You know, we miss the days when he was anonymous, too.
President Obama officially launched his reelection bid. He owed his win in 2008 to five factors. He was not Bush. He was historic (i.e. black). He would end global warming, and stop the rising of the seas (in the hopes of his most fervid supporters). He seemed politically unclassifiable (to independent — i.e., inattentive — voters). The economy was bad. Where does he stand on each point today? He is still not Bush, but Bush himself is off the table, enjoying retirement. He is still black, but he has already made history; the political dividends of that feat began to diminish the moment he took the oath of office. The globe and the seas maintain their courses; the children who stormed to the polls hoping to change them have either grown up some or lost heart. He has revealed himself, for all his compromises (staying in Afghanistan, keeping Gitmo open), to be a dogmatic domestic liberal, willing to sink congressional Democrats in order to saddle America with a social-democratic health-care system. The economy is still bad. Many things could reelect him: an improving economy, Republican mistakes, some unifying national disaster, the sheer power of incumbency. But he cannot rerun his first game plan. The votes just aren’t there — because the 2008 Barack Obama isn’t there either.
After Wisconsin’s state government curtailed public-union power, attention shifted to an election for the state supreme court. The justice up for reelection was David Prosser, who votes with the court’s 4–3 conservative majority. Unions poured resources into the campaign of his liberal challenger, JoAnne Kloppenburg, and the left-wing carnival that had made Madison a big tent while the public-union law was under discussion took to the streets. Conservatives feared that an organized minority could swamp an oddball judicial election and upend the law on appeal. A million and a half voters turned out, almost double the normal number; a lead of a few hundred votes shifted from Prosser to Kloppenburg on election night and the morning after. Then Waukesha County announced that thousands of votes had been excluded from its unofficial tally, giving Prosser a lead of over 7,000. The Left sometimes owns the streets, but people who have day jobs vote too. Rally and tally them all. The conservative resurgence may have the staying power it needs to undo years of misgovernment.
Charles Murray gave the 2011 Bradley Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute. “The State of White America” highlighted one of the main themes of his 1994 book The Bell Curve, while avoiding the race issue it evoked. America is splitting into classes that are behavioral, as well as economic (as behavior diverges, the economic consequences increase). The white upper middle class — the top 20 percent — marries, works, and to a great extent practices some sort of faith. The white working class — the bottom 30 percent — reproduces without marrying, is unemployed, and stays home on Sundays. How can the lowers improve? Not through the force of good example, since the upper middles “will not preach what they practice.” Murray calls this “non-judgmentalism.” The upper middles do judge the lowers, however: They have increasingly less to do with them as they bond and mate in associational purdah. That is what college is about these days (it certainly isn’t about learning). Benjamin Disraeli subtitled one of his novels “The Two Nations.” Murray is the modern Disraeli, employing statistics rather than Victorian plots.