I’ve written two campaign-end posts for the League of Ordinary Gentlemen:
1) If conservatives really want to dismiss Nate Silver, it looks like they’d better dismiss stats entirely. Their piecemeal attacks on his method, model, looks, size, demeanor, voice, etc, just aren’t gonna get the job done.
2) As close as the presidential election is, partisans on both sides are damned confident that they possess the clearer view of how Tuesday will go. What if your side is wrong?
Media criticism is definitely the lowest form of analysis, but sometimes it’s an urge worth indulging. There’s been a recent current of lefty commentary purporting to discover that the GOP is primarily concerned with preserving tax privileges for the wealthiest Americans.
[T]hough he has passed himself off as a deficit hawk, [Paul] Ryan actually is a dyed-in-the-wool supply-sider. At his core he believes, for both moral and economic reasons, in holding taxes on the rich low. He has successfully learned to pitch himself to the political center as a debt hawk but the pitch is at odds with his voting record, his current positions, and his own intellectual history.
Wowie! Paul Ryan is a Reaganomist at heart. Not exactly a shocker.
Meanwhile, here’s Noam Scheiber:
But if all the Bush tax cuts expire in January, then the Democratic position will be that everyone but the rich gets a tax cut, and the Republican position will be that everyone including the rich deserves a tax cut.
Zowie! The GOP really wants to protect low income tax rates for the wealthy! Even when it comes with a strategic cost!
I’m being too glib, of course—I don’t mean to pick on Chait and Scheiber. They’re two of the better news analysts in town. Both guys are trying to show how the political logic of the moment discloses GOP convictions and strategy. What’s more, given that so much of the Republican Party’s rhetoric is crafted in order to obscure their intentions, there’s always (some) value in pointing out the class warfare agenda they’re actually advancing. But it’s not really a story anymore to show that the GOP prioritizes the wealthy’s financial interests and hides it behind dishonest rhetoric. That’s been obvious for a long time (Years? Decades?). I actually worry that Chait and Scheiber’s approach actually legitimates the official Republican line by taking it seriously.
A while back I wrote this post about George Will’s willful self-confusion (a notch more intentional than self-delusion, I think) on questions of markets. In his column, he argued that progressives “crave social stasis…[while] conservatives…welcome the perpetual churning of society by dynamism.” I complained that his unalloyed appreciation for market dynamism left no room for human moral purposes. Sometimes markets “creatively destroy” public health, decent community life, and human dignity. These things create new demand, but there is nothing sacred about every outcome that unregulated markets churn forth.
Why bring this up again? While researching other things, I stumbled upon a 1980 column of Will’s that acknowledges the very critique I’ve been making [emphasis added]:
The Republican platform stresses two themes that are not as harmonious as Republicans suppose. One is cultural conservatism. The other is capitalist dynamism. The latter dissolves the former. Karl Marx, who had a Reaganesque respect for capitalism’s transforming power, got one thing right: Capitalism undermines traditional social structures and values; it is a relentless engine of change, a revolutionary inflamer of appetites, enlarger of expectations, diminisher of patience.
The upshot: Continue reading
Jonah Goldberg (and many other conservatives) have cried foul at the Washington Post‘s decision to run and prominently feature their story on Mitt Romney’s high school bullying problem. In Goldberg’s eyes, it proves “that the Post and other mainstream media outlets are determined to do what they can to reelect Obama.” Goldberg (et al) were especially incensed that the story broke just as the nation was engaging in a serious debate about same-sex marriage.
And sure, something like that could be correct, though it’s hardly the only possible explanation. Here’s another one:
What if the Post is just covering the elections as a for-profit corporation? What if it’s simply trying to sell papers and drive traffic to its website? What if it realized that a story linking a major party’s presidential candidate to anti-effeminate (if not strictly “anti-gay”) bullying would draw more attention if released during a national debate about same-sex marriage? What if the Post‘s motivation is purely capitalistic? It’s not as though they have a huge profit margin that would allow them the luxury of determining their news coverage any other way…
“Media corporations are different!” Goldberg might yell. “There are ethical considerations in play here! Media fairness should trump some economic considerations!”
But once you start down that line, it can be hard to stop. Soon you’ll find yourself having to argue that perhaps venture capitalists should take ethics into consideration when looting struggling steel factories into bankruptcy…
First: Warren G’s “Regulate” (with Nate Dogg) was the first rap track I heard all the way through—and liked.
The other day I was listening to a Ron Paul supporter bash “federal regulators,” and then it hit me: “Regulate” would be perfect for a conservative Super PAC attack ad. Throw it in the background, add some coded racist language that will activate suburban nervousness when it comes to hiphop, and you’re pretty much set.
“Big-state, big-spend liberals like Mr. Obama think that America should regulate its way to SOCIALISM. Did you know that major Jay-Z fan Barack Hussein Obama believes that you should pay for health care for the poor? etc…Paid for by ‘Dark Regulatory Clouds Over Our Freedom Super Pac.’”
And yes, it would work, but now I’m wondering if I’ve got it backwards. Continue reading
You’ve probably already heard that Mitt Romney has recently been reported to be—and he doesn’t much deny—a thoroughgoing jackass and bully in high school.
First of all, it doesn’t much matter for the fall election. This might sway a few independents, but it’s not going to singlehandedly overcome the importance of the economic recovery (or lack thereof…we’ll see).
Second of all, it probably shouldn’t matter. The allegations are awful. They’re horrible. No child or young adult should ever be treated the way that Romney allegedly treated some of his classmates. Ever. With that said, if we start the vetting process for presidential hopefuls at 14, we’ll eliminate nearly every candidate. Who amongst us is so without adolescent sin that we can confidently cast the first stone? I’m not confident that many of us could run for president on the strength of our teenage purity of behavior.
Finally, and most importantly—the outcry is still encouraging. The meaningless things with which we concern ourselves during presidential campaigns are better now than ever. In the 1990s, we worried whether or not Clinton inhaled when smoking pot. Nowadays, we’re concerned as to whether Romney was a wealthy, privileged jackass. We’ve gone from drug scolds to protectors of children—and that’s evidence of an uptick (however slight) in our public compassion and humanity.
And that’s assuredly worth celebrating.
A few readers emailed to ask my thoughts on Obama’s announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage. Briefly, then, here’s what I think:
1) The LONG version:
I think that it’s certainly a calculated political move—and it’s certainly “cynical.” It may, as many are predicting, hurt him with various blue-collar independent voters who were suspicious of his cultural dispositions in the first place. These folks are a critical demographic in many of the big swing states. Losing them has real electoral consequences…but very few of these voters ever mistook Obama for a cultural fellow-traveler in the first place. Most of his projected losses in this demographic are probably already gone.
That’s why I think that it’s more important to consider how Obama’s evolution fires up key constituencies within the progressive base—and correspondingly loosens key pursestrings. There’s no doubt that this helps Obama bring cultural issues back into an election cycle that could be economically uncomfortable for the Administration. Plenty of disillusioned, job-hunting recent graduates (and current college students, for that matter) who might have stayed away from the campaign are now more likely to get involved. If the Obama campaign is able to make 2012 about civil rights and contraception, Mitt Romney might as well start shopping his resume around to various future Olympic host cities.
I think this forces Romney to defend much tougher rhetorical ground. Continue reading
First of all: I have a son. He is the coolest, smartest 9-month-old human baby OF ALL TIME. Proof:
See! He plays with books, not toys! Right after I turned off the camera, he picked up Don Quijote and read a few chapters. For serious!
Of course, Washington, D.C. is full of babies like him with parents like me. Indeed, May’s Washingtonian has an article by Brooke Lea Foster titled “The Type-A Parent Trap” (I’d link, but I can’t find it online). Foster writes:
Much has been written about “helicopter” parents…I don’t see [them] on the playground anymore. The upper-middle-class moms at Washington parks today are cut from a slightly different cloth. They hover, but not too much. They’ve read all about the dangers of overparenting and know it’s important to give kids some space. They’re obsessed with their children’s safety but don’t want them to miss out on anything…Which isn’t to say they’re less involved. Experts tell me that today’s new parents are “enmeshed.” While the helicopter parent is famous for hovering over a child, the enmeshed parent is blurring the line between parent and child altogether.
