sometimes the leadership would dash on out to gather with Democrats.
Finally, it looks like the end of the road. Everyone knew there was no hope of a Doc Fix this year. Just like football fans sometimes leave early when their team is way behind or way ahead, members of Congress began heading for the door. Why wait for the inevitable?
Then it happened.
"So many as are in favor say aye."
"Those opposed no."
"In the opinion of the chair, two thirds being in the affirmative, the rules are suspended, the bill is passed, and without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table."
Sun, 30 March 2014
Republicans are more resistant to self-correction because the internet and television cable offers a cocoon of reinforcement. No need to change direction if you can surround yourself with a thousand voices all chanting that you and those like you are awesome. Republicans are becoming more extreme and losing members as a result.
One disturbing part of the accompanying collateral damage is that Republicans are now going where fair minded people have not gone for a generation. They are trying very hard to deprive legitimate voters of the right to participate in elections.
It started as what Republicans said was an attempt to address a serious issue that could strike at the core of a democratic society. Voter fraud was the danger. Democrats have protested that voter fraud pretty much does not exist.
Elections are not stolen by ineligible voters or people voting multiple times. They are stolen in the backrooms of election halls, where tallies are changed, and boxes are stuffed.
Tue, 25 March 2014
It is the central argument of traditional economic conservatism. It has been for centuries. The ability of individuals to form voluntary associations for their mutual benefit without outside interference remains the core.
It tells us a bit about the future of economic policy as envisioned by Republicans, should they return to governmental power in Washington.
The idea is a simple one. Establishing a moral balance in public life is a slippery principle. Conservative economist N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard illustrates that, in an article he was invited to write by the New York Times. He defines the interference by government in the market as "utilitarianism":
He provides a couple of classical hypothetical case studies, thought experiments, to illustrate the problem of deciding benefits based on the greatest good for the greatest number. One involves killing a healthy individual in order to harvest organs to save multiple patients.
Other philosophers have contrived more stark, metaphysical examples. In the late 1800s, Fyodo Dostoyevsky suggested a fictional community blessed with universal health, prosperity, and happiness purchased by torturing to death a small infant.
That makes N. Gregory Mankiw a bit of a philosophical piker, don't you think? Perhaps the next step might be to imagine a world in which adult women become wards of the state in order to protect the possible existence suspected microscopic fertilized eggs.
Conflating liberalism with utilitarianism provides any number of false examples. Everyone is a utilitarian in some circumstance. No one is a utilitarian in others.
Conservatives could come up with better arguments, with some effort. Pretty much anyone could.
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Thu, 20 March 2014
The problem with foreign policy that depends entirely on analogy with the past is that it ignores current reality. We fight the war just ended.
The lesson of World War I was that events can spiral out of control. Treaties made at the drop of a hat are sometimes paid for so many times over, the original tripwire becomes meaningless in comparison.
And so Neville Chamberlain learned the lesson and declared Peace in our Time as he left Munich.
The lesson of Munich was that appeasement never works. Lines must be drawn and never compromised.
And President Johnson drew that line in Vietnam against the monolithic Communist conspiracy to rule the world.
The lesson of Vietnam was that war and peace were not simply in the hands of two superpowers. There were other players in a world of client nations.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney applied the lesson of national sponsors of terrorism after the al Qaeda attacks in New York and Washington. They searched for the culprit among smaller nations and found Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Tue, 18 March 2014
State Senator Phil Jensen (R-SD) is one such Republican. He has introduced legislation that would allow discrimination against gay people. He's adamant about the right to throw gay people out of a place of business.
But, like a growing number of Republicans, Senator Jensen goes a little farther. He not only acknowledges the similarity to discrimination against black people, he embraces it. The free market would do a good enough job of eliminating racist practices.
In an interview with the Rapid City Journal, he explained:
Sun, 16 March 2014
When John Derbyshire was separated from the post-Buckley National Review a couple of years ago, the projected image of the move was one of a hostile divorce between American political conservatism and overt racism.
That Derbyshire is a racist comes from a source that can leave little doubt. That authority is Mr. Derbyshire himself. That was his self-description in 2003. He later modified his definition of racism to race consciousness. He offered a parallel to an antisemitic who says "Oh, there’s another one."
What got him in trouble was his reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Mon, 10 March 2014
Pearl Harbor pretty much wiped away deficit hawks for a time. America needed planes. America needed ships. America needed munitions and transport and supplies for an instantly expanded armed force. The common wisdom during World War II was that we needed those expenditures more than we needed fiscal caution.
When the war was gone, the Depression was vanquished as well. Surprise!
But war that does not involve massive, long term, continuous infusions of government spending that stops a recession has another effect. That effect is increasing as the world becomes more globally interdependent.
Vladimir Putin's current adventure into Ukraine has provoked conservatives into a sort of toughness envy. The Putin autocratic style, combines with a muscular anti-gay bigotry, producing an image that those on the right have always fantasized about themselves. A bare chested Putin on horseback adds to the swoon.
Since President Bush stood helpless while Russia invaded georgia in 2008, the world has changed. Unlike Bush, Obama has not looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and caught a glimpse of his soul. And there are new pressures, only some of which are coming from Obama.
One claim Republicans can truthfully make is currently overshadowed by mouth foamed Obama-hatred.
Sat, 8 March 2014
Actually, the argument that anti-gay legislation is not really anti-gay legislation has been a staple of cultural conservatism for as long as gay marriage has been part of public discussion.
Gay people are free to marry, as long as they don't marry each other. Those who are attracted to the same gender as themselves may, like anyone else, marry someone of the opposite gender. Similar logic has been debated on our site.
Michael Medved is no stranger to this reasoning. Years ago, he wrote in vigorous defense of Proposition 8, the California referendum that, for a time, prohibited same sex marriage.