Category Archives: Government & Politics

Hillary’s Not Liberal Enough?

According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal (4/10/15), the left wing of the Democrat Party is not happy about the fact that Hillary is virtually unchallenged for the Party’s presidential nomination. Apparently “…some Democrats think she isn’t liberal enough.”

The opinion is based primarily on two issues: “…her ties to Wall Street and Bill Clinton’s centrist economic record.” The article goes on to describe in general terms how leftist Democrats “…don’t like that she appears more comfortable with bipartisan compromise than populist calls to fight banks and other business interests…”

Then, while attempting to assess whether the charge is legitimate, the article points out that “As a U.S. senator from 2001 until 2009 and as a presidential candidate in 2007 and 2008, she called for universal prekindergarten, equal pay for women, increases in the minimum wage, paid family leave, higher taxes on the wealthy and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor families.”

And Hillary Clinton is not liberal enough! The proper conclusion to reach from the article does not concern how far left on the political spectrum lies Ms. Clinton. No, the correct conclusion is that the Democrat Party has moved so far to the left that a prominent person in the Party who, two decades ago, was considered ultra-left, is now insufficiently liberal to meet the Party’s standards.

In 2007 and 2008, the choice for the Democrat Party presidential nomination came down to two of the most leftist candidates ever to compete for said nomination. The Party chose the alternative to Hillary – for reasons that might have had more to do with race, guilt, atonement and healing than with political philosophy. In fact, I believe that Obama was – and is – to the left of Hillary. All of her adult life, Ms. Clinton has qualified as a highly partisan, ideological leftist who subscribed to the progressive agenda for a remake of America. But Barack Obama is a radical leftist, who detests America and Western Civilization, and is committed to an extreme form of the progressive agenda which countenances the destruction of America if that is necessary to usher in the new world order that he envisions.

Today, Hillary is not liberal enough. Thus, it would appear that the Obama/Warren agenda to radically remake America is the mainstream position of the Democrat Party. If the nation does not wake up to that fact, the Democrats may get their wish.

This post also appeared in The American Thinker

The Consequences of America’s Asymmetric Politics

There is a sharp and consequential asymmetry between left and right in American politics. It is my purpose here to describe the asymmetry and explain both its origins and consequences. But first an important clarification: the asymmetry does not refer to the stark differences in political philosophy that characterize the two poles of American political persuasion. Rather, it encompasses the nature of the adherents of each persuasion: how intensely do they believe in the merits of their political ideas; how much legitimacy do they ascribe to their opponents’ views; how well do they understand the role that their sides’ ideas have played in the history of the nation; and what is the level of confidence in the applicability of their ideas to resolutions of the nation’s problems in the future?

Actually, I began this work in an earlier piece in which I essentially considered these topics as applied to the cadre of national GOP candidates. Let me quickly recall that material. As I said in there, with virtually no exceptions, GOP candidates fall into one of the following three categories:

  • RINOs – meaning that they do not really believe that progressivism and big government are bad for America – it’s just that the Democrats are screwing it up and Republicans should be entrusted with the task of implementing the progressive agenda because they will do it more efficiently and cost effectively than liberal Democrats have or could.
  • CRUELs – that is, confused Republicans who are unable to exercise leadership. These are conservative politicians whose hearts and minds may be in the right place, but they are unable to: (i) articulate their beliefs; (ii) explain the connection between progressivism and the ills that beset the nation; (iii) describe clearly how conservative policies will enhance liberty and economic prosperity; and (iv) deflect the vicious slanders that the Democrats hurl at them.
  • CCCs – that is, committed, conservative constitutionalists. These are politicians who have a clear understanding of what the progressives have wrought and how the country has changed. They can envision and describe the bleak future that awaits us if we don’t have a major course correction. Furthermore, such people also have a clear idea of what must be done to return the country to its founding ethos, re-institute the ideals of free market capitalism, constitutional and limited governance, and American exceptionalism and thereby restore the republic. Moreover, they can explain these ideas clearly and simply.