This is exactly right..and they’re not just in Washington. Most of all, these parents “try to create a perfect environment: educational, fun, structured, hands-on. Who needs to be a pushy helicopter parent if you can give your kid a setting in which to bloom?” They charge hard after the right preschool in order to set up their kid for easier access to elite elementary schools and so on and so forth until their kid is running the Harvard Crimson or the Bowdoin Orient and making partner by 35 and happily married to a Stepford wife or husband, etc. (Irony Alert…last fall the the Washingtonian published a guide titled “How to Get in to Washington Area Private Schools”)
Why would any parent put their kid (and themselves!) through this? Who witnesses childhood and thinks: “I gotta hustle my kid through this quickly?”
One need not be a Continue reading
Lost in the 24 to 48 hour furor over Mitt Romney’s off-the-cuff promise to eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development AND slash the Department of Education? Romney has occasionally (albeit under pressure) admitted that Race to the Top, the signature effort of the Obama Administration’s Department of Education so far, was working.
But, see, Race to the Top isn’t a program that can be “managed at the state level.” Indeed, its very raison d’être is to adjust states’ incentive structure so that they set higher expectations for their students, teachers, and administrators. If we want to increase accountability in American education, we need a federal department to set and maintain standards and expectations.
Let me be clear: this isn’t one of his trademark triple twist into a double (back) flip flop. He hasn’t changed positions so much as he’s provided more evidence (also here) that he hasn’t thought particularly hard about our problems or how to solve them. This, I think, is Romney’s ACTUAL problem—not flip floppery. Sure, he’s willing to say almost anything to almost anyone if it might advance his political fortunes. But it seems his ambition has never driven him to develop even the wisp of a coherent approach to governing or the world of policy.
This, by the way, is why his attacks painting President Obama as a political neophyte ring so hollow. Romney simply doesn’t have the gravitas to pull off that strategy.
Though it’s only been (officially) over for a few days, the autopsy is already underway. Just what did Rick Santorum’s campaign mean for the GOP? For the United States?
The going analysis mostly dribbles into the “Can Mitt Romney snag the social conservative vote?” trench. Can he? Probably. Will he? Probably. Will this be enough to win? Probably not. Can he hold them while attracting independents? Probably not. Are most of these answers contingent upon economic trends and immeasurable quantities of fortune? Certainly.
(There. I’ve saved you a few weeks of reading mainstream horserace coverage. You’re welcome. Spend more time with your kids. Read more books. Tune in again in October or so.)
More interesting, though, is what Santorum and Romney have in common. While (perhaps) it used to be interesting to distinguish them in terms of political moderation or conservatism—let alone fiscal or social conservatism—there’s not a whole lot of water left in that well.
However much the content of their convictions differs, both men are united in their determined monism. In other words, they’re equally incapable of thinking reflectively about political issues. In their own way, both Santorum and Romney are perfect examples of what I recently called the “frictionless” ideological mind. In other words, each man has his preferred lens for understanding political issues.
Santorum views all existing conflicts against the standard of Continue reading
It is one of the great canards of American politics that leftists have gotten tarred as “utopian” dreamers. In conservatives’ hands, progressives and liberals alike are cowards who cannot make their own way in life and thus look to government to protect them from tragedy. These latter are weak-kneed social dependents who believe that conflict can be excised from the world by means of increasingly complex regulation.
The truth, however, is quite the contrary. The American Left is currently led by a man who is profoundly aware of the ineradicable presence of human pride, sin, and failure in community life. No other American political figure has as thoughtful and compelling a view of the permanence of human tragedy as Barack Obama.
Indeed, conservatism is now America’s regnant utopian ideology. There is no tragedy in free-market dreams—and there is certainly no Continue reading
The last few weeks brought a number of “Why I’m not a _____” posts from several of the web’s most prominent philosophically-sophisticated bloggers. Quick recap:
• Freddie deBoer is NOT a progressive.
• Will Wilkinson is NOT a “Bleeding Heart Libertarian,” a libertarian more generally, or a “liberaltarian.”
• E.D. Kain (responding to W.W.) is NOT just a libertarian or a liberal—he’s both.
• Christine O’Donnell is NOT a witch. She’s you.
I’m just kidding about the last one—though Ms. O’Donnell is deadly serious.
Why the sudden uptick in self-categorization posts? It’s probably a function of passing into the New Year. Arbitrary though it may be, January 1st is a convenient spur for reflection. Nothing wrong with that—we all need categories to anchor our selves (or our identities, or our consciousnesses, etc. The specific terminology isn’t crucial in this case).
Here’s the interesting bit (I think): Even if they’re protesting Continue reading