World

The Trump Administration’s Long Telegram?

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President Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, November 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Win or lose, President Trump’s tough approach to China will be one of his administration’s longest enduring successes. The National Security Council yesterday posted to its website a collection of Trump-era speeches on China that seems at least partly an attempt to define that legacy.

The foreword, written by National-Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, describes the administration’s work in no uncertain terms:

Taken together, the speeches herein are similar to U.S. diplomat George Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” to the State Department that outlined his views on the Soviet Union. This book is different from the “Long Telegram” in two important respects. First, unlike Kennan’s case, written by an envoy at post, this book contains the words and policies of the President and his most senior officials. Second, given China’s population size, economic prowess, and historic global ambitions, the People’s Republic of China is a more capable competitor than the Soviet Union at its height.

The comparison to one of the central documents of the Cold War is a bit of a reach, though a combination of the some of the speeches in the booklet does amount to a solid appraisal of the U.S.–China competition.

So which speeches are contained in the booklet, and what does their selection say? It begins with Vice President Mike Pence’s 2018 address at the Hudson Institute warning of all the ways that the Chinese party-state has exerted malign influence in the United States and around the world. Pence sounded some tough notes but ultimately expressed faith in the ability of the U.S. and China to maintain healthy ties throughout the strategic competition.

Fast forward two years, and much has changed. The next speech in the booklet — Pottinger’s May 2020 speech at the University of Virginia — took place over a year later. Why?

The most likely reason for the gap is just to point out the truth about Trump’s “tough on China” attitude: The groundwork for it has been there since the 2017 National Security Strategy described the state of strategic competition between Washington and Beijing, but the administration has really only picked up this thread in 2020.

The trade war was one persistent obstacle — with ongoing negotiations, the president listened to the exhortations of dovish advisers to hold off on the most stringent measures. But now that coronavirus-era China looks unlikely to meet its obligations under the trade deal but likelier to take a more assertive role in the world, administration officials have brought the approaches described in the 2017 NSS and Pence’s speech to their logical conclusion.

In recent months, the U.S. government has taken a full spectrum approach to correcting the long standing imbalance in bilateral ties, expelling spies, going after vectors of Chinese influence in the U.S., levying sanctions targeting human-rights abusers, and banning Chinese tech companies that pose a national-security threat, to name a few.

And that shift is reflected in the remarks by these senior Trump officials. Most interestingly, although the element of strategic competition has been around since the start of the administration, the latest phase has seen the ascendancy of ideological competition with the Chinese Communist Party. This features most heavily in the remarks by Pottinger, O’Brien, and Pompeo. However, the final speech in the booklet — Trump’s address to the U.N. in September — left a lot to be desired, eliding the nature of the CCP’s totalitarian underpinnings and its global ambitions.

Incidentally, these are points that Pottinger addressed in October, during a speech to a British think tank (Representative Mike Gallagher recently said that the Trump adviser is the Kennan of our time). However, since the booklet was apparently compiled on October 9, that latest speech didn’t make the cut.

The Long Telegram is a high bar, but the Trump administration has certainly come up with a blueprint of sorts for this new phase of competition with the CCP, whether or not the president is reelected.

Law & the Courts

Judge Emmet Sullivan, Postmaster General

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Judge Emmet Sullivan of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., has apparently taken some time off from usurping the power of the United States Department of Justice to decide which cases to prosecute. He’s now running the United States Postal Service, too.

Judge Sullivan caught a case filed in late August that alleges the post office is undermining the rights of those seeking to vote by mail – Vote Forward, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, Voces Unidas de las Montanas, et al. – v. – Louis DeJoy and the United States Postal Service.

I wonder if Mr. DeJoy will still think he is the postmaster general once he sees the jurist-of-all-trades’ Election Day order:

It is hereby ORDERED that, beginning no later than 12:30 PM EST today, Defendants shall send Postal Service inspectors or their designees, to processing facilities in the following Districts and direct them to sweep the facilities between 12:30 PM EST and 3:00 PM EST to ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery: Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Detroit, Colorado/Wyoming, Atlanta, Houston, Alabama, Northern New England, Greater South Carolina, South Florida, Lakeland, and Arizona. Alternatively, Defendants may satisfy this paragraph if inspectors from the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) are available to oversee the sweep of processing facilities described in the previous sentence. No later than 4:30 PM EST today, Defendants shall file a status update certifying compliance with this paragraph upon confirming, in the most efficient manner available, that sweeps were conducted and that no ballots were left behind. To be clear, the inspectors themselves need not provide any certifications to the Court. It is FURTHER ORDERED that by no later than 4:30 PM EST today, Defendants shall identify the 27 processing centers at which the OIG was onsite and the list of facilities that the Postal Inspectors have observed since October 19, 2020, unless OIG raises an objection to the identification of these sites. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 11/3/2020.

Elections

Louisiana Voters Consider a Constitutional Amendment to Protect Unborn Children

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(Pixabay)

At the polls today in Louisiana, voters will consider this proposed amendment to the state constitution: “Do you support an amendment declaring that, to protect human life, a right to abortion and the funding of abortion shall not be found in the Louisiana Constitution?”

If passed, the amendment would serve as a protection against legal abortion in Louisiana in the event that the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or subsequent cases finding a right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution.

Louisiana already has passed what’s known as a “trigger law,” which provides that, if Roe and other abortion cases were to be overturned, abortion would be illegal in the state, except in cases when a mother’s life is at risk. This constitutional amendment would go a step further, preventing courts from finding a right to abortion in the Louisiana state constitution. In ten states, courts already have found that the state constitutions protect a right to abortion.

If a majority of voters supports the measure, Louisiana will become the fourth state to declare that its state constitution does not protect a right to abortion or to funding for an abortion.

In 2014, Tennessee’s Amendment 1 received 52.6 percent of the vote, making Tennessee the first state to amend its constitution to ensure that it cannot be construed to protect a right to abortion or to require abortion funding. The amendment was proposed in response to a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that asserted the state constitution protects a right to “procreational autonomy.”

In 2018, meanwhile, both Alabama and West Virginia passed similar amendments. Alabama’s Amendment 2 received almost 60 percent support from voters and, in addition to prohibiting a pro-abortion reading of the state constitution, affirmed that the state “recognizes and supports the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.”

West Virginia’s amendment passed more narrowly, with a little less than 52 percent of the vote. The amendment was a response to the West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision to require the state to fund elective abortion via Medicaid.

There hasn’t been much polling available on public opinion of Louisiana’s ballot initiative, but according to Pew Research Center data, a little less than two-thirds of Louisiana voters believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Louisiana is one of several states where pro-life Democratic politicians can still be elected; the state’s governor, John Bel Edwards, is a pro-life Democrat, as is state senator Katrina Jackson, who led the drive to place this initiative before voters on today’s ballot.

Elections

Colorado Voters to Decide Ballot Measure Restricting Late-Term Abortion

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(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

In Colorado today, voters will decide a ballot initiative that would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception for cases when a physician deems abortion necessary to save the mother’s life. Colorado is one of the states with the fewest protections for unborn children; the state currently has no gestational restrictions on abortion.

This ballot measure, Proposition 115, is the fourth attempt in Colorado over the last decade to enact a pro-life policy via ballot initiative, but it is the least restrictive one proposed yet. In 2008 and 2010, the state proposed ballot measures that would have defined all unborn human beings as “persons” under state law. Both of those measures failed by a margin of about 45 percent.

In 2014, the Colorado ballot featured a similar effort, which would have defined unborn children as “persons” via an amendment to the state constitution. That effort failed by a 30-point margin.

Nevertheless, polling of voter sentiment on this year’s pro-life ballot initiative suggests that the result could be close. A mid-October survey from the American Politics Research Lab at the University of Colorado in Boulder found that 45 percent of likely voters said they oppose the measure, 41 percent support it, and 17 were undecided.

A second mid-October poll, conducted by Civiqs on behalf of Daily Kos, surveyed more than 1,000 likely voters in Colorado and found that 42 support Proposition 115, while 51 percent oppose it and 7 percent said they were unsure.

Another poll of some registered voters and some likely voters, conducted by SurveyUSA in early October, also found that public opinion was fairly even on the measure. Forty-two percent of respondents said they would support the abortion restriction, 45 percent said they would oppose it, and 13 percent said they were unsure.

Interestingly, almost one-third of Democratic respondents said they planned to back the pro-life measure, aligning with most public-opinion polling, which suggests that most Democrats tend to favor protections for unborn children later in pregnancy, especially after the point that they can survive outside the womb.

Elections

For North Carolina Republicans, the Early Vote Was Better Than 2016 or 2012

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(Nick Oxford/Reuters)

The Biden campaign feels pretty confident about North Carolina, telling reporters today that by their calculations, Donald Trump will need to win 62 percent of the in-person votes cast in the Tar Heel State today.

I’m not sure that the early vote should be all that reassuring to Democrats, as the share of the early vote that is registered Democrats is down compared to four and eight years ago. In 2012, the early vote split 47.5 percent registered Democrats, 31.5 percent registered Republicans, and 20.8 percent no party affiliation. That year, Mitt Romney won the state, 50.3 percent to 48.3 percent.

In 2016, the early vote split 41.7 percent registered Democrats, 31.9 percent registered Republicans, and 26.1 percent no party affiliation. That year, Trump won the state, 49.8 percent to 46.1 percent.

This year, the early vote split 37.4 percent registered Democrats, 31.5 percent registered Republicans, and 30.3 percent no party affiliation. For the GOP, their share of the early vote is remaining steady, while the share that is registered Democrats keeps sliding. This is a year where the early vote is bigger than ever, and the Republicans did better than the past two cycles where their candidate narrowly won the state.

Also note that the share of the North Carolina early vote that is African American is down a bit. It was 27.4 percent in 2012, 22.3 percent in 2016, and 19.4 percent this year.

Those early vote trends do not guarantee a Trump win; the president may be losing among independents at a rate that offsets the better indicators. The Insider Advantage survey has Trump and Biden splitting independents; the CNN poll had Biden leading among independents 51 percent to 38 percent; the NBC Marist poll had Biden leading among independents, 52 percent to 43 percent, and the New York Times/Siena poll has Biden leading among independents, 51 percent to 36 percent.

Elections

A Reagan Milestone for Biden

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Dallas, Texas, March 2, 2020. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Today Joe Biden is exactly as old as Ronald Reagan was on his last day in office.

Exactly? Exactly: 77 years, 11 months, 14 days.

Ronald Wilson Reagan, who was the oldest president in American history at the close of his second term, was born February 6, 1911. He departed the White House on January 20, 1989. That’s 28,473 days. Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born November 20, 1942. From then till today is 28,473 days. Should Biden be elected president today and deliver an acceptance speech after midnight, he will be older when he gives his victory address than Reagan was at the last moment of his career in public service.

Few observers of politics since 1988 would have expected Biden could ever be in the position he is now, but then again: he’s the luckiest politician in American history.

Trade

Oren Cass vs. Public-Choice Economics

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Traders watch President Donald Trump speak from the White House on a monitor on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, March 13, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

A lot of economic thought concerns the ways that markets can go awry: how the pursuit of profit by firms and individuals might not maximize social welfare, and how outcomes can best be improved in such cases. The field of “public choice” economics strives to subject government action to a parallel analysis. It suggests that government officials, elected and unelected, may have incentives that don’t line up with the public good, and considers the ways these misalignments can warp government policy. Politicians can benefit from implementing policies that inflict net harm on an economy, for example, if the gross benefits are concentrated on and visible to the beneficiaries while the gross costs are diffused and hidden from the losers.

Oren Cass has written an essay arguing that some on the Right — he calls them, here as elsewhere, “market fundamentalists” — have overread the insights of public choice in a way that makes them too enthusiastic about markets and too hostile to government. Among his targets are Michael Strain and me. We wrote an essay for National Review that made five points relevant to Cass’s argument:

(1) President Trump’s tariffs have not benefited the U.S. economy.

(2) Their failure is unsurprising given that their design has had more to do with interest-group politics than any reasonable assessment of the country’s needs.

(3) We should be open to the possibility that a better-designed set of tariffs or subsidies for selected U.S. industries would yield better results.

(4) We have reason, though, to be skeptical of such proposals.

(5) A superior strategy for responding to Chinese economic abuses would be to strengthen our economic ties to other countries rather than impose tariffs.

Cass does not dispute points one through three, and even lends some support to them. His main objection is to point four. His basic counterargument* is that free-trade agreements, like the ones we advocate in our fifth point, are also susceptible to the distorting effects of interest-group lobbying. We provide, Cass writes, no reason for thinking that moving in a protectionist direction deserves more skepticism than moving in a free-trading one.

Presumptive free-traders have had no trouble conceding that trade agreements in the real world typically include features that benefit parochial interests rather than the public as a whole. Whether a proposed trade agreement advances the national interest will depend on an informed assessment of its specifics. Thus Senator Pat Toomey (R., Penn.) thought that some of the provisions in Trump’s refurbished NAFTA were better than the ones in the original and others were worse, voting against the changes based on his judgment that the bad outweighed the good. The trade-policy analysts at the Cato Institute, market fundamentalists if anyone deserves the label, went through the Trans-Pacific Partnership with microscopes.

Proposals to alter trade policy, whether by liberalizing trade or restricting it, have to be evaluated on their merits. We are nonetheless entitled to be more skeptical of proposals for restriction than ones for liberalization, and to think that a shift toward restriction is likely — not guaranteed, but very likely — to have generally negative consequences. The economic theory favoring free trade is well-developed, and we have extensive historical evidence (a small bit of it reviewed by Strain and me in our article) that trade enriches and protectionism impoverishes.

Protectionist policies also create more opportunities for interest-group manipulation. Trump’s trade policies have created a lobbying boom as companies have sought to tax their competitors and win exemptions for themselves. That’s in keeping with a long history. Moreover, when trade agreements involve cronyism, it tends to be mostly because of their protectionist components.

Trump’s tariffs have also been harmful to national income, wealth, and labor markets. Cass doesn’t dispute any of that. What he disputes is that we can draw any lessons from this experience. Remind me, please, which side is supposed to be the “fundamentalist” one?

*At one point, Cass claims that Strain and I treat the status quo as ideal and all departures from it as presumptively bad. We don’t, in truth, make that argument, even implicitly, and this claim of Cass contradicts his later claim that we treat proposals to liberalize trade as presumptively good. So I’m going to treat this as a minor rhetorical slip on Cass’s part.

Elections

Where Senate Republicans Stand at the End

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“I Voted Today” stickers at the Democratic primary in Philadelphia, Pa., June 2, 2020. (Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters)

Last week, I looked at the history of Senate races in presidential years. As I noted, there was some good news for Republicans even if Donald Trump loses: The average losing party loses two Senate seats. Among losing parties that got at least 48 percent of the two-party presidential popular vote on an unweighted average across states with Senate races, the average was basically break-even, with the losing party gaining Senate seats four times in six elections. And Donald Trump’s unweighted average in the two-party vote in polls across those states with 2020 Senate races is 52 percent. The bad news? The average losing party goes 13–21 in Senate races. The Republicans, however, are defending 23 seats, so they need a lot more than 13 wins to retain control of the Senate. And the two races that saw the losing party do terribly in the Senate despite doing well in the popular vote across states with Senate races were 2008 and 2012 — the last two times Republicans lost a presidential race.

Let’s update the charts from that piece. Here are the states with contested Senate races, and where they stand:

Remember: Assuming Doug Jones loses in Alabama, Democrats need to gain four Republican-held seats to get the Senate to 50/50 (which they would then tenuously control if Kamala Harris is vice president), five to get to 51 Democratic senators, and more than that if any other Democrat loses (Tina Smith in Minnesota and Gary Peters in Michigan being the two conceivable upsets, with both below 50 percent in the final poll averages, as are several Republican incumbents who lead in the final polls). At the moment, Democrats hold a fairly strong position to gain three of those — Arizona, Colorado, and Maine — and lead in North Carolina, while trailing in Iowa, Kansas, Alaska, South Carolina, Montana, and Texas. In most of these states, the Senate race is at least broadly consistent with the state of the national race, though not lockstep with it. The real wild card is Georgia, particularly the Perdue-Ossoff race, where it is possible that a bad night for Republicans could pull Jon Ossoff over 50 percent and avoid a January 5 runoff in which Republicans would likely have an edge. It is not outside of the question, however, for Perdue to avoid a runoff. The multi-way race in the other Georgia campaign seems less likely to get to 50.

It is not hard to imagine, in worst-case terms, how a really big Biden victory could lead to the sort of blowout we had in 2008, with Democrats gaining 8–10 seats. But the terrain does not favor that, not with Trump likely to either win or remain closely competitive in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Iowa, Kansas, Arizona, Montana, South Carolina, Alaska, and Kentucky. Biden’s coattails in states without Senate races won’t matter much in those places. If Joni Ernst wins but Thom Tillis loses, the likeliest outcome is a 50–48 Democratic Senate with the two Georgia seats headed to runoffs.

To complete the picture, the uncompetitive races, none of which seems likely to produce an upset:

Elections

Bush v. Gore Revisited

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Robert Gasaway:

Arguments advanced in Bush v. Gore by Democrats were not only unconvincing but dangerously intrusive on the sanctity of the electoral process. That said, Republicans’ constitutional advocacy never found its bearings until the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute of the case. The situation may have been salvaged in the end only through a prescient intervention—made separate from, perhaps unbeknownst to, lawyers formally representing George W. Bush.

Elections

New Jersey’s Election Day Votes Won’t Be Counted until Next Week

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If you’re casting a ballot in person in New Jersey today, it will not get counted by election officials until . . . next week.

New Jersey election officials won’t count ballots cast in person on Election Day until at least Nov. 10, a state official confirmed Monday.

The Board of Elections will count all mail-in ballots first and vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can arrive through Nov. 10 and be counted, officials said. New Jersey counties won’t have a complete list of all mail-in ballots until at least Nov. 10.

A little over 6 million New Jerseyans requested absentee ballots; 3.5 million returned them, as of Sunday. Last cycle, 3.87 million New Jersey voters cast ballots in the presidential election. If this year’s turnout will be at least equal to 2016, roughly 363,000 Garden State residents will show up today, cast ballots . . . and then not have their vote counted for a week. Depending upon turnout today, the “wait until next week” pile could have 400,000 or 500,000 votes.

We all expect Joe Biden to win New Jersey by a comfortable margin, and Cory Booker’s Senate race probably won’t be competitive, either. But the state has a handful of competitive House races. How confident can any news channel or organization be about declaring a winner when a couple hundred thousand votes won’t be counted until around Veteran’s Day?

Elections

No, the ‘Popular Vote’ Winner Does Not ‘Actually Win’ the Election

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(Al Drago/Reuters)

A bad argument against the Electoral College is that because it is sometimes out of step with the “popular vote,” the “real winner” sometimes ends up “losing.” This is a bad argument for many reasons, but especially because presidential elections are not fought for the “popular vote” total, so it is extremely silly to draw any meaningful conclusions from it.

The largest ten states in America are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan. Of these, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan are competitive in presidential elections; Texas is sort of competitive (increasingly so, especially this year); and California, New York, and Illinois are not only forgone conclusions, but effectively one-party states. In practice, this means that Republicans voters in three of the six largest states have little incentive to vote, while Democrats in seven of the ten have a real incentive to vote. The “popular vote” reflects this.

A good argument against the Electoral College is that this varied incentive structure is itself a problem. I don’t agree with this — or, rather, I do, but I don’t find it persuasive enough to turn me against the Electoral College on balance — but I think it’s an argument worth reckoning with. “If you change the rules and assume a game that wasn’t actually played, my candidate won” is not.

Politics & Policy

Marriage and Politics

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Politically mixed marriages are rare, falling in prevalence, and relatively unhappy.

Elections

Before You Make an Accusation of Lawbreaking, Check Your State’s Laws

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Already we’ve got accusations of lawbreaking at polling places. Before you toss an accusation, check your state’s laws — they’re online and just a web search away. Pennsylvania law bars electioneering or campaign materials inside polling places: “No person, when within the polling place, shall electioneer or solicit votes for any political party, political body or candidate, nor shall any written or printed matter be posted up within the said room, except as required by this act.”

In guidance issued before the 2016 election, the Pennsylvania Department of State declared, “Any other person or voter not in the process of voting, campaign workers, signs and all other electioneering material must be located at least 10 feet away from the entrance to the room where voting occurs.” A Biden sign in front of the bushes by a polling place does not represent a violation of state law, unless it is within ten feet.

This picture, of a public school in Philadelphia, appears to depict a violation of state law, with poster listing the Democratic candidates on the wall right next to the entrance door.

 

Elections

A Thought for Election Day

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Raising the voting age to 40 would really shorten up those long lines.

National Review

Don’t Let the Ides of November Come and Go without Your Doing This

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Detail of a portrait of Edmund Burke, c. 1769, by Sir Joshua Reynolds (Public Domain/Wikimedia)

Conservatives and Buckley Lovers in the NYC and Philadelphia areas pay heed: National Review Institute’s popular Burke to Buckley Program, now in its eighth year, is seeking applicants for the forthcoming session. Designed for mid-career professionals (typically ages 35–50) who want to develop a deeper understanding of the foundations of conservative thought, “B-to-B” applicants come from a wide variety of careers. There is a preference for law, finance, health care, education, business, the arts, and the non-profit section (and know too that the program is not intended for recent graduates, or those working in public policy or politics).

The upcoming 2021 spring course will run from late January to early May in New York City and Philadelphia. Accepted participants will gather during eight sessions (over Zoom, and in-person over dinner as well, should local conditions allow) to discuss foundational conservative texts. Each week, an expert (often an NR writer of NRI fellow) will guide the discussion, a word we emphasize (because the program isn’t most-definitely not a lecture series). This is a unique opportunity for participants to engage with, and to learn from, one another (and likely in the process form new and worthwhile personal and professional relationships). Program topics include:

  • William F. Buckley Jr. and American Conservatism
  • The Founders’ Constitution
  • Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • Burke, Prudence, and the Spirit of Conservatism
  • Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Fusionism
  • Mediating Structures between the State and the Individual
  • Conservatism, Democracy, and Foreign Policy
  • The Conservative Spirit and Civic Gratitude

Does this sound like something that might interest you, or someone you know? How couldn’t it?! So apply, and the time to do that is now. Do that here, and be aware that applications will close on November 15. The program cost for participants is $500 (if you’re curious, that covers only one-third of the actual per-participant cost).

Outside of the highly educating sessions themselves, B-to-B participants will also join a nationwide alumni network, and will be invited to various National Review Institute events.

Program applications for both cities can be found here. Those with questions should contact the great Lynn Gibson, who runs B-to-B with grace and style, at lynn@nrinstitute.org.

Remember, the deadline is November 15.

Culture

Graveyard Shift

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A violinist plays in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, N.Y., as part of a “To America” program, October 2020. (Steven Pisano)

That spooky picture up there is not from Halloween, although it looks Halloweeny. It is from a concert — a kind of concert — that took place about a week before Halloween, in Green-Wood Cemetery, the grand old resting-place and public park in Brooklyn, New York. (It was established in 1838 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006.) The violinist was improvising on “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” by J. Rosamond Johnson.

I write about this event on the homepage today, here.

The words of this song were written by James Weldon Johnson, brother of the composer. James Weldon (1871–1938) was a poet, a diplomat — many things. It was he who inspired the concert in the cemetery (where he is buried). The concert — which also included poetry and dance — was called “To America,” which is also the title of a Johnson poem.

Back to “Lift Ev’ry Voice” for a minute. This song was actually a source of controversy in the 2008 presidential campaign. I wrote about it for NR in a piece called “Right Song, Wrong Place.” Kind of interesting, if you want to go down Memory Lane.

Speaking of Memory Lane: In the summer of 1983, between my first and second years of college, I was a counselor at Camp Wa-ta-ga-mie — a.k.a. “Camp Want My Mommy” — in Elgin, Illinois. Every morning, we had a flag-raising ceremony, accompanied by a patriotic song: “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” (which sounds suspiciously like “God Save the Queen”) (that was a joke), “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” etc. I added “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” to the repertory.

The camp is no longer operating, but the song — published in 1905 — endures.

Switch to sports: I have done a podcast — a sportscast — with two of my all-time gurus: Sally Jenkins, the columnist for the Washington Post, and my old friend and colleague David French. Go here. The podcast is headed “Sports in a Year of Pandemic.” Among the topics: How did Major League Baseball do with its season? How did the NBA do with its? How is college football going?

I also ask Sally to talk about an idea she introduced in a column two months ago: a college major in sports. A very interesting idea, along the lines of a theater major.

Finally, I want to lay a little more music on you, in the form of a review: a review of a concert, not in a cemetery, but from a palace in Caserta, Italy. Go here. The marquee performers are Diana Damrau, the German soprano, and Joseph Calleja, the Maltese tenor.

Their concert was — is (because it’s still available) — a livestream.

On March 6, I reviewed a concert in Carnegie Hall. Then came a boatload of livestreams. Not until October 23 did I review a live performance again — that was “To America,” in wondrous Green-Wood.

Elections

In Texas Election-Law Case, Skeptical Judge Allows Drive-Through Voting but Follows Justice Alito’s Lead in Segregating Ballots

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Election worker processes mail-in ballots ahead of election day in Houston, Texas, November 2, 2020. (Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters)

More evidence that the Supreme Court has set itself up for some very contentious post-election rulings, at least if the race turns out to be close.

As our Mairead McArdle reports, a federal judge in Houston has turned down a request by a conservative activist and three individuals (the latter are Republican candidates) to invalidate a drive-through voting procedure under which an estimated 127,000 ballots have already been submitted in Harris County, a Democratic Party stronghold. Judge Andrew Hanen is skeptical, however, about the legality of the procedure and has urged voters not to use it anymore. He also granted the plaintiffs’ request to preserve all records indicating which ballots were cast by the procedure in the event there is further litigation, including appeals, challenging the ballots.

In this, Judge Hanen is plainly taking guidance from Justice Samuel Alito.

In last week’s Supreme Court non-decision in the Pennsylvania election-law case, Justice Alito, in an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, opined that a state supreme court’s order changing the voting procedures enacted by the state legislature were almost certainly invalid. While Alito argued that it would have been preferable for the Court to resolve the case before Election Day, he “reluctantly” agreed that it was too late for the Court to act on an expedited basis. Nevertheless, Alito observed that this need not allow the state court’s likely illegal action to escape the high court’s review. Rather, at his urging, the parties agreed to segregate that ballots cast outside the legislature’s procedure. That way, if the election is close and the ballots submitted under the state court’s questionable procedures (i.e., three days late) may make a difference, the Supreme Court can decide post-election whether those votes should count.

In the Texas case, the plaintiffs argue that there is no provision in state election law for drive-through voting. Yet, a bureaucracy — the Texas Secretary of State Elections Division — announced two months ago that the state government would permit the drive-through procedure.

In significant respects, the Texas case differs from the Pennsylvania case. To begin with, despite media suggestions to the contrary, there is not an organized Republican effort in Texas. In Pennsylvania, the case is being pursued by the state Republican Party. In Houston, neither the party nor the Trump campaign is a party.

Second, the Texas case does not entail a judicial rewrite of a governing statute enacted by a state legislature — and remember that, under the Constitution, it is state legislatures, not courts or other state officials, which are vested with the responsibility of setting voting rules. In Texas, the decision was made by the state agency that administers election law. While such a bureaucracy is not permitted to countermand the legislature’s laws, it obviously has some discretion in how those laws are carried out.

All that said, the drive-through procedure arguably does countermand the legislature’s prescription of the permissible ways of submitting ballots. The latter do not include the drive-through process. Hence, the skepticism of Judge Hanen, a Bush-43 appointee. His suggestion that voters not use the procedure is driven by the fear that a court will eventually rule that it was not within the power of the state elections division to fashion it.

The case presents several knotty policy considerations. In defending the procedure, the Harris County Clerk argues that, under the Supreme Court’s “Purcell doctrine,” courts must not interfere in an election at the eleventh hour. That is true, but it is also a claim often posited disingenuously to defend actions that have lawlessly changed the election rules late in the game — i.e., actions that themselves violate the Purcell doctrine, as the state elections division’s drive-through procedure arguably does. As the Supreme Court has observed in other cases, when a state legislature’s election rules have improperly been changed late in the game, courts must intervene to correct the error, even if this correction causes disruption because it unavoidably comes late in the game.

There is also the doctrine of detrimental reliance. While the election division’s action may have been infirm, it is usually reasonable for the public to presume that the government’s action is lawful. Therefore, it would arguably be unfair to invalidate ballots that voters had reason to believe they were legitimately submitting. But of course, carrying detrimental reliance too far would swallow the constitutional mandate that election rules be set by state legislatures: All a lawless bureaucrat or court would have to do is rewrite the rule as it saw fit, then claim that nothing could be done about it since voters had relied on the rewrite.

All of this underscores that the Supreme Court should have intervened weeks ago. A firm statement by the justices that the state legislature’s rules control, and that courts and bureaucrats are not at liberty to rewrite them (including a reminder that it is for elected officials, not the unaccountable courts, to decide how to balance the exigencies of a pandemic against the imperative of election integrity), would have clarified voting procedures before potentially millions of voters submitted ballots under illegitimate rules.

As I observed last week, by not ruling pre-election, the Roberts Court has increased the likelihood that it will have to make rulings post-election. That would enable demagogues to say the justices, rather than the public, is choosing the winner of the election. This would be couched as an attack on the Court’s legitimacy, which Democrats would use to bolster their calls for packing the tribunal with progressive ideologues to produce outcomes preferred by the political left.

The justices have courted chaos, and if the election is close, chaos is what we are apt to have.

U.S.

Trump Establishes 1776 Commission

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Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull (John Parrot/StockTrek Images/Getty Images)

This afternoon President Trump signed an “Executive Order Establishing the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission.” The order marks an important step in Trump’s efforts to foster patriotic education.

The text is longer and more substantive than typical presidential EOs. It offers sharp criticisms of current educational trends, a definition and explanation of patriotic education, as well as a vision for how to realize it. Following Trump’s remarks at the White House Conference on American History, the president was criticized by some on the left both for favoring a simplistic view of patriotism and for trying to force a curriculum on schools in violation of local control. This EO refutes both criticisms.

Trump’s EO does offer strong criticisms of “polemics grounded in poor scholarship” that vilify “our Founders and our founding.” The president evidently has Howard Zinn and the 1619 Project in mind. “Despite the virtues and accomplishments of this Nation, many students are now taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains,” the EO continues. The order rakes this approach over the coals for a time, then says, “Failing to identify, challenge, and correct this distorted perspective could fray and ultimately erase the bonds that knit our country and culture together.”

The critical tone then shifts as the order goes on to make a number of positive points. Grappling directly with the issue of race, the EO highlights a legacy too often ignored: “our country’s valiant and successful effort to shake off the curse of slavery and to use the lessons of that struggle to guide our work toward equal rights for all citizens in the present.” The 1619 Project falsely excludes Americans of all races from the struggle for liberty. Trump’s EO, in contrast, emphasizes our shared striving: “Viewing America as an irredeemably and systemically racist country cannot account for the extraordinary role of the great heroes of the American movement against slavery and for civil rights — a great moral endeavor that, from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr., was marked by religious fellowship, good will, generosity of heart, and emphasis on our shared principles, and an inclusive vision for the future.”

Throughout, Trump’s EO emphasizes the principles of America’s founding as the key to our history — above all God-given natural rights. The EO warns: “Without our common faith in the equal right of every individual American to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, authoritarian visions of government and society could become increasingly alluring alternatives to self-government based on the consent of the people.” The rise of an anti-free-speech American radicalism on campus and beyond makes this principled warning all too timely. “Thus,” the EO continues, “it is necessary to provide America’s young people access to what is genuinely inspiring and unifying in our history, as well as to the lessons imparted by the American experience of overcoming great national challenges.” An “informed and honest patriotism is essential for a successful republic,” this part of the EO concludes.

Does President Trump intend to impose his vision of patriotic education on the nation? Clearly, he does not. On the contrary, the EO reaffirms the Trump administration’s opposition not only to the Common Core, but to “all efforts to have the Federal Government impose a national curriculum or national standards in education.”

How, then, to encourage patriotic education? Here the president calls on local communities to reassert control over the curriculum. The approach is clearly along the lines of the one I’ve described as the real message of Trump’s remarks at the White House Conference on American History. In those remarks, the president touted an NEH grant to American Achievement Testing (AAT), a group planning to design a new American history curriculum to challenge the troubling approaches now dominant in American education. Instructional materials such as those to be produced by AAT will give local school districts a real alternative to textbooks that downplay our founding principles and emphasize group grievance at the expense of our common national identity.

Trump’s EO also empowers the 1776 Commission to produce and publicly disseminate a report within a year. That report shall discuss “the core principles of the American founding and how these principles may be understood to further enjoyment of ‘the blessings of liberty’ and to promote our striving ‘to form a more perfect union.” In other words, the 1776 Commission, likely to be populated by some of America’s finest historians and scholars, will produce a report on the meaning of the Founding, on how American history can be understood as a struggle to realize our founding principles, and on how best to teach all this to the rising generation.

The model here seems to be something like the Kerner Commission Report, which became a best-selling book and stimulated a vigorous national conversation. The aim is thus not to impose a national curriculum, but to assemble some of our best scholars and have them make the case for what the EO calls, “an informed and honest patriotism,” and how to teach it. The report will enter our national debate alongside of and in contradistinction to offerings such as Howard Zinn and the 1619 Project. Meanwhile, groups such as AAT — under the direction of top-flight historians such as Wilfred McClay — will develop instructional materials that represent a true alternative, not only to Zinn and 1619, but to the radical — and radically boring — textbooks that dominate America’s classrooms today.

In short, a movement of parents at the local level, inspired by the 1776 Commission Report and empowered by groups such as AAT, can restore an honest and informed patriotism without curricular imposition from above. That is what the president’s EO establishing the 1776 Commission promises. It is a very hopeful sign.

Media

Diversity at Slate

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(BogdanVj/Getty Images)

A Slate headline: “Most Slate Staffers Are Voting for Biden—but Not All of Us.”

Another way of writing the same headline: “Not One Slate Staffer Is Voting for Trump, But At Least One Is Voting for the Green Party Candidate.”

It is of some interest that National Review, an explicitly conservative journal of opinion, has more political diversity among its contributors than does Slate, which, unless I have missed something, still presents itself as a conventional news source rather than as a journal of left-wing advocacy such as The Nation or The New Republic. The New York Times does not have one pro-Trump columnist on its pages.

The people who like to lecture us about diversity enforce homogeneity. That maybe doesn’t whack the irony meter quite as hard as The Atlantic’s being obliged to withdraw Ruth Shalit’s phonied-up report about the desperation of “late-stage meritocracy” — I suppose Ruth Shalit is the person you consult about meritocracy when Jared Kushner is unavailable — but the moral hollowness and intellectual brittleness of the American press is almost as pronounced as the mediocrity of its writing.

Elections

Election 2020: Some Bold and Some Conventional Predictions

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Then-president Donald Trump and then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speak during the first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland, Ohio, September 29, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

With a fair dose of humility — I pedantically explained to my grandmother that Trump could not win on Election Night 2016 despite her insistence otherwise, and she foresees a Trump landslide this time around — I submit these predictions for Tuesday.

  1. Joe Biden will become president-elect with a six-point popular vote advantage and 305 electoral votes to President Trump’s 233. North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska’s second congressional district will flip from red to blue. The president will narrowly — by three or less points — hold on to Texas, Georgia, and Florida. He’ll have more convincing wins in Iowa and Ohio. Suburban discontent and subpar GOP Senate candidates will sink him in Arizona and North Carolina. He’ll compensate for suburban losses in Texas, Florida, and Georgia with increased shares of the Latino and African-American vote. Biden will sweep the “Blue Wall” states in the Midwest that Trump shocked the world by winning in 2016. He was always the Democrats’ best bet for taking them back, and he will succeed on all three counts, although just barely in the case of Pennsylvania.
  2. Biden will be declared the winner tomorrow night. Pennsylvania may very well be the disaster some expect it to be, and I suspect that Trump will not call to concede until he knows its fate, but most if not all of the major outlets will feel confident enough projecting Biden as the winner before we wake up for work on Wednesday morning. 
  3. On November 4, Republicans and Democrats will each have 49 senators ready to caucus with them in the Senate. GOP incumbents Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona have trailed their opponents for the duration of the race, and they will both be unseated on Tuesday. North Carolina’s Thom Tillis will run behind the president in a state that Biden will win and leave the upper chamber as well. Steve Daines and Joni Ernst will win in Montana and Iowa respectively, where the polls have made a late break toward the GOP. Susan Collins, who if the polls are to be believed should be soundly defeated, will overcome the odds and ranked-choice voting to earn a fifth term in the Senate and carry on the time-old Maine tradition of electing moderate Republican women to the Senate — there are some people you just don’t bet against. John James and Jason Lewis will fall short in their challenges to two very nearly anonymous Democratic incumbents. In other, less toxic years for Republicans, they would have prevailed. Whether Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer is majority leader will depend on the two Georgia seats, both of which will go to run-offs. Senator Kelly Loeffler will be the Republican nominee against Democrat Raphael Warnock in the special election for the seat that once belonged to Johnny Isakson. Oh, and Mitch McConnell will defeat Democratic cash vacuum Amy McGrath by double digits.
Elections

Poll: Republican Perdue Has a Slight Lead in Georgia

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Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.) meets with Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/Reuters)

Republican senator David Perdue has a slight lead against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, according to a new poll from WSB-TV/Landmark Communications.

The poll surveyed 500 likely voters in the state on November 1 and found that 49 percent said they’ll support Perdue compared with just under 47 percent for Ossoff. One percent of voters said they remain undecided just ahead of Election Day.

Interestingly, Perdue performed better among Democratic respondents than Ossoff did with Republicans. Eleven percent of Democrats surveyed said they’ll back Perdue, compared with the just under 7 percent of Republicans who said they’ll vote for Ossoff.

Among voters between 18 and 40, Ossoff has a ten-point lead, while Perdue leads by nearly 20 points among voters over 65. The two candidates are essentially tied among voters in between; Perdue leads Ossoff by about 1.5 points among those voters.

This is the first poll in several weeks that shows Perdue leading Ossoff. Since mid October, most surveys have shown the Democrat ahead of the incumbent by a couple of points.

Meanwhile, this new survey found that Democrat Raphael Warnock has a strong lead in Georgia’s special Senate election to fill the seat vacated by former Republican senator Johnny Isakson. The seat is currently being filled by GOP senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Governor Brian Kemp to serve until the special election.

If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in that race, it will head to a runoff on January 5, 2021.

Today’s survey also found that Donald Trump has a four-point lead over Joe Biden in Georgia, 50 percent to 46 percent. The last few polls out of the state have shown Trump with a slight lead, and he holds a microscopic .2 percent advantage in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Elections

A Biden Prophecy

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Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden in Wilmington, Del., October 28, 2020 (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Joe Biden met his first wife, Neilia Hunter, after sneaking into a private beach club during his college spring break in Nassau, the Bahamas. The two started going steady immediately. “I fell ass over tin cup in love — at first sight,” Biden colorfully wrote in his memoir. When he got home to Delaware, he told his sister Valerie: “I met the girl I’m going to marry.”

As for Neilia, she phoned a roommate from Syracuse University, Bobbie Greene. “She called me so excited,” Greene later reported, according to Jules Witcover’s biography Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption. “She told me all about him,” Greene continued. “Neilia asked me, ‘Do you know what he’s going to be?’ ‘No, what?’ I asked. “‘He’s going to be a senator by age thirty and president of the United States!’ And she never had any doubt.”

Getting elected senator “by age thirty” was a tall order, but Joe Biden indeed pulled it off, unseating incumbent Republican Cale Boggs in a campaign Biden ran at age 29. Biden turned 30 the month he won that race (the minimum age for a senator per the Constitution) but Neilia died in a car accident the following month, before she could see him sworn in. As for the second part of Neilia’s prophecy, we’re about to see whether that finally comes true, 48 years after her death.

Education

Elite Interests Dominate Public Discourse

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( MIND_AND_I/Getty Images)

A longstanding theme of mine is this: The policymaking conversation is always dominated by elite interests and elite obsessions: Ivy League admissions standards, not the high-school dropout rate in Milwaukee.

From today’s Wall Street Journal: “Law-Firm Clients Demand More Black Attorneys: Microsoft, Uber and U.S. Bancorp are among the companies urging law firms to enlist diverse legal teams.”

I wish the nation’s black lawyers well (or at least as well as I wish the nation’s lawyers at large), but I have a suspicion: that of all the most urgent concerns and serious challenges faced by black Americans, the state of black Americans who have graduated from law school and become licensed attorneys is not very close to the top of the list.

A nudge from Microsoft or U.S. Bancorp might prove very valuable to a high-achieving black lawyer who is in or somewhere adjacent to the universe of lawyers of the sort who represent such companies, but that is pretty rarefied company to begin with.

It’s a bit like the question of affirmative action at Harvard, a policy that is of interest mainly to people who are right on the cusp of either being admitted to Harvard or having to take some disappointing second-best choice such as Cornell or Stanford. People who end up at Duke because they just missed getting into Harvard are going to do just fine in life. Lawyers earning in the 85th percentile instead of the 92nd percentile are going to do just fine in life. It’s others who most need our attention.

Politics & Policy

Control of Labor Policy Is Also on the Ballot

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It hasn’t been mentioned much, but a major reason the Left wants to oust President Trump from office is to seize control of the Labor Department.

Politico reports Senator Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s “Sandalista Socialist,” has expressed a strong interest in becoming Joe Biden’s secretary of labor.

One reason is that Bernie’s beloved unions have seen their power and influence challenged in recent months by COVID-19. Independent contracting — everything from Uber driving to personal services to freelance computer work — has exploded as so many people are furloughed or cut back in their jobs. More than ONE THIRD of all workers — or 59 million people — did some work on the side this year as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Upwork, a business search firm, says freelancers contributed $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy this year in annual earnings — a 22 percent increase over 2019.

More than a third of new independent contractors started after the onset of COVID-19, and virtually all of them plan to continue doing some projects on the side.

Unions have convinced Joe Biden to announce that, if elected, he will make it easier for them to organize and bargain collectively on behalf of independent contractors. Biden wants a federal standard that employers must pass if they want to classify a worker as an independent contractor instead of an employee.

Under Labor secretary Eugene Scalia, the Trump Labor Department has taken the opposite approach. It has published the first rule ever that aims to simplify, clarify, and harmonize just which workers will be treated as “employees” covered by the minimum-wage and overtime rules and which can be their own boss.

Scalia has also aggressively pursued union corruption. For example, the president of the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association was recently charged with raiding members’ retirement funds to pay for a second home, travel, and a car.

Julio Rivera, a small-business consultant, writes in Reactionary Times that many union leaders “are taking advantage of union members as they enrich themselves by using the dues collected, as well as the selling of the political influence they hold within their organizations.”

His reporting covers some sordid stories:

  • There’s James W. Cahill, a New York union leader, who earlier this month was indicted on racketeering and fraud charges. Federal prosecutors allege that Cahill and 10 others accepted more than $100,000 in bribes in return for using their influence to help businesses who had hired nonunion labor.
  • Former United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams recently pleaded guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union. Williams’s guilty plea came only a few months after Gary Jones, his successor, admitted to helping steal more than $1 million from rank-and-file workers.
  • Then there is the Teamsters Union, a group so synonymous with corruption that it was controlled by outside federal monitors from 1989 to 2010. Chuck Stiles, the head of its Solid Waste and Recycling Division Director, has been accused by members of his union local of collecting a $60,000 dollar payout, for a “phantom job” — that’s on top of his annual $150,000 salary.

Stiles is now trying to leverage the increased support for the Black Lives Matter group into more support from unions. Teamsters are demanding they be included in stimulus packages with wage and benefit packages that compensate members who work with waste and recycling products.

However, Rivera writes that there is no evidence that Stiles or the Teamsters have been supportive of black political leaders. They are apparently using the BLM bandwagon to increase support for their own union’s wage demands.

Should Joe Biden become president, it’s pretty clear the direction federal labor policy will take. Its new overseer could be none other than Bernie Sanders, independent contractors would see attempts to bring them under union control, and a blind eye toward a lot of union corruption would likely be the norm again.

Politics & Policy

Students Will Be an Afterthought under Biden

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For Education secretary, Joe Biden is reportedly considering both Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and Lily Garcia, who headed the National Education Association (NEA) for six years until she left her post on September 1. This is, according to Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan at the Washington Post, because he wants “someone with experience in primary or secondary education.” What it actually tells us is that under Biden, the Department of Education will see its mission not as improving conditions and outcomes for students, but as appeasing the country’s two largest teachers’ unions, a key Democratic constituency.  

What would a Weingarten or Garcia agenda look like? Let’s examine their respective records at the AFT and NEA. Weingarten endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) in the Democratic primary. Warren’s education plan called for a “great public school education for every student” while decrying “extreme accountability measures” for educators and pledging to “stop the privatization and corruption of our public education system.” Expect a Weingarten-led department to be similarly single-minded in targeting private schools and allocating resources such that they benefit the only constituency Weingarten has any real interest in bettering: public-school teachers. 

Under Garcia’s leadership, the NEA has responded to the coronavirus crisis by arguing against school reopening and demanding that the Senate pass and president sign the HEROES Act, the relief package passed by the Nancy Pelosi–led House. That bill provides for checks for illegal immigrants, the reinstatement of the state and local federal tax deduction, $25 billion for the Post Office, student-loan forgiveness, and billions of dollars in unrestricted cash that would be used to bail out states and localities that find themselves in dire financial straits not because of the virus, but because of chronic mismanagement and overspending. Kevin Williamson has rightly observed that it is “a jumble of ordinary, naked political opportunism, with Pelosi et al. looking for a good opportunity to maximize the transfer of wealth to their constituents and do their allies in Springfield and Sacramento a solid, along with the usual assortment of public-sector union bosses and other special-interest groups.”

That Biden would float these two guild guardians as potential picks to run the Department of Education is telling: A Biden administration sees its duty pursuant to education as holding together a voting bloc, not securing a better future for American students.

Elections

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Makes a Bad Situation Worse

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No state in the union can match Pennsylvania’s perfect combination of Electoral College importance and potentially messy ballot-counting problems. Up until this year, the state had strict requirements for voting absentee. In light of the pandemic, the state massively expanded it — but now the state worries about how many voters will forget to place their completed ballots inside a provided “secrecy envelope” and have their ballots disqualified. 

This year, the state rejected 372,000 absentee-ballot applications; “more than 90 percent of those applications, or about 336,000, were denied as duplicates, primarily because people who had requested mail-in ballots for the state’s June 2 primary did not realize that they had checked a box to be sent ballots for the general election, too.”

Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh and is the second-most populous county in the state, accidentally sent out 29,000 copies of the wrong ballot to voters earlier this month, giving people ballots for races in other districts. The county is sending out replacement ballots.

All in a state where Biden leads the polls in aggregate by about two points more than Hillary Clinton led four years ago. In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes out of more than 6 million cast.

How could anyone make this situation worse? How about Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s state attorney general, and the man who enforces the state’s election laws, declaring via Twitter that there is no legitimate way for Trump to win the state?

Most state attorneys general are elected officials, almost always with a party affiliation, and perhaps in a heavily polarized era, more partisan language from them is unavoidable. But because of their law-enforcement duties, state attorneys general need to at least try to maintain trust across the aisle. Shapiro just engaged in wildly partisan hyperbole — and gave every Trump voter every reason to view Shapiro’s office and Pennsylvania law enforcement as a partisan operator regarding this election.

At the beginning of this year, Yuval Levin wrote:

What stands out about our era in particular is a distinct kind of institutional dereliction — a failure even to attempt to form trustworthy people, and a tendency to think of institutions not as molds of character and behavior but as platforms for performance and prominence. . . . Rather than work through the institution, they use it as a stage to elevate themselves, raise their profiles and perform for the cameras in the reality show of our unceasing culture war.

Shapiro just gave Levin one more high-profile example.

Elections

Biden Makes His Last Appeal to Gun-Grabbers

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden delivers remarks at a voter-mobilization event campaign stop at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio, October 12, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Joe “shoot ‘em in the leg” Biden promises to take action “to end the scourge of gun violence in America:”

As president, I’ll ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, implement universal background checks, and enact other common-sense reforms to end our gun violence epidemic.

Does Biden mean a ban on semi-automatics moving forward, or retroactively as well? I suspect that his message, as is the case with so many issues during the 2020 campaign, is intentionally left opaque to appeal to gun-grabbers yet also allow his fact-checking bodymen to offer him cover with moderates.

Yet, if we adopt the fact-checking standards that have been applied to Donald Trump over the past four years, we must assume Biden is calling for criminalizing the possession of one of the most commonly owned firearms in the United States. He did, after all, promise to appoint Beto O’Rourke, who said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s,” as his Gun Czar. Kamala Harris, his veep pick, was quite clear in supporting a “mandatory buyback” program — one she promised to implement the confiscation by executive fiat if needed. We must take these people seriously and literally.

It should be noted that despite gun violence slightly ticking up in past couple of years, it’s still at historic lows. And it’s also worth repeating that banning a style of semi-automatic rifle would do nothing to stop the “scourge of gun violence in America,” since the AR-15 is seldom used in any crimes. There are far more knife homicides and more people killed by fists and kicking every year. The ban is aimed at law-abiding Americans.

We should also mention that there is already a federal “universal” background check. An exception exists for a small fraction of legal weapon sales that exist between two private non-FFL residents of the same state — a friend, a family member, etc. States can regulate those transactions, but it has nothing to do with the federal government. Not to mention, almost all of the guns sold in those private in-state transactions (other than ones bought before 1998) have gone through a background check. In truth, I can’t recall the last mass shooting that didn’t entail the murderer breaking existing laws — there are tens of thousands of them — or the FBI failing to do its job. The call for “universal background checks” is just a way to reinforce the myth among ignorant voters that meth-addicted slack-jawed yokels can stroll into a Walmart and buy a machine gun.

Biden, of course, can’t ban anything by himself. Even if Democrats win the Senate, I’m skeptical that senators in North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, and West Virginia are going sign up for a national prohibition of one of the most popular guns in the country. First, they’d have to do away with the legislative filibuster. Now, perhaps it’s plausible, that there might be such a window after a mass shooting, in the midst usual scaremongering. If that happens, I hope SCOTUS ends up with an “assault weapon” ban case, because the “you don’t really need an AR-15” argument doesn’t stand up to legal scrutiny. District of Columbia v. Heller states that the Second Amendment protects weapons “in common use by law-abiding citizens.” The AR-15 easily meets that criteria, as there are around 15 to 20 million in America, depending on what arbitrary aesthetic designations Democrats have concocted today to define a “assault weapon.”

And the idea that the AR-15s is a “weapon of war,” or that it is especially dangerous to society, doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny. An AR-15 ban is merely part of the incremental effort to abolish private firearm ownership. Yes, it’s all Democrats support now. But that’s only because it’s all it’s what they can currently get away with. They know that once you can prohibit an AR-15, a rifle with a semi-automatic mechanism, you can ban any gun with a semi-automatic mechanism, which is to say the majority of firearms in the United States.

Democrats have already transformed the constitutional right to bear arms into a government-bequeathed privilege in their states. That is the case in Maryland, New York and many other states, where getting a handgun is already an arduous — and unconstitutional — undertaking. Now they want to confiscate your semi-automatic rifles as well. That’s the goal. It’s just a question of time and logistics.

Elections

I Voted Third Party

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My Virginia ballot was mailed in and received a while back. Plenty of others have spelled out the reasons a conservative would vote for neither of the major candidates this time around, so I won’t belabor those points here.

I will, however, briefly note that a vote for a third party is not a vote for the other guy, either mathematically or tactically. In race where only two candidates have a shot at winning, you have three options — Candidate A, Candidate B, and neither. Voting for A instead of B actually shifts the spread by two votes, not just one, making the middle option a distinct choice with a different effect.

If a race is 5–3 without your vote and you pick one of the major candidates, you can make it either 6–3, a three-vote spread, or 5–4, a one-vote spread. Voting for someone else, by contrast, leaves it a two-vote spread. In addition, through your choice of a third-party candidate you can communicate to the major parties what kind of person they should run next time if they want your vote.

Elections

Don’t Believe The Economist’s Estimate of Trump’s Chances

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The model currently puts the president at just a 1-in-20 chance to win the Electoral College, but you shouldn’t believe it. Don’t take my word for it; read this post from Andrew Gelman, a statistician who helped create the model and doesn’t believe it himself.

There’s a lot of technical detail in the full post, but here’s the key bit for the casual reader:

Our backfitted predictions seem to be overconfident . . . so I don’t fully believe our numbers either.

. . . Our model was not designed to make sense in the tails; we didn’t think through what would happen if the vote share needed for Trump to win became a tail event, or consider the fact that this was inevitable if Biden were to stay steady in the polls.

So, when the model puts a chance as low as 5 percent or so, it’s not reliable. Oops.

Religion

Remembering a Great Man and Friend Who Died Too Soon: Andrew Thomas Walther, R.I.P.

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Andrew Walther, one of my dearest friends in the world, died on Sunday. He was a hero and he was a saint. He loved greatly, like one of his patrons, Blessed Michael McGivney, did. Andrew Walther was a vice president at the Knights of Columbus and most recently became president for news at EWTN. He was so good. I talked to him often and one can never know another’s heart, but I believe his sins were venial. He gave himself over to Christ. He believed in Him and wanted to proclaim him and serve him and did. He had a conviction about God having put him where he was to help the persecuted Christians ISIS was targeting in Iraq and Syria and he did. He was determined to do all he could to make sure they would continue to live there. He made dangerous trips and made sure they had what they needed, including working behind the scenes in government to make things happen. Andrew was a behind-the-scenes man. He would always say to me when sharing thoughts: “You don’t know me.” That was code for: This is all off the record. Well, of course. It was an honor to be a sounding board for a saint who happened to be a brilliant strategist, too, who had no illusions about the world. I told him a few months ago: I love you too much to call you a saint, but if you stay on this road, Andrew, you will be one. Well, he fought cancer with all that he had in him and more. He had such amazing grace about him. As it took him, he was still working. He helped more people and solved more problems than we will ever know. Only God knows. And God is rewarding him, I have no doubt. I miss him with all my heart, and his family misses him even more. His youngest was born toward the end of January. I want my goddaughter to know what a hero her father was. God made that clear in ending his pain on All Saints’ Day. He brought his saint Andrew T. Walther home. Those who loved him and were honored to be loved by him miss him so. Please pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation and strengthening of his amazing wife Maureen and their children.

One of the last things Andrew did at the Knights was put together this book with Maureen — it’s a history of the Knights of Columbus, but it is more than that — it is a testament to and argument for religious freedom and a robust civil society.

God be good to you, Andrew. You were good to us. As Erbil Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda’s tweet this morning gives a tiny indication of:

 

Elections

Hey, What Ever Happened to Jaime Harrison in South Carolina?

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Jaime Harrison speaks during a DNC forum in Baltimore, Md., February 11, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

It was not that long ago you could find profiles and columns touting the chances of Democrat Jaime Harrison achieving the biggest upset win of the cycle against Lindsey Graham in South Carolina’s Senate race. About two weeks ago, I noted he appeared to be the genuine Great Southern Democratic Hope, compared to the likes of Amy McGrath.

But the buzz around Harrison has gotten much quieter in the past two weeks. Over at FiveThirtyEight, Graham is given a 78 percent chance of winning. (In early October, Graham’s odds dipped down to 75 percent.) The Daily Beast writes a new glowing profile with a more cautionary tone about the Democrat’s odds of winning: “If Harrison pulls off a victory this week, he will need every last variable to go his way.”

The polling in South Carolina hasn’t changed that much. The final Morning Consult poll, out today, puts Graham ahead by 2 points; their mid-October poll had Harrison ahead by 2 points. The East Carolina poll put Graham ahead by 2 points. Starboard Communications puts Graham ahead by 9 points. Probably the survey that changed the conventional wisdom the post was the Siena/New York Times poll putting Graham up by 6 points.

All of this is as Harrison has raised, and spent, more than any other Senate candidate in U.S. history — “as of Oct. 14, Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison had raised more than $108 million and spent more than $105 million in his quest to unseat U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham” with another $13 million in outside spending hitting Graham.

In short, Harrison has enjoyed every conceivable fundraising advantage, his commercials dominate the airwaves, and he still appears to be narrowly trailing. For Democrats and their allies outside the state, a slew of other candidates in reddish states appear closer to winning and a better use of their last-minute efforts, such as Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, Jon Ossoff in Georgia, and Sara Gideon in Maine. (FiveThirtyEight actually gives Barbara Bollier in Kansas a 23 percent chance of winning, one point better than Harrison.)

We won’t know until all the votes are counted, and Harrison could still win. Even if Harrison didn’t win, he made a GOP incumbent who ran for president hustle and sweat to win in a deep red state — while spending a record amount of money raised from Democrats out of the state who utterly loathe the GOP senator. In other words . . . he’ll be Beto O’Rourke, 2.0.

Elections

And There’s a Good Chance She Wore a Mask to the Polling Place

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The New York Times selected the ten most common female and male names from its polling database, and sorted out the presidential candidate preferences. President Trump does particularly well among those named Richard, Thomas, William and Nancy. (Men named “James” are pretty pro-Trump as well, splitting 56-44 in favor of the president.) The most pro-Biden male name is “Christopher,” splitting 50-50, and Biden is most popular among the Patricias, Lisas, and Barbaras.

But among the ten most common names for women, the one that was most pro-Biden, splitting 60-40 in favor of the former vice president was . . . “Karen.”

Sorry, Jay.

Education

College Campuses Gave Us Cancel Culture

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For the most part, Americans used to be able to disagree peacefully. Everyone knew others who disagreed on politics, religion, and other matters, but we shrugged such disagreements off, saying “Well, he’s wrong on that, but entitled to his opinion.”

That era is fading fast.  Now we have cancel culture, where one segment of the populace feels it right and indeed necessary to demonize dissenters. It’s ugly, and it’s spreading unchecked.

In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins looks into the roots of cancel culture and finds them where we find so many other toxic ideas — college campuses.

She writes, “The ideology falls under the banner of many names: social justice, ‘wokeness,’ intersectionality, racial justice, etc. Whatever label one assigns to the new ideology, its underlying strategy is clear: Advance the cause of ‘social justice’ by silencing the faintest dissenter by any means necessary—even if it involves destroying their reputations, careers, and livelihoods.”

We find cancel culture working its corrosive effects in big business, artistic and philanthropic institutions, the media, and, worst of all, our education system.

As to the origins of cancel culture, Watkins turns to former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss: “Weiss’ answer is simple: College campus culture seeped into everyday American culture. When asked about her thoughts on the 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, Weiss said she thinks the book is significant because, although it focuses on college students, much of its analysis now ‘applies to nearly every American institution.’”

This tide of intolerance is just as destructive as COVID and just as hard to fight. If we don’t beat it, we’ll face a very un-American, authoritarian future.

Education

Perhaps the Strongest Argument of All Against Biden

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Joe Biden and those controlling him are fervent believers in the omnipotent state. I doubt that there’s any issue where they’d say, “No, that just isn’t something government should rightfully control.” Whatever advances their agenda of socio-economic domination goes.

That’s frightful across the board, but nowhere more so than in education. Just imagine the swing-for-the-fences action we’d get with whatever “progressive” zealot would wind up running the Department of Education.

In this American Mind article, Stanley Kurtz lays out that case with chilling clarity.  From pre-K through all of higher education, the Left intends to use education to cement its control. Without any pushback, propagandistic materials like the “1619 Project” would spread over the whole education system.

For example, consider the poisonous stuff being used in Minnesota public schools, teaching grade school kids that the police are a bunch of racist killers. Writing on Powerline, John Hinderaker has the nasty details.

If you like historical analogies, this election is like the Battle of Marathon.

Elections

Biden Cried Tears of Joy When Roe Was Upheld

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Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden in Wilmington, Del., October 28, 2020 (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Paul Kengor, who has written a bunch for National Review over the years, has an important piece in the National Catholic Register that provides a troubling account of Joe Biden’s enthusiasm for Roe v. Wade. Kengor delved into Combat: Twelve Years in the U.S. Senate, the memoirs of the late Warren Rudman — the Republican who represented New Hampshire from 1980 to 1993 and who championed Supreme Court Justice David Souter — to recount his description of a Wilmington, Del., train-platform bump-into with Biden on the 1992 day the Supreme Court handed down its consequential Casey decision:

At first, I didn’t see Joe; then I spotted him waving at me from far down the platform. . . . Joe had agonized over his vote for David, and I knew how thrilled he must be. We started running through the crowd toward each other, and when we met, we embraced, laughing and crying.

Why the tears of joy? Souter’s was Casey’s fifth vote to keep Roe from being overturned. Per Kengor: “Biden wept tears of joy in the arms of Rudman, shouting triumphantly of Souter: ‘You were right about him! You were right!’”

Souter had been the “trust me” nominee: Conservatives had been assured by Bush-administration officials that the New Hampshire judge with a thin record was going to be a stealth surprise, the happy kind. And confirmable. Meanwhile, Rudman, a fervent Roe defender, was telling Biden, who was chairing the Judiciary Committee, and his fellow Democrats that Souter would not disappoint them if and when a major abortion case came before the High Court — but that collegial, trust-me assurance had to remain private.

Back to the train platform, from Kengor:

The two men were so jubilant, so giddy, that Rudman said onlookers thought they were crazy: “But we just kept laughing and yelling and hugging each other because, sometimes, there are happy endings.”

Not for the tens of millions of unborn children who have been aborted since that day.

I’ve written elsewhere about incidents that expose the disturbing aspects of Joe Biden’s psyche. None of them comes close to what one might conclude from his public tears of joy over the Casey verdict.

Science & Tech

Lancet Medical Journal Goes All In for Progressive Politics

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I have written here and elsewhere of how the world’s most respected science and medical journals have become pushers of progressive ideology on cultural and political issues often unconnected to the furtherance of scientific knowledge.

Now, one of the oldest medical journal in the world, The Lancet — which hails form the U.K. — has joined the club with a jeremiad editorial clearly aimed against reelecting Donald Trump. First, the editorial decries the election of Warren G. Harding in 1920! From, “The US Election 2020:”

Presidential candidate Warren G Harding expounded that “America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy”. He offered the public a nostalgic balm in contrast to the progressive and internationalist vision of outgoing President Woodrow Wilson. The juvenile nation was moved to turn inward, retreating from the League of Nations and the global stage. Harding won in a landslide. On Nov 3, 2020, the US will again choose whether to continue to look backward, or to take brave steps towards a new future.

Methinks that “new future” would be an international technocracy–rule by experts–such as promoted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who urged in Cell that the WHO and UN be strengthened toward the end of “rebuilding the infrastructures of human existence.”

The Lancet editorialists grumble about Republican attempts to dismantle Obamacare:

A crucial acknowledgment that should be made is the absence of comprehensive health infrastructure. Without it the USA is at great risk. Despite this fact, conservatives continue to attempt, out of ideology and opposition, to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Americans need equitable individual access to quality health care that is supported by efficient and autonomous public health governance, both as a matter of health security and as a matter of human rights.

At least that has a nexus with medical issues. But much of the rest is just typical progressive politics:

The USA in 2020 continues to experience unrest borne out of these still-open wounds: violence against people of colour, vast income inequality, immigration restrictions, and gender barriers, as well as a continuing devaluation of science. Under the banner of making America great again, the Trump administration has pursued regressive nationalist policies, rolled back protections for individuals, labour, and the environment, and withdrawn from international agreements and multilateral organisations, such as WHO. Led by a relentless agenda of deregulation and dysregulation, America has retreated from its once prominent position of leadership and abandoned its beneficence. With the election, Americans have the power to address these issues, both at home and around the world, by eschewing the falsehood of nostalgia.

Who cares what a medical journal from across the Pond thinks about our regulatory and immigration policies? And what in the world does that have to do with the practice of medicine? More pertinently, editorializing about pure politics is well outside The Lancet’s area of expertise.

Even more disturbingly, the editorial implies that it might support a post election approach disturbingly similar to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s call for a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to give evil Trump officials their due comeuppance:

It is not normalcy that the USA needs but a renewed national mission. To restore confidence in the federal government, the first priority will be simply to provide accountability to the American people. The US federal government must take ownership and responsibility for its domestic failures and limitations. In order to foster trust, there must be transparency and a commitment to facilitate the involvement and self-determination of Americans. Finally, there must be representation that reflects the composition of the American people—for all of those who have been excluded or silenced, it is essential to give them a voice.

We are continually told, “Follow the science!” That requires trust that “the science” is not ideologically founded or selected.

The Lancet’s foray into pure politics materially threatens the public’s perception that the journal will be an objective conveyor of accurate and pertinent medical information. Physician, heal thyself!

Politics & Policy

Tuesday

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Then-president Donald Trump and then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speak during the first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland, Ohio, September 29, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Donald Trump’s ignorance, laziness, malice and buffoonery have poisoned an already rancid national discourse, hobbled his associates and allies, and distracted from their accomplishments.

Two, maybe three of his administration’s accomplishments strike me as unique to him. He stiffed the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, that chummy barracks; and he moved the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Israel and the Sunnis were finding common interests and other presidents would have encouraged them, but if the embassy move was the marginal step to make formal recognition by the UAE and Bahrain happen, then he deserves credit for that too.

Everything else he did that conservatives like would have been done by many other Republicans. The biggest surprise was his record on judges, this from the man who thought his sister (since estranged) would make a great Supreme Court justice. But the spadework was done by Heritage, the Federalist Society, and Mitch McConnell, not strangers to the D.C. conservative establishment. The tax bill was Paul Ryan’s (and contrary to Trump’s own campaign rhetoric). Deregulation and pushback on Title 9 overreach were conservative standbys. Conservatives did not like Iran, or Obama’s Iran policy.

Trumpy priorities failed, or unfortunately succeeded. There is no big beautiful wall on the border and Mexico has not paid for it. Trump junked the TPP, then labored to rebuild a functional equivalent.

Back in February, I wrote that the ship of state was sailing on despite its erratic captain. Then COVID gave us a command performance of his inability to command. I don’t blame him for early fumbles, everyone made them; he didn’t ship the sick to nursing homes. But he downplayed the disease; then briefly ran briefings on it, which he filled with chaos and misinformation; then, after losing interest, decided it was a ruse of his enemies. He mocks mask wearing, accuses hospitals and doctors of goosing fatality numbers, and touts silver-bullet cures that turn out to be leaden. His administration supplied necessary quantities of PPE, and it appears to be making vaccines as fast as possible. But his talk about these efforts is so infrequent it makes you wonder who has really been doing the work.

Trump is contagious. Consider his Putin fandom. We know the Russian-collusion story was the Clinton campaign’s last gambit. Better to have bought yard signs in Michigan, but having failed to do that, something like the Russian-collusion story was their only alternative. Why did Clinton and her well-wishers pick that, though? They never would have spun such a tale of Ronald Reagan. They took their cue, not from any secret skullduggery on Trump’s part, but from his public statements. His servile praise of Putin and Russia and his self-hating remarks about the United States are far worse than if he had been urinated on by Russian prostitutes.

And Trump fans echoed them. Newt Gingrich, of all people, said that Estonia was the suburbs of Petersburg. The eighties are calling, the Democrats want their foreign policy back.

Silence can be acquiescence. Consider Trump’s addiction to conspiracy theories. Legal eagles: You all revere Justice Antonin Scalia. Do you think he was smothered? Trump does. History nerds: Osama bin Laden had a big effect on the early 21st century. Do you think his death in Abbottabad was faked, and that Seal Team Six was murdered to conceal the fraud? Trump does. Political mavens: A lot of you have met Senator Ted Cruz; some of you may like him. Do you believe his father helped assassinate JFK? Trump does. Journalists: Many of you have hobnobbed with Joe Scarborough; maybe you have even been guests on his show. Do you think he murdered one of his interns? Trump does. All together now: Even the wingeriest winger knows one or two Democrats. Do you believe their party is run by cannibal pedophiles? Trump admires those who think so.

Trump gives himself wiggle room on all these wicked tales. He only retweets them, “a lot of people” believe them, etc. So he is a coward as well as a crackpot, afraid to embrace what he propagates. That makes him better?

Every time Trump says or tweets some whine, insult, or baseless boast, and the TV leg girls, talk-show yaks, and assorted professors say how wise and good — excuse me, how shrewd and potent — he is, the median IQs of the GOP and the conservative movement dip another couple points. They long ago plunged into negative numbers. I would not hire such a man to pave a driveway, much less lead a great nation.

I cannot vote for Joe Biden. He supports almost no policy that I do, and the party he leads is often worse. Geniality, pity, and even dignity are not beyond him, but he is not without personal drawbacks — a nasty streak when contradicted, a crooked son he enables, a tendency to talk a little too much about the terrible things that have happened to him.

A final word on the age and health of these men. I do not believe Biden is senile, but he shows his years. Trump never drank or smoke, and is a lively fellow, but he will never see 73 again. In my adult life I have seen four youngish men enter the presidency — Carter, Clinton, W, Obama. They all left with grey hairs. Why is our candidate pool drawn from the cohort of the pre-Gorbachev Politburo?

It looks like the Senate will be our Reno Hill.

World

Oh Really?

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Somehow, at the end of a horrible week for France — reeling from terrorism, and a second COVID lockdown — French President Emmanuel Macron manages to give the silliest possible hot take on recent events.

“Secularism never killed anyone.”

A French president is saying this?

U.S.

The Economist Warns Democrats the Equality Act Goes Too Far

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Joe Biden said in an interview this week that he would “make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days – a priority that Donald Trump opposes.”

Earlier this week, the magazine The Economist warned Democrats that the Equality Act, a bill establishing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes in federal law, is too extreme. The act “risks discriminating against female Americans,” according to The Economist, by forcing girls’ and women’s sports teams to compete with and against biologically male athletes who identify as female.

What the editorial didn’t mention is that the act is also a threat to religious liberty. “It goes very far to stamp out religious exemptions,” University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock told National Review last year. “It regulates religious non-profits. And then it says that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] does not apply to any claim under the Equality Act. This would be the first time Congress has limited the reach of RFRA. This is not a good-faith attempt to reconcile competing interests. It is an attempt by one side to grab all the disputed territory and to crush the other side.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its Bostock decision that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination in employment also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and “transgender status.” Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion, noted that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was one possible source of protection in federal law for religious dissenters. (The Equality Act would go a step further than Bostock by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination at public accommodations. It would also expand the list of public accommodations covered by federal law.)

World

Secularism Isn’t The Problem, Islamism Is

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Politico Europe carries a fascinating op-ed, blaming French secularism for the terrorist assaults of radical Islamists.

Specifically, the latest round of violence follows the decision earlier this month by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo to mark the beginning of a trial over a murderous attack on its newsroom in 2015 by republishing the blasphemous cartoons of Mohammed that prompted the original assault.

This duo — radical secularism and religious radicalism — have been engaged in a deadly dance ever since.

Traditionally, French secularism requires the state to be neutral and calls for respect for religions in the public space, in order to avoid the rise of religious intolerance.

In modern times, however, it has become something far more extreme. The moderate secularism that prevailed as recently as the 1970s has been replaced with something more like a civil religion.

This is ridiculous.  First, many of the Islamist attacks are aimed at churches and clergy. An Orthodox clergyman in France was attacked just this morning.  And French secularism is much more moderate now than it was at its birth in the French Revolution. There are real obstacles for devout Muslims trying to live in the secular states of what was (and still is, really) Christendom.

But integration of Muslims into French society is not going to happen by making the French abandon their inherited worldview.