Steve King is not the only racist in the GOP caucus

I suppose my heart should swell with the news that the GOP minority in Congress (by the way — what sweet relief to write that phrase!) has moved to strip Rep. Steve King of committee assignments. But if Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wanted an Aegean stables moment, he needs to start immediately from the bottom up. Continue reading

On the luridness of gay conservatives

The New York Times‘ Sunday magazine has run a story about the frustrations of gay conservatives. One Ben Holden, a Suffolk University student, explains himself:

Though he said he is liberal on most social issues and wishes the Republican Party would take climate change seriously, Holden aligns himself with conservatives and libertarians in many other ways — he’s anti-abortion, free-market-oriented and skeptical of big government. But perhaps above all else, Holden rejects what he considers a bedrock of contemporary liberalism: that, as he put it, your “immutable characteristics” — race, ethnicity, sexual orientation — “should determine what your position is on every political issue, or what you’re allowed to express an opinion about.” He added that he feels alienated from progressives on his campus and across the country, many of whom he believes are unwilling to debate issues “without resorting to shaming or name-calling.”

Continue reading

What privilege looks like

White men have endured so much pain in America. They need to take their country back.

Beginning in October 1968, records show, Mr. Trump had a 1-Y classification, a temporary medical exemption, meaning that he could be considered for service only in the event of a national emergency or an official declaration of war, neither of which occurred during the conflict in Vietnam. In 1972, after the 1-Y classification was abolished, his status changed to 4-F, a permanent disqualification.The Times began looking into Mr. Trump’s draft record anew when an anonymous tipster suggested that a podiatrist who was a commercial tenant of Fred Trump’s had provided the medical documentation.

The tipster offered no names, but The Times used old city directories, held by the New York Public Library, and interviews with Queens podiatrists to identify Dr. Braunstein.

The doctor’s daughters said his role in Mr. Trump’s military exemption had long been the subject of discussions among relatives and friends.

“It was family lore,” said Elysa Braunstein. “It was something we would always discuss.”

She said her father was initially proud that he had helped a “famous guy” in New York real estate. But later, her father, a lifelong Democrat who had served in the Navy during World War II, grew tired of Donald Trump as he became a fixture in the tabloid gossip pages and a reality television star, she said. The daughters, both Democrats, say they are not fans of Mr. Trump.

Thanks to the medical deferment, Donald Trump avoided serving in a war whose largest casualties included Vietnamese men and on whom the burden on poor and black young Americans was grievous.

Blame everything on Newt

I read an insightful comment on Lawyers, Guns & Money this morning. To what degree, the reader asks, did the GOP’s victory in 1994 strengthen its radicalism? The comment:

The fact that they went for 40 years without ever holding it meant that they had to compromise on budgets and a vast range of measures. It’s interesting that the critical political function that the GOP excels at, obsessively focusing on judges, is one that doesn’t go through the House. It’s also interesting that a lot of their current anti-democratic focus has its strongest effect in the House. I might be wrong, but I bet the GOP remembers that 40-year run in the wilderness more strongly than Democrats do.

Imagine how Democratic policies would be affected if we couldn’t, for election after election after election, win the House? It would push us towards the centre, and this argument of whether we should compromise and accommodate the racists wouldn’t even be an argument — we’d have to.

During this postwar period of great strife and acrimony the Republicans controlled twice: 1946 to 1948, and as a result of the Ike landslide 1952-1954. They suffered devastating losses in the 1958 midterms. The Democrats lost few seats in 1962. The only significant setback for Democrats until Ronald Reagan ushered in a GOP-controlled Senate for the next six years were the 1966 midterms, the reaction against the Great Society. The insufferable encomia to George H.W. Bush and his putative moderateness failed to mention that to have any seat at the table Republicans had to compromise.

As the two parties sorted themselves in the nineties into voting blocs similar to parliamentary systems, turnover accelerated, which means that the GOP has even less reason to stabilize and why the Democrats have only in the last election cycle paid more than lip service to their left flank. Democrats, however, have a few years to go before they approximate the GOP’s inexorable purism. This won’t stop Beltway types from both-sides-ism, though.

Obamacare in danger again

Last night’s gleeful ruling from Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth, according to Ezra Klein, presents Democrats with, to use that most baleful of modern jargon, an opportunity. “But with Obamacare under constant threat, Republicans have refocused Democrats on building what they failed to build in 2010: a universal health care system simple enough and popular enough that it is safe from constant political and legal assault,” Klein writes. “And that means some version of Medicare-for-all.” His conclusion:

Imagine a world where Judge O’Connor’s ruling is upheld. In that world, a Republican judge cuts tens of millions of people off health insurance mere weeks after Republicans lost a midterm election for merely trying to cut those people off health insurance. The aftermath of that would be a political massacre for the GOP, and a straightforward mandate for Democrats to rebuild the health system along the lines they prefer.

It’s true that states like Virginia that have expanded Medicaid coverage have seen declining enrollment in the ACA. Yet Klein’s arguments are too clever by half. It’s not 2010, Joe Lieberman is gone, therefore Medicare For All isn’t anathema in polite circles. But on what grounds does Klein assume (a) the Joe Manchins in the Senate will embrace Medicare For All (b) the consequences of stripping insurance from millions of people will sober up Republicans because they didn’t want so drastic a decision from the Texas court — a decision, I should note, silly on its face? Congress repealed the individual mandate in 2017; what was left to overrule unless the judge wanted to revel in the “judicial activism” that conservatives have accused liberal judges of?

I gave up accusing the GOP of hypocrisy years ago, and I trust Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer will still live by the time the Supreme Court grants cert to the appeal.

In praise of demerits: Ross Douthat

In today’s New York Times, conservative columnist Ross Douthat pecked characters on a keyboard that after hours of cogitation first turned into sentences then cohered into paragraphs. Someone called it “Why We Miss the WASPs.” Let’s look at it together.

The nostalgia flowing since the passing of George H.W. Bush has many wellsprings: admiration for the World War II generation and its dying breed of warrior-politicians, the usual belated media affection for moderate Republicans, the contrast between the elder Bush’s foreign policy successes and the failures of his son, and the contrast between any honorable politician and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

The only people from whom nostalgia is flowing are the permanent occupiers of seats in cable talk show green rooms. The rest of us wondered why the hell a war with Iraq over Kuwait mattered and loathed George Bush’s AIDS policy, a generous word for an irritated improvisation. 

Also in The Atlantic, Franklin Foer described “the subtext” of Bush nostalgia as a “fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.”

Ah, the nut graf. We live in an America increasingly dominated by minorities and one of Douthat’s paladin acquaintances implicitly admits he wishes it ain’t so.

Also in The Atlantic, Franklin Foer described “the subtext” of Bush nostalgia as a “fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.”

“What IS it about social media, the Freedom of Information Act, and Afghanistan and Iraq that makes these brown people so pushy?”

Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.

“We in Washington hate you.”

However, one of the lessons of the age of meritocracy is that building a more democratic and inclusive ruling class is harder than it looks, and even perhaps a contradiction in terms. You can get rid of the social registers and let women into your secret societies and privilege SATs over recommendations from the rector of Justin and the headmaster of Saint Grottlesex … and you still end up with something that is clearly a self-replicating upper class, a powerful elite, filling your schools and running your public institutions.

In the previous paragraph, he quotes Foer on Henry Adams, whom I suspect Foer has read and Douthat has not; in this one, he alludes to the late minor novelist Louis Auchincloss, who spent a half century painstakingly writing about the incestuous stupidity of the WASP culture revered by Douthat. At any rate, his insight: put women, blacks, gays, and your Mexican housekeeper in Andover and they might be as nearsighted as the Bushes.

So it’s possible to imagine adaptation rather than surrender as a different WASP strategy across the 1960s and 1970s. In such a world the establishment would have still admitted more blacks, Jews, Catholics and Hispanics (and more women) to its ranks … but it would have done so as a self-consciously elite-crafting strategy, rather than under the pseudo-democratic auspices of the SAT and the high school resume and the dubious ideal of “merit.” At the same time it would have retained both its historic religious faith (instead of exchanging Protestant rigor for a post-Christian Social Gospel and a soft pantheism) and its more self-denying culture (instead of letting all that wash away in the flood of boomer-era emotivism).

Something something hippies, something something unwashed atheists, mmm delicious word stew.

It’s de rigueur for liberals to lament the decline of the Rockefeller Republicans, or the compromises that a moderate northeastern WASP like George H.W. Bush made with Sunbelt populism.

De rigeur yourself, pal.

But a WASP establishment that couldn’t muster the self-confidence to hold on to Yale and Harvard was never likely to maintain its hold on a mass political organization like the G.O.P. Whereas an establishment that still believed in its mission within its own ivied bastions might have been seen as more politically imposing in the wider world — instead of seeing its last paladin, a war hero and statesman in a grand American tradition, dismissed in the boomer era as a “wimp.”

Cogitation, words, sentences, paragraphs.

The point of this counterfactual is not to just join the nostalgic chorus around Bush’s departure for the Great Kennebunkport in the Skies. Rather it’s to look forward, and to suggest that our current elite might someday be reformed — or simply replaced — through the imitation of the old establishment’s more pious and aristocratic spirit.

Imitating a pious and aristocratic spirit that hid essential truths from the American public and ruled as if, to cite a forgotten WASP scion, “the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law.”

An excerpt from a boring defense of meritocracy follows. I can quote too, from P.G. Wodehouse’s The Imitable Jeeves: “You must meet old Rowbotham, Bertie. A delightful chap. Wants to massacre the bourgeoisie, sack Park Lane and disembowel the hereditary aristocracy. Well, nothing could be fairer than that, what?”

‘Now the party is Trump’

Is anyone surprised?

“There has been close to no introspection in the G.O.P. conference and really no coming to grips with the shifting demographics that get to why we lost those seats,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, an upstate New York Republican who is planning to repurpose her political action committee to help Republican women win primaries in 2020. “I’m very frustrated and I know other members are frustrated.”

Ms. Stefanik said there had been “robust private conversations” but she urged Republicans to conduct a formal assessment of their midterm effort.

The Republican response, or lack thereof, to the midterm backlash stands in stark contrast to the shake-ups and soul-searching that followed its loss of Congress in 2006 and consecutive presidential defeats in 2012.House officials indicate that they will pursue an after-action report, but it is unclear how far it will go in diagnosing why they lost the popular vote by more raw votes than any time in history.

Many of the lawmakers who lost their races or did not run again say the party has a profound structural challenge that incumbents are unwilling to fully face: Mr. Trump’s deep toxicity among moderate voters, especially women.

With most of the Republicans who lost hailing from suburban seats, those who remain represent red-hued districts where the president is still well liked.

“Now the party is Trump,” said Representative Tom Rooney of Florida, who at 48 decided to retire, “so we follow his lead.”

Yes, the “controversial and bold” GOP autopsy report released in 2012 that did naught to change anyone’s mind. And nothing will happen in January 2019 either.

Bomb suspect in custody — explanations needed

Patty Smyth and the ever reliable Don Henley had an answer twenty-five years ago:

But there’s a danger in loving somebody to much,
and it’s bad when you know it’s your heart you can’t trust.
There’s a reason why people don’t stay where they are.
Baby, sometimes love just ain’t enough.

At any rate raise those false flags high!