Elizabeth Warren has to worry about more than Cherokees tomorrow. The Harvard law school professor and sainted champion of the financially reformed middle class will likely face a primary challenger after the state’s Democratic Party Convention on Saturday. That challenger, Marisa Defranco, is a less hawkish immigration lawyer and self-described wisenheimer in need of only 15% of the Convention vote to force a primary–an easily attainable margin, the New York Times reported Sunday.
MA political guru Professor Peter Ubertaccio deems a competition good for the progressive cause:
Progressivism began as more than just a policy regime designed to ameliorate the social and economic inequalities that existed in turn of the 20th century America. It was also an anti-party movement designed to strike at the power party bosses had at their disposal to dispense nominations, control patronage, and obstruct national regulation over state and local affairs. Primary elections emerged as one of the most powerful tools used by progressives to make parties answerable to the party faithful. Ordinary voters gained the right to choose party nominees and that right has been fairly sacrosanct ever since.
But Defranco may make some Democrats nervous because she does not partake of the meliorist progressive tradition: her website announces support for single-payer health care, massive “green jobs” subsidies, opposition to free trade, and outrage over student debt. Defranco is more William Jennings Bryan than Bob Lafollette. And while some of her “issues” prose is slightly awkard–on women: “I do not reduce us simply to our uteri”–her position on Iranian intervention unequivocally guts the usual bipartisan drivel: “We. Are. Not. Going. To. War. With. Iran.” She loathes the military industrial complex, and urges total withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Defranco’s skepticism of bellicosity puts her at odds with the progressive Warren, and the largely neoconservative incumbent Sen. Scott Brown. The less hawkish stance might connect with Bay State voters, who were less-than-thrilled with the aggressive Bush years. And Defranco’s antiwar standard could offer a legitimate alternative to the leading candidates, who show little interest in discussing actual issues.
If Defranco’s authentic bent and underdog status catch on, they could cause trouble for the state’s Democratic machine so effectively derided by Brown in his 2010 victory over Martha Coakley. Early tension has already surfaced. Governor Deval Patrick, known for his close ties to President Obama, has endorsed Warren, inducing an uncomfortable skepticism in Boston Mayor Thomas Mennino, who told the Boston Herald, “This is not the time or the place for endorsements right now.” Warren’s establishment status comes with a large fundraising advantage–according to the Associated Press, her cup overflows with $15.8 million snagged through March 31 against the paltry $40,000 in Defranco’s clinging coffers–but may tar her as an elitist. And with the grassroots no longer in love with Brown, it’s not difficult to imagine Defranco emerging as a sponge for populist discontent.
A Defranco primary victory could put President Obama in a precarious position, with Brown ideologically closer to the president than the Democrat in a crucial Senate race. Defranco is currently far behind Warren in the polls, and winning the nomination requires far more than 15% of a Convention vote. The race may matter more for what it reveals about the president’s decidedly mixed approach to foreign policy: his politicized machinations may counter some Republican attacks, but his own party could buckle.
Maybe it’s not Elizabeth Warren’s seat, either.
Is there yet a TAC-ian (or Burkean) position on campaign finance? I know that Pat Buchanan had no trouble signing on to the fairly strict campaign finance reform positions popular in the Reform Party in 2000, though as a Republican previously, and after, he hasn’t written much about the issue. My initial reaction to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling was that it might well have a positive impact on foreign-policy-related campaign spending. Because, I reasoned, corporate America has an interest in peace, in trade with the Islamic world, in short with business-like relationships where such relationships are possible. And they would spend to act as brake on the neocon/Israel hawk crazies. Somehow I envisioned more from Exxon and less from Sheldon Adelson than has turned out to be the case.
MJ Rosenberg has a strong column up worrying that the new campaign-spending regime will empower the Right forever, and it’s not a kind of Right which TAC readers will find congenial. Writes MJ:
It appears now that all the legitimate complaints that the pursuit of campaign contributions had utterly distorted U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is becoming a small part of a much larger catastrophe.
That is because as critical as the Middle East is, the whole issue is now being subsumed by a much larger threat: the threat, perhaps likelihood, that thanks to the Citizens United decision, the presidency and Congress will be permanently owned by the Republican right.
As someone who cast his first presidential vote for George McGovern, I am aware that there are left-wing rich people, and without them there would have been no effective political protest against the Vietnam war. Still I wonder if the United States is going to turn into a country in which politicians are simply like race-horses, wholly owned and trained by various competing billionaires, exercising little more autonomy or independent judgment than I’ll Have Another. Since I assume that the Citizens United decision is unlikely to be overturned soon, our solution may simply be a wiser class of rich people, our salvation coming when Bill Gates decides that restoring sanity in his own country a greater priority than ending global poverty, or whatever.
Just how good was the month of May for the Mitt Romney campaign?
Count the ways:
He officially clinched the Republican nomination for president. For a politician who, as late as 2002, described himself as “progressive” and, even later, favored abortion rights; for a Mormon in a party planted thick with evangelicals; for a moderate governor who signed into state law the template for a national health care law his party believes is an unprecedented assault on individual freedom; for a man whose father defined his political identity in opposition to the Goldwater right — for a guy with this record and background, plus an utter lack of personal charm, to become the nominee of the Republican party in the era of the Tea Party is nothing short of astonishing.
He survived with flying colors the Obama reelection campaign’s first sustained assault on his career at Bain Capital.
He made significant gains among women voters.
He is now within striking distance in three swing states — Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada — that are critical to President Obama’s reelection’s chances.
He has opened up a slight lead, on average, in Florida.
He has secured the support of donors like Sheldon Adelson and other megarich Republicans who are prepared to spend an ungodly sum of money to ensure his victory in November.
With an unplanned assist from the Obama camp on the issue of same-sex marriage, he’s well on his way to shoring up support among evangelicals.
Add Europzone troubles to the mix, and you’ve got one Magnificent Month of May for Mitt.
It is not often that the world of Washington politics produces something that can be construed as hilariously funny, but that is what took place last week with the announcement of the launching of Arizona State University’s John McCain Institute for International Leadership. According to the press release the think tank will be “guided by the values that have animated the career of Senator McCain – a commitment to sustaining America’s global leadership role, promoting freedom, democracy and human rights, as well maintaining a strong, smart national defense.” Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman plus CIA Director David Petraeus are reported to be involved in the project.
The Institute press release promises to “Provide decision recommendations for leaders through open debate and rigorous analysis” while promoting “and preserv[ing] the McCain family spirit of character-driven leadership and national service.”
That the vainglorious McCain, who never encountered a rigorous analysis that he couldn’t ignore nor a war that he couldn’t support, should see himself in heroic terms is not surprising. But that others who are not bereft of their senses might see his various posturings as something not only positive but even exemplary is perhaps an indication of the loss of any kind of introspection within our political class. Graham and Lieberman will certainly have some characteristic insights to contribute regarding the global leadership and strong national defense bits, particularly if bombing Iran and Syria are involved, though they are likely to be a tad shaky on the human rights stuff. And how is Petraeus participating? I thought he was a government official being paid to run CIA. Well, maybe the Institute’s a bit of both public and private as the $9 million start-up money appears to be cash left over from the McCain-Palin campaign that was recycled through an eponymous McCain Institute Foundation.
The Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost has a curious idea about “liberal myths” and, specifically, Democrats’ intent to raise taxes on wealthy Americans:
[I]f the Democrats were really serious about hiking taxes on the wealthy, why didn’t they do it when they had a filibuster-proof majority in Congress? Why wait until now, when there is no chance of passing anything like the Buffett Rule?
The reason: Democrats do not actually want to burden the wealthy, who are now regular contributors to their campaigns; they just want the issue to run against the Republicans.
This is curious, because, in December 2010, the Weekly Standard seemed pretty miffed that House Democrats voted to extend the Bush tax cuts only for those making less than $250,000 — this, as the Standard tut-tutted, “in the middle of hard economic times and high unemployment rates.”
It’s true that Senate Democrats bailed on a companion vote. But it’s common knowledge that Sen. Harry Reid and co. were nervous about a defection of moderates like Ben Nelson of Nebraska and the lame duck Evan Bayh of Indiana.
Eventually the Bush tax cuts were extended, in toto, for two years.
A headline on one of neocon blogger Jennifer Rubin’s posts said it all: “Liberal Democrats don’t matter, Bush tax cuts extended.”
This seriously complicates Cost’s notion of a “liberal myth,” does it not?
There’s also the fact that rich Republican donors, purportedly readying a $1 billion war-chest on Mitt Romney’s behalf, are behaving as though they take President Obama and congressional Democrats at their word.
If Obama is actually not in their back pockets, they have apparently failed to notify Jay Cost.
Anti-Catholicism has been described as the “last acceptable prejudice“. In an essay for Inside Higher Ed Thomas C. Terry, a professor of communications at Idaho State University, contends that Catholics may have to share that dubious honor with Mormons, at least in the academy. Although he is Episcopalian, Terry is concerned by the general hostility to Mormons he encountered in academic life. The money graph:
I’ve attended numerous scholarly conferences[...]where Mormonism has been discussed, and it is amazing to confront snide and disdainful comments and even overt prejudice from intellectually and sophisticated academics. And it seems perfectly acceptable to express this bias. Mormons are abnormal, outside the mainstream; everybody knows that. They don’t drink alcohol and coffee. Their women are suppressed. They don’t like the cross, and their most holy book seems made up. And there’s that multiple-wives thing. At one session involving a discussion of Utah’s history, several dismissive comments were spoken, rather blithely and without any sense of embarrassment. Belittling comments were made about Mormons’ abstemiousness, and there was a general negative undercurrent. The LDS Church was referred to as the Mormon Church, something many members object to. They don’t mind being called Mormons, but their church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS Church. At least some of the professors who were making these remarks knew that.
Although these anecdotes are pretty vague, they match my own experience in and around universities. Outside of settings specifically devoted to religious issues, Mormons do seem to be the target of disproportionate and unusually explicit mockery. One cause, I suspect was the popular HBO series Big Love, which drew attention to the association between Mormons and polygamy even though the practice has long since been rejected by the LDS Church. Another, of course, is Mitt Romney’s candidacy for President.
It’s important to recognize that most academics’ aversion to Mormonism is not rooted in theological disputes, such as the divinity of Jesus or the contents of the canon (I would be surprised, for example, in many of Terry’s colleagues knew why Mormons reject the cross as a symbol). Rather, it’s the sense that Mormons are not like us; that they are concealing a sinister agenda, no matter how nice they seem. In a way, this attitude resembles some conservatives’ suspicion of Barack Obama. It’s a perception of difference that easily turns into an presumption of guilt.
But why should Mormonism be regarded as especially weird? I think the answer has less to do with ignorance than with Mormonism’s lack of a cultural tradition that can be balanced against its theological and social distinctiveness. Lots of academics dislike the Roman Catholic church, for example. At least in my experience, however, nearly all can be brought to acknowledge its enormous contributions to thought and to art. Mormonism doesn’t have this kind of history. So it’s an even easier target for cultured despisers.
For all that, Terry goes too far when he compares the climate in the universities to Jim Crow. There’s obviously no legal bar to Mormon participation in academic life, and not much of a social one–at least for Mormons who don’t make a point of their faith. But the essay is a useful reminder that professors aren’t as broad-minded as they like to think. I mean a reminder for us academics. Everyone else already knows that.
James Bovard feared the FBI’s Stasi pretensions, and Jim Antle noticed Obama’s Rovian maneuvers. Daniel Larison fathomed the depths of team Romney’s neoconservatism, and expected a clueless Romney attack on Obama’s Polish gaffe. Noah Millman challenged Matt Yglesias to a bloggingheads duel on fiscal responsibility. Scott McConnell muddled through France, while Scott Galupo recoiled at the the now official Romney-Obama choice, and Rod Dreher seconded the nausea.
Jordan Bloom remembered the 1980s anti-empire Bob Dylan, and Galupo joined his apologia. Eve Tushnet dwelled on The Outsourced Self. Dreher found poison snake-loving Pentecostals, praised the Louisiana fightin’ Monks, shunned sex offenders, loved Wodehouse, and wondered if Fr Mark gets drunk every Sunday.
Larison refuted the imperative for Christian support of humanitarian intervention, pondered Russian irrelevancy, processed the Romney-Obama Syrian similarities, and could not stomach a cynically amoral argument for intervention in Syria. Kelley Vlahos watched a cliche-shattering WWII documentary, and Phillip Giraldi heard the Washington Post’s continuing drumbeat for war with Iran.
Some thoughts prompted by Rod Dreher’s post here, but not actually dealing with the substance of that post.
I went to a progressive urban private high school which, up until the end of my freshman year, didn’t allow students to form a (public) gay-straight alliance. This was in 1992-3, and the administrators argued that a group like that would force students to choose an identity too quickly, and also that the group was unnecessary since the school was safe for gay students.
(The latter claim was almost true. Both the public elementary school I attended and this private middle/high school had virtually no bullying, as far as I know–and I was the kind of kid who would have attracted it, being intensely weird, hypersensitive, easily infuriated and physically weak. My sense is that the adults took a no-nonsense, strict approach, so I was teased a bit but not targeted for ongoing harassment. In almost every story of bullying I’ve ever heard, adults in authority knew about the bullying–parents, teachers, administrators–and the tacit permission of these adults is a suppressed theme. That didn’t happen at the schools I attended. That said, the two exceptions I can think of were both incidents of explicitly anti-gay harassment of openly gay students.)
We eventually did end up getting permission to form a GSA. But before that, we found one another through more covert means. We gossiped and spoke in code, and we formed a network of gay/bi teens. We joked that we were the Botany Club: Our first order of business was the study of pansies. We supported one another, in a semi-feral way, separated from and antagonistic toward adults in authority.
So this is one lesson I take away from the tumult over whether or not Catholic schools should (or should be forced to, but that’s a separate question) have GSAs. Gay students will find one another. CUA, to take a pertinent example (although not a high-school one), can’t choose whether or not it has a gay-straight alliance. It can only choose how much the administration knows about it.
Right now gay young people mostly hear a catechism of silence–not about Church teaching on gay marriage or homosexual acts, about which they’re wincingly aware, but about their futures.
It seems to me that one major purpose of a Catholic educational system is to help young people discern their vocations. Heterosexual teens desperately need this guidance, in a world of premarital sex and the anchorless, alienating endless-summer of “emerging adulthood.” And gay teens need it too. They need to know that God is calling them to love and to be loved: to form devoted friendships, to care for their families, to serve the suffering, to dedicate themselves to God in ascesis and prayer, to serve God and the Church through artistic creation, to teach. They, too, are being called to increase the love, beauty, and joy in the world.
How could an openly-acknowledged GSA aid in this discernment? Well, for one thing, its relationship to the adults around it would not need to be antagonistic. The school chaplain or a local priest could attend some of the meetings, and talk with the kids about any misconceptions they may have about the faith. Specifically, I often hear that it’s okay for the Church to require (most) priests to be celibate, since they chose that way of life, but it’s cruel to require celibacy of gay people since we didn’t choose to be gay. This isn’t a good way to think about vocation–you don’t always choose what God is asking of you, and it’s rare that the greatest sacrifices in your life are the ones you chose entirely freely. A priest talking honestly about his own discernment process, and whether or not he felt directly “called” to celibacy, might offer a better model of discernment–and a better understanding of the purposes and challenges of a celibate life.
The group could be encouraged to spend some time volunteering in places–the most obvious example for me would be folding clothes or babysitting at a crisis pregnancy center–where they’d see how tough chastity and fidelity can be for heterosexuals. Married teachers, or single ones, could speak with them about their vocations and discernment process. They could be encouraged to see that all forms of love come with characteristic sufferings and lonelinesses: Every form of love has its own kind of cross. These priests and teachers could seek to learn from the kids, from their fears and questions and experiences, and encourage the kids to learn from the adults. (I do think straight adults often underestimate the loneliness–and fear of even greater future loneliness–of gay Christian teens. But it’s also, of course, very easy for teenagers of any sexual orientation to have unrealistic romantic ideas in which marriage solves the problem of the self, grants us our “soulmate” and ends our loneliness forever.) The solidarity implied by the “alliance” name could become more vivid and realistic–and more Catholic. None of this is likely to happen in a hidden, covert group.
Right now gay teens hear a robust “Yes!” from the mainstream media and gay culture. From the Church, they hear only a “No.” And you can’t have a vocation of not-gay-marrying and not-having-sex. You can’t have a vocation of No.
The day we were leaving France, the TV news was full of reports of Jean-Luc Melenchon complaining of a vicious electoral tactic carried out by surreptitious supporters of Marine Le Pen. France’s most prominent far leftist and far rightist are squaring off in a legislative contest in Pas de Calais, an old industrial city that is losing a lot of jobs. (In France, you don’t actually have to live in a place to represent it in the National Assembly.) Melenchon charged that Le Pen’s people were distributing a flyer with a quote of his, something about Arabs and Berbers being essential to France’s future, tossed in some Arabic script, and were presenting him to seem like the official Arab candidate. As ethnic politicking goes, this seems pretty tame stuff — and less amusing than what took place in New York’s 1973 mayoral race, when Abe Beame sent out squads of young bongo drummers and salsa players into Archie Bunker neighborhoods after midnight, urging a “vote” for Beame’s main competitor Herman Badillo.
But Melenchon is playing the high-minded victim candidate for all he can get, evidence that there must be (as well as a small Arab vote) some collective sense that France now has multicultural manners in place which deserve some respect.
Which was my sense too, after five days spent in Paris. I had wondered whether in the six years since I had last been there, France would be groaning under the weight of multiculturalism and immigration. It was not. The papers were full of the financial crisis — but as it pertained to Greece and Spain. The French were enjoying the controversy IMF head (and France’s former finance minister) Christine Lagarde had provoked by saying she had more sympathy for starving African children than for Greeks who refused to pay taxes. Paris still seemed orderly and well run; its subways safe, its parks spotless. I didn’t go everywhere in the city, but I did spend some time in Belleville, an east Paris working-class district which a generation ago had developed a sort of “South Bronx” reputation in the the French cop movies. Last Sunday evening, it was a veritable postcard for successful multiculturalism: a plurality of east Asians, but big blocs of Muslims, older whites, white hipsters, and Africans. All getting along pretty well, with the high number of interracial couples there and throughout Paris belying the idea of a nation riven by ethnic tensions.
Reviewed in the NYT:
In “The Outsourced Self,” Hochschild talks to love coaches, wedding planners, surrogate mothers, nannies, household consultants and elder-care managers, but also, and with deep empathy, their clients. A majority of these people are middle-aged or near middle age; the main thing is, they’re not young, which means they are not yet used to a virtualized and monetized social existence and can still express doubts about it. Most are women, who have long been the main providers of care, love and charity. Hochschild’s consumers buy hyperpersonal services because they lack the family support or social capital or sheer time to meet potential mates, put on weddings, whip up children’s birthday parties, build children’s school projects, or care for deteriorating parents. Or these folks think they just couldn’t perform such tasks as well as the pros. The providers sell their services because the service economy is where the money is, or because they take pleasure in helping others. Everybody worries about preserving the human element in the commercial encounter. Very few succeed.
The most haunting of Hochschild’s tales throb with pain, as when she tracks the flow of mother love from the third world to the first, a form of global commerce entered into out of desperation on all sides. She interviews surrogate mothers in India, destitute women who rent out their wombs to bargain-basement fertility clinics that feel like baby-manufacturing assembly lines. These modern-day handmaidens struggle with the social stigma attached to their work, despite its comparatively high pay, as well as with their own surging love for the fetuses growing inside them. Many do not achieve the requisite detachment. Hochschild contrasts their stories with that of a well-meaning American couple who can’t afford the price of fertility in the United States, and don’t feel they have other options. The wife, though herself of Indian descent, can’t figure out the rules governing her meeting with her Indian surrogate. She knows that Indians don’t touch others as readily as Americans do, but, she explains: