Saturday, February 9, 2013

Odds and ends 2/9/2013

Mark Judge gets us started with sound advice for writers:

Every summer I teach a journalism course at a university in Washington, D.C. The first rule I always tell students is: when writing, get to the point quickly. When I was starting out as a journalist many years ago an editor at the Washington Post told me the same thing. If you haven’t gotten to the point by the third paragraph, he said, it’s over.

Or as James Wolcott once put it: “Avoid preamble – flip the on switch in the first sentence. Find a focal point for your nervous energy, assume a forward offensive stance, and drive to the finish line, even if it’s only a five-hundred word slot: no matter how short the piece there has to be a sense of momentum and travel, rather than just allotted space being texted in.”

There’s a flipside to this argument. The tallest roller coaster in the world wouldn’t be much of a ride if it was only 30 seconds long. When you’re expositing a grandiose idea or trying to persuade someone, it’s wise to give the reader time to marinate in your writing as you lead them where you want. I am more comfortable forcing my readers to slow down in the richness of my writing than giving them more sentences and paragraphs to wade through.

Daren Jonescu writes a chilling article in the American Thinker on solitary man’s helplessness in negotiating his freedoms with an all-powerful state:

Someday, federal officers are going to visit the home of a man who owns a so-called “assault-style weapon.” He has a family and a job. He pays his taxes. He has no criminal record. Not even a parking ticket. He purchased his gun legally. He uses it for target shooting. He thinks of it as an investment in the protection of his family and his nation, and his personal stand for constitutional liberty.

The federal officers are going to tell him that his weapon has been banned, that the deadline has passed for him to turn it in at the local police station, and that he must turn it over immediately. He is going to refuse, on the reasonable principle that a man is not obliged to obey a law that fundamentally violates his constitutionally protected rights. The officers, who will have been trained to regard such “resisters” as hostile and as mentally unstable, will call in for back-up and then give this law-abiding patriot an ultimatum: produce your banned weapon peacefully at once, or be taken into custody on charges of illegal possession of a firearm, and possibly subjected to psychiatric assessment.

If this man gives in and hands the officers his weapon, he will feel for the rest of his life that he has been broken – that when push came to shove, he did not have the courage to stand up for his children’s future. This, in short, is how the federal officials who sent the officers to his door want him to feel, and how they want everyone to feel: weak, ineffectual, emasculated, and submissive. It is how they want you to feel when federal agents molest your wife at the airport, and photograph your pubescent daughter in a naked scanner. It is how they want you to feel about your “private” health records being permanently on file with a half dozen federal agencies, to be opened at their discretion. It is how they want you to feel about the thousand bank-breaking regulations you are obliged to comb through and comply with in the names of “sustainability,” “social justice,” “anti-discrimination,” and a dozen other fronts in the war on self-governance.

These indignities are meant to ease you through the process of acceptance, of acquiescence, of relinquishing all pretences of inviolable principle in the name of getting along.

What a terrifying prospect for anyone. I am not as fearful of what the agents would do as I am of being labeled an outlaw and rejected from society on which I depend.

Steven Goddard, known for blogging about the climate, links to a 1938 article about the disarming of German Jews. He says ironically: “During the years following the 1938 gun ban in Germany, the crime rate among Jews dropped to almost zero.” So Hitler did disarm the people before he exterminated them.

Playwright, screenwriter, former liberal David Mamet writes a memorable article for the Daily Beast on gun control and government. It is such a ranging, thoughtful presentation of political wisdom that I could quote it end to end, but I can’t. So here are some excerpts:

Karl Marx summed up Communism as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” This is a good, pithy saying, which, in practice, has succeeded in bringing, upon those under its sway, misery, poverty, rape, torture, slavery, and death.

For the saying implies but does not name the effective agency of its supposed utopia. The agency is called “The State,” and the motto, fleshed out, for the benefit of the easily confused must read “The State will take from each according to his ability: the State will give to each according to his needs.” “Needs and abilities” are, of course, subjective. So the operative statement may be reduced to “the State shall take, the State shall give.


As rules by the Government are one-size-fits-all, any governmental determination of an individual’s abilities must be based on a bureaucratic assessment of the lowest possible denominator. The government, for example, has determined that black people (somehow) have fewer abilities than white people, and, so, must be given certain preferences. Anyone acquainted with both black and white people knows this assessment is not only absurd but monstrous. And yet it is the law.


Healthy government, as that based upon our Constitution, is strife. It awakens anxiety, passion, fervor, and, indeed, hatred and chicanery, both in pursuit of private gain and of public good. Those who promise to relieve us of the burden through their personal or ideological excellence, those who claim to hold the Magic Beans, are simply confidence men. Their emergence is inevitable, and our individual opposition to and rejection of them, as they emerge, must be blunt and sure; if they are arrogant, willful, duplicitous, or simply wrong, they must be replaced, else they will consolidate power, and use the treasury to buy votes, and deprive us of our liberties.


Why not then, for the love of God, have an armed presence in the schools? It could be done at the cost of a pistol (several hundred dollars), and a few hours of training (that’s all the security guards get). Why not offer teachers, administrators, custodians, a small extra stipend for completing a firearms-safety course and carrying a concealed weapon to school? The arguments to the contrary escape me.

Why do I specify concealed carry? As if the weapons are concealed, any potential malefactor must assume that anyone on the premises he means to disrupt may be armed—a deterrent of even attempted violence.

I recently discovered Daniel Horowitz, who writes an excellent blog at the Madison Project. Read him on women in combat:

Presumably, you can only champion “women’s issues” if you believe women are indeed special and unique from men. Yet, they seek to jettison any difference between the genders, most notably, by encouraging women to act like men. They relentlessly promote women in gender-bender activities in an effort to make women indistinguishable from men. But at the same time, they hypocritically shed the super-woman image by demanding special standards, “protections” and legislation for women.

Republicans might feel safe avoiding these “uncomfortable” issues, but they need to understand that we will never become a fiscally conservative society with decedent cultural values. No degree of fiscal policy can ever heal the cultural illness that is being foisted upon us from the radical left. And if we continue to allow Obama to unilaterally fight a culture war, all of these issues will become moot.

Read Horowitz on the deficit:

CBO projects the gross federal debt to rise to $26.1 trillion by 2023, just under $10 trillion more than it is today. However, this fails to tell the full story. CBO is projecting revenues to climb to 19% of GDP, even as they predict lethargic economic growth and high unemployment for the foreseeable future. This is all the result of their ridiculous practice of statically scoring every dollar of a tax increase as a dollar more earned by the Treasury. To that end, they are projecting more revenue as a result of the Obama tax hikes.

This is why it’s important to focus on the spending figures in the report. The projected cost of the federal government during the 10-year budget period from 2014-2023 is $47.2 trillion. Spending will rise every year for every program (except for defense during the first few years), topping out at $5.94 trillion in annual spending in 2023. That’s a rate of growth of about 6.7% per year, trouncing the growth of the private sector.

The Congressional Budget Office is a glorified calculator. They crunch the numbers they’re given. The corruption is in the calculator operator.

Stephen Crowder light-heartedly gives 5 reasons why men should marry. No. 4:

You won’t be such a pathetic sloth – Married people are more productive. Married men in particular, have higher employment rates, work longer hours and receive better wages. It’s time to stop wading through puddles of your own filth as you reach for the hotpockets and have a dame whip you into shape.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds of USA Today returns to the theme of limited government. He begins with a quote from sci-fi writer Jerry Pournelle.

“We have always known that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. It’s worse now, because capture of government is so much more important than it once was. There was a time when there was enough freedom that it hardly mattered which brand of crooks ran government. That has not been true for a long time – not during most of your lifetimes, and for much of mine – and it will probably never be true again.”


There are two possible ways to address this problem. One is to elect people that everyone trusts. The problem with that is that there aren’t any politicians that everyone trusts – and, alas, if there were, the odds are good that such trust would turn out to be misplaced.

The other option is to place less power within the political sphere. The less power the government has, the less incentive for corruption, and the less that can go wrong when the government misbehaves.

I made this point to a coworker 1½ years ago, when he asked me what I thought about all the “polarization.” I told him (I paraphrase): “So much depends now on the government. People don’t control their lives anymore. There’s no ‘agreeing to disagree’ when it comes to big government exercising power over you.”

At Public Discourse, Jennifer Roback Morse waxes on the degradation of women and the gender Marxists’ dangerous delusion of the perfectibility of man:

Contraception with abortion as a backup delivers women to men for their use. Separating sex from conception removes constraints and responsibilities from men, and invites them to use women as objects. This is just as Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae, back in 1968.


The simple honest-to-goodness truth is that men and women are different. Giving birth to a child highlights the differences between men and women. Men and women do not become parents in the same way. Men and women feel differently about parenthood, and do parenthood differently. Motherhood has a different impact on women than fatherhood has on men.

These differences, generated by our bodies, in how we experience parenthood are among the most basic facts about our species. But, in the minds of Stop Patriarchy, these very differences between men and women are themselves injustices.

We can see now why this type of leftist is always so angry. It is impossible for them to achieve their objectives. They are always frustrated. We can see now, also, why they are never satisfied, no matter how many benefits they obtain for women, no matter how revolutionary the changes they obtain.


Stop Patriarchy’s ultimate problem is not really with capitalism or even with violence. Their problem is with the human body. They resent the fact that the human body comes in two different but complementary types, male and female. They are angry that childbearing impacts men and women differently. They resent every social structure and every human feeling that depends on the male-female differentiation. They cannot forgive women like me, who embrace femininity rather than neuter themselves at their urging.

This is why it is correct to identify them as revolutionaries. They are in revolt against the embodied nature of the human person. They hate sexual differentiation, maleness and femaleness.

Don’t they know we’re enslaved to our nature?

Peter Heck at the American Thinker tears into the ubiquity of softcore porn. The Super Bowl halftime show is his starting point:

You can issue the standard, “If you don’t like it, you can turn off your TV” comment. And while that’s true (I personally chose to leave the room with my girls while my wife continued to watch the male peep show), honesty requires us to acknowledge that Beyonce is but one performer in this unending assault of cultural decadence. Apart from living in a cave, you can’t avoid it. Shoot, even the Amish get bombarded with it when they go through the grocery store check-out aisle peppered with soft core pornographic magazine covers and headlines screaming out who the latest Bachelorette banged on national television.

And does all this depravity have an effect? You bet it does. Contrary to what the cultural elites will tell you, the proliferation of pornography in our country is not a celebration of free speech. And the peddling of adult entertainment to the masses is not entertainment, nor is it anything remotely close to being “adult.” It’s a surrender to the most infantile and juvenile lusts and urges of our depraved nature.

I feel the same way about the Super Bowl commercial, featuring a prolonged onscreen kiss between Bar Rafaeli and some dude. I had already previewed the commercial on the Internet, and I didn’t care to see it again live. Watching it the first time, all I could think about was having mind-blowing sex with Bar Rafaeli. As someone who strives to see people for who they are—not as moving objects in the world—instances like this are a relapse.

By the way, the comment thread on Heck’s article is a treat.

Tom Trinko writes of the modern totalitarian state:

When government was less ubiquitous, the generic Christian morality, essentially the Ten Commandments, that served as the genetic blueprint for the Constitution, rarely caused many problems; after all, how many people think murder is okay? Basically the DNA of the Constitution did not specify in great detail how one was to live or what one should endorse; Catholics, Quakers, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, and pretty much anyone else could live with the Constitution without feeling oppressed.

The new liberal Church of America is very specific in what it demands in many areas. Those specifics are often in conflict with the moral beliefs of huge numbers of Americans. The HHS mandate is demonstrating that American liberals support the same sort of oppression based on an official government moral code, i.e. religion, as the many Americans who fled from England to America suffered.

But if the government can define what is right and wrong and punish those who disagree, there is no reason that the government couldn’t institute a law limiting the number of children a family could have in order to combat climate change. All that would be required would be the government saying so.

President Obama is going to destroy the Republicans by splitting the Republican base on “social” issues. The fact of the matter is the Republican base is already split between libertarians/supporters of limited government and values voters (aka Christians). The former group will have to decide whether they want to join in the fight against Obama’s diktats on abortion, marriage, women in combat, etc. Fighting these things in our culture is like fighting gravity. They fear—justifiably—the social issues wing of the Republican Party is holding back the liberty agenda. The latter group fears—justifiably—a secularistocracy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has done a good job of splitting the Conservative Party by conceding the culture war.

In line with these observations, R.R. Reno examines the cultural trends that will lead to Christian dhimmitude:

For the most part this group [religious “nones”] resents the historic prominence and influence of religion in the public square. The Democratic Party is their political vehicle. Thus we’re seeing sustained efforts to redefine and narrow the meaning of religious liberty. This runs from theorists in the law schools (e.g., Brian Leiter, Micah Schwartzman), to legal activists, to government bureaucrats.

In our favor is a parallel trend toward libertarianism and the general view that we ought to let people do pretty much what they want. This is the “don’t tread on me” sentiment that tends to be solicitous toward claims of conscience and against political correctness. This is a dangerous ally, however, since it’s the “different strokes for different folks” sentiment that also supports gay marriage and sexual liberation in general. This libertarian sensibility may support tolerance, but it won’t encourage support for religion. On the contrary, the moralism one finds in all forms of traditional religion will be seen as a threat to our culture of expansive personal freedom.

Reno expands on this in a later article on the Boy Scouts:

Postmodern progressivism focuses on lifestyle liberation. It’s much closer to libertarianism than socialism. This view is gaining ground. I fear a future of hyper-individualism: everybody making claims to the right to satisfy their desires as we all scramble to get ahead in a competitive free market economy.

In case you missed it, the Boy Scouts are considering a partial cave to the gay mafia. Matthew J. Franck predicts a cascade of capitulation to follow. He cites the Neuhaus Law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” More:

With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps.

Mark Tooley at the American Spectator summarizes the Boy Scouts’ dilemma:

Politically correct corporations threatening the Boy Scouts could cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. But the churches and other religious groups that sponsor or provide most of the Scouts’ membership are mostly traditionalist. Their withdrawal or at least ambivalence about the Scouts could set the Scouts on a permanent downward spiral.

Scouting arose in the Edwardian era, informed by muscular Christianity, which merged manly and Christian virtues, emphasizing service, self-denial, discipline and chastity. These old school virtues, especially chastity, are considered odd in the current postmodern era of radical autonomy and self-actualization. By surrendering, the Boy Scouts will purchase some temporary corporate and media support. But they likely will ultimately lose many who actually care the most about Scouting, not only churches, but also future youth who will be bored by politically correct banality.

Peter Berger writes on the secular war on religion in the American Interest. Note the comparison to Communist and Islamist countries at the end.

In all these cases the authorities accused of violating the plaintiffs’ rights operate with a definition of religion as a private matter to be kept out of public space. There is here a general issue of government overreach, as clearly illustrated by the (still unresolved) attempt by the Obama administration to force Catholic institutions to provide contraception coverage in their employees’ health plans. Beyond that, though, there is a very ideological view of the place of religion in society. In other words, religion is to be an activity engaged in by consenting adults in private. The attorney for the Judeo-Christian side in the aforementioned American case had it quite right when he compared the treatment of his client’s religion with measures of disease control. This is not an attitude one would expect to find in a Western democracy. It is curiously reminiscent of policies toward religion in Communist countries and toward non-Muslims under Islamic rule.

At Patheos, Sarah Ngu writes about the difficulty of overcoming nihilism:

The standard apologetics training that I’ve received dictates that the proper response to relativism is to demonstrate how it is self-contradictory. The classic move is to “relativize the relativizer,” showing how the statement about truth’s relativity can be turned on itself and exposed as just another relative, truth-claim. If all truths are relative, so is the truth that all truths are relative. The hope is that the relativist would exclaim, “Wow, I’ve been leading an inconsistent worldview all along! Please show me the way.”

The problem with this response is that it assumes people today actually care about having an airtight, logically consistent worldview. It’s always been true that people’s identities and desires often trump worldview consistency, but it’s especially true today, when postmodernism has heightened the stakes of identity claims and eroded our faith in grand intellectual meta-narratives.

You can’t reason with such people. Their worldview, if you could call it that, is a subjugation of the world to their ends. The only limits to their will to power are external. As Thucydides wrote: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

Jill Filipovic, whom I rhetorically raped a few weeks ago, ironically asks: “What does it say about society that websites where angry men shame their ex-lovers are thriving?”

Answer: It says men are treating women as the objects your sexual revolution reduced them to.

Here’s a an amusing headline: “More housework, less sex for married men: study.”

Men’s sexual attractiveness decreases when you strip them of their sexual capital. A man coming home from a hard day’s work is sexier than a man waiting for his wife to come home to eat dinner.

In a barnburner article at Public Discourse, Patrick Fagan taps into the difference between married men and single men. In a nutshell, this difference consists of stability and trustworthiness. As a George Gilder devotee, I already knew this, but it’s nice to see a good idea get airtime elsewhere.

Employers know the difference between a hardworking, honest, cheerful young employee and one who lacks these qualities, and choose accordingly. Human resource departments are well aware of the differences between the work ethics of young single men and married men with children. They see the different rates of absenteeism (especially before or after weekends), who is on time to work, and who is accident-prone.

Stockbrokers and life-insurance salesmen know where strength lies too: Their biggest markets are married couples, though Wall Street has yet to figure out the macro-economic implications.

Of course. Men’s adventurous spirit and hunger for variety makes him unreliable. Lacking discipline, he is vulnerable to whim and flights of fancy. That is, until he “settles down” and makes the long-term commitments to wife and children. These new responsibilities focus his attention and harness his energy. No more debauched nights with the boys, no more binges in sin. He has a family now and he stays with his family. Such a man can be trusted out in the world.

Boys are capable of much more evil—and, conversely, good—than girls. Lee Habeeb (via Peter Ferrara) tells God’s honest truth about the importance of fathers to boys:

About 20,000 people live in my hometown of Oxford, Miss., and there are probably twice as many guns. Folks own handguns, shotguns, rifles, and all kinds of weapons I’ve never even heard of. But I can’t remember the last murder story in the local paper.

That’s because my town has lots of guns, but lots of fathers, too.

Chicago doesn’t have a gun problem; it has a father problem.

Gun control isn’t the problem on Chicago’s streets; self-control is.

When young men don’t have fathers, they don’t learn to control their masculine impulses. They don’t have fathers to teach them how to channel their masculine impulses in productive ways.

When young men don’t have fathers, those men will seek out masculine love — masculine acceptance — where they can find it. Often, they find it in gangs.

My eyes welled up when I read this piece by Anthony Esolen in Public Discourse. Roughly half of it is a first-person rebuke of upper-class elites who destroy poor people’s lives with do-gooder policies. It is a tour de force. Kudos to you if you spot the dig at Title IX.

If you could compel the boy, seething with resentment and contempt, to occupy a desk in a dreary schoolroom, you cannot compel him to learn. To try is a distant, “technological” response to a human problem. It is a way to pretend to generosity, while keeping those who suffer from your heedlessness far from your sight and smell.


The Boy Scouts retain the commonsense notion that it is not wise to bring boys into close quarters with men who are sexually attracted to boys, regardless of whether they act on those attractions. They retain the commonsense notion that if it were widely known that such men were scoutmasters, the boys would check out. They retain the commonsense notion that boys need fathers, who will teach them to be good men, ready to be fathers of their own families.


“You loved your vice more than you loved me. You could afford your vices, but I could not. Your vices made your lives, as you thought, more exciting. I did not have your cushion of wealth, so the same vices destroyed me.

“I was lonely, and you bought me a whore. My sisters were lonely, and you made them into whores.

“I needed the Church, desperately, because when a man is poor, he must face his helplessness every day. But the Church would restrain you, so, at every chance you had, you derided religious faith, and thus you snatched from me my most loyal friend.

“I had no job, and you overtaxed the man who might have given me one. Then you gave the job to someone on the other side of the world, or you winked while men left their families thousands of miles away, crossing the border to work at low wages, and you yourselves hired them, and ducked the taxes that you yourselves established. In this way you managed to do mayhem to two families at once.


“I needed a coach, to keep me in line during the difficult years, but you cut my teams and rosters. You called it ‘fairness’ to my sisters, and hugged yourselves for your enlightenment.

“I used to have a YMCA, but you turned it into a day-care center for people like you.

“I needed a father to show me how to love women, and you gave me porn.

“I once had virtue, the poor man’s heritage, but you trained me in vice...”

Two months ago, Michael Sean Winters drilled Michigan Republicans for passing right-to-work:

Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature slammed through so-called, and misnamed, “right-to-work” laws yesterday and Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed them into law. Michigan, home of the United Auto Workers, scene of the Flint sit-down strike in the 1930’s, became the twenty-fourth state in the Union to adopt these flawed laws.

This is a defeat for social justice of enormous significance. Workers in states with “right-to-work” laws make about $1,500 less than workers in states that respect union rights. (And, it is more than a little ironic that the Michigan-native who lost the election, lost in part because of his comments about 47% of Americans being moochers, while “right-to-work” laws actually create a new class of moochers, those who benefit from a union’s representation but don’t want to pay for that service.) Proponents of the laws have been saying all weekend that the measures will make Michigan “more competitive.” Well, how is that? Because if companies can pay their workers less in Michigan, they are more likely to invest in Michigan. There is some truth in that, but it is not a moral truth. The challenge should be to raise wages for workers in states that pay less, not engage in a race-to-the-bottom in which Bangladesh will always win.

The “race to the bottom” is a fact of life. Economic history testifies to the advantage of producers providing the best value for the best price. But third-world countries like Bangladesh don’t “always win” this race. Toyota could have built a Tundra factory anywhere in the world, but they chose San Antonio. Why? Because we have the resources, the workforce, and the economic freedom that Toyota wanted. Wages may be marginally higher in unionized states with higher taxes and higher costs of living, but their unemployment is higher despite losing people to the nonunionized South. That’s more failed statism than “social justice.”

Peter Ferrara dishes out some economic reality at Forbes:

In the fourth quarter of 2012, 5 years after the recession started, the economy was contracting again, with negative growth. One more quarter of that, and we will be back in recession, with the Fed already laying the groundwork for worse after that. The supposedly progressive Obama is leading us back into an historical reenactment of the 1930s.

Yet, while the economy has not been growing, government spending has been booming. Federal spending has increased by 41% over the last 5 years, with total government spending at all levels increasing by nearly 27%, to an all-time high of $6.2 trillion. The Democrat party controlled press told us the economy contracted in the fourth quarter because of government spending cuts. But there have been no government spending cuts. The government in the fourth quarter was spending more than ever before in world history.

Commentary held a symposium on the future of conservatism, featuring 53 leading writers. My favorites:

R.R. Reno:

More than 100 years ago, industrialization ripped up the old small town social contract in America and ushered in a new form of social solidarity that eventually stabilized around the suburban middle class in the postwar decades. Today globalization is eroding that basis for social unity. The middle class is declining. Some exit up and into the hyper-competitive and richly rewarding occupations prized in a postindustrial economy. Others slide down into the ranks of the perpetually underemployed, becoming more and more dependent on government subsidies to hold on to middle-class life.

At the same time, since the 1960s we’ve experienced a cultural revolution. It has undermined the broad middle-class consensus. Round-the-clock irony and cynicism make old-fashioned values like working hard, paying your debts, and keeping your word seem, well, old-fashioned and even foolish. Marriage, children, fidelity? Maybe, but maybe not. All told, it’s not just harder for high school-educated young men and women in Muscatine, Iowa, to make a good living; it’s also hard for them to see how to live well. Today, the middle of the middle has a difficult time answering a fundamental question, perhaps the fundamental question for any society: How are we to become responsible, respectable adults?

Conservatism needs to speak to this disorientation, which is the defining political and social challenge of our time.

That’s not going to happen if we make free markets into an ideology. In its essence, modern conservatism involves working within inherited forms of solidarity, which in our context have become intertwined with the modern welfare state. To make abstract pronouncements excoriating the “47 percent” reflects a counterrevolutionary mentality, one that rejects the historical experience of solidarity over the last century. Nothing could be further from a genuine conservatism.

Conservatism will also fail if we punt on morality and culture. Unless we reinforce and support clear norms for adulthood–marriage, family, work, community involvement, patriotic loyalty–then the disoriented middle of the middle, no matter how economically self-sufficient, will become increasingly dependent on bureaucratic and therapeutic support and guidance, which means more government.

Charlotte Allen:

Romney ran a campaign that focused strictly (and admirably) on job creation and lower taxes, touching on social issues only minimally. That gained him little among 18- to 29-year-olds, who might have fretted over their dismal post-college job prospects, but fretted more over a barrage of Obama ads asserting that the GOP wanted to take away their contraceptives and, hence, their sexual fun. Sixty percent of them voted to reelect President Obama. The lesson: Downplaying social issues wins no respect among the young, whose time horizons are distressingly short-term.

Same goes for Hispanics. As National Review editor Rich Lowry has pointed out, the Reagan-era amnesty for 3 million illegals in 1986 resulted in a Latino electorate that voted even less Republican in the presidential election of 1988 than it had in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was reelected by a landslide but got only 37 percent of the Latino vote. As for Hispanics’ supposed “natural”–that is, family-oriented and religious–conservatism, more than half of Latino births these days are to unwed mothers. Although most Hispanics are nominally Catholic, with an additional smattering of evangelicals, about 80 percent of them practice no religion whatsoever. I write this with sorrow, because I’m half-Hispanic myself. Sadly, Hispanics, like blacks and even the relatively prosperous Asians, vote as an ethnic bloc steered by anti-white resentment and desire for big-government patronage.

My second point is that conservatism isn’t only a matter of appealing to economic self-interest or expressing irritation with heavy-handed and heavily taxing government. It is a mind-set, typically embodied in a way of life, that values tradition and traditional beliefs alongside self-reliance and personal responsibility. It is not surprising, then, that many political conservatives are also religious conservatives: evangelicals, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, traditionalist Catholics. Social issues are important to those groups because of the high value they place on traditional marriage and traditional family structures. It is naive to think, then, that diluting conservatism will somehow make it more appealing to those who don’t share the conservative mind-set.

Nicholas Eberstadt:

The “clear and present danger” for the United States today is domestic, not foreign. It is seen in the confluence of three major trends that are subverting what was once un-mockingly known as the American way of life.

The first of these trends is the collapse of the nation’s family structure. According to preliminary figures, almost 41 percent of American babies were born out of wedlock in 2011–twice the figure of just 30 years earlier. (For those whom the Census Bureau terms “non-Hispanic whites,” the 2011 ratio was 29 percent–higher than for African Americans back when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his famous report on the crisis of the black family in the 1960s.) By 2010, a child was more likely to grow up in a broken home in America than in practically any other Western society, including the Scandinavian ones.

Second is America’s gradual, but increasingly rapid, retirement from religion. Between 1972 and 2008, according to a Pew Research Center study, the share of American adults with no religious affiliation whatsoever rose from 7 percent in 1972 to 18 percent in 2010–but jumped between 2007 and 2012 from just over 15 percent to almost 20 percent. Of America’s Millennials, our youngest adults, born between 1981 and 1994, nearly one-third say they have no religion. So it is that America, long the conspicuous holdout against the great tide of Western secularization, now appears to be following Europe into a faithless wilderness.

Third is our citizenry’s steady slide into financial dependence on the government–a development intensified by the Great Recession, but in fact predating it by many decades. By spring 2011, according to the Census Bureau, just over 35 percent of Americans lived in homes receiving one or more “means tested” public benefit. Never before have so many healthy, able-bodied, and relatively well-to-do Americans plead “poverty” for the purpose of handouts from Uncle Sam.

These powerful, deeply entwined trends are progressively degrading both our people and our polity. They promise our descendants a country that is weak, beneath a government that is strong: one where the independence, civic vibrancy, and economic freedom we take for granted today are only memories. It is not too much to suggest that, on our current course, an ignominious end to American exceptionalism could even be within sight.

Jonah Goldberg:

What allows the Democrats to seem more libertarian isn’t just cultural marketing, but a widespread acceptance of the idea that positive liberty is more important than negative liberty. The former, an idea near to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s heart, is that you can’t be free unless the state gives you the material aid necessary to enjoy life to its fullest. This was the point of his “economic bill of rights.” Negative liberty, an idea dear to the Founders, defines freedom as independence from government intrusion and meddling.

Conservatives have been very successful at arguing separately against positive liberty and against cultural libertinism, but the merger of the two presents new challenges, particularly given the attitudes of young people who seem to believe that you should be free to use birth control (true), but that you’re not free unless someone else pays for it.

Mark Steyn:

The first responsibility of conservatives between now and 2016 is to have an adult conversation with the citizenry–the one that Mitt Romney chose to eschew in favor of vague jobs promises punctuated by bold assertions that “I believe in America.” So what? What matters is whether reality still believes in America.

And, when reality strikes, will Americans turn to conservatism? The evidence from November is not reassuring. Romney dusted off the old surefire winner–”Ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?”–and took it to read: “The economy’s dead. Vote Mitt.” A decisive chunk of lower-middle-class America agreed with him on the first part, and acted on its logic: “You’re right. So I’m voting for the party of endlessly extended unemployment insurance, universal food stamps, and increased Social Security disability enrollment.” If 1.7 percent growth is the new normal, this constituency will metastasize. As his post-mortem observations to donors confirmed, Romney’s leaked “47 percent” aside is indicative of the way he thinks, and not a small thing. Indeed, it’s a betrayal of core conservative morality: from “Teach a man to fish” to “There’s no point even bothering to try to teach 47 percent to fish.” I was born a subject of Her Canadian Majesty and, even in a parliamentary system, it would not be regarded as healthy for the Queen’s Prime Minister to think like this. In a republic in which the head of government is also head of state, it’s simply unbecoming. The next guy has to be running as president of all Americans, even the deadbeats.

The execrable Michael Tomasky libels conservatives:

Republicans, whatever they might say publicly, won’t actually try to win more black votes. Why? Because the positions the party would have to embrace to win black votes are abhorrent to the GOP base. Which, you may have noticed, is kind of racist. Now, people like me—pundits of the respectable class—aren’t supposed to talk that way. We’re supposed to cooperate in the fiction that the Republican Party is the party of Lincoln and underneath it all yearns to reawaken the great Jack Kemp tradition.

All that is a bunch of rot, I’m afraid, and the rank and file’s racism is just a plain fact...No, this doesn’t mean every conservative is a racist. But it does mean that if you find yourself at a table with five conservatives and try to break the ice with a watermelon joke, you’re very likely to get somewhere between two and three laughs.

What, liberals don’t laugh at racial stereotypes?

In closing, Daniel Greenfield hits on the issue of softening conservativism to become more mainstream:

The last election has brought on essays bemoaning the conservative disconnect from popular culture and the need to somehow reconnect with it. The means of this reconnection are hardly ever stated, though there is the implication that conservatives would need to “evolve” on certain social issues in the hopes that its economic viewpoint will be taken seriously by a population whose social way of life doom it to be dependent on government support.

Convincing them to shape up their lives is contingent on them sharing the view that government dependence is bad.

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