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

Ben Sasse for President

We are once again faced with the question of whether it is worth voting in the Presidential race and if so, for whom. Before considering any particular candidate, let’s have a look at the question of why vote at all. 

Unfortunately, it seems that an awful lot of Americans have been stricken with the superstition that their vote matters in determining the outcome. This belief has taken hold largely for two reasons: (1) the innumeracy of the public which is in large part due to the sheer incompetence of mathematics education in the public schools; and (2) the interest of the two major political parties in propagating the myth. 

So if your vote doesn’t matter, why bother to vote at all? The reason is straightforward. Your vote does matter—it just doesn’t matter in any meaningful sense in determining the outcome. Your vote represents your policy preferences. And that matters a lot—or at least, it should. 

So let’s take a look at the choices on offer, which can be roughly categorized as (1) re-elect President Trump; (2) replace him with former Vice-President Biden, or (3) somebody else. 

A question for Trump fans. Does anybody seriously think that Donald J Trump is suitable as president? It is beyond obvious that he is profoundly ignorant, mendacious and irredeemably narcissistic. He has coarsened an already coarse culture. He has no idea how government is supposed to work; nor does he care. Most of the good things that he has done (and there are some) represent standard Republican orthodoxy. Any Republican president would have done the same. 

The policy initiatives that are uniquely Trump’s (like the trade war) represent zero-sum thinking. That approach to the world is the anti-thesis of liberalism, properly understood, and is based on the misconceptions that the Democratic Party has been enthusiastically marketing to the ignoratti for decades. After all, the I-win-you-lose mentality of zero-sum thinking is what is behind the nonsensical wailing about trade deficits. It is the thinly disguised foundation of the neo-Marxist grievance industries, cancel culture and odes to intersectionality.  

One area does stand out where Mr. Trump has actually achieved some good. That is the Middle East. He appears to have succeeded in peacemaking where countless others have failed. Whether this success is due to his rather unique brand of diplomacy or a change in the correlation of forces, only time will tell. But it happened on his watch.

We have already had 4 years of Mr. Trump in the White House. We have more than enough evidence to see whether he has shed the ways of a recalcitrant adolescent and has miraculously developed into a mature adult. Unfortunately, he hasn’t; he remains like a petulant child unsuited for the responsibilities of the office. 

And now for another question; this one for Biden partisans. Does anybody seriously think that Joe Biden would be a suitable president? He is a human gaffe machine; a bumbling old fool on his third presidential run. He is a man driven by a relentless ambition to become president but without an identifiable, much less compelling, raison d’être. 

Who, this side of sanity, really believes that the Hunter Biden e-mails printed by the New work Post lack authenticity? The Biden campaign hasn’t denied their authenticity. Nor has it denied the various pay-to-play schemes detailed in them. Moreover multiple sources, including one of Hunter Biden’s partners, have vouched for them.  The schemes may or may not have been illegal. But they provide evidence of corruption, rumors of which have long plagued the Biden clan. Moreover, for the umpteenth time they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joe Biden is a world class liar. 

The issue of Hunter Biden’s e-mails goes way beyond Joe Biden’s corruption and his suitability, or lack thereof, for the presidency. It goes to the state of America’s institutions and their politicization. The mainstream press, for instance, has studiously avoided reporting the story. NPR’s managing editor of news, Terence Samuel, went so far as to say:

“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” Samuel said of its refusal to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story. “And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event, and we decided to treat it that way.”

Add to that the fact that Facebook, Twitter and Google have blocked access to the story in whole or in part, and it is clear that they, in conjunction with mainstream news organizations, are running interference for the Biden campaign. That is a level of institutional degradation that is likely to be far more damaging in the long run to the republic than the corruption of the Biden clan. 

So what is the intelligent citizen to do? The answer should be obvious. Vote for somebody else. That’s where Ben Sasse, and a little political philosophy, come in. 

First and foremost we need to recognize that politics has become way too important in American life. Partisans will immediately point to the other side and shout “It’s their fault”, which simply proves the point. Passions have overwhelmed reason. Each side, brimming with self-righteousness, is convinced of its own moral and intellectual superiority. 

Maybe we should understand what being president entails, or at least is supposed to entail. The president is the country’s chief administrative officer. His principal duties, given by Article II of the Constitution are (1) to see that the laws are faithfully executed and (2) serve as Commander in Chief and oversee foreign policy. 

He is not your friend, your confessor, your advisor; nor does he feel your pain. He does not “create jobs” high paying or otherwise. His is not going to solve your problems. He does not “run the country”. The country can run itself just fine, thank you very much. 

The president does, however, represent the American people as a whole, both within the country and to the larger world. In that capacity he acts, or should act, as a (and not the only) leader of American civic culture dedicated to the proposition that certain Truths are self-evident. Namely, that All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that governments are created to secure those rights. 

Securing these unalienable rights is the most important of presidential missions. Moreover, it is a mission that mostly depends on our civic culture. And so the president should seek to bolster and strengthen that civic culture, based on the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence. 

This is a mission for which Senator Ben Sasse (R. NE) is particularly well-suited. With his BA in government from Harvard and PhD in history from Yale; his experience as Senator, and as an official in HHS; and with his tenure as President of Midland University, Senator Sasse has both the experience, temperament and intellect needed to do the job, and do it well. That’s why I have cast my early vote for him as a write-in. 

Reston, VA, USA — October 27, 2020. Voters lined up to vote early in Reston, VA

But don’t take my word for it. Watch Senator Sasse on the video below concerning politics, civics and culture.  Then ask yourself if he would be a better president than the major party candidates. I think the answer is self-evident.

Senator Ben Sasse at Judiciary Committee Hearing on Judge Barrett

JFB

Joe Biden–“Moderate” –on Court Packing

Vice President Joe Biden, currently masquerading as a moderate, has been a gas bag for pretty much his entire career. But recently he has shown a remarkable reticence. He has refused to discuss where he stands on the Democrats’ threat to pack the Supreme Court, if they take control of the Senate after the November elections.

We hear a lot these days about how President Donald Trump violates norms. And for good reason: He does. That said, it is Mr. Biden who has taken a sledge hammer to political norms in a way that makes Trump look like a piker. 

In response to a question about the voters desire to know his position in the matter of Court packing, Mr. Biden said to reporters “They’ll know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over”.  He then went on to say “Now, look, I know it’s a great question, and y’all — and I don’t blame you for asking it. But you know the moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be about that.”

Not content to leave it at that, days later Biden went on to say that the voters don’t deserve to know his position, complained that questioners were “probably Republicans” and in any event Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Court was “non-constitutional”.  The assertion that the President doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to nominate someone for an empty seat on the Court is simply astonishing, even by Biden standards. 

So now we have a situation in which the allegedly “moderate” Democratic Presidential nominee (1) refuses to respond to questions about Court packing, a threat made by his own party, and a truly fundamental issue; (2) complains that if he were to answer the question reporters would write about it, and (3) claims to believe that the President’s nomination for an empty Court seat is “non-constitutional”. 

In the meantime the left wing of the  Democratic Party is chomping at the bit to pack the Court, end the legislative filibuster, add Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as states and end the electoral college. All of this is for the purpose of transforming America into a one party state run by leftist ideologues.

Some discerning voters are curious to know what Mr. Biden thinks about all this. And up until now, Mr. Biden has made it clear that he has no intention of telling them. 

Let us remember that a couple of short weeks ago, Mr Biden, in a burst of Trumpian grandiosity, proclaimed himself to be the Democratic Party. So why won’t the alleged moderate who is supposedly the personification of the Democratic Party unequivocally state his position on a matter that goes to the very foundation of the American republic? Perhaps it is because he is an institutional wrecking ball. Or maybe, just a coward.

JFB

The Virginia Senate Race

Before being elected to the US Senate in 2008, Mark Warner (D. VA) served as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. In 2014 ran for a second term against Republican Ed Gillespie, winning by just under 1% of the vote. During that race Senator Warner vowed not to run again. 

Needless to say, Senator Warner is running for a third term.

This time Warner is running against Republican nominee Daniel MacArthur Gade. A retired lieutenant colonel, Gade lost his right leg in the Iraq war where he served as a tank company commander. He is a graduate of West Point and has both Master’s and PhD degrees in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Prior to securing the Republican nomination for the Senate, Gade worked as Professor of Practice at American University in the School of Public Affairs. 

Gade is no slavish follower of Donald Trump. In his October 3 debate with Warner at Norfolk State University he openly criticized Trump’s response to a question on white supremacy. In the Senate debate he said “If you are a white supremacist and you are watching — I don’t want your vote. I don’t want your money, and shame on your attitudes and disrespect. Now, the president badly fumbled that question.” 

He has also called on fellow Republicans to join him in support of social justice for African American citizens. Importantly he makes a distinction between thought and action. He argues that racism is an internal belief; that it is not a domestic security threat unless it is acted upon. Senator Warner on the other hand believes (or pretends to believe) that the US is systemically racist. In response to a question he said “So do I think systemic racism exists? I do,” adding pointedly, “Black lives matter.”

Gade is a self-described conservative. He is strongly pro-life; is adamant about protecting religious liberty, does not support taxpayer forgiveness of student loans and is opposed to taxpayer funded education through college. He does not believe it is up to government to provide an income; nor is it a governmental responsibility to make sure everyone has health insurance.  He is a strong defender of property rights and the free market system. 

All in all it is fair to describe Dr. Gade as the type of conventional conservative that dominated the Republican Party during the Reagan era. 

On the other hand it is also fair to describe Senator Mark Warner as hewing closely to the party line. He is a typical abortion rights fanatic. He supports abortion on demand and is a co-sponsor of S.1645 which, if enacted, would invalidate nearly all state and federal restrictions on abortion. He also voted against confirming Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

In general Senator Warner is a conventional businessman turned politician. He isn’t a member of the wild eyed crowd populated by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But he is not about to lift a finger to protect liberty either. That is the crucial difference between challenger Gade and Senator Warner. Warner is a technocrat; Gade understands the importance of liberty. And that, in the end, is why Professor Gade is going to get my vote. 

JFB

Reason TV on Judge Amy Coney Barrett

As the leftist hysteria continues to mount on Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, it may be a good idea to take a look a the libertarian perspective. Here below is a short video from Reason TV that provides such a look.

Reason TV on Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Judge Amy Coney Barrett

The Party of Science is about to make yet another spectacular display of its rampant anti-intellectualism as it gears up to contest the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Among other things, we are told that Judge Barrett should be denied a seat on the nation’s highest Court because she has 7 kids, 2 of whom are non-white adoptees from Haiti. Trans racial adoption is supposedly evidence of racism. Then again, for progressives, everything is evidence of racism of one sort or another. 

One Democratic operative went so far as to insinuate (without evidence as CNN loves to report about Donald Trump) that Judge Barrett and her husband may have illegally spirited the 2 children in question out of Haiti. Dana Houle, a Democratic operative, recently tweeted that “[He]… would love to know which adoption agency Amy Coney Barrett and her husband used…Some adoptions for Haiti were legit. Many were sketchy as hell. And if the press learned they were unethical and maybe illegal adoptions, would they report it? Or not bc it involves her children.” 

Needless to say the airwaves haven’t been full of progressive objections to this sleazy innuendo. 

We have also been treated to attacks on Judge Barrett as being emblematic of the submissive women in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel the Handmaid’s Tale. This despite the fact that she graduated #1 in her class at Notre Dame Law school, served as executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review, served as a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, served as a tenured Professor at Notre Dame Law school where she was awarded the Distinguished Professor of the Year 3 times, and despite the quality of her academic publications as well as her signed opinions as a federal appeals Court judge on the 7th circuit. 

Judge Barrett’s long publication record will be used —misused actually—to distort her positions on legal and political questions. Then again it is important to understand that truth is of little importance to Judge Barrett’s progressive opposition. Their goal is to make the confirmation vote as costly as possible for Republicans. Their chosen tactic will be to smear the Judge and her family with personal attacks on her religious beliefs and her policy preferences, and then imply that the Judge will use her position on the Court to impose those beliefs on the nation. 

The irony in this is obvious. It is progressive justices who have done precisely that, arguing that the Constitution is a “living breathing” document; apparently believing it is a document only capable of breathing progressive doctrine. And here it is worth considering what Judge Barrett has actually said and written.

For example, when during her 2017 confirmation she was queried about if and when it would be proper for a judge to impose her personal beliefs when applying the law, this is how she responded. (See The Washington Post).

“Never. It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law.” 

This is where the rubber meets the road. Progressives and Democrats are united in their opposition to Judge Barrett precisely because she actually believes and acts in a way that progressives only pretend to. The proof is in the campaign against her. Progressives argue that she “will take your health care away”, that she will “restrict abortion rights”, that she has had the effrontery to write that 2nd amendment rights are not second class rights, and that she will not show sufficient deference to a bureaucracy dominated by progressives. 

These are all complaints about preferred policy outcomes; they are not legal arguments. Courts are not supposed to be super legislatures. Ruling on the law as written is what judging is supposed to be about. In a democracy changing the law requires gathering the votes to do so. The more important the change, the larger the required margin. That requires using powers of persuasion to develop a legislative consensus.  

That is why Amy Coney Barrett is such a threat to the control freaks who call themselves progressives. By adhering to the law as written, she respects the structure of the U.S. government as it was founded, with its checks and balances designed to allow a functioning democratic government while protecting individual people’s “unalienable rights” from the majority’s passions of the day. 

She should be confirmed without delay. 

JFB

The Left Wing Embrace of Violence

“If they even TRY to replace RBG we burn the entire fucking thing down”. 

Reza Aslan.

For those lucky enough not to know who Reza Aslan is, he is a Professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; an author of 4 books on religion including No God but God, a member of the American Academy of Religion and a member of the National Iranian American Council. 

Wikipedia lists his citizenship as Iranian-American despite the fact that there is no such category. Furthermore Iran does not permit dual citizenship at all, and the US. does not recognize dual citizenship of Iran and the United States. Ironically, the scholar who promises to “burn the entire fucking thing down” is the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization

Perhaps Professor Aslan should consult his own book before going on another Twitter rant.

In his review of the book, John Meacham writes “It is Aslan’s great gift to see things clearly, and to say them clearly, and in this important new work he offers us a way forward. He is prescriptive and passionate, and his book will make you think.” The LA Times wrote “Aslan is not only a perspicuous, thoughtful interpreter of the Muslim world but also a subtle psychologist of the call to jihad.”

The Washington Post writes that Aslan’s book “Offers a very persuasive argument for the best way to counter jihadism.”According to New Yorker, his book represents “[A] thoughtful analysis of America’s War on Terror.”

Well. Aslan is clear, but I would hardly characterize his outburst (on Twitter of course) as subtle or thoughtful. Unfortunately, remarks like Professor Aslan’s are not all that unusual these days. The turn to violence has become increasingly common as small minded “activists” have foregone debate in favor of intimidating and silencing those with whom they disagree, a phenomenon increasingly prevalent on the nation’s campuses. 

While this is being glossed over, progressive media cheerleaders have spotted intimidation by Trump supporters in Fairfax Virginia. The New York Times reports that supporters of President Trump showed up at the Fairfax County voting center, waved flags and signs and chanted 4 more years. The Times noted that election officials said that the group stayed 100 feet from the building’s entrance and were not directly blocking access to the building, contrary to social media posts. 

Nevertheless, Democrats and their cheerleaders in the press made the case that Trump supporters were using tactics of disruption and intimidation. At this point it is worth examining the photo that the Times ran to see the alleged voter intimidation in action.  

Photo Credit: Kenny Holston for the New York Times

Here is a photo of six—count ‘em—six middle aged people, two of them women. Four are holding banners, one has his hands in his pockets and one has his arms folded across his chest. They are standing at a reasonable distance from the voters on line, who are busy ignoring them as they wait to vote. This is hardly a picture of what what any reasonable person would call intimidation. 

But the riots that have engulfed Seattle, Portland and other cities are routinely characterized as “mostly peaceful”. All in the service of the narrative. And so it is hardly a wonder why so many media outlets have lost so much credibility.

JFB

Truthful Lies

Sometimes lies tell the truth, however inadvertently. 

Ever since May when George Floyd was killed while in police custody there have been waves of protest in America’s cities, often spilling into violence. The violence has not been random and sporadic. It has typically been orchestrated by professional agitators, often by ANTIFA and the more radical members of Black Lives Matter (BLM).  

Up until just recently, Mayors of cities under siege have displayed a remarkable tolerance for the violence, arson and anarchy unleashed in the cities they nominally govern. The political calculus driving this has two prongs. First, the chaos would likely redound to the benefit of Joe Biden thereby making the task of beating demon Trump all that much easier come November.  Second, the Mayors, Progressives all, were (and are) sympathetic to the protesters who are becoming increasingly hard to differentiate from the rioters. 

The whole while, Progressive politicians who kept insisting on the importance of the rule of law, refused to enforce basic laws on the books designed to protect citizens and their property. The truth, made manifest by their behavior, exposed the lie of their devotion to the rule of law. 

Some polls have begun to suggest that the public has had enough. One recent poll, taken shortly after the Republican convention, shows Biden a mere 2 points ahead of Trump, well within the margin of error. In addition, the Trafalger Group (an outlier) who called key races in 2016 and 2018 correctly when others got it wrong, says that Trump is only a half-point behind Biden in Minnesota and slightly ahead in Michigan and Wisconsin. 

In the meantime the mainstream press studiously avoided the violence for months, insisting that there was “nothing to see here” and that the  demonstrations were “mostly peaceful”. Now they have changed the script. It turns out that there is a problem with violence after all, and that it is all the fault of—Donald Trump. Of course, Trump’s narcissistic insistence that everything is all about him, all the time, makes the job that much easier. 

Then there is the matter of the apparent murder of a Trump supporter in Portland, Oregon during another night of “non-violent” protest. The apparent shooter is a man named Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-identified “anti-fascist”.  Among other things he wrote: 

“I am 100 % ANTIFA all the way! I am willing to fight for my brothers and sisters! … We do not want violence but we will not run from it either! … Today’s protesters and antifa are my brothers in arms.”

Shooting in Portland

So about those lies that tell the truth. The lie that tells the truth is that the Democratic Party is run by moderates who wish to return to normalcy. That is manifestly not so. If that were actually true they would have taken action long ago to confront the rioters and restore order. Maintaining order is, after all, a local responsibility and the Mayors of America’s large cities are overwhelmingly Democratic. Actions speak louder than words. 

Now that the violence is being directed against them, some of Mayors seem to be having second thoughts—kind of like Robespierre most have had on his trip to the guillotine. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler can not have been happy last night when the rioters set an occupied apartment building on fire, apparently because they thought he lived there. 

The Democratic Party, now in the process of being taken over by Jacobins, has no institutional desire to return to normalcy. That is merely a cover and a transparent one at that. These modern day Jacobins mean to transform America and its liberal institutions in the service of a radically illiberal and utopian left-wing ideology. The Democratic Party has simply become an empty vessel waiting to be filled by Progressives so they can get on with the transformation. The truth is that these radical Progressives are so full of hatred for freedom that they are willing to tolerate, if not celebrate violence so long as it serves a tactical purpose in the quest for power.    

The final truth embedded in the lies may be revealed by the difference between real votes and those cast by ballot. An individual ballot, despite all the hysterical rhetoric, has virtually no practical significance. But voting with your feet has very real significance for the voter / mover.  Moving to a new locale is probably a much better indicator of what someone really thinks. 

By all reports there has been a torrent of wealthy and upper middle class migration out of the major cities and into the suburbs and smaller secondary cities. Undoubtedly some of this has to do with COVID-19 and the widespread adoption of working from home. But at least some is attributable to the unrest and increased incivility of the big cities. That could presage a much larger change than the results of this November’s elections. 

JFB 

Mostly Peaceful Protests

“Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

Spurred by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, protests against police violence—defined as the unjustified use of force—have erupted across America. These protests are invariably described as “mostly peaceful”. And they are, the way most people at Ford’s Theatre were just there to see the show. 

Then too, there is the matter of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. He too represented only a small minority of the theatre goers; but of those, he is the one who mattered most. Because his actions defined the event. 

Riots, attacks on police and violence against people and property have taken place in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Portland Oregon, Seattle Washington, Minneapolis Minnesota, Los Angeles California, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Salt Lake City Utah and Atlanta Georgia, to name a few. And by and large, the police, following the orders given them by civil authorities, have backed away. In some cases, like Portland Oregon, organized violence has become a nightly affair. 

The media has studiously ignored the violence, preferring to emphasize the current narrative of “systemic racism” and “structural racism” being at fault. It is especially convenient to blame the violence on systemic and structural racism inasmuch as those terms lack definition and thus present a non-falsifiable hypothesis. And it is a politically convenient ploy because it distracts attention from the fact that America’s cities have been run by Democratic machine politics for generations.  

Virtually all the burning cities are run by Progressives, and have been for decades. In addition to the obvious mistrust felt by significant portions of their citizens, those cities are also notable for their failing public school systems and their chronic fiscal ineptitude. 

Taken together, failing public schools; police mismanagement; fiscal ineptitude, and the presence of powerful public sector unions present a picture of routine managerial incompetence. None of which has precluded the re-election of the same incompetents year after year. The obvious question is why. 

Why is it that year after year the people with the most to lose from failing schools, incompetent policing and fiscal incompetence, insist on voting for the same politicians who routinely produce the same failures of governance? 

The simple (and probably correct) answer is twofold. First, the opposition Republican party has not presented a viable alternative and shows little interest in doing so. Second, the party in power, the Democrats have  effectively become a wholly owned subsidiary of powerful special interest groups like public sector unions and environmental groups who dictate policy. 

In response, upper income groups are increasingly abandoning cities to escape from (1) rising crime and disorder and (2) a rising and oppressive tax burden. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be the catalyst, not the cause. If the trend continues and turns out to be more than fleeting, the results could be dire for the cities. As the truly wealthy head for suburban enclaves, taking the tax base with them, the cities will become islands of poverty surrounded by wealthy suburbs unwilling to finance urban excess. 

The remaining question is whether upscale former urban dwellers will bring their politics with them to the suburbs, or have they finally had enough? And if they have tired of financing failure, will the cities finally reform? Or will Progressives complete the takeover of the Democratic Party  and produce catastrophic failure nationally rather than just locally? 

We may get a hint in November. 

JFB

Battleground

The phrase battleground state has taken on a whole new meaning. 

As reports from various urban battlefields come in, the picture of what is happening is becoming clear. Let’s summarize. (1) In a number of American cities protests turn into organized violence once nightfall arrives. The violence does not appear to come from protesters, but appears to come from organized groups intent on stoking and escalating violence.  (2) Federal law enforcement officers have been ordered to some areas by the Trump Administration with orders to protect federal property. It appears that at least some federal law enforcement officers  have engaged in conduct that is clearly illicit. That conduct includes but is not limited to detaining citizens, handcuffing them and then releasing them without any justification or charges. Further, the evidence strongly suggests that some of these detentions were conducted by federal officers without proper identification using unmarked vehicles. Moreover some of these detentions have taken place well beyond perimeters established for protecting federal property. (3) Local authorities have been unable or unwilling to contain the violence. 

For some perspective, it is worth taking a look at what is going on in some (but not all) cities. The You Tube video (below) taken in Portland is an example of the violence; but it is not necessarily generalizable to other cities. On the other hand it is worth noting that the national media has been reluctant to characterize this type of violent behavior as violent as … violent.

Protest in Portland Oregon

Further complicating matters is the legal situation.  The extent of federal authority to intervene  to establish order absent a request from local authorities is unclear. Certainly the federal government may use federal law enforcement to protect federal property. But that authority is  narrow. It seems reasonably clear that federal law enforcement lacks the authority to free-lance and expand its mission beyond the narrow one of protecting specific federal properties. It certainly does not empower law enforcement to go searching for alleged miscreants outside of narrow perimeters established to protect lives and federal property. 

It is also clear that local law enforcement is not enforcing state and local laws. And the reason for it is that they have been instructed not to do so by locally elected officials. In the U.S. system it is elected officials, not police who are charged with determining the extent to which the laws will be enforced. Moreover the police have no legal obligation to protect lives or property, which is to say they are not vulnerable to a civil lawsuit for a willful refusal to protect lives or property. This is further complicated by the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity” which makes it virtually impossible for police officers to be sued individually for their behavior, no matter how outrageous. 

Let’s also note that it is highly probable that the Trump Administration has escalated the situation simply for political advantage in the upcoming election. It is also the case that  Democratic office holders are fairly silent about the violence because (1) they see no need to comment while Trump is busy committing political suicide and (2) they see no profit in antagonizing the party’s left wing, which they need to prevail in November. 

So what is to be done?

The simple answer is that the remedy lies at the ballot box. Local officials are for the most part responsible for managing police and setting policy. They have the legal authority to determine the extent to which public resources will be deployed to enforce state and local laws. The line of both authority and accountability runs straight from the citizenry to the ballot box to elected officials. The same logic applies to federal elections. 

Citizens, who are sovereign, have a democratic choice to make. They can elect federal, state and local officials who promise to enforce the laws on the books to protect lives and property when they are threatened. Or they can elect officials who think it is more important to deploy public resources in other ways they deem to be more important. Citizens can also choose to elect local public officials who will take responsibility for the management of public agencies like police departments and education bureaucracies, or they can continue to vote for officials beholden to public sector unions. Citizens who don’t like the results can leave. 

Those are the harsh realities; but they are realities. To govern is to choose. Unless citizens hold elected officials accountable for conditions on the ground over which they have control, results will not change. We will simply have more of the same until the next explosion. That seems to be where we are headed. 

JFB