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:

 

 

 

Feeling Good on a Wednesday

“Yeah yeah, feeling good on a wednesday. Sparkling thoughts, gimme the hope to go on. What I need now is a little bit of shelter.”
-Randy Marsh

Few things delight me like the sight of elite liberal handwringing turning to meltdown on CNN and MSNBC during an electoral beatdown such as the one they suffered last night. Republicans fared better than punditry predicted, particularly in governors races in the Great Lakes and Northeast regions where Democrats typically reign supreme. Turning state houses red in Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts while maintaining important governor holds in Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Nevada, Ohio and Florida means that whoever is the Republican nominee for 2016 will face a friendlier environment in many important states.

The big story of course is that Republicans took over control of the Senate, relegating Harry Reid to minority leader and assuring that his legacy be forever tainted with the just imprimatur of “worst Senate leader ever.” He really will live in infamy as the most god-awful majority leader our hallowed deliberative body has ever seen. The demagoguery and flaunting of Senate rules and traditions are already stuff of legend, but his real sin lies in the comprehensive undoing of regular order he presided over, where the agenda was jealously guarded in order to protect the president and his vulnerable members from any accountability whatsoever. Amendments were virtually extinct in the Reid Senate, as were debate and appropriations. In lieu of anything substantive happening, the Reid Democrats instead spent their time and energy on such pressing matters as goading a professional sports franchise into sacrificing its nickname on the altar of political correctness. That and insisting on a daily basis that a couple of rich libertarian private citizens were a pernicious threat to democracy. Koch-shaming, like the “war on women,” climate change and race-baiting, failed to motivate people to vote Democrat and, if there is any cosmic justice, will mean the end of these cheap, dishonest, painfully cynical political tactics for the foreseeable future (I know it won’t, but a man can dream).

It was just a thorough repudiation of progressivism across the board, from federal to state to local. Sure there was the vexing and annoying fact that minimum wage measures won in several red states, resulting in just an epic face-palm. But fine, if the left thinks that the minimum wage is their silver-lining in this election, let them. I hope they try to make it the chief plank in Hillary’s platform, just to watch Rand Paul or Scott Walker or whoever calmly and judiciously explain why it is economic malpractice. But what does it say when this is literally the best news the left can take from last night’s election? It means the entirety of the modern progressive governing model (expansive government, robust public unions and government employment, high taxes and regulations, etc) is being given the thumbs down. The Democratic governor-elect of Rhode Island ran on an explicitly anti public union/pension reform platform and won. Eventually, even progressives and their kin in blue states get mugged by economic reality, and while they aren’t necessarily all ready to renounce membership in the identity politics tribe, they are apparently ready to give Republicans the reins in several of the darkest blue states. I say ten years until 90% of these United States have Republican governors.

The progressives got embarrassed last night, look embarrassed today, and should go to bed embarrassed tonight. Meanwhile, I am indeed feeling good on a wednesday. Ya ya ya.

 

 

Rand and The Establishment

I imagine quite the discussion going on at the RNC and within the broader establishment organs of the party right now regarding Rand Paul. He has just spent a full year demonstrating his promise in communities not known for voting Republican, while fending off vicious attacks from both left and right over everything from his thoughts on certain legislation from 1964 to charges of an isolationist foreign policy to his supposed support for “amnesty” (the latter claim is farcical, but popular in the comments of many a conservative publication). And he has maintained his popularity and appeal throughout, capitalizing on the mainstream media’s utter confusion about what to make of him, leading to their giving him all the more free publicity.

He essentially checks all the key boxes the party brass laid out in the 2012 autopsy as far as reaching out to new voters and expanding the tent for the GOP. In May, Paul polled 29% support among Kentucky blacks in a hypothetical 2016 matchup with Hillary Clinton. His outreach is working. If the GOP nominee in 2016 garnered even 19% of the national black vote, there would not be a bigger story in America. The blight of our urban cities and the fact that national democrats have cynically perpetuated poverty and misery for millions by cultivating victimization and contempt in the black community is an enduring national disgrace, and many blacks seem open to a message of just… something, anything different. Rand has been speaking to that in earnest for a whole year. 19% could be a low estimate of the breakthrough he could have with black voters.

And the same script applies to the youth vote, only double. Rand could easily win half the nation’s millennials, partly on the strength of his message and appeal, but also because they have been mugged by progressive economic reality and are ready to hear more about uber and less about the minimum wage.

The RNC and the big money donors have to see this. And yet, there is the obvious tension regarding foreign policy, which I think is overblown and based on a caricature of who Paul is, but nevertheless is grounded in principle and is a legitimate ongoing debate. But I really wonder what many donors and establishment types are smoking when they consider how Bush or Christie or Romney or Walker or even Rubio could make a serious dent in all these voting communities who have been giving Republicans the back of the hand of late. It really can only be Paul or Cruz if you want to be bold and grow the party through a concentration on liberty and reducing government’s imprint. They are really only the ones who both get it and can articulate “it.” I have my doubts that Cruz can expand the tent as much as Rand and I suspect he would ultimately lose, though I will not protest if he is the Republican nominee because at the very least he would offer the clearest of choices and is capable of eloquently making the case for free market capitalism and deregulation.

In the end, Cruz would be a great choice but Paul is the best choice.

And for all the anti-Rand sentiment that exists on our side, I do wonder why I never really hear anyone address how else to grow the party and make the brand more attractive to the young and marginalized who have been so dis-served by the left? Who else has a plan besides Paul? The establishment needs to recognize that it can’t implement its pet policies – whether on foreign policy or immigration or tax reform – without first securing victory. And if we know one thing about politicians of every shade and stripe, winning elections is the goal, as that is the business they’ve chosen. Given this simple reality and the fact that establishment consensus rests on another simple reality that says Republicans must reach out to non-traditional constituencies if they want to win nationally again, it seems obvious that Rand Paul and the establishment (particularly the foreign policy establishment) should declare detente and act together to leverage some of Paul’s outreach into a lasting presence with new voters. That cooperation depends on the establishment’s willingness to accept that the new voters Rand is courting are attracted to him because of his libertarian outlook on many issues. “Libertarian” still scares the pants off of significant swathes of the GOP, but thankfully libertarianism is trending in the right direction in the party. Rand has already demonstrated that he can be a team player and help elect establishment Republicans. In return, the Republican party impresarios need to acknowledge Paul’s inspiring effort to conduct outreach and resolve to see him, finally, as an ally rather than an enemy.

On Delusion

In examining progressivism today, it is impossible not to marvel at a fascinating phenomenon: the pronounced delusion of the collective leftwing media. This is not a phenomenon isolated to the left. Neoconservatives and mainstream Republicans were similarly delusional about the reality of their political fortunes amid the drawn-out Iraq war quasi-quagmire. Resorting to cheap nationalism and cynical “with us or against us” rhetoric by the time the “Mission Accomplished” banner had faded from memory, the Bush administration demonstrated an unseemly instinct to wield “patriotism” as a cudgel against anyone not displaying the requisite enthusiasm for foreign nation-building.Substitute “Iraq” with “Obamacare” and you see the same delusions infecting the progressives as happened to the neocons almost a decade ago. While substantively different (obvi), Iraq and Obamacare are similar political issues because they are both immense crosses to bear for the party who brought them forth. Each stands today as a symbol of political overreach and as a bleating warning to its respective partisans of which road not to hoe. And today’s Democrats are following gloriously in the deluded footsteps of yesterday’s Republicans by studiously emulating the latter’s stubborn denial about what the Iraq war was doing to its credibility and pretending that Obamacare is not likewise shepherding their party into a single-issue ditch.

The left is essentially undergoing a psychological pep rally and its most committed media denizens are trying to convince themselves that Obamacare is fine. This is no small feat, as progressives from the New Republic to the Daily Kos are wringing their hands over the potential political cataclysm that awaits them in November. Debacle, thy name is Obamacare. Still, there are already signs that some of the loudest progressive cheerleaders are turning the page and moving on. Breathless reporting of “nothing to see here” has predictably flowed from Ezra Klein, Alec MacGillis, Kevin Drum, Michael Tomasky and, of course, the cadre of statist enthusiasts at MSNBC. I share Jonah Goldberg’s delight in discovering the word fremdschämenwhich describes the feeling one gets from watching people embarrass themselves while oblivious to the fact that they are embarrassing.

Delusional people acting delusionally are usually going to be embarrassing, and by the very act of deluding themselves into believing an alternate reality, they lose all capacity for self-awareness or psychoanalysis. I defy any sane person to eschew fremdschämen when listening to someone like Debbie Wasserman Schultz say something like this. It is easy to assume that much of the inanities spewing from the mouths of the delusional do not in fact reflect a confused mind but rather an intentionally malicious and deceptive one. But that underestimates the powerful effect of collective delusion. With so much at stake in a country divided into separate factions over a fundamental disagreement about the nature of the liberal society, it does not require a genius to understand the urgency of partisan politics (particularly in a de facto two-party system such as ours). However, it should be equally obvious that institutional parties might succumb to self-deception on occasions when their political mission loses its mandate with the voters. Nothing sparks a bout of collective delusion like a threat to power. Like Republicans in 2006 seeing the writing on the wall but refusing to read it, the Democrats today know that Obamacare is crippling their hold on power, they just refuse to admit it.

Political inertia is a powerful thing; stagnation lingers longer than it should because things at rest tend to stay at rest. Once motion of the sort that Obamacare is creating gets started, there is little to slow it down, let alone stop it. Things in motion tend to stay in motion. The pandora’s box that Democrats were too cocky and hubristic to care that they were opening has unleashed a powerful torrent of voter animosity and hostility directed at President Obama and the Democrats. Lying tends to arouse passions in people, who knew? Mass delusion is the inevitable byproduct of a party’s massive screw-up. Whether it’s the launching of a silly hegemonic foreign adventure or the arrogant attempt to remake 17% of the national economy by placing government at the center of healthcare, colossal errors that point to guaranteed defeat cause people in both parties to behave like children and to deny the obvious consequences looming in a cold November not too far on the horizon.

Here’s to the next apocalyptic mistake resulting in mass confession and apology, rather than denial and delusion.