Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
They Said It:
Of course you contrive to see everything and find out everything. And one of the first and most startling things you find out is, that every individual you encounter in the City of Washington almost — and certainly every separate and distinct individual in the public employment, from the highest bureau chief, clear down to the maid who scrubs Department halls, the night watchmen of the public buildings and the . . . boy who purifies the Department spittoons — represents Political Influence. Unless you can get the ear of a Senator, or a Congressman, or a Chief of a Bureau or Department, and persuade him to use his “influence” in your behalf, you cannot get an employment of the most trivial nature in Washington. Mere merit, fitness and capability, are useless baggage to you without “influence.” The population of Washington consists pretty much entirely of government employees and the people who board them. There are thousands of these employees, and they have gathered there from every corner of the Union and got their berths through the intercession (command is nearer the word) of the Senators and Representatives of their respective States. It would be an odd circumstance to see a girl get employment at three or four dollars a week in one of the great public cribs without any political grandee to back her, but merely because she was worthy, and competent, and a good citizen of a free country that “treats all persons alike.” Washington would be mildly thunderstruck at such a thing as that. If you are a member of Congress, (no offence,) and one of your constituents who doesn’t know anything, and does not want to go into the bother of learning something, and has no money, and no employment, and can’t earn a living, comes besieging you for help, do you say, “Come, my friend, if your services were valuable you could get employment elsewhere — don’t want you here?” Oh, no: You take him to a Department and say, “Here, give this person something to pass away the time at — and a salary” — and the thing is done. You throw him on his country. He is his country’s child, let his country support him. There is something good and motherly about Washington, the grand old benevolent National Asylum for the Helpless.
Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age, 1873.
TROLLING THE PARTY MACHINES.
We know that one of the things that most endears Donald Trump to certain segments of the Republican base is the fact that he’s a very effective and seasoned troll. If you’ll pardon the mixed metaphors, what that means is that Trump knows how to push the Left’s buttons. He has a keen and presumably innate ability to say things – often outrageous and sometimes inaccurate – that make Democratic politicians, mainstream media types, and countless millions of left-ish internet users lose their minds. More to the point, he chooses to use his gift as often and as flamboyantly as he can. Hilarity often ensues.
We should note, though, that Trump is not the only expert troll in the Republican primary field. In fact, we’d say he’s probably not even the best. That distinction, we think, belongs to the junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Like Trump, Cruz knows which buttons to push. Unlike Trump, however, Cruz pushes them more strategically, choosing to aggravate the Left less often, but to more significant and less comical effect.
Consider, for example, Cruz’s appearance a couple of weeks ago (December 1) on Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated radio talk show. In a wide-ranging discussion on violence, the media, and the attack on Planned Parenthood over the previous weekend, Cruz said the following:
You know, every time you have some sort of violent crime or mass killing, you can almost see the media salivating, hoping, hoping desperately that the murderer happens to be a Republican so they can use it to try to paint their political enemies.
Now listen, here’s the simple and undeniable fact. The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats. The media doesn’t report that. What they report, and there’s a reason why the Democrats for years have been viewed as soft on crime, because they go in and they appoint to the bench judges who release violent criminals. They go in, and they do what Barack Obama tried to do, which is appoint a lawyer who voluntarily represented for free, a cop killer, to a senior Justice Department position. They go in and fight to give the right to vote to convicted felons. Why? Because the Democrats know convicted felons tend to vote Democrat. And so the media never reports on any of that, doesn’t want to admit any of that, but you can see in every one of these, every time there’s a terrible crime, they’re so excited, come on, please, one of these be a Republican so we can try to paint the other side. It is one of the more egregious examples of media bias, and it’s something we see over and over and over again.
As you might have guessed – and as Ted Cruz undoubtedly planned – his statement sent many on the Left, on the “moderate” Right, and in the press into fits of apoplexy. In the New York Times, Frank Bruni responded by trotting out the hoary, old bit about how nobody really like Cruz anyway and how most Republican insiders would prefer Trump to mean, nasty ol’ Ted. Over at Commentary, Noah Rothman insisted that this was just a case of Cruz “massaging” the egos of the “shrinking base of conservative voters.”
Buttons pushed, in short.
For our part, we agree with Cruz, both in substance and tactics. Upsetting the comfortable crowd is, we think, more than a little endearing. And as for the connection between Democrats and violent criminals, that is an uncomfortable truth, but truth nonetheless.
That said, we think that Cruz’s point can be altered slightly and expanded to make not just an acerbic sound bite, but an actual argument about politics and policy as well. As obvious as it may seem that most violent criminals are Democrats, it is even more obvious that most VICTIMS of violent criminals are also Democrats. Noah Rothman’s point in his Commentary post was that the corruption and police-protection racket currently exposed in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, gives the GOP a significant opening through which to approach minority voters. And indeed it does. But the point here is even larger than Rothman seems to grasp.
The fact of the matter is that this nation’s most violent cities are ALL run by Democratic Party machines. Chicago, Washington, New Orleans, Newark, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, and on and on . . . and on. The Democrats have abandoned these urban war zones to the criminals – inside and outside of local government – and have taken the voters for granted. And many of those voters have paid for it with their lives.
Rahm Emanuel’s corruption provides an added national component to the case, given his connection to the Clintons, Barack Obama, and the House Democrats. But this is a much larger problem than merely Emanuel’s sleazy administration. This is about the nature of the contemporary Democratic Party and its penchant for placing power above policy and above the lives of those whom it professes to want to help.
As you may or may not have noticed (and if you haven’t, then really, you haven’t been reading very carefully!) we are not exactly fans of American Progressivism, dating all the way back to its roots in the late 19th century. And while we certainly have no cause to rethink our position on the pietist crusades fought by the Roosevelts, Wilson, Croly and the rest, we confess that we do, more or less, understand their impetus.
Post-Civil-War America was a study in contrasts. It was a period of great innovation and growth, fantastic wealth creation, massive expansion of prosperity to otherwise poor and disenfranchised classes, and, of course, massive and almost crippling corruption. All of the major cities in the country, in addition to the federal government, were massively and undeniably corrupt. Patronage was the system by which the government functioned. Buying and selling of politicians was common and largely unremarkable. In New York, the greatest of the urban machines, Tammany Hall dominated not only the city but state politics as well. By the time he was (finally) tried and convicted for corruption, William “Boss” Tweed, the major force at Tammany Hall, stole an estimated $25 -$45 MILLION (with some estimates being much higher). (And that was serious money back then.) The cities were corrupt. The states were corrupt. The federal government was corrupt. And the civil service/patronage system provided all that any crook might ever need.
It is no wonder, therefore, that the great reform movements of the late 19th century – agrarianism, Progressivism, civil service reform/bureaucratism – all developed and gained popularity in response to the government corruption of the era. Indeed, federal civil service reform – in the form of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 – was a direct response to the assassination of President James A. Garfield by an insane writer, Charles Guiteau, who believed that he was owed the spoils of presidential victory, an ambassadorship, in return for his (largely imaginary) work in helping Garfield win election. The agrarians, the Progressives, the Wilsonian bureaucratizers all recognized the massive corruption of the nation, and especially of the cities, by the party machines, and all offered some sort of remedy to the situation, defective though they all proved to be.
We’ll spare you another rant about Progressivism, but as you well know, the big problem with the movement was not its fight against corruption, but its Gnostic and totalitarian impulses, both of which ultimately served the movement and those who embraced it rather poorly. Thus, in the intervening years, the urban centers of this country, which are all heavily populated by various ethnic minority groups, have embraced Progressivism/administrative bureaucracy the most ardently, and they have all paid the price for it. Black Americans, for example, constitute roughly 12% of the population. But they are roughly 15% of the victims of violent crimes and nearly HALF of the victims of murder. And the majority of these murders take place in cities where the Democratic Party machine has been reorganized and restored along Progressive lines.
As you may now, the current flash point in the fight against violent crime involves the Chicago city police department and a young black man, whom one officer shot, ostensibly without cause. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is under fire for an alleged cover-up of police misconduct, which presumably facilitated his reelection. Various constituencies in local and national politics and in the news are professing outrage at the cover-up and some are even upset with Emanuel himself. And yet nothing will happen and nothing will change.
In a recent article, the usually compliant liberal journalist Ron Fournier, the senior political columnist for The National Journal, wondered why Obama and Hillary aren’t “demanding Rahm’s head.” The short answer to that question, as Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit noted, is because Rahm knows “where the bodies are buried.” We’ll concede that, of course, and add that Rahm know this because he likely buried most of them. The larger, more complicated, and less satisfactory answer from Fouriner’s perspective is that the Democratic Party establishment doesn’t call for Rahm’s head for the same reason it didn’t call for Kwame Kilpatrick’s head in Detroit or Marion Barry’s head in Washington. The party machine protects its own. Barack Obama is Rahm Emanuel is Hillary Clinton is Kwame Kilpatrick is Marion Barry is Bill Clinton is Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Etc., etc., ad nauseam.
Despite civil service reform, despite the alleged professionalization of state and local bureaucracies, despite all the efforts over the century by Progressives seeking to establish their urban utopia, the urban centers of this country remain as corrupt and as anti-democratic as those of the late 19th century. The machine protects its own – at least until the corruption, the graft, the outright theft become too obvious to deny. And even then, the machine just swaps out one its own for the disgraced official. Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat. His predecessor was a Democrat. His predecessor’s predecessor was a Democrat. Rahm’s police superintendent was appointed by a Democrat (obviously). His predecessor was appointed by a Democrat. His predecessor’s predecessor was appointed by a Democrat. And so it goes.
We would add, at this point, the simple and undeniable fact that the one city in this country that used to lead the nation in violent crime and occasionally would show up on the “murder capital” lists, but no longer does so, is New York. And while New York still has its share of corruption, the last twenty years of (at least nominal) Republican governance changed the city AND the lives of its minority residents remarkably and for the better. Fewer people are murdered in New York than were thirty years ago. More to the point, the murder rate among all citizens – including minorities – is far lower in New York, after twenty years of Republican rule, than in Chicago, and St. Louis, and Detroit, and Baltimore . . .
This, we think, is the opening for Republicans. Perpetrators of crime are largely Democrats? Well, so are there victims. And this is the much bigger point, whether you’re trolling or not.
WHO’S OUT OF TOUCH, THE MILLENNIALS OR THE BOOMERS?
Conventional wisdom has it that the Republican Party is doomed, long term, because it is incredibly unpopular with the Millennium generation. The kids hate the conservatives, and therefore, the conservatives have no chance. It’s a bright, shiny, Progressive world, and conservatives are just living in it, waiting hopelessly and haplessly for the inevitable end, which will arrive, of course, when the Millennials finally mature.
Or so the theory goes.
Our take on all of this is, as you might have guessed, a little different. For starters, waiting for the Millennials to mature seems to us like a dubious strategy. It may never happen, after all. And even if it does, there’s no way to guess, in advance, how that will play out in practice. As a general rule, generational cohorts tend to grow more conservative as they mature. Heck, even the Boomers grew more conservative – and continue to do so – and they were far more messed up as kids than the Millennials are.
Now, we’ll concede that it is possible that the Millennials may well turn out to be loyal Democrats, but we would argue that that doesn’t matter much in terms of politics and policy. At the very least, it won’t mean what today’s Baby-Boomer and Gen-X journalists and analysts seem to think it will. You see, if they do become Democrats en masse, then the definition of what it means to “be a Democrat” will change considerably.
Consider, if you will, the case of Millennial support for gun control. According to the conventional wisdom, as the most heavily Democratic cohort, Millennials should also be aggressively supportive of gun control. Democratic Party leaders all favor gun control; therefore their most loyal constituents should favor it as well. But it doesn’t appear that that’s the case. And the nation’s political opinion leaders are, apparently, baffled. In a recent and revealing article for the Washington Post, a Millennial-age columnist called Catherine Rampel detailed the Millennials’ “mysterious support for permissive gun laws.” She put it this way:
When I was in middle and high school, there were spirited public debates about whether the proliferation of grisly movies, gore-glorifying song lyrics and shoot-’em-up video games might desensitize my peers and me to violence.
While I’m reluctant to pin any of this on pop culture, it’s true that my generation appears somewhat inured to violence — at least violence involving firearms. . .
A decade or two post-adolescence — as our own preschool-age children now practice “active shooter” drills in which they’re coached to cower in the closet or throw toys at a tactical-gear-outfitted maniac — millennials seem to have neither the desire nor the willpower to pressure our political leaders to do much to prevent such tragedies. If anything, we may be slightly more blasé about them than our elders.
Which does not bode well for liberals hoping that the arc of history will eventually bend toward greater gun control. Poll data about views of gun control and specific gun-control measures are mixed, and responses vary depending how questions are asked. But statements about protecting gun rights generally elicit at least as much support from younger Americans as from older ones.
That poor dear, Catherine Rampel. She thinks that people supporting gun rights, which is actually what the data show, are, in truth, actually “blasé” about standing up for her preferences. And there’s just nothing in the world that can explain this apathy . . . other than the fact that movies or video games or . . . well . . . something might have desensitized her precious snowflake cohort to gun violence. Apparently the late-era Boomers who grew up with “Dirty Harry” and “Deathwish” or the Gen-Xers who grew up with Rambo and “Lethal Weapon” were different somehow, and they weren’t desensitized. Or, if they were desensitized, they were able to deal with it . . . or . . . who knows? Poor little Catherine doesn’t really make an argument so much as she makes assertions. It just never crosses her mind that her Millennial contemporaries might not be as lazy and indifferent as she supposes, that – gasp! – their priorities just might be different from hers and from those that the political establishment expects of good little Democrats.
From our perspective, trying to explain the “baffling” Millennial support for gun rights is actually a pretty silly way to address the matter. Rather, since the Millennials’ position actually pretty well mirrors those of older cohorts, despite their young, restive, and liberal present predisposition, it might be more productive to figure out who, exactly is out of touch.
Let us put this another way: Millennials’ position on guns is pretty reflective of the general population’s position on guns. They all favor gun rights. They all oppose bans and other heavy-handed approaches to gun control. And none of them possesses an inordinate fear a law-abiding armed citizenry. And somehow, this confuses and disturbs the leftist Baby Boomers who still run the Democratic and media establishments, because it doesn’t reflect their views very well. So tell us now, who, exactly, is out of touch?
The Baby Boomers, as you well know, were the largest generation before the Millennials (i.e. “Baby Boom Echo”). Generally speaking, the Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, which is to say that the youngest Boomer is now 51. Barack Obama, who is from the youngest sub-set of Boomers (“Generation Jones”) is 54. Consider all of that in the context of the following, written this past September by Awr Hawkins for Breitbart News (emphasis added):
A new CNN/ORC poll shows that registered voters continue to be in revolt against more gun control, with majorities saying “current laws are about right or even too harsh.” . . .
According to CNN, the poll shows a stark decrease in support for gun control between the time that Adam Lanza stole guns and attacked Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012 and now. For example, a poll taken in January 2013 showed 56 percent of poll respondents believed it was “too easy for people to buy guns,” but by September 2015 that figure had fallen to 41 percent.
In fact, 49 percent of respondents told CNN that current laws “are about right” and “10 percent [said] that they make it too difficult to buy a gun.”
While the typical Republican/Democrat divide exists – 65 percent of Republicans think current laws “are about right;” only 28 percent of Democrats agree – the real demographic highlight is the fact that voters under the age of 50 side with Republicans on this issue. For example, “51 percent [of seniors] say it’s too easy to get a gun, while only 37 percent of those under age 50 think the same.”
In short, then, what we see is that Gen-Xers and Millennials are actually MORE supportive of gun rights than are the Baby Boomers (and to a lesser extent, the “Silent Generation,” born prior to 1946). As it turns out, the Boomers are the outliers, not the “standard” against which all subsequent generations should be measured.
To a similar, though lesser extent, the same pattern holds with respect to abortion. The allegedly “liberal” Millennials are also the most Pro-Life generation since the Silent Generation. Indeed, the Millennial cohort opposes abortion more vehemently – i.e. a greater percentage feels that abortion should be illegal in ALL cases – than any living generation, even the Silent Generation. Boomer and Xer sentiments are almost identical on the question and it was presumed that Millennials would be roundly supportive as well. But that has not turned out to be the case. As with guns, Millennials are far less supportive of the standard “liberal” position than are their parents – be they Boomers or Xers.
Taken in concert, all of this raises for us an interesting and, frankly, tantalizing prospect. Longtime readers may know that we have long considered the liberal half of the Baby Boom generation to be among the most destructive and damaging generational cohorts in American history. The liberal Boomers were spoiled, coddled, and indulged. They aggressively and remorselessly attacked all of the foundations of American society and abandoned tradition and culture at every turn. They were America’s very own Jacobins, forgetting all that had gone before to “create the world anew.” And instead they created massive problems.
The Boomers’ educational rebellion created a higher education system that is nearly dysfunctional. Their Sexual Revolution undid all of the taboos and prohibitions against wanton and uninhibited sexual behavior, thus unleashing the societal plagues of single motherhood and sex unmoored from love and commitment. Their drug abuse made the “war on drugs” necessary, thereby resulting in the arrest, incarceration, and debilitation of millions of young black men. Their rewriting of feminism produced the modern pornography and abortion industries, both of which have destroyed millions of lives. Their casual approach to relationships and divorce fostered a generation of broken homes and broken children. Their hostile and forceful denunciation of religion, helped raze the traditional American appreciation for Judeo-Christian values and culture. And in the end, instead of asking for forgiveness, the liberal Baby Boomers expected to be applauded for their efforts, to be cheered for their bravery, to be rewarded for their tireless efforts to bring “health care” to women and “justice” to minority communities, and “compassion” to those left behind by selfish American consumerism. They broke the country, in short, and then expected to be thanked for it.
Some of them – namely Hillary Clinton – still expect to be thanked for it. She expects to be slapped on the back for her decades of “public service” and rewarded with the presidency. And it never crosses her mind that the fact that a majority of voters disagree with her on the issues she thinks matter most says something serious and seriously troubling about her, not them. Like all Progressives, Hillary believes that human kind and especially human society can be perfected. She took the liberal icon Herbert Croly seriously when he wrote that “For better or worse, democracy cannot be disentangled from an aspiration toward human perfectibility, and hence from the adoption of measures looking in the direction of realizing such an aspiration.” And like all Gnostics, Hillary believes that she holds the key to this perfectibility and that she has an obligation to impose it on us all, regardless of what the voters might think. And in all of this, she is wholly and perfectly representative of her ideological and generational cohort. She is the quintessential liberal Baby Boomer.
In all of this, we think, there is both good news and bad news. The good news is that the data show that the Baby Boomers are, were, and ever shall be an anomaly. The liberal Boomers always thought of themselves as “special,” and the poll data bear that out. They are special. They are different. All of which is to say that once they are gone, their peculiarities and perversions will be gone as well. Certainly, there will be a considerable hangover and a considerable reclamation effort. But the Boomers were different from the generations that came before them, and they are different from the generations that have come after them. They may very well be remembered as a long and unfortunate “blip” in the American experiment.
What this suggests, in turn, is that abortion and guns may, at long last, be losing their power as drivers of electorate behavior. Certainly, other social issues will take their place. Same-sex marriage is already doing so to some extent. Still, the divisiveness and social destruction caused by the abortion and gun debates cannot be overstated, which means that their relative disappearance along with the liberal Boomer politicians and political activists will be an immense and unexpected boon for the American republic.
The bad news, of course, is that we’re not out of the proverbial woods yet. Hillary Clinton remains the odds-on favorite to win the presidency (by most calculations, at least), and if she does, we are in for at least four more years of deliberate, calculated social and partisan antagonism. Win or lose, Hillary represents the last gasp for the liberal Boomers. And there is no question that their desperation will show, both during the campaign and – heaven forbid! – during her presidency. She will campaign on and then push solutions to problems that don’t exist anywhere except in the fevered minds of her liberal Boomer supporters. Worse still, if she lacks the democratic sanction to enact her immaterial agenda, she has already promised that she will circumvent the will of the people to enforce her will unilaterally. The next year for sure, and possibly the four or eight years after that, is going to be ugly. The liberal Boomer remnant will fight with all its heart and all its (blackened) soul to force feed the country as much of its remaining program as possible. And only a skilled counterpoise will prevent it from doing so.
As far as we’re concerned, this is as strong a case as can be made for the GOP to nominate either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. Unlike Donald Trump – and Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina – the two Cuban-American Senators are Gen-Xers. They represent the start of the post-Boomer political restoration. In any case, after Hillary, the Democrats will, more or less, be done with liberal Boomers too. It’s getting to that point that will be tough on all of us.
Eventually, of course, the nation will have its first Millennial president. Given the polling data we’ve seen, we are confident in predicting that said Millennial will be rather similar to the Gen-Xer presidents who came before him or her. Much to Catherine Rampel’s chagrin and surprise, her Millennial cohorts are not likely simply to parrot back the values and opinions of their Boomer parents. And that’s not because Millennials are weird, or strange, or “mystifying.” It’s because their Boomer parents were the weird ones, the outliers whose passing from the political scene will hardly be missed.