“In Quiet Areas, This is Something We Talk About”

pastor corey brooks

Corey Brooks is on a mission to leverage his influence as pastor of New Beginnings Church on the south side of Chicago. He wants to open a dialogue between the community and Republican politicians, an all but endangered species in the inner city. Brooks is asking questions about poverty and political representation, questions that make Democrats uncomfortable for a simple reason. According to Brooks, the Democratic Party has failed the black community.

The question seems permanently on Brooks’ mind. He asks what loyalty to the Democrats has given the south side of Chicago: “We have a large, disproportionate number of people who are impoverished. We have a disproportionate number of people who are incarcerated, we have a disproportionate number of people who are unemployed, the educational system has totally failed, and all of this primarily has been under Democratic regimes in our neighborhoods. So, the question for me becomes, how can our neighborhoods be doing so awful and so bad when we’re so loyal to this party who is in power? It’s a matter of them taking complete advantage of our vote.”

Brooks invited all Republican candidates to the south side to speak and to offer alternatives, an offer taken up so far only by Rand Paul. Brooks’ exasperation at the lack of community improvement and the failure to produce opportunity through the years eventually forced him to realize that “[Democrats] have a failing plan. A business owner wouldn’t allow the person who runs it to remain in charge for 50 years, constantly running it into the ground.” Brooks is open to a new plan, but are others so inclined?

The answer depends on who you ask. Anyone affiliated with Democratic politics is not open to any new plan, as even an acknowledgement of the need for new plans is an indictment of the old one. But if you ask struggling minority households locked into abysmal school districts where even the local McDonalds is out of business, they are more open-minded to doing things differently. Witness the thousands of inner city youth dragged from New York to Albany by their parents to brave the frigid cold in order to tell their governor to leave their charter schools alone. That is real activism, as opposed to the petty identity politics “activism” of narcissists. Single mothers in New York or Chicago (or any major city) fighting for their child’s education is urgent activism, with meaning. The same cannot be said of social media crusaders who think they’re fighting injustice by forcing Mars rover-landing scientists into tearful apologies or by waging war against geeks and gamers. If you’re a social justice warrior with a cause, you need a hashtag. The activism inherent in reforming the criminal justice system, ending the War on Drugs and civil asset forfeiture, reducing mandatory minimums, and offering enterprise freedom zones to boost employment is likewise more consequential than anything associated with “black lives matter” or “hands up don’t shoot.” What is becoming truer by the day across all strata of American life has been true for African-Americans for a long time: the disconnect between politicians and ordinary folk is deep and getting worse. That this is the obvious consequence of an overreaching and intrusive government is of course entirely lost on the left; that is, the politicians, media and elites who form leftist opinion simply refuse to believe the evidence. Among the rank and file and particularly among African-Americans however, the consequences of having big government/public employee union machine dominance in urban America are becoming obvious, and the question is to what degree this translates into political change.

Louisville pastor Kevin Cosby is concerned with the same issues as in Chicago, and like Brooks he likes what he hears from Rand Paul. Judging the senator’s outreach sincere, Cosby declared “NO ONE in this country is crafting a better message of uplift for the African American community than Rand Paul.” Is it a coincidence that black leaders motivated to effect positive change are responding favorably to Rand Paul? While “Nixon Goes to China” is perhaps a stretch, Paul’s efforts to expand the Republican tent by going where few Republicans dare are being treated mostly as genuine and earnest. Others sneer that this is all so much opportunism and besides, have you heard what he said to Maddow about the Civil Rights Act five years ago? Increasingly though, the sneers are dwindling as much of the community for whom Paul aims to chart a better course see the failure of progressive politics more pronounced each day.

