Magazine December 17, 2018, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

The Democrats lost a close race in Mississippi. The 21st century really is different.

When Judge Jon Tigar of the Ninth Circuit blocked a Trump-administration order denying asylum to illegal border crossers, Trump tweeted that Tigar was an “Obama judge.” This brought a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts, who tweeted that there were no Obama judges or Trump judges, only “judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them” — to which Trump responded, “Sorry Chief Justice Roberts. . . . Please study the numbers.” What might Roberts’s great predecessor John Marshall think about all this? First, he would have spoken only through his decisions. He sat in his Court as in a bastion, waiting for cases to come to him. Second, he knew that politics swirled around the Court: He was a lame-duck Federalist appointee who converted Republicans and feared Democrats. Third, he tried to fashion a Court that approximated Roberts’s ideal: avoiding politics both on and off the bench, speaking as often as possible with one voice. Marshall’s takeaway? Do likewise.

During the midterm campaign, the media told us that the caravan would never arrive near the U.S., at least not for months. But about two weeks after the election, the migrants showed up in force. Thousands are now in Tijuana, and hundreds tried to storm a border crossing. When the mob threw rocks at U.S. officers, the Left erupted — at our border agents, for responding with tear gas. A key driver of the Central American migrant flow is our bizarre asylum policies. They allow families to come and stay in the country for years (forever, if they abscond) even if they entered illegally, even if the vast majority of their asylum claims will ultimately be rejected. The Trump administration is — sensibly — trying to forbid migrants from applying for asylum if they cross illegally, and to get Mexico to keep migrants there while they apply for asylum in the U.S. It’s not clear if the courts or if Mexico will cooperate, but the only alternative, absent congressional action, is an ongoing low-level crisis at the border.

Cindy Hyde-Smith, appointed to a Senate seat for Mississippi after Thad Cochran stepped down for health reasons, has now won election to it. The Republican overcame a national-media campaign to accuse her of racism — or, to use the phrase reporters favored as a means of not having to prove the charge, of running a “racially charged campaign.” The main mark against her: a snippet from a campaign stop in which she said that she liked one supporter so much that she would “fight a circle saw” or attend a “public hanging” if he asked. That last bit was taken, absurdly, as her way of advertising her lingering affection for lynch law. Hyde-Smith was running against a black Democrat, and the state’s black voters supported him while its white voters supported her. In that sense, nearly any Republican’s campaign would have been racially divisive. In electing her, Mississippi voters proved what no one should have doubted: that they are inured to hostile caricature from the national press.

It is now left-wing orthodoxy that the Georgia gubernatorial election was stolen. The Democratic candidate, Stacey Abrams, made a non-concession concession, and Ohio senator Sherrod Brown — in a sure sign that he’s seriously considering running for the presidency — decried the theft of the seat. The charges lodged against Governor-elect Brian Kemp, who was serving as secretary of state during the election, are risible. He wasn’t responsible for long lines at polling places (counties make the decisions about how many precincts and polling stations to have). He didn’t prevent people with minor errors in their voter-registration forms from voting (they could vote with valid ID like everyone else). He didn’t purge the voter rolls willy-nilly (the so-called use-it-or-lose-it law gives people years to show that they are active voters before knocking them from the rolls). Overall, there was huge turnout in the election, which happened to be won, fairly and squarely, by Brian Kemp.

Orange County was once nearly synonymous with conservative politics. But when all the midterm votes were counted, its four Republican congressmen were replaced by four Democrats. Dana Rohrabacher’s subservience to the Russian regime made him an easy target, but the other results reflected broad trends rather than candidate idiosyncrasies: the Republican party’s accelerating erosion among college-educated voters in the suburbs, and Orange County’s dislike of the orange man. The long-term changes mean that Republicans won’t go back to having a monopoly anytime soon. But they will not regain the majority if they do not take back some of these seats.

