The Weekend Jolt

National Review

With Ballots Toward One, With Chicanery for All

Dear Weekend Jolter,

A deserving anniversary — that being the 400th of the Mayflower Compact — gets little attention, an exception being Joseph Loconte’s excellent NR piece. 1619 obstructs 1620. We’ll have none of that though, so let us recall that The Mayflower was the scene of an exceptional act:

The Mayflower Pilgrims, as they came to be called, were committed to “the advancement of the Christian faith” and designed and signed their compact “in the presence of God.” But no one seemed to have a theocracy in mind; rather, they sought to form “a civil body politic.” Importantly, their new political community would be framed by “just and equal laws” — laws that would apply without discrimination to all their members. Here, at the very beginning of the American story, one can discern the concepts of equal justice and government by consent of the governed.

What has come of this legacy? Of this momentous thing that lit the long fuse that exploded in 1776? At the end of another excellent NR piece, Victor Davis Hanson has an unnerving summary of America’s trajectory:

We are a third-world state now with malleable laws, an inert Constitution, voting that cannot be certified beyond a reasonable doubt within a reasonable time, with a media that massages rather than reports the news, and pollsters who seek to modulate rather than reflect likely voting.

Let us gird our loins. But before we do, be aware that so much more excellence awaits below. Do remember the new drill: Short and sweet, just the links, at the outset, then, further down, big ladles of tasty fare.

The Appetizers

So say The Editors, Joe’s gotta know: Brief Biden.

Victor Davis Hanson is reminded of Arnhem: An Election Day Bridge Too Far.

Rich Lowry says Democrats were obtuse to their agenda’s unpopularity: The Blue Trickle.

More Lowry, on a bad idea: The Completely Insane Electoral College Strategy.

Andy McCarthy thinks the operation was a success, but as for the surgeon . . . : A Successful Presidency, a Maddening President.

Tobias Hoonout on a billionaire’s strategy flop: The Failure of Mike Bloomberg’s Data-Driven Approach.

More Tobias, profiling a doozie of a Fifth Estatist: Isaac Chotiner, the Least Curious Journalist in America.

Jim Geraghty shakes the MSM’s busted Magic 8 Ball: Did Campaign Coverage Ever Suggest the Senate GOP Would Have a Good Year?

Michael Brendan Dougherty registers disgust with the unholy ways of Holy Mother Church: The McCarrick Whitewash.

More MBD, on Lefty projecting: The Final Act.

Zachary Evans on whether people will jooze an unangelic Democrat: Raphael Warnock’s Checkered Past Under Scrutiny ahead of Georgia Senate Run-Off.

Andrew Stuttaford on the leftward ho Tory PM: Nanny Boris Johnson, Censor and Food Policeman.

Joseph Loconte reminds us of that great thing the Pilgrims wrought. Resisting the Leviathan: The Mayflower Compact.

David Harsanyi makes the case for grievances: Against ‘Unity’.

Dan McLaughlin says to figure Joe, look at Grover: Republicans Can Learn from the 1892 Election.

Cameron Hilditch on failure to communicate, not: Trump’s Greatest Innovation.

Ramesh Ponnuru fills in a blank: A Missing Part of a Pro-Worker Agenda.

Fred Bauer says you can’t spell GOP without ABE. Returning to the Party of Lincoln.

Steve Hanke takes the temperature of the Sick Man of Europe: Turmoil in Turkey.

Armond White calls out the wanna-GLAAD Awardees: In Ammonite, Artistry Competes with a Demand for Allyship

More Armond, castigating silver-screen high-fiving of election fraud: America Assembled Epitomizes Hollywood Political Junk.

Peter Tonguette reflects on Ian Fleming’s 007: James Bond in Literature and Cinema: A Retrospective.

Madeleine Kearns ain’t liking the new Rebecca: Last Night I Dreamed I Watched a Better Movie.

And then from Special Post-Election Issue of NR

Rich Lowry checks the battle maps of our political culture war: The Promise and Peril of Trump’s Cultural Politics.

Matthew Continetti labels the Dem leaders: Schumer and Pelosi Are Bourbon Democrats.

John J. Miller sees no room in the Democrat Inn for defenders of the unborn: Dan Lipinski and the Decline of Pro-Life Democrats.

Charles C. W. Cooke checks out the MSM’s centrality to the Biden effort: Biden’s Media Campaign.

John McCormack on the Blue Wave that wasn’t: The Democrats’ Shortfalls in Congressional Elections.

Before We Get to The Full-Figured Links . . .

We propose two items of interest. One ifs that the Godfather of the WJ, Big Jim Geraghty, has penned a new “Dangerous Clique” novel, titled “Hunting Four Horsemen.” Your Humble Correspondent has ordered a copy — it comes out next week — and recommends the same. Here is the Amazon link.

The second item: Notre Dame University Press is publishing the English-language edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Between Two Millstones, Book 2, Exile in America, 1978-1994. NR will be publishing some excerpts from this literary triumph next week, but in the meanwhile, the great Daniel Mahoney, who has written the book’s foreword, joined Ignat Solzhenitsyn and ND professor Carter Snead for an excellent Zoom discussion of the memoir. Watch it here.

Editorials

1. He could be President come January. We argue Biden deserves the national security briefings. From the editorial:

Nothing is normal or uncontested in 2020. But it now seems all but certain that the initial state vote counts will conclude with Joe Biden having enough votes in enough states to claim well over the required 270 electoral votes. Donald Trump contests the legitimacy of these vote totals, but even taking the view most favorable to the president’s position, it would require an event unprecedented in American history to overturn them. As a matter of simple prudence, it is wise for everyone to plan as if Biden has a significant likelihood of being inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States at noon on January 20, 2021.

The most essential step to plan for that possibility is to begin giving Biden daily intelligence briefings, so he can be up-to-speed and ready to assume the role of commander in chief on January 20. There is precedent for this. In 2000, as the recount dragged on, the Clinton administration resisted treating George W. Bush as president-elect. Al Gore, then the vice president, was already receiving regular intelligence briefings. In early December — a month after the election, but a week before the Supreme Court brought the legal challenges to an end — the Clinton administration relented and began giving Bush the regular briefings being received by Gore and Bill Clinton. This was not a concession of the recount fight, but a responsible, if belated, recognition of reality. The 9/11 Commission later noted that the delayed transition as a whole “hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees.”

A Dozen and Then Some Nuggets of Intellectual Gold, Mined for Your Mind

1. Victor Davis Hanson sees voter concerns over election irregularities as being eminently justified. From the essay:

Still, half of the American people might not be so angry had just one state — as Florida in 2000 — failed to deliver a final, transparent, and timely tally.

But by 2020, we had 20 years to learn from Florida’s endless days of recounting and warped chad auditing. Although the suspicious circumstances were different — this time state executives and judges changed the state voter laws to enhance mail-in balloting in a way inconsistent with the Constitution’s directives — states were nonetheless courting the same disaster of delays, popular outrage, and inconsistent rules of counting and certification.

Now two decades later, Americans, in third-world fashion, suffered five Floridas — Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — all of which for some reason could not produce a transparent result on Election Day or in the hours shortly after. All had been warned that in some cases new computer voting systems, or in other cases radical transformations to mail-in voting, or in all cases insufficient awareness to transparency might once again provoke popular distrust. And in addition, a deadlocked Supreme Court ignored clear warnings that state judges and executives were overruling constitutionally mandated legislative laws of voting.

So the public is mystified that the center of global high tech; the bastion of transparency and civil rights; the birthplace of the computer, the Internet, and automatic voting; home of the $4-trillion Silicon Valley masters of the universe; and the nation that vowed never again to suffer another 2000 has again failed.

A nation whose tech wizardry can ferret out a single improper tweet and block an individual account in a nation of 330 million surely can use such omnipresence to ensure a nearly instantaneous voting result in certified machines. Or is the opposite true? Precisely because of that scary omnipotence, we need to be ever more vigilant?

2. Obtuse Democrats, says Rich Lowry, did not realize the unpopularity of their agenda. From the piece:

Biden clearly owes his victory (which President Donald Trump, of course, is still contesting) in large part to Trump’s personal unpopularity. In races where the president wasn’t on the ballot, in contrast, the weakness of the Democratic Party stood exposed and it paid the price.

If the former vice president succeeded in making the presidential race a referendum on Trump, Republicans succeeded in making House races, in effect, a referendum on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the woke socialism that animates Democratic activists and draws so much attention. (Nancy Pelosi posed for a cover of Rolling Stone with members of the Squad, and Ocasio-Cortez is on the cover of the latest issue of Vanity Fair.)

Bolstered by the media, Democrats were so certain they were riding the tide of history to inevitable pickups in the House that they didn’t pause to take note of the unpopularity of their agenda and the left of their party.

Republicans took the socialist label and hung it around the neck of Democrats. It was especially devastating in South Florida, where voters from Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia came to the United States to flee socialism and have no interest in voting for anyone whose party includes outright socialists. Republicans knocked out incumbent Democratic representatives Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in heavily Hispanic districts.

3. More Lowry: The notion that state legislatures will appoint electors in defiance of vote outcomes is completely insane. From the piece:

In the Florida vote controversy in 2000, the Florida legislature considered appointing electors when it looked as though, amid all the contention and rival court rulings, that the state might miss the deadline for filing electors.

State legislatures acting in the current context would be an extraordinary imposition. This scenario presumably involves the courts, first, rejecting Trump’s legal challenges because they lack the requisite evidence. So the vote counts in the key states would stay the same and yet the legislatures would act anyway.

Republicans control the legislatures in these states, and they are subject to pressure from Trump and his supporters, but this would be asking them to defy the will of the people as expressed in a vote that would, by this time, have been litigated and perhaps recounted and audited.

One can only guess that the political reaction against this would be thermonuclear. This must be one reason why the Republican leader of the state senate in Pennsylvania, Jake Corman, has so far been steadfast in saying the legislature is not going down this route.

4. It Is Certain: Jim Geraghty shook the MSM’s busted Magic 8 Ball, which always answered in the negative when asked if the GOP would have good prospects in the Senate. From the analysis:

In today’s environment, a perception of impending sweeping Democratic Senate wins is shaped by campaign consultants who want their clients to be covered as winners, reporters who are inclined to cover Democratic candidates as winners, and by pollsters who badly misjudge the electorate in ways that make Democratic candidates look like big winners.

The 500 most influential voices who shape the narrative about campaigns and elections are overwhelmingly psychologically, emotionally, politically, and perhaps even financially invested in the success of the Democratic Party. There are simply too few voices who dispute the narrative of impending Democratic landslides. When someone like Robert Cahaly of the Trafalgar Group polling firm comes along with survey data that run counter to that narrative, he is mocked, dismissed, and repudiated. Thus, much campaign coverage turns into wish-casting; at least once a cycle, a Great Southern Democratic Hope is covered with great hype and predictably disappointing election results.

At some point, in the not-too-distant future, you will probably see some mainstream national publication with a glowing profile of Jon Ossoff or Raphael Warnock or both, declaring that they are generating unprecedented enthusiasm and excitement in Georgia. You may even see a comparison to young Barack Obama. You will probably see polls that show the Democrats either leading or quite competitive.

5. Jooze news: As Zachary Evans reports, Raphael Warnock, the Democrat in one of the Georgia senate run-offs, seems to have a problem with our brothers and sisters in Abraham. From the article:

Over the past week, Loeffler and Republican groups have focused attention on controversies from Warnock’s past, including his ties to a number of radical black theologians and an allegation of domestic violence.

Warnock has expressed support for Reverend Jeremiah Wright, President Obama’s former pastor, who has been criticized for anti-Semitic remarks, including a now-famous sermon in which Wright proclaimed “God damn America,” and, in a separate incident, said that the U.S. government created AIDS to kill African Americans.

Wright’s “God damn America” remarks were “extracted from its theological and rhetorical context and looped to the point of ad nauseam,” Warnock said in remarks to the Yale Divinity School in 2013. According to Warnock, Wright’s sermon was consistent with “Black prophetic preaching,” in which “preachers are expected, indeed encouraged to speak the truth, tell Pharaoh and tell it like it is with clarity, creativity and passion.”

About six months into President Obama’s first term, Wright blamed Jews for not letting him speak to the president.

“Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me,” Wright told the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. in June 2009. “They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is.”

Loeffler earlier this week accused Warnock of defending Wright’s anti-Semitic comments, which Warnock denied.

6. Unholy Mackerel: Michael Brendan Dougherty finds the Vatican’s McCarrick Report most disturbing, and gutless. From the commentary:

Hundreds of other little threads are left unexplored. How was it that experts on clerical sexual abuse knew and spoke openly about McCarrick’s reputation as creepy “Uncle Teddy” back in 2006, and McCarrick was fending off lawsuits throughout that decade, but the future cardinal living with him claimed, implausibly, to have no knowledge of anything beyond what he terms sordid rumors? The idea is ludicrous for anyone with the most passing familiarity with the culture of gossip among Catholic priests. And yet, that same cardinal is set to be in charge of the next conclave? What was it about John Paul II and figures such as McCarrick and Marcial Maciel, both prodigious fundraisers and obvious liars?

Why was McCarrick — so well-known for his reputation — living at a seminary in his retirement? Why was he one day hastily moved out into another parish rectory? What exactly did Cardinal Donald Wuerl, then archbishop of Washington, D.C., know? What about the multiple houses on the Jersey shore? Why did Vatican inquiries into seminaries during these decades not uncover the widespread culture of sexual license and abuse in many of them, which anyone who talks to churchmen knows about, and which is the subject of salacious books, and the bleedingly obvious reason for the dropout of many candidates for the priesthood?

How did it all work?

But that gets to the error behind the report. What is “institutional knowledge” and “decision-making”? The report is a kind of prophylactic against a real investigation. Instead of confessing to the Church the sins of its leaders with a degree of candor and humiliation, the report tells outsiders, if you looked at these selected documents, this is the most you could possibly prove against us. Ultimately, the report itself is a kind of moral heresy.

7. More MBD: The fever dreams and fantasies of the Left get neatly summarized. From the piece:

And why should these claimed beliefs of Trump supporters trouble us? A similar YouGov poll in 2018 found that 66 percent of Democrats believed that Russia had altered the vote tallies in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (This is not true, and such a story was promoted only by people on the fringe.) That finding troubled no one. Extremism experts did not appear to talk about how loose talk of Russian conspiracies was undermining our democracy. Nobody did soul-searching about their loose fascism accusations after Donald Trump’s election when a Bernie Sanders fan tried to shoot congressional Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s statements that Donald Trump is an “illegitimate president” are hand-waved away. Why?

Because our expert class operates on the unstated premise that Republican voters are suggestible slack-jawed psychopathic killers waiting to be activated by careless presidential statements. The congressional baseball shooter is an exception to Democratic peacefulness. Republican-associated violence is held to be emblematic. That’s why everyone jumped to blame Sarah Palin for the shooting of Gabby Giffords, but nobody in the mainstream blamed the SPLC for the shooting at the Family Research Council.

This style of politics makes Republicans and conservatives into the kind of caricature that Democrats accuse Republicans of holding against foreign Muslims. In this view, Republicans are blindly religious, authoritarian, poorly educated, and violent. Strict political monitoring and intervention against their activity is therefore justified.

The truth about Trump is that his tweets and weak election lawsuits aren’t a coup aimed at overturning the American order; they are a ploy to pay down campaign debts and build interest in his future endeavors in media. Progressives may view conservatives as his mark. When he leaves the office of presidency, progressives will be glad to see him go, but they will miss the fantasy of treating his supporters as collaborators and fifth columnists.

8. The Mayflower Compact turns 400. Joseph Loconte reminds us of its historical greatness. From the piece:

The long, miserable journey across the Atlantic did not create a unified body of pious believers. Bradford saw trouble brewing when “several strangers made discontented and mutinous speeches.” Because they had landed hundreds of miles north of their destination in Virginia — outside of the territory under charter by King James I — the colonists did not have a clear understanding of what laws would guide them. They faced the real possibility that factionalism would destroy their community.

Yet their differences impelled them to reach for a radical solution to hold the company together. The Mayflower passengers decided that their freedom and security would not depend upon an all-powerful Leviathan. It would depend upon their ability to govern themselves, to submit to laws that they themselves had written. The Mayflower Compact, signed on November 11, 1620, broke ranks with English political theory and practice, in which unelected monarchs issued decrees and ruled by divine right.

The Mayflower Pilgrims, as they came to be called, were committed to “the advancement of the Christian faith” and designed and signed their compact “in the presence of God.” But no one seemed to have a theocracy in mind; rather, they sought to form “a civil body politic.” Importantly, their new political community would be framed by “just and equal laws” — laws that would apply without discrimination to all their members. Here, at the very beginning of the American story, one can discern the concepts of equal justice and government by consent of the governed.

9. David Harsanyi says politics is the forum for airing grievances, not singing Kumbaya. From the piece:

Time magazine, the same publication that helped erode trust in our electoral system with conspiratorial covers of the White House morphing into the Kremlin, now offers a commemorative cover featuring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with the words, “A time to heal.” Unlike some of our progressive friends, I don’t believe in enemies lists or censorship, so my healing process is simple: It involves playing whatever small part I can in extinguishing the political fortunes of those who want to weaken the Constitution. I’m not at all interested in finding accord with those who want to overturn the Hyde amendment, thereby making late-term abortion a state-funded practice, or with anyone who wants to “reengage” without any genuine preconditions with Holocaust-denying terror regimes such as Iran, or with anyone who wants to further socialize our health-care system by adding a “public option.” Like many others, I find disunity quite therapeutic.

I suspect that, in a few weeks, “political polarization” will once again become an existential crisis of American governance. My favorite post-election headline came from the social scientists at Pew Research Center, who informed us that the “2020 election reveals two broad voting coalitions fundamentally at odds.” Two broad coalitions, you say? Fundamentally at odds? What are the chances?

Michelle Obama says we can overcome our divisions, but that Democrats must first remember “that tens of millions of people voted for the status quo, even when it meant supporting lies, hate, chaos, and division.” She suggests that there is “a lot of work to do to reach out to these folks in the years ahead and connect with them on what unites us.” It’s somewhat difficult to process this level of obnoxious sanctimony. Here is a list of demands you divisive Republicans must embrace for the country to “unite.” Get on with it.

10. Boris Johnson proves himself to be the biggest phony since Y2K. Andrew Sullivan nails the Nanny PM. From the piece:

I would call British prime minister Boris Johnson a disappointment, but that seems rather harsh on the word “disappointment.” He’s botched Brexit, he’s botched COVID, and with his uncosted and unworkable fantasy of transforming the U.K. into a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, he will make it even more difficult for the U.K. to recover from the losses created by his earlier blunders.

But he has managed, with a little help from Rubio-style Tories, the Left, ancient obiter dicta, and an entertainingly disreputable past to preserve the idea that he is some sort of libertarian, no small achievement for someone who hymns FDR, is apparently excited to work with Biden on climate change, has crushed civil liberties in the name of his (failed) COVID policy, and is planning to impose a draconian censorship regime on social media.

But sometimes it’s the smaller things that give a politician away. I may have voted for Mike Bloomberg for mayor of New York City (or, more accurately, against his opponents), but his policing (or attempted policing) of what or where people ate, drank, or smoke revealed him to be someone with no proper sense of where the state should stop interfering in people’s private decisions, big or small. Nothing I have seen in Bloomberg’s subsequent career has made me rethink that view.

And so it is with Johnson.

11. Andrew McCarthy is disappointed by the outcome, but not surprised that the maddening ways of the President lead to it. From the piece:

An unpopular president’s surest first step to becoming a reelected president is the realization that he has a lot of work to do with the public, especially with convince-ables willing to give him a chance — which is a lot of people, because most Americans are not hardcore partisans; they like to like their president. Such self-awareness spurred Richard Nixon to reelection in one of American history’s biggest actual landslide victories — in the Electoral College and by every other measure.

Donald Trump never could go there. He was under siege more than he deserved to be, but he brought a great deal of it on himself by gratuitously punching down at non-entities he should have ignored. Just as important, when troubles came, and they came in waves, he would recede into the comfort of his adoring base. They made excuses for his every foible, spun his errors as the shrewd maneuvering of a master businessman, and never demanded that he clean up his act. To the contrary, they found the act irresistible, just as he found his place at the center of the world’s attention irresistible — whether commanding attention for good or bad reasons.

President Trump did many good things. The constitutionalist overhaul of the federal judiciary will be his great legacy, especially if a President Biden revives Obama-era “pen and phone” governance. Trump has shown that the U.S. economy still roars when government removes suffocating regulation, and that its growth can be a boon to Americans at the ladder’s lower rungs. He has given Republicans a workable template for appealing to black and Hispanic Americans. He has reshaped policy toward China in a way more realistic for dealing with a hostile competitor. He has marginalized the Iranian menace and reoriented Middle Eastern policy, achieving peace pacts that were once inconceivable. He has been unabashedly pro-life (and was I ever wrong in thinking this was just a 2016 campaign pose). He has shown Republicans that the culture war is worth fighting without apology, rather than surrendering bit by bit.

12. Dan McLaughlin whips out the colored markers and the history books and suggests conservatives look to the Election of 1892 for guidance. From the essay:

The 1892 election seemed to be the unraveling of a party that had lost its way and would need a fresh start. Instead, it proved to be quite the opposite. Grover Cleveland’s second term turned out to be neither the harbinger of a Democratic dynasty, nor the transition to a new Democratic generation. Cleveland was the leader of the “Bourbon Democrats,” a basically conservative, pro-business, small-government, sound-money, free-trade faction. Unlike the Democrats of Jefferson, Jackson, and Calhoun, they were not particularly ideological, which helped hold together an unwieldy coalition built around big-city immigrants and white Southerners. Cleveland understood the nature of that coalition; as far back as 1866, he had made a name as an attorney in Buffalo offering pro bono representation to Irish radicals who tried to invade and conquer Canada. As leader of the party of the South, he looked the other way at Jim Crow and its many sins.

Cleveland’s misfortune in his second term was the “Panic of 1893,” which began to set in even before he had taken office and led to the worst economic depression in the United States before 1929. Its causes were varied: a cascade of international financial crises that started in France and Argentina, the end of land and railroad booms, American monetary policy that tried to uphold the gold standard during a time of shrinking gold supply while also committing the government to purchase silver, and financial-market mistrust of the Democrats’ free-trade stance. The coming crisis was masked by a bumper harvest in 1891 that coincided with crop failures in Europe, giving the economy a temporary infusion of hard currency that dried up by the end of 1892.

In the hard times that followed the Panic of 1893, the left-wing economic movement of the Populist Party took over the Democrats. Their leader was a young member of Congress, first elected at age 30 during the 1890 midterm wave: William Jennings Bryan. Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bryan was a rabble-rousing orator who tormented the party leadership. He endorsed Weaver rather than Cleveland in 1892. He fought Cleveland over the gold standard, and got the first peacetime income tax in American history passed as a legislative amendment (the Supreme Court threw it out a year later). He ran for the Senate two years into Cleveland’s second term and lost, but launched himself on a speaking tour that made him a bigger star out of office than in. In 1896, at age 36, he became the Democratic nominee, the youngest major-party nominee in American history. He would win the nomination again in 1900 and 1908.

13. Cameron Hilditch reflects on Trump, the innovative Communications Disrupter. From the piece:

But in spite of the dearth of policy innovation we saw under the Trump presidency, he has been a revolutionary innovator in another area of public life: communication. The president has fundamentally changed the way politicians communicate with voters. Over the course of his presidency, he’s tried to cut out the middleman of media reporting at every opportunity, speaking directly to the voters whenever and wherever possible. His Twitter feed is the most obvious example of this, but he has taken opportunities to expand upon his own control over communications throughout his presidency. Towards the end of the campaign, he brought giant screens with him to rallies in Pennsylvania so voters could watch clips of Joe Biden’s statements about banning fracking. Around the same time, he released his own unedited cut of his 60 Minutes interview in order to head off dishonest or manipulative editing. Time and again during his presidency, Trump went over the heads of the media when he had something to say.

Not to sound more like a Marxist than I absolutely must, but the mainstream media have controlled the means of production of public information for most of the last century. They have been the ones to decide who reads and hears what and why. The benefits of this monopoly were obvious: With only three networks and two national newspapers, Americans had common reference points for every political debate and common forums in which to conduct them. So, too, however, were the drawbacks. This old model concentrated power over the distribution of information in the hands of a few, who were by no means disinterested in the debates they facilitated. Technological advances and the division of labor in mass media have allowed more voices to be heard but have also incentivized parochial and partisan coverage of major issues as Americans retreat into bespoke information siloes.

14. Fred Bauer argues the GOP must return to its Lincoln roots. From the commentary:

Much has been made of the GOP becoming a “working-class party,” but, as of this moment, that is more a wish or a projection than a reality. Especially in urban cores, the Democratic Party often still significantly outperforms Republicans among lower-income voters. In addition, the GOP policy apparatus has not yet unified behind a cohesive “working-class” agenda. The Trump administration itself embodied — in Daniel McCarthy’s words — a “political cyborg,” fusing populist gestures with conventional corporatist policies. While the Trump White House did make some populist adjustments on trade and immigration (albeit via execution action), the signature legislative achievement of his presidency was a fairly conventional tax cut.

Moreover, to secure a governing majority, it seems as though Republicans cannot afford to forfeit entirely their old base of suburbanites (including at least some well-heeled white-collar workers). The independent householder and local gentry class have been at the core of the Republican Party for most of its existence. If it wants to rack up the kind of broad coalition that is essential for enduring political success in the United States, the GOP will have to play across all regions. Susan Collins is an instructive example here. In her successful 2020 race, Collins relied on many rural and working-class counties. But she was also palatable to white-collar suburbanites, winning most of the coastal counties of Maine.

Collins is instructive in another way, too, as she might also demonstrate how a Republican Party can combine populist policies with middle-class outreach. She has been a leading figure for COVID-19 relief on Capitol Hill (an issue many proponents of a more working-class GOP are deeply invested in). She has also been a critic of austerity measures for health-care policy, being a deciding vote against the “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act.

One potential path for an expanded GOP coalition would be locating a political program that addresses the overlap between the concerns of traditional Republican voters and those of the working-class. Both blue- and white-collar voters have anxiety about health care. Indeed, health-care policy was a wedge Democrats used to push suburbanites away from the GOP in 2018. Both feel the bite of rising health-insurance costs, and both fear the vulnerability that comes without having a health-care plan. Efforts to reduce the costs of health care and provide a subsidy backstop for the vulnerable could speak to voters across the income and education spectra.

15. Tobias Hoonout reports on a Mike Bloomberg’s big-bucks strategy flop. From the piece:

What came next was Hawkfish, a Bloomberg-backed firm founded in 2019 by Silicon Valley insiders with the aim of boosting Democrats’ digital efforts. The former New York mayor put the firm to work during his Democratic primary run, spending $100 million to buy up troves of voter databases. And even after Bloomberg’s campaign faltered, Hawkish saw itself as the best way to help Bloomberg achieve his ultimate goal of ensuring a blue wave in 2020.

The firm “argued for a plan where Bloomberg would no longer need the ground operation and consultants, and could scale down to the quants, the engineers and the data teams,” according to a Wired profile.

With a wealth of information at its fingertips, Hawkfish set out to help Democrats in the general election, inking contracts with the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Super PACs American Bridge and Unite the Country.

“Because we have this better raw data set than our competitors do, we’re able to help campaigns make smarter decisions about who they target for voter registration, who they target for persuasion, and then who they target for turnout,” Hawkfish senior consultant Mitch Stewart bragged in August.

But as the dust continues to settle from November 3, Hawkfish’s impact — and Bloomberg’s efforts writ large — appear to have fallen flat.

16. More Tobias: He attends the Media Circus, and finds a particular clown. From the article:

Chotiner’s fixation on the idea that working-class Trump voters are all white supremacists has morphed into an obsession with people like Chris Arnade, author of Dignity, a book profiling working-class Americans. Arnade, a former Wall Street bond trader, left his job and spent several years traveling across the country to meet left-behind communities, talking with and photographing the people he found along the way — in sharp contrast to Chotiner’s preference for talking to fiction authors, NBA players, and high-brow pundits. Arnade’s book is not about politics, in fact most of his subjects express disillusionment at the idea that politics can fix their predicaments, yet Chotiner has tweeted about him no less than 23 times.

“The few times I responded to him early on, to try and engage in what I had hoped was good faith, he would just mock me,” Arnade told National Review, adding that he has yet to receive an invitation from Chotiner to actually talk about the book.

Heading into the election, Chotiner took his theory that Trump’s minuscule support could not be anything but racist and extrapolated it into the idea that Trump would be blown-out in 2020. He published five interviews with election experts — two with mainstream pollsters Dave Wasserman and Nate Cohn, and one with Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics — with predictable lines of questioning.

Cohn and Wasserman got asked things such as whether the Democrats could “compete” in Texas and whether “there is a chance that we over-learn the lessons” of Trump’s 2016 win. Trende? “We don’t really have any evidence that shy Trump voters actually exist, correct?” Chotiner asked, later deriding the concept on Twitter.

A Quartet of Recommendations from the Special Post-Election Issue

The new November 30, 2020 issue gathers 17 insightful articles that try to make sense of the recent election. As is our custom, we here share some links and passages of four pieces. Maybe by the time we finish the fourth, we may add a fifth.

1. Rich Lowry considers the promise and perils of Donald Trump’s cultural politics. From the piece:

Trump flew in the face of the advice of the RNC’s “autopsy” after Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 election, which read like a distillation of the dubious conventional wisdom of the Republican political class — because it was. The autopsy counseled downplaying cultural issues — “when it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming” — and insisted that “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”

The autopsy took it as a given that the Republican Party could succeed — and diversify — only by reaching out to social-moderate voters inclined to support its free-market economics.

Trump turned the advice on its head, finding new working-class white voters in 2016 and making gains among nonwhite voters in 2020.

His electoral coalition is obviously too narrow — he barely eked out a win in 2016 and barely lost in 2020 (barring some extraordinary reversal). But Republicans should take on board the lessons of Trump’s cultural politics and build on what is sound.

First, Trump showed that social conservatives are the strongest part of the Republican coalition (he could cross free-traders and deficit hawks and get away with it, but not pro-lifers) and that the party’s cultural conservatism is more naturally appealing to working-class voters than its economics are.

Next, he demonstrated that the GOP must be the unabashedly anti-woke party. Trump’s fearlessness and anti-PC rhetoric resonated, and for good reason. In 2016, it wasn’t clear why, say, a voter in Wisconsin should have feared political correctness unless he was a member of the University of Wisconsin faculty, but the cancellations over the last year have reached down to ordinary people who have said “the wrong thing” on social media.

2. Matt Continetti sees Schumer and Pelosi as helpless long term with the Jacobin ascendency. From the piece:

How did the Democrats reach this impasse? The party is split between its old guard and a woke social-justice Left whose media celebrity amplifies an agenda that spooks moderates, independents, and Republicans. Suburban and exurban Democrats such as Spanberger and Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin, who also won reelection, are stuck in the middle.

Collectively, the House Democratic leadership is older than the Constitution itself. Nancy Pelosi is 80 years old and has been in charge of House Democrats for 18 years. Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, is 81 years old. And House whip James Clyburn is also 80.

By contrast, the nation’s most famous freshman Democrat, socialist representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, is 31. Her three fellow far-left “Squad” members are all under 50. They’ll soon be joined by “Squad 2.0,” which includes Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush of Missouri, who is 44, Jamaal Bowman of New York, who is also 44, and Mondaire Jones of New York, who is 33.

Pelosi has catered to the Left to insulate herself from a leadership challenge. Her reluctance to take on the Squad led to two miscalculations that cost the Democrats seats. The first was impeachment. It was the goal of the so-called Resistance since before Donald Trump took office. In 2019, when she became speaker for the second time, Pelosi authorized her committee chairs to launch the “subpoena cannon” and investigate the Trump administration relentlessly. Then, after the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was revealed that September, she allowed impeachment to proceed.

3. John Miller reports on the end of Dan Lipisnki’s career, and what it means for the party of the little guy, but not the littlest guy. From the article:

Lipinski says that when he was a professor at the University of Tennessee in 2004, he received an unexpected phone call from his father, who already had accepted the Democratic nomination to run again for Congress that year. Suddenly, the elder Lipinski wanted to quit. “I decided to jump in,” says the son, who inherited the nomination without the messiness or uncertainty of a primary. This transfer of office reeked of Chicago’s machine-style politics, but also presented a problem for the new pol: “It put an extra burden on me to prove that I could be a good representative,” he says. “Every son wants to outdo his father.”

He was good enough to win that first race in a solidly Democratic district that encompasses the ballpark of the Chicago White Sox but mostly stretches south and west of the city. Six reelections with little more than token opposition followed. “When I first ran, I knew I was pro-life and that I wouldn’t change, but I didn’t run because I was pro-life or make it my issue,” he says. With each election cycle, however, Lipinski saw fewer pro-life Democrats return to Congress. Some bartered away their principles to stay in their party’s mainstream. Others retired or suffered defeat. Amid the attrition, Lipinski started to look like a last man standing: “I wound up becoming the pro-life Democrat.”

It was a matter of conscience, not calculation: “I was first pro-life because as a child that’s what I was taught in church, in Catholic school, and in the home,” he says. “So it starts with my faith, but I also believe science shows that life begins at conception. The DNA is all there. If you truly believe that life begins at conception, you have to protect that life.”

4. The media was the Biden campaign, says Charlie Cooke. From the analysis:

When it couldn’t ignore a given story, the press took on the role of communications director. As soon as it began to look as if Biden’s refusal to disavow Court-packing might hurt him with independents, reporters and pundits alike began to use DSCC-approved euphemisms such as “fix,” “expand,” and “depoliticize,” and to suggest that the real villains were actually the Republicans, who, by having followed the existing Constitution and existing Judiciary Act to a tee, were supposedly guilty of “packing the Court” themselves. This sort of gaslighting was almost endless. From the moment he won the nomination, talking heads on every channel except Fox made sure to pretend that they believed that Biden was a moderate and that his age was of no concern whatsoever. This lasted until the exact moment Biden clinched his general-election victory, at which point the same people began to talk openly about his “bold” progressive agenda and the likelihood that he would soon die. Keen to get in on the action, professional fact-checkers became so obsessed by Trump’s perpetual lying that they seemed unable to comment at all when, during the second presidential debate, Joe Biden managed to match his rival’s mendacity blow for blow. This year, the process of transformation was finally completed. Until recently, the news shows merely featured “political strategists.” In 2020, they absorbed them.

To read through the election-season pieces linked from the RealClearPolitics aggregator each day was to gain a key insight into the coverage writ large. With a few exceptions, the pieces written by the “Right” were instructive and worthwhile, with each making a particular case about some fact of the contest, whereas those written in prestige outlets such as the Times, the Post, CNN, and so forth all said exactly the same thing: that Joe Biden was going to win big because the other side was evil. At times, the whole thing felt like a game of bizarre one-upmanship. After the vice-presidential debate, which Mike Pence handily won, Gayle King and Steve Schmidt took turns on CBS explaining that the fly that had landed on Pence was “a mark of the devil.” Nothing but elementary professionalism seemed beyond the press’s reach.

5. John McCormack can’t find the Blue Wave, but can find the reasons why it didn’t happen. From the piece:

A lot of attention has been given by the press to one kook who will join the ranks of the House GOP caucus: Marjorie Taylor Greene, who promoted deranged conspiracy theories in the past, defeated a neurosurgeon in a GOP primary in deep-red northwest Georgia this summer.

But the GOP candidates who took over Democratic seats are impressive individuals — all of whom happen to belong to racial minorities, be veterans, or be women (sometimes representing more than one of those demographics).

Outside of Charleston, S.C., Republican Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, took back a seat from incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham.

In Oklahoma City, Republican state senator Stephanie Bice became the first Iranian American elected to Congress, defeating Democrat Kendra Horn.

In New York City, assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, the daughter of Greek and Cuban immigrants, won the Staten Island district represented by Democrat Max Rose.

In Southern California, Orange County Board of Supervisors chair­woman Michelle Steel, who is Korean American, flipped a district from blue to red. Young Kim, the first Korean-American Repub­li­can elected to the state legislature, also appeared on track to win a Demo­cratic district that straddles Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

While it wasn’t enough for a House majority, the GOP gains in the suburbs — where the party suffered a bloodbath in 2018 — were enough to spook Democrats such as Virginia’s Spanberger, who represents a district outside of Richmond and narrowly hung on.

Capital Matters, Indeed It Does

1.  Alexander William Salter contemplates Elon Musk’s longings for our Red Planet neighbor and the space in between. From the article:

Viewed in this light, it’s clear Musk isn’t initiating some plot to dominate the solar system. Instead, he’s taking the very prudent step of recognizing that international space law is largely undeveloped and anticipating the kinds of governance arrangements that can help mankind become an interplanetary species. Obviously, any extraterrestrial settlement will require a much thicker set of rules governing natural and juridical persons than the narrow “shalts” and “shalt nots” in the Outer Space Treaty. Private entities — yes, even for-profit businesses — will necessarily be important constitutional entrepreneurs in space.

Recent years have seen a number of exciting developments with respect to private activity in outer space. There are serious discussions at the national and international levels about the feasibility of space-property rights, and recent congressional legislation and executive orders have had a decidedly pro-celestial commerce bent. We’re finally getting serious about space debris. And NASA set an important commercial precedent by offering to pay private companies for an on-site transfer of lunar regolith (moon rocks). We should view Musk’s plans for Mars as complementary to these efforts. The prospects for markets in space are bright, provided we successfully navigate the various legal challenges and secure buy-in from respected international partners. It’s entirely appropriate to consider corporate-led exploration and development as part of this discussion. Kudos to Musk for raising the issue, and for taking meaningful steps toward innovative space governance.

2. Steve Hanke reports on the unveiling of the Global Index of Economic Mentality. From the report:

GIEM scores measure the public’s embrace of the idea of economic freedom. A high GIEM score indicates that citizens in a particular country support the idea that their government should not play a major role in directing or regulating economic activity or in redistributing income. Citizens of high-scoring countries typically back an institutional framework that prioritizes private initiative, free competition, and personal responsibility — in short, a system of free enterprise.

Out of the 74 countries covered, New Zealand comes out on top with the highest score on the inaugural Global Index of Economic Mentality, followed by the Czech Republic, Sweden, the United States, and Denmark. This year’s lowest scorer is Bosnia, preceded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Montenegro, and Azerbaijan. . . .

The GIEM study found that countries that embrace a free-market mentality have more efficient economic institutions and higher per capita GDP than those who support socialist, interventionist mentalities. The Global Index of Economic Mentality study also contains additional findings of note.

Rather surprisingly, Chile is the lowest GIEM scorer in Latin America, even a notch below Argentina, and 64th overall. These data suggest that while the Chicago Boys, many of whom are my friends, accomplished innumerable free-market reforms — reforms that have led to a great improvement in prosperity and the second-highest GDP per capita of any country in South America — they have failed to convince the Chilean public of the benefits of the free-market system that has lifted them out of poverty.

3. More Hanke: Steve reports Erdogan hitting the panic button. There’s turmoil in Turkey. From the analysis:

Turkey’s president Tayyip Recep Erdogan has hit the panic button. On Saturday, he fired Murat Uysal, the governor of the Central Bank of Turkey. Uysal is the second top monetary official Erdogan has axed in the past 16 months. To add insult to injury, Turkish finance minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, resigned from his post Sunday due to “health problems.”

All of this follows the Turkish lira’s most recent collapse, something I have foreseen and regularly written about. Instability is nothing new for the lira. Indeed, inflation has ravaged Turkey for decades. The average annual inflation rates for the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were 22.4 percent, 49.6 percent, 76.7 percent, and 22.3 percent, respectively. Those horrendous numbers mask periodic lira routs. In 1994, 2000–01, and most recently since 2018, the lira has been torn to shreds.

Since Erdogan took over Turkey’s presidential reins in August 2014, the lira has shed 75 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar. And, since the first of this year, the lira has depreciated by 30 percent against the greenback. Today, inflation in Turkey is soaring at 49.60 percent per year by my measure. My measurement, which employs high-frequency data and the use of Purchasing Power Parity theory, is more than four times Turkey’s official annual inflation rate of 11.89 percent per year.

4. Ramesh Ponnuru argues that the drive to make the GOP a workers party should include a role for the Fed. From the piece:

There are a lot of government policies that might be helpful to hard-working Americans at, say, the 25th percentile of income. But it’s hard to beat a tight labor market for delivering gains up and down the income spectrum. The two periods in recent decades that saw the most widespread wage gains, including for people starting with low wages, were the late 1990s and the 2015-2019 period. Both were characterized by relatively (and increasingly) stable growth of nominal spending.

Having the Federal Reserve aim for such stable growth has not, however, been a priority for conservatives, to say the least. When spending dropped dramatically during the great recession, with the brunt of the resulting economic pain being borne by blue-collar workers, Republicans warned that attempting to restore it would be dangerously inflationary — in the midst of one of the longest stretches of low inflation we have had since World War II. They advanced legislation that would explicitly direct the Fed not to consider the effect of monetary policy on labor markets.

Republicans are currently considering the Fed nomination of Judy Shelton, who has spent most of her career urging that monetary policy be ever tighter but has very recently aligned herself instead with the completely opposite views of President Trump. The Fed is already falling short of what it should be doing to stabilize the economy in the wake of this year’s contraction, and there’s a risk that confirming Shelton would tilt it further in the wrong direction.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. America Assembled is a love letter to election fraud, says Armond White. It’s also junk. From the review:

Based on the Marvel Comics Universe Avengers: Endgame films, America Assembled uses that sci-fi comic book franchise template as part of the liberal media’s effort to sway public opinion toward the Democratic Party. The Endgame story of arch-villain Thanos bringing the world to the brink of destruction and annihilating Marvel’s stable of superheroes — until they rematerialize, rising in rebellion — becomes an analogy for the media and the Democrats’ hasty victory celebration while the 2020 presidential election is currently contested.

Indie filmmaker and Marvel fan John Handem Piette ignores the current hip-hop evolutions of Kanye West and Ice Cube (Oshea Jackson), presenting Endgame (and bits of Black Panther) as his careerist calling-card film. Unlike West and Jackson, Piette announces to Hollywood and the far-left electorate that he thinks like them. Piette employs Endgame iconography to celebrate an idea from the Democratic Party Plantation — his hoped-for defeat of the Trump administration. He superimposes Donald Trump onto the face of villain Thanos, then supers Joe Biden onto the face of Captain America. Other Democrat politicians and Hollywood celebrities are Photoshopped onto the rest of Endgame’s all-star cast whose far-left political allegiance makes them Plantation overseers. (Avengers Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Zoe Saldana, Paul Rudd, and Scarlett Johansson all attended an October 20 fundraiser where Kamala Harris’s speech first floated the analogy between Endgame and the election.)

2. More Armond: Ammonite stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan really want those GLAAD awards. From the review:

Kate Winslet plays Mary Anning, the film’s heroine, a fossil-gatherer in 1840 Lyme Regis, a coastal town on the English Channel. Mary unearths rocks and examines and polishes their ancient impressions, for sale to tourists and eventual exhibition in the British Museum. She works with studied intensity, the same solitary grimness that hides her homosexual longings.

Lee and Winslet present us with the image of a hard stone to crack. Indeed, Mary’s true emotional definition remains hidden until she meets Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) who, as the wife of a distracted naturalist, suffers from melancholia. Sympathy opens up both women’s repressed feelings and Lee observes them almost scientifically — their instinctive intercourse makes private history. Sure enough, the fossils they dig out together — ammonites are marine creatures from the Paleozoic era — wind up in the British Museum, symbols of sexual liberation.

This melodramatic narrative fits right into American indie filmmaker Kelly Reichardt’s domain, but Francis Lee is a less sententious proselytizer for gay life. Perhaps because he isn’t an American cultural militant — although England has them, too — his on-screen activism isn’t as objectionable.

But Lee’s “subtlety” can also be laughably blatant: Mary shrouds herself in dark plaids, Charlotte wears white or shows décolletage. His methods are especially transparent when Ammonite’s quiet, spare narrative leads to face-straddling oral-sex pantomimes where Oscar favorites Winslet and Ronan go headlong for GLAAD awards. Like Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams swapping spit in 2017’s Disobedience, Ammonite’s refinement merely lifts up the skirts of what is essentially romance-novel passion.

3. Madeleine Kearns finds the Netflix remake of Rebecca lame-o, especially when  compared to the 1940 original. From the beginning of the review:

 The brilliance of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) depends on the character development of its heroine, the very young and naïve protagonist, whose first name the reader never learns, and whose identity as the second Mrs. de Winter is subsumed by her husband and the shadowy presence of his dead first wife. Mimicking the Gothic novels of the previous century, in particular the Brontë sisters’ classics such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Rebecca is what we might call a “psychological thriller.” This particular genre demands two (potentially contradictory) qualities, plausibility and unpredictability. Ben Wheatley’s recent Netflix adaptation has neither.

In the novel, a young woman in her early 20s, employed as a companion to a rich lady in Monte Carlo, hastily marries a wealthy English widower, whereupon the couple return to his estate, Manderley. There, a sinister housekeeper jealously guarding the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter — the “Rebecca” of the title — induces inner turmoil in the insecure bride. Rather abruptly, the story, told in the first person by the heroine, turns into a sort of crime novel. Wheatley, known for his gratuitously gruesome horror movies, barges past all the intricacies, intrigue, and subtlety of the text to produce something entirely so-so.

Before explaining what, exactly, is wrong with the remake, we ought to return to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, which a contemporary reviewer for the New York Times accurately called a “firm, enveloping grasp of Daphne du Maurier’s popular novel,” praising it as “an altogether brilliant film, haunting, suspenseful, handsome and handsomely played,” complete with a “facile and penetrating directorial style.” The reviewer complimented Olivier’s superb and “brooding Maxim de Winter,” noting that while “Miss du Maurier never really convinced me anyone could behave quite as the second Mrs. de Winter behaved and still be sweet, modest, attractive and alive . . . Miss Fontaine does it — and does it not simply with her eyes, her mouth, her hands and her words but with her spine.” In the Netflix remake, Lily James’s spine is little in evidence, and her performance not in the least bit affecting.

4. Even though it’s from the new issue of the magazine, we’ll slip in here Peter Tonguette’s reflection on James Bond, Ian Fleming’s man of literature and screen. From the article

Yet Bond was not the sort of glum workaholic later conjured by John le Carré in the form of George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He refused to let his job interfere with his romantic life, and then there was the matter of that suit and that car. Not that Bond suffered from an unmanly preoccupation with appearances. In a famous passage in From Russia with Love, Fleming writes of Bond’s assessment of a man wearing a Windsor-knotted tie: “Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.”

Upon Fleming’s death in 1964, subsequent authors, including Kingsley Amis, furthered the adventures of Bond, but it took the character’s transition from literature to cinema, thanks to the efforts of enterprising producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, to turn him into the action idol of choice of males in the English-speaking world. The cinematic Bond — embodied, in the first five films in the series and then two thereafter, by Connery, the recently deceased Scotsman who so credibly projected the twin threats of violence and seduction — gradually overtook the literary Bond. As was supposed to have been said of Cary Grant, women wanted to be with Bond, and men wanted to be him.

Ayn Rand, who praised both the Fleming novels and the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962), argued that Bond as a character appealed to audiences who, eager for hero identification, substituted his fantastical adventures for their own workaday worries. “In the privacy of his own soul, nobody identifies himself with the folks next door, unless he has given up,” Rand wrote in her essay “Bootleg Romanticism.” “But the generalized abstraction of a hero permits every man to identify himself with James Bond, each supplying his own concretes which are illuminated and supported by that abstraction.” Fleming, in a 1964 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, put it more simply: “Spying has always been regarded as a very romantic, one-man job — one man against a whole police force or an army.”

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Spectator USA, Chilton Williamson remembers the man in full, Tom Wolfe. From the reflection:

The New Journalism, of which Tom Wolfe was the principal inventor along with Dr Hunter S. Thompson and a few others in the early 1960s, is now as dead as the penny dreadfuls and the jingo journalism of the early 1900s. Wolfe was convinced that the death of the novel, whose imagined demise was being widely discussed in the literary journals of the period, was an actual fact. If that were indeed the case, he reasoned, some new literary form was needed to replace it.

His answer to this need was participatory journalism, in which journalists realized their reportorial subjects as novelistic characters and the reporter inserted himself among them and joined in their activities on the printed page. Active participation was Rule Number One; Rule Number Two was immediacy. The trick was to catch and convey the freneticism, the exaggeration, the hyper-pace, the hyper-stimulation and the hyper-sexuality that distinguished what Wolfe named the Purple Decades — fueled by revolutionary enthusiasms, booze and, above all, drugs — through the relentless deployment of a style similar to that of the morning radio shows, its breathless quality suggested by the liberal use of ellipses.

The technique was effective, compelling and exciting, but it was not entirely original, Wolfe having borrowed it directly from Céline, the French novelist of the pre-war period whom he admired. And it had three significant weaknesses: the extent to which it courted self-parody; its easy imitability; and the degree to which stylistic excitement gave way to monotony of tone (always the same key and mood) and of voice, as the authorial one, merging with those of the subject-characters, produced a hyped stream of consciousness accentuated by a relentless beat as tiresome, finally, as rap music’s. Wolfe was a highly skilled writer, yet he — like Céline — was a textbook example of how a writer writes when, having no true style of his own, he tries to conceal the fact. A careful reader will note how, in the fiction as in the journalistic essays, on the occasions when Wolfe lapses for practical reasons into straightforward prose (Radical Chic offers many examples of this), the writing is indistinguishable from that found in the commercial magazines.

2. At City Journal, Steve Malanga says the next NYC mayor will have a fiscal nightmare to deal with. From the analysis:

De Blasio’s retroactive increases for city unions stretched as far back as 2009, five years before he became mayor. He awarded teachers, for instance, a 4 percent “pay” raise for the year 2009, another 4 percent for 2010, and then a bonus for 2011. The pay raises, which came on top of the annual “step” increases that teachers get for working additional years, added $4 billion to payroll costs over the contract’s life. By the time de Blasio was done negotiating with other unions, the raises had bloated the city budget by $5 billion during his first year in office.

Bloomberg had resisted ratifying new contracts because he sought labor savings from the unions, including from health benefits for workers and retirees. The city’s expenses in these areas were already stratospheric, and they’ve kept rising rapidly. Virtually alone among large cities these days, Gotham pays almost the entire cost of health care for city workers and retirees — the promises to retirees alone amounting to more than $100 billion in future costs that the city hasn’t funded. During the de Blasio years, that debt swelled by more than $25 billion — an ever-larger load for future taxpayers. Because it hasn’t saved enough, the city must pay for retiree health care out of its everyday budget, with the bill climbing above $2.5 billion annually. Combined with the cost of future benefits of current workers — rising yearly by another $5 billion that the city isn’t saving for — future mayors will encounter a budget nightmare.

The way those fringe-benefit costs play out in New York City’s budget is illustrated by spending on police protection. Earlier this year, following George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis, some New York officials pressured de Blasio to slash police spending. The mayor approved what he called $1 billion in cuts, though much of the savings involved sleight of hand, such as shifting spending to other departments and pledging to limit overtime, without a plan for how to accomplish that. And yet de Blasio left untouched one of the department’s biggest budget-busters: nearly half of its operating expenses are pensions and fringe benefits, accounting for half of the $2.8 billion in new spending on policing over the last decade. For every dollar that the department pays an officer in salary, it spends nearly as much on pensions and health care for workers and retirees, who make virtually no contributions toward their own health care, something rare even in the public sector these days. But those expenses keep mounting because de Blasio has left them untouched.

3. At Law and Liberty, James Patterson asks, on the 60th anniversary of John Courtney Murray’s consequential work, if we still hold these truths. From the article:

Upon its publication in 1960, We Hold These Truths had an immediate impact not just in theological circles but also political ones. Ted Sorensen, aide to then-Democratic president candidate John F. Kennedy, called Murray and read to him Kennedy’s speech for the Texas Baptists in which the presidential candidate repudiated that he, as a would-be Catholic head of state, would be subject to the authority of the pope. Sorenson claimed to secure Murray’s approval; however, as Murray later revealed, Sorensen had not. One wonders if Sorensen had even read the book. After all, Murray jokes about “the earnest heresies of a Baptist minister from Texas.” Regardless, the public impression of Murray fused with that of Kennedy and the broader sense among American Catholics were first American and then Catholic. They had finally “arrived.”

The cultural high-water point for American Catholics was from 1945 until the early 1960s, and during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) American prelates exercised more influence than ever. As peritus (or “theological consultant”) to Cardinal Francis Spellman, Murray influenced drafts of what would become Dignitatis humanae, or the Declaration on Religious Freedom. As Russell Hittinger has argued, Dignitatis humanae was part of the long shift away from an ecclesiology of a Church established in confessional nation-states whose governments interfered with Church affairs to a global Church asserting independent, spiritual authority directly to the faithful. However, soon after the Church endorsed religious liberty, American clergy implemented regrettable liturgical excesses during the introduction of the new Mass. With these two intertwined, American Catholic traditionalists have tended to link a demand for the reversion to the pre-conciliar liturgy, and for the return to the pre-conciliar role of confessional states — a regime that could use coercion and violence to impose a Catholic order from above.

The traditionalists treat Murray as a liberal who attempted to negotiate a compromise between the Church and liberalism, but this interpretation is superficial. To appreciate the contribution Murray made to American Catholicism requires us to do the reading. It is plain in the text that Murray was not a liberal, and We Hold These Truths was not an endorsement of liberalism. On the contrary, Murray repeatedly condemns liberalism. Rather, what one finds is the application of practical reason informed by natural law thinking, and Murray argued that the American Founding preserved enough of the old natural law tradition to rescue it from relativism and serve as a basis for preserving a peaceful consensus in a pluralistic nation. Murray never identified America as the best regime but only provided a defense of the American constitutional order in Catholic terms.

4. At The College Fix, Alexander Pease reports on a University of Maryland academic who is trying to “reclaim” the Medieval period from . . . yep, white supremacists. From the article:

Modern-day white supremacists look back fondly on a medieval period that was far more diverse than they would like to admit, a scholar of medieval studies told an event hosted by the University of Alabama-Huntsville’s history department.

The University of Maryland’s Colleen Ho said the Crusades are “used as an inspiration” by white supremacists for “the way they want things to look.”

She warned of “Templar revivalism” in the U.S. and around the world: “White supremacists use medieval history to justify violent behavior.”

Yet Ho continually emphasized that white supremacists — as well as Hollywood — overlook the diversity of this long-ago world and push “the myth that the Middle Ages were a predominantly white culture.”

5. At Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh reports on Tehran’s thrill at the prospect of President Biden. From the article:

The country’s economic situation became so dire that the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted that the Islamic Republic is encountering the worst economic crisis since its establishment in 1979. The political deputy of the province of Bushehr, Governor Majid Khorshidi, told a gathering on July 14 that they should not ignore US sanctions: “We used to see this approach [of ignoring US sanctions] from the previous [Ahmadinejad] administration and unfortunately it still continues,” he added. “But I have to say that sanctions have broken the economy’s back”.

Thanks to the current administration’s pressure, Iran’s currency, the rial, has been in free fall in the last three years. As of November 7, 2020, a US dollar is worth approximately 250,000 rials. Before the current US administration imposed a “maximum pressure” policy against Tehran, a US dollar had equaled nearly 30,000 rials. During the last year, Iran’s oil exports also sank to a record low. The country’s budget heavily relies on selling oil.

As pressure kept mounting against the regime, Tehran also faced several widespread protests in the country, which endangered the hold on power of the ruling clerics. Now, the regime feels that all of the current administration’s pressures will be lifted soon and the golden days will be back again.

It is unfortunate that Iran’s ruling mullahs view a possible victory of the Democrat Party in US elections as a win for the Tehran regime, its proxies and militia groups. President Rouhani has already called for restoring the nuclear deal. It could well be a loss for continuing peace in the region and for finally restoring the violated Iranian people’s hoped-for human rights.

6. At Quillette, Abigail Shrier laments the role of Big Tech in trying to suppress her book on transgender madness among young women. From the article:

What I aim to do, as a journalist, is to investigate cultural phenomena, and here was one worth investigating: Between 2016 and 2017, the number of females seeking gender surgery quadrupled in the United States. Thousands of teen girls across the Western world are not only self-diagnosing with a real dysphoric condition they likely do not have; in many cases, they are obtaining hormones and surgeries following the most cursory diagnostic processes. Schoolteachers, therapists, doctors, surgeons, and medical-accreditation organizations are all rubber-stamping these transitions, often out of fear that doing otherwise will be reported as a sign of “transphobia” — despite growing evidence that most young people who present as trans will eventually desist, and so these interventions will do more harm than good.

The notion that this sudden wave of transitioning among teens is a worrying, ideologically driven phenomenon is hardly a fringe view. Indeed, outside of Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, and college campuses, it is a view held by a majority of Americans. There is nothing hateful in suggesting that most teenagers are not in a good position to approve irreversible alterations to their bodies, particularly if they are suffering from trauma, OCD, depression, or any of the other mental-health problems that are comorbid with expressions of dysphoria. And yet, here we are.

The efforts to block my reporting have been legion, starting with staff threats at a publishing house, which quickly reversed its original intention to publish my book. Once I obtained a stalwart publisher, Regnery, Amazon refused to allow that company’s sales team to sponsor ads on its site. (Amazon allows sponsored ads for books that uncritically celebrate medical transition for teenagers).

Because the book tackles an interesting phenomenon, a number of established journalists wanted to review it. The issue of trans-identification has seemed to come out of nowhere with Gen Z, the generation begun in 1995 whose large-scale mental-health crisis already has us so on edge. And the issue has created surprising bedfellows. Religious conservatives are concerned about the trend — but so are lesbians, who look upon the shocking numbers of teen girls transitioning with abject alarm. Many suspect that all this transitioning of girls is effectively euthanizing a generation of young lesbians.

Baseballery

It was one of the National Pastime’s greatest almost-comebacks. The day was May 12, 1930, and the NL Champion Chicago Cubs, in second place, were hosting the first-place New York Giants on a Monday afternoon before a crowd of 15,000. On the mound for the home team was righthander Sheriff Blake, of infamy as he was the losing pitcher in the 1929 World Series’ crucial fourth game, when the Philadelphia Athletics scored 10 runs in the bottom of the 7th for a 10-8 comeback victory. This Monday, the Sheriff left his gun at home: In the First he managed to escape disaster despite walking three Giants, but by the time he was yanked in the Third, having just served up a gopher ball to Mel Ott, New York was ahead 8-0. With two outs and the bases empty, rookie reliever Bill McAfee got Giant second baseman Pat Crawford to lift a fly ball to center, which Cubbie Hack Wilson dropped. And the floodgates opened again. Cubs shortstop Woody English blew a ground ball, more hits came, and then Giants starter Larry Benton (who had led the NL in wins in 1928 with 25) smacked a home run. When Chicago took its turn at the plate in the bottom of the frame, they were facing a 13-0 deficit. That became 14-0 in the Fifth, when Benton singled to drive in another run.

And then came the clawing back, courtesy of the long ball. In the Fifth Cliff Heathcote hit a solo shot to make the game a speck less laughable. In the Sixth, Benton served up a three-run dinger to Clyde Beck. And in the next frame, four Cubs launched homers over the ivy brick wall: Beck again (a two-run shot) and solo home runs by Wilson, Heathcote, and Charlie Grimm.

Benton was yanked, and after two more appearances, the Giants traded him to the Reds. Benton (giving away the story, he got the W on the day) ended his career in 1935 with the Boston Braves, one of the worst teams in MLB history — he was the mop-up reliever in Babe Ruth’s famous and final majestic performance, against the Pirates at Forbes Field, when he slammed the last three home runs of his storied career.

But back to Wrigley Field in 1930. The score now stood at 14-9, and still the Cubs would not give up. In the bottom of the Eighth Kiki Cuyler drove in another run against the Giants’ rookie reliever Joe Heving, who took a four-run lead into the Ninth. Chicago’s last licks kept the remaining fans on the edge of their seats: A single, a double, a strikeout, and then, two more singles, and the Cubs had men on first and third, with the scoreboard reading 14-12. Heving was yanked, and the aging Joe Genewich took the mound, with Heathcote, the winning run, up and looking for his third dinger of the day. Twas not to be. With one pitch the drama ended, in the words every batter hates to hear: 6-4-3 double play.

A Dios

Poor Valerie, a lady of grace and dignity, always, tells that her cancer has metastasized, now in her bones. She asks for prayers. This request will not be denied. Would those of you who do pray, who ask God our Creator to cure, to comfort — always knowing Thy will be done — petition Him on her behalf? Also: A few weeks back Your Humble Correspondent told of Baby Francesca, afflicted with cancer. Prayers were urged. Please do continue them if you would be so generous with your time and thoughts.

May the Ancient of Days Be Merciful to You and All Those You Love,

Jack Fowler, who can be stirred from a funk with diatribes and all else if communicated to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

 

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