The Guantanamo Bay detention center briefly reasserted its presence in the public consciousness this month with the news that a single Navy nurse refused to participate in the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike. Quietly feted by civil liberties advocates, the story quickly slipped off the radar. The Pentagon confirmed that the nurse “has been temporarily assigned to alternate duties with no impact to medical support operations”—in other words, the torturous force feedings, instituted in 2006, will continue unabated.
Gitmo currently houses 149 inmates. Fewer than 20 detainees have been charged, and 78 are cleared for release—a status some have held for more than half a decade. About 45 prisoners are scheduled for indefinite detention, never to see a day in court.
The tepid response to the nurse’s moral stand is not surprising. Despite the fervor of outspoken antiwar protesters during the Bush years, the broader public has never cared much about the welfare of those imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, innocent or no. Support for closing the facility peaked at 51 percent in early 2009. That high corresponded with the first inauguration of President Barack Obama, who took office trumpeting his intentions to put an end to Bush-era abuses like Guantanamo, which he labeled a betrayal of American ideals.
A year after the inauguration, the Obama administration’s now-extensive history of Gitmo excuse-making was well underway. “Political opposition” caused the President to break his promise. Temper your expectations, an anonymous White House official suggested, “The president can’t just wave a magic wand and say that Gitmo will be closed.” But of course—of course!—it’s still going to happen.
Come 2011, we found the President admitting that the facility won’t be closed in the near future. “[W]ithout Congress’s cooperation, we can’t do it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I stop making the case.” And that narrative—the “I really want to close Guantanamo, but Congress just won’t let me!” line—has persisted ever since, typically with a heavy dose of partisan undertones. As Obama moved an issue he once called vital to the restoration of the United States’ moral authority to the backburner, public opinion followed his cue. By 2010, only 39 percent supported closing the prison. Today, just 27 percent are on board.
What’s fascinating about this unwillingness to close Guantanamo Bay as observed in government and citizens alike is the way it encapsulates the charade of modern American politics: a GOP that abandons its support for limited government out of fear, and a Democratic Party whose civil libertarianism is built more on partisan rancor than ethics.
Let’s look at the Republican opposition first—for those partisan undertones in Obama’s narrative are two-faced but not unfounded. Led by hawks like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), congressional Republicans have indeed worked to keep Gitmo open. Polling suggests they have the full support of their GOP constituents—no less than 81 percent want the detention center to stick around—and even Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), perhaps Graham’s staunchest foreign policy opponent in the Senate, agrees with his South Carolinian colleague on this point.
But what about Gitmo meshes with the small government philosophy Republicans espouse? Each prisoner costs taxpayers $2.7 million annually, a massive failure on the fiscal responsibility front (federal prison, for comparison, spends $26,000 a year per inmate).
Even worse for conservatives should be the prison’s blatant trampling of constitutional rights. Read More…
H.R. 5126 is the latest effort in a longstanding and increasingly bipartisan movement to send the Pentagon sailing into the azure waters of Sound Fiscal Policy. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and co-sponsored by Reps. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
For those seeking immediate, significant cuts to military spending, the measure might be less than satisfying, but Jill Shatzen, Communications Director for Rep. Burgess, said that the primary goal of the bill was to “put a little pressure on them in order to gain compliance.” The bill will “reduce by one-half of one percent the discretionary budget authority of any Federal agency for a fiscal year if [it] does not receive a qualified or unqualified audit opinion by an external independent auditor[.]” A similar bill proposing five percent budget penalties for un-auditable Pentagon programs failed in 2013, so a more modest approach has been taken.
Led by Rafael DeGennaro, the Audit the Pentagon Coalition has secured endorsements from a diverse range of political figures. “[H.R. 5126] is a well-crafted and moderate piece of legislation,” DeGennaro said at a press conference. “It’s backed by a broad coalition: from Grover Norquist on the right to Ralph Nader — who endorsed it only recently — to Code Pink on the left.”
The law that H.R. 5126 seeks to enforce, passed in 1990, required the Pentagon to pass an annual audit and has been utterly disregarded since. “The current law is strong and clear,” said DeGennaro, “The deadline was  years ago. We need to impose immediate financial consequences on un-auditable agencies.” Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, emphasized at a press conference that establishing baseline accountability is an important first step to reform, regardless of political affiliation. “There is always going to be a discussion on how and what to spend on defense,” Norquist said, “but do any of us know how much we are spending? You can’t begin to have a conversation without the facts.” Norquist is a long-time supporter of the effort to audit the Pentagon. TAC‘s Michael Ostrolenk interviewed him in 2012 about his efforts at the time. During the interview, he quipped that “[s]pending is not caring. Spending is what politicians do instead of caring.”
DeGennaro said that by requiring each individual agency to be responsible for passing an audit, H.R. 5126 sidesteps the mistake of treating the Pentagon as a “monolith.” Necessary spending cuts can be decided once the numbers are available and the agencies are once more operating within definable boundaries.
Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a former officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, strongly supported the Pentagon audit in a 2013 interview with TAC: “Audit the Pentagon?” he asked. “Absolutely—a no brainer. Just do it.”
One question I am asked while on tour for my new book, “The Greatest Comeback,” on the resurrection of Richard Nixon, is: Does Nixon’s rise, from crushing defeats in 1960 and 1962, and the debacle his party suffered in 1964, to capturing the White House and beginning a string of five victories in six presidential elections, have relevance for today’s GOP?
Can the “Great Silent Majority” of yesteryear be replicated?
The answer is probably not. For while there are similarities between the America of 1968, and of today, the differences are greater.
The similarities: By the late 1960s, as today, the country was pivoting away from a Democratic Party and president that seemed incapable of mastering the crises of the times in which they lived. Then it was LBJ; today, Barack Obama.
In 1968, America turned to the GOP to manage a bloodier war than Iraq, that the Democratic Party could not win or end, and to cope with the social anarchy Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society seemed to have ushered in. And the party of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan delivered — eventually — a successful conclusion to the Cold War that had been the unifying cause of that generation.
America is another country today.
The Cold War is over. The nation is no longer united on America’s role. A majority want out of the Middle East wars into which George W. Bush led the nation. And the GOP is itself, like the Democrats of 1968 over Vietnam, divided on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and how to deal with the challenges of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China.
While distrust of government has rarely been greater than today, it is also true that dependence upon government has never been greater. Tens of millions of families rely on the government as a primary source of income, food, health care, housing and other necessities of daily life. Government’s role in education has never been greater. A Republican Party that preaches an anti-Big Government gospel or a rollback of programs is unlikely to be warmly received by the scores of millions who depend on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other social welfare benefits. Republican proposals to cut taxes on income, capital gains, estates, and inheritances are unlikely to win standing ovations from folks who pay no income taxes and have no estates or capital gains.
America is another country in other ways.
Nixon’s Silent Majority, which encompassed much of the Greatest Generation and of the Silent Generation born in the 1930s and during World War II, is passing on. And with a birth rate among the following generations below replacement levels for 40 years, the demography of America is markedly different from the days of Ike and JFK. Read More…
This week, seven college students and voting-rights advocates are challenging a North Carolina voting regulation law, alleging age-based discrimination. They argue that the law, which does not permit state university IDs or out-of-state driver’s licenses as acceptable voter ID and ends a DMV pre-registration program for teenagers, violates the 26th Amendment that enfranchised citizens 18 and over. Separately, efforts to shut down voting sites at universities are adding to complaints that the Republican-dominated state and local governments are deliberately blocking the youth vote, which turned out overwhelmingly for President Obama twice in North Carolina and nationwide.
The irony is, Republicans may be moving to depress the youth vote just when it could be starting to turn in their favor. While the millennials who comprise young voters now look to be strongly Democratic in the short term, David Leonhardt argues that today’s teenagers may grow up conservative:
In the simplest terms, the Democrats control the White House (and, for now, the Senate) at a time when the country is struggling. Economic growth has been disappointing for almost 15 years now. Most Americans think this country is on the wrong track. Our foreign policy often seems messy and complex, at best.
To Americans in their 20s and early 30s — the so-called millennials — many of these problems have their roots in George W. Bush’s presidency. But think about people who were born in 1998, the youngest eligible voters in the next presidential election. They are too young to remember much about the Bush years or the excitement surrounding the first Obama presidential campaign. They instead are coming of age with a Democratic president who often seems unable to fix the world’s problems.
As Leonhardt argues, college students and young voters in general are not inherently liberal groups. In the 1980s, Republicans dominated the youth vote: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush won first-time voters, under-29 voters, and voters with some college education by large margins. Those then-young voters remain a consistently Republican constituency, lining up with Leonhardt’s argument that politics are more generational than anything. Young voters are entering the electorate while making their political allegiances in reaction to ongoing policies, forming beliefs that they will carry throughout their lives.
Legislating away unfriendly voters is rarely a productive path to long-term future success for a party seeking democratic legitimacy, and voting blocs generally aren’t courted by efforts to impede their franchise or deny their voting rights. With their gaze fixed firmly backward at their past two presidential setbacks, North Carolina Republicans and their counterparts nationwide are at risk of scoring a series of own goals.
This generation in particular could be a political opportunity ripe for Republicans’ taking. The teenagers who voted in the last election, and those entering the electorate now, are voting increasingly Republican in reaction to the current administration’s failures. A Democratic president that leans interventionist and is misleadingly ineffective on student debt makes for even more fertile ground for conservative alternatives. Rather than trying to inhibit the youth vote, Republicans should craft policy solutions that could serve to swing young voters to their side and take advantage of their momentum.
Two recent studies offer up what appear to be contradictory results: one, by the Pew Research Center, indicates that young Americans are less patriotic than their forebears. On the other hand, a recent MTV survey purports to have found that young Americans far and away surpass past generations’ patriotism.
One explanation for the disparate findings is that both surveys approach patriotism in a different manner. For MTV’s purposes, patriotism implies zealous adherence to and belief in “American ideals.” For the Pew Research Center, patriotism and exceptionalism are neatly conflated. (For example, one question the Pew survey uses to determine “patriotism” is whether the U.S. “stands above all other countries in the world.”)
Daniel Larison recently looked at the disparity between “old” and “new” exceptionalism. He writes that “believing that the U.S. is exceptional in certain respects because of its political traditions and institutions doesn’t require one to endorse the idea that the U.S. ‘stands above’ all other countries.” Conversely, a commitment—no matter how zealous—to an America of universal platitudes does not mean that you are patriotic.
But it is precisely this zealous commitment to universalist moralism that MTV emphasized in its own survey. As Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post put it:
Rather than trying to boil patriotism down to whether millennials think we are number one, MTV took a look at what young people think constitute American values and how much faith they have that the country can live up to them.
Are you proud of America? Are you inspired by America? The use of emotional, idealistic vocabulary led to paradoxical results. From the MTV press release:
· Nearly 90 percent of young people feel it is “American” to advocate for equality and fairness, yet nearly 7 in 10 believe the country only embraces college-educated, well-off people.
· Over 80 percent of Millennials say America remains the land of opportunity, however 56 percent also feel the American system has let them down.
· Nearly 7 in 10 Millennials believe “America is the best country in the world,” yet 8 in 10 young people agree that some actions of the American government make it hard to be proud.
As Richard Gamble explained in a 2012 cover article for TAC, contemporary American exceptionalism and its belief that American values are universal values results in an aggressively global perspective; it presumes America “to be a beacon to the world and a liberator on a mission of universal redemption.”
But abstract principle comprises only part of American identity. The Declaration of Independence, while universalist in its rhetoric, was not intended to be an absolute expression of human emancipation.
Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review makes an excellent point when he says that the Founders “sought a restoration of their inheritance, the Constitutional Congress asserting in 1774 that British subjects in America were ‘entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural- born subjects, within the realm of England.'”
Cooke writes that, “[w]ith its attestation that all men are created equal, the Declaration of Independence represented a glorious break with all that had gone before.” But the Founders did not seek to march forward into global progress. He continues: “…it is a reflective, rather than a subversive document — one that is predicated upon ancient principle and marinated in a wisdom that had taken centuries to accrue.”
Young Americans are emphatically committed to the principles upon which America was founded, but will sometimes reject the country itself as well as the wisdom and history embodied in its establishment. It is fealty to an idea, not loyalty to a nation, that they profess.
Increasingly, across this city, the “I” word is being heard. Impeachment is being brought up by Republicans outraged over Barack Obama’s usurpations of power and unilateral rewriting of laws. And Obama is taunting John Boehner and the GOP: “So sue me.”
Democrats are talking impeachment to rally a lethargic base to come out and vote this fall to prevent Republicans from taking control of the Senate, and with it the power to convict an impeached president. Still, Republicans should drop the talk of impeachment.
For the GOP would gain nothing and risk everything if the people began to take seriously their threats to do to Barack Obama what Newt Gingrich’s House did to Bill Clinton. The charges for which a president can be impeached and removed from office, are “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” With Bill Clinton, the impeachers had a solid case of perjury.
With Richard Nixon, they had a preponderance of evidence that, at least for a time, he had sought to obstruct justice in the investigation of the Watergate break-in. Article II of the impeachment of Richard Nixon was for misuse of the IRS in what turned out to be futile and failed attempts to have the agency harass political enemies by having them audited. As yet there is no evidence Obama knew of the IRS plot to delay and deny tax exemptions to Tea Party groups, which would be an abuse of power and a trampling upon the constitutional rights of Tea Partiers, who were denied the equal protection of the laws.
The GOP response to the lost emails of Lois Lerner and crashed computers that went missing should be a drumbeat of demands for the appointment of an independent counsel, not an impeachment committee in the House. Obama claims he did not learn of the IRS abuse until years after it began, and weeks after his White House staff learned of it. In the absence of those emails, the claim cannot be refuted.
In the Benghazi scandal, the president’s defense is the same.
He had no idea what was going on. And cluelessness appears here to be a credible defense. Two weeks after the Benghazi atrocity, Obama was at the U.N. still parroting the Susan Rice line about an anti-Muslim video having been the cause of it all. Has the president unilaterally rewritten the Obamacare law, while ignoring the Congress that wrote it? Indeed, he has.
But would a Republican Party that failed and folded when it tried to use its legitimate power of the purse to defund Obamacare really stand firm in an Antietam battle to impeach a president of the United States? Or is this just “beer talk”?
Impeachment is in the last analysis a political act. The impeachment of Nixon was a coup d’etat by liberal enemies who, though repudiated and routed by the electorate in 1972, still retained the institutional power to break him and destroy his presidency. And, undeniably, he gave them the tools.
In the case of Nixon, political enemies controlled both houses of the Congress. Washington was a hostile city. Though he had swept 49 states, Nixon lost D.C. 3-to-1. The bureaucracy built up in the New Deal and Great Society was deep-dyed Democratic. Most crucially, the Big Media whose liberal bias had been exposed by Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew were hell-bent on revenge. All three power centers—the bureaucracy, Congress, the Big Media—worked in harness to bring Nixon down.
No such powerful and hostile coalition exits today with Obama. Read More…
“For the first time since President Richard M. Nixon’s divisive ‘Southern strategy’ that sent whites to the Republican Party and blacks to the Democrats …” began a New York Times story last week. Thus has one of the big lies of U.S. political history morphed into a cliche—that Richard Nixon used racist politics to steal the South from a Democratic Party battling heroically for civil rights.
A brief stroll through Bruce Bartlett’s Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past might better enlighten us.
Where Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner, Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the U.S. government and had the pro-Klan film “Birth of a Nation” screened in his White House. Wilson and FDR carried all 11 states of the Old Confederacy all six times they ran, when Southern blacks had no vote. Disfranchised black folks did not seem to bother these greatest of liberal icons.
As vice president, FDR chose “Cactus Jack” Garner of Texas who played a major role in imposing a poll tax to keep blacks from voting. Among FDR’s Supreme Court appointments was Hugo Black, a Klansman who claimed FDR knew this when he named him in 1937 and that FDR told him that “some of his best friends” in Georgia were Klansmen. Black’s great achievement as a lawyer was in winning the acquittal of a man who shot to death the Catholic priest who had presided over his daughter’s marriage to a Puerto Rican.
In 1941, FDR named South Carolina Sen. “Jimmy” Byrnes to the Supreme Court. Byrnes had led filibusters in 1935 and 1938 that killed anti-lynching bills, arguing that lynching was necessary “to hold in check the Negro in the South.” FDR refused to back the 1938 anti-lynching law.
“This is a white man’s country and will always remain a white man’s country,” said Jimmy. Harry Truman, who paid $10 to join the Klan, then quit, named Byrnes Secretary of State, putting him first in line of succession to the presidency, as Harry then had no V.P.
During the civil rights struggles of the ’50s and ’60s, Gov. Orval Faubus used the National Guard to keep black students out of Little Rock High. Gov. Ross Barnett refused to let James Meredith into Ole Miss. Gov. George Wallace stood in the door at the University of Alabama, to block two black students from entering. All three governors were Democrats. All acted in accord with the “Dixie Manifesto” of 1956, which was signed by 19 senators, all Democrats, and 80 Democratic congressmen.
Among the signers of the manifesto, which called for massive resistance to the Brown decision desegregating public schools, was the vice presidential nominee on Adlai’s Stevenson’s ticket in 1952, Sen. John Sparkman of Alabama. Though crushed by Eisenhower, Adlai swept the Deep South, winning both Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. Do you suppose those Southerners thought Adlai would be tougher than Ike on Stalin? Or did they think Adlai would maintain the unholy alliance of Southern segregationists and Northern liberals that enabled Democrats to rule from 1932 to 1952?
The Democratic Party was the party of slavery, secession and segregation, of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman and the KKK. “Bull” Connor, who turned the dogs loose on black demonstrators in Birmingham, was the Democratic National Committeeman from Alabama.
In 1956, as vice president, Nixon went to Harlem to declare, “America can’t afford the cost of segregation.” The following year, Nixon got a personal letter from Dr. King thanking him for helping to persuade the Senate to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Nixon supported the civil rights acts of 1964, 1965, and 1968.
In the 1966 campaign, as related in my new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority, out July 8, Nixon blasted Dixiecrats “seeking to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice.”
Nixon called out segregationist candidates in ’66 and called on LBJ, Hubert Humphrey, and Bobby Kennedy to join him in repudiating them. None did. Hubert, an arm around Lester Maddox, called him a “good Democrat.” And so were they all—good Democrats. While Adlai chose Sparkman, Nixon chose Spiro Agnew, the first governor south of the Mason Dixon Line to enact an open-housing law.
In Nixon’s presidency, the civil rights enforcement budget rose 800 percent. Record numbers of blacks were appointed to federal office. An Office of Minority Business Enterprise was created. SBA loans to minorities soared 1,000 percent. Aid to black colleges doubled.
Nixon won the South not because he agreed with them on civil rights—he never did—but because he shared the patriotic values of the South and its antipathy to liberal hypocrisy. When Johnson left office, 10 percent of Southern schools were desegregated. When Nixon left, the figure was 70 percent.
Richard Nixon desegregated the Southern schools, something you won’t learn in today’s public schools. For history is a pack of lies agreed upon.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” Copyright 2014 Creators.com.
I’ve spent the day reading Pat Buchanan’s The Great Comeback—his history cum memoir of Richard Nixon’s capture of the 1968 Republican nomination, and then the presidency. Buchanan was a key part of this. Hired as a 27-year-old who had spent three years writing newspaper editorials for the St. Louis Globe Democrat, Buchanan joined Nixon’s staff in 1966. He traveled with the candidate, handled much of his correspondence, wrote or drafted articles in his name, and wrote Nixon countless strategy memos, which came back with Nixon’s handwritten comments. This trove of historical documents was kept by Buchanan in several filing cabinets in his home, and after literally decades of entreaties by his agent Fredrica Friedman, Buchanan produced this book. It’s probably my favorite of Buchanan’s books, rich in Republican Party and journalistic gossip, full of insight into Nixon, and at the same time deeply personal.
At 27, a time when many young people then or now are in school or trying to figure out what they might really want to do , Buchanan had already compiled a formidable resume as right-wing newspaper editorialist; then in a deftly executed maneuver of ambition and nerve, arranged to meet Nixon and suggest himself for a get-on-the-bus-early campaign role. (He had actually met the former vice president a decade earlier, as a caddy at Burning Tree—a fact which he conveyed to Nixon in that first professional meeting. )
Buchanan was valuable to Nixon in great part as a representative of the New Right, that part of the GOP which had nominated Goldwater two years earlier. He and Nixon saw eye to eye that the next Republican candidate would have to represent the right, but probably not be of it. There was then at least the potential of Ronald Reagan looming, and a subtext of the book is the worry that the charismatic Reagan would somehow get untracked, and a deadlocked convention would be stampeded into going for the movie star governor. Nixon, by contrast, had no political sex appeal: he was deeply intelligent, hard working, fascinated by the issues and personalities of politics. (He seemed bored by the practice of law, and in one unguarded moment told Buchanan that if he had to practice law for the rest of his life he would be “mentally dead in two years and physically dead in four.”)
But one major hurdle to overcome was the sense that Nixon, after the 1960 campaign and his failed 1962 California gubernatorial bid, was a loser who could never win a national election. Liberals hated him for his early campaigns in California, and the left (where they weren’t the same thing) hated him for being right about Alger Hiss. But the right also (correctly) sensed that Nixon was not one of them. Buchanan quotes one Nixon memo where the candidate noted that he disagreed with liberal aides (who were urging him to get to the left of LBJ on various issues.) But he also said (to one of his more liberal aides) that “the trouble with the far right conservatives is that they don’t give a damn about people and the voters sense that.” Buchanan comments that this, too, was “authentic” Nixon. He notes that,
Nixon had grown up in poverty, lost two of his four brothers, one to meningitis, the other to tuberculosis, and likely did not look on the New Deal as taking us ‘down the road to socialism’ but as an effort to help folks like his family.
Part of Buchanan’s job was to smooth out the rough spots between this complicated man and the National Review-reading, Goldwater-admiring, Young Americans for Freedom-belonging Republican right. He did this effectively enough, causing Bill Rusher once to ask him whether he was more the right’s emissary to the Nixon camp, or Nixon’s to the right. The answer: the latter, always.
Romney and Rockefeller were more glamorous Republicans, generally more favored by the East Coast media, and they regularly scored higher in midterm presidential polls. But Nixon outworked them, in a Stakhanovite schedule of campaigning for Republicans in the midterm elections, picking up IOU’s from congressmen and state committeemen all over the country. Eventually Romney and Rocky’s weaknesses displayed themselves. If you were ever of the age to once have wondered how it was that Nixon managed to become the Republican nominee in an era when there were few primary elections, Buchanan’s book is the best possible guide. Read More…
Looking back over the last century there were two great coalition builders in presidential politics: FDR and Richard Nixon. Franklin Roosevelt broke the Lincoln lock on the presidency that had given Republicans the White House in 56 of the previous 72 years. From 1932 to 1964, FDR’s party would win seven of nine elections. Nixon broke through in ’68 and built the New Majority that gave the GOP the White House for 20 of the next 24 years.
The Nixon-Reagan coalition, however, has aged and atrophied. In five of the last six presidential elections, the Democratic nominee won the popular vote. And no fewer than 18 states, including four of the most populous — California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York — have gone Democratic in all six of those elections. Also, four states crucial to victory and once regarded as reliably Republican — Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado — have turned purple. The GOP is also facing a demographic crisis. White folks, who provide almost 90 percent of Republican votes in presidential years, are steadily shrinking as a share of the electorate.
Is Hillary thus inevitable?
With the cash she can raise and the support of the sisterhood, she may be able to clear the field in the run for the nomination. And in a general election it is hard to see which Republican today could take 270 electoral votes from her.
Yet the lady has vulnerabilities. If elected, Hillary would be, at 69, the oldest Democratic president ever. Husband Bill was nearly a quarter of a century younger when inaugurated, as was Barack Obama.
Her book tour for Hard Choices, with her tale of woe about having been “flat broke” in 2001, revealed a queen of privilege wildly out of touch with the hard realities of life in Middle America in 2014. Moreover, there is Clinton fatigue in the country and this capital. Americans under 30 never knew a time when she was not around. Her memoir looks likely to be remaindered long before it earns her publisher anything near the $14 million advance she is rumored to have received. Somebody at Simon & Schuster is going to the wall. And the Democratic left is pawing the turf.
Is her record in office impressive? The most critical vote she cast in eight years in the Senate—to take America into war with Iraq—she now admits was a mistake. And it’s not an insignificant one, considering the disaster that is Iraq today. Her record as secretary of state?
The most memorable moment was announcing the “reset” with Russia. How’s that working out?
Not only must Hillary answer for the failures that brought about the Benghazi massacre, and her absenteeism in its aftermath, but she must also defend a foreign policy that has left her country less respected on every continent. While most Americans support President Obama’s decisions to end the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is something about his leadership on the world stage that calls to mind the Carter era. Read More…
Two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released a sprawling report on the relative politics of Americans, spawning a cottage industry of interpretative articles and posts sorting out just what “Political Polarization in the American Public” says about political polarization in the American public. The problem is, well, it doesn’t say much about it at all. As Stanford political scientist Morris Fiorina expertly explains at the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage, Pew didn’t measure polarization, that is to say, political extremes. Rather, they measured ideological consistency, according to a 10-question scale of their own construction:
Pew constructed a scale whereby respondents were scored -1 for a “liberal” response, and +1 for a conservative response, then all the scores were added up to obtain the political consistency scale. A perfectly consistent conservative would score a 10, a perfectly consistent liberal, a -10. Thus, as Fiorina notes, “people in the middle of the Pew distributions are not necessarily centrists.” A “middle” score of 0 would be obtained by a mix of answers, none of which have their intensity or extremity measured, and so would indicate heterodoxy, not moderation. I suspect few TAC readers (or writers), for instance, would score perfect 10’s.
To see what this means in practice, look at the following graphic, frequently reproduced in the coverage of the Pew Report:
Understandably, many see the separation between the two sides, and assume that Americans are moving further apart on issues. What the graphic actually shows, however, is that Americans are becoming more ideologically consistent with their co-partisans. Republicans are becoming more consistently Republican, and Democrats more consistently Democratic. As Fiorina describes,
Prior to the 1980s the Republican Party had a significant liberal wing and the Democrats a significant conservative wing. … Today partisanship, ideology and issue positions go together in a way they did not in the mid-20th century. Issues and ideology used to cross-cut the partisan distribution, now they reinforce it. … The net result is parties that are much more internally homogeneous than was the case a generation ago.
While some may breathe a brief sigh of relief that Americans, on average, generally occupy the same middle ground as they did a generation ago, these sorting changes may in fact be much more politically pernicious than mere extremism. As Noah Millman has discussed periodically, the decline of the pro-life Democrat and the pro-choice Republican has not necessarily been beneficial for either political cause. Instead, it binds the fortunes of abortion policy to nearly every other political issue, so that abortion policy is dependent on the political state of economics, or foreign policy debates. And with less heterogeneity within the parties, there is less reason for politicians to try to cross party lines in the first place: there’s no one waiting for them on the other side.
As the report notes, most Americans are not very ideologically consistent, and heterogeneity is still widespread. But because of the partisan sorting of the past decades, Fiorina says, “The unsorted and inconsistent middle still exists, but it has no home in either party.”