Representative Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) has offered a short but instructive demonstration of the authoritarian mind. In an exchange with conservative commenter Joe Briggs, Swalwell wrote that one of the traditional arguments for the Second Amendment — that it arms the people against the state as a last resort in the event of tyranny — is today beside the point because “we have nukes.” We are a little weary of all the fantasizing about Civil War II among political partisans; that being said, if the federal government were to in effect nullify the Second Amendment, thereby abrogating the Bill of Rights as a whole, it would be a more serious matter than the gentleman from California seems to imagine. Even as a dystopian hypothetical, Swalwell’s analysis misfires: The U.S. government was in possession of nuclear weapons when it was defeated in Vietnam, when it failed to pacify Afghanistan, when it failed to achieve its objectives in Iraq and Syria, etc. One would think that a political movement flattering itself that it is “the resistance” would understand how an insurgency actually works — and that it is not a trivial thing that happens every time an election doesn’t go your way. But this is an unserious “resistance,” led by unserious people, such as Representative Swalwell. 

First daughter Ivanka Trump used private email to conduct government-related business in the early days of the Trump administration: a story that was first reported by the New York Times in September 2017 but is being recycled as Democrats prepare to take control of the House and its investigative powers. The emails mostly concerned scheduling, and stopped once Miss Trump became a senior White House adviser with an official government account. But considering there was another highly placed woman — maybe even cabinet-level — who had a private-email scandal so big that the first daughter’s father thought she should be locked up, maybe a little caution was in order?

President Trump is urging Congress to pass the FIRST STEP Act, a justice-reform bill, during the lame-duck session. The legislation has sharply divided the Right, and its critics deserve a hearing — but those critics should acknowledge that there are serious problems with the federal justice system that the bill attempts to address. Some prisoners are still serving crack sentences from the days when the substance triggered penalties wildly out of proportion to those for powder cocaine, for example, and mandatory-minimum sentences involving gun possession can “stack” to create absurd results. (Weldon Angelos is the textbook example of this second problem: In 2004 he received a 55-year sentence for selling marijuana to a police informant three times while carrying a firearm. As the judge who regretfully sentenced him pointed out, he would have gotten less time for rape or second-degree murder.) Letting criminals out earlier is a project one undertakes carefully if at all, however, and Senator Tom Cotton has highlighted the fact that the bill could let violent criminals earn new “time credits” in certain cases. We encourage the sponsors to plug any loopholes, focusing the legislation on the clearest examples of injustice.

The Trump administration is moving to lower the price of medicines. Some of these efforts, such as reforming Medicare’s reimbursement practices so that physicians are not rewarded for prescribing costlier drugs, are laudable. The most attention-grabbing initiative — basing prices for Medicare Part B, which covers drugs administered in doctors’ offices, on an index of international prices — is more dubious. This policy imports other countries’ price controls in order to avoid having to say that we are imposing our own. Drug stocks fell on the announcement of the administration’s plans, and critics warned that they would lead to less medical research. Which is not to say that the previous price-setting policy in Medicare Part B was rational. What we ought to be doing is moving more of Medicare to the model of Part D, which covers pharmacy charges. Thanks to competition among plans, the cost of Part D has come in below the budget projections that were issued when it was created under President George W. Bush. We would have better odds of getting value for the dollar in health care if we used the same methods we employ to get it in nearly every other segment of the economy.

As we go to press, Congress is entering the final stretch of its farm-bill negotiations. We are disappointed, first and foremost, that these debates take it as a given that billions of dollars in corporate welfare for farms and other agricultural interests will continue; and, second, that House Republicans, having lost control of their chamber in the recent elections, have reportedly eased up on their push to strengthen work requirements in the food-stamp program, whose existing rules are lax and difficult to enforce. (They calculate that it’s better to get what they can before January, when the new Congress comes in.) Ideally there would be no farm subsidies at all, and able-bodied food-stamp recipients would be expected to work or look for work. It’s unlikely the deal will come anywhere close to this ideal, so here’s a modest proposal to go with it: Going forward, the agricultural and food-stamp parts of the legislation should be handled separately rather than being combined to create a bill that qualifies as “must pass” for too many constituencies at once. This indefensible ritual has repeated itself too many times already.

In 2007, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, farm interests and climate activists, enacted legislation that required mixing diesel fuel and gasoline with “biofuels” manufactured from plants, mainly corn and soybeans. The result: Increased global demand for farmland led tropical countries such as Indonesia to burn down forests and establish palm-tree plantations for food and fuel. This dumped massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and continues to do so, since the conversion process has exposed carbon-rich peat layers under the topsoil. As the New York Times reported, “the accelerated destruction of Borneo’s forests contributed to the largest single-year global increase in carbon emissions in two millenniums.” This result was hardly unpredictable: In 2009, in a study begun in the Bush administration, “the E.P.A. concluded that it would take 32 years before biodiesel from soybean oil was truly net-zero for carbon.” But somehow, “by the time the E.P.A. released its final rule in early 2010, it had made a complete about-face. Its models now found that the impact from land-use changes” was “almost negligible.” Why did this happen? The Times blames it all on the agriculture lobby — but somehow, in an otherwise excellent article of nearly 10,000 words, the name “Obama” appears exactly zero times.

There was a time, believe it or not, when the ACLU was thoroughly committed to due process. When it comes to accusations of sexual misconduct on college campuses, that time is apparently over. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released new proposed guidelines for adjudicating claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus, and the ACLU was displeased. But why? The proposed regulations merely implement the basics of due process — including the right to have an adviser or attorney cross-examine witnesses, the right to see the evidence against the accused, the right to access exculpatory evidence, and the right to appeal of an adverse verdict. But the new ACLU is increasingly woke, and in some quarters of the far Left the sentence “Believe women” is a virtual legal mandate. Empowered by the Obama administration, college campuses across the country established kangaroo courts that were designed to secure an increasing number of life-altering convictions of those who found themselves accused, often of heinous crimes. These courts have been a disaster, and accused students have prevailed in more than 100 lawsuits against their universities. In this instance it was Secretary DeVos who preserved constitutional liberties with greater care than the ACLU.

Teresa Shook is a co-founder of the Women’s March protests against the election of Donald Trump in January 2017, which have, inevitably, become a permanent crusade — or maybe “jihad” is the better word. Shook has taken the unusual step of publicly calling for the resignation of two high-profile Women’s March leaders, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, charging them with having “allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA sentiment, and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs.” Prominent among those groups is the Nation of Islam, the bizarre race cult led by Louis Farrakhan, who denigrates Jews (and other groups, too, but he has a special hatred for Jews) in terms that would be familiar to those acquainted with German history or the modern Middle East. Sarsour is aligned with extremist Palestinian elements and hates the Jewish state with remarkable intensity. Shook is wrong about a great many things, but she is right to speak up on this matter.

The fourth National Climate Assessment made waves. The product of several federal agencies, it warns about the purported present and future effects of climate change. Absent concerted action, it claims, economic, social, and environmental catastrophes loom, including intensifying droughts and wildfires, falling crop yields, and sea-level rise. The report forecasts a range of outcomes corresponding to different levels of carbon emissions. But the media and, we suspect, some of the agencies involved in the report were quick to publicize the predictions that were most dire — and least realistic. The much-hyped figure of a 10 percent hit to GDP growth, for instance, relies on an implausible warming scenario that outpaces even the U.N.’s worst projections. Those who criticized the report’s evident flaws were smeared as “denialists” — a sorry reflection on the state of the climate debate.

“Camp Fire” is the perhaps inapt name given to the deadliest wildfire in California history. At press time, the fire had been fully contained — but not before killing at least 88 people, leaving hundreds more missing, destroying 14,000 houses, and devastating entire towns. It began on November 8 and spread rapidly. As has become commonplace, the tragic event became a proxy for partisan bickering, with California governor Jerry Brown insisting the wildfire was proof positive of climate-change catastrophe and President Trump blaming the state’s forest-management policies. Trump has more evidence on his side. Hesitant to thin out forests with controlled burns, California has for decades allowed the conditions for extreme and deadly wildfires. The federal government, in some regions, has done the same thing. Preventive burning is a simple way to curb disasters such as this one.

We do not expect to find ourselves agreeing often with newly elected House member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an uninformed socialist who will represent the Bronx and Queens, but she is more or less right about one thing: Corporate welfare stinks, and giving Amazon — one of the world’s most valuable companies, headed by the world’s wealthiest man — billions of dollars in subsidies is grotesque. Amazon played a masterful game with American cities as it sought a home for its secondary (and, as it turns out, tertiary) corporate headquarters, and New York’s most important officeholders played into it like a couple of tourists getting taken in a game of three-card monte. Led by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, progressive Democrats in good standing, New York will give billions in tax preferences to Amazon, and Virginia will do much the same for its Arlington headquarters. New York City has fallen low indeed when it has to pay businesses to move there, but what else can de Blasio et al. offer? Excellent schools? First-rate transit infrastructure? A reasonable tax burden and regulatory regime? You’ve got to be kidding.

A family has buried a good guy with a gun, slain by a police officer who pulled the trigger too quickly. Jemel Roberson was a security guard at Manny’s Blue Room Lounge when a shooter opened fire. Roberson responded with his own firearm and succeeded in subduing the shooter. Roberson was holding the shooter down with his knee in the shooter’s back and his gun pointed at the shooter when a police officer reportedly emerged from inside the lounge and shot Roberson dead. According to eyewitnesses, Roberson was wearing his security-guard uniform and other officers were already on the scene. In other words, there are no reports of an immediate threat to the officer when he pulled the trigger. Our nation asks a lot of its police, including that they attain a high degree of situational awareness very quickly, even in dangerous situations. Responding to a shots-fired call is a hair-raising experience, no doubt, but, especially as concealed-carry permits grow more common, it does not relieve officers of the obligation to discern friend from foe. In this instance, the officer failed. He killed a hero. If the facts indicate that he was reckless or negligent, he must be held to account.

You have perhaps heard about a man who survived both atomic bombings — in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His name was Tsutomu Yamaguchi, and he died in 2010. A man named Telemachus Orfanos — “Tel,” for short — survived the Las Vegas massacre last year. This was a massacre at a country-music festival, and it killed 58 people. Rather, the gunman killed 58 people. There was another shooting this November at a country-western bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Tel Orfanos was there, too, and this time he did not survive. Neither did eleven others. Tel Orfanos was 28, a Navy veteran and an Eagle Scout. His family and friends mourn and wonder, at this maddening fate.

In 2015, the last year for which the Centers for Disease Control reports data, fewer abortions per 1,000 women were performed in the United States than at any time since 1973. That’s when, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban the practice. It may be a reflection of the public’s increased sensitivity to the morally troubling nature of abortion that it is being performed not only at a lower rate but, on average, earlier in pregnancy and gestation. State laws restricting abortion have contributed to the decline, but it’s not unique to America. It runs through developed countries around the world over the past quarter century. The pro-life movement has always worked hard to change people’s minds. Increasingly its function is to articulate what they already think.

A federal judge has struck down a bill in Mississippi that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy — with limited exceptions for medical emergencies and fetal abnormalities — asserting that it infringes on women’s 14th Amendment due-process rights. Meanwhile, the Ohio house of representatives has passed an even broader protection for unborn children: a “heartbeat bill,” which prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually about six weeks into pregnancy. The Ohio legislature passed a similar bill in 2016, but it was eventually vetoed by Republican governor John Kasich. A similar bill in Iowa is currently facing a challenge from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. A reconfigured federal judiciary should let these states legislate as they will — and let California and New York do the same.

President Trump found his tail in a crack, and he extracted it clumsily. Turkish sources allege that the CIA has a recording of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman telling a relative to “silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible.” Khashoggi, a dissident journalist, was subsequently silenced by being murdered and hacked to pieces in a Saudi consulate. In a statement Trump called Khashoggi’s murder a “horrible crime” (true). He also said that Iran commits more crimes than Saudi Arabia and that the latter is a vital counterweight to the former (also true). But then he included an oafish paragraph, claiming that Saudi Arabia plans to spend $450 billion in the United States, creating “hundreds of thousands” of jobs. Even if these numbers were precisely right — they are greatly inflated — they make American foreign policy seem sellable to the highest bidder. When we must practice realpolitik, we should stick to the politics. Trump’s businessman’s instincts and his penchant for off-the-cuffery have led him, and America, astray.

British and European Union negotiators agreed on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU. The deal covers more than 500 pages of legal and bureaucratic prose, and it is not an attractive package: After leaving, Britain will continue to be subject to EU rules and regulations more or less indefinitely but, as a non–EU member state after March, will have no say or vote in designing them. May argues that this deal fully achieves the Brexit that voters chose two years ago. It’s hard to square that claim with the “red lines” she vowed a year ago never to cross: Britain will stay in a customs union with the EU; on regulation and trade matters, it will be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; and it will sign on to a “common rulebook” of regulations that will in fact be the EU single-market rulebook. Unpopular, the deal threatens to cause a leadership crisis. The Tories should find the courage and sense to choose a new leader who will have the authority to forge a real Brexit.

Chinese scientists appear to be experimenting with gene editing on human embryos. The lead scientist claims that the experiments have already resulted in the birth of twin girls. His stated goal is to make humans more resistant to HIV and other diseases. Whether embryos were killed in the course of these experiments — and whether they have achieved anything that scientists using less radical methods have also been achieving — is unknown. The risk that scientific projects like this one will result in the devaluation of human beings to the level of products of manufacture is, however, real, and especially real in a country that does not place a high value on human beings in the first place. Stopping unethical experiments in China may not be within the rest of the world’s power, but it would help if scientists in other countries, especially America, raised their voices in denunciation.

Which is worse, fake Marxism or real Marxism? That’s a tough call, but one thing is clear: They cannot easily coexist. According to an NPR report, the latest group of ideological dissidents targeted for brutal suppression by the Chinese Communist Party is none other than young Marxists. Study cells on college campuses have been reading the Communist prophet’s works and taking them seriously, which China’s ruling gang of murderous thieves quite rightly see as a threat. Students who demonstrate for workers’ rights, take 16-hour-a-day factory jobs in order to organize their fellow employees, or even just teach workers to read and write have been kidnapped, beaten, imprisoned, blacklisted, and spied upon. Earlier this year, Chinese president Xi Jinping said, “As Communists, we should incorporate Marxist classics and principles into our lifestyle and treat Marxism as a spiritual pursuit.” Evidently, it doesn’t pay to be more spiritual than the Core Leader.

Three Ukrainian vessels were making for harbor when Russian warships fired on them, wounding three sailors, taking 23 prisoners, and for good measure appropriating the Ukrainian vessels. By way of celebrating this naval engagement, Moscow put the captives on Russian television. By any standard, this is an act of open war. Hitherto, President Putin has been careful to present the invasion and absorption of the Crimea as a local separatist issue having little or nothing to do with Russia. The troops he sent in to do his bidding were unidentifiable “little green men.” Responding to the escalation of the use of force, Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine, declared martial law while explaining carefully that this was not a declaration of war. Putin’s spokesmen maintain that the clash of ships was a conspiracy cooked up in Washington. Apparently helpless to check Putin, heads of state and chiefs of staff can only shiver with anxiety about what happens next.

Nobody’s counting, exactly, but about ten statues of Joseph Stalin have been put up here or there in the Russia of Vladimir Putin. It’s evidence that Stalin hasn’t yet got a settled place in the national memory. Ambiguously, Putin himself concedes that Stalin was a tyrant but says he had such good intentions that he is comparable to Oliver Cromwell or Napoleon and in any case it would be wrong to demonize him. For the last decade or so, someone named Aleksei Denisyuk has been leading a pro-Stalin group in Novosibirsk, the country’s third-largest city, and if they have their way, one more statue of Stalin will be erected there next spring. The group has a manifesto: “We demand the restoration of historical justice.” Many of those living around Novosibirsk are descendants of Stalin’s millions of victims; several thousand have already objected to the proposed statue.

Ratio Christi is a student organization dedicated to Christian apologetics at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. University administrators won’t grant the group official recognition unless it gives up its requirement that only “professing Christians” hold its leadership positions. Members of Ratio Christi object that it would undermine their purpose to elect officers who do not share their aims and philosophy. Administrators counter that the university, a state institution, would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment if it honored the right of students to promote a mission that was religious. It’s an argument that has been advanced by university administrations with increasing frequency in recent years. Represented by the legal-advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, Ratio Christi filed a lawsuit last month in federal district court, seeking no privileges, only fairness — for itself and, in the process, for ratio, or reason.

Twitter has introduced new terms of service that ban the “deadnaming and misgendering” of “transgender individuals.” For those unfamiliar with these terms, “deadnaming” means using a person’s birth name, while “misgendering” is using a pronoun that contradicts a person’s perceived gender identity. Twitter’s policy, in effect since October, came to public attention when Meghan Murphy, a feminist writer who used the platform to criticize transgender orthodoxy, had her account suspended. In order to regain access, Murphy complied with a demand to delete certain tweets, then tweeted, “That a multi-billion dollar company is censoring basic facts and silencing people who ask questions about this dogma is insane.” For this tweet, liked by over 20,000 people, Twitter suspended her account — again. In pushing their agenda, transgender activists exercise censorship and abuse language with ideological jargon. It is perhaps not the sign of a movement that is confident it has reality on its side.

A German research group has developed a robot that cleans bathrooms. This may sound like the perfect social-conservative invention — there’s no telling how many marriages it could save — but the rules of the competition at which it was unveiled suggest that RoboMop won’t put couples therapists out of work anytime soon: “During the competition, judges randomly sprinkled water on and around a toilet. Teams had to clean at least 80 percent of the liquid and remove trash from the floor in order to get full points.” Call us fastidious, but when it comes to bathroom cleaning, we prefer 100 percent spill removal, and policing the floor is usually the least mission-critical task. Oh, and it takes an hour or so for the robot to complete the job. Even your husband could beat that. Chalk one up for the low-tech approach to married life.

Middle-aged American widower meets French­wo­man half his age. They fall into a loveless sexual relationship. He whispers bitter nothings into her ear. Their drama turns ever darker and more verbally sadistic. It culminates in rape. Last Tango in Paris (1972) is not the best movie Bernardo Bertolucci ever directed, but it’s the most famous. Its ability to provoke moral outrage has proved enduring. Should the final reputation of the artist rest so heavily on his most sensational work? No. The son of an Italian poet, Bertolucci had nurtured literary aspirations when in his early twenties he tried his hand at filmmaking. Over the next half century he would direct more than 20 movies, his masterpiece, The Last Emperor (1987), which won nine Academy Awards, falling smack in the middle of that impressive run. Much of his art was informed, though never dictated, by his politics, which were leftist and, as in The Conformist (1970), specifically anti-fascist. Last spring, he said he was preparing a movie whose “theme will be love, let’s call it that.” We can only imagine — Bertolucci died last month in Rome. He was 77. R.I.P.


Theresa May’s Pseudo-Brexit

After what seemed like years of a phony war, British and European Union negotiators finally agreed on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU. Theresa May announced the deal in the House of Commons. To summarize more than 500 pages of legal and bureaucratic prose, the short of the deal is this: After leaving, Britain will continue to be subject to EU rules and regulations more or less indefinitely but, as a non-EU-member state after March, will have no say or vote in designing them.

It doesn’t sound like a very attractive package, but May argues that this deal fully achieves the Brexit that the voters chose two years ago. It’s hard to square that claim with the “red lines” she vowed a year ago never to cross:

Red line: Britain will leave the single market and its regulations.

Deal: Britain will sign on to a “common rulebook” of regulations that will in fact be the EU single-market rulebook.

Red line: Britain will leave the Customs Union in order to sign free-trade deals with non-EU countries such as the U.S.

Deal: Britain will stay indefinitely in a customs union with the EU, which will make it impossible to negotiate free-trade deals with others, and Britain will be able to leave only by agreement with the EU and with the consent of an international arbitration body.

Red line: Britain will be out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Deal: Britain will be subject to ECJ jurisdiction on regulation and trade matters, and U.K. courts will take account of its rulings.

May nonetheless is sticking to the position that she has achieved the Brexit deal she wanted all along. Battle lines have been drawn in U.K. politics for and against both May and the deal. Brexit’s strongest supporters in Parliament, such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, denounce the deal as outright betrayal. Covert Remainers on the Tory side welcome it as the best achievable Brexit, even perhaps as a roundabout route to a second referendum and Remaining itself. They accept that the deal might be unsatisfactory but argue that this is because Brexit is an impossible fantasy. To add to the confusion, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionists, whose support gives the May government its parliamentary majority, say they will oppose the deal when it comes before Parliament because it places a border within the U.K. to avoid one between the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. And that threatens the Union — not the European Union but the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

May and her supporters therefore face three linked challenges: a possible leadership challenge, a possible parliamentary defeat on the U.K.–EU deal, and a possible election to resolve the Brexit issue. In short, Britain is in the midst of a full-bore political crisis. Several cabinet ministers have resigned, and others have made it known that they are staying in the cabinet only to obtain changes in the deal. More than half of the required 48 letters from MPs for a vote of no confidence have now been publicly submitted. To all these events, May’s response has been to circle the wagons and appoint loyalists to replace those who resign. Her cabinet is now almost entirely Remainer in its sympathies. She is stating clearly that she will not change an iota of the deal — indeed, that she cannot do so because the EU would accept no such changes.

May is likely to lose the parliamentary vote on the deal but could survive a leadership challenge. If she loses the leadership, she’s out altogether. If she holds on as leader but loses the vote on the deal because of Tory dissent, she’s almost certainly out then also. A leader who spends two full years not getting Brexit done will find her support evaporating. Her allies say that in the event of such a parliamentary defeat she would call an election on a manifesto that included her deal with Europe. That really is a fantasy, as it would lead a bitterly divided party into an election on an issue on which her natural voters are against her.

There is no good end to this crisis under May’s leadership or on the basis of this dangerous and undemocratic deal. The Tories should find the courage and common sense to choose a new leader who will have the authority to achieve a real Brexit.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue



Lifestyle Section

Books, Arts & Manners


Gun Country

David French reviews First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, by David Harsanyi.




One reader praises Shawn Regan’s recent article, “Consider the Dusky Gopher Frog”; another praises Sen. Chuck Grassley.


Panpsychism (believed in by those who know what particle physics is but are uneasy with “Big Bang” as a search term) has its limits I suspect...

Most Popular


Did the Times Print an Urban Legend?

This week, the Times brings us a story from Methodist Hospital in San Antonio. The headline is: "Texas Hospital Says Man, 30, Died After Attending a ‘Covid Party,’” and what we get is a story with one source. The story reveals itself in three paragraphs: A 30-year-old man who believed the coronavirus ... Read More

Did the Times Print an Urban Legend?

This week, the Times brings us a story from Methodist Hospital in San Antonio. The headline is: "Texas Hospital Says Man, 30, Died After Attending a ‘Covid Party,’” and what we get is a story with one source. The story reveals itself in three paragraphs: A 30-year-old man who believed the coronavirus ... Read More
White House

Don’t Blame Fauci

The president’s relationship with Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has played a very public role in the country’s COVID-19 response, has gotten especially rocky. Fauci has expressed concerns about reopening and bluntly contradicted some of the ... Read More
White House

Don’t Blame Fauci

The president’s relationship with Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has played a very public role in the country’s COVID-19 response, has gotten especially rocky. Fauci has expressed concerns about reopening and bluntly contradicted some of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

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Politics & Policy

The Wrong Governors

Pretend for a moment that you are a journalist with a strong leaning in favor of progressivism and the Democratic Party, and you wish to make the argument that Democratic governors are doing a great job of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. If you use the measuring stick of fewest cases per million ... Read More