 

In fact, GOP voters can be pigeon-holed into essentially the same three categories. That is, your average citizen who usually pulls the Republican lever in the election booth can be described in one of these three ways:

  1. Despite the fact that the voter thinks of himself as conservative, said individual has no real objection to the progressive remake of America. He is not opposed to big government; he just feels the government could be run more efficiently and cost-effectively. He favors government entitlement programs like Medicare, Social Security and food stamps. He is fairly liberal on social issues; uncertain about defense matters; and vaguely Keynesian in economic outlook. Exactly why he identifies as a Republican, much less a conservative, is unclear. Perhaps it’s a family tradition; or the extreme left wing positions of too many in the Democrat Party scare him; or, most likely, it’s because he is genuinely confused about what the labels “conservative” or “Republican” should stand for. It’s a sorry fact that so many GOP voters fall into this RINO category. It’s even sorrier that so many GOP candidates do likewise.
  2. A person with bona fide conservative inclinations, but someone who has difficulty articulating those thoughts – either to himself or to others. Such a person will likely sense the flaws and dangers in the progressive agenda, but he lacks the confidence or agility to explain them. If placed in a leadership position, he is unable to motivate or stimulate those under his command to adopt conservative policies – in part because his understanding of them is weak and the influence of the nation’s liberal gestalt (see below) on him has been substantial. Alas, there are a great number of GOP voters who fall under this rubric, and even sadder, a surprising number of GOP leaders who fit this description – Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Chris Christie and Jon Huntsman come to mind. Among the troops, these CRUEL types are a reliable GOP vote, but they rarely have the gumption or depth of belief to convince others to follow them. The CRUEL acronym fits these voters as well as the corresponding politicians, except that this time it stands for “confused Republicans unable to excise liberalism.”
  3. True blue conservatives. That is, those who: have a deep understanding of the path down which progressives have led the nation during the last century; can articulate how conservative principles and policies in place from the American Revolution until the early twentieth century made our nation the freest, most prosperous country in the history of the world; appreciate how, despite the erosion of those principles in the twentieth century, America still managed to retain enough of its moxie to summon the will and courage to twice rescue the world from totalitarianism; and who can explain how the progressive putsch over the last 50 years threatens to destroy our republic, together with its freedoms and prosperity.

The forgoing is a rather sharp delineation of the components of the right wing of America into three distinct and easily identifiable groups. Therefore it is natural to ask: what are the analogs on the left? What are the distinct subclasses and how many are there? Well, the first thing to notice is that DINOs don’t exist. They’re not just extinct – they never existed. There are no self-identifying Democrats who covertly believe (consciously or subconsciously) that individual liberty trumps social justice and equality; or that the government is oppressively big and needs to be reined in; or that affirmative action is really reverse discrimination and a level playing field is all that society owes each individual. There are no Democrats who are comfortable with a Reaganite program of low federal taxes, regulation and spending, strong national defense, pride in American Exceptionalism and promotion of strong, traditional families. There are no Democrat voters who are closet conservatives that feel the conservative program should be pursued – but just with more attention to the welfare of minorities, gays, the poor and the third world. There are no DINOs – period.

But in fact, like the Republicans, the Democrats may be cracked up into three distinct cohorts. Before I describe them, I must mention two critical occurrences over the last two generations that in many ways account for the delineation I am about to offer. The first is that the Democrat Party has moved hard to the left in that time. There are no Scoop Jackson or Pat Moynihan Democrats.  Well maybe Joe Lieberman, but he was drummed out of the Party. James Webb and Joe Manchin are pale imitations and, anyway, they are considered stark outliers. The center of gravity of the Democrat Party is far to the left of what it has been anytime from its inception (with the Andrew Jackson era a possible exception) until George McGovern’s nomination. Today, far leftists like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are considered totally mainstream Democrats.

The second feature of American life that has had a tremendous effect on the nature of the Democrat Party is the no longer disputed fact that the left has gained control of virtually all of the opinion-molding organs of America society: the media, public education, the legal profession, higher education, foundations, libraries, seminaries, etc. While it is true that many in the Party are active in that putsch, it is also the fact that the result has had a big effect on the Party. Moreover, it is this phenomenon – the capture of the culture by the left – that is really the origin, the central font, which explains the asymmetry that I am about to describe.

So, here are the categories into which the left divides:

        1. LIVs – that is, low information voters. This encompasses all those who pay little attention to politics; are woefully uninformed about current events; and have barely any understanding of the difference between leftist progressivism and right-wing conservatism. But because of the second fact above, these voters tend to break overwhelmingly for Democrats over Republicans – at least when they accidentally find themselves (or when they are escorted there) in the voting booth.
        2. LEFTYs – By this category I mean citizens who are serious about their politics, measured in their assessments and opinions, but whose political proclivities tend toward collectivism, order/equality over liberty, big government programs, and who see the government as the ultimate source of solutions for any serious problem confronting the US. They may or may not be articulate and terribly coherent in their understanding of or ability to explain their own political inclinations. But they are certain that they lean left and they view the Democrat Party as more representative of their political beliefs than the Republicans.
        3. RADs – that is, the radical wing of the Democrat Party. The name suggests that it should be a small subset, but alas, it has grown in size to be a substantial minority of the American left wing. These are hard-core, doctrinaire leftists – analogous to the hard-core right wing in CCC. They are completely conversant with political issues, believe deeply that America’s history and supposed purpose are irrevocably stained by slavery, racism, sexism and aggressive military force. They see unfettered free enterprise as immoral and believe the State should be the driving force in society.

At first glance, one might see in the six categories – three on each side – a balance in American politics. But it is not so. Here is why.

Among the three cohorts on the right, only one is deeply committed to conservative values. Within the other two cohorts, one is typically confused or uncertain; and the other is more often than not playing for the opposite side. On the other hand, among the three cohorts on the left, two are fundamentally committed to the cause and the one that isn’t is easily swayed by emotion into supporting it.

Now one should augment this analysis by assigning weights according to size of cohort in the six categories. Well, this is difficult to do since there are no surveys in which precisely these six categories are used to pigeon-hole the electorate. Let me just say the following:

  • Together the CRUELs and RINOs far outnumber the CCCs.
  • Together the RINOs and LIVs form a substantial portion of the electorate. And of course, typically that combined grouping leans overwhelmingly left.
  • The CCCs and RADs each constitute a minority of their respective sides; but in each case, they bring a passion and commitment to their cause that the other two components do not. However, the whole raison d’être of the RADs is to seize power, while that of the CCCs is to conserve tradition and render smaller the power of government in the people’s lives.

Next let’s provide answers to the questions posed in the first paragraph. The answers are predicated on the demographic implications of the preceding set of bullets. So, for example, your typical lefty is either a committed progressive who is intolerant of conservative thought, or a low information voter who unthinkingly sympathizes with the progressive agenda. Voters on the right on the other hand include: some deeply conservative persons; but more numerous establishment types, vaguely uncomfortable with the progressive agenda but either uncertain or confused by the conservative program; and a few closet progressives voting for the GOP for peculiar reasons. Thus in answer to the four questions:

  1. Those who believe deeply in the merit of their ideas constitute a higher percentage on the left than on the right.
  2. Neither side ascribes much legitimacy to the other’s point of view. But the right views the left as wrong or misguided; the left believes rightists are either criminal or insane.
  3. Leftists believe that without the progressive progress of the twentieth century, America would have long ago degenerated into into a racist, misogynistic, business-oriented dictatorship. In fact, they think that in spite of twentieth century progress, the country still leans that way. Conservatives believe leftists have abandoned classic American ideals. Leftists see rightist ideas as evil. Rightists see leftist ideas as merely wrong or misguided.
  4. The left believes their policies will lead to nirvana; the right sees theirs leading to a partial restoration of the glory that was America.

In short, the asymmetry can be summed up as follows. Those on the left have a bleak vision of America’s past, are certain that they know how to transform the country so that it will enjoy a more enlightened future and are completely intolerant of any who don’t agree with them. Those on the right feel that the progressives of the 20th century have betrayed American’s lofty ideals, and wish to restore the American ethos as envisioned by the Founders.

The left is absolutely convinced of the justice of its cause, cannot fathom that it might be wrong and is completely dismissive of the conservative point of view. Whereas the right sometimes sees merit in ideas emanating from the left and is willing to compromise, the left believes the right is totally wrong, hopelessly retrograde and not worthy of respect.

Given the asymmetry just described and (i) above, the right should be getting slaughtered in national elections. And for the most part, it has been – in presidential elections. But as explained in another prior piece, all those LIVs tend to come out only in presidential elections; the right is doing far better in local and even national elections that do not involve a choice for president. Those days might be numbered, however. Again, given the left’s capture of the culture, the asymmetry in the attitudes and behavior between left and right, and the fact that the numbers may become more imbalanced, the prognosis might not be so good for the conservative cause.

This essay also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative

Blind Hatred Meets Self-Hatred Meets Alienation

President Barack Obama made two appalling statements recently. First, he characterized the Jewish victims of Islamo-terrorism in the Parisian Kosher market as merely victims “… of violent, vicious zealots who … randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” Then he chastised Americans for hastily condemning Islamic terrorism by comparing Islamist violence to “terrible deeds” perpetrated by Christians during the Crusades and the Inquisition.

I suppose that Obama figures the six million Jews who went into Hitler’s ovens were also selected randomly. And perhaps he is willing to overlook the fact that Germany invaded France in 1940 since, after all, the French invaded the British Isles in 1066.

In truth, Obama’s comments were outrageous by any measure. They reflect at worst a callous indifference to wanton and violent anti-Semitism, as well as to the barbarously heinous murders being perpetrated by Islamic terrorists. At best, they reveal merely ignorance, willful blindness and gross insensitivity.

That these statements were uttered by the President of the United States, and that they were not roundly condemned from all quarters of American society is a sad reflection on the sorry state of the morals and sense of justice of too many Americans.

The blind and seething hatred that motivates the warriors of Islamic State, al Qaeda and the other practitioners of world-wide Islamic Jihad is painfully evident to any with eyes to see. Their hatred is on full display in their barbaric deeds. That hatred encompasses all who profess faith in any religion save Islam; but it seems to hold a special animus for Christians and Jews. Furthermore, it extends to the peoples of all societies organized in any fashion other than a Muslim totalitarian system. It reserves paramount disgust for Western Civilization and liberal democracy, especially as practiced in the United States of America.

So let us focus on the main object of the Islamists’ hatred – Western Civilization. It is mind-boggling to imagine that anyone in the West cannot see the hatred for what it is. And yet, blindness to the hatred is all around us. It is apparent in the leftists who excuse Islamic Jihad in the name of Western Civilization’s supposed oppression of third world culture – especially Islam – which they see as the root cause of Muslim rage. It is transparent among the elites of Western Europe who are busy disarming their countries, committing demographic suicide, opening their doors to Jihadist radicals and totally abrogating the ideals, customs and traditions of their own civilization. Finally, it is manifest among Obama and his minions who – in the face of the most heinous Islamic terror – cannot bring themselves to name the flame that is torching the people whom Obama is sworn to protect.

How can they not see the hatred? Because, it would appear, they hate themselves as much as, if not more than the Jihadists hate them. There is an illness in the body of Western Civilization that fosters the unwillingness to recognize the hatred that Islamic radicals bear toward that civilization. That illness is self-hatred. The illness began in Western Europe a century ago when socialism replaced capitalism as the modus operandi for most European countries. But it was the carnage of two world wars that delivered the knockout punch. The Europeans surveyed the self-inflicted wreckage, and decided that its civilization was the cause. In addition to the devastation the Europeans saw around themselves, they also came to the conclusion that their colonial empires had inflicted horrible pain on the peoples of the third world. They decided that these egregious crimes against humanity required them to cast aside their more than thousand year-old civilization. They have succeeded rather well in that endeavor. Now in its place, we see a burgeoning, authoritarian and collectivist system (the EU), amalgamating totally irreligious, amoral, economically depressed, increasingly defenseless societies that are being swallowed up by an ascendant, Islamic, foreign parasite.

The US has begun to travel the same path. Apparently America has its own crimes to answer for. The evil of slavery, maltreatment of American Indians, discrimination against women and minorities, and internment of Japanese American citizens more than compensate for saving the world twice from totalitarian evil, not to mention creating the most free, tolerant, multicultural and prosperous nation in the history of the world. While the percentage of the American people that have bought into this dirge is not commensurate with the number of self-haters in Europe – they seem to be sufficiently numerous to elect and reelect a man who is ready to ditch the ideals and mores of Western Civilization.

Thus we see that blind hatred is abetted and trumped by self-hatred. This manifestation is certainly evident in the coterie that surrounds Obama and which populates the Democrat Party. From them emanates a constant drumbeat about all that is wrong with America, how it has mistreated certain segments of society and how it must atone for its past sins by granting special privileges to those who were formerly oppressed. They hold no particular affection for the classical bedrocks of American society – the Constitution, the Christian religion, the capitalist system, the power of the American military, American Exceptionalism, individual liberty.

But I believe that although self-hatred is rampant throughout the corridors of Western Civilization, in the case of Barack Obama specifically, something even deeper is going on – namely, alienation. I suspect that Obama detests Western Civilization, but he does not detest himself. Why? Because he doesn’t see himself as part of Western Civilization. Personally, he has nothing to atone for. All the apologies and bowing to foreign despots is purely on behalf of America – the America which bears the guilt outlined above. But Barack Obama himself bears no guilt.

Obama was raised and mentored by self-hating leftist radicals who saw themselves as not part of America. He spent his formative years outside of the US. His path to his present exalted position was engineered without his having to taint himself with any beliefs in the trappings of the classical American creed. He is unstained by Western Civilization. It is alien to him. Thus he feels not self-hatred, but alienation from the civilization that he despises—but which, in an act of monstrous stupidity, the America people entrusted unto him to uphold and protect.

And so it easy for him to sympathize – without any self-guilt – with those who want to destroy Western Civilization. He rejected it long ago. Oh yes, he likes the money, the fame, the access and the golf. But he has no real allegiance to America or sympathy for the American Constitution, American enterprise, American Exceptionalism or American might.

In his eyes, Western Civilization has brought misery, corruption and poverty to the peoples outside of its boundaries. Moreover, it has brutalized and subjugated those inside its boundaries who had the misfortune to lie outside its self-declared inner components – namely, women, peoples of color and the lower socioeconomic classes. But Obama and the enlightened ones he has chosen to populate his exalted neighborhood are innocent of these charges. In fact they take it as their life’s work to: publicize and popularize the accusations, punish the offenders and reorient the country (if not the planet) so that the victims become the overlords of their former prosecutors.

That is, Obama is alienated from the founding ideals and ethos to which, alas, a diminishing number of Americans cling. Therefore ripping it apart comes natural to him. And that is how he could easily make those awful remarks with a clear conscience.

This essay also appeared in The American Thinker

Two Distinct Electorates

Interest in the 2016 presidential election contest is heating up. It is an arguably unfortunate aspect of the US national political scene that no more than midway through a presidential term, the nation might be paying as much attention to whom the next occupant of the White House may be than to the current resident. But so be it; here I add to the perhaps misbegotten attention with a thesis that the electorate which will make that choice is quite different from the body of voters who cast their ballots in virtually any non-presidential election.

In order to justify that assertion, I am going to hit you with a cascade of past election data, out of which an unmistakable conclusion unfolds.

First, let us consider the “closeness” of past presidential elections. In fact, one can easily characterize all presidential elections into one of three categories: a blowout or landslide victory; a squeaker in which a proportionally tiny change in the ballots cast could have changed the outcome; and a comfortable victory – a clear margin in both the electoral and popular votes, but short of an overwhelmingly one-sided outcome. Since the end of WWII, here is how the presidential elections stack up:

Blowouts

Ike (’52, ’56)

LBJ (’64)

Nixon (’72)

Reagan (80, ’84)

Squeakers

JFK (’60)

Nixon (’68)

Carter (’76)

Bush43 (’00, ’04)

Comfy

Truman (’48)

Bush41 (’88)

Clinton (’92, ’96)

Obama (’08, ’12)

Here are a few important points to note. Five of the six blowouts have been enjoyed by Republicans. The squeakers were evenly divided between the parties. And finally, the comfortable or moderate size victories were gained primarily by Democrats. An interpretation will follow below.

Now consider the composition of the US Congress and Senate. There is of course a natural amount of see-saw over the years, but certain trends are unmistakable. After the dominance by the Democrats during the Roosevelt era, in the years following WWII (1945-1960), control of the House and Senate was fairly evenly divided between the parties. But between 1960 and 1994, the Democrat dominance of the Congress and Senate was stark – often with 2-1 majorities in the Senate and 100-seat or more differences in the House. This changed dramatically in 1994; and that change has perpetuated itself in the ensuing 20 years. While control of the Senate has oscillated, the GOP – with the exception of four years – has controlled the House, often by substantial majorities. In order to match the recent prolonged GOP dominance, one must go back nearly a century. Moreover, the nature of the GOP caucus is much more conservative than at any time over that century.

Next, we consider statewide dominance by party. We shall use two measures – which party controlled the governor’s mansion, and in how many states did one party control both houses of the state legislature? In these regards, the data reinforces what we have seen for the Congress and Senate; in fact, it is even more striking. From the mid-50s through 1994, the Dems overwhelmingly controlled the state legislative houses in a majority of the states (often as many as two-thirds of the states) and usually by a margin of three-to-one. This changed dramatically in 1994 and, with few exceptions, the years since then have seen the GOP in control of both state legislative houses in three fifths of the states; which Democrats do likewise in no more than 30% of the nation.

We see the same pattern in the governor’s mansions. With few exceptions, the Dems controlled more governorships than the GOP from the end of WWII through 1994. Since then, again with very few exceptions, the roles have reversed.

What are we to make of all this information? I maintain that it strongly suggests the following. In the last twenty years, there has been a dramatic and unquestionable shift in the overall US electorate to the right. At all levels – except for the presidential – the composition of the body of elected federal and state officials has shifted dramatically away from Democrats and toward Republicans. Now the composition of the parties has also changed drastically in the last thirty or so years. Traditionally, there was a conservative wing of the Democrat Party (primarily, but not exclusively, in the south). Blue Dogs they were called. They no longer exist. Your average elected Democrat Party official today is overwhelmingly likely to be liberal, and in more cases than not, strikingly so. The center of gravity of the Democrat Party has shifted, incredibly, far to the left and, if the events of the Obama era are indicative, that center of gravity continues to drift left.

Secondly, the GOP once had a rather liberal wing (primarily, but not exclusively, in the northeast). In fact, the liberal/moderate wing of the party was more than a significant component of the Republican Party – for decades, it controlled the party. The “house-cleaning” of the GOP has not been anywhere near as complete as in the Democrat Party; and the GOP has not shifted to the right nearly as much as the Dems have migrated left. But there is no question that the average GOP elected official today is more conservative than at any time in the last 85 years.

Moreover, the info already cited suggests that the same is true of the American electorate. The dramatically increased GOP proportion of statewide or locally elected federal and state officials demonstrates it conclusively. So how is it possible that the Dems have won the presidency in four of the last six presidential elections; and in the other two, they actually won the popular vote in one and narrowly lost it in the other?

The answer is that the composition of the electorate is drastically different in a presidential election than it is in any other national or statewide election. This is the only sensible explanation. In fact, the nature of that difference is rather evident upon examination:

        • The percentage of the electorate that votes in presidential elections is significantly higher than it is in other elections. Who are these extra voters?
  • The apathy of the American electorate at election time is well-known; in recent decades, roughly 55% turn out to vote for president. But the participation rate in non-presidential elections is more like 35%. Again, which voters do we find in the missing 20%?
  • Rightly or wrongly, voters attach greater significance to presidential elections than to congressional or state elections. They see the outcome of their choice as more influential in their lives, their jobs, and their family; more significant for the country, indeed for the world.
  • Perhaps more importantly, the hoopla attending a presidential election dwarfs that for a senator or governor. The people want to be part of the action. They respond to the increased exhortations to participate. But the question remains: is there any pattern to the group that responds?
  • I believe the answer is: those who are titillated by the hoopla, those who expect the outcome to have a major impact on their lives; those who do not ordinarily take seriously their civic duty to vote are not simply the low information voters (as conservatives are wont to call them), but more comprehensively, young people, those in the lower socio-economic classes and of course minorities. Exactly the key components of the liberal coalition.
  • One could argue that the elderly should be included in the list. But generally, the elderly vote in great numbers in all elections; their voter participation rate doesn’t change much for presidential elections.

How do we correlate the first set of data on presidential elections with this analysis? Well, if nothing unusual is going on – just your standard significantly left of center Democrat running against your mildly right of center Republican, the presidential electorate that I have described will clearly result in a comfortable Democrat victory. But if there is an absolutely compelling choice (like Reagan against Carter or Ike against Stevenson), then a GOP slaughter ensues. Alternatively, when something unusual or unexpected is in the wind – e.g., an extraordinarily weak Dem candidate (Kerry) or even a suitable Democrat candidate with a special circumstance (like JFK) or a catastrophic national situation (Vietnam in ’68) – then a squeaker results. If things are “normal,” the vastly increased Democrat voter pool guarantees a comfortable Democrat victory.

Therefore, presidential elections will remain a challenge for the GOP. And if this analysis is correct, then in order for a GOP candidate to be successful, he or she must do two things:

  • Fine tune his message in order to attract some of the additional voters who turn out for presidential elections;
  • But without compromising his principles! Reagan showed that it can be done. A strong conservative who articulates well and clearly how conservative policies will help all segments of American society to prosper and be free can overcome the inherently biased, increased electorate by (i) converting some of the occasional voters to his side; and (ii) attracting other non-voters who might be susceptible to the conservative message.

Obama’s policies are injurious to the interests of the great majority of the American people. But the additional liberal leaning folks who turn out in presidential elections put him in office – twice. Mushy middle candidates like Romney, McCain, and Dole cannot compete. The altered electorate poses too great a challenge for them. Both Bushes came from the mushy middle, but they had exceptionally weak opponents. And alas, they governed like the “moderates” that they in fact were.

The liberal Dems that the special presidential electorate has anointed since Nixon did not reflect the political proclivities of the American people – especially since 1994. Their kind can be defeated – as Reagan did. Hopefully another Reagan emerges in the next year.

This essay also appeared in Canada Free Press, as well as in The Intellectual Conservative

A “Broken Windows” Foreign Policy

A review of America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder by Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens is certainly not the first journalist to note that America seems to be in decline. Some who have made this observation couch their analysis in terms of domestic economics, or rule of law, or moral fiber, or even faithfulness to the ideals of the nation’s founders. Stephens’ main thrust is in terms of foreign affairs, international diplomacy, and national power and defense. But even in these aspects, Stephens is not the originator of the observation. What is unique and fascinating in Stephens’ book is the context in which he places the so-called decline – specifically, a clever analogy between Pax Americana and a certain US domestic policing philosophy.

The latter is the notion of “broken windows” policing. This idea, usually attributed to James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, grew popular in response to the dramatic increase in crime in the US over a quarter century (roughly 1960-1985). The theory runs as follow. The police, for example in a metropolitan area, are not only responsible for preventing crime and catching criminals, but more generally with maintaining public peace and order. Traditionally, they did that by concentrating their attention on serious crime and violent criminals – often to the extent of minimizing, even ignoring minor public nuisances like panhandling, loitering, vandalism and even non-violent burglary. The theory of broken windows holds that neighborhoods in which broken windows go unattended invite criminals to commit more serious crimes. The lack of attention to order and lawfulness – manifested by relatively trivial things like broken windows – says that the police are paying no attention to quality of life in that neighborhood and so more serious violations are likely to go undetected – and even when detected, unprosecuted.

Under the leadership of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg and Police Commissioners Bratton and Kelly, New York City forcefully enforced a policy to combat broken windows. Minor crimes, neighborhood vagrancy and vandalism, and low-level disturbances were dealt with vigorously and swiftly. And lo and behold, crime fell drastically in the Big Apple – so much so that New York attained the status of one of, if not ‘the’, safest major cities in the nation, indeed the world.

The method was copied around the country and crime rates plunged throughout the United States. The broken windows policy has its critics, but the numbers don’t lie; by any objective measure, it has been successful in curtailing crime and maintaining law and order in the nation’s cities.

Stephens’ theory is that exactly the reverse has happened in the world over the last two decades and especially since Barack Obama ascended to the residency. The global order – such as it was – enjoyed by the world since the end of WWII was a direct, predictable and verifiable consequence of the role America played in world affairs. Pax Americana was assured by the willingness of the US to take on the role of a benign superpower. We kept the world’s sea lanes open and safe for international commerce; we shielded our allies from Soviet aggression; we struck down tin pot dictators (Hussein, Milosevic, Gadhafi, and Noriega) that threatened regional peace; and we punished rogue organizations (e.g., al Qaeda and Columbian drug cartels) that attacked the West. We weren’t perfect and we made some mistakes. But overall the large presence of American forces, diplomacy, trade and aid assured a more orderly, peaceful and tranquil world than would have been present without our hands-on power.

Stephens suggests that our efforts to “police the world” involved a broken windows philosophy. Of course we dealt with major challenges to world peace – such as the Soviets. But we also paid attention to the broken windows – the relatively minor assaults and transgressions that if left unchecked would signal that no cop was on the beat and thereby engender major breaches of the peace. Examples include: Granada, the Falklands and Libya. In fact, America’s benevolent responses to natural disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haiti earthquake fit into this pattern. When, on the other hand, we refrained from interceding in minor conflagrations (Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia), the local population and the world paid a heavy price.

But now, as Mayor de Blasio abrogates broken windows in New York, President Obama is abrogating it worldwide. America is, if not in decline, than certainly in retreat. Moreover, according to Stephens, it is a bipartisan retreat. The sentiment for retreat is very strong on the left because of its classical pacifist tendencies, its sense that America has not been a force for good in the world, and its strong egalitarian sympathies. But says Stephens, the retreat is also finding favor on the right – among the libertarian wing of the GOP, among “realists” who sense we are incapable of continuing to police the world, and among isolationists who trace their lineage back to Senator Robert Taft. Stephens sees a very precise analogy between America’s attitude today and what existed in the country in the 1920s and 1930s.

Stephens points out that America suffered for more than a decade from Vietnam Syndrome – the idea that our intervention in Vietnam was catastrophically wrong and our recognition of that “mistake” was spot on. However, our desire not to repeat it crippled our nation. We retreated from and abrogated our international responsibilities. The Soviets advanced and our knee jerk reaction was simply summed up in: “We don’t want another Vietnam.” Now many feel similarly about Iraq. Indeed, there are strong signs of an Iraq Syndrome – the feeling that our intervention there was a catastrophic mistake of the order of Vietnam and we should never repeat it. Again, this is crippling our ability to respond – this time to the Islamist menace.

At the conclusion of the book, Stephens lays out a scenario for a resumption of Pax Americana; albeit more modest in its goals. However, he does not strike a very optimistic note.

The strengths of Stephens’ book are many. He writes clearly, with great moral clarity. The historic parallels are carefully and cleverly drawn. And as mentioned the analog he uncovers between the broken windows policing philosophy and America’s role in Pax Americana is brilliant. Here are some representative samples of Stephens’ extraordinary prose:

No great power can treat foreign policy as a spectator sport and hope to remain a great power. A world in which the leading liberal-democratic nation does not assume its role as world policeman will become a world in which dictatorships contend, or unite, to fill the breach. Americans seeking a return to an isolationist garden of Eden—alone and undisturbed in the world, knowing neither good nor evil—will soon find themselves living within shooting range of global pandemonium. It would be a world very much like the 1930s, another decade in which economic turmoil, war weariness, Western self-doubt, American self-involvement, and the rise of ambitious dictatorships combined to produce the catastrophe of “World War II. … To say America needs to be the world’s policeman is not to say we need to be its priest, preaching the gospel of the American way. Priests are in the business of changing hearts and saving souls. Cops merely walk the beat, reassuring the good, deterring the tempted, punishing the wicked. Nor is it to say we should be the world’s martyr. Police work isn’t altruism. It is done from necessity and self-interest. It is done because it has to be and there’s no one else to do it, and because the benefits of doing it accrue not only to those we protect but also, indeed mainly, to ourselves. Not everyone grows up wanting to be a cop. But who wants to live in a neighborhood, or a world, where there is no cop?

Since World War II Europeans have relied on U.S. security guarantees to make up for the inadequacies in their own defenses; they have been able, as Robert Kagan suggested a decade ago, to live in a Kantian world of “perpetual peace” because the United States was rooted in a Hobbesian world of power. But U.S. security guarantees are no longer what they once were. If the result of the Retreat Doctrine is an America with entitlement programs that resemble Europe’s, it will eventually have a military that resembles Europe’s too. And it will have the same reluctance to pursue military options to deal with geopolitical crises. European policy makers need to begin thinking about their long-term security outlook in a world in which Uncle Sam has decided to take a European-style vacation from history. In the meantime, Americans may consider that the reason Europe was able to afford that long holiday from history is because a friendly power across the sea was prepared to devote immense resources to its defense. When Americans go on that holiday, who will be minding the store for us?

Barack Obama loves to talk about rules. When North Korea launched a ballistic missile in 2009, he warned that “rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” When the regime of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons to murder more than one thousand people in Damascus in 2013, he insisted that “what happened to those people—to those children—is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our country.” After Russia seized Crimea in 2014, he denounced the Kremlin for “challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident, that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future. The language is elegant; the words are true. Yet the warnings rarely amount to very much….This is how we arrive at a broken-windows world: Rules are invoked but not enforced. Principles are idealized but not defended. International law is treated not as a complement to traditional geopolitical leadership but as the superior alternative to it… One window breaks, then all the others. The old expectations for order and the perpetuation of order no longer hold. If the American president lacks the moral will or the political stomach to enforce his chemical red line in Syria, what dissuades Tehran from marching across his nuclear red line? If the United States will do little more than wag its finger over Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian territory—an act the Kremlin justifies with reference to historic and ethnic claims—what stops China from behaving likewise with Taiwan? If the United States won’t honor the 1994 Budapest Memorandum by which Kiev gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a guarantee of its borders, why should Japan or Israel trust similar paper promises?”

On the down side, I believe that there are also some flaws and gaps in Stephens’ analysis:

  • I believe he makes too much of his perceived bipartisan nature of the choice to retreat. There is definitely some of that on the right (as pointed out), but the overwhelming impetus comes from the left. Stephens is not always clear enough about how Obama desires this course of action and how the left does not care at all about the deleterious effects Stephens outlines. The left welcomes them. It believes that America has no moral right to lead the world; that our past leadership has resulted in more harm than good; and that we deserve to be just one among the nations of the world – not exceptional.
  • Stephens also focuses mostly on the US, whereas the retreat is really a concerted action of the entire West. The countries of Western Europe began their retreat almost a half century before we did and the state of their decline is much further advanced than ours. Although, Obama seems determined to catch up.
  • Stephens also doesn’t really point out that our global retreat is paralleled by an equally dangerous domestic retreat. Again, like the countries of Western Europe, we seem to be losing confidence in – indeed abrogating the founding ideals of our nation. The moral rot in America may not be as advanced as it is in France or Italy, but we’re headed in the same direction. The decline and retreat of America is national as well as global.
  • Finally, he doesn’t focus enough on the subversive elements in the country that foster the retreat – leftists, Muslims, much of the mainstream media and America’s hyper-partisan public educational system. Americans didn’t wake up one morning and decide to retreat. We are being programmed by domestic subversive elements that welcome the prospect.

However, overall, Stephens has written a powerful book with a compelling message and a dire warning. Americans should take his message to heart.

This review also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative