Two items via Andrew Sullivan: In one, Ross Douthat mulls over the question of what might constitute the most promising shape for a future GOP coalition: an aliance of "Joe the Plumber and Joe the Office Park Employee," or one that would appeal to "upper-middle reformism" as formulated by David Frum? Douthat is somewhat skeptical as to whether a message aimed at "the Obama-voting, ex-Rockefeller Republicans making $150,000 a year" would harmonize well with one pitched at the Wall-Mart Republicans he and Reihan Salam have argued should be at the center of a conservative revival, arguing that
building a coalition of social conservatives and social moderates from the middle of the income and education distribution makes much more political sense than trying to hold together a coalition of social conservatives from the middle of the distribution and social liberals from the upper end.At any rate, Douthat's entire analysis is premised on the revival of the GOP as, in his words, "a party that restores its reputation for competence and policy seriousness." Trouble is, as Mark Lilla explains in the Wall Street Journal, the Sarah Palin episode - and, one might add, the retrenchment of conservative movement elites in its aftermath - is dispositive evidence that the right has not only abandoned that reputation, it has comprehensively repudiated intellectual seriousness in favor of a debased appeal to talk-radio populism and "anti-elite" know-nothingism.
Rudy's trying to make nice with the Christian right rebels. The LA Times reports that Giuliani has accepted an invitation to attend, along with the rest of the Republican field, the "values voter summit" sponsored by Tony Perkins's Focus on the Family in Washington on October 20. Perkins, of course, is one of the "secretive" Council for National Policy illuminati who has been talking up the idea of a Christian right third-party campaign should Giuliani win the GOP nomination.
The latest poll highlights the potential challenges for Giuliani, but the numbers must be considered in context. A generic third-party candidate may attract 14% of the vote in the abstract at this time. However, if a specific candidate is chosen, that person would likely attract less support due to a variety of factors. Almost all third party candidates poll higher earlier in a campaign and their numbers diminish as election day approaches. Ultimately, of course, some Republicans would have to face the question of whether to vote for Giuliani or help elect a Democrat.
Cross-posted at The Right's Field.
A new radio ad boasts that Rudy Giuliani "cut or eliminated 23 taxes" while mayor of New York City, a boast he and his supporters have repeated many times on the campaign trail. We find that to be an overstatement. Giuliani can properly claim credit for initiating only 14 of those cuts.
In fact, he strongly opposed one of the largest cuts for which he claims credit, reversing himself only after a five-month standoff with the city council. In addition, the ad's claim that Giuliani turned the budget deficit he inherited into a surplus, while true enough, ignores the fact that he also left a multibillion-dollar deficit for his successor, not including costs associated with 9/11.
[A] closer look at the numbers show he's claiming credit for some tax cuts that weren't his idea to begin with. And others that he actively opposed.
For instance, seven tax cuts that he says were his were actually initiated by New York State. Giuliani may have supported the measures, but they were never floated by his office. That's according to the Independent Budget Office, a publicly funded watchdog group.
Then there's the granddaddy of New York tax cuts -- the ending of a 12.5% surcharge on personal income tax. Giuliani cites it as his No. 1 achievement on taxes -- and he did initially propose it, but then later dropped his support for the measure, even fighting it before finally giving in to the city council. It was the largest New York City tax cut in history.
Ramesh Ponnuru raises some interesting arguments, building off a debate with Thomas Edsall from May. His original point was that "The relative social conservatism of the Republican party has increased over the last twenty years, not decreased."
Abortion has been the biggest of the social issues. For three decades, Gallup has asked Americans whether they think abortion should never be permitted, should always be permitted, or should sometimes be permitted. The results from 2005 do not look markedly more liberal than the results from 1975. So these polls give us no reason to think that opposition to abortion has lost political power, or is likely to do so.If this is so, then it's all the more ironic that abortion has lost political power -- not thanks to public opinion, but thanks to the maneuvering of the economic conservatives who have been consolidating their control of the GOP coalition. Abortion was one of the political pillars of the Republican party, and now the party is abandoning it altogether? Either the issue really has lost salience, or the GOP is undertaking a curious strategy indeed. I think it's a little of both, myself, but time will tell.
A society can simultaneously become more socially liberal and create new political opportunities for social conservatives. It is, after all, the liberalization to which the conservatives react.This speaks to why I think that social conservatism represents a stronger electoral future for the GOP than economic conservatism. Particularly so considering that the so-called fiscal conservatism embraced by the party's current opinion makers isn't really fiscal conservatism at all, but the weird cult of supply-side economics.
Now of course public opinion on an issue can change so much that the old conservative position is no longer tenable, and successful candidates can no longer take it. If only 10 percent of the population still opposes gay marriage in 20 years, it won’t be an issue then, either. When public opinion changes that much, however, the issues get redefined. A new conservative position emerges, more liberal than the previous one but less liberal than the contemporary liberal one. And this new conservative position sometimes has a lot of political power.
Cross-posted at The Right's Field.
Cross-posted at Alien The Right's Field.
I’m not sure Republicans are wrong about this. When a GOP candidates says, “Vote for me — and I’ll work out the details later,” I’d love for there to be consequences. There never are. In 2000, Bush’s vague and ambiguous tax plan didn’t make any sense. Al Gore tried to make it a campaign issue, but the media ignored it and voters didn’t care. In 2004, Bush said more than once that he could privatize Social Security without raising taxes, raising the deficit, cutting benefits, or raising the retirement age. How did he propose to pull that off? He didn’t — he just mentioned ideas and goals without any details. There were no political consequences.One of the neat tricks Republicans managed to pull off during much of the past decade or two was to earn a reputation as both the party of principles and the party of ideas. Logically, those two things may be connected, but as Benen's analysis suggests, in a practical sense it can be difficult to wear both hats at the same time. When you spend a lot of time on wonky policy details, it can be hard to express basic foundational principles in a clear way. At the same time, when all you talk about are principles, your rhetoric can be so divorced from reality that it becomes meaningless.
In fact, American voters don’t seem to care all that much about the details in advance. A candidate talks about what he or she finds important, and how he or she would approach the issue if elected. Voters either agree or disagree. If a candidate were to make some kind of outlandish campaign promise — free ice cream for everyone, every day, for four years — there would probably be a higher expectation to explain how that might work, but a more general policy prescription needs a lot fewer support materials.
This Media Matters report won't surprise you, but it should infuriate you. They actually contacted almost every daily newspaper in the U.S. on an individual basis to collect the data to show that conservatives are greatly over-represented in the opinion pages. On the plus side, I remember coming of age in the 90s just knowing this was true -- it was obvious -- but back then it seemed like there was hardly anyone willing to say or do anything about it. That, at least, has changed.
I'd be very interested to see a liberal entrepreneur create a new syndicate to compete with the titans of the syndication industry. Certainly, the raw materials for such a company are in abundance: the progressive blogosphere is well-stocked with a diverse collection of intelligent, articulate writers who can give George Will and Cal Thomas a run for their money. Aside from a chorus of fresh progressive voices, such a syndicate could offer services like localization (helping newspapers identify columnists in their region), integration with social networking sites, and increased writer/reader interaction. No doubt, it would be tough to drum up business, but I think it would be an interesting experiment, and it could help restore balance on op-ed pages.I can't stress enough how important this kind of thinking is (and, again, how different from the hopeless 90's). One of the most fundamental lessons one learns, studying the conservative movment, is that when a movement is shut out from existing institutions, it must innovate. This Media Matters report is an opportunity for progressives, not to complain about how unfair the world is, but to develop innovative strategies to get around that unfairness.
A&S is on hiatus for the next few days, but we'll be back soon.
After two years, down comes the pay-wall:
In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free. [...]A good decision by the Paper of Record.
What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.
“What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others,” Ms. Schiller said.
Cross-posted at The Right's Field.
Tavis did a 'Shout out' to his fellow Black Republicans, asking them why they were so silent on this matter. They keep on yapping that the GOP is a valid alternative for Black America, yet, when a nationally televised forum is put together so that GOP Candidates can present what they believe are GOP answers to concerns of the Black community, three of their Major Candidates don't even bother to respect Black Americans with their presence.
I don't know about you but I'm begining to get the impression that much of the Republican field just doesn't care for debates and forums. If it's not a choreographed staging of tightly scripted interactions with supporters enthusiastically waving campaign paraphernalia they're just not interested.
In an Opinion Journal piece reprinted from Commentary, Kay Hymowitz offers a notable exercise in conservative critique of libertarianism. It's timely: as Hymowitz herself observes, with the growth of the internet as a political medium (and for a number of other reasons), the libertarian voice in conservative discourse is more prominent now than it has been in quite some time.
Despite Mr. Lindsey's protestations to the contrary, libertarianism has supported, always implicitly and often with an enthusiastic hurrah, the "Aquarian" excesses that he now decries. Many of the movement's devotees were deeply involved in the radicalism of the 1960s.But of course this simply isn't true. There's a universe of difference between "do what you will so long as you cause no harm to others," and "if it feels good, do it." It seems that the failure to understand this difference is what defines a social conservative, and this is why liberals (including, in this case, libertarians) have such mistrust for conservatives: those who cannot recognize such boundaries cannot be trusted either as moral agents on their own, nor as the guardians of others' morality.
Nor should this come as a surprise. After all, the libertarian vision of personal morality--described by Mr. Doherty as "People ought to be free to do whatever the hell they want, mostly, as long as they aren't hurting anyone else"--is not far removed from "if it feels good, do it," the cri de coeur of the Aquarians. To be sure, part of the libertarian entanglement with the radicalism of the 1960s stemmed from the movement's opposition to both the Vietnam War and the draft, which Milton Friedman likened to slavery. But libertarians were also drawn to the left's revolutionary social posture.
On the one hand, libertarians make a fetish of freedom; it is their totalizing goal. On the other hand, libertarians depend on the family--an institution that, in crucial respects, is unfree--to produce the sort of people best suited to life in a free-market system (not to mention future members of their own movement). The complex, dynamic economy that libertarians have done so much to expand needs highly advanced human capital--that is, individuals of great moral, cognitive and emotional sophistication. Reams of social-science research prove that these qualities are best produced in traditional families with married parents.Hymowitz disputes Lindsey's assertion that "the instincts and abilities for liberty . . . are innate," arguing that such attributes can only be instilled in children who are properly raised by proper families.
Family breakdown, by contrast, limits the accumulation of such human capital. Worse, divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing leave the door wide open for big government. Dysfunctional families create an increased demand for state-funded food, housing and medical subsidies, which libertarians reject on principle. And in courts all over the country, judges who preside over the manifold disputes occasioned by broken families are forced to be more intrusive than the worst mother-in-law: They decide who should have primary custody, who gets a child on Christmas or summer holidays, whether a child should take piano lessons, go to Hebrew school, move to California, or speak to her grandmother on the phone. It is a libertarian's worst nightmare.
Few libertarians, I suspect, would argue that strong traditional family structures are a bad thing. In fact, I’d bet that the vast majority of them would be perfectly pleased to find families doing well. But I think a number of them would resist the idea that, somehow, there’s a social obligation to perpetuate the traditional family structure, and most would also argue that other forms of social arrangements are worth allowing, and might even prove fruitful. This stance might be less supportive of deploying government muscle in order to advance one's personal preferences than some would like, but it's hardly anti-family.Suderman helpfully points out that the old fusionist equation -- "when families fail, government steps in" -- does not express the only government threat to the family; another is presented by the overbearing efforts of conservatives to ensure that everyone's family is socially correct.
In fairness to the libertarians, labels such as pro-family and anti-family are absurd in a way. There are significant social and political consequences that result from legal and property arrangements that bind large, extended families together or from those that encourage the break-up of a household into many separate households. A public authority worried about the dangers of corruption, nepotism and civil strife created by extended family networks would implement laws to discourage that kind of family life, which might earn it the "anti-family" designation from those adversely affected by the change, while a booster of state authority might define it as a pro-family measure if he redefines what family is. Public authority has a vested interest in governing what kinds of families exist, because the different forms of families have consequences for social and political life that extend beyond the walls of the family home.Larison recognizes one of the fundamental flaws of libertarian theory in general: there is no such thing as public neutrality on most issues. For Larison, the important question is "whether there are certain kinds of family life that are most conducive to human flourishing" -- as a genuine social conservative, he believes that the argument is unavoidable and worth having, and if we've come to an agreement, then the question is how to get government to encourage the best kind of family life.
The point is that every act of legal recognition, permission or reinforcement of this or that social arrangement is equally "artificial" in one sense, and the decision to not privilege one form over another is a decision by default to support the emergence of alternative forms.
Hoover Institution fellow and former Reagan advisor Richard Allen has a rambling endorsement of Fred Thompson at the National Review. The point of the piece is to validate the Thompson-as-Reagan idea, but it mainly consists of nostalgic anecdotes about the political genius of the Gipper. Allen says little of substance about Thompson (despite mentioning that he's known him "for many years"), and the whole thing comes off as illustrative of precisely the mindset Thompson must be counting on among conservatives: a willingness to suspend disbelief, fueled by ever-fuzzier and ever-fonder memories of That Other Actor.
It is undoubtedly too early to attribute the same comprehensive and plain-spoken vision to Fred Thompson, although his out-of-the gates speeches and remarks are very reminiscent of Reagan. But if they are there in Thompson they will reveal themselves; the Reagan qualities cannot be feigned or sustained for very long. Deep conviction will always be apparent as a campaign wears on, and the scarcity of it thus far in the wildly early presidential race has been conspicuous by its absence.I've talked about the performativity of modern conservatism a great deal, but what's particularly interesting is how that acting is linked to a sense of conviction. The latter is seen as superior to knowledge, experience, discretion, or skepticism; it's a quality to be treasured in a leader and emulated in practice. But because it trumps knowledge, experience, discretion, and skepticism, because it triumphs over them, conservative conviction ends up being fixed to nothing, really, beyond a self-referential concept of abstract principles. I believe in individual freedom; the meaning and consequences of that statement of belief have nothing to do with testable results and everything to do with how well I project my conviction in that belief.
Allow me to indulge in a blogger cliche: sorry for the lack of posts recently.
Do liberals and conservatives think differently? Yes, according to yet another study. I have mixed feelings about this sort of thing. I largely agree with Peter Suderman, who wonders: what's the point?
But other than giving the blogosphere a secondary story to argue about this week during breaks from analyzing theIt is fun and somewhat instructive in a way. You read a paragraph like this:
PatraeusBush report, there doesn't seem to be too much point to these stories. Yes, conservatives and liberals are different, and some of their differences can ocassionally be shown in stastical form. How novel.
Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions....and you can't help but be amused at the article's very dry way of suggesting that conservatives ("structured and persistent") are stubborn and allergic to facts. The methodology is interesting:
Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.The study's lead author attempts to soften the blow for conservatives by suggesting that their resistance to new information might be useful in certain situations that require focus. But when we're talking about who has his finger on the button, would you really ever want somebody who insists on seeing an M when they should be seeing a W?
M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.
Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.
Researchers got the same results when they repeated the experiment in reverse, asking another set of participants to tap when a W appeared.
Cross-posted at The Right's Field.
The frontrunners are confident, likeable, articulate - conservative enough on issues. Will be interesting to see reactions from Frank Luntz's focus group - more representative than most of us.More representative than a National Review editor? Imagine that! So what did the focus group think of our "likeable, articulate" GOP candidates? David Freddoso fills us in:
Not only did the individual candidates do poorly, but the field performed badly as a whole. After the debate, not one of pollster Frank Luntz’s 29 focus-group members expressed satisfaction with the men on the stage.The people have spoken, the bastards.
Rudy Giuliani’s performance was probably his worst since the first debate. He not only urged voters to ignore his private life, but also said that his private life has not been “terribly different than at least some people in this country.” (“Whoever hasn’t called a press conference to dump his wife and introduce his mistress, let him cast the first stone…”)It wasn't all doom and gloom. Mona Charen liked the exchange between Huckabee and Ron Paul over Iraq, and thought that McCain "managed to make [Romney] look like an overly tentative technocrat." John Pitney, though (same article), seems to think that Rudy could use some more practice weaseling out of questions about his personal life. NRO's Jim Geraghty gives the gold to an "unflappable" Rudy, while pouring scorn on the highly-flappable Tom Tancredo, whom he describes as "an eyeball-popping, jumpy, loud, jittery 1970s sitcom character." Geraghty has praise for Huckabee's "charisma" and McCain's "solid"-ity, but thinks Romney had "an off-night," especially on Iraq. NR Editor Rich Lowry, meanwhile, calls it for McCain, agrees that Romney was "wobbly" on Iraq, and says he dug Rudy, but he wishes the man would shut up about New York already.
And while Rudy Giuliani was no slouch, he became tedious by droning on about his accomplishments as mayor of New YorkWhaddya gonna do, Rudy? People are tired of hearing you bang on about 9/11 all the time. Now they're tired of hearing you bang on about being mayor of NYC all the time. What do you have left to talk about? The ferret menace?
I saw gifted candidates. I saw correct-thinking candidates. But I never saw both these traits in the same person. Granted, I was just called up from AAA ball to cover this major league event, but I’m telling you our bench is just not that deep. Somewhere, somehow, conservatism has gone astray at the highest levels of the movement. Where are our leaders?Johnson, speaking for the base, was encouraged by all the talk of immigration, and particularly by Mitt Romney's "channeling Tom Tancredo" -- though he doesn't trust Multiple Choice Mitt ("an ambitious man") to stick by Tancredo-ist positions for a moment longer than he deems it politically expedient. On Iraq, meanwhile, Johnson is annoyed by the perception that "most of the candidates talked more about how soon we could withdraw than of how important it is to win."
All told, by the end of the evening I was left depressed, unable to see conviction, correctness and charisma emerge in a single candidate. This depression was made worse since all night long, the candidates had invoked Ronald Reagan -- the exemplar of conviction, correctness and charisma for the conservative movement. They invoked him in an attempt to inherent some of his power -- to associate themselves with a dead hero of old. But the comparisons had the opposite effect. All eight on the stage seemed smaller in the shadow of the great man.The same shadow they were struggling to escape three months ago -- and no progress. Maybe they should try a surge.