Of course, if Paul’s ideas for the black community continue to gain traction or if he wins the nomination, the left will orchestrate such a mind-numbing campaign of “Paul the Racist” that it will make their treatment of Romney’s career at Bain look like they were pulling for the guy. And no one should be under any illusions that the moment for paradigm-shifting political upheavals is necessarily upon us. Electoral transformations don’t happen overnight and anyway the dream scenario for Paul probably includes something approaching a quarter of the vote. That would be up from Romney’s six percent share of African-Americans but still a minority of the black population. But anything even in the ballpark of twenty five percent for Paul would ignite a firestorm in Washington, especially among Democrats, because such a feat would not only guarantee a Paul win but would blow up the Democratic coalition and send it into total chaos. It is remarkable that imagining such a disruption occurring in 2016 is even possible, but it is. And given how the left paints conservatives as helplessly retrograde bigots, the fact that a small but growing segment of African-Americans are expressing frustration with the Democratic model by flirting with Republicans and inviting shrieks of Uncle Tom! and sellout! shows that we may soon cross the Rubicon. If the left’s racial politics begin to peter out and the black vote becomes less monolithic in the years to come, it will stand as an historic triumph of reality over rhetoric.

Corey Brooks hopes to see the reality of Democratic failure prevail upon the minds of his neighbors and friends. It will come as no surprise to learn that he still faces a mountain to climb. When he bravely endorsed Republican Bruce Rauner for Illinois governor he was met with the usual denunciations and even death threats. Perhaps Rauner’s unprecedented victory in the heart of machine union politics heralds a bright future where more than a few people living in poverty – of all backgrounds – are open to the message of actual hope and change that both Corey Brooks and Rand Paul are selling. “In quiet areas,” says Brooks, “this is something we talk about.”

May the conversation continue.

Solid as Iraq

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
– Proverbs 11:2

In politics, disgrace does not follow pride and there are no such things as humility or wisdom. Partly this is because politics attracts the type of people who “think that it is not the system which we need fear, but the danger that it might be run by bad men,” as Friedrich Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom. The belief that there is nothing wrong with a bloated, oppressive, administrative bureaucracy actively engaged in managing the economy should be woefully outdated and subject to mockery. Alas, this idea retains decent heft in America and the broader West. Worse is the belief among federal bureaucrats that they are called to do important work on behalf of “society.” Worse still is they believe they are “public servants” arbitrating what’s fair and proper in civic life. But the absolute worst aspect of it all is how proud they are to play petty authoritarian. Whether it’s an IRS middle manager, an EPA busybody or an EEOC scold, American life is now regulated to the point of oppression by a class of elite social justice warriors who are all too happy for the opportunity. This is the subject of Charles Murray’s new bookBy the People, which calls for a form of conservative civil disobedience by way of noncompliance with the regulatory state. But the left is exceedingly proud of their regulatory state – they did build that, and over a long period and a “long march.” They are never going to part with it willingly or lightly; their identity depends on its preservation.

If only this was confined to the left. The reality though is that the faction of conservatives who base their identity more or less on American global power are similarly in thrall to pride. The spectacle that was Jeb Bush fumbling soft ball questions on the Iraq War last week was both instructive and foreboding. We got crystal clear confirmation that Jeb is surrounded by the same elite cadre of foreign policy hawks as was his brother George. We got warning that proponents of the war had undergone a level of soul-searching akin to that of Sauron after his first defeat. I would bet everything I own that without the advice of his team, Jeb would have answered Megyn Kelly’s “knowing what we know now” Iraq hypothetical with an unequivocal “no.” But Jeb is not without that advice, because that advice comes from a donor class and an establishment GOP mostly wedded to the idea that the Iraq War was basically the right call.

Hovering in the ether ever since the Democrats’ 2006 midterm romp is an obvious political truth, one which precious few on the right want to accept. The truth is this: the war in Iraq was devastating to conservatism and the Republican party. This devastation had layers. The first layer was the practical impact on the party, which suffered from both honest and dishonest partisan attacks by the Democrats and therefore limped into the post-Bush era discredited and with all the confidence and swagger of a beaten dog. The second layer has to do with how principled conservatism itself was discarded by the Bush administration. Despite pursuing a brave and fortuitous tax cut agenda, George W. Bush governed as a progressive Republican, aka a “compassionate conservative.” Federal spending skyrocketed, add-ons to entitlements were enthusiastically adopted and that once proud disciple of the Reagan-Laffer school of fiscal conservatism, Dick Cheney, opined that “deficits don’t matter.” That champions of the Bush legacy and adherents to the neoconservative worldview are one and the same today is not surprising. What is surprising is they lack any self-awareness or humility and instead prefer to look at their foreign policy record and bask in pride.

There was very little reason for conservatives to rally around Bush in 2004 beyond pride in the tribe. Compassionate conservatism was a disaster that ushered in Medicare D and No Child Left Behind. The “ownership society” Bush wished to cultivate was corrupted by the Fed and congressional loan edicts to mortgage lenders, setting the scene for the 2008 crash. The only reason Bush won in 2004 was because the war led Republican voters to dutifully vote to keep their tribe in power for fear of what the other would do. Now eleven years on, the other tribe is gearing up to rally around someone they don’t particularly like but to whom they owe loyalty and deference because again, pride and tribe, and again, those other bastards would be worse.

Because ultimately, depressingly, inevitably…. we’re all tribal animals and it will always be so, to a degree. What is the point though of living in a tribal democracy, where the mob reigns? Despite the fact that it is the natural condition of democracies to have competing tribes looking to get to 51% so that they may force their preferences and mandates on the other 49%, the American model is supposed to be something quite different. We are a republic because the founding generation looked askance at democracy. Pure, majoritarian democracy is indistinguishable from mob rule, whereas a republic would be healthier than a democracy because a combination of representative democracy with an ingrained respect for natural rights and common law would cement the centuries long social transition from “status to contract,” meaning a society where prospects and opportunities are contingent on an individual’s freedom to enter into contract instead of on social status or class. Democracy only works if certain first principles and inalienable rights are enshrined forever into the nation’s DNA so that no transient majority can ever deny those natural rights which inform the Declaration of Independence.

The parallel rise of the Tea Party along with a rowdy libertarian-minded youth are about far more than tribalism. They are about first principles and the attempt to revive them in the public conscience. The movements are essentially inchoate, schizophrenic attempts by frustrated conservatives and libertarians to reclaim the agenda from the big spending, saber-rattling, deep pocketed GOP elites who not only wish to see their influence preserved, but who insist in all their pride that their righteous motives yielded righteous gains, and anyway, who are you to suggest otherwise, some kind of isolationist?  This is the takeaway from l’affaire Jeb Bush: the GOP foreign policy establishment is simply too proud to admit they committed a fatal error, politically, strategically, morally. “Most of the Republican presidential candidates would have invaded Iraq. Despite protestations to the contrary, few of them have truly learned the lessons of the war,” says James Antle at The Week. There is nothing in the founding and nothing in conservatism that says nation building abroad  or preemptive war is desirable, and yet “even today, the true conventional wisdom in the GOP seems to be that the only mistakes that were made in Iraq were invading with too few troops and withdrawing too soon.”

When the party which is supposed to stand for limited constitutional government that maximizes individual freedom eventually abandons its fixation with mimicking the domestic progressive project on the global stage and returns to its notional commitment to free markets and federalism, then that will be party worthy of my pride. Until then, all the elites in both parties should take a moment to consider why exactly growing government and expanding arbitrary power (whether with OSHA or the DHS) at the expense of ordinary taxpayers is anything to be proud of.

Or maybe the GOP is actually G.O.B.?

Iraq? Solid as a rock!

solid as a rock

 

The Democratic Deluge

In today’s Washington Post, Richard Cohen writes:

“As my colleague Dan Balz has pointed out, the past two midterm elections have done to the Democratic Party what World War I did to the French political elite — decimated it. What was lost was not just individual races but the future. Republicans will now control 23 states — the governorship and the legislature — while the Democrats will have just seven. States, in the coinage of Justice Louis Brandeis, are the laboratories of democracy. They’re where both interesting ideas and personalities often come from.”

It wasn’t policy or race or ideology that sank the Democrats at state level. It was attitude. Since things started to go south with Obamacare – still the most consequential policy moving voters to throw out Democrats – the progressive left adopted an ill-advised but wholly of a piece with their worldview posture: the American people are stupid.

