Too Much Democracy?

As the 116th Congress draws to a close, we must confront the fact that a large majority—64%—of the Republican Congressional caucus signed on to an amicus brief siding with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to bar Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from casting their Electoral College votes for Joe Biden. Ken Paxton was not alone: 17 Republican Attorneys General backed the lawsuit.

The behavior of the majority of the Republican caucus is not simply stupid, although it is that. It is also political malpractice. Let’s leave aside the fact—and it is a fact—that there was no reasonable legal theory underlying the case to begin with. Not only that, the Republicans never produced a shred of evidence to show that the election was sufficiently tainted to alter the outcome, much less that they “won big”. 

Despite the blizzard of lawsuits they launched, Trump and his Republican sycophants lost virtually all of them. And for good reason. They simply had no case. The judges that dismissed the cases were often Trump appointees. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Supreme Court declined to even hear the Texas lawsuit and declined to do so without a single dissent. 

What should we make of this? Well, the first question is kind of obvious: Why should anybody take the Republicans seriously? After all, the party is rapidly being overwhelmed by the Tin Foil Hat Brigade. And that is a very big problem.  

Let’s define what the problem is and what it is not. The problem is not that democracy—left undefined—is being foiled. We’ll return to that later. The real problem is that a substantial portion, and perhaps a majority, of Republican office holders are now headed where the Democrats already are. They are denying the legitimacy of an outcome they don’t like, and not for any good reason. They think they are entitled to win; that the election belonged to them. Any election they lose is illegitimate. 

That is a pretty good description of where Hillary Clinton stood after the 2016 election. And the Democratic Party, along with its press acolytes, spent the next 4 years trying to de-legitimize the Trump Presidency, particularly with the Russia Collusion story.

The effort to delegitimize the other side is not a new phenomenon; it has been with us since the beginning of the Republic. There was that matter of the Civil War. Andrew Jackson denied the legitimacy of the 1824 election accusing Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams of agreeing to a corrupt bargain to deny Jackson the presidency. Rutherford B. Hayes was named as president as a result of the Compromise of 1877 in which Congress awarded him 20 contested electoral votes in return for which, he pulled Northern troops out of the South, thus ending the Reconstruction era. 

In more recent times, Democrats have been arguing, without a shred of evidence, that Republicans have systematically suppressed the vote of African Americans. This is a piety almost universally accepted by the party, a piety belied by the numbers. When addressing an NAACP meeting, Joe Biden added helpfully that Mitt Romney would “…put y’all back in chains.” 

On the other hand, plenty of Republicans never accepted the legitimacy of either the Obama or Clinton presidencies. The tightness of the 2000 election didn’t help very much either. John Kerry remains convinced that he won the election of 2004, but that Ohio was stolen from him. And lots of Democrats argue that the only reason why George H.W. Bush won in 1988 is because of the infamous Willy Horton ad, which, they say was racist. 

It seems though, that modern attacks on the legitimacy of the opposing side are qualitatively different. That’s because in some ways, they are. Which points to the real underlying problem. There is too much democracy. 

The word democracy is tossed about far too loosely in American politics. It has come to simply mean “good”, which also implies there should be no restraint.

There are two points here that have to be emphasized. The first is that in actuality democracy is simply a process for selecting among competing alternatives. It is designed to mediate differences, not to create some illusory unity. The second is that, contrary to widely held opinion, democracy is not the foundational value of the American experiment in self-rule. Liberty is. 

The Madisonian framework for constitutional governance was designed to secure and preserve liberty. The framers were terrified of mob rule. The French Revolution, which began in 1789, reinforced that fear. The U.S. Constitution was designed to make government decision making difficult so as to limit government power. In theory the government could only do what it was permitted to do by the Constitution. The Bill of Rights carved out things the government was expressly prohibited from doing. 

That went out the window with the rise of progressive politics. Government was unleashed and so was democracy. Now government’s power to intervene in the minutia of peoples lives is almost limitless. All in the name of helping “the people”. Even in areas where government action was strictly circumscribed by the Bill of Rights, policymakers are only held back by courts. And the independence of the courts is under attack. 

