In our latest episode of the Ordered Liberty podcast, “The Battlegrounds,” David French and I preview the most contentious Senate races across the country, breaking down the polling and the biggest issues in each contest. I gave some details on little-known businessman Mike Braun — the Republican candidate in Indiana whom I profiled for NRO last week — who is challenging Democratic senator Joe Donnelly.
We also talk about Heidi Heitkamp’s imploding campaign in North Dakota and detail the latest crazy stories about Democratic congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, who’s running against GOP congresswoman Martha McSally for retiring Arizona Republican Jeff Flake’s Senate seat. Get our very tentative read on Senate races in Nevada, Missouri, Florida, West Virginia, and Tennessee, too.
Plus, David explains the recent controversy over the Trump administration’s new proposal to reverse the Obama administration’s expansion of the definition of “sex” in Title IX to encompass gender identity.
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In the aftermath of this weekend’s New York Times story reporting that the Trump administration might define the word “sex” in federal nondiscrimination law as “based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth” we’re being treated to a number of articles telling us that “science” declares that “anatomy does not determine gender” or that “sex and gender are not the same.”
But if you pay close attention to the stories, you’ll notice some sleight of hand — and it’s sleight of hand with immense consequence for the meaning of the law. Let’s begin with the basics.
First, let’s begin with the by-now conventional argument that sex and gender are two distinct concepts. As a CBS story explained it, “Sex typically refers to anatomy while ‘gender goes beyond biology.’” Gender refers to the person’s “inner sense of being male, female or somewhere in between.”
Second, for the vast majority of people, their sex and their gender more or less align. They’re biologically male or female, and they think of themselves as male or female. This is what activists call “cisgender.”
Third, a small percentage of people do not believe their sex and gender align. While they are biologically male, for example, their mind tells them they’re female. This person is said to suffer from gender dysphoria. People who have gender dysphoria often (but not always) describe themselves as “transgender.”
It is this sex/gender distinction that has led a number of activists and lawmakers to embrace the notion that nondiscrimination laws aren’t truly inclusive unless they bar discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity. Why? Because — as noted above — they persistently argue that sex and gender are different things.
If you read federal nondiscrimination law, however, you’ll note something very very important. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. For example, here’s the language of Title IX:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
And here’s relevant language from Title VII:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
So, when the Trump administration suggests a biological definition of “sex,” it is actually in line with the common understanding of the term. Sex is different from gender. Sex is biological.
But wait. Since Congress hasn’t passed a statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, now the Left is arguing that sex and gender are the same thing, and “sex” really means gender. Words that really, really matter when explaining the science of gender suddenly matter much less when explaining the obligations of federal law.
That isn’t science. It’s an ideological and legal argument designed to expand the law without changing its text. Moreover, it’s not “science” to argue that a person who identifies with a male gender despite being born into the female sex is truly a male. That’s a philosophical and ideological choice to value the person’s self-concept over their chromosomes. It’s a choice a person is free to make. A person is free to call Chelsea Manning or Caitlyn Jenner women. But it is not a choice the government should mandate that we make.
Simply put, until the text of the law changes, sex means sex, and the Trump administration’s proposed language is completely consistent with the science, both old and new.
The report segments Americans into seven “tribes,” from “Progressive Activists” on the Left to “Dedicated Conservatives” on the Right. David Brooks writes a bit about these extremes and then notes, “The good news is that once you get outside these two elite groups you find a lot more independent thinking and flexibility. This is not a 50-50 nation. It only appears that way when disenchanted voters are forced to choose between the two extreme cults.
“Roughly two-thirds of Americans, across four political types, fall into what the authors call “the exhausted majority.”
You may notice that lopping off the two extreme tribes should leave you with five, not four, groups in the middle. The reason the “Exhausted Majority” consists of four groups is that the report lops off three tribes, not just two. Gone are the Progressive Activists (8 percent of the public) and the Devoted Conservatives (6 percent), but also gone are the Traditional Conservatives (19 percent), who include more people than the two extremes put together.
So the “Exhausted Majority” consists of an American public from which America’s most left-wing 8 percent and most right-wing 25 percent have been removed — which is to say that it is a majority whose center is significantly to the left of the actual country’s center.
Thus Axios’s write-up explains that 14 percent of the public “consistently shouts” about its extreme political views “while 67% of us are exhausted” by all their shouting. These numbers don’t add up to 100 percent because the “Traditional Conservatives” — who are, based on the report’s own numbers, about a fifth of the country, the largest group of politically engaged Americans, and the majority of all American conservatives — are just ignored.
The report justifies its treatment of the tribes by noting that the Traditional Conservatives have views closer to those of the Dedicated Conservatives than to those of the four tribes in the Exhausted Majority. But as Kristen Soltis Anderson — the only columnist I’ve seen who has put a spotlight on the way this report has sliced the data — points out in the Washington Examiner, on many issues, the “Traditional Conservatives” are closer to the public’s view than their liberal counterparts.
Anderson does not dismiss the report as devoid of interest. But anyone seeking to glean something about our country’s majority should keep in mind that the report has excluded three times as many Americans on the Right as on the Left.
Indiana has a state law on the books forbidding pollsters from robocalling or even autodialing voters — which means its elections are more difficult to poll and thus more difficult to predict. In this year’s Senate race, there have been just a handful of surveys, and, until the last few days, the majority of them gave a slight lead to Democratic senator Joe Donnelly, who’s facing a challenge from Republican businessman Mike Braun.
Just yesterday, a SurveyUSA poll gave Donnelly a meager one-point lead, leading Braun 41-40 percent.
But two recent polls tell a different story from what we’ve seen all race. Yesterday, the Braun campaign released an internal poll showing the Republican with a four-point lead, ahead of Donnelly 44-40 percent. Independent candidate Lucy Brenton had 7 percent support.
This morning, an Indy Politics survey conducted by Mason Strategies also showed Braun ahead by four points, leading the incumbent 47-43 percent, while Brenton polled at only 3 percent. According to the poll, 35 percent of voters said Donnelly’s decision to oppose the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh made them less likely to support him, while 30 percent of voters said they’d be more likely to vote for him as a result.
In 2016, Donald Trump won Indiana by 19 points, and now-senator Todd Young, a Republican, defeated Evan Bayh — a Democrat who had represented Indiana in the Senate and retired in 2010, before running again in 2016 — by nearly 10 percent.
The Senate race this year is rated as a tossup by most major outlets, but these new polls seem to reflect a shift in momentum that matches the profile of a contest in which a Republican challenger is seeking to unseat a bland, ineffective Democrat in a red state where President Trump remains popular.
I’ve written tons on my problems with the fetishization of voting. It’s not that I don’t think voting is important, it’s just that I think people draw the wrong conclusions from its importance. To me voting should be the end product of taking your citizenship seriously, not the gateway drug.
There’s no need for me to rehash all of that here, but I did think it was worth pointing something out. Over the years, when I’ve debated these issues, liberals have always told me that low voter turnout is a sign of a dysfunctional or broken democracy. I’ve always responded that the opposite is more likely: Very high levels of voter turnout are very often bad signs; people tend to vote in bigger numbers when they feel things are going very badly in the country.
I don’t want to overgeneralize, there are bad reasons for people not voting too — apathy, cynicism, nihilism, voter-suppression, being chained to a radiator in an abandoned warehouse in the shady part of town, etc. But it’s not hard to see how general satisfaction with the direction of the country might lead many people to not bother voting. Add in the philosophically conservative point of view that says it’s not altogether bad when people think the government in Washington doesn’t matter all that much, and you can see where I’m coming from.
Well, here’s something to noodle. The upcoming midterms may be marked by the biggest turnout in over a half century. I think it’s fair to say that liberal turnout is not attributable to their belief that everything is going great. Just listening to liberals’ own rhetoric, this is not only the most important election in history, but democracy itself is on the ballot.
Meanwhile, until the Kavanaugh fiasco, it looked like turnout among Republicans was going to be lackluster. In other words, what galvanized conservative voters wasn’t a newfound love of a civic ritual, but the sense that Democrats had lost their minds and behaved appallingly. Whether or not you think conservatives are correct in that sentiment is irrelevant to my point. Many Republicans saw it that way. I know there are many members of Trump’s base who think the country is on the right track. But according to pollsters, they seemed unlikely to turn out in huge numbers before the Kavanaugh affair, precisely because they thought they didn’t need to.
So, it seems to me that my point is being demonstrated before our eyes. High voter turnout is not necessarily a sign of societal health and civic engagement, but a sign that people think the country is in peril or at least their slice of it is. And that’s okay. One of the great things about democracy is that we settle these allegedly existential conflicts at the ballot box. I’d much rather the polling stations be filled with pissed-off voters than the streets with pissed-off mobs. My only point is that high voter turnout doesn’t necessarily indicate societal health and low voter turnout doesn’t necessarily indicate the opposite. What matters is why people are showing up at the polls or why they aren’t.
In the first half of the latest edition of The McCarthy Report (our National Reviewpodcast), Rich and I place the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the factual context that you must have if you want to understand it. That means, contrary to the mainstream media’s Islamo-philic commentary, Khashoggi’s Islamist background and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood are important. The point is not to rationalize Khashoggi’s killing — the murder is yet another Saudi atrocity, atop countless others.
The point is to explain why the Saudis would target Khashoggi under circumstances where that noxious regime (a) routinely persecutes Saudi nationals who criticize the regime, and (b) turned with a vengeance on its former confederate, the Muslim Brotherhood, during the so-called Arab Spring. There is, moreover, the fact that they chose to carry out the murder in Turkey — an Islamist regime the Saudis have long regarded as a rival and, in current times, despise over Erdogan’s (1) support for the Muslim Brotherhood and (2) collaboration with Iran, the Saudis’ bitter Shiite antagonists.
. . . who will send us this. Or the 2018 version of this beauty of yore.
As of this morning, we stand at approximately $190,000 in donations to our Fall 2018 Webathon. The “we” is National Review, which — unless you have serious short-term memory issues — played a major role in kicking the Left in its big, sharp teeth during the Battle of Kavanaugh (as Rich Lowry delineated with his usual brilliance). Let’s do the math: Seventy good conservatives sending $500 each in a generous contribution — to support our ace political reporters and analysts keep up the steady stream of informative copy that you thrive on and rely on, especially during these last two weeks as we head into the November elections — will get us to our goal of $225,000.
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It is amazing what societies can get used to. The latest rape-gang case in the U.K. is a case in point. A gang of 20 men from Huddersfield were last week convicted and sentenced for the rape and abuse of girls as young as eleven. As in previous cases, the convicted men were of all Asian origin and their victims all local underage girls.
This time, as in every previous such case (Rotherham, Rochdale, Telford, Oxfordshire, Bristol, Keighley, Newcastle, Derby, etc., etc.) the stories are horrific. In the Huddersfield case one of the victims reportedly cracked her head while jumping from a first-floor balcony to escape the gang. Another deliberately burned her own house down so that her family would have to move from the area. “It was the best thing I ever did,” she said, “and that’s bad saying that burning your house down is the best thing you ever did.”
There are many similar cases still to come, so the story is not going away. As the BBC’s correspondent puts it, the backlog of cases are “overwhelming our police and our courts.”
But when I say that Britain has gotten used to these cases, it is true. They come up in the papers with considerable regularity, but after the convictions there is no noticeable debate, let alone any shift in political outlook. Nothing happens. Or at least nothing positive. Last year, Member of Parliament Sarah Champion was fired from the Labour front bench just for mentioning the ethnic component in these rape-gang cases. As the MP for Rotherham, you would have thought, she’d be permitted to mention the gang-rape of her constituents. But no. For the time being one can deplore the mass rape of the nation’s children, but it is a bit much to want to actually address the issue.
Meantime, the true attitude slips out only accidentally. Last year the Labour MP Naz Shah shared a Twitter post saying, “Those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need to shut their mouths. For the good of diversity.” Shah — not the smartest cookie in the jar, it must be said — didn’t seem to realize that the tweet was from a spoof satirical account. She deleted her reposting after criticism. But her first instinct was the honest one. Like many other people in positions of power across Britain, Shah finds the victims of these crimes to be inconvenient to the national narrative.
This is that diversity is an unalloyed good and that the more people you have from the more places then the more wonderful cultural practices you will be able to enjoy. Even the contemplation that there might be some rough with the smooth is brushed away. And what is anybody going to do about it anyway?
Though we may have got used to the cycle of these stories, I’d bet a fair amount of money that of all the cases that fill up the news in any given year, those like Huddersfield are the ones that are going to have the longest reach and impact. They detonate something very deep beneath the dogmas and presumptions of our time. And the public will be thinking about them, even if their politicians are all hoping otherwise.
Given Russian cheating, the INF treaty as a practical matter only prohibits the U.S. from having such missiles. What sense is there in that? Arms controllers often fall back on the argument that U.S. self-restraint has a symbolic effect, discouraging other countries from developing weapons by the force of our example, but this is manifestly untrue. Despite our efforts to minimize the role of nuclear weapons in international affairs, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review notes that “since 2010, no potential adversary has reduced either the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy or the number of nuclear weapons it fields.”
Local police have reportedly found an explosive device in the mailbox of George Soros’s residence in the northern suburbs of New York City. Thankfully, no one was harmed. But the news is disturbing all the same. During the early 1970s, domestic extremist groups launched a terror campaign involving literally thousands of bombings, most of which failed to result in arrest or prosecution. Could we be in for such an ugly turn in our national life today?
For all the rancor of American politics in the 21st century, we’ve mercifully avoided large-scale terrorist violence since 9/11, which was perpetrated by foreign Islamists. This latest development — I can’t say whether it was a botched attack or a sinister warning — suggests that as bad as the political climate seems, it can get worse. Regardless of what you make of Soros’s politics, it should go without saying that he deserves the right to live in peace, and to take an active role in political debates without fearing for his safety or that of those closest to him. I hope law-enforcement officials are able to find the perpetrators soon.
if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008. Without Fox, in other words, the GOP’s only popular vote win since the 1980s would have been reversed and the 2008 election would have been an extinction-level landslide. And that’s only measuring the direct impact of the Fox cable network. If you consider the supplemental effect of Sinclair’s local news broadcast, the AM radio shows of Fox personalities like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, and the broader constellation of right-wing punditry, the effect would surely be larger.
A few years back Tim Groseclose estimated that in the absence of media bias, the electorate would shift markedly rightward. His precise estimates have been disputed, naturally, but whatever the total effect, he clearly got the overall direction of the media’s bias correct. So it’s rather rich for liberals to complain that the deck is stacked against them in the press.
Writing about commercial rent control in New York City last week, I conflated Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support for a commercial rent-control measure instituted as part of a rezoning scheme in upper Manhattan with support for a different measure under consideration by the city council. The de Blasio administration in fact has had reservations about the bill under consideration and today officially came out against it. I regret the error.
3. Today is the feast day of John Paul II. His Evangelium Vitae is worth rereading. I thought you might especially appreciate this:
An important and serious responsibility belongs to those involved in the mass media, who are called to ensure that the messages which they so effectively transmit will support the culture of life. They need to present noble models of life and make room for instances of people’s positive and sometimes heroic love for others. With great respect they should also present the positive values of sexuality and human love, and not insist on what defiles and cheapens human dignity. In their interpretation of things, they should refrain from emphasizing anything that suggests or fosters feelings or attitudes of indifference, contempt or rejection in relation to life. With scrupulous concern for factual truth, they are called to combine freedom of information with respect for every person and a profound sense of humanity.
There is such a thing as reading too much into the early vote figures.
As of today, just over 5 million people have voted early across the country, either in-person or by returning absentee ballots.
Some localities are reporting higher early voting this cycle — “sharply increasing” in Cuyahoga County, Ohio; “tripling” in Georgia and Clark County, Nevada. But early voting has increased in every election cycle since 2004, so we would expect early voting to be up in most places. And bigger numbers for early voting doesn’t always translate to higher turnout overall. Around 40 percent of ballots in 2014 were early in-person voting, absentee ballots, or vote by mail, compared to 35 percent two years earlier and about 32 percent in 2010. (Remember, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now vote entirely by mail.) But overall voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest since the Second World War. Big early voting numbers could mean wider general interest in the midterm elections, or it could mean that a larger chunk of the usual pool of voters decided to vote early this year.
If the historical trends continue, we can expect about 45 percent of all voters to cast ballots early, absentee, or by mail in 2018.
Back in 2014, some liberals looked at higher numbers of registered Democratic voters participating in early voting and insisted the polls showing their preferred candidates trailing had to be wrong. They were deeply disappointed on Election Night.
There’s a perception that high early vote turnout is good for Democrats and bad for Republicans, but that drastically oversimplifies things.
Perspective is in order. In Indiana, Montana, and Nevada, the total early vote hasn’t hit 100,000 votes yet. Based upon the last midterms, Montana should have about 370,000 total votes, Nevada should have at least a half-million votes, and Indiana should have at least a million. Still, every vote you turn out early is one less you have to worry about on Election Day — and you’d rather have more of your voters casting ballots early than the other side’s voters.
Beto O’Rourke fans will look at the news that Bexar County in Texas saw 16,827 votes cast by 2 p.m. today; four years ago, there were 13,436 for the whole first day. Bexar County includes San Antonio, and is usually one of the more Democratic-leaning regions of the state; Hillary Clinton won 319,550 votes here and Donald Trump won 240,333.
But Bexar is usually Democratic-leaning; in the 2014 Senate race, Republican Jon Cornyn won 160,577 and Democrat David Alameel won 124,030. O’Rourke’s going to need to run up a big margin in those little blue dots on the Texas map to make up for all of the votes in those red stretches.
Some folks aren’t such big fans of the idea of “Election Month” instead of Election Day; you never know when, to pick a completely hypothetical example, the FBI director might suddenly announce the reopening of a criminal investigation of a presidential candidate.
Every election people talk about an “October surprise” that upends the conventional wisdom about the outcome. Well, it appears we can see the contours of at least one October surprise. The Democrats have managed to shoot themselves in the foot with their handling of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination and the ...
In the most recent issue of National Review (“The Case against Pope Francis,” October 29, 2018), NR senior writer Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote, “The Francis pontificate was to be an era of mercy for sinners at the peripheries and accountability for malefactors at the Vatican. Instead, almost the ...
In Brooklyn, there is an occult bookshop called Catland Books. “Catland” is, one imagines, an apt description of the homes of the women who congregate there.
The operators of the establishment have announced that they are planning to hold a special hex session this weekend to make Supreme Court justice ...
Today I learned something truly new. I’d lived my life on this earth almost 49 years before I understood that federal anti-discrimination law defines human existence. Changing that law can thus literally “negate the humanity of people.”
At least that’s what I’m learning in response to the news that ...
With Election Day a little more than two weeks away, Republican Senate candidates in Arizona and Missouri appear to have a small lead over their Democratic opponents.
In Arizona, a New York Times/Siena poll shows Republican congresswoman Martha McSally ahead of Democratic congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema by two ...