The left said we were stupid for not appreciating their awesome economy and all the jobs “saved” by stimulus, Dodd-Frank, and countless regulations on commerce and capital. Never mind that the labor participation rate plummeted while unemployment benefits, food stamps and other dependency programs championed by Democrats were accelerated. Never mind that the ACA rewards business for keeping employees under 40 hrs/week or that environmental zealots at EPA have crushed the coal industry and sent Appalachia into a real depression. Leftists who today insist that Democrats should have run harder on their economic record are implicitly (or explicitly, as in Jonathan Gruber’s case) saying again that Americans are stupid, because they just couldn’t register the great economic gains that would be apparent were they smarter, and therefore the message needs to be crafted to jibe with the simpletons.

But the coup de grace of the Democratic Party’s institutional decimation is indeed the Affordable Care Act, No matter how much New Republic or Vox or Slate you read, Obamacre is still a massive albatross on Democrats and progressivism writ large. And again, for all the tangible policy failure in Obamacare – community rating, IPAB, expansion of Medicaid, mandatory benefits, absence of real choice for doctors and/or coverage – it was the attitude of its proponents that animated such an electoral drubbing. For as soon as Obamacare’s disastrous rollout and corresponding revelation that millions would be losing their plans and doctors as a result confronted the left with a serious dilemma, their solution was to double down on saying “you’re doing it wrong.” That may fly as a meme or clever retort on a message board, but it is not a good course of action to go about telling people directly harmed by a coercive, expansionary new law that what they had before for health insurance was a “crap plan” or that they’re being selfish for objecting to a federal government mandate to purchase insurance.

Throughout the rollout debacle, all anyone on the left spoke about was how confused everyone was, or how they were reacting to “misinformation” or how even if they were being forced into higher premiums and deductibles with fewer choices for networks and doctors, that they should shut up and accept it anyway, as now they will enjoy “better” plans with “first world” coverage and also how can you complain when we’re giving poor people free insurance?

When this all went down I said “if the GOP doesn’t have 55 senators as a result of this single issue next year…” OK, so I was probably off by one. But make no mistake, if the Democrats don’t address their progressive wing, they are going to continue losing, as the progressives know no other way than to continue making it their life’s mission to coerce the whole country into accepting their preferred narrative for how things are. In that endeavor, only one-size-fits-all top-down answers will do, and any talk of federalism or states’ rights is to be shouted out of polite discussion. For progressives, the work of social justice is all too important to be left up to transient whims of voters or to be interfered with by a nostalgia for ancient parchment concerning inalienable rights. Rights are what government gives you as far as the left is concerned, and it follows that if government itself (and not nature as our Founders believed) is the lone arbiter of the dispensation of rights, then it will have to be somewhat authoritarian in its administration of such a huge undertaking.

The lesson of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid era for normal, middle of the road liberals is to reject the nascent authoritarianism found in the nether regions of progressive and academic othodoxy. The bullying attitude that says only progressives are “on the right side of history” suggests therefore that anyone who politically disagrees is on the wrong side of history. Besides the silliness of an argument where one side proclaims its place in something that has not yet been determined (and therefore does not yet exist), the obnoxious arrogance of a political faction claiming to be at the vanguard of good and decency is bound to get under the skin of the opposition. The election results revealed the degree of pushback political movements get when they presume to act like they know what’s best for the rest of us. And there you go. Let’s see if the left learns from this and makes any changes, or will it rationalize away the defeat and return in the New Year with the same level of conceit they’ve exhibited for the last few years?

Forgive me however, for being pessimistic about the party which has of late attempted to repeal the 1st amendment, celebrates speech codes and censorship on campus, says the phrase “trigger warning” without a trace of irony, holds religious freedom in outright contempt, either fundamentally misunderstands or else legitimately despises capitalism and the free market, and believes ultimately in the tyranny of the majority, all in the name of fairness or equality or some other mindless bromide. Based on the evidence, the safe bet is that in no time, the left will be back asserting their superiority over us rubes and telling us in so many words, “we’re smarter than you.”

That kind of attitude and posture is how you end up with a Democratic deluge of defeat on election day. Also, literally calling the American voter “stupid” shouldn’t play very well moving forward. Watch: