Nike has decided to pull its U.S.–themed sneaker that had been slated for release this week in conjunction with the Fourth of July holiday, featuring the early American flag created during the American Revolution, often known as the Betsy Ross flag.
The announcement came after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick told Nike that the flag is connected to a time when there was slavery in America and is therefore an offensive symbol that made him and other activists uncomfortable. “Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag,” a spokeswoman for the company said of the decision.
Kaepernick is a partner of Nike’s and faced criticism last fall after the company featured him in an ad with the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” It was meant to reference Kaepernick’s highly publicized and controversial choice to kneel during the National Anthem when it was played at the start of NFL games, which he called an act of resistance against “a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Nike’s decision to pull the Betsy Ross sneaker wasn’t even the first time this week that the company buckled under backlash from people it evidently wishes to keep happy. Over the weekend, the athletic giant pulled a sneaker collaboration with Undercover after the brand’s designer, Jun Takahashi, wrote on Twitter: “No extradition. Go Hong Kong!” Takahashi’s comment expressed support for liberal democrats in Hong Kong in the face of the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party — and Nike decided it would rather be on the safe side, in this case, the side of Chinese nationalism.
So the Chinese government and Colin Kaepernick, then, are either implicitly or explicitly calling the shots at Nike, pressuring the company into making business decisions to cater either to this mob or that. And those decisions aren’t passing without comment.
Arizona governor Doug Ducey, a Republican who generally avoids culture-war commentary, announced this morning that he has instructed the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw financial incentives that the state had been providing to Nike to be located in Arizona. “Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history,” Ducey wrote on Twitter.
Missouri senator Josh Hawley was similarly critical of Nike’s decision, noting the company’s willingness to conform to Chinese demands. “They take advantage of our laws but send jobs overseas for sweatshop wages,” the Republican tweeted, “partner w repressive regimes, aggressively avoid paying any US taxes, and then tell Americans to shut up and buy their stuff.” Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), meanwhile, said he plans to stop buying Nike products until the company “ends its contempt” for American values.
Last week, Gallup released its annual public-opinion poll on abortion policy, and its results contain some good news for abortion opponents. According to the survey, a plurality of Americans now identify as pro-life, with 49 percent of respondents calling themselves “pro-life,” and 46 percent calling themselves “pro-choice.” This is the first Gallup poll since 2013 in which a higher percentage of respondents identified as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.”
The new survey also found that the percentage of Americans who think abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances” increased from 53 to 60 percent between 2018 and 2019. A Gallup poll conducted in May, meanwhile, found that the percentage of Americans who consider abortion immoral reached 50 percent for the first time since 2012.
This gain in public support for the pro-life position is more significant than many observers realize. There is some evidence that pro-life sentiment tends to wane during Republican presidential administrations, as well as when abortion opponents are poised to make substantial policy gains. Some pro-life observers have been concerned that efforts to enact abortion limitations in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and a handful of other states might result in a public-opinion backlash. This new Gallup poll illustrates that this likely has not been the case. In fact, it is entirely possible that aggressive efforts by Democrats to make abortion policy more permissive in states such as New York, Vermont, and Illinois actually might have resulted in gains in pro-life sentiment.
Americans’ attitudes on abortion and other life issues inevitably fluctuate from year to year, which is why it’s important to remember the long-term gains the pro-life movement has made in public-opinion polling over time. In 1995, Gallup found that only 33 percent of Americans identified as “pro-life,” but since 1997, pro-life sentiment has reached at least 40 percent in every Gallup poll. In both 2009 and 2012, majorities of respondents to Gallup’s survey identified as “pro-life,” and pro-life efforts to educate the public likely have been an essential reason why the U.S. abortion rate has declined by more than 50 percent since 1980.
I’d urge everyone to read my colleague Jim Geraghty’s post on the thuggery this weekend in Portland. It was appalling to watch masked Antifa thugs attack Andy Ngo, and it was also appalling that the police weren’t immediately present to arrest his attackers. Antifa’s propensity to violence is well known, and while I’d love to hear a sympathetic explanation for the absence of police, the lack of response looks a lot like a dereliction of duty.
There is, however, a simple and well-known legal reform that will go a long way towards deterring Antifa violence — even when police aren’t close by, but iPhones are. It’s called an anti-masking law. They’ve long existed in the South as a check on Klan violence, and they not only make it easier for police to immediately identify and arrest criminals, they also allow witnesses to preserve the pictures and videos of violent attackers for later criminal or civil action.
When I tweeted over the weekend in support of an anti-masking ordinance in Oregon, a number of correspondents asked me if the laws were consistent with First Amendment protections for anonymous speech. The answer is generally (though not always) yes, and there’s relatively recent on-point case law in the Second Circuit saying so. While court of appeals cases aren’t nationally dispositive, the panel in Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kerik included Sonia Sotomayor, and its reasoning is instructive.
New York’s anti-masking law predates the Klan, tracing its history back to an 1845 effort to combat violent Hudson Valley farmers. The statute essentially prevents gatherings of masked people unless they’re gathering for a “masquerade party or like entertainment.” The panel considered a number of constitutional challenges, including claims that wearing masks was a form of expressive conduct and claims that wearing masks protected a right to anonymous speech. Regarding the first claim, the panel noted that the in the Klan context, the mask constituted a “redundant” form of expression:
The mask that the members of the American Knights seek to wear in public demonstrations does not convey a message independently of the robe and hood. That is, since the robe and hood alone clearly serve to identify the American Knights with the Klan, we conclude that the mask does not communicate any message that the robe and the hood do not.
Similarly, Antifa mobs are full of people who wear similar “black bloc” gear. Their message and purpose is easily identifiable without a mask or scarf. As for the Klan’s anonymous speech claims, the court held that state interests in public safety trumped Klan members’ interest in deciding the precise manner in which they speak:
Assuming for the discussion that New York’s anti-mask law makes some members of the American Knights less willing to participate in rallies, we nonetheless reject the view that the First Amendment is implicated every time a law makes someone-including a member of a politically unpopular group-less willing to exercise his or her free speech rights. While the First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to express their viewpoints, however unpopular, it does not guarantee ideal conditions for doing so, since the individual’s right to speech must always be balanced against the state’s interest in safety, and its right to regulate conduct that it legitimately considers potentially dangerous.
Anti-masking laws can be unconstitutional when applied to peaceful demonstrators seeking to protect their identities as a matter of personal safety, but that reasoning doesn’t apply to Antifa. Its members seek to engage in violence and destruction with impunity, and the mask protects them from legal accountability. If you think Antifa members like to have their identities revealed, watch this video of Alabama police officers enforcing an unmasking law at Auburn University:
The criteria for asylum need to be rewritten and substantially tightened. The number of courts and officials dealing with asylum must be massively expanded. . . . People should not be able to use asylum claims as a way to work in the United States. There needs to be much greater cooperation with the home countries of these applicants rather than insults, threats and aid freezes. No one fix will do it, but we need the kind of sensible bipartisan legislation that has resolved past immigration crises.
2. Pray that this weekend’s North Korean moment can be some kind of moment for leaven and peace, but don’t forget the people who suffer terror under that tyrannical regime.
Seeing Trump and Kim at the border today, and hearing Trump's praise of that border as a "real border," I thought of Oh Chong Song. Do you remember him? His "dash for freedom," amid a hail of bullets, was amazing to many. https://t.co/oeZ08MdmTd
What does life look like after you’ve been canceled? You do your best to get on with your life, I guess. Maybe that means finding some other way to make a living, against a constant tide of contempt or disgust or social-media harassment. Or maybe it means inching back slowly into your old identity … and getting an uproarious standing ovation for which your hosts subsequently must apologize.
In Christianity, the rules are much kinder. The exposed sinner — even someone who commits a mortal sin — has an instant chance of redemption. You repent and ask God for forgiveness. Absolution follows. And if you start over, it is actually incumbent on other Christians to help you succeed again. They switch immediately from condemnation to support. The same in recovery. All you have to do is own your addiction and helplessness, make amends, start over day by day — and you will be encouraged, supported, cheered on by your fellows.
In the Woke Era, the cancellation process is far more brutal. An abject apology from the sinner is required — but just as a starter. If the apology is not a form of complete and utter self-flagellation, or fails to meet the standards of woke orthodoxy, you’ll still get canceled. And if you’re canceled for your unwoke opinion or a stupid, impulsive tweet, you’re permanently canceled.
And at that point, you will have absolutely no support from your peers, whatever you do. Any attempt to revive a career will be immediately suppressed. Whatever you once said clumsily or foolishly will never be forgotten. Any sign of social or career reemergence will mean another recitation of your sins, which, thanks to the permanence of the web, will go on forever like some Gregorian chant. It may even be that future woke culture will make your sin look even worse, and therefore even less forgivable.
A new CNN poll out this afternoon shows that former vice president Joe Biden has suffered a setback in his campaign for president, dropping ten points overall among registered Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent voters surveyed over the weekend.
While Biden dropped from 32 to 22 percent support, California senator Kamala Harris got a big bump, from 8 to 17 percent since voters were polled at the end of May. Harris came in second in the new CNN survey, followed closely by Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren — who rose from 7 percent to 15 percent — and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, whose support dropped from 18 to 14 percent.
The easiest way to read these numbers would be to assume that Harris’s attack on Biden at last week’s Democratic primary debate — when she criticized him for opposing busing and working with segregationists when he was in the U.S. Senate — was a success, and that she was able to pick off support from the frontrunner in the aftermath.
That theory seems to be borne out by the fact that 41 percent of registered Democratic voters who watched or followed coverage of the debates said Harris did the best job, followed by only 13 percent who said the same of Warren, and 10 percent who said the same of Biden. The California senator’s support was even stronger among those who actually watched one or both debates, 46 percent of whom said she performed best job.
But a closer look at the poll suggests it’s not quite that simple. While Harris has pulled even with the former vice president among white voters, non-white women, and young voters — especially those who call themselves “liberal” and white voters with college degrees — Biden still maintains a strong lead among black voters, with 36 percent support to Harris’s 24 percent. Older voters prefer Biden to Harris by a 20-point margin, and he leads Harris by 20 points among Democratic voters who describe themselves as either moderate or conservative.
Harris’s star seems to be rising, then, mostly with young, white liberals, but Biden continues to claim a strong advantage among non-white Democrats. The California senator’s effort to portray him as weak on race issues didn’t seem to lead to any sort of surge in her support among black voters who now view Biden as having been in league with segregationists. Her move might’ve played well with the progressives paying closest attention to the ups and downs of the contest, but it doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be able to best the former vice president on primary voting days around the country.
Meanwhile, a little more than half of respondents to the CNN survey said they think the government should offer some form of national health-insurance program for all Americans, but only 37 percent of those respondents believe it should entirely replace private health insurance, and only 38 percent said it should be available to undocumented immigrants. During the second night of Democratic primary debates last week, every single candidate endorsed both replacing private health-care plans and offering the government health-care plan to illegal immigrants.
During a primary, candidates know they have to appeal to their base rather than the average American, so it makes sense that Democrats aren’t yet running to the center. But so far, they seem to believe they can take whatever positions their progressive base demands without eventually suffering consequences with the broader electorate.
Writing from Britain nearly two years ago (after the murder of Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville and the troubles that preceded it), Reaction’s Toby Guise noted how “[t]he narrative of America’s unreconstructed Neo-Fascists is crude but clear.”
That of Antifa is more subtle. At its heart is the equivalence between ‘psychological violence’ – namely the holding or articulating of offensive beliefs – with physical violence. From this flows the claim that psychological violence can be met with physical violence, and therefore that Antifa’s violence is actually defensive (not pre-emptive, note; as the threat of physical violence is not required to take action). Antifa also reserves the right to define psychological violence unilaterally.
This may be too charitable. Often, I suspect, this supposed belief that “psychological” violence (as defined) is the same as the real thing is nothing more than yet another excuse for the thugs of the hard left to impose their beliefs on others — and as violently as possible. The violence is an essential part of the process, part of the fun for the enforcers, a necessary punishment for the “offenders.”
And such violence is more likely than not (at least until it is put to a halt) to get worse. Mainly because it has been allowed to work, but also, as Dominic Green noted in The Spectator USA over the weekend:
Intensification is in the nature of political violence, for it is sacrificial in logic, and ever higher levels of violence are required to sustain the buzz.
The violence is also, of course, a demonstration of power. Guise is right to stress how “Antifa . . . reserves the right to define psychological violence unilaterally”, an assumption of authority that it extends by attempting to control the streets, regardless of what the law may (if its guardians can be bothered) say.
The mainstream take comfort from the idea that only Neo-Nazis are at risk. But the accusation of psychological violence does not stop at Neo-Nazis. In the Antifa stronghold of Portland [As a reminder, Guise was writing in 2017], followers threatened forcibly to remove from a civic parade any of the town’s Republican voters. The idea has further become embedded that the very idea of free speech – let alone its practice – is psychologically violent and therefore deserving of extra-legal force….
Two years on, that idea is, quite clearly, still on the march.
Senator Kamala Harris of California isn’t the only Democratic presidential candidate who’s dissembling about her plans for private health insurance. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is another.
Abigail Adams of Timerecounts her debate performance on the question.
Before the debate: Like several of her Senate colleagues running for president, Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan as well as other more moderate proposals. She has often said she believes a single-payer system is the best way to ensure universal health care, but believes private insurance will naturally be driven out of the market because it will not be able to compete with Medicare-for-all.
After the debate: When the debate moderators asked candidates to raise their hands if they would abolish private insurance, Gillibrand notably did not. The New York Senator explained that she supports Medicare-for-all, but as she has said in the past, she views the four years of transition in Sanders’ bill as vital to its success.
“The plan that Senator Sanders and I and others support, Medicare-for-all, is how you get to single payer. But it has a buy-in transition period, which is really important. In 2005 when I ran for Congress in a two-to-one Republican district, I actually ran on Medicare-for-all and I won that two-to-one Republican district twice. And the way I formulated it was simple: Anyone who doesn’t have access to insurance they like, they could buy it in a percentage of income they could afford,” she said.
What Gillibrand didn’t say: At the end of the third year of the transition, the federal government would prohibit private insurers from selling policies covering what the new “Medicare for all” program does. The old joke about politicians is that you can tell they’re lying when their lips move. Sometimes Gillibrand manages to do it when her arm doesn’t move.
Delegates to the British Medical Association annual conference have voted to give everyone who attends an NHS facility free healthcare — whether the patient is a U.K. citizen or not. From the Times of London story:
Doctors have voted overwhelmingly to stop charging foreign patients for NHS care, claiming that doing so is “fundamentally racist”.
Up to 500 delegates at the British Medical Association’s annual conference in Belfast backed a motion that said that asking overseas visitors to pay made medical staff “complicit” in racism.
“We are doctors not border guards,” Omar Risk said during the debate. “Charging migrants for accessing NHS services is a fundamentally racist endeavour — we are complicit in the oppressive regime.”
Now the BMA plans to lobby the government to stop charging foreigners. Good grief.
The U.K. has a very expensive problem with “medical tourism,” in which people come to the country for care, and then stiff the NHS when billed. Such scofflaws cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds a year — a lot considering the sad state of the NHS’s finances.
Are we no longer expected to be responsible for ourselves? If I am in the U.K. and fall ill or I’m injured, why should I receive free care from the NHS?
It isn’t as if I don’t have options. When I travel, I always buy travel health insurance in case I need care while overseas. It isn’t expensive and it’s the responsible approach — both to ensure that I am not financially ruined by a big medical bill and to assure that those who care for me in my time of need receive proper remuneration. In any event, people should pay for services rendered to the best of their ability.
Still, I guess we shouldn’t look down our noses too steeply. The two major “Medicare for All” plans cover illegal aliens. The Democrat candidates for president in the second Democratic debate all raised their hands when asked if they support covering illegal aliens under government-provided — e.g. taxpayer paid — insurance. California will soon pass a law to provide illegal aliens Medicaid coverage in the formerly Golden State to age 26, and Mayor DeBlasio of New York declared that everyone in the city is to be covered for free care whether legally in the country or not.
Costs-schmosts! As with the BMA delegates, if you disagree with covering anyone who can get across the border, free health-care activists brand you a nativist, racist, bigot, or whatever pejorative the activist thinks will shut down reasoned debate.
Meanwhile, bioethicists write in professional journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA that we must be mature and ration health care like the Brits do — our health-care system is going broke, don’t you know — while some euthanasia advocates look to assisted suicide as a potent money saver.
Maybe, there’s something in the water. Or, perhaps it is the triumphant return of, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” — only without the “from” part being enforced.
Some notes to the candidates who raised their hands last week when asked if they would support health insurance for undocumented immigrants:
First, there are already clinics and emergency rooms across the U.S. that provide a safety net for many millions of patients, including those in the country illegally, whether or not they have health insurance.
The clinics are known as Federally Qualified Health Centers. They received grants under Obamacare from 2010 to 2015, and as they expanded they began to receive more income from patients coming in with their new Medicaid cards. I traveled to one of the clinics a few years ago on the shores of Lake Erie, in Dunkirk, N.Y., and was told by the medical director there that 85 percent of their patients now have insurance and the main problem is a shortage of doctors.
Emergency rooms across the country have the same problem. They are bound by law to see patients in an emergency whether they have insurance or not. Most of our ERs have too many patients, but too few physicians and nurses. Illegal immigrants are able to use these facilities and they do, whether they can pay for the care they receive or not.
Second, health insurance doesn’t automatically improve access to actual care. In fact, by further clogging our ERs and clinics, insuring illegal immigrants could reduce access to care for Americans who already have insurance yet suffer from long waits, overcrowding, and health-care worker shortages.
I interviewed a patient at that clinic in Dunkirk who praised the doctors and nurses for being available 24/7 as he tried and succeeded in defeating his addiction to opioids. Medicaid paid his bill, but with the clinic stretched thin and suffering from a perpetual doctor shortage, I had to wonder who would have been available to return his late-night phone call and guide him through withdrawal if the clinic had been overwhelmed with even more patients.
Democrats might consider my position heartless, but I consider it practical. It’s too easy for a politician not to factor in real-world math before putting his hand up. It’s too easy for him to forget the difference between health coverage and health care.
But down in the medical trenches of an ER or community clinic, where we don’t distinguish between citizens and non-citizens or even insured and uninsured, we must focus on providing high-quality health care for all comers. We already have the safety net to provide for those without insurance, whether they are immigrants or not. We need to expand it. We need more doctors, more nurses, and more supplies to accomplish that, not more insurance.
I have a piece at the Spectator on female resistance to gender-identity policies.
In the United States, where I live, the annual GLAAD Accelerating Acceptance report shows a noticeable drop in young people’s acceptance of LGBTQ people. In 2016 the number of Americans aged between 18 to 34 who felt comfortable socialising with LGBTQ people was 63 per cent; in 2017, it was 53 per cent; and in 2018, it was 45 per cent.
And guess who the report finds to be ‘driving the dilution of acceptance’? Surprise, surprise – it’s ‘young women whose overall comfort levels plunged from 64 per cent in 2017 to 52 per cent in 2018.’ It turns out that being displaced in our own sports and being forced to give up our spaces, scholarships, shortlists and more is bit off-putting. Who knew?
Even the words we use to describe ourselves seem to be under attack. A recent BBC video intending to raise awareness for cervical cancer did not even mention the word ‘women’, but instead explained ‘this is for anyone with a vagina.’ And in the US, a Democratic presidential candidate said in the primary debates that he wants to champion reproductive rights for… um, trans women (who, being male, are incapable of being impregnated).
NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard has some new comments from Kamala Harris:
.@KamalaHarris: “I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in [school]…need to put every effort, including busing, into play to de-segregate the schools…fed govt has a role & a responsibility to step up." pic.twitter.com/a7ujueP0Bu
First of all, while it’s not true that schools have “resegregated,” as some claim (see here, here, and here), it is fair to say that desegregation has been pretty slow. And yes, one of the reasons it’s slow is that the gradual end of court-ordered integration has canceled out some of the effect of rising residential integration (which isn’t happening all that fast itself).
Second, it is true that segregation is bad even when it’s not legally mandated the way it was during Jim Crow. Integrated schools seem to provide better education for minority students and by definition facilitate more cross-race contact.
However, reducing segregation via forced busing — i.e., sending kids farther away from home than the neighborhood school, sometimes very far indeed — just didn’t go all that well. Whites hated it. So did a substantial minority of blacks.
The failures of busing were widely recognized even on the left not too long ago. In 2014 Slate ran a multi-part series about how liberals’ “embrace of busing hurt the cause of integration.” (“Many black Americans did believe in the school bus and the access it provided, and busing might have been a viable tool for those families had it been smartly and surgically applied. It wasn’t. It was presented in a sweeping fashion that denied many blacks the agency they sought.”) The next year, responding to an earlier iteration of the Great Biden Busing Debate, Politico ran a piece from a former Johnson White House official called “School Busing Didn’t Work. And to Say So Isn’t Racist.” (“No black parents took a bus or drove from Southwest [D.C.] to attend evening PTA meetings [in the city’s Northwest] or to otherwise participate in school-related activity. The quality of classroom instruction fell off markedly. Fourth- and fifth-grade neighborhood students, for instance, were repeating material learned in earlier grades because teachers found their bused classmates had not yet received it.”)
In a print piece last year I spelled out some more feasible ways of integrating schools, though they’re probably a bit too libertarian for the current Democratic slate. Charter schools, voucher systems, and letting parents choose among a city’s public schools can bring children from segregated schools into integrated ones, especially if they’re designed with that goal in mind. We could also integrate schools indirectly, by integrating neighborhoods, including by scaling back overly restrictive zoning rules.
As I concluded: “Americans of different races are, of their own volition, living side by side more and more as time goes on. And we can coax this trend along by helping people achieve their preferences, rather than by overriding those preferences.”
On Sunday, Kamala Harris expressed support for new, federally mandated busing policies. “I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in elementary school,” Harris said. “Where states fail to do their duty to ensure equality of all people and in particular where states create or pass legislation that created inequality, there’s no question that the federal government has a role and a responsibility to step up.”
Harris still hasn’t been specific about what exactly the federal government should do. “After her exchange with Mr. Biden on Thursday night, a Harris spokesman said that she supported busing as a method for school integration, but the campaign declined to provide additional information,” the New York Timesreported.
In the first national poll of the Democratic primary conducted since Harris attacked Biden over busing, Harris gained 6 points (jumping from 6 percent to 12 percent) and Biden dropped 5 points (from 38 percent to 33 percent). But that 6-point bump in the primary required Harris to embrace a policy opposed by a supermajority of American voters.
As NPR notes, the polling numbers on forced busing are bleak:
A 1973 Gallup Poll found that while a majority of Americans favored school integration, just 5% believed busing was the best way to do it. That went across racial lines — just 4% of whites and 9% of African Americans thought busing was the best way to do it.
Americans thought other policies should be focused more on and would do a better job of achieving school integration, like changing school district boundaries to bring together students from different social, racial and economic groups (27%) or that there should be more affordable housing in middle-class neighborhoods (22%).
Even a generation later, 82% of Americans said they favored letting students go to their neighborhood school over busing. A 1999 Gallup Poll found that almost 9 in 10 whites said so, and blacks were split — 48% to 44%, with a plurality preference for keeping students in neighborhood schools.
Quite a few years ago, college officials figured out that they could get a head start on their project of making students “woke” if they used the summer reading assignment (the “beach book”) for that purpose. Out went anything classic or merely politically neutral in favor of current books designed to elicit leftist sympathies. (You’ll never find a book assignment that might cause the student to doubt that more government control is a good idea.)
In today’s Martin Center article, Chris West looks at the books chosen this year in North Carolina. He writes:
Half of the assigned readings at UNC schools and many at the state’s private institutions focus on the hot political topics of race and refugees. These readings do not prepare students for life as college freshmen; instead, they prime students for embracing a progressive conception of social justice.
Students at UNC-Charlotte will read Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream, ‘a story about education, immigration, race, Americanness’ and ‘a feel-good tale’ that ‘will spark discussions of systemic inequalities and cultural diversity,’ according to the university.
However, there’s one book that seems to be a good choice:
Western Carolina University’s assigned reading seems to be one of the few defensible choices in the UNC system. Celeste Headlee’s We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter ‘is about mastering the art of civil discourse’ and aims to model difficult conversations that are necessary in a collegiate environment. Asking students to read it might actually help them succeed in college.
Yes, it might. Other colleges ought to be encouraged to choose that book and forget about trying to make ideological points.
When we apply the term ‘Fascism’ to Germany or Japan or Mussolini’s Italy, we know broadly what we mean. It is in internal politics that this word has lost the last vestige of meaning. For if you examine the press you will find that there is almost no set of people — certainly no political party or organized body of any kind — which has not been denounced as Fascist during the past ten years.
A copious list then follows.
It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless.
Even the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.
And the way that penultimate sentence could apply to the vicious assault on journalist Andy Ngo is all too obvious.
In the course of a fine post earlier today on this Corner, Douglas Murray observed:
There was a time when “anti-fascist” meant what it said. People who opposed fascism called themselves “anti-fascists.” But then the term slipped. The definition of “fascist” became hazy from over-use and so the term “anti-fascist” also began to move.
Orwell would agree.
But then Douglas goes on to write this:
Second, anyone in any doubt over who the fascists and the anti-fascists are today should watch the footage of Ngo being attacked. Might the fascists be the thugs who wear face masks in the middle of the day in an American city and carry out mob assaults on journalists?
Yes and no, I’d say. Yes, the behavior that took place was the sort of thuggery that might have been expected from fascists, but the people who carried it out were in no sense ideologically in the place where fascists are generally assumed to be — somewhere on the right.
[Ngo’s attackers] claim to be anti-fascists, but they certainly act like fascists — “They have no sense of irony,” says Tony. These guys never change, down the generations, down the centuries. Bully-boys are bully-boys, of whatever hue or stripe. Communists, Brownshirts, and their kin, we will always have with us.
All, sadly, too true.
But a point lurking within Jay’s words is an important one. It may seem pedantic, but, as Orwell argued, fascism is a word that should be used “with a certain amount of circumspection” and not degraded “to the level of a swearword.” When fascists do their worst on the streets, they — and their ideology — should be called out for the thuggery (or worse) with which it is so often associated.
So it should be with Antifa. They are creatures of the hard left, doing what some on the hard left have all too often done. To describe these thugs as fascists, even metaphorically, is to give their ideology an alibi it doesn’t deserve.
And if you think this is indeed just pedantry, go over to Twitter and check out the political alignment of those who claim to distance themselves from the violence, but . . .
On no subject is America touchier than race. And people like to pick at our wounds, so that no scab forms. After the recent Democratic presidential debates, Kamala Harris went through some grief for not being black enough (or something). Like many Americans — most? — she is of mixed ancestry. That’s us.
In the midst of the brouhaha, I happened to read an obit — this one:
Robert J. Friend, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, who defied racism at home and enemy fire over Europe and who later oversaw the federal government’s investigation into U.F.O.s, died on Friday in Long Beach, Calif. He was 99.
I want to emphasize the final line of the obit — and kudos, as usual, to the writer, Sam Roberts — but let me excerpt some paragraphs that come before:
Lieutenant Colonel Friend recalled at least two perilous missions, both in 1944.
Bullets from his 50-caliber machine guns struck an oil barge in Germany, detonating an explosion that nearly downed his own plane. A few days later, flying at night in foul weather, with his plane hobbled by mechanical flaws, he bailed out over a mountainous part of Italy. As he hit the ground he spotted a woman running toward him brandishing a knife.
It turned out, he told The Washington Post, that she was desperate only for the silk from his parachute.
I did not quite see that coming.
Okay, the closing paragraphs:
The adversity Lieutenant Colonel Friend encountered during the war came not just from the enemy. He, like the others in his unit, had to deal with the racism of fellow Americans. On one occasion, in Sicily, white servicemen refused to share their quarters with African-Americans, he told The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif., in 2017.
But he did not think of himself as a racial trailblazer so much as simply a pilot fighting for his country, he said. “I never felt that I was anything but an American doing a job,” he said.
“Who was that masked man?” That is a beloved line in American lore, referring to the Lone Ranger. Other good guys have been masked too: Batman, for one. But, in general, beware masking. This is something that Anthony Daniels (a.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple) said to me many years ago. We were talking about it again this very day. Why? Because of those “Antifa” thugs, who attacked the journalist Andy Ngo on the streets of Portland, Ore. Douglas Murray wrote about it below.
The thugs were, among other things, masked.
Incidentally, they claim to be anti-fascists, but they certainly act like fascists — “They have no sense of irony,” says Tony. These guys never change, down the generations, down the centuries. Bully-boys are bully-boys, of whatever hue or stripe. Communists, Brownshirts, and their kin, we will always have with us. Civilization has no choice but to resist them, mightily.
I was talking about masks. The Zapatistas wore them, in Chiapas (the southernmost Mexican state). They may still, for all I know. That’s why Tony and I were discussing masks, those years ago. We were talking about the Zapatistas. He was down there when their guerrilla rebellion started. (He was holed away in San Cristóbal de las Casas, writing a book.)
For a few years, the Zapatistas were chic. Their leader, Subcomandante Marcos — not to be confused with Ferdinand, of the Philippines — was an icon, appearing on T-shirts, à la Che Guevara. Some celebs trooped down to Chiapas, to sit with the subcomandante and his masked charmers: Oliver Stone, for one; Madame Mitterrand, for another.
A fear of masks, or a wariness about them, is prudent. I think of another line from lore: “Show yourselves.”
Yesterday, President Trump heaped praise on Mohammed bin Salman, the acting dictator, so to speak, of Saudi Arabia. When his father, King Salman, dies, he will be dictator outright (if all goes according to plan). Trump also shielded Mohammed from blame for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. “He’s very angry about it,” Trump said. “He’s very unhappy about it.”
Is he? Other people, including investigators, think otherwise. I’m reminded of Trump’s reluctance to believe U.S. intelligence on the matter of the Kremlin’s interference in our 2016 election.
After hearing Trump, Senator Mitt Romney tweeted, “The President’s praise for MBS, the man who US intel says ordered or authorized the heinous murder of a WaPo columnist & Saudi dissident, sends the wrong message to the world. It’s past time for Congress & the administration to impose sanctions for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
A bit of advice: Don’t wait up nights.
Breakfasting with Mohammed bin Salman, Trump was effusive, saying, “It’s an honor to be with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia. And I think especially what you’ve done for women. I’m seeing what’s happening. It’s like a revolution in a very positive way.”
Trump continued, “I want to just thank you on behalf of a lot of people, and I want to congratulate you. You’ve done, really, a spectacular job.”
In recent months, Mohammed’s government has cracked down viciously on human-rights activists, and particularly women’s-rights activists. They have been tortured in the usual ways, and held in solitary confinement. This does not exclude pregnant prisoners and U.S.-Saudi dual citizens.
I wrote about one prisoner last month, after I interviewed her brother. The prisoner is Loujain al-Hathloul — her first name means “pearl,” incidentally — and her brother is Walid al-Hathloul. Loujain has been charged with an array of crimes, including contacting human-rights organizations and applying for a job at the U.N.
Of course, she has been tortured: electric-shocked, flogged, and so on. The torture has been overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, a top adviser to the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. He told Loujain, “I will kill you and cut you into pieces, but before I do it, I will rape you.”
This is what Walid al-Hathloul told an audience at the Oslo Freedom Forum this week. It is consistent with what we have long known about the Saudi justice system, such as it is.
For eight months, Walid and his family kept silent. They thought it was the best strategy to pursue. They went through all the prescribed channels. They appealed to the right ministries. Then they discovered that Loujain was being tortured anyway, so they decided to speak out, to draw attention to this case, one of many in their home country.
Probably the most prominent political prisoner in Saudi Arabia is Raif Badawi, who was publicly lashed. He has been imprisoned since 2012. His crime was to blog in favor of freedom, democracy, and human rights. I interviewed his wife, Ensaf Haidar, in 2016 (here). She is in exile, with their children, in Canada.
We Americans could make an issue of Raif Badawi, if we wanted to — of Loujain al-Hathloul and others as well.
Switch, now, to North Korea (a country that makes Saudi Arabia look practically Swiss). Before traveling there, President Trump had words about the border — the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea. “By the way,” he said, “when you talk about a wall, when you talk about a border, that’s what you call a border. Nobody goes through that border. Just about nobody. That’s called a real border.”
It is a hell of a border, yes. The president was right that “just about nobody” can get through it. But, in November 2017, someone did, amazingly. He was Oh Chong-song, a 25-year-old North Korean soldier, who made what many called a “dash for freedom.” Amid a hail of bullets — he was shot by his comrades five times — he dashed to the southern side, to Free Korea. He has since talked about life in North Korea, giving the usual eye-popping testimony. To see him, go here.
President Trump has granted Kim Jong-un an exalted platform, with these repeated summits and photo-ops. Let’s hope he will have something to show for it. Kim, remember, is a Communist dictator who presides over a gulag. Indeed, he presides over the most monstrous state on earth.
I often quote Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet-era dissident, who said something like this: “Free World leaders have to conduct business with tyrants, but, as they do, they should occasionally pause to ask, How will it look to the boys in the camps?”
When Reagan met with Gorbachev, he always handed the Soviet leader lists — lists of prisoners he was interested in. “Too many lists,” Gorbachev once complained. (To read Vladimir Kara-Murza on this subject, go here.) If Trump handed Putin a list, it might include the names of Oleg Sentsov, Alexei Pichugin, Yuri Dmitriev, Alexander Shpakov, and Oyub Titiev.
Yesterday, President Trump called Putin “a great guy,” “a good person,” and “a terrific person.” I disagree (except in the long-ago meaning of “terrific”). I think he is a dictator who invades foreign countries, sows chaos in democracies, and kills his critics, both on Russian soil and on foreign soil.
Trump has called Kim Jong-un “a great leader,” “very talented,” “very honorable,” etc. He has called Xi Jinping “a great guy,” “a terrific guy,” etc. (Xi, remember, presides over a gulag of his own, and the stories grow more horrifying by the day. In the future, no one will be able to say, credibly, “Oh, we didn’t know!”)
Only a few years ago, the conservative movement would have been repulsed by comments such as these. I am of that movement. It is possible to engage in necessary diplomacy with tyrants without showering them with praise. Without demoralizing their victims. Conservatives were repulsed by President Obama when he did “the wave” with Raúl Castro at a baseball game. That seems a thousand years ago.
Every day, I’m told that I am a dinosaur, a nostalgist, a relic. I am told this by the Trump-Orbán Right and by segments of the Left, and they are probably right. But, as a conservative, I’m not necessarily fazed by these charges. I don’t have the feeling that tomorrow belongs to me.
In an interview last week, Putin said that liberalism had become obsolete. By “liberalism,” he did not mean Oberlin College. He meant the Western way, the American way: the rule of law, the separation of powers, free enterprise, a free press, human rights, and so on. (What has recently been attacked as “David French-ism.”) Specifically, Putin said, “Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”
Asked about Putin’s view of “Western-style liberalism,” President Trump talked about the political failures of Los Angeles and San Francisco. (See this article, for instance.)
In Budapest, Viktor Orbán is, of course, in accord with Putin. Last year, he proclaimed, “The era of liberal democracy is over.”
It may well be. These days, the strongmen are . . . well, strong. (Orbán was the only European leader to attend Erdogan’s latest inauguration in Turkey. Other attendees included Medvedev of Russia and Maduro of Venezuela.) The truth is, liberal democracy is something rare under the sun. People enjoy it only in parentheses, very brief. But it’s worth struggling to hang on to. And if people lose it in one age or place, it will be waiting for people in another. You can’t kill off these ideas. You can smother them for a while — even a good long time — but kill them, no. They will revive.
There was a time when “anti-fascist” meant what it said. People who opposed fascism called themselves “anti-fascists.” But then the term slipped. The definition of “fascist” became hazy from over-use and so the term “anti-fascist” also began to move. This might seem to be a theoretical matter. But it is one that ends up encouraging and condoning horrific scenes like those in the center of Portland on Saturday.
For some time, self-described “anti-fascists,” or Antifa, have been finding spurious and imaginary reasons for demonstrating in the city. Though these are less like demonstrations than carnivals of civil disobedience, violence and intimidation. One of the very few journalists to have taken an interest in the repeated shutting down of the city center by these groups has been the young journalist Andy Ngo. Despite the police apparently regularly handing over the city to Antifa to do what they want, there has been relatively little coverage of this whole story in the mainstream press. And despite being repeatedly hounded and intimidated by anti-fa, on Saturday Ngo once again went to cover events in Portland.
This time, Antifa went even further than they have before, with several of their number assaulting Ngo, stealing his equipment, and repeatedly smashing his face with weapons and projectiles. It appears that the Portland police once again stood by and allowed this to happen.
There are several things to note here. First, the journalism business is awfully good at patting itself on the back. Whenever some auto-cue reader gets some mild criticism the whole industry goes into full-on “war on the free press” mode and starts handing out bravery awards. But in Portland on Saturday journalism really was under assault, in the form of a mob deliberately targeting somebody who was trying to perform the job that too much of the media fails to do. If the journalism business is interested in a little professional solidarity, now might be the time to express it.
Second, anyone in any doubt over who the fascists and the anti-fascists are today should watch the footage of Ngo being attacked. Might the fascists be the thugs who wear face masks in the middle of the day in an American city and carry out mob assaults on journalists?
Of course there are those who do not think this. According to one C. J. Werleman, it is the journalist Ngo who must be held accountable for his own assault. According to Werleman (a deeply confused figure), Ngo, who is the young, gay child of immigrants, is in fact someone who “was [sic] participated in white supremacist instigated violence.”
Andy Ngo, who is one of the leading amplifiers of Islamophobia in US, and who was participated in white supremacist instigated violence, was beaten up by Antifa in Portland today. https://t.co/H8qnqZsapy
If anyone wonders why there are so many qualifiers in that characteristically inelegant sentence, it is because Werleman is trying to excuse an act of actual violence by implausibly pinning a charge of violence on a nonviolent person who has just been violently assaulted.
That’s an especially kooky and uncommon extreme of society that you can glimpse just there. But the truth is that it is also part of a logical continuum from the hysteria that part of America has been imbibing for three years now. If you keep telling people that the fascists are coming, then there will be some people who will believe you. Others will simply use the excuse to go and have what they think of as a good time and violently assault people under the guise of doing good works.
I am sure the Portland police will come up with some excuse for why they keep failing to protect their city and its inhabitants. And I’m sure that most journalists will continue to pretend that violent civil disobedience in the center of American cities in broad daylight is really not worth anyone’s time focussing on. But the real lesson of Saturday is that anybody interested in genuine anti-fascism should from now on aim themselves directly at Portland’s Antifa. These are the people of our day who behave most like fascists. It is high time that they were treated as such by officialdom and civil society alike.
It’s hard to know how to weigh in on this controversy, since the definition of “busing” is itself uncertain; since it’s hard to tell what Joe Biden means to say now, let alone what he meant to say decades ago; and since the criticism of him by his political opponents is so likely to be deceptive as well. But these thoughts:
1) It is unconstitutional and bad policy to assign students to public schools on the basis of their skin color.
2) This means that Jim Crow segregation was unconstitutional and bad policy; it also means that racial balancing of schools (which I have no doubt is now supported to one degree or another by all the Democratic presidential candidates, including both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris) is unconstitutional and bad policy.
3) Some federal judges, federal bureaucrats, and civil-rights groups thought that a good way to end Jim Crow segregation was by affirmatively assigning students to schools on the basis of skin color. In some circumstances — where this was simply a way of ensuring that students went to the schools they should have been going to all along had there been no Jim Crow — this might have made sense, but often it was, to understate the matter considerably, controversial. Some of the criticism might have been rooted in a defense of Jim Crow, but often it was not, because the liberal definition of “segregation” included not only the de jure but also the de facto variety, and because using racial discrimination to end racial discrimination is always problematic.
4) The federal-state and voluntary-mandatory distinctions that are often important in other contexts don’t really have much salience here. That is, it can’t (as a matter of constitutional law or sound public policy) be left to the states to decide whether to engage in racial discrimination; likewise, if a state decides to engage in such discrimination, it’s misleading to call it “voluntary,” since while the state is not being forced to adopt the policy, the resulting discrimination is not voluntary for the students who are then assigned to schools on the basis of their skin color. And this is true, again, whether we’re talking about old-fashioned Jim Crow segregation, or the new and politically correct discrimination undertaken to achieve “diversity.”
The bioethics movement is nothing if not hubristic. Philosophy majors think they should be the “experts” to whom we hearken for virtually all of society’s problems, not just medical ethics or health-care policy. Thus, in my book Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, I quote a bioethics paper published by UNESCO as stating modestly that the field “goes beyond the codes of ethics of the various professional practices concerned. It implies new thinking on changes in society, or even global equilibria.” All bow down.
It’s really just leftist politics. As movement patriarch Daniel Callahan once put it, bioethics made it big because it “dovetailed nicely with the reigning political liberalism of the educated classes in America.” So, we should not be surprised that the field wants in on global warming policy advocacy. Remember, it’s all about global equilibria!
Still, it is fair to ask what science and policy disputes about global warming have to do with medical ethics and public health policy. Watch Callahan stretch to make the field relevant to the former concerns. From the Hastings Center’s report on a climate-change conference the bioethics institute convened:
Callahan noted that climate change and bioethics both arose from the human quest for progress. Just as medical progress has led to improved medical care and increased life expectancy, it has also raised ethical dilemmas, for example, concerning decision-making at the end of life and the affordability of medicine. Similarly, progress more generally has given rise to increased fossil fuel consumption, which has caused climate change.
“Both global warming mitigation and health improvements share some similar ethical problems and dilemmas,” said Callahan at the meeting. One of them is to find a good balance between cultural change and technological solutions. For health care, there is a tension between preventive medicine and high-tech care. In the case of global warming the tension is between changing climate-affecting behavior, such as burning down forests, and technological and economic solutions, such as solar panels and windmills.
Nope. Bioethics has nothing “expert” to contribute to the idea of anthropogenic warming, “economic solutions” to reducing emissions, or reducing fossil-fuel consumption. As to stopping us from “burning down forests,” I’ll listen to Smokey the Bear.
And get this one:
In her remarks at the meeting, Mildred Solomon, president of The Hastings Center, noted that “a through line across nearly all Hastings projects, over its 50-year history, has been a desire to consider what the right relationship ought to be between humans and nature . . . When does our desire to innovate become exploitation? This tension must be managed in nearly every context The Hastings Center explores — whether the question is about changing the human genome, pursuing a radically extended human lifespan, or producing energy through extraction of natural resources like oil and coal.”
Senator Kamala Harris, as a black female senator from the biggest state in our country, was always likely to be a strong contender. In the second of the first two Democratic debates, though, she also stood out as the coolest and toughest professional on the stage. Joe Biden has also been a top candidate, on paper, having served as vice president in an administration Democratic voters dearly miss. But his debate performance, while not deadly, is likely to deepen those voters’ worries that he is not up to the job of beating President Donald Trump in 2020.
At the New York Times, I write about how the Democrats are trying to avoid some unpopular left-wing positions without explicitly disavowing them — and how that tactic could backfire.
On several polarizing issues, Democrats are refusing to offer the reassurances to moderate opinion that they once did. They’re not saying: We will secure the border and insist on an orderly asylum process, but do it in a humane way; we will protect the right to abortion while working to make it less common; we will protect gun rights while setting sensible limits on them. The old rhetorical guardrails — trust us, there’s a hard stop on how far left we’ll go — are gone.
In her latest video for National Review, reporter Kat Timpf discusses a bill signed by Texas governor Greg Abbott that permits law enforcement to jail college employees if they fail to report sex jokes they hear about on campus as a Title IX violation.
While it’s political common sense that candidates are not generally assured of or eliminated from anything after one measly debate, it is certainly true that voter assessments can be quickly re-aligned. The last two nights of Democratic debates actually did a lot to establish some obstacles and advantages in the impressions voters have of these candidates.
The major takeaway I will share before some random musings on individual candidates: Even a movement-conservative political junkie like myself was just stunned at the lack of interest in hiding the new extremism of the new left. No candidate seemed interested in the clear differentiation that this obvious brand would bring: “I am a center-left liberal, and I will fight Donald Trump, but I am not insane, and I am not promising tens of trillions of dollars of nonsense.” Independent, objective Americans could not possibly have watched either night of that debate without saying, “They want to take away our health insurance; instill a government takeover of the entire health-care system; give “free” college to every single person; open the borders and refuse to regulate immigration; give free health care to anyone outside the country who wants it; massively increase taxes; impose economy-destroying extreme environmental measures; “cancel” over a trillion dollars of student debt; confiscate guns illegally; and let us not forget, push forward the agenda of men being able to have abortions.” I am not exaggerating or being coy — there was near consensus in each of these policy objectives, and whether it be the economic, political, or cultural direction they seek to take the country — it is not just unrecognizable to John Kennedy’s America — it is unrecognizable to Barack Obama’s America!
But without further adieu, my take on particular standout performances:
It is pretty much universal consensus that the biggest loser of the two-night woke-fest was Beto O’Rourke. I really do believe that he was doomed before this debate performance, but at the end of the day, I believe Beto comes across as the most disingenuous candidate that either party has had stand on one of its stages in a generation. I fully appreciate that all politicians are acting to some degree, but this guy takes his little “Buddha in the mountains on a journey” schtick to a whole new level of nonsense, and he was just pitiful on Wednesday night — from the embarrassing Spanish pandering schtick, to Julián Castro clobbering him while he sat there looking like his mom was scolding him for getting a DUI.
I don’t know if Elizabeth Warren helped herself or not Wednesday night — on one hand I realize that she is working hard to trump Bernie Sanders as the front-running socialist candidate, and on the other hand I agree that her “ideas” schtick seemed to really lack any meat on the bone. But what we do know: The media has picked her to be their candidate that they will prop up, and they are on a mission to cuddle her and massage her back into play. I expect shameless propping of the Native-American fraud for months to come. I question her viability in a general election but believe she may very well get in the “lane” that Bernie once occupied.
I am sure it will now be beaten into us that Kamala Harris is the hot candidate, and she surely did help herself Thursday night. The “food fight” line was incredibly lame, which means that it went over great with CNN panelists. Her boldness in picking that fight with Joe Biden was completely lacking in character, accuracy, fairness, or integrity but it did what it needed to do: establish her as a rival to Biden, which implies a “top-tier” status for her and her campaign. Kamala is a talented communicator, and what she lacks in ideological guiding light that she makes up for in, well, something. I can’t say with real conviction what the appeal is, but I do know she will be a top-tier candidate going, and has as good a chance as any to win the nomination.
Speaking of Joe Biden, he has a choice in the weeks ahead that will make or break his candidacy. He needs to get into a street fight with Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and anyone else who dares to call him a racist, or he needs to quit the race. He is not fighting to clarify his non-racist bona fides; he is fighting to demonstrate that he has the toughness to not stand for that kind of nonsense. I never believed Mitt Romney lost the race because people believed he was a Gordon Gekko corporate tycoon villain from the bowels of private-equity dungeons; I believe he lost because people just couldn’t believe he wouldn’t defend himself from being called such!
It will not be good for the Democrats if Julián Castro gets a lift in this race and sticks around for a bit. That line about defending “reproductive justice” was disgusting and weird. And the addendum to his wokey pro-abortion street cred that he even supported abortion rights for men was the worst possible thing for those who do not want to portray the new Democrats as so culturally out of touch with mainstream Americans that they cannot be trusted. And of course, it doesn’t do a lot to boost the Democrats as the “pro-science” party.
I think Amy Klobuchar had moments of showing herself to be reasonable and cerebrally aware of what a president can and cannot do, but her performance lacked gravitas.
Bernie Sanders did two things you can not do as a socialist trying to win this nomination: 1) He waffled around the fact that he is advocating a huge middle-class tax increase to pay for Medicare for All; and 2) He is advocating a huge middle-class tax increase to pay for Medicare for All. I think Bernie will die off soon in this thing, as there are plenty of people now borrowing his Marxian progressivism in their policy plank, and yet they do not have 40 years of actually calling themselves “socialist.”
My free advice to the DNC — Marianne Williamson ought not be on one of your stages again. My free advice to Saturday Night Live — do everything you can to keep Marianne Williamson in this race.
The student-debt crisis was launched to the forefront of the American political world this week when Bernie Sanders announced his plan to eliminate nearly all of the $1.6 trillion in student loans currently owed by Americans. Sanders’ announcement caused quite the uproar, yet notably, colleges themselves escaped the lion’s share of the blame.
College tuition has exploded well beyond the rate of inflation: Since 1978, college tuition has increased more than four times — a staggering 1375 percent — the rate of inflation. It’s risen eight times faster than wages since the 1980s, according to Forbes.
“The reason people keep paying huge amounts for college is because it is assumed – and somewhat correctly, yet with lots of exceptions — that a college degree is needed to advance career-wise beyond mere economic subsistence,” Jay Schalin, director of policy analysis at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, told National Review. Statistically, college graduates still earn over 1.5 times more than those with just a high school diploma.
American society has been sold on the idea that obtaining a college degree is the key to success. “Universities are seen through rose-colored glasses,” Dr. Jenna A. Robinson, president of the Martin Center, told National Review. And the government’s backing of student loans has allowed more students to be financially viable to attend college. Children go to high school, get accepted to college, get the dream job after graduation and buy the house with the white picket fence; the process is almost formulaic. “Conventional wisdom has been pushing college-for-all for a very long time,” Robinson said. “The minute a kid hits first grade he or she is pushed toward college,” Schalin said.
“The education industry and their friends in government have been pushing ‘college for all’ for political and financial reasons,” Schalin added. While the number of people with undergraduate degrees has increased significantly since the 1990s, so too has the cost of those degrees. Add on the fact that an even higher percentage of those students end up in occupations they most likely could have obtained without a degree, and you wind up with a negative return on investment — that, had it occurred on Wall Street, would generate plenty of righteous condemnation.
There needs to be more investigation of the causes behind tuition inflation — including the ballooning in university administrations. Politicians have rarely given any attention what caused this dramatic increase. “The people in a position to call out universities for their complicity in the student loan ‘crisis’ have by-and-large benefited from their college educations and believe that it was very much worth the time and money it took to attend,” Robinson said. “They went to decent schools, they graduated on time, and they paid back their loans (if they had any) with ease.”
The institutions that were once centered on the pursuit of knowledge and higher learning may condemn the free-market economy, but they are pursuing their own profits — and they should not escape blame for the current situation.
Miami— Most 2020 Democrats have now embraced decriminalizing illegal border crossings, a policy that the liberal website Vox calls “the most radical immigration idea in the 2020 primary.” Foreign nationals who illegally cross the U.S. border would be released into the United States pending a civil trial (assuming they don’t present a threat).
Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has released an actual plan to decriminalize illegal border-crossings, but he insists that policy does not amount to open borders because those who cross the border illegally would still be subject to civil penalties.
“This is not something that’s radical,” Castro told reporters following Wednesday night’s debate. “People still have to show up to a court hearing. They are still subject to deportation.”
But on Thursday night, moderator Mario Diaz-Balart asked the candidates: “If someone is here without documents, and that is their only offense, is that person to be deported?” Most of the candidates who commented said that person should not be deported. “No, absolutely not, they should not be deported,” Kamala Harris said. (Joe Biden walked up to the line, but didn’t quite cross it. “That person should not be the focus of deportation.”)
If you combine the policy of decriminalizing illegal entry with opposition to deporting anyone who hasn’t committed a serious crime, how does that amount to anything other than “open borders”?
In an interview earlier this week, Talkradio’s Ross Kempsell asked Boris Johnson what he does in his spare time. His answer was either a lie or another remarkable eccentricity. Either way, it is fascinating to see Johnson’s mind muddle its way through a response.
Johnson: I like to paint . . . and make things.
Kempsell: What do you make?
Johnson [after a long pause, a wistful turn of the head, and a grimace]: I have a thing where I make models. When I was mayor in London, we made beautiful buses . . .
(You might label it strange to bring up a mayoral term after being asked a question about one’s hobbies. But Johnson’s main campaign tactic has been to turn almost every question about his past into a referendum on his record as Mayor ten years ago.)
He smirks, on the verge of laughter. “I like to make . . . buses,” he says.
Kempsell: You make models of buses?
Johnson: I make models of buses.
Kempsell: So they’re gonna be in Downing Street?
Boris Johnson: So what I do . . . well I don’t make models of buses . . . what I make is . . . I get old, um, I don’t know, wooden crates, right? And then I paint them. And they have two . . . I suppose it’s a wine, it’s a box that’s been used to contain two wine bottles, right? And it will have a diving thing. I turn it into a bus and I put passengers . . . You really wanna know this?
Ross Kempsell: You’re making buses. You’re making cardboard buses. Ok, that’s what you do to enjoy yourself.
As Johnson goes on to explain that he turns wooden wine crates into model vehicles and “paints the passengers enjoying themselves on the wonderful,” low-carbon double-deckers, Kempsell stares incredulously.
The genius of this answer is that it is absolutely hilarious. The clip has some ten million views, and nobody knows quite what to make of it. Most of my acquaintances in the United States, still believing in Britain’s reputation for hard-headed seriousness, are under the impression that it must have been a crushing blow to his candidacy. But for many in the U.K., the video is a sign that the old, larger-than-life character still exists — google “Boris bus” and you are no longer met with the controversial spending pledge that helped Leave win the Brexit referendum, but another moment of comedy from a once-metropolitan mayor.
As I wrote over a month ago, Johnson is attempting to perform an incredible balancing act: He is a liberal conservative who wants to build affordable homes, improve social care, and pursue a more open immigration policy, but his base is now a group of Conservatives who want him to be tough on migration and even tougher with Brussels. This morning, Johnson refused to rule out proroguing parliament in order to get a no-deal withdrawal passed through the House of Commons. The decision was a nod to his hard-Brexiteer constituency, but that group would not be large enough to bring him victory at a general election. And since attempting to force through no deal is likely to bring the date of a general election far forward, Johnson may not be able to act upon his liberal-conservative agenda after all.
So it seems that Johnson is trying to pretend the contradictions don’t exist — keep the hardliners happy by promising to take the U.K. out without a deal on October 31 and keep an eye on a possible general election by doubling down on his cartoonish charm. He is comforted by the elusive hope that the EU will offer him a better deal and provide him with a way out of the mess, but nothing suggests that they are particularly keen on saving him.
Which is why the bus video, absurd as it may be, is a meaningful: as a reminder that Johnson’s persona is a sideshow to distract from his incoherent Brexit policy. He’s an expert at abiding by his own set of rules, but Brexit means facing up to reality. At the moment, Johnson is playing three different games: one with the Tory-party membership, one with his colleagues in parliament, and one with the country at large. But inventive acts of comedy won’t help with the only game that matters. Johnson might be in for a shock when he’s finally invited to play with Brussels.
Earlier this month, I had a post on the risks that journalists face, including murder. It touched on Ivan Golunov, who had just been arrested. He is a Russian journalist working for the Meduza news site, which is based in Latvia. Golunov investigates corruption — which puts him in considerable danger.
He was arrested on drug charges, an obvious frame job. He was also beaten up. But he was released from prison after an international outcry. Unfortunately, other journalists are not so lucky.
The body count of Russian journalists is high. (For the relevant Wikipedia entry, go here.) A few of the dead are famous, such as Anna Politkovskaya, killed in 2006 (on Putin’s birthday). Most of them are not famous. In any case, it takes real bravery to be a real journalist in Russia. They are constantly in the crosshairs.
Last summer, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the founder of Open Russia, launched Justice for Journalists, whose purpose is to investigate violent crimes against journalists. I will have a piece about Khodorkovsky — imprisoned by Putin for ten years — in the next National Review.
President Trump likes to chuckle with Putin about journalists. Two years ago, Putin gestured at reporters and said to Trump, “Are these the ones who insulted you?” Then the two leaders chuckled.
It happened again today. Trump gestured to journalists and said, “Get rid of them. [Putin needs no encouragement in that department.] ‘Fake news’ is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.” Putin answered, in English, “We also have. It’s the same.” Then the two chuckled.
In March of this year, Putin signed legislation aimed at “fake news” and anything that “disrespects” the Russian state.
Trump has also done some chuckling with Rodrigo Duterte, the leader of the Philippines. Filipino journalists, too, are in the crosshairs. (“Just because you’re a journalist,” Duterte said in 2016, “you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”) When reporters tried to ask Duterte about human-rights abuses, he called them “spies,” which got a laugh out of Trump.
Every day, or every week, Trump calls journalists “the Enemy of the People” and accuses them of “fake news” and “treason” and so on. His supporters and explainers say he’s just blowin’ off steam, no big deal, the ordinary rough-and-tumble. I understand media-bashing, having done a lot of it myself, in my scribbling career.
But journalists in many parts of the world wind up dead. This is certainly true of Russia. The American president should bear this reality in mind, especially when abroad, and he should represent democratic, and American, values.
The Canadian Charter explicitly guarantees “freedom of religion and conscience.” Guarantee, shmarantee. Canadian law is fast becoming intolerant to religious liberty by forcing its citizens to choose between their careers and their faith.
Today’s Wall Street Journal carries an important column that illustrates precisely how officially anti-religion Canada is becoming. Avi Schick writes about a bill that just passed the National Assembly of Quebec, which would prohibit public workers from wearing any religious symbol or article of clothing while on the job. Schick explains the bill’s import:
Advocates say the bill promotes the separation of church and state. In reality, the law suggests that religious practice is incompatible with public service, that people of faith cannot be trusted to balance their religious beliefs and civic responsibilities, and that employees must choose between their consciences and careers. Public employees won’t be the only ones affected: If the government won’t hire someone who wears a turban or crucifix, why would a private business?
Quebec’s stifling of religious expression is becoming the rule in Canada, rather than the exception. I have written here about how the Ontario Court of Appeals has ruled that all doctors must abort, euthanize, provide transgender interventions or any other legal medical procedure — or find a doctor who will, called an “effective referral.” In other words, Ontario forces doctors to take human life or provide services he or she might consider mutilating, even if the doctor considers it an egregious sin — either that, or be ghettoized into areas of practice such as podiatry in which no such requests are likely to be made. And if they don’t like that, as one judge put it, they can get out of medicine altogether. Do you see the pattern?
Last year, in British Columbia, a private Christian university sought to open a law school, in which students would be expected to conduct themselves consistently with the faith’s moral precepts. Because of this, it was denied accreditation. From, “Canada Attacks Religious Freedom,” by Bob Kuhn, also in the Wall Street Journal:
The Law Society of Upper Canada, the nation’s oldest and largest, told the high court in Ottawa during oral arguments on Nov. 30, 2017, that accrediting any “distinctly religious” organization would violate the Canadian Charter, which is similar to the U.S. Bill of Rights. It added that when the government licenses a private organization it adopts all its policies as its own. If these arguments had been accepted, they would have spelled the end of Canada’s nonprofit sector. In their zeal to root out the supposed bigotry of traditional religious believers, these lawyers were prepared to dynamite Canada’s entire civil society.
Thankfully the court passed over some of our opponents’ more extreme arguments. Instead, on June 15 it ruled that making Trinity’s faith-based community standards mandatory could harm the dignity of members of the LGBT community who attend Trinity. The majority of the court concluded that this potential dignitary harm to future LGBT law students was “concrete,” while the infringement on Trinity’s religious liberty from refusing to accredit its qualified law program was “minimal.”
By actively suppressing the liberty of its religious minorities and marginalizing the Charter’s explicit protections in this regard, Canada no longer qualifies as a free country.
Rancid anti-religiosity is bursting out here too. Witness the explosion of rage when the Trump administration promulgated a rule that merely requires the government to actually enforce all religious conscience protections currently contained in federal law. Witness that “Medicare for All” would force doctors to perform abortions and transgender procedures, if asked. Good grief, witness the continual and unremitting legal attacks on the Colorado cake baker. Does anyone think that the Democrat presidential contenders on stage the last two nights debating wouldn’t all eagerly follow Canada’s lead?
True civil libertarians stand up for freedoms in which they have no personal skin in the game. Clearly, most of today’s leftists and secularists are not civil libertarians. That is something to ponder seriously when the time comes to vote.
Oregon’s state legislature imploded last week after eleven Republican state senators — the entire minority caucus in the state senate — disappeared just moments before a vote on a cap-and-trade climate bill put forward by the Democratic majority.
The bill, called House Bill 2020, seems to have been effectively killed — for now. The disappearance of the Republican caucus has resulted in a failure to achieve quorum, said Oregon senate president Peter Courtney.
But the disappearance of the Senate Republicans set in motion a chaotic series of events which is still unfolding. Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat who was a major sponsor of the bill, authorized state troopers to track down the missing senators and bring them back to force a vote. As of this morning, many of the senators are said to be hiding out in western Idaho, which borders the rural eastern districts in Oregon that most of them represent.
The Republican caucus cited concerns about the effect of HB2020 on sectors of the economy which are heavily represented in their district. A report by the state’s Legislative Revenue Office said that the bill would “reconfigure much of the energy sector and the state economy” and that “any long-term program of this nature carries with it many uncertainties.”
By Governor Brown’s own admission, HB2020 would be more radical than almost any existing climate legislation in America. “This bill would have been historic for Oregon, historic for the country, and frankly, it would have been historic for the world,” she said in a press conference last week.
While a handful of states in the Northeast have regional cap-and-trade bills aimed at specific industries, Oregon would be only the second state to California to institute a statewide tax on carbon emissions.
The chaos in Oregon may be unique, but the Beaver State’s geographical polarization is familiar. In many states, Democratic politicians from densely populated, progressive cities are gaining power thanks to urban population growth, only widening the divide between their priorities and those of their Republican colleagues from more-rural areas. In the six-hour debate over the bill in the state house, Republican legislator Kim Wallan mused that the entire issue had become split along lines divided between the urban “woke” voters who favor the bill and the rural “rubes” who don’t.
That polarization naturally leads to fights over climate policy. Washington, which shares a border with Oregon and has similar geographical divisions, has also had its fair share of pique over a proposed carbon tax. Progressive lobbyists in the state have gotten carbon-tax legislation on the ballot twice — 2016 and 2018 — only to be shot down by voters in both instances.
In the past year, Democratic majorities in New York, California, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, and Washington have passed sweeping legislation aimed at reducing carbon emissions in their states. In Oregon, at least, state Republicans remain defiant — for now. In response to Governor Brown’s threat to force him back to the Capitol for a vote, Senator Brian Boquist dryly remarked: “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s that simple.”
ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include is the anniversary of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, some really huge spiders, Chinese scientist-recommended pick up lines (personal favorite — “Your smile is a naughty goblin”), and the history of adhesives.
Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus “Let justice be done, even if the world perishes”
To make the case that Biden is unfit to become president because of his association with segregationists — and it’s not an unreasonable case to make — one needs to state what political outcomes he should have been willing to give up so as not to negotiate with people who hold despicable beliefs. Absent articulating these outcomes, it’s not clear why anyone should take arguments against Biden’s associations seriously. The following thought experiment should help to make this clear: You’re currently serving as the United States representative to an environmental commission in charge of negotiating a climate treaty. There’s a lot at stake. If you fail, there’s a nearly universal scientific consensus that global temperatures will rise further and endanger virtually all species. If you succeed, you’ll stave off a potentially species-threatening event.
By way of bizarre circumstance, the chief negotiator across from you is a warlord and mass murderer, whose army of thugs raped, murdered, and plunged an entire region into chaos. Your options are binary: negotiate or don’t negotiate. (Trying to avoid the dilemma by pointing out how unlikely it would be that you’d ever find yourself in such a situation is a moral dodge and as such is not worth consideration.) If you negotiate, you’ve done so because the stakes are so high that failure would be unthinkable and thus you’re willing to overlook the chief negotiator’s grotesque moral actions. If you do not negotiate, you’ll likely condemn nearly all species to extinction. The second of the two, refusing to negotiate, is more interesting because after only a few questions it forces one to calibrate one’s moral threshold for engaging those who hold odious beliefs. In other words, just how much less bad would he have to be before you negotiated? What’s your threshold for speaking with him? What if he ordered the mass murder of civilians but forbade rape? What if he was against mass murder and rape, but preferred victims of his armies to be left with two stumps of the attackers choosing?
Enter Joe Biden. Biden has come under intense criticism from Cory Booker, Bill de Blasio, Ta-Nehisi Coates (“Biden shouldn’t be president”), and others for his political alliances and even friendships with segregationists such as Mississippi’s James Eastland and Georgia’s Herman Talmadge. Biden responded to intense criticism of these relationships with a Kissinger-like dogged pragmatism, stating: “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished.” Now let’s revisit your role as climate negotiator. If you claimed you would not negotiate with a mass murderer and you condemned Biden for forming alliances with segregationists, your positions have some (minimal) degree of moral consistency.
If, however, you agreed to negotiate and you condemned Biden for negotiating (in his particular case, not just negotiating but successfully negotiating and “getting things done”), then it’s incumbent on you to justify this disconnect. If your reasoning is that more was at stake in the climate negotiations, then what’s your threshold for negotiating? How much more has to be at stake before considering whether to negotiate with someone who holds morally repugnant beliefs? What if only Guam would be an uninhabitable furnace but everyplace else would be just fine?
Unless you want to claim that segregation is morally worse than mass murder and rape, the decision of whether or not to negotiate could not be based on the beliefs and actions of the person with whom your negotiating. (Some readers will insist there’s no moral difference between mass murder and segregation. While this demonstrates a profound failure to triage moral issues, the case does not need to be made that one of these is more egregious than the other, only that they’re both really bad.) Therefore, the decision to negotiate must be rooted in the potential benefits of the negotiation. In the case of a climate treaty, it would be averting a global climate disaster. In Biden’s case, you would have to find the fruits of his negotiations sufficiently commendable so as to justify his actions.
In the latter case, however, there is very, very little emphasis on what, exactly, it was that Biden accomplished. And there is overwhelming emphasis — and coverage — on Biden’s associations. Of course this would not be a problem for those who claim one should never, ever negotiate with someone who holds deplorable views. (Think of positions expressed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, as opposed to Machiavelli or Hobbes.) But this is not the narrative that’s being forwarded. The narrative that’s dominating the media landscape, particularly on the intersectional left, is that Biden’s former associations, political alliances, and friendships should de facto disqualify him from becoming president.
One way to think about whether or not Biden is unfit to become president because of his association with segregationists is, hopefully, now more clear. You can start to answer this question by completing the following sentence: If you’d be willing to negotiate with a mass murderer to avert global extinction, it would be reasonable for Senator Biden to negotiate with a segregationist to . . .
The senator’s longest statement on the economy started amid cross-talk. Here’s what she said, interspersed with my own comments.
Hey, guys, you know what? America does not want to witness a food fight, they want to know how we are going to put food on their table.
Most Americans, I hope, do not expect the next president to put food on their table.
So on that point, part of the issue that is at play in America today, and we have all been traveling around the country, I certainly have, I’m meeting people who are working two and three jobs. You know, this president walks around talking about and flouting his great economy, right, my great economy, my great economy.
You ask him, well, how are you measuring this greatness of this economy of yours? And he talks about the stock market. Well, that’s fine if you own stocks. So many families in America do not. You ask him, how are you measuring the greatness of this economy of yours? And they point to the jobless numbers and the unemployment numbers.
These seem like completely reasonable indicators to point to.
Well, yeah, people in America are working. They’re working two and three jobs.
So when we talk about jobs, let’s be really clear. In our America, no one should have to work more than one job to have a roof over their head and food on the table.
Bernie Sanders has said similar things about people who hold more than one job.
Let’s be even more clear: This is a ridiculous way to judge the health of the economy. Only 5 percent of people with jobs have more than one. That percentage has been dropping over the last generation, although it wasn’t very high to start. The peak rate was 6.5 percent, in November 1996. We don’t have any measure of what percentage of this subset of the population has to work more than one job to be able to afford the basic necessities of life. But if our standard is that it’s not a “great economy” so long as anyone has to work more than one job, then we have never had one.
Senator Kamala Harris has from time to time been forthright about wanting to abolish private health insurance. Now she is spreading confusion about her stance. Last night she raised her hand when Lester Holt asked, “Many people watching at home have health insurance through their employer. Who here would abolish their health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?” She raised her hand. But afterward she said that she had thought the question was about how she herself would get health insurance. She now says that she wants to keep private insurance.
But she really doesn’t. She says “private insurance would certainly exist for supplemental coverage,” and her communications aide explains that this is right in line with Bernie Sanders’s plan. Under that plan, the federal government would cover nearly all health expenses and private insurance would be forbidden to cover anything the government covered. In the past, Harris has conceded that cosmetic surgery is the kind of thing she is talking about.
Even this morning, while claiming to want private insurance to continue to be legal, Harris has been making the argument for effectively abolishing it. Private insurance companies have duped Americans, she says, into thinking they’re necessary for people to be able to keep their doctors. Sanders claimed last night that Americans would be able to go to any doctor or hospital they want under his plan. That may not be true, however, considering the massive cuts in payments to doctors and hospitals the plan would require to hit budget targets.
Miami—Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand told National Review following Thursday’s Democratic debate that she would repeal the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban if elected president. “Yeah,” Gillibrand said when asked if she’d repeal the 2003 law, “the decision-making for reproductive rights should always rest in the hands of women.”
Gillibrand has been targeting Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden for his past compromises on the issue, including his support for banning federal funding of abortion. Biden recently abandoned that long-held position, but he has not commented during the 2020 presidential campaign about whether he still supports the partial-birth abortion ban and other restrictions on late-term abortion.
Biden was one of 17 Senate Democrats who voted for final passage of the partial-birth abortion ban in 2003 before it was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The law, upheld in a 2007 Supreme Court decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, prohibits a particular late-term abortion procedure in which a child’s body is mostly delivered breech before her skull is punctured and crushed. (Illinois recently repealed its statewide ban on partial-birth abortion as part of its sweeping new law establishing abortion as a “fundamental right” throughout all nine months of pregnancy.)
In 2003, other pro-choice U.S. senators, including Pat Leahy of Vermont and Tom Daschle of South Dakota, joined Biden in voting for the measure. Pro-choice New York Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan also supported the ban in the 1990s, calling partial-birth abortion “too close to infanticide.”
Gillibrand now occupies the seat that Moynihhan once held. She is currently polling at 0.5 percent in the average of national polls and has been running aggressively on the issue of abortion in an attempt to improve her standing in the race.
In the course of explaining that she would only appoint judges who support a right to abortion, Gillibrand made news last month by comparing pro-life Americans to racists and anti-Semites. But when asked Thursday night if opponents of legal abortion would be excluded from all jobs in a Gillibrand administration, the New York senator told National Review: “It’s not about individuals’ views. It’s about judges and justices.”
Gillibrand’s comment would seem to suggest she wouldn’t actually treat pro-lifers the same way as racists, whose views alone would be disqualifying in any administration.
While the “progressives” just want to make it free for everyone, conservative and libertarian thinkers have recently advanced an array of ideas for change. In today’s Martin Center article, Anthony Hennen quotes from and links to nine essays in which the writers argue for everything from reforms to abandoning hope. (I’m pretty far into the abandon hope camp, but read them and draw your own conclusions.)
Miami — Kamala Harris’s attack on Joe Biden’s record on race and busing was the biggest flashpoint of Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate.
“It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing,” Harris said to Biden. “You know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
Biden said that Harris had mischaracterized his record and then pointed out that he was proud to have advanced civil rights by working as a public defender, not as a prosecutor (like Harris). She pressed Biden to say whether he was wrong in the 1970s to oppose busing, which he would not do.
But perhaps the more interesting question is not about the past but what, if anything, would a future Democratic president do about busing?
When asked after the debate if he supported reinstating busing policies that Biden opposed in the 1970s, Bernie Sanders told National Review: “I am really concerned about the growing segregation — once again — the resegregation of communities all over this country. We’re seeing more and more schools which are being segregated. And that is something we have to deal with.” Would he use busing to deal with it? “Busing is one tool,” Sanders replied.
Kirsten Gillibrand also told reporters after the debate that she would impose new federally mandated busing policies on local schools if necessary. “I think every child should be able to go to a good public school. And as president I will assure that. If it needs busing, it needs busing,” Gillibrand told reporters.
And what about Kamala Harris? Would she implement new busing policies if elected president? “We haven’t put a plan out on that or anything, but she supports desegregation,” Harris communications director Ian Sams told National Review.
But as Harris herself said during her exchange with Biden on race and busing: “On this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly.” If Democrats have any plans to implement new busing policies along the likes of what Biden opposed in the 1970s, they might want to think that through now, before they are in a general-election matchup with Donald Trump. The details are awfully important.
In Biden’s home state of Delaware in the 1970s, the busing order imposed “racial quotas, sweeping pupil reassignments, school closings and reconfigurations, and bus rides up to an hour each way,” according to one account. “Widespread loss of confidence in the public schools and resistance to busing in the 1980s gave rise to a reversal of the busing order and sparked the charter school movement in the 1990s, and finally led to a legislative reaffirmation of neighborhood schools in 2000.”
“The real problem with busing,” Biden said in the 1970s, was that “you take people who aren’t racist, people who are good citizens, who believe in equal education and opportunity, and you stunt their children’s intellectual growth by busing them to an inferior school . . . and you’re going to fill them with hatred.”
Poor schools and de facto segregation remain real problems in America’s education system. School choice and charter schools may be a good way to address those problems without prompting a backlash, but Democratic candidates beholden to the teachers’ unions aren’t really in a position to embrace those solutions. If they’re going to implement new busing policies as president, they owe it to voters to spell out the details now.