Category Archives: Politics

DON’T CRY FOR HIM, GRAND OLD PARTY

The Republican Party had a good 2020 election. And prospects are bright for an even better 2022. But as Donald Trump files suit after suit challenging the election results, an impediment to Republican hopes is taking shape.

The impediment might be labelled the myth of the “Lost Cause.”

In American history, the “Lost Cause” refers to the myth that emerged in the wake of the Civil War. According to this lore, the South’s attempt to secede from the Union was a great, heroic epic fought, not to preserve slavery, but to protect a higher, gentler civilization. Outnumbered and outgunned, the South relied on skillful, chivalrous commanders who waged a noble, but ultimately doomed, struggle against an enemy with far greater economic and military resources.

Today a different Lost Cause myth may be arising from the ashes of Donald Trump’s defeat.

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THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN THE YEAR ONE A.D. (After Donald)

The era of Donald Trump will be ending soon.  It may end this week, if, as nearly all polls indicate, he loses the election. Of course, the 2016 presidential election, and many other elections here and abroad, teach us to be wary of polls. A Trump defeat is not certain. But even if Trump pulls off another surprising win, he will become a lameduck President as soon as he takes his second oath. Maneuvering within the Republican Party for succession in 2024 will begin immediately. One way or another, Donald Trump will soon be history.

Now is as good a time as any to speculate on the state of the Republican Party in the Year One A.D. (After Donald).

Fifty years ago, in a book entitled The Emerging Republican Majority, a nerdy 28-year old White House staffer named Kevin Phillips expounded the proposition that American politics progresses in 32 or 36-year stages, during which one party dominates the other. Thus, 1896 – 1932 saw the Republican Party in control, with the single exception of the Wilson administration.  The period of 1932 – 1968 saw the Democratic Party ascendant, with the single exception of the Eisenhower years.

Phillips argued that 1968 would usher in a new era of Republican dominance. His book was dedicated to President Richard Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell, the two supposed “architects” of the emerging Republican Majority. Unfortunately for his thesis, Watergate occurred. Five years after the Republican majority was supposed to emerge, one “architect” had resigned in disgrace and the other was headed for prison following his conviction for obstruction of justice and perjury.

Considering the GOP’s problems, it is tempting to predict that the Year One A.D. will witness the advent of an Emerging Republican Minority. If Trump loses, he will likely take down a number of Republican candidates with him, and the GOP will almost certainly lose the Senate. With Democratic control of the House already assured, that means that the Party will have the White House and both Houses of Congress for the first time since Barack Obama’s election.

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CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

The Democratic Convention is over and the delegates have gone home. The Republican Convention is about to commence, as the delegates pack their bags.

Well, metaphorically anyway. In fact, few people are going anywhere in this time of Covid.

The Democrats can look back at their pioneering event with some pride and a lot of relief. This was the nation’s first virtual convention. Aside from some cringe-worthy moments (a “comic” routine by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Andrew Yang about mispronouncing Mike Pence’s name; an appearance by Bill Clinton on the same day that photos were published showing him receiving a neck massage from a 22-year old Jeffrey Epstein entourage member; a speech by Michael Bloomberg that featured a fly landing on his face), their convention went well.

Joe Biden gave a very good speech. It helped that the bar was set very low — any performance which did not result in him blabbering incoherently would have been scored as a success. But he did more than clear that bar. He gave what may have been the best speech of his career. He spoke more effectively than his running mate Kamala Harris; he spoke as well as Barack Obama, and almost as well as Michelle Obama.

BIDEN convention

So far, it appears that the Democratic Convention has not produced a bounce. In fact, Biden’s numbers are slightly down in the battleground states. That should concern the Party because it suggests that their ticket has reached its ceiling. And it has done so amid a staggeringly poor economy and a horrific pandemic. The situation between now and November is unlikely to get any worse. It may get better. Better would be bad news for the Democrats.

But the Democrats may face a graver threat than the lack of a bounce. With all the talk expended over the four days of the convention, the Democrats may come to rue their silence on certain issues.

They spent four days blaming Donald Trump for Covid but they were silent about another epidemic gripping the nation. They said nothing about the rising murder rate in most of our major cities. They were likewise silent about the campaign to defund the police, an issue directly related to that rising rate.

