The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Conservatism Is Doing Just Fine, Thank You Very Much

A man waves an American flag during the Independence Day parade in Barnstable, Mass., in 2016. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Conservative ideas and policies are doing just fine beyond the nation’s capital, but many political observers are too Washington-focused and Trump obsessed to notice; Bill Clinton offers a statement about Jeffrey Epstein that doesn’t add up; the Washington Post theorizes that Kirsten Gillibrand is too boring to be president.

Once You Look Beyond the Beltway, Conservatism Is Thriving

Once again, much of the day’s news is about what was said about President Trump, and how he reacted. The U.K. ambassador Sir Kim Darroch declared in a secret cable, “For a man who has risen to the highest office on the planet, President Trump radiates insecurity.” Trump reacted to it by publicly announcing he would no longer deal at all with the ambassador at all, and that the ambassador is “not liked or well-thought of in the U.S.”

Underneath the fold, the news is about what was said about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and how she reacted. Nancy Pelosi declared of representatives Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan that “all these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world but they didn’t have any following.” Ocasio-Cortez fumed on Twitter that “having respect for ourselves doesn’t mean we lack respect for her. It means we won’t let everyday people be dismissed.”

These days, covering Washington is like covering the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry. “Did you hear what she said about you? You gonna take that? What are you donna do about that, dog?”

Meanwhile, over in the realm of actual governing, the Morning Consult polling company has been measuring the popularity of every governor in the country once a quarter for several years now. There hasn’t been much movement in the rankings during that time. Most cycles, the top-ten most popular governors in the country are all Republicans, and they’re mostly relatively obscure ones. The January rankings featured:

Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts (72 percent approval), Larry Hogan of Maryland (68 percent), Kay Ivey of Alabama (63 percent) and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire (60 percent) — each of whom was comfortably re-elected in November — checking in at Nos. 1-4 for the third quarter in a row. Matt Mead of Wyoming and Phil Scott of Vermont came back into the top 10, placing fifth and sixth . . . Govs. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Greg Abbott of Texas rounded out the GOP representatives in the seventh, eighth and ninth slots.

Once you go past the top ten, you find Pete Ricketts of Nebraska at 12, Doug Burgham at 14, Henry McMaster of South Carolina at 15, Gary Herbert of Utah at 16, Phil Bryant of Mississippi at 17. Numbers 11 and 13 in the January poll were outgoing GOP governors. Sixteen of the 17 most popular governors in the country were Republicans!

By and large, people feel satisfied with their government, at least at the state level, in those places. Some of those states, such as Wyoming, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, seem pretty red, but Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont certainly aren’t. Some political observers might argue that Baker and Hogan aren’t particularly conservative by the standards of the national Republican party. (I compared Hogan to a hockey or soccer goalie, who mostly blocks bad ideas from Democrats in the state legislature from becoming law.)

The relative obscurity of these governors might be a factor in how voters in their states perceive them. Hogan was occasionally mentioned as a primary challenger to Trump but that never caught much momentum, and he eventually announced he wasn’t interested. Abbott is periodically mentioned as a potential GOP presidential candidate down the road, but that wouldn’t be until 2024 at the earliest. With no national media to court and no grander ambitions to serve, these guys and gals mostly . . . just govern. Some of them support and try to enact policies that are explicitly conservative; guys like Baker and Hogan act as a conservative check on more liberal state legislators.

Meanwhile, this occurs as we’re told by The Economist that conservatism is “fighting for its life against reactionary nationalism,” we’re told by Fareed Zakaria that that “American conservatism failed,” and we’re told by Newsweek that “American conservatism can’t survive Donald Trump.” If nothing else, this reveals that those assessing the state of conservatism as a political movement have an obsessive mono-focus on Washington, D.C. and the federal government.

Sixteen states passed sizable tax cuts in 2018, cutting taxes by an estimated collective $1.7 billion. With the economy booming and tax revenues rising even with the cuts in place, states are being more cautious about borrowing moneyCivil-asset forfeiture laws are being repealed in more states, meaning the police can no longer seize your property without charging you with a crime. Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor signed a bipartisan occupational-licensing reciprocity bill into law. State-level efforts to expand Medicaid to cover more people are moving more slowly than Democrats expected: “In almost every state where Medicaid expansion had a chance of passing, the effort faltered.” (Face it, to most of the national media, the only state laws that are interesting are the legalization of marijuana and abortion laws.)

The thing is, keeping track of what laws are passing at the state level takes effort and it’s much easier to write about who said what about Trump and Ocasio-Cortez and how they’re lashing out. And when that’s often what you pay attention to most weeks, of course it looks like conservatism is dying, failing, breathing its last breaths, and so on . . .

I Guess This Is Another One of those ‘The Definition of Is’ Situations

Bill Clinton issues a statement about accused underage sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein:

In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane: one to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation. Staff, supporters of the Foundation, and his Secret Service detail traveled on every leg of every trip.

That statement does not match previous reporting by Fox News that is based upon flight logs filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Clinton’s presence aboard Jeffrey Epstein’s Boeing 727 on 11 occasions has been reported, but flight logs show the number is more than double that, and trips between 2001 and 2003 included extended junkets around the world with Epstein and fellow passengers identified on manifests by their initials or first names, including “Tatiana.”

Clinton flying aboard Epstein’s plane to such destinations as Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, China, Brunei, London, New York, the Azores, Belgium, Norway, Russia, and Africa.

Official flight logs filed with the Federal Aviation Administration show Clinton traveled on some of the trips with as many as ten U.S. Secret Service agents. However, on a five-leg Asia trip between May 22 and May 25, 2002, not a single Secret Service agent is listed. The U.S. Secret Service has declined to answer multiple Freedom of Information Act requests filed by seeking information on these trips. Clinton would have been required to file a form to dismiss the agent detail, a former Secret Service agent told

In response to a separate FOIA request from, the U.S. Secret Service said it has no records showing agents were ever on the island with Clinton.

You can see the flight logs for yourself here.

Hey, it’s not like Bill Clinton would lie about allegations of scandalous sexual behavior, right?

Over in the Daily Beast:

For almost two decades, for some nebulous reason, whether to do with ties to foreign intelligence, his billions of dollars, or his social connections, Epstein, whose alleged sexual sickness and horrific assaults on women without means or ability to protect themselves is well-known in his circle, remained untouchable.

We learned about Harvey Weinstein not that long ago. Just how many sexual predators are flourishing in the ranks of the wealthy and powerful?

Is Boredom Really Kirsten Gillibrand’s Problem?

Over at the Washington Post, Anna Peele diagnoses what ails Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign: “it has become unforgivable to be boring.” Eh, maybe. Peele’s article mentions Hillary Clinton twice, but maybe Gillibrand’s candidacy offers Democrats a figure just a little too close to the previous Democratic nominee who lost to Trump: politically connected family, top schools, hard-charging lawyer, New York senator, political career built on relatively centrist positions and rapidly moving to the Left to catch up with the grassroots of her party. Gillibrand’s the type-A, ambitious, super-driven woman that makes the “Tracy Flick” comparisons inevitable, and she might have been better off embracing her true nature rather than hide them with a faux-modest “as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own” tone.

ADDENDUM: Fifty-six reader reviews! Each time I mention this in the Jolt, it seems to spur a few more to leave their thoughts — and believe me, this is a big help. Plus, it is enormously reassuring to see praise from non-relatives.

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