What’s more is that there is a unified theory that forms the basis of the attack on liberty. Call it relativism, critical race theory, deconstructionism, intersectionality, radical feminism, Neo-Marxism or what you will. It all amounts to the same thing. Individual human beings count for nothing; all that matters is power relations. Workers v Capitalists, Males (the patriarchy) vs Females, Whites vs People of Color etc etc. Intersectionality simply creates a more exquisitely refined selection of grievance categories.  

When all human relations are reduced to one dimension; namely, the will to power, politics eventually dominates everything. Inevitably the result is violence and tyranny. There is no room for individual liberty; no room for live and let live; for kindness, decency, love, respect or all the things that make life worth living. 

That is were we are headed if the critical theorists have their way. More and more, the culture shapers in the media, the arts, the universities and woke corporations have bought into it. Now it is seeping into the popular culture. That’s what the real problem is. 

JFB

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Sore Loser

On Friday evening the Supreme Court refused to hear the case brought by Texas’s Attorney General and joined by 18 additional Attorney’s General, all of whom are Republicans.  The plaintiffs in the case sought to have the Court throw out the votes of 4 states to be replaced by the state legislature’s choice of electors to the Electoral College. Conveniently enough, all 4 state were won by Joe Biden and all 4 states have Republican majority legislatures. 

In the event, when the Court declined to take up the case, it did so without dissent. Two Justices, Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito, took the position that the case should be heard, but pointedly noted that the case would fail on the merits. As Andrew McCarthy notes here, Thomas and Alito adhered to their longstanding position that “…the Court must accept cases when states invoke the Court’s original jurisdiction.” The net result is that the Court voted against Trump 9 – 0, a stinging rebuke no matter how you slice it. 

If anyone feels shame anymore then there ought to be a lot of shamefaced people walking around Washington this morning. Start with the man who initiated the lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Add the 18 other Republican state Attorneys General who joined the suit. And to that add the 100 or so Republican Congressmen who backed the lawsuit. 

They should be ashamed because not only was the lawsuit garbage from the very beginning; it also implied a wholesale rejection of the separation of powers as well as state sovereignty. It would have set the stage for the spectacle of the states suing each other over policies that clearly reside in the purview of the individual states. And not to put too fine a point on it, just the other day those very same Republicans were arguing that Democrats were turning the Court into a super legislature to achieve policy victories they couldn’t achieve through the electoral process. 

Well, perhaps the Republicans ought to consider the consequences of having nominated a narcissistic reality TV star for President. It ought to be pretty clear that the voters rejected both Trump the person and hard left collectivism. Maybe, just maybe, the Republicans will stop with the cult-of-personality nonsense and begin to act like adults, but I’m not counting on it. 

The Democrats don’t exactly come off well in this fiasco either. Keep in mind that they spent the last 4 years attacking the integrity of the 2016 election, arguing among other things, that Russian interference handed the election, which rightly belonged to Hillary Clinton, to Donald Trump. And Democratic here Stacey Abrams has yet to concede that she lost the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018. Before the 2020 election even took place, Hillary Clinton announced that Joe Biden should never concede the result. And in Iowa, Democratic candidate for Congress Lisa Hart, who lost the race by 6 votes, has refused to concede and is petitioning Congress to seat her instead of the actual victor. 

Some interest should be given to the predictions of Democratic pooh-bahs  who launched an all-out attack on the Supreme Court. Consider for a moment the dire predictions of Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) who argued that as a result of the Citizens United decision (affirming the 1st amendment by the way) a wave of “dark money” would crash over the elections ensuring corporate control of “our democracy”. Or predictions that Republican Supreme Court nominees would “hand the election” to Trump. 

Well a wave of dark money did cascade over the 2020 elections. But it was largely Democratic money, much of which came from Wall Street. And it didn’t do the Democrats much good in Congressional races where they lost seats. Also consider that Trump has now lost something like 33 of 34 election related lawsuits, and that the Supreme Court turned him down cold without a dissent. It’s pretty hard to take the Sheldon Whitehead’s of the world seriously. 

As if the whole situation were not absurd enough to be the subject of a Fellini film, in the wake of the latest defeat, Trump got busy on his Twitter account. See below.

Donald Trump


Donald Trump. Again.

So what does it all add up to?

First, Donald Trump has presented clear and convincing evidence that he never should have received the Republican nomination and never should have been elected President in the first place. Second, the Republican Party, terrified of its increasingly yahoo electoral base, has abandoned its former principles and continues to display a remarkable profile in cowardice. Third, the leadership of the Democratic Party, is increasingly driven by principles–the wrong ones. They are headed down the path of a radical collectivist ideology that bears no dissent and has always led to ruin.

Cheer up, though. Voters in the U.S. have always been quite willing to throw the bums out for a new set of bums. And thus punished, one set of bums gets enough of the message to correct the errors of the last set of bums. And then the cycle repeats.

JFB

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About Those Norms…

Players in the Democratic Party have spent the better part of the last 2 years piling on Attorney General William Barr, alleging that he is a political hack who can not be trusted to run the Department of Justice.  While speaking from the Senate floor, Charles Schumer (D-NY), said: “His confirmation occurred only a few months ago and yet in a short time Mr. Barr’s conduct has raised damning questions about his impartiality and about his fitness…”

AG Bill Barr

That’s the same Charles Schumer who directly threatened Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh when he addressed demonstrators on the steps of the Supreme Court:  “…I want to tell you, Gorsuch… I want to tell you, Kavanaugh… you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” 

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

For this outburst the senior Senator from New York earned a reprimand from Chief Justice Roberts as well as the American Bar Association and others. Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, hardly a right wing extremist, agreed with Justice Roberts, characterized Schumer’s remarks as “inexcusable” and called on him to apologize. Schumer, of course, did no such thing. 

There is another apology that Schumer and Company ought to be make, namely to Attorney General Bill Barr. Note that AG Barr recently said that the Justice Department looked at claims of electoral fraud in the November elections and did not find evidence to conclude that fraud changed the outcome, thereby pulling the rug out from under Trump’s claim of victory, not to mention his legal strategy, such as it is. 

And then, just yesterday the story broke that Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joe “Here’s the Deal” Biden, is under federal criminal investigation both in Delaware and in the Southern District of New York. Moreover the investigation has been going on for some time, at least since the spring of 2020. In keeping with Justice Department guidelines, the investigation was kept under wraps so as not to influence the upcoming election in November. 

Compare that with the behavior of Loretta Lynch in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. Or with the gusher of leaks coming out of the FBI for the purpose of taking down the Trump presidency.  Or with the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS during the Obama years. Or with the grandstanding of Sally Yates. 

There has indeed been plenty of norm busting in the Justice Department in recent years. But it wasn’t the work of Bill Barr. He played it straight, and in so doing he enraged Democratic partisans whose idea of norms is whatever behavior advances progressive goals. 

Democrats owe Attorney General Bill Barr an apology, but it’s an apology that will never be offered. That would require a sense of honor. 

JFB

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Mainstream Madness

A little over 50 years ago James Burnham authored a book titled “Suicide of the West”. It was his thesis that the West had lost faith in its institutions and culture. As a result, the West, especially its intellectuals and culture shapers (with certain notable exceptions) were no longer willing to defend Western civilization and its culture. More than that, Wester civilization became the enemy. Well, here we are again. 

Fortunately, the stupidity of that era didn’t last for long. But it didn’t disappear entirely, it merely went into hiding. Now it has come back with a vengeance. 

Douglas Murray, author of several books including the recently published  “Madness of Crowds” sat down with Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution to discuss the current state of affairs, particularly the intellectual, political and cultural environments in which we now reside. It’s a long interview, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It’s worth every minute. Please see the video of the interview below.

JFB

Douglas Murray–Author of the “Madness of Crowds”


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Post Election Absurdities

It would seem that “the most important election of your life” was a tie. 

It is hard not to laugh when political partisans make impassioned arguments about the cause du jour. And not just because the arguments are typically awful.  When Democrats launch their next grandiose scheme for whatever it is they’ve just hatched up, they seem to have convinced themselves that it will actually work as advertised. For their part, Republicans will be in fierce opposition, haunted by the fear that somehow it might work. 

As a result we have endless arguments that are mostly pointless about stuff that doesn’t matter much. On the other hand, things that actually do matter are studiously avoided because often they do not easily fit into a neat ideological box.  So the combatants spend their afternoons dreaming up slogans that substitute for thought, after which they adopt and implement policies that are riotously out of kilter with reality. 

Consider some recent examples. In Manhattan, police recebroke up an orgy attended by some 80 people. The event was sponsored by an operation named Caligula. The firm advertises itself as a private on premise swinger club. Among the reasons the event was raided was that—I am not making this up—the patrons apparently did not properly observe social distancing regulations. 

And then we have the Governor of Oregon to consider. A side note: for the last 50 years radio stations have played Arlo Guthrie’s “Alices Restaurant” on Thanksgiving Day.  All 18 minutes of it. Alice’s Restaurant is the talking blues song about…well here are some of the lyrics below.

“I was drafted and when I went to my induction physical they handed out papers and said , “Have you ever been arrested?” I raised my hand and told the Sergeant , “Yes” and he said, “What for?” and I told him, “Litterin” the Sergeant said,” I’ve seen that movie, ain’t gonna work here.” So I got sent into the Army.”

And in the true spirit of Alice’s Restaurant, the Governor has encouraged people to call the police on their neighbors if they see a possible violation. The violations carry a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail, $1,250 in fines or both. 

So, back to Governor Kate Brown of Oregon. Last week the Governor instituted a new round of Covid restrictions that included a freeze on both indoor and outdoors gatherings, just in time for Thanksgiving. The indoor gatherings permit no more than 6 people from a maximum of 2 families. Thanksgiving Day dinners are no exception. 

The Marion County Sheriff’s office is apparently hesitant to enforce the edict, noting that we cannot arrest our way out of the pandemic. It seems that the heel-clickers are the politicians, not the police. Defund the Politicos has a nice ring to it.  

Finally. Perhaps one of the most absurd remarks made in recent days comes from…Donald J Trump. No surprise there. Any way, Mr. Trump who never takes responsibility for anything even mildly negative actually complained that it is his lawyers who are making him look bad. 

Happy Thanksgiving

JFB

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The Education Scam

The Wall Street Journal has published a story on student test performance in the wake of Covid inspired school shutdowns. According to the story, “American children started school this fall significantly behind expectations in math, and modestly behind in some grades in reading, according to one of the first reports on widely used tests since the coronavirus pandemic shut schools in March.”

It isn’t like student test scores were humming along just fine pre-pandemic. As the Journal reports “On an American test known as the Nation’s Report Card, only 34% of eighth-graders were proficient in math last year, meaning they showed competence in challenging subject matter, and 34% were proficient in reading.”

On the other hand, students in Catholic and other private schools had smaller average declines in math and exceeded expectations in reading. It is worth noting that many Catholic and otherwise private schools have remained open during the pandemic, and with minimal infection rates. 

At the same time Black, Hispanic and low-income household students fell further behind the averages, although the change was not statistically significant  given the already wide gap between those groups and the averages. 

These fall-offs in performance are likely to be devastating, especially in minority and low-income areas that depend on public school systems. Consider: The education process is cumulative. Students are presented with increasingly challenging material, based on previous learning, as they progress through the grades. Which means that failing to learn 3rd grade material makes it increasingly difficult to learn 4th grade material and so on. To say nothing of social development. 

Let’s confront the fact that only one-third of 8th grade students are proficient in reading or math to begin with. Add to that the knock-on effects of school closings (and distance learning) and it becomes obvious that in later years, the impact on students, especially minorities, is likely to be catastrophic. 

So why is it that progressives have been especially adamant about closing down the schools and resorting to distance learning? Let’s think about (1) what the incentive structure of the public school system actually is versus (2) what it should be.

The fact is that the nation’s public primary and secondary schools are run for the benefit of their adult employees. Not surprisingly, all the incentives point in that direction. The incentives ought to be structured to benefit the students. But students are the last concern of the public schools. The evidence for this is straightforward. If the schools were concerned with providing students with a decent education, two-thirds of 8th graders would not be less than proficient in reading and math. And it would be possible to fire incompetent teachers. But it isn’t.

The root of the problem is that the school system is funded by third party payers. That payer is government, mostly local, and those governments are heavily influenced by (the mostly progressive) Teachers Unions. Their mission is to protect the interests of their members. The interests of the students are very far down the list of priorities. 

The public schools system is a monopoly, and like any monopoly it acts ruthlessly to defend its monopoly position. That helps to explain why the Unions have been so intent on closing the schools, with the pandemic being a convenient excuse. This despite virtually no evidence that the pandemic presents more than a vanishingly small risk to either students or teachers. 

Note that the Unions have attempted to get governors to decree that all schools in their respective states close, not just public schools. Since public schools and their teachers are being funded anyway, an order to close all schools would financially squeeze private schools that depend on tuition for survival. That is the point of the exercise—to put competitors out of business. Mercifully, after some initial successes, universal closure orders have been batted down. 

Some, but not all, Catholic and private schools have opened for in-person instruction. Those schools have had minimal levels of Covid infections. Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts pointed out in late October that  open parochial schools in the state with 28,000 students and 4,000 employees have been operating safely in-person since mid August. They have had “only a handful of cases”

You would think that the education establishment would be shamed by all this, but you would be wrong. They continue to press on, spouting all kinds of cant about Social Justice, while crushing opportunity for kids, especially the most vulnerable. And now to make matters worse, among those up for consideration for Education Secretary is none other than Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. 

The iron-fisted Weingarten, who has been a relentless advocate for the union monopoly she oversees, is a friend of the bureaucratic command-and-control model of governance that has served teachers so well and students so poorly. Then again, it is the model that President elect Biden has always been comfortable with. And like Biden, Weingarten has been caught plagiarizing material, so they also share that in common. 

Progressives routinely pat themselves on the back, claiming to represent the interest of minorities. One of the most important ways that the interests of minorities can be advanced is through educational opportunity—real, not faux educational opportunity. Don’t bet on it though, the command-and-control model looks to be firmly back in the saddle. 

JFB 

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Time to Move On

The manual recount in Georgia is over, and Joe Biden won the state by a slim margin of 12,000 votes. In Michigan, the margin was 146,000 votes. The margin of the Biden victory in Arizona was 11,000 votes. In Pennsylvania the margin was about 80,000 votes including provisional ballots. But even if 100% of the provisional ballots cast in favor of Biden (51,889) were tossed aside, it still wouldn’t affect the outcome. 

Biden won and Trump lost, fair and square. But Trump and his team of lawyers refuse to acknowledge the obvious. So perhaps Republicans ought to follow the lead of Senators Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse and push back against the detestable Trumpian effort to snatch the election away from the rightful victor.  Trump’s efforts reflect more than his typical narcissism; they are part and parcel of the ongoing and deliberate sabotage of the public trust in our institutions for purely partisan reasons. 

And before the fingers start pointing, let’s be clear—this is not an entirely new phenomenon. Both Democrats and Republicans have done this. Hillary Clinton and her minions spent the better part of 4 years pretending that they were robbed of a rightful victory in 2016, with no evidence, as CNN likes to say about Trump. The New York Times 1619 project explicitly argued that the foundational purpose of the U.S. was the imposition and maintenance of race-based slavery, the effects of which are with us today in the form of institutionalized oppression and systemic racism. 

It is worth listening to what Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has said on the subject of the public trust, especially with respect to Trump and his lawyers’ post electoral behavior. (Not that it has varied much from his pre-electoral behavior). 

Here is how Sasse is quoted in Politico.“Wild press conferences erode public trust. So no, obviously Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute. We are a nation of laws, not tweets,” Sasse said.

Benn Sasse

He went on “When Trump campaign lawyers have stood before courts under oath, they have repeatedly refused to actually allege grand fraud — because there are legal consequences for lying to judges,” Sasse said. “President Trump lost Michigan by more than 100,000 votes, and the campaign and its allies have lost in or withdrawn from all five lawsuits in Michigan for being unable to produce any evidence.”

It is absolutely clear to anyone who is rational that Biden won and Trump lost, full stop. The margins of Biden’s victory in the contested states simply overwhelm the possibility of any conceivable attempt to win by fraud. The people who insist that Trump actually won are simply delusional. And that is being kind. 

We should not overlook the fact, and it is a fact, that Trump’s cheerleaders are engaged in a deliberate attack on American institutions that have been the mainstay of our liberties. It is, for instance, hard to believe that the leaders of the effort, people like Rudy Giulliani and Sydney Powell, actually believe the nonsense they have been trying to sell. If they really believed what they claimed about fraud, they presumably would have made the claim in court. But they didn’t. That’s because, as Ben Sasse pointed out, lawyers face consequences for lying to judges. 

But not for lying to the gullible. It’s the old bit—if you don’t know who the mark is in a card game—then you’re the mark. (For a discussion of the particulars, Jim Geraghty has a terrific article in National Review that demolishes the contention that the election was stolen by Biden & Co.)

A backdrop to all this is that Republican officeholders, with a few notable exceptions, are terrified of their voter base. As a result, many have refused to say out loud what they know to be true. In so doing they have created a remarkable profile in cowardice. And if they continue down this road the result may very well be calamitous for the Republican Party. And rightly so. Perhaps we will get an inkling of what the electorate thinks about all this on January 5 in Georgia. 

JFB

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The Fat Lady is Warming Up

It is now mid November. Apparently though, no one has gotten around to telling President Trump that the presidential election is over and done with and that he lost. While no one disputes his right to seek legal remedies for election irregularities, no one who has mastered third grade arithmetic thinks that there is even a remote chance that the outcome will change. The election is over. Biden won and Trump lost. It is as simple as that. 

Or ought to be. But it isn’t because Trump is busy resisting the outcome and claiming fraud. It is possible that Trump actually believes that the election was “stolen” despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. He has never lacked a ready supply of self pity. More likely, he is setting things up for some other purpose, like a future run, a TV show or to ward off a future prosecution. 

Trump’s post election behavior, which includes the unwarranted and vindictive firing of Defense Secretary Esper, perfectly demonstrates why he should never have been elected president in the first place. Regardless, despite all the hysteria, at noon on January 20, 2021 Joe Biden will take the oath of office and Donald Trump will no longer be president. Period. Because that’s what Section 1 of the 20th amendment to the Constitution says. “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January…” 

At that point all powers of the presidency will be vested in the person of Joe Biden. Whereupon Donald Trump can go pound sand and it won’t make the slightest difference to the functioning of the government. 

Perhaps fans of the “living Constitution” ought to think about that for a moment. Namely, that the Constitution actually means what the text clearly says it means. We could start with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania which took it upon itself to rewrite Pennsylvania’s election laws on the fly despite the fact that the text clearly leaves that task to the legislature. 

In any event, the election is finally over. Now the intra-party bloodletting can begin in earnest. Meanwhile, in Washington it is a truism that personnel is policy. So we need to watch and see who emerges in the jockeying for position in the new administration. Bernie Sanders (Socialist, VT) is said to be campaigning hard to be Secretary of Labor. Let’s see if the supposedly moderate Mr. Biden gives the thumbs up for that. 

President elect Biden has made no secret of his admiration for Dr. Anthony Fauci, currently head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID). Just the other day Dr. Fauci was speaking at the Washington National Cathedral along with other pandemic experts. Here is what he had to say as reported by CNBC.

“I was talking with my U.K. colleagues who are saying the U.K. is similar to where we are now, because each of our countries have that independent spirit,” he said on stage. “I can understand that, but now is the time to do what you’re told.”

So now it appears that the true spirit of rule by experts is upon us. Get used to it, as Dr. Fauci might say. 

JFB

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The Most Important Election…is a Victory for Gridlock

Every four years, right on schedule, we are told that “This election is the most important of your life.”  And of course, it isn’t. Just like the one we are in the process of finishing wasn’t. Not by a long shot. The probable result is best described as a much needed victory for gridlock. 

As of this writing it appears that the Republicans will keep their Senate majority, the Democrats will lose a few House seats and Vice President Biden may prevail with a small edge in the race for 270 Electoral College votes. But none of this is certain, and the final result will probably leave the losing side firmly convinced that “We wuz robbed.” 

Whether that sentiment is justified remains to be seen. But it is important to note that the distrust is both widespread and long standing. Part of the problem is extreme polarization. That polarization has been stoked by the major parties which increasingly resort to emotional appeals rather than facts or logic.  

Moreover, in addition to being an affront to the first amendment, campaign finance “reform” has left the major parties and their candidates  dependent on large outside donors who increasingly influence Party agendas. Think Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and Sheldon Addison.  That hasn’t helped any either. 

More importantly, the problem of distrust can be laid squarely at the feet of progressives who have spent the last 50 years or so attacking our governing institutions. In this they have been aided and abetted by (1) the mainstream press which is increasingly populated by woke “reporters” and (2) the public education system which has produced indoctrination factories but little learning.

When we are told on a daily basis that the U.S. is “systemically racist”; that the U.S. is “structurally racist”; that the police are in the business of hunting down black men to shoot; that the real founding of the U.S. was 1619 when African slaves were first brought to Jamestown, and that school curricula are being introduced based on that lie,  why would anyone be surprised by public distrust of our governing and culture shaping institutions? 

Why would anyone take the NY Times, MSNBC or CNN seriously when  their reporters insist on discussing peaceful demonstrations while anyone can see the buildings behind them are on fire? Why would anyone trust the Washington Post with its slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness” on its front page while it refuses to cover the Hunter Biden scandal, without doubt an important story. 

Why would anyone believe the rhetoric of big city mayors and civil rights organizations when it is clear that they are bought and paid for by the Teachers Unions. Those big city public schools have failed minority children for generations and yet big city Mayors and civil rights organizations like the NAACP have long fought school choice and charter schools even though the evidence is crystal clear that they produce superior outcomes. 

It is clear to anyone with eyes to see that what we have is a massive failure of government and governance. The failure is long standing and reaches into almost every area of American life. The affluent can afford this because it doesn’t affect them. But the average citizen can’t afford to pay $25,000 — to $50,000 a year to send their kids to private prep schools. Nor can the average citizen afford to pay for private security guards while activists insist on “defunding the police.” 

Elites can afford to move to their summer houses in the Hamptons while calling for lock-downs while they work from home and ride out the Covid-19 virus. But the people who work in grocery stores, drive trucks and deliver their packages can’t afford to be locked-down. Nor can minority children afford to fall further back by being forced to resort to Zoom classes for grammar school.  

When all is said and done, the election results represent a repudiation of the progressive elite. There will be no Green New Deal, Court Packing, defunding of police, elimination of the Senate’s legislative filibuster, Medicare for all, guaranteed outcomes, or dismantling of capitalism. That is all to the good. 

Now the two political parties will have a few years to re-think where they are and where they would like to go. If the Democrats get the joke (always a doubtful prospect) they will head back toward their roots, put identity politics to rest where it belongs and begin to develop a framework for policy based on equality of opportunity rather than outcome. Don’t hold your breath. 

The Republicans on the other hand are still going to be saddled with Trump partisans, with or without Trump. They are going to have to adapt conservatism (actually classical liberalism) to reform and strengthen, not eliminate, critical public institutions.  They could start by ending the bureaucratic command-and-control mentality of federal agencies. Voluntary action and devolution of power to local institutions should be the preferred route. Whether they will head in this direction is anybody’s guess. 

All in all the election results can be seen as gift allowing us to step back from the brink. If the two parties have any sense at all, they will develop sensible policy frameworks, engage in spirited substantive debate, defend free speech  against cancel culture, rein in the bureaucracy, go back to enacting laws and policies and stop the virtue signaling. 

That’s a tall order. We don’t have a lot of time to waste. 

JFB

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