These are serious issues and the Democrats ignored them at their peril. Now the Republicans have the podium, and with it, the opportunity to present and define those issues. Continue reading

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A CAPITAL OFFENSE

The latest trend in woke journalism is the use of the capital letter “B” to refer to black people. This is in contrast to “white”, “brown”, “yellow”, and “red” – occasional descriptors of other racial groups. They all remain in lower case. The trend has been embraced by the New York Times, the Associated Press, USA Today, and several other pillars of American journalism. It is safe to say that it will soon become the norm – if it is not so already.

The mainly white-owned and operated organizations behind this trend believe that by doing so, they are showing respect to black America. They are wrong. Capitalizing “Black” does not show respect. It patronizes.

New York Times

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WINSTON CHURCHILL’S LIFE MATTERED

In the wake of the George Floyd killing, protests have erupted around the world. Now Winston Churchill has been caught up in the maelstrom.

His monument in London’s Parliament Square has been boarded up after protesters daubed “was a racist” in red paint on it. His granddaughter Emma Soames told the BBC that the statue may have to be placed in a museum for its own protection.

The Churchill monument is by no means alone in attracting controversy. Confederate statues have been removed or covered with graffiti all over the South. Statues of Columbus have been toppled or vandalized in Miami, Richmond, and St. Paul. Those actions, whatever one might believe about their propriety, are at least understandable. It is hard to make sense of some of the other statue protests. In Boston, a memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first black volunteer infantry unit in the Civil War, was defaced, and a petition to take down a statue of Abraham Lincoln has attracted 7,000 signatures. In Leicester, England,  a petition to remove a statue of Churchill’s erstwhile foe Mahatma Gandhi has received nearly 5,000 signatures.

One can only say, with Mark Antony: “Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt.”

But is the assault on Churchill’s monument mere mischief? Or was he in fact a racist?

In these times of upheaval and uncertainty, an answer of absolute conviction is due. So the only proper response to that question is an adamant: “Yes, but.”

Churchill Monument

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THE PROP 209 LOCKDOWN CAMPAIGN

“Never allow a crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff to President Obama, said in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. He repeated the quip last March, in the wake of the coronavirus economic meltdown. In both cases, Emanuel saw these disasters as opportunities to advance the progressive agenda.

The same opportunistic spirit has surfaced in Sacramento, where, in the midsts of the Covid crisis,  a group of Democratic legislators have introduced ACA 5, a bill to repeal Prop 209, the California measure which outlawed racial and gender-based preferential treatment in public education and contracting.

California State Capitol

Prop 209 was added to the California constitution by a ballot initiative in 1996. It won by a decisive 54.6 to 45.4% majority, despite the fact that nearly every major corporation, institution, and celebrity in the state lined up against it. Even the Republican Party kept its distance, which turned out to be a tactical error: Bob Dole garnered only 38% of the state popular vote that year, meaning that Prop 209 was almost 17 points more popular than the GOP ticket.

Why did Prop 209 pass? The simple answer is that most people, regardless of race, agreed with its fundamental message. A poll conducted on the eve of the election by the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies found that majorities of all four major racial groups – 69 percent of whites, 64 percent of Asians, 63 percent of Latinos and 59 percent of blacks – preferred that job advancement and college admissions be based solely on merit rather than on a system considering race and gender.

Of course, those numbers did not reflect how the members of those racial groups actually voted. Some people probably voted against Prop 209 because they saw government-sponsored racial and gender-based preferential treatment as a necessary and temporary evil. Discrimination designed to help the poor or socially disadvantaged is one thing. But the poll numbers confirm that discrimination on the basis of race or gender has never been popular, whether that discrimination is used to help or hinder a particular group.

Following the passage of Prop 209, opponents predicted that minority representation at California’s university system would plummet. The actual results, however, have been very different. Continue reading

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HER FINEST HOUR

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, known by her professional name Queen Elizabeth II, spoke to the world about the Covid-19 pandemic Sunday night. Her speech demonstrated why modern skeptics – including small-d democrats and small-r republicans — still find themselves awestruck by the ancient institution of monarchy.

Of course, Queen Elizabeth is not just any monarch. She carries with her person the aura of lengthy history. When she first addressed her realm she was a 14-year old Princess. World War II was in its early stages, Winston Churchill had been Prime Minister for only 5 months, the United States was neutral, and Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany were cooperative partners in a non-aggression pact. Her speech was designed to comfort evacuated British children who had been sent to the Commonwealth nations and the United States for safety. The broadcast was Churchill’s idea. He thought to use the young Princess to charm America into entering the war on Britain’s side.

On her 21st birthday, when she addressed her people again, she spoke as a confident young woman, who was nobody’s tool. She said: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Her life has certainly been long. She is almost 94 years old. She has ruled Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 68 years, longer than any other British monarch: 20 years longer than her namesake Queen Elizabeth I, and 5 years longer than her paternal great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

Her reign has had its share of successes and scandals, of family heroism and squalor. Just a few months ago, before anyone had heard of Covid-19, the press was full of stories about Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry: where they were living, who was talking to whom, and other such delectable irrelevancies. None of that seems to matter now. On Sunday night, the Queen spoke as if her long and eventful life had been a preparation for the moment.

Queen Elizabeth

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SOCIALIST OR DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST: DOES IT MATTER?

The highway of Democratic Party presidential contenders has converged into a two-lane road, and Bernie Sanders seems consigned to the slow lane. That may be the result of public unease with his socialist economic views. Perhaps sensing the danger, the Sanders campaign has studiously avoided using the term “socialist” by itself. Instead, it always pairs it with “democratic.”

Is Bernie Sanders a democratic socialist instead of a regular, run-of-the-mill socialist? And is there any meaningful difference?

Socialist Sanders

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TIME TO RETIRE PEOPLE ‘OF COLOR’?

People “of color” are everywhere. We are here referencing the term, not the people.  “Debate so white: candidates of color miss out as Democratic field narrows” a recent headline in The Guardian informs us. “Physicians of color are far too rare” worries the Philadelphia Inquirer. “People of color win majority of acting Oscars for the first time in history” announced the headline of Entertainment Weekly in the wake of the awards last February.

The history of the term “of color” is, well, colorful. Its use dates back at least as far as the 1790s, when French colonists coined the term “gens de couleur” to refer to light-skinned people of mixed African and European heritage. In the Deep South, freed blacks called themselves “people of color” to distinguish themselves from African slaves. During the Civil War, Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Rochester, New York, entitled “Men of Color, To Arms!” urging African Americans to enlist in the Union Army.

MEN OF COLOR TO ARMS

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HISTORY AND ITS DISCONTENTS

In 1940, when Great Britain stood alone against the Nazi juggernaut, France lay conquered, the United States was officially neutral, and the Soviet Union was tied by treaty to Germany, Winston Churchill recruited history to cheer his countrymen and stiffen their spines. In a September 1940 radio broadcast, as invasion loomed, Churchill said:

We must regard the next week or so as a very important period in our history. It ranks with the days when the Spanish Armada was approaching the Channel, and Drake was finishing his game of bowls; or when Nelson stood between us and Napoleon’s Grand Army at Boulogne. We have read all about this in the history books; but what is happening now is on a far greater scale and of far more consequence to the life and future of the world and its civilisation than these brave old days of the past.

Churchill could speak in this fashion because, not only was he well versed in British history, he knew his listeners were too. He knew that they knew who Drake and Nelson were.  And he knew that British schoolchildren found pride and inspiration in their country’s long history.

Churchill

It’s harder for American leaders to follow his example. For one thing, American schoolchildren do not learn much history, and their ignorance follows them into adulthood.

A recent study by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found that only one in three Americans (36 percent) can actually pass a multiple choice test consisting of items taken from the U.S. Citizenship Test, which most immigrants pass easily. (Example: “Identify whether Rhode Island, Oregon, Maine, or South Dakota is a state that borders Canada.”)

Only 13 percent of those surveyed knew when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, even on a multiple-choice exam similar to the citizenship exam. About 60 percent didn’t know which countries the United States fought in World War II. Seventy-two percent of respondents either incorrectly identified or were unsure of which states were part of the original 13. Only 24 percent could correctly identify one thing Benjamin Franklin was famous for, with 37 percent believing he invented the lightbulb. Twelve percent thought World War II General Dwight Eisenhower led troops in the Civil War, while 6 percent thought he was a Vietnam War general. Fortunately, only two percent identified climate change as the cause of the Cold War.

If it’s any consolation (and it isn’t), the situation is no better in Great Britain. If Churchill were alive today, he would have to find something other than history to leaven his oratory. In a 2008 survey of British teenagers (cited in Andrew Roberts’s excellent biography of the man), 20 percent thought Churchill was a fictional character, while 58 percent thought Sherlock Holmes and 47 percent thought Eleanor Rigby were real people. Continue reading

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