Law & the Courts

Only Women Belong in Women’s Prisons

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(Cineberg/Getty Images)

The Times of London reports:

Twelve trans prisoners convicted of violence or sexual crimes have been accommodated in Scottish women’s jails within the past 18 months, according to figures released under Freedom of Information laws.

As if that couldn’t get worse, it turns out that only one of the prisoners had had his male equipment surgically removed; the rest were “self-identifying” as female. The pushback against this policy was intensified after the case of Karen White, a transgender-identifying rapist and child abuser, who used his fully intact male body to sexually assault female inmates at New Hall prison in England.

In the United States, shutting up violent and predatory male offenders with women would surely constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” And yet the Associated Press reported in September that the Justice Department is “reviewing its policies on housing transgender inmates in the federal prison system.” This madness is already happening in California.

Politics & Policy

House Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Lacks the Hyde Amendment

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the news media during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021. REUTERS/ (Leah Millis/Reuters)

House Democrats have released the latest version of their budget-reconciliation bill, and it still includes the same provisions of the reconciliation bill released last week that could fund elective abortions, including public-health grants and an apparent abortion mandate for plans to cover individuals in the so-called Medicaid gap.

Speaker Pelosi is reportedly pushing for a vote in the House as soon as tonight, but all 50 Democratic senators have not agreed to vote for the House bill.

“I have no idea what’s coming from the House,” West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin told Politico on Wednesday. Manchin has called the Hyde amendment a “red line” for him in any reconciliation bill.

As I reported last week, the most glaring example of taxpayer funding of abortion in the House Democrats’ reconciliation bill — a new “Medicaid-like” program missing the Hyde amendment — has been dropped. But other provisions that could fund abortion remain: 

The reconciliation bill’s section regarding “family planning services” could require these new [Medicaid gap] plans to cover abortions, unless abortion funding is prohibited. In the new 1,684-page reconciliation bill that Democrats released on Thursday, that section of the bill has been changed in a way that at least appears to attempt to exclude elective-abortion coverage — but actually fails to do so.

“We see the change that was made,” says Autumn Christensen of the Susan B. Anthony List. “However, it was not drafted in a way that prevents an abortion mandate because it references the Medicaid statute — which does allow for abortion — instead of referencing Medicaid appropriations, which do not allow for abortion funding.”

This issue is in the legislative weeds, but the point is important: The Hyde amendment, which prohibits Medicaid funding of abortion except in rare circumstances, must be attached each year to an appropriations bill that funds the program. The Hyde amendment is not permanently embedded in the underlying law that established Medicaid.*

“If we assume that this change was made with the intent of addressing the abortion problem, it falls short,” says Christensen. “But we look forward to a true solution.”

The bill that House Democrats unveiled on Thursday is not their final product, and negotiations are ongoing. But if the final bill isn’t scrubbed of its provisions that could fund abortion, Democrats will be setting themselves up for a fight over taxpayer funding of abortion on the Senate floor. There are also “public health” grants in the reconciliation bill that could fund abortion. “Clearly these funds are not covered by the Hyde amendment,” says Christensen.

The simplest way to ensure that the bill doesn’t fund abortion would be to explicitly include the text of the Hyde amendment in the bill — rather than cross-referencing legislation to which Hyde applies — but Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has said Democrats think that including it would be a “political statement.” At the same time, Jayapal has (incorrectly) claimed that “none of the dollars” in the reconciliation bill would be spent on elective abortion. So there’s no reason to believe that a bill that actually ensures “none of the dollars” would be spent on abortion would lose the vote of Jayapal or any of her followers.

*The Biden administration makes this very point that the statute authorizing Medicaid requires abortion coverage and only the appropriations bill funding Medicaid restricts taxpayer funding of abortion. Anne Marie Costello, Deputy Director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, explains the distinction between the Medicaid statute and Medicaid appropriations, as they relate to abortion funding, in a declaration filed in the case United States v. Texas—the case challenging the Texas Heartbeat Act.

Two pro-life GOP senators, Steve Daines of Montana and James Lankford of Oklahoma, released a memo highlighting various health-funding provisions of the bill not protected by the Hyde amendment.

Law & the Courts

Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Three Pro-Life Laws Aimed at Protecting Women

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Demonstrators at a Planned Parenthood rally at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 5, 2017. (Ilana Panich-Linsman/Reuters)

In a 5–3 vote, the Oklahoma supreme court has issued a temporary injunction blocking three pro-life laws slated to take effect on November 1. Earlier in October, a district judge blocked two other pro-life laws in Oklahoma from taking effect but allowed these three to remain in place, sending the case up to the state supreme court.

Two of those laws would have established a series of requirements around chemical-abortion drugs, the most common abortion method in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Among other provisions, the laws required doctors to obtain informed consent from women, outline the risks and possible complications of chemical-abortion drugs, and notify women of a safe, effective method that might enable them to halt and reverse an unwanted abortion.

The third law would have required all doctors who perform abortions in Oklahoma to have board certification in obstetrics and gynecology, a relatively uncommon policy aimed at making it easier for women to obtain follow-up care if they experience abortion complications.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights — one of several abortion-advocacy groups that challenged the Oklahoma laws — said in a statement after the ruling that the policies would have caused “irreparable harm to Oklahomans” and had the goal of “making it harder to get an abortion in Oklahoma.”

But Dr. Christina Francis, board chairman of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told National Review that opposition to these new regulations is “a pure attack on the safety of medical care being delivered to women.”

“They’re not making it easier for women to obtain abortions,” she added. “They’re making it more dangerous for women to obtain abortions.”

None of the policies in question prohibited abortion at any stage. All of the provisions in these three laws were aimed at abortionists, requiring them to follow a set of policies that would minimize the risks to women of obtaining an abortion. It’s telling that abortion providers and advocacy groups, rather than women, were the ones challenging Oklahoma — and their win in court was a victory for abortionists, not for women.

Law & the Courts

Have Fun Defending the Emergency OSHA Rule in Court

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Chief Justice John Roberts presides during the final votes in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump at the U.S. Capitol, February 5, 2020. (U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters)

As Jim discusses, the vaccine mandate announced by the Biden administration in September will now not go into effect until January, a ridiculous delay for what is supposed to be an “emergency” rule. That has legal consequences. An Emergency Temporary Standard is an exception to the usual formal rulemaking procedures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that it is requesting comments, but it is still evading the full, legal requirements for a permanent rule. As the notice admits:

The OSH Act in section 6(c)(1) states that the Secretary “shall” issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) upon a finding that the ETS is necessary to address a grave danger to workers. See 29 U.S.C. 655(c). In particular, the Secretary shall provide, without regard to the requirements of chapter 5, title 5, United States Code, for an emergency temporary standard to take immediate effect upon publication in the Federal Register if the Secretary makes two determinations: That employees are exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards, and that such emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from such danger. 29 U.S.C. 655(c)(1)…The ETS provision, section 6(c)(1), exempts the Secretary from procedural requirements contained in the OSH Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, including those for public notice, comments, and a rulemaking hearing . . .

The Secretary must issue an ETS in situations where employees are exposed to a “grave danger” and immediate action is necessary to protect those employees from such danger. 29 U.S.C. 655(c)(1); Pub. Citizen Health Research Grp. v. Auchter, 702 F.2d 1150, 1156 (D.C. Cir. 1983)…In demonstrating whether OSHA had shown that an ETS is necessary, the Fifth Circuit considered whether OSHA had another available means of addressing the risk that would not require an ETS. Asbestos Info. Ass’n, 727 F.2d at 426 (holding that necessity had not been proven where OSHA could have increased enforcement of already-existing standards to address the grave risk to workers from asbestos exposure).

Although Congress waived the ordinary rulemaking procedures in the interest of “permitting rapid action to meet emergencies,” section 6(e) of the OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. 655(e), requires OSHA to include a statement of reasons for its action when it issues any standard. Dry Color Mfrs., 486 F.2d at 105-06 (finding OSHA’s statement of reasons inadequate). By requiring the agency to articulate its reasons for issuing an ETS, the requirement acts as “an essential safeguard to emergency temporary standard-setting.” Id. at 106. However, the Third Circuit noted that it did not require justification of “every substance, type of use or production technique,” but rather a “general explanation” of why the standard is necessary. Id. at 107. ETSs are, by design, temporary in nature. Under section 6(c)(3), an ETS serves as a proposal for a permanent standard in accordance with section 6(b) of the OSH Act (permanent standards), and the Act calls for the permanent standard to be finalized within six months after publication of the ETS. (Emphasis added).

Here is what the administration cites as its reason for using emergency power:

Moreover, in recent months, an increasing number of states have promulgated Executive Orders or statutes that prohibit workplace vaccination policies that require vaccination or proof of vaccination status, thus attempting to prevent employers from implementing the most efficient and effective method for protecting workers from the hazard of COVID-19 (see, e.g., Texas Executive Order GA-40, October 11, 2021; Montana H.B. 702, July 1, 2021; Arkansas S.B. 739, October 4, 2021 and Arkansas H.B. 1977, October 1, 2021; AZ Executive Order 2021-18, August 16, 2021). While some States’ bans have focused on preventing local governments from requiring their public employees to be vaccinated or show proof of vaccination, the Texas, Montana, and Arkansas requirements apply to private employers as well. Other states have banned local ordinances that require employers to ensure that customers who enter their premises wear masks, thus endangering the employees who work there, particularly those who are unvaccinated (see, e.g., Florida Executive Order 21-102, May 3, 2021; Texas Executive Order GA-34, March 2, 2021).

In short, at the present time, workers are becoming sick and dying unnecessarily as a result of occupational exposures, when there is a simple and effective measure, vaccination, that can largely prevent those deaths and illnesses (see Grave Danger, Section III.A. of this preamble). Congress charged OSHA with responsibility for issuing emergency standards when they are necessary to protect employees from grave danger. 29 U.S.C. 655(c). In light of the current situation, OSHA is issuing this emergency rule. (Emphasis added).

The administration is trying to buy some time here — a rule hanging in the air and not enforced for months will prompt employers to start complying in advance, but cannot be challenged in court until it goes into effect. But once that can happen, courts will notice that this is not, in fact, “immediate” action or anything like it, and the conditions cited — contrary state orders, workers getting infected and dying — are not new. In fact, it may well be the case that the rate of infection, hospitalization, and death may be lower in January than it was in September (or, for that matter, in the spring and summer of 2021, when the vaccine was available and resistance to vaccination was already a public-health controversy). It is certain to be the case that more workers are vaccinated by then.

This being a case of national importance, it will likely move up the judicial ladder quickly, and could produce conflicting decisions, so the odds of this rule ending up before the Supreme Court are fairly high. One thing we saw repeatedly during the Trump and Obama years is that Chief Justice John Roberts really does not like it when executive or administrative powers are invoked without the executive branch doing its homework. On occasion, as in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has done the same thing to Congress. The Biden administration could have a very hard time explaining to the chief justice why it is entitled to assert emergency powers that exist to address “immediate” threats, then do nothing with them for four months.

Health Care

After Two Months of Waiting, the Emergency Vaccine Mandate Will Take Effect in Another Two Months

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the dedication of the Dodd Center for Human Rights at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., October 15, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

On September 9, President Biden announced a directive to the Labor Department to develop a temporary emergency rule for businesses with 100 or more employees that would require workers to be fully vaccinated or be tested at least once a week. Biden declared that, “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”

This morning, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that starting on January 4 — 60 days from today’s publication — new vaccination-or-test requirements for businesses with more than 100 workers will go into effect, as well as a vaccine mandate for health-care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid.

OSHA is issuing the vaccine mandate under an “emergency temporary standard,” which means the regular public-comment period was skipped. Emergency temporary standards are applied when “workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards and that an emergency standard is needed to protect them.”

Needless to say, it is unusual for it to take two months to write up the regulations for an emergency temporary standard, and even more unusual for an “emergency temporary standard” to not take effect for an additional two months after the regulations are issued. Why, it’s almost as if the National Association of Wholesaler Distributors warned the Biden administration that the mandate would disrupt the economy, and that the Biden administration backed off:

NAW urges that the Executive Order’s implementation be revised to avoid this calamity and provide alternatives to promote safety, including testing, and consider a short-term delay to provide time to carry out these changes and to avoid further supply chain disruptions in the coming months.

. . .

[T]here are still employees across the distribution industry who – for whatever reason — refuse to be vaccinated. This reality will present new challenges if this Executive Order is implemented as written: thousands of valued employees will be forced out of their jobs shortly before the holidays, the already compromised supply chain will be under added pressure during the busiest time of the year, and the already tight labor market will make it immeasurably more difficult to replace laid off employees, compounding supply chain disruptions.

It’s just reassuring to know that the grave danger that requires this emergency vaccine mandate won’t arrive until the first week of January. That virus is awfully courteous, to hold off until after the holidays!

Health Care

What Happens When the ‘Experts’ Are Wrong?

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I strongly recommend this rather long, moving letter in Tablet.

The writer, Ann Bauer, recounts her sad family history with autism “experts” and then relates it to our current situation where governmentally approved COVID experts rein supreme.

Here’s a slice:

The year of COVID continued with a drumbeat of warnings nationwide. Sanitize your mail with bleach and a UV light. Don’t wear a mask; you must wear a mask. Buy a pulse oximeter. Stock up on Tylenol, vitamin D, Pepcid. Form a pod. Get an air filter. Whisper so you don’t spit. Stand six feet from others — no, 10. Wear gloves. Put on goggles because the virus can get in through your eyes. Don’t pet the dog. Keep your teenager in the garage. Isolate a sick toddler in your basement with a bell. Wear two masks! Stay out of restaurants, nail salons, gyms. Open the windows. Close the schools.

Finally, the vaccines came and they seemed, at first, to be a miracle. But still there were certain things you weren’t allowed to discuss, like side effects, transmissibility, and natural immunity. The shots were immaculate and all-powerful! Then suddenly . . . they were not. Vaccinations were undone by the unvaccinated; they couldn’t save the faithful because of the sinful. And the drug alone wasn’t enough. True believers wore a mask as well and those who did not were causing the cure to fail.

Hat tip: Don Boudreaux

Education

Parents Can Save Western Civilization

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( Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images)

The parents of Loudoun County, Va., stand at the forefront of a movement with the power to reverse the decline of our constitutional republic, our traditions of liberty, our faith in ourselves, and ultimately, Western civilization itself. It is no accident that the weight of this struggle has fallen upon the shoulders of parents.

The woke assault on core American principles such as freedom of speech and individual merit germinated in the 60s, matured in the American academy in the late 80s and 90s, achieved dominance on campus in the early decades of the millennium, then spread in just the past few years out of the quad and into the leading institutions of the country at large.

This transformation moved slowly at first, then took hold seemingly everywhere at once. That’s because a generation of America’s elite has been steadily imbued with an alternative set of beliefs. Those beliefs were inculcated full force during the college years and to an only somewhat lesser extent in K–12. Once the recipients of this (mis)education reached critical mass, a direct challenge to core republican principles became viable. Meanwhile, the decline of religion has helped transform the new belief system into an alternative faith, lending tremendous energy to its acolytes.

Yet the legions of woke possess a strength which in time may become a weakness. For every convert to the faith, one or two others are merely cowed into silence. The sword of the wokerati is the accusation of racism or bigotry. Woke illiberalism rides on the power of liberal principle itself. Because Americans dread being shamed for any betrayal of our core belief in individual merit or worth, we shrink from anything that might provoke such an accusation, whether the charge be true or not.

This fear supplies the woke with a formidable strategy: expand accusations of racism and bigotry to cover any disfavored policy or principle, including even the very nature of our constitutional republic and the norms that support it. Neither the Constitution nor its underlying principles can reply to such accusations. Only individuals can do that.

Yet any given person who gainsays false charges of racism risks being attacked as a racist himself. For decades, the calculus has been the same. It is not worth the cost of fighting back against promiscuous charges of racism, even — or especially — when accusations are expanded to cover intellectual traditions, institutions, or systems. Once a critical mass of accusers stand watch over the false charges they generate, silent and sullen acquiescence is the sensible response.

Thus, woke dogma has gained acquiescence from students cowed by peer pressure, administrators who dread disruption and bad publicity, and now editors and corporate leaders who fear the same. The calculus counsels surrender, whether individual or institutional reputation is at stake.

When this process started, decades ago, it was college administrators who shrank from defending academic freedom, free speech, individual merit, and the teaching of the civilizational tradition out of which these principles emerged. Once false accusations of racism were laid on the table, college presidents folded and the game was lost. As this same dynamic of accusation and sullen surrender spreads beyond the academy to society as a whole, not only the theory but the substance of our constitutional system and the mores that uphold it hang in the balance.

Yet someone holds the power to reverse this decades-long trend: parents.

Parents can stand against false charges of racism, because for parents the calculus is different. A parent’s calculus is the calculus of love and sacrifice, of responsibility and stewardship, of duty and courage. The calculus of a parent is the calculus of a soldier, and soldiers are what is wanted.

The irresistible force has at last butted up against an immovable object. Just when the calculus of individual caution green-lighted the most extreme and openly racist versions of woke ideology — the assault on so-called whiteness and the 1619 Project’s false version of American history — parents entered the picture. It took parents to finally say no.

The question now is whether the momentum of societal decay can be reversed instead of merely halted. Can rebellious parents go on offense against the woke seizure of our culture?

Here is a way to begin.

Restore the teaching of Western civilization. Restore an appreciation for Western civilization as the common heritage of all Americans, regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity. Accepting false claims that teaching Western civilization is mere racial or ethnic cheerleading was a big part of what got us into this mess to begin with. We sold out our heritage — the story of our governing principles, where they came from, why they’re worth defending, and the ways in which they remain available to all — in fear of false charges of bigotry. To restore what has been destroyed, we must bring the teaching of Western civilization back.

True, college Western civilization courses now barely exist. Longtime holdouts have lately been crushed, and a movement to “decolonize the curriculum” is on the march. Woke classicists are actively working to destroy their own discipline. In such circumstances, restoration may seem impossible. It is not. There is a way for a counter-woke revolution to strike back. The path to restoration runs through states and local school districts, where parents rather than academic ideologues hold the initiative.

Traditionally, the latest trends in leftist ideology percolate down from universities to K–12 by way of state standards and textbooks, although the process can take years to play out. Once Western civilization was expelled from the halls of academe, statewide K–12 history standards dumped the term and started teaching “world history” instead. At first, statewide K–12 world history standards remained largely focused on traditional Western Civ content, even if under a new name.

Over time, however, the academic “world history movement” began to purge K–12 standards of their “Eurocentric” content and replace them with education for “global citizenship” and the leftist version of “social justice” instead. The point was to undercut our sense of national and civilizational identity, creating one-sided political activists in the process.

Often, this shift is engineered under the noses of conservative legislators and governors by the woke bureaucrats and consultants who dominate even red-state education departments. Republican-appointed state education leaders are either disinclined to challenge the left-leaning professors, bureaucrats, and curriculum subject specialists they rely on, or are sufficiently unfamiliar with the latest academic codewords even to realize they’re being conned. A veritable industry of education consultants now specializes in language games and clever strategies designed to hijack state K–12 standards and turn them to leftist ends, without state legislators, governors — or parents — catching on.

But what if states and local school districts were to actively push back against all this? Instead of blindly following the lead of the woke education-school graduates who populate state bureaucracies, state office-holders and local school boards could pursue a return to the teaching of Western civilization. (This does not mean eliminating the study of non-Western history, by the way.)

This program would require the active leadership of governors, legislators, and school-board members determined to get out from under the leftist education monolith now killing our culture. With parents across the country activated by the fight against critical race theory, this strategy has a chance of success. Yet it requires that governors and legislators appoint state education officers who are not the usual suspects, and explicitly charge them with restoring Western civilization to the K–12 curriculum. It will also require the creation of new curriculum material on Western civilization that can be adopted at the local school-district level. Non-profits such as American Achievement Testing (AAT Education) are already beginning to do this for U.S. history and civics. Curricula in Western civilization could follow.

It won’t be easy. But instead of blindly following illiberal academic fashions dictated by a politicized academy, states and school districts have the power to actively resist these trends. If a series of red states and school districts were to restore the teaching of Western civilization at the K–12 level, it would serve as a powerful cultural counterweight to the woke ascendency. To be sure, a campaign to restore the teaching of Western civilization would raise the hackles of the entire American education, media and cultural establishment. Yet a public debate over Western civilization’s role in shaping our republic is precisely what we need. Once parents, rather than woke education bureaucrats, are in the driver’s seat, victory is achievable.

With college students shouting down visiting speakers while holding placards that say “rule of law=white supremacy” or “liberalism is white supremacy,” it is apparent that something in this country has gone terribly wrong. A recent survey showed that two-thirds of college students favor speaker shout-downs, while nearly a quarter say they’d go so far as to use violence to stop a speaker with whom they disagree. These students no longer understand what classical liberalism or the rule of law represent, how difficult they were to develop and secure, or how precious and fragile they remain. The woke ascendency aims to solidify the slogans on those placards with a curriculum built around claims of “systemic racism.” In more ways than one, that would mark the decline and fall of Western civilization.

It is no coincidence that the generation of students who approve of shouting and violence as ways to deal with speakers with whom they disagree knows little of ancient Greek democracy, Roman law, the Magna Carta, the common-law tradition, the Judeo-Christian sources of liberal democracy, Enlightenment philosophy, and so much more that used to be taught as a matter of course in our schools. It’s not uncommon for state-level K–12 history standards to omit the European Middle Ages altogether. The history of liberty and its development over millennia in the West — once the centerpiece of American education — is now barely emphasized. If anything, great effort is expended to ensure that this story — our story — cannot be told.

Parents can change all of this by refusing to accept top-down orders from the woke higher-education establishment. Instead, they can push back from below by way of school boards and state legislatures, not only by blocking CRT, but by restoring the teaching of Western civilization to our schools.

When Stanford University killed off its Western Civ course over 30 years ago, conservatives warned that something more than a graduation requirement was at play in the debate. Without that course of study, they said, our way of life would be endangered. Western civilization itself, they argued, was at stake in the debate. That claim was mocked by leftist critics and cowardly administrators alike, but time has borne out the warnings. With liberty itself increasingly rejected, even as an ideal, by the rising generation, the continuity and flourishing of our civilization can no longer be taken for granted.

It is not too late to repair the damage. Parents take note. Killing off Western Civ got us into this mess. Bringing it back gets us out.

Energy & Environment

Austrian Defense Minister Warns of Europe-Wide Blackouts

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This story should be bigger. The Defense Minister of Austria believes that Europe is heading for a continent-wide blackout. From the EuroWeekly story:

According to La RazonKlaudia Tanner asserted that the question was not whether there was going to be a blackout, but rather that “the question is when it will be”. She has also stated that this danger is “underestimated by all” when it could have catastrophic consequences.

The Austrian government takes the potential threat so seriously that it has launched a public-education campaign to help people prepare:

In order to raise awareness among the population, the Austrian government has decided to launch an awareness campaign that will run throughout the month. Not only will it run in the media, but thousands of posters have also been distributed to Austrian cities. The minister also wanted to promote it on her social networks.

The slogan of the campaign is “What to do when everything stops”, and it seeks to raise awareness among the population about what measures to take when the blackout occurs. Advice about buying enough food for several days, having fuel, candles, batteries, and plenty of drinking water, is given. Another effective measure would be to agree on a meeting point with family and friends and try to collaborate with the neighbors as much as possible it says.

The story doesn’t say why the Austrians are convinced a catastrophic blackout is coming. Could it have to do with countries such as Germany, which intentionally reduced its reliable generating capacities by closing nuclear power plants — because of a tsunami in Japan! — and natural-gas generation to reduce emissions?

Could be. An article in Foreign Policy from earlier this year warned about significant grid problems that could be caused by the continent’s increasing reliance on renewable sources of energy (my emphasis):

Germany’s move to a power system largely reliant on weather-dependent renewables is quickly running up against limits — issues that all countries exchanging conventional fuels for wind and solar will eventually face. What happens when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow for hours or even days at a time? And what about the short, dark, cold days of midwinter when renewables of Germany’s power demand?

And it’s not only shortages that are problematic but also surpluses: Stormy days can be so windy that the power flows from wind parks on- and offshore overwhelm the power grid, even triggering its collapse. These electricity tsunamis can threaten the stability of neighboring countries’ energy systems, a brickbat the Poles and Czechs wield. Moreover, when there’s excess power in the grid, prices can go negative, forcing grid operators to pay customers to take the electricity,

Yikes!

With the big Glasgow conference ongoing and given the stakes, one would think that this potential catastrophe would be a prime subject of conversation. Because if the climate-change fight actually does contribute to a massive power outage in Europe — with all its attendant horrors and casualties — the anti-global warming campaign will be discredited beyond repair and the politics of Europe roiled in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

Elections

Defund the Police Fiasco in Minneapolis Takes Down Pro-Defund City Council Members

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The CBS News affiliate in Minneapolis has the report. Five of the eleven Minneapolis city-council members seeking reelection were defeated, four of those were open proponents of Defund the Police, and for good measure, a ballot measure passed that stripped powers from the city council and handed them to the mayor. And the city’s progressive mayor, Jacob Frey, was reelected while opposing the anti-police ballot measure. Notice that all the black people they interviewed were against defunding, all the defund proponents they were able to find were white, and the challengers who took down vocal pro-defund city-council members were women:

National Security & Defense

Will Google Repeat Its Pentagon-Cooperation Mistake?

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(Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Three years after Google’s employees forced the firm to abandon an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon that could have improved U.S. drone capabilities, the company has decided to pursue a different contract with the Defense Department, the New York Times reported today.

The abandoned contract, named Project Maven, was unveiled in 2017, and Gizmodo reported that Google was awarded the deal in September of that year. The Pentagon said at the time that it “focuses on computer vision — an aspect of machine learning and deep learning — that autonomously extracts objects of interest from moving or still imagery.” Those capabilities are widely understood to bolster the analysis of drone footage.

In 2018, a number of Google employees resigned in protest of their company’s decision to seek the Project Maven contract, and thousands more signed a letter asking Google executives to cancel its partnership with the Defense Department. In addition to other concerns, they primarily worried that Google’s work on the drone-technology project was a potentially unethical foray into America’s post-9/11 wars.

Google caved, deciding in June 2018 to not seek an extension of its Pentagon contract beyond its expiration in 2019. Its decision to back down in the face of pressure from social-justice-minded employees skeptical of the defense establishment was a sign of things to come: It was one of the first highly publicized instances in which a major U.S. firm conformed to the progressive political priorities of its employees.

The new contract that Google has decided to pursue is the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, a massive multi-billion-dollar cloud-computing project. The Times reports that Google’s move here “could raise a furor among its outspoken work force and test the resolve of management to resist employee demands.”

If recent history is any indication, Google might back down in this case too, but that’d be a mistake, as China, according to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, is “overinvesting against us” in its pursuit of more advanced AI capabilities. It would be a grave mistake for Google to endorse its employees’ wariness of working to advance U.S. national security — and yet another victory for the woke political attitudes shaping corporate America.

Elections

The Red Wave on Long Island

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It wasn’t just Virginia and New Jersey last night. In Nassau County, on Long Island, Republicans ran the table yesterday. Republicans haven’t carried Nassau at the presidential level since 1988, but it’s the sort of suburb where the party needs to at least be competitive, and for many years it was famously run by a Republican machine, the vestiges of which still stand.

Last night, in campaigns focused heavily on taxes and crime, Republicans ousted the county executive, Laura Curran, in favor of town councilman Bruce Blakeman, by a 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent margin (Curran has not conceded and is holding out hope for late absentee ballots) and won the district-attorney race behind Ann Donnelly against Todd Kaminsky, by an overwhelming 60.2 percent to 39.9 percent margin. Donnelly’s campaign hammered Kaminsky on bail reform.

Republicans also won races for Nassau County comptroller and county clerk, Hempstead town supervisor and town clerk, North Hempstead town supervisor and town clerk, Oyster Bay town supervisor and town clerk, and mayor of Glen Cove — every executive-branch race on the ballot, as well as 27 out of 38 legislative races.

In Suffolk County, Nassau’s redder neighbor at the end of the Island, Republican Ray Tierney ousted incumbent Democratic district attorney Tim Sini, and Republicans flipped at least four seats to take control of the county legislature.

Politics & Policy

Paid-Leave Lobbying Efforts by Meghan Markle

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Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, attends a reception in Cape Town, South Africa, September 24, 2019. (Mark Large/Pool via Reuters)

From Politico:

Democrats are the ones behind the party-line social spending bill that could include paid leave. But none other than Meghan Markle is calling senators in both parties about the topic. Capito got an unexpected call from the duchess….

“I couldn’t figure out how she got my number,” the West Virginia Republican added. Capito wasn’t alone in the GOP: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also got a call from the erstwhile royal…

[senator Collins] added : “much to my surprise, she called me on my private line and she introduced herself as the duchess of Sussex, which Is kind of ironic”

Remember this when you hear Democrats argue that we need to tax capital more or we need a wealth tax to root out undue political influence of wealthy and powerful people.

I would love the duchess to call me (she shouldn’t have a hard time finding my number, since she can find the private number of a U.S. senator). If she calls, I will explain why some of us fervently oppose a federal paid-leave program. The reason isn’t that we don’t understand the benefit of paid leave. It has to do with 1) the unintended consequences of the federal provision on its beneficiaries, and, 2) the inability of government programs to deliver the benefit to those who do not have it currently.

On the first point, I wrote this a while back:

There’s a large body of literature on the negative impact of government-paid leave policies on women’s wages, prospects for advancement, and overall employment. Implementing these policies here would simply mimic a policy that has already backfired elsewhere. Evidence at the international level is damning.

Consider Denmark. Its government offers 52 weeks of paid leave and other generous, family-friendly benefits. But even in paradise, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. A well-cited study shows that while men’s and women’s pay grew at roughly the same rates before they had kids, mothers saw their earnings rapidly reduced by nearly 30% on average; men’s earnings were fine. Women might also become less likely to work, and if still employed, earn lower wages and work fewer hours. Women are also seriously underrepresented in managerial positions.

Some people argue that paid leave is only one side of the equation: In order to get the full benefit of paid leave, the government needs to subsidize childcare, too. This is incorrect. A recent paper looking at 50 years of data from Austria shows that the generous expansion of paid leave benefits, even when coupled with generous childcare benefits, “have had virtually no impact on gender convergence.” In other words, those claiming that the benefits are necessary to close any real or imaginary gender gaps in the workplace should find another way.

On point 2) I am reposting this section from a previous post. It highlights the work of Heritage Foundation scholar Rachel Greszler, where she documents how some government paid-leave programs that have struggled to meet lower-income workers’ and families’ needs, even as they have grown in size and scope:

California. In California, 38 percent of the workforce has wages below $20,000, and yet only 1 percent of those low-wage workers use the state’s paid family leave program. Workers in the highest income bracket (above $84,000) were five times more likely to file paid family leave claims with the state as those in the lowest income bracket (below $12,000). Even in San Francisco, which has its own paid family leave law that provides 100 percent benefits to new mothers, low-income mothers (below $32,000) were only half as likely as higher-income mothers (above $97,000) to receive paid family leave benefits from the government.

Canada. Government paid family leave programs have exacerbated class inequality: “Despite proportionate and obligatory contributions of all employers and employees to these programs, the distribution of benefits is unbalanced and aids the social reproduction of higher-income families, especially outside of Québec.” While Quebec, which operates its own program, has taken action to increase government benefits, they “are still not equally used by mothers with lower socio-economic status.”

Norway. In Norway, which expanded paid leave to 100 percent replacement rates for nearly all mothers, researchers found that “paid maternity leave has negative redistribution properties,” and that “the extra leave benefits amounted to a pure leisure transfer, primarily to middle and upper income families.” The researchers concluded that “the generous extensions to paid leave were costly, had no measurable effect on outcomes and [also had] poor redistribution properties.”

Elections

Watch Winsome Sears’s Victory Speech

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Former Republican Delegate Winsome Sears celebrates winning the race for Lt. Governor of Virginia during an election night party in Chantilly, Va., November 3, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As Alexandra DeSanctis pointed out this morning, progressives are still sticking to the racism narrative to explain their loss in Virginia last night. She notes that along with Glenn Youngkin, Virginians elected Winsome Sears, a black woman, as lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares, a Cuban American, as attorney general. She writes, “It’s hard to imagine why Virginians voting en masse for the GOP out of thinly veiled racial animus would throw in their lot with this ticket.”

It is indeed hard to imagine, yet progressives are imagining it anyway. They have an academic theory to justify it in critical race theory, which asserts that even if nobody is being intentionally racist, systems can still be racist. They view the modern Republican Party as supportive of (or at least sympathetic to) white supremacy, so Republicans’ winning, no matter what race they are, perpetuates white supremacy in a country that was, in progressives’ view, founded on prejudice and slavery.

If you accept the premises of the argument, there’s a certain logical sense to it. Of course, the premises of the argument are exactly what conservatives contest, and rightly so. This is not a racist country; it was not founded on slavery; and as David Harsanyi has written persuasively, the evidence shows it is the most tolerant place on earth. But in the context of academic theory, even very smart, evidence-driven people can come to believe some truly strange things.

The problem is that most voters don’t buy the theory. The median voter did not graduate from college. That doesn’t make him or her stupid. College is not for everyone, and many of the people who didn’t go are doing well today (and some are doing better than people who did go). It just means they aren’t predisposed to think at the high levels of abstraction required for academic theorizing.

When they see the speech Winsome Sears gave last night after being elected lieutenant governor of Virginia, no assigned reading from Robin DiAngelo will controvert the evidence right before their eyes.

Youngkin campaign headquarters was unmasked and ready to celebrate an upset victory — which is still the most American kind of victory, even though America is the most powerful country on earth. The crowd was mostly white, as any random sample of Republicans is bound to be. And up walks a black woman with her black husband and two black daughters.

Sears stands behind the microphone with a huge smile on her face and does the classic point-to-people-I-know-in-the-crowd routine that all politicians do. Before she can get started, the entire crowd is chanting “WIN-SOME, WIN-SOME, WIN-SOME!” They finally calm down, and she does the natural thing: She introduces her family. Not only the family she is sharing the stage with, but also her father, who she says came to this country from Jamaica with $1.75 to his name. She emphasizes that he came in 1963, when racial tensions were high, but he still believed America was a land of opportunity.

Well, it paid off. His daughter came with him when she was six years old, and last night she led a crowd of strangers chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Sears said, “Some people would like us to believe we’re back in 1963 when my father came. We can live where we want, we can eat where we want, we own the water fountains. We have had a black president elected not once but twice, and here I am, living proof,” followed by noisy applause. “In case you haven’t noticed, I am black, and I have been black all my life,” followed by more applause.

This is not behavior you’d expect from a room full of white supremacists. Sears’s speech wasn’t “whitewashed” or “colorblind.” She is not ashamed of her identity, and she didn’t deny that racial prejudice is real or say everything is perfect. She just said what most Americans know to be true: This country has had an impressive record of progress on race relations, and there’s hardly a better example of that than a mostly white electorate in a state that was home to the capital city of the Confederacy electing a black woman to statewide office.

As she concluded, she thanked Jesus, and the last words out of her mouth before leaving the stage were, “How sweet it is!” If you’re a Protestant Christian, your mind probably involuntarily jumped to the hymn “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” You can see how Sears would like the lyrics of that hymn, especially the refrain, which begins, “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! / How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!”

The vast majority of our journalist class, however, did not get the reference. They’re interested in Christians only as a voting bloc of white people and don’t know a lot of hymns. They went to college and know about critical race theory and buy into parts of it. They don’t understand that, for lots of Americans, Sears’s speech had that rare quality that politicians always strive for and rarely achieve: It was relatable.

Sears is an abnormally successful person. Yet lots of Americans who saw her speech last night thought, “She seems normal.” They, too, are proud of their families and like to brag about them to others. They, too, have a story of an ancestor coming to America with little and turning it into a good life. They, too, are proud of this country — its history, present, and future. And they like to see successful people give God the glory in victory.

By filtering everything through the prism of race, progressives miss all of that. What Tuesday taught us is that most voters don’t.

Elections

Nearly a Week Later, It’s Still Not Clear . . . What Was the Lincoln Project Thinking?

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The Lincoln Project’s demonstrators stand with tiki torches on a sidewalk as Republican candidate for governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin arrives on his bus for a campaign event in Charlottesville, Va., October 29, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Intercept offers an in-depth report of how the Lincoln Project put together five staffers in khakis and holding tiki torches and attempted to tie Glenn Youngkin to the violence in Charlottesville in 2017. “It was never intended to appear real, according to Lincoln Project planning emails shared with The Intercept.”

The article never quite clears up one of the biggest questions around this, which is . . . how could anyone ever think this was a good idea? Why did the Lincoln Project’s brain trust — and I use that term loosely — think that the horrific events in Charlottesville were just another political tool to be used in the closing days of a gubernatorial campaign?  Where were the metaphorical grownups who could interrupt and say, “this is a terrible idea, it’s like playing with lighter fluid and matches, and it’s not even a fair, good shot on Glenn Youngkin”? Youngkin had nothing to do with what happened in Charlottesville.

Even the McAuliffe campaign couldn’t run away from the stunt fast enough: “What happened today in Charlottesville is disgusting and distasteful and the McAuliffe campaign condemns it in the strongest terms. Those involved should immediately apologize.” Democratic consultant and commentator Ben Tribbett wonders if the stunt swung the election: “I do think the Charlottesville stunt had an impact on how big the GOP turnout was and while we can never measure it completely, it could have been the difference in all 3 statewide losses.”

Since it appears there was no secret, sophisticated strategy behind it all, the simple answer seems to be the accurate one. The folks at the Lincoln Project are just stupid. Really, really stupid. They’re in the political public-communications business, and yet they have no idea what kind of political public communications generate good responses and bad responses. If you gave money to random people picked off the street, they would probably never come up with an idea as spectacularly foolish and harmful as this one. You need real experience in politics to reach the twisted mindset where you think dressing up and reenacting a white nationalist rally is a good idea.

Lord knows progressives and Democrats won’t listen to my advice about where to send their money. But you really have to wonder about any progressives and Democrats who continue to donate to the Lincoln Project, hoping that the next big stunt from that organization is less spectacularly tasteless, counterproductive, embarrassing, and self-destructive.

Elections

Yes, We Told You So about New Jersey

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A small victory lap of sorts: When a lot of the political media was ignoring the New Jersey governor’s race, I wrote last week that we should be watching it, which was showing some of the same dynamics that were fueling Democratic weakness in Virginia and national polls. I followed up with more polling evidence of the party’s weakness in New Jersey. Yesterday, while the polls were still open, I covered Trafalgar’s polling showing a four-point race. It turned out even closer — at this writing, Phil Murphy, who won by 14 in 2017, leads by 0.63 percent of the vote.

Trafalgar can also take a bow. It was the only pollster showing a race in New Jersey that was closer than six points. It had Virginia as a two-point Glenn Youngkin lead, which at this writing is where the race ended, after being ahead of the pack in August seeing that race tighten. Trafalgar didn’t have a perfect 2021, as it was behind the curve when other pollsters saw things shifting dramatically in favor of Gavin Newsom in the California recall’s final weeks, but in more traditional election polling, it stood out in both of these races.

Politics & Policy

Let’s Be Adults for Children: A Night with the National Council for Adoption’s Adoption Hall of Fame

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Table outside the National Council for Adoption's Hall of Fame awards on Nov. 2, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Last night in Washington, D.C., while other were watching election returns, I was receiving an award for Media Excellence in Adoption as part of the National Council for Adoption’s Adoption Hall of Fame. I’ve been to a few of these awards ceremonies over the years, and never expected to be an honoree. Sen. Roger Wicker and Harvard’s Elizabeth Bartholet were among the others inducted into their Adoption Hall of Fame. For those interested, here are my prepared remarks for the event:

Thank you for this tremendous and humbling honor.

My first guess is that part of the reason I am here tonight is because it has been encouraging to the National Council for Adoption and friends for someone who has been writing about pro-life issues for about 30 years to have stopped a few years ago and realized how much so many of us are failing foster children and foster families and birth moms and adoptive families. While I came at it from an informed consent kind of way, as a pro-life advocate, a whole world opened to me that I hadn’t paid much attention to previously. So many don’t know about how many children languish in the foster-care system. So many don’t know how the system can work against the child and his best interests. I’m thinking right now about a little boy named Noah I love who has been in the home of a loving family since spring, after nearly being killed by his birthparents. He was born with marijuana and meth in his system. My friend Darcy Olsen who runs Generation justice and is the adoptive mom of four children from foster care believes that children who are born to parents or a parent on meth should immediately have their rights severed. She came convicted when she watched one a foster son go back to a mother who wound up killing him because of her meth addiction. His name was Angel.  I know that’s a controversial position, especially in the child-welfare world. But it ought to be considered – and the reality must be known. We want family reunification where possible. We also want a child to be able to get on with his life.

You’re giving me an award but I want to mention some others, who do much more than I do, and who you might not all be aware of. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s win at the Supreme Court in their Fulton case, where foster moms sued the city of Philadelphia for the right to have the resources of Catholic Social Services to continue to be at their disposal as they continue to love children. Sharonelle Fulton, the lead plaintiff, is does more for black lives than any lawn sign will ever do. Because of the likes of Fulton and because of the Becket Fund and the just unanimous ruling of the court, Catholic Social Services is back in the adoption business after an unnecessary city-inflicted pause. The Fulton victory gives me a lot of hope that faith-based agencies won’t get pushed out of adoption and foster care work. Children need more quality choices, not less.

One of the reasons I think adoption and foster care needs to get more attention from the media beyond horror stories and political conflicts over same-sex marriage and now transgender issues, is because at a time of such tremendous conflict, this is an urgent place for common ground. You don’t have to agree with me on abortion to stand with me in supporting the work of the National Council for Adoption.

By the way, the most important book on adoption out now is by Naomi Schaefer Riley. It’s called No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists Are Wrecking Young Lives. I think many of you will want to read and engage with it. We should all make it a bestseller, because that will help bring attention to the needs of some of the most vulnerable children. Among other things, she points out some of the ugly reaction to Amy Coney Barrett having adopted children from Haiti. A people who, whatever we think about one president or another, can’t acknowledge that there is something beautiful about Barrett’s family and achievements – as I long admired about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, even though I disagreed with her on some terribly fundamental things – is a country in need of an examination of conscience and healing. Caring for the orphans would be a start. Thank you to everyone here and who supports the National Council for Adoption for doing so.

And I want to share one thing on a personal note: I’m honored and humbled by this award tonight, yes, because of the critical work Chuck Johnson and Ryan Hanlon and everyone else on the team has and is continuing to do. But also: I don’t think anyone at the National Council for Adoption knows this, but your founder, the late Bill Pierce was one of the first people in D.C. who was gratuitously kind to me in a mentorly kind of way. I don’t entirely remember when we first met – I think, as I often did, contacted him cold about some issue or another. I remember in a fleet of youthful ignorance, I thought he was wrong about safe-haven laws. Safe-haven laws provided easy, obvious ways for mothers to safely give their infant to a responsible authority – like a hospital. I thought: Why would you encourage such a thing? Of course, at the time, we had a rash of mothers leaving their babies in dumpsters for dead. Bill knew how desperate some terrified mothers were. Even though I grew up in a housing project in New York City, I had been shielded by loving parents from some of the harshness around me. If only more children could retain their innocence — at least during childhood! I was heartbroken by Bill Pierce’s death; though so many of you knew him way better, I saw in him a radiance I wanted to be around and learn from. On All Souls Day, we continue to pray for the repose of his soul and for peace and consolation for all who continue to mourn his death.

There’s so much more that could be said. But I want to implore people of Scripture in a particular way to continue to consider what more can be done and better to help children and families. Leaving the home of a mother with four children under 8, whose husband died last November 1, on the way here, I read this from Psalm 146 in Morning Prayer today:

It is the Lord who keeps faith forever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free,

the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan.

We must love that which God does. And how can we not help but love the defenseless child? The teenager on the verge of aging out of the system, whose rough edges have more to do with adult choices than him? You can’t unknow that if he doesn’t get a forever family, he might purposely get himself arrested to have somewhere to sleep and eat and shower. A homeless young man named Patrick once told me that being on the streets you’ll never be hungry, but he’d do just about anything for a stable, safe place to sleep and shower so he can look for a job without perpetually watching his back. COVID intervened as I was getting to know his story.

It might be easier to live in silos with our screens, but that’s not the kind of radical love we are called to and children need.

Thank you again for the work that you do at the National Council for Adoption and thank you for this underserved honor. It prods me to do better! I have to say it’s pretty awesome to be in your Adoption Hall of Fame though. I never expected that. I am grateful. And especially for you all.

Elections

Mostly Good News on Ballot Proposals

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People cast their ballots in Manhattan N.Y., November 2, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Voters across the country yesterday cast their ballots not only for candidates but also for a variety of ballot proposals, initiatives, referenda, propositions, etc. I noted several of those last night in my guide of votes to watch. Here’s how they turned out:

In Minneapolis, voters decisively rejected a “Defund the Police Lite” effort to disband the city’s police department, eliminate minimum requirements of police officers, and establish instead a “Department of Public Safety,” which would retain discretion to rehire some of the cops, and was expected to do so. We editorialized against this proposal. While proponents of the plan took pains not to frame this as a full defunding and elimination of the police department, they clearly hoped that the progressive city that witnessed the murder of George Floyd would be the most sympathetic grounds to kickstart a national movement that many Democrats blamed for damaging their party at the polls in 2020. It didn’t work. By contrast, in Austin, Texas, where there have already been cutbacks to the police department, voters chose by nearly a two-to-one margin not to back a ballot proposal that would restore many of the cuts. Both in Minneapolis and Austin, opponents had status quo bias in their favor, and in Austin, opponents also argued that hiring more cops would require laying off firemen and teachers. In Cleveland, voters approved a more modest city charter revision, favored by progressives, to impose more outside supervision on the police. While this is hardly a clean sweep for pro-law enforcement views, the defeat in Minneapolis may be a death blow to open advocacy of eliminating police departments.

In New York, we had editorialized against Proposals 1, 3, and 4, which would have helped Democrats draw partisan gerrymanders and authorize same-day voter registration and universal mail-in balloting. All three appear to have failed by double-digit margins, reflecting the wide disconnect between progressive commentators — who see opposition to things like same-day registration and mail-in balloting as explainable only by racist voter suppression — and the actual voters of a very liberal state.

The news on economic proposals was less encouraging. Proposal 2 in New York, which we also opposed, passed with over 60 percent of the vote; it would allow “each person” to sue to prevent anything that interferes with a “right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” Who could be against that? New Yorkers will doubtless live to regret this, as it will further stymie economic development and activity. More ominously in the short run, lawyers may test whether the reference to “a healthful environment” allows any random person to sue to impose COVID restrictions. Naturally, progressives who profess to be horrified by this sort of authorization to sue in the abortion context had no such objections here. In Colorado, nearly 57 percent of the voters rejected a $1 billion a year property tax cut, but by almost the same margins, rejected a proposal to raise sales taxes on marijuana to fund education. In Tuscon, Ariz., almost 60 percent of voters approved a hike in the local minimum wage, which will rise gradually to $15 an hour.

Elections

Republicans Should Hammer Democrats on Abortion

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Campaign signs for Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin stand together on the last day of early voting in the Virginia gubernatorial election in Fairfax, Va., October 30, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

In response to Virginia Shows Conservatives Don’t Need to Shy away from Abortion

As David Harsanyi noted on the Corner earlier today, Republican Glenn Youngkin’s win in Virginia yesterday suggests that abortion is a winning issue for conservatives — and his victory should encourage conservative candidates to treat it like one.

On Morning Joe this morning, former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill put it well: “McAuliffe thought all he had to do was talk about abortion and women would fall in line.”

It’s true enough. In the last month of the campaign, as Youngkin pivoted hard to education, McAuliffe doubled down on his pro-abortion rhetoric, stoking fear over the Texas Heartbeat Act and Roe v. Wade and repeatedly insisting that Youngkin would “turn Virginia into Texas” and take away women’s rights.

McAuliffe had at least five television ads highlighting his commitment to a “woman’s right to choose” and hitting Youngkin for his alleged extremism on abortion. He even campaigned at an abortion clinic earlier this fall.

It doesn’t seem to have helped much, and in fact, it likely hurt him.

As David noted, CNN exit polling found that Youngkin had a significant advantage over McAuliffe among voters with softer positions on abortion. Unsurprisingly, voters who said abortion should be legal in all cases hugely favored McAuliffe, and voters who said it should be illegal in all cases hugely favored Youngkin.

But among voters in the middle two categories — legal in most cases and illegal in most cases — Youngkin had a clear edge. Voters who said abortion should be legal in most cases broke for McAuliffe just two to one, while voters who said it should be illegal in most cases broke heavily for Youngkin, 88 percent to McAuliffe’s 12.

Meanwhile, according to Fox News exit polling, among the 5 percent of Virginia voters who said abortion was their top issue, Youngkin had a twelve-point advantage — consistent with public-opinion surveys that typically find the pro-life position has an edge in voter enthusiasm.

Given how out of step he is with voters on this issue and what we can glean from exit polling, McAuliffe would’ve been better served to focus on responding to Virginia voters’ concerns about inflation and education rather than harping on about abortion.

It’s true that, in a post-Roe world, the pro-life goal of eliminating or limiting abortion would be out of step with some number of voters, but that shouldn’t stop conservative candidates from using the issue to hammer Democrats for their unpopular positions.

Elections

A Good and Healthy Day for Democracy

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A voter casts his ballot behind a ballot booth. (Keith Bedford/Reuters)

Let us reflect on the multiple ways that yesterday’s elections in Virginia and New Jersey were healthy for American democracy in general, and for Republican politics in particular.

One, we seem to have had generally clean elections. There were few if any intra-day controversies over “voter suppression.” There were victories for both Republicans and Democrats, and the results have mostly been accepted so far by the losing campaigns. Even notorious stolen-election conspiracy theorist Terry McAuliffe finally conceded this morning and did not go the Stacey Abrams route. As Jim Geraghty noted, McAuliffe’s loss in a Democrat-run state was painful enough and relatively close enough that it should put to bed the theory that Democrats steal the close ones. Of course, many of us are grumbling this morning about Phil Murphy pulling ahead in the dead of night after Jack Ciatarelli led him well past the midnight hour, but while that chronology taps into ancestral Republican fears about crooked big-city machines, it is also worth noting that if New Jersey Democrats were serious about stealing elections, state senate president Steve Sweeney would not have lost to a truck driver whose campaign spent $153 and consisted almost entirely of a Facebook page. That won’t stop the nuttiest people from claiming that this is all psyop to cover Democrat election-stealing, but it helps.

Two, we are reminded that money is not everything in politics. Maybe Murphy’s six-to-one advantage in outside spending helped him narrowly survive against Ciatarelli (the two campaigns themselves were more evenly matched), but it didn’t prevent the incumbent from fighting for his life. The defeat of Sweeney, the longest-serving legislative leader in New Jersey history, by a campaign with no money is particularly ironic, as Sweeney was himself an anti-“dark money” crusader who backed a bill to force nonprofits to disclose their donors. That law is now under revision pending a court challenge under AFPF v. Bonta.

Three, in terms of the general climate of “Flight 93” paranoia in some quarters of the Right about rigged elections, demographic change, and the fear that blue states are permanently lost — all of which were exacerbated by the belly-flop of the California recall election — it is a healthy development to see Republicans winning again in Virginia and competitive in New Jersey. Hardly any state Republican Party in the country needed a win as badly as the Virginia GOP. The party was split a decade ago between Northern Virginia moderates and liberals like Tom Davis and Bill Bolling against Tea Party conservatives like Ken Cuccinelli. The end result was Cuccinelli’s loss in 2013, the only time in modern Virginia history that the governor’s race was won by the party holding the White House. That turned out to be just a warm-up for the split between colorless party functionaries like Ed Gillespie, who lost two close statewide races, and right-wing loons like Corey Stewart, who got massacred. The California GOP could tell you about the dark things that happen to a state party that goes from being the 52–48 winners in a competitive state to the regular 60–40 losers. So, along came Glenn Youngkin, who proved (as Phil discusses) that a Republican could run as a sane adult with a mixture of conservative and moderate positions, but also have the guts to take on divisive culture-war battles and win. That victory will do an enormous amount to reorient the state party around winning elections and governing rather than venting primal screams. Moreover, the victories for Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares — a black woman and a Hispanic man — and the apparently strong showing by Republicans with Virginia Hispanics are all signs that the state party need not fear either demographic change or trumped-up accusations of being white supremacists. Finally, the win for Miyares over Mark Herring is healthy proof that Democrats cannot, in fact, just always get away with things (in Herring’s case, having worn blackface) that the media would crucify Republicans for doing.

Four, Democrats also got a lesson: They can’t live off Donald Trump, Charlottesville, and January 6 forever and use that as a shield against accountability in states they govern. McAuliffe tried that, and so did Murphy, and the voters didn’t care — or at least, a critical mass of them cared less than they cared about education, taxes, lockdowns, and other bread-and-butter issues.

National Review

Zoom In to Neal B. Freeman

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By many of us, he is known as “Neal B.” And we say those words — or that name and that initial — with due respect, admiration, and fondness. I’m talking about Neal B. Freeman: Yalie, politico, writer, entrepreneur, man about town. He is an important planet in the National Review solar system. He was a right hand to WFB — the manager of WFB’s mayoral campaign, for example. And the founding producer of Firing Line. Neal has served under four U.S. presidents. A few years ago, a collection of his writings was published under the title “Skirmishes.”

Today is Neal B. Freeman Day, in a sense, because he is being honored tonight: honored by The Fund for American Studies at its 28th Annual Journalism Awards Dinner. The event is in New York. Can’t make it? You can, via Zoom: here. The program starts at 8.

I always said that one of the great trivia questions in American conservatism was, “What does ‘Q’ stand for?” The “Q” in “James Q. Wilson.” (Answer: “Quinn.”) By the way, what does the “F” in “William F. Buckley Jr.” stand for? (Answer: “Frank.”) Finally: What does the “B” in “Neal B. Freeman” stand for? You know, after all these years, I have no idea. Bartholomew?

Regardless, Neal Freeman is a scholar and a gentleman, and a great deal of fun too. He is one of the best public speakers — is there any other kind of speaker, now that I think about it? — in the business. He has received many awards, will receive another tonight, and deserves more.

Again, that Zoom link is here, and the program’s at 8.

Elections

Virginia Shows Conservatives Don’t Need to Shy away from Abortion

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Democratic nominee for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe looks on as he addresses supporters during his election-night party and rally in McLean, Va., November 2, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

I am regularly informed by liberal commentators that pro-life positioning is disastrous for Republican candidates. So it shouldn’t be overlooked that Terry McAuliffe not only leaned hard on the issue in Virginia — devoting as much TV time hitting Glenn Youngkin on the issue as he did any other — but ramped up ads focusing on abortion down the stretch. While the imperious tone and authoritarian school policies, an underperforming economy, and a bumbling president were probably the driving issues in the race, a CBS poll found that abortion was among the top factors for 58 percent of Virginia voters.

McAuliffe certainly thought that it mattered. His champions at the Washington Post, Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, argued that the contest, on the heels of the Supreme Court taking on Texas’s pro-life law, was “our first big test of the new politics of abortion.” Well, a CNN exit poll found that while 86 percent of McAuliffe voters wanted abortion to be legal in all cases and 64 percent in most cases, 88 percent of Youngkin voters thought the procedure should be illegal in all cases and 84 percent in most cases. This mirrors other polling on abortion, which has long shown that while most don’t want to ban abortion outright, they don’t support the Left’s position that the procedure should be legal in all cases until crowning. There are strong moral and rational arguments to be made against that kind of barbarism. But, at the very least, McAuliffe and his allies continually amplified Youngkin’s position — opposition to abortion in all cases other rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother — and yet it didn’t seem to do any damage.

No, McAuliffe Didn’t Lose Because Democrats Failed to Pass Biden’s Left-Wing Agenda

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President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021. (Melina Mara/Reuters)

Yesterday, before the results from Virginia were in, the New Republic issued the following warning:

Virginia is a state that’s been trending blue for a while now. The state hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since George W. Bush in 2004, and Democratic margins have been increasing (Joe Biden won it by double digits). Within the state, Democrats control the governor’s mansion, the attorney general’s office, the secretary of state’s office, and both chambers in the state’s legislature. Both of Virginia’s Senate seats are held by incumbent Democrats who haven’t been in any serious electoral peril for some time now

Politics & Policy

Haley to Hit ‘Totally Un-American’ Talking Points on China and Capitalism

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Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley arrives at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 18, 2017. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters )

When former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley addresses the Heritage Foundation this morning to give the group’s annual Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture, she’s expected to deliver a full-throated defense of capitalism that mixes boilerplate conservative arguments with a salvo against “the silliest argument of all” — the idea that “capitalism is bad for America but good for Communist China.”

Haley’s speech reprises the theme of a Wall Street Journal op-ed she authored in February, in which she wrote that the “hyphenated capitalist” solutions put forward by conservative critics of the free market “differ from socialism only in degree.”

Critics of free markets on the right and on the left, Haley will say, according to a copy of her remarks obtained by National Review, miss the point entirely when “they say that economic freedom means shipping critical industries from Chicago to Shanghai.”

“The pandemic proved that we can never be dependent on our biggest enemy for medicine. The same is true for advanced technology and security systems,” she’ll say, arguing that championing capitalism is not the same as advocating policies that create a reliance on Beijing. “That’s commonsense.”

Haley will then accuse those critics of wanting “to do business like China” because “they’re calling for a ‘national industrial policy,’ which basically means the government should control what companies make, pick which businesses succeed, and dictate what the economy looks like.” She’ll call such a policy “totally un-American.”

Although she isn’t expected to mention it explicitly, her comments come as a massive industrial policy package awaits action in Congress. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which the Senate passed on bipartisan lines earlier this year, comes in at a whopping $282 billion. That money will be directed to support domestic semiconductor production and National Science Foundation grants on critical technology research, among other things.

Conservative critics of the legislation, including the Republican Study Committee, however, have pointed out that the legislation lacks appropriate safeguards to prevent the theft of U.S.-funded research and that none of the funding goes to projects specifically intended to play a role in countering the Chinese Communist Party’s global ambitions. The RSC has said that the legislation would only result in an influx of research funding, without a clear national-security aim.

Haley’s criticism of industrial policy centers on what she views as a worrying parallel with Beijing’s own approach to these questions: “We can’t out-central plan a bunch of communists, and if we play by China’s rules, China will win. The better bet is to play the game the American way — and that’s capitalism.”

The likely presidential contender will also warn conservatives against competing with progressives to offer bigger government spending programs. “If all we’re offering is a cheaper welfare state, or slightly less bad mandates, we will lose,” she’ll say, according to her prepared remarks, adding, “Conservatives should know better. Don’t cave — not now, not ever.”

As the U.S.-China competition intensifies, Washington will need to do much more to position itself against the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party. But already, a number of people have taken advantage of that very real imperative to justify proposals with no immediate bearing on U.S. national security, such as President Biden’s China-centered arguments for more infrastructure and education spending. That only makes it difficult to build out an effective policy to counter Beijing’s ambitions.

Politics & Policy

McAuliffe Calls Republicans Racist, One Last Time

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Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe speaks during his campaign rally in Richmond, Va., October 23, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Virginia’s losing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said in his concession statement that: “While there will be setbacks along the way, I am confident that the long term path of Virginia is toward inclusion, openness and tolerance for all.”

Wait, just who is intolerant here? The state just elected a female African-American lieutenant governor and a Cuban-American state attorney general. The outgoing governor and state attorney general wore blackface! The governor’s nickname used to be “coonman”! Ralph Northam couldn’t explain how the picture of someone — perhaps him — in Klan garb appeared in his yearbook!

What, is McAuliffe afraid the Lincoln Project is going to hold more faux-rallies of tiki-torch-bearing white nationalists?

You know what this kind of reflexive, dishonest, and unchallenged labeling of Republicans makes me want to say? Let’s go, Brandon. Sorry, Kevin.

Elections

Virginia Should Dispel the ‘Democrats Always Steal the Close Ones’ Argument

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Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during his election-night party in Chantilly, Va., November 3, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As of this writing, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race by about 70,000 votes over Terry McAuliffe, or about 2 percentage points.

Republican Winsome Sears won the lieutenant governor’s race by about 56,000 votes, or about 1.74 percentage points. Republican Jason Miyares won the state attorney general’s race by about 34,000 votes, a bit more than one percentage point.

The pre-election contention from Newt Gingrich that if Virginia’s elections were close, Democrats would steal them, was paranoid nonsense. What, did the vast evil Democratic vote-stealing or vote-switching conspiracy just take the night off? Did the Venezuelan hackers get lazy? Did somebody forget to program the Chinese-built thermostats? Was the paper used in Virginia’s ballots certified bamboo-free?

Also note that Virginia has excellent voter ID laws and relatively easy early voting. With record turnout for a gubernatorial election, the claim that any vote was suppressed is utter nonsense. The Virginia elections were run the way they’re supposed to be run. Everyone who wanted to vote and who was eligible could vote, once. At this point, there is no evidence that anyone who was ineligible to vote cast any ballots.

Election fraud exists, as the Heritage Foundation database of cases and convictions amply demonstrates. But it rarely if ever exists on a scale large enough to alter the outcome of a statewide or U.S. House district election. A lot of candidates who lost, and who are embarrassed they lost, hide behind the cries of “stolen” elections to obscure the fact that they just didn’t run a good enough campaign.

Education

Let’s Enjoy the Pain Democrats Are Suffering for Closing Schools

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Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks at a convention in Detroit, Mich., July 28, 2012. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

In my analysis of the Virginia elections on the main site and in a column last week, I discussed a phenomenon I described as “Revenge of the Parents.” There are many factors related to the education issue that came together for Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday — the CRT battle, broader curriculum fights, the Loudoun County school rape cover up, etc. But the seeds for the backlash were all planted by unnecessary school closures.

I’ve said it a number of times, but the closure of schools was simply the most destructive public-policy decision in modern American history. If your children were in public schools in the Democratic-run commonwealth of Virginia, you felt the direct effects of closures that dragged on for a year in a number of districts. As your family suffered from distance learning, you had to endure the endless lies, excuses, and shifting goal posts from unionized teachers delaying opening as Democratic politicians deferred to them at every point. Unionized teachers in some parts of Virginia even skipped the vaccination line ahead of more vulnerable populations and still wouldn’t return to work. At the same time, you saw how private schools in your area, and public schools in Republican-run areas and around the world, reopened safely. The school closures, in other words, were not about science, but the selfishness of unionized teachers and the cravenness of Democrats who did their bidding. On election eve, Terry McAuliffe still had to appear with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who was likely more responsible than any single human being for these policies.

I was going back and forth a bit on the schools issue on Twitter with the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent, who believes that the CRT issue was a hoax manufactured by Republican operatives and peddled in conservative media to scare up votes. But here’s the thing. Not only did school closures enrage parents, but they also made parents much more intimately familiar with what their children were being taught in public schools. If all the same people who shut down your children’s school for a year and lied about it are telling you the CRT fight is all a big hoax, are you going to give them the benefit of the doubt?

Everybody involved in the school-closures policy deserves to suffer for the damage they inflicted on children and the disruption they caused to parents. On Tuesday, many of them did suffer. May we enjoy their pain and hope they never consider imposing such a policy again.

Impromptus

Leaves, Dogs, Fans, and More

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In Central Park, New York City, October 30, 2021 (Jay Nordlinger)

That picture up there is no big deal — just a sign that fall is falling (certainly in Central Park). I have a few more such photos in Impromptus today — plus a photo of a dog dressed up as Chinese food for Halloween. (Seriously. You have to see it.)

I also discuss identity politics, Saturday Night Live, “Let’s go, Brandon,” the state of the GOP, “The Life of Julia,” “The Life of Linda,” the progress of the American vernacular, and more. Something for everyone, possibly.

Let’s have some mail. In an Impromptus last week, I discussed sportsmanship — the decline of. This is related to the degradation of our culture overall, of course. I recalled something that happened in Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, about 30 years ago.

We had beaten some team — and as they left the floor, our p.a. system blared, “Hit the road, Jack, and don’t you come back no more no more no more no more.” I thought this was disgusting. Other people, of course, think such things are way cool. “Lighten up, Gramps,” they say.

A reader writes,

I attended a Catholic high school in central Illinois in the ’70s. When our basketball team was about to wrap up a win (pretty common — we had good teams), some of our student section would start to sing, “Na na na na. Na na na na. Hey hey. Goodbye” — and our cheerleaders would immediately start waving their arms and saying, “No!” I don’t think our fans even got to “Hey hey” before their singing died out. Same thing would happen if they tried to boo a call. I probably didn’t appreciate that enough back then.

Another reader writes,

I attended a football game in Denver in late 1997 with a friend. We had flown in from Bermuda and were headed for California and the Rose Bowl. The opposing team in Denver was the San Diego Chargers, my home team. When the teams were introduced, there was much fanfare over the entire Broncos roster. Then the announcer raced through the Chargers lineup, ending with, “As if we care.” . . . Fortunately, the Rose Bowl was a different experience.

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece called “If I Owned a Sports Team.” It touches on fan behavior, along with myriad other issues. Kind of interesting, IMO.

In another Impromptus, I used the expression “since Hector had pups.” A reader writes,

Jay, I’m older than you, but I don’t know what “Hector had pups” means. Please explain.

“Since Hector had pups” — alternatively, “since Hector was a pup” — means “for a long, long time.” “I’ve been meaning to fix that fence since Hector had pups.” This is an old idiom — been around since Hector had pups, you might say.

How did it get started? Hector is a hero of Greek mythology. Lots of kids, especially boys, liked Greek mythology (back when). They often named their dog “Hector,” along with “Fido” and “Rex.”

At least, that’s my understanding.

A reader writes,

Hi, Jay,

Was just looking at an old Impromptus of yours where you repeated an old saw about knowledge and wisdom.

I think a reader shared that with me. I’d never heard it. “What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. Wisdom is knowing not to put one in a fruit salad.”

Our reader continues,

Thought you might like the updating of it that’s making the rounds. Sorry if you’ve heard it already.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting one in a fruit salad. Philosophy is wondering whether this qualifies a Bloody Mary as a smoothie.

Thank you to one and all. And, again, today’s Impromptus is here. The George W. Bush Center, in Dallas, has a podcast called “The Strategerist.” (This is a nod to an old Saturday Night Live gag.) I recently had the honor of being a guest — and that episode is here.

Elections

This Was a Rout

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An Election Officer prepares “I Voted!” stickers at a polling place at Randolph Elementary School in Arlington, Va., November 2, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The spin will now begin in earnest, but the bottom line is this: Last night was a rout for the Democratic Party and its friends. They were swept in Virginia; they suffered a 16-point swing in New Jersey — coming within a few thousands votes of losing a gubernatorial race that nobody (bar our own Dan McLaughlin) was talking about, while taking some notable losses in the assembly; they lost every single judicial race in Pennsylvania — including a seat on the state’s Supreme Court; they did worse than expected on the city council in New York; they even lost a race for city attorney in Seattle. Meanwhile, in Buffalo, N.Y., the socialist was defeated by a write-in candidate, and, in Minneapolis, a ballot measure to abolish the police was roundly rejected. If this sentiment were to hold, next year’s midterms will be utterly catastrophic for the party and its cause.

Education

Professors Want to Cancel the Concept of Academic Rigor

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(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Among the targets of the so-called equity movement in education is academic rigor. Holding all students to objective learning standards is said to be unfair to some and therefore should be stopped.

Two professors at the University of North Carolina, Jordynn Jack and Viji Sathy, recently penned an essay making that argument. In today’s Martin Center article, David Randall of the National Association of Scholars replies.

Randall writes, “Their article cloaks a radical ‘equity’ agenda in education-school jargon. Their current practice likely damages teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill. And their larger ambitions, if successful, will cripple American higher education. Even more serious, Jack and Sathy’s assault on rigor will remove the very ideal of excellence from our colleges.”

Right. remove rigor, and what we’re left with is empty credentialing combined with a load of political indoctrination.

Randall continues, “Jack and Sathy embrace the progressive obsession with censorship in hopes of denying truth. ‘Emphasize that students who have been admitted to your institution have already shown that they can meet high standards,’ Jack and Sathy write. But many students truly shouldn’t be in college—the failures of the admissions offices should not be compounded by deliberate lying by professors. Yet, the authors argue, ‘If rigor is code for ‘some students deserve to be here, and some don’t,’ then it needs to go.’ However, the question ought to be about how well students perform, not what they ‘deserve.’”

Exactly. That’s the truth that our college “leaders” want to ignore — many students they enroll have little ability or interest in real academic work. They’re in college for fun and to get a piece of paper that supposedly attests to their employability.

Here is Randall’s conclusion: “Jack and Sathy’s call to banish rigor will damage universities and harm students in the name of helping them. Their recommendations should be rejected in their entirety.”

Elections

Minneapolis Anti-Police Referendum Defeated

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People cast their ballots at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park as voters decide whether to abolish the police department and replace it with a new department of public safety in Minneapolis, Minn., November 2, 2021. (Nicole Neri/Reuters)

Minneapolis’s City Question 2 was a ballot measure to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a “Department of Public Safety” that would employ “licensed peace officers” and use a public-health approach to policing.

The New York Times has called the race, reporting that the ballot measure has been defeated. The margin is currently 43 percent “Yes,” and 57 percent “No.”

As we wrote this morning, a defeat for this anti-police ballot measure (and it’s not particularly close) in Minneapolis should spell the end of the radical “defund” movement nationwide. To give you an idea of how progressive Minneapolis is, the same voters who shot down the anti-police referendum approved a referendum to allow rent control. If it can’t win in that city, with those voters, it’s finished.

The current margin almost exactly matches Star Tribune polling for black voters in Minneapolis. The minorities that the anti-police crowd claim to support have rejected many of its key messages.

The two most prominent politicians to support the referendum were Representative Ilhan Omar and Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison. Governor Tim Walz and Senator Amy Klobuchar opposed the measure. A win for their faction of the Democratic Party over the Omar–Ellison faction is about as close to a conservative win as you’ll get in Minneapolis. But the real winners are the people of Minneapolis, who won’t be subjected to a radical progressive experiment in police abolition.

Elections

New Jersey Race Surprisingly Close

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No one paid much attention to the New Jersey governor’s race because it’s now a deep-blue state (President Biden won it by 16 points), incumbent Phil Murphy isn’t particularly disliked and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli is an unknown former Assemblyman. Murphy was expected to win by double digits, or high single digits. A bookmaker rated Murphy a 1/10 favorite in mid-October.

So it’s a surprise that 10 o’clock came and the race was still too close to be called. With 40 percent of the vote counted in the famously well-managed state, Ciattarelli has a lead of about 5,000 votes. A Ciattarelli win would be an earthquake whose magnitude would dwarf the result of the Virginia governor’s race, but even a close loss should send red lights flashing in Democratic Party offices around the country. At any event, the New Jersey GOP is apparently not dead yet.

Elections

Blaming McAuliffe

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I think we can predict that a lot of Democrats — especially those who want to argue that the Virginia results are not worrisome for the party in next year’s races — are going to say they’re a function of McAuliffe’s weakness as a candidate.

Cutting against that spin: McAuliffe is a former governor and the only candidate who has ever beaten the state’s trend of electing governors from the opposite party of the president (something he did in 2013, albeit narrowly). The more Democrats deny the race is a sign of things to come, the more it will be.

Update: Since I wrote this post, it has become clear that there was a large swing away from the Democrats in New Jersey, too, which further undermines the idea that their poor showing in Virginia was mostly a function of McAuliffe.

Elections

Dems Should Ditch Their Trump Obsession

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President Joe Biden campaigns for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe at a rally in Arlington, Va., October 26, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The apparent victory of Republican Glenn Youngkin over Democrat and former Governor Terry McAuliffe in Virginia tonight (Dave Wasserman and Decision Desk HQ called the race well before 9 pm Eastern; major media are holding off for the moment) contains a few fairly obvious lessons for the Democrats that I’m guessing (and hoping) they’ll have a lot of trouble grasping.

One: Tying every Republican to Trump doesn’t work. Donald Trump was an outlier in many ways — and everyone knows this. The widespread attitude in the media and among Democrats that Trump was a uniquely pernicious threat to the Constitutional order and to other norms can not, a year after Trump’s defeat, be turned inside out. “Oh, did we say Trump was uniquely dangerous? Actually he’s just like every other Republican. They’re all the same. Our Republic is in danger if you don’t vote Democrat.” Youngkin is a normal suburban-friendly Republican, and yet McAuliffe built his campaign around hysterical suggestions that Youngkin was Trump in fleece. This fooled no one. President Biden came to McAuliffe’s aid to argue, “Extremism can come in many forms. It can come in the rage of a mob driven to assault the Capitol. It can come in a smile and a fleece vest.” So: all Republicans are like the Capitol Hill mob.” Uh-huh.

Two: the Democrats’ strategy of pumping up turnout in the base by tarring Republicans as racists doesn’t appear to be a great idea going forward. The more you cry racism, the less potent the charge becomes. Democrats should acknowledge that Critical Race Theory and related teachings about the supposed ultra-prevalence of white supremacy are themselves extremist, and racist, approaches to American history and culture. Do Democrats really want to go to the polls in 2022 as the party of Critical Race Theory? CRT barely even existed in the public imagination until two years ago. If I were a Dem I’d loudly and publicly throw CRT overboard. It’d be a perfect Sister Souljah moment. And what would that cost the party really? It still rules practically the entire education establishment.

But as the disaster presidency of Joe Biden has proven, the Dems are terrified by, and ruled by, their hardcore activists. Practically speaking, nearly every Democrat is a puppet of the fringe left. Do Democrats have the courage, much less the smarts, to cut out their voter-repelling culture-war nonsense and get back to issues that can win over the median voter? “We‘re not Trump” doesn’t cut it anymore. Voters want to hear an affirmative case for why they should vote for Democrats.

Elections

Dave Wasserman Calls Virginia for Glenn Youngkin

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Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin speaks during a campaign event in Alexandria, Va., October 30, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Cook Political Report data guru Dave Wasserman has called it for Glenn Youngkin.

Still plenty of votes out there, however.

Politics & Policy

SALT In Your Eyes

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So it looks like the Build Back Better bill is starting to come together, and it turns out that social infrastructure is a massive tax cut for affluent suburbanites in New York, California, Hawaii, Vermont, and around Chicago.

Can’t say I’m totally shocked. Seats in New York and New Jersey do matter, and Dems have picked up some by campaigning hard on fully restoring State and Local Tax Deductions. Even some of the progressive stars of the new Congress, like Mondaire Jones, made this the centerpiece issue in their primary campaigns.

Elections

The Elections to Watch Tonight

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An Election Officer prepares “I Voted!” stickers at a polling place at Randolph Elementary School in Arlington, Va., November 2, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

There are a lot of elections today. Some may produce surprising outcomes that aren’t on many people’s radar. Still, here’s a quick rundown of the big ones:

Virginia: Governor, House of Delegates, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General. The Virginia governor’s race between Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe is, of course, the headliner tonight, for a whole lot of reasons. But it’s not the only office on the ballot. The House of Delegates, the lower house of Virginia’s legislature, is also up for grabs; Democrats currently control both houses. Even if Glenn Youngkin loses a close race, it is possible that Republicans could take the House of Delegates. On the flip side, there are competitive statewide races for lieutenant governor and attorney general, including an incumbent A.G. (Mark Herring) who had his own blackface scandal but, unlike Ralph Northam, is not barred by term limits from facing the voters again. If Youngkin wins and wins big, his coattails could carry Republicans to a sweep.

New Jersey: Governor, state legislature (both houses). Unlike Virginia, where the state senate will stay in Democratic hands no matter what happens today, New Jersey puts its entire legislature up for grabs alongside the governor. Don’t expect a flip to the GOP in either house, but a close race between Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli and Republican gains in the legislature, in a blue state full of suburbanites, would be a big warning for Democrats.

New York: New York City mayor, Nassau County executive and district attorney, Proposals 1-4, Buffalo mayor. The New York City mayor’s race, while a high-profile contest, is not very dramatic, with Eric Adams expected to clobber Republican Curtis Sliwa. The main drama is Sliwa returning to the campaign trail immediately after getting hit by a taxicab and breaking his arm on Friday, and Sliwa being barred from bringing one of his 16 cats into the polling place today. The real drama was in the primary, when the ex-NYPD Adams defeated more anti-police candidates, thus draining away the core issue that Sliwa hoped to run on. There is also no competitive Republican presence in a lot of the other open big-city mayoral races around the country, such as in Boston, Atlanta, Seattle, Minneapolis, and New Orleans, although some of those have intra-Democrat fights.

But there are still bellwether battles over the suburbs (Nassau County has what may be a competitive race for county executive against incumbent Laura Curran) and fights over crime (the Nassau D.A.’s race has become a referendum on bail reform, although to judge from the ads for the Democrat, Todd Kaminsky, he’s still trying to posture as the tough-on-crime candidate rather than defend bail reform). The Buffalo mayor’s race tests India Walton — hoping to become the first openly socialist mayor in the country in decades — against incumbent Byron Brown, who lost to her in the Democratic primary but is running as a write-in. There are also big ballot proposals on elections, redistricting, and environmental lawsuits — see our editorial. In many of these contests, polling is scanty, so surprises are possible.

Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado: Ballot questions. Defund the police? Yes, says a Minneapolis ballot proposal to replace the police department with a Department of Public Safety (see our editorial). No, says an Austin ballot proposal to roll back cuts and hire more cops. Meanwhile, a statewide vote in Colorado seeks to cut property taxes, once a popular cause in the state before its sharp leftward turn.

Pennsylvania: State Supreme Court (one seat). Republicans in Pennsylvania were furious last year when the state’s elected Supreme Court, which has a 5-2 Democrat majority, rewrote the deadlines for mail-in ballots. They won’t get to vent that frustration this year, but they could lose even more ground in an election for a seat vacated by one of the two Republicans retiring. Can the Pennsylvania GOP get its act together ahead of next year’s midterms? Given the domestic-violence allegations against Trump-backed Senate candidate Sean Parnell, they may need it.

Politics & Policy

Re: Democrats’ Shell Game on SALT Deduction

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(Michael Burrell/Getty Images)

In response to Democrats’ Shell Game on SALT Deduction

After all the talk about how everything was infrastructure, and the reconciliation bill was going to transform America, Democrats are prepared to make the single largest item in the bill the restoration of a tax deduction that primarily benefits the wealthy.

Phil is right that it’s exactly the kind of budget gimmick that Joe Manchin said he wouldn’t stand for. It’s also contrary to what Democrats say they believe about taxes.

No matter what Democrats tell you about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Republicans’ 2017 tax reform, it did result in a tax reduction for Americans throughout income groups and in every congressional district. It also had modest positive effects on economic growth in general. According to the Tax Foundation’s Garrett Watson, a backward-looking study from the CBO in August of this year found that “the TCJA reduced federal tax rates for households across every income level while increasing the share of tax paid by the top 1 percent.” On top of all of that, the TCJA also simplified the tax-filing process by roughly doubling the standard deduction, which means tens of millions fewer Americans need to itemize on their returns.

Democrats can call it a “tax cut for the rich” all they want, but those results are not what you’d get if you were trying to cut taxes for the rich.

Restoring the SALT deduction, on the other hand, is predominantly a tax cut for the rich. The SALT deduction still exists under current law; it is merely capped at $10,000. The vast majority of Americans do not pay more than $10,000 in state and local taxes; therefore, they still receive the full deduction. The Americans who do are mostly wealthy and live in states with high property taxes. Nearly all of the benefit from repealing the SALT cap would go to the top 20 percent of income earners, and 62.5 percent of the benefit would go to the notorious one-percenters, according to a different analysis from Watson.

Howard Gleckman from the progressive Tax Policy Center wrote last week that Democrats’ SALT cap plans “may be Congress’s worst tax idea of the year.” His center’s analysis finds that the top 1 percent of households, i.e., those making $824,000 per year or more, would get a tax cut of about $35,000 in 2022. For the middle class, only 4 percent would get any cut at all, and it would average about $20.

According to press reports, not only will Democrats restore the SALT deduction, but they will make it retroactive. That means the IRS will be forgoing revenue it was planning to collect from high-income taxpayers at exactly the same time Democrats claim they want the IRS to crack down on high-income taxpayers for dodging taxes they already owe.

Democrats made this announcement while everyone’s attention is focused on Virginia, and it makes sense why. Restoring the SALT deduction undermines everything they claim to believe about taxation and makes their past attacks on Republicans look even more off-base than they already were.

U.S.

‘The Drift’

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Our friend Kevin Hassett’s new book, The Drift: Stopping America’s Slide to Socialism, is now out. Kevin is a brilliant and endlessly interesting guy who had a front-row seat to the making of economic and pandemic policy during much of the Trump administration. I have long profited from his insights, and I’m confident you will, too, if you pick up a copy of The Drift wherever fine books are sold or downloaded.

Elections

Expect an Early McAuliffe Lead Tonight

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The polls close at 7 p.m. across Virginia tonight, although people still on line may be casting ballots after that. Antonio Olivo and Lenny Bronner of the Washington Post explain why we may see a large lead for Terry McAuliffe once the first returns begin to come in:

Most election officials will begin posting the tallies for absentee ballot tallies first, most likely shortly after polls close at 7 p.m. That is largely due to a law passed by the General Assembly this year that requires election officials to begin preprocessing absentee ballots — or confirming their validity and then scanning them into a voting machine — at least seven days before Election Day. Last year, election officials didn’t begin processing the bulk of their absentee ballots until after polls closed, resulting in long delays in reporting those results. As a result, the first ballots counted were in-person votes cast on Election Day — only 40 percent of all votes cast — which favored Trump…As a result, McAuliffe might have a lead early in the night. Youngkin could catch-up in the vote count once localities start counting Election Day ballots because generally Republican-friendly rural localities tend to count day-of ballots faster than urban ones. Whether Youngkin is able to maintain his lead will depend on how many Election Day votes McAuliffe will have outstanding in the urban localities . . .

Elections

Trafalgar Adds to Bullish Expectations for Republicans Tonight

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Then Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin gives a thumbs up to the crowd during a campaign event in Leesburg, Va., November 1, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

All signs in public polling are pointing to a strong night for Republicans in the headline races, though still possibly one full of agonizing disappointments. Trafalgar Group and its chief pollster, Robert Cahaly, have made their name in the 2016, 2018, and 2020 cycles by finding surges of Republican voters that other pollsters didn’t see, but who ended up turning out. As with any pollster in this uncertain business in this volatile era, Trafalgar has missed its share of shots, but it has earned credibility for a number of calls that others weren’t making. On the upside, Cahaly was nearly alone in seeing Donald Trump’s surge in Pennsylvania and other Midwestern states in 2016. In 2020, he projected a Trump victory in many of those same states, and was alone projecting John James to win in Michigan. But even if the final outcomes were off, Trafalgar nailed Florida, and came closer to the margins than many of the pollsters who had Joe Biden winning but by much bigger spreads. As Jim Geraghty summarized the day after the 2020 election:

The polling was largely wrong. Robert Cahaly of Trafalgar is now a superstar and deserves to be. The entire polling industry — to the extent the polling industry survives this — must now grapple with the ramifications of this comment from Cahaly in his interview with Rich:

One is the number of questions on its surveys. “I don’t believe in long questionnaires,” Cahaly says. “I think when you’re calling up Mom or Dad on a school night, and they’re trying to get the kids dinner and get them to bed, and that phone rings at seven o’clock — and they’re supposed to stop what they’re doing and take a 25- to 30-question poll? No way.”

Why does that matter? “You end up disproportionately representing the people who will like to talk about politics, which is going to skew toward the very, very conservative and the very, very liberal and the very, very bored, “Cahaly explains. “And the kind of people that win elections are the people in the middle. So I think they miss people in the middle when they do things that way.”

In late August, Trafalgar was ahead of the pack projecting a tightening race in Virginia, and whether or not Glenn Youngkin can close the deal, we definitely appear to have a much more competitive Republican ticket in Virginia than most political observers thought in August.

Trafalgar has the final poll in the RealClearPolitics average in both the Virginia and New Jersey races. In Virginia, the final Trafalgar poll showing Youngkin up by 2 points (49–47) is in line with the average (Youngkin +1.7). Three polls showing an essentially tied race were followed by three final polls that all had Youngkin winning — Fox News had Youngkin +8 (53–45), and FOX 5 DC/InsiderAdvantage had Youngkin +2 as well (47–45). In Virginia, at least, Trafalgar is not far out on a limb.

I previously detailed the alarming news for Democrats in the crosstabs of Virginia polls that show how different groups vote. A warning: Opinion polls seek to use a large enough sample to get an accurate picture of the electorate. How different groups within that sample are voting is a less reliable, more volatile matter, because the samples are smaller, so individual polls can more easily be wrong. For example, Trafalgar’s reported sample of 1,081 likely Virginia voters is 4.7 percent Hispanic, which is maybe 51 people. That said, the crosstabs from Trafalgar add to the startling picture seen in other polls. Trafalgar sees Youngkin up by 40 points with independents (69–29); Fox has Youngkin up 22 with independents (56–34). (Insider Advantage also has Youngkin with a significant lead with independents.) Like an earlier Emerson poll, Trafalgar shows Youngkin winning Hispanic voters, and not by a little, but by 30 points (65–35). Even allowing that the small size of that sample may be less reliable than the overall picture, it is a trend that has popped up in enough polls to be more than a fluke.

Perhaps just as interesting for poll and trend watchers, if frustrating for Republican partisans, Trafalgar’s final New Jersey poll sees Phil Murphy’s lead cut to 4 points (49–45) despite an electorate that it projects as 47 percent Democrats and 29 percent Republicans. I’ve noted previously the signs of tightening in that race, and Murphy — who won by 14 four years ago — leads by just under 8 points (51–43) in the final poll average. Only Trafalgar and Emerson project this as closer than an 8-point race. Nobody is projecting an upset win for Jack Ciattarelli, and New Jersey’s suburb-dominated electorate has fewer of the sorts of voters that Trafalgar has found that others missed in other states, but if the margins are closer to a 4–6 point race even in New Jersey, chalk that up as a win for Trafalgar and a sign of very bad things to come